Today I’m excited to welcome Jory Strong to Literary Escapism. Jory is the fabulous author behind the Ghostland series – Ghostland and Spider-Touched – and she has graciously agreed to answer a few questions. If you have yet to read either Ghostland and Spider-Touched, then you really need to. Spider-Touched was just released on August 4th.
Held prisoner by humans, his angelic memory and power lost because of the sigil-inscribed collar around his neck, Tir dreams of freedom and hungers for vengeance. He’s sworn he’ll never lie with a mortal, but when Araña removes his shackles and helps him escape his captivity, she melts his icy control and leaves him burning with desire. She’s a temptation he can’t resist—an unknowing enemy who might well enslave him more thoroughly than the chains he’s worn for centuries.
Branded, feared, untouchable because of the deadly spider-shaped mark on her skin, Araña is unaware of her true origins. Raised in a fundamentalist settlement until she escaped and found refuge among outcasts and criminals, she believes herself demon-tainted. But when her unnatural psychic ability causes her to weave her destiny to Tir’s, their alliance turns into an exploration of passion, and begins a quest that will lead to her Djinn heritage.
Powerful forces brought them together to serve a greater purpose…but learning the truth of what they are will destroy them—unless their love is strong enough to overcome the dark legacy of a battle that began with the birth of mankind.
For those who haven’t discovered your wonderful Ghostland novels, how would you describe the world you’ve built? Is there anything you’re hoping your readers will get, not just from the individual books, but from the world you’ve created?
The series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where The Last War decimated the human population and nearly destroyed the planet. It ended only because of plague and famine and pestilence, all of which required what was left of mankind to concentrate on survival instead of warfare.
With humans no longer in power because of their technology, weapons, and sheer numbers, the supernaturals revealed their existence. In the aftermath of the anarchy that followed their revelation, different groups have carved out different territories, creating worlds with worlds.
Vampires rule San Francisco, limiting the number of humans allowed to live and work there. Oakland is ruled by non-gifted humans (those without supernatural abilities), except in the red zone, where the vice lords rule.
My primary hope is that readers enjoy the stories. The books are written as escapist fantasy, but at the same time, they’re a contemplation of the nature of humankind, something that fascinates me. If there is an underlying message, it is: Live fully in the now. The past is gone and the future can’t really be controlled, even if we’d like to think it can be. Today is what we actually have.
There’s an idea of a shared plot between Ghostland and Spider-Touched, but the characters really don’t mingle much; how will all the novels tie together? Will the various couples interact more in future books than they did between Ghostland and Spider-Touched?
Right now it’s the secondary characters who tie the books together. How much the couples interact is really driven by the individual stories. As the series gets closer to the final showdown I envision past couples playing a greater role in the current story. One of the things I love about, and intentionally set out to create with this series, is the chance to explore the worlds within the larger story world. The downside is that it does lead to less interaction between the hero/heroine of one story with another because they’re coming from different places.
I’m getting the idea that each Ghostland novel will be able to be read as standalones. Was this your intent from the very beginning or was this a decision made by the story itself? How has the story’s direction changed since you first started Ghostland to what you’re writing now in Healer’s Choice?
The design of the series (the exploration of different story worlds within a post-apocalyptic setting) lends itself to each story ending up as a standalone, though it’s impossible to prevent some spoilers from creeping in. I don’t see that changing, but it could, especially if, for instance, I wrote stories for the twins (sex witches) introduced in Ghostland.
The focus has tightened somewhat with each new story. Ghostland provided a broader picture of the world where Spider-Touched narrowed it a bit, and in Healer’s Choice the majority of the story is set in the world of the Weres, both those who are Outcast and live in the brothels of the red zone and those who live in the no-humans-allowed territory that is under shapeshifter control. There’s also a lot less erotic content in Healer’s Choice than there is in Ghostland, but that’s driven by the story and the characters, versus the desire to have less of it. The next book (not yet contracted) explores the world of the Fallen Angels and will be, design-wise, more like Ghostland, so it’s going to lend itself to the same level of eroticism.
Of all the supernatural creatures out there, what made you choose the djinn for the Ghostland series? Is there any particular legend or folktale involving the djinn that you drew inspiration from or have a strong pull towards?
When I decided to write a book targeted specifically to getting it published by a NY house, I knew it would be paranormal. As much as I love vampires and Weres, that’s a lot tougher market to break into and to come up with something fresh for. I’d written a Djinn erotic romance short story so decided to explore that option further since they are familiar entities but not common ones in romance. I did some research and quickly saw how angels fell in naturally as there are theological connections between angels-djinn-humans (though I’ve tweaked this in my series’ premise). It was an easy decision to make from there as I love writing about heroes with wings and have some experience with it because of my Fallon Mates series with EC.
Tell us about your wereanimals and vampires, please. You’ve given them such different cultures than what is appearing in many mainstream novels (which I’m assuming was intentional); but I’m curious, how much of these two societies will we see? Are they going to be playing bigger roles in future novels or are they merely there for that extra level of danger to the main characters? Will any future heroines/heroes specifically involve a vampire or were?
Rebekka’s story (working title of Healer’s Choice) goes deep into the culture and lives of the Weres. I am really, really enjoying creating this world and can hardly wait to share it with readers. As far as the vampires go, I don’t currently have a story idea that lends itself to exploring their world further, but it’s definitely something I hope to do in the future. I fell in love with Draven and Ryker in Ghostland, as well as Draven’s human High Servant, Thane, who appears in Spider-Touched.
In both Ghostland and Spider-Touched, we’ve seen quite a bit about the Wainwright witches, yet there really hasn’t been that much background information on them. Will we get Annalise’s, or any of the other witches, story in the future? Will we get to learn more about the family in ways other than quick interactions? What can you tell us of their role within the overall story arc of the series?
The Wainwrights are vital to the overall series. They serve as go-betweens and behind-the-scenes power brokers. There’s actually an important reveal about the matriarch in Healer’s Choice, and for the first time, a glimpse into their world through her point of view. At the moment I don’t have plans for a Wainwright story, but that could always change. Often times a secondary character who isn’t meant to be long-term really grabs my interest to the point I have to give them a story of their own. In the case of the Wainwrights, that character hasn’t yet appeared.
Can you give us any hints as the what will be coming in future Ghostland novels? With either Healer’s Choice or beyond?
Healer’s Choice is the last of the contracted books. Beyond that…A lot is going to depend on whether or not the series gains an audience. But as far as stories I envision writing, the next would be Saril’s. She’s a Finder introduced in Spider-Touched. Her father is a vice lord and also a Fallen Angel.
From Ghostland, there’s Irial, the Djinn belonging to the House of the Raven, and of course Aziel’s story to tell. And from Spider-Touched, the lion shapeshifter, Levi’s. Those are just the easy ones off the top of my head.
What was your inspiration when you created your characters and the worlds they came from? How did you determine how they were going to interact with each other? Are any of your characters modeled off anyone you know?
I can’t pinpoint any particular source of inspiration. For me writing, and the desire to do it, has always come naturally (which is not to say I haven’t written my share of unpublishable material). Some stories start with a scene that slips into my mind, while others are a labor of planning (though not in too much detail as that will kill the muse off faster than anything else). Sometimes I “know” the character (and no, I don’t model them off real people) and it’s a matter of coming up with the right plot for them. Other times, I know the story I want to tell and it’s a matter of developing the character whose story it is. Once I start writing I try to just let go, let the scenes and interactions come. They’re visual for me, like snippets of a movie in my head and I’m trying to find the words to accurately describe it.
There have been a number of authors out there who have taken their love scenes to a more erotic level. Do you believe this shows a greater acceptance for more sexual plots, that our culture is more tolerant of it, or that the public is mainly looking for more escapist literature and are willing to read things they wouldn’t normally during a higher economic trend?
Yes, there’s more tolerance, which is a great thing. But there are also some pitfalls. Genre blending has made it a lot trickier to inform/warn readers about sexual content with respect to novels not labeled erotic romance. This is something I never gave any thought to until Ghostland released and I discovered that for all the readers who were thrilled by the sex scenes, there were some who picked up the book and found something they didn’t expect, didn’t want, or didn’t feel comfortable with.
The covers for the Ghostland novels are fantastic. What were your feelings when you first saw them? Were you able to have any input on the cover concept? Could you give us the basic process behind their conception? When will we get to see the artwork for Healer’s Choice?
I was blown away when I saw the covers. They are so very gorgeous. I don’t know how I got so lucky but I am extremely thankful. As far as input from me, not a lot. Beyond knowing that Cindy Hwang, my editor, goes to a meeting where covers are discussed, I don’t know much about the process.
The final title and release date for Healer’s Choice aren’t set yet. That’ll have to happen before there’s artwork.
You’re already an established writer with Ellora’s Cave, can you tell us a bit about your other published works? Which novel would you recommend for a first time reader?
Except for the Crime Tells series, which have solving a crime or mystery as part of the plot, they’re all paranormal. In Supernatural Bonds, the majority of the stories feature a human hero or heroine being matched with a supernatural entity.
Fallon Mates (all ménages) has winged heroes coming to Earth to claim the human female they’ve been matched to genetically. The Angelini series (also all ménages) are about vampires, with Weres being an important element of Mystic’s Run. These are my four on-going series.
I’ve got a vampire trilogy, Carnival Tarot, and one involving Thunderbirds (Thunderbird Chosen), then some standalones.
For readers who like ménage fantasies, I’d recommend Crime Tells: Calista’s Men. It’s MFM. For those who prefer one man/one women, I’d say Supernatural Bonds: Sophie’s Dragon.
Do you have a process of how you start to write one of your novels? Is it the same or different with each novel you write? When you get stuck, during a scene or in general, what do you do to escape from writers block? What is the most painful part of the process for you when you’re writing a book?
The process varies quite a bit. It depends on a number of things, including target length, which series I’m working on, whether I’m facing a blank computer screen or if inspiration has already carried me several chapters into a new project.
I used to write almost entirely by the seat of my pants (what authors commonly refer to as a pantster). I’m much more of a plotter these days. For shorter stories I do less preplanning, maybe just the bare minimum: character names + defining characteristic, a premise statement, knowing what the trigger event, midpoint scene, ordeal scene, black moment, and resolution are. For longer stories I’ll do the minimum along with the infamous GMC-R (goal, motivation, conflict, resolution) grid, and will plot all of the scenes leading up to the trigger event, which in my erotic romance stories is quite often the first sex scene.
When I get stuck I either move on to the next scene (one of the beauties of plotting), or if I’m close to meeting my word goals, I’ll quit, go ride one of my horses, or maybe get on the treadmill, basically give the muse a chance to work on the scene.
As for the most painful part of the process, it varies with each project, but more often than not, it’s in the middle of the book. By then inspiration has dried up and the story is starting to feel strung out. Doubt is creeping in along with the fear that the manuscript is a POS.
There’s the temptation to stop writing and start the editing process. I have to resist doing this because if I do it totally kills momentum, and after the edits, there’s still so much left to write, and what’s written will most likely mean more tweaking of the already edited stuff.
This is the point when it’s all about gutting it out, having the discipline to sit down every day and slowly but steadily work toward THE END.
Sound excruciating? It is.
Sound vividly painful? That’s because I’m living it at the moment :). This is where I’m at with Healer’s Choice.
How do you separate your imaginary world with real life? Do you often take something you see during your daily life and twist it a little to make it work elsewhere? Have you ever wondered what would happen if any part of your world were , in actually, a part of our reality?
I’ve always been pretty grounded in reality, which is probably why I love fiction (especially with paranormal elements) and am such a voracious reader of it. Everything is food for the muse, what an author reads, sees, hears, experiences, etc. For me it tends to be subconscious, rather than conscious, so in answer to your first question, I can’t think of an instance where I’ve seen something in my daily life and twisted it to make it work elsewhere, but I’m sure I’ve done it.
In answer to your second, yes, I’ve wondered what might be fantasy and what might be reality. Truth is often stranger than fiction, and belief (especially combined with human intelligence and ingenuity) is a powerful thing.
What was it about the fantasy genre that drew you to write in it? Was there a certain book that captured your imagination and lead you to think you could do it or did it come to your naturally?
Over the last few years I’ve read more and more fantasy, especially urban fantasy. I love the worldbuilding. I love how wide open it is in terms of subject matter. And yet, having a romance with a HEA, even if it’s not the major focus of the book, is still a big draw for me as both a reader and writer. Writing Ghostland just seemed like the natural next step in terms of improving and growing as an author. Like Fallon Mates: Binding Krista, which set me on the path to becoming a published author, Ghostland was the book I wrote for myself, the story I wanted read.
The Ghostland novels are set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco/Oakland; given a choice, which annihilated city would you find yourself in?
Contest Time! We’re giving away a copy of Ghostland and Spider-Touched to two lucky commentators and it’s very easy to enter. All you have to do is answer this one simple question: given a choice, which annihilated city would you find yourself in and why? Remember, you do have to answer the question in order for your comment to count. The contest is open to everyone, so everyone overseas can join in the fun as well.
As always, if you want more chances to win, you can post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it (#litesc), share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer (all in the same post please). The more places you share it, the more entries you get.
For more entries, purchase any novel by Jory Strong through LE’s Amazon store sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: myjaxon AT gmail DOT com. Each purchase is one entry and it has to be through the LE Link.
Join the Literary Escapism Facebook page and you’ll get an additional entry. Make sure you leave a comment here so I know that’s why you’re joining. Only new readers to the group will be considered.
For an additional entry, subscribe to Literary Escapism’s newsletter in the sidebar. All current subscribers will also have an additional entry.
I’ll determine the winner with help from the Research Randomizer. All entries must be in by midnight on September 1st.