I would like to welcome Kendra Leigh Castle to Literary Escapism today. Her recently released novel, Dark Highland Fire, follows her debut novel, Call of the Highland Moon. Make sure you stick around for the end; we’ll be having a great contest.
Now on with the good stuff…
Your latest novel, Dark Highland Fire, is the second novel in the Highland series and was just recently released. Can you give my readers a look into the world you created?
I’d love to, and thanks for having me here today! Dark Highland Fire is set in Scotland, on a sprawling estate in the remote Western Highlands that has been home to Earth’s only pack of werewolves for centuries. The pack has spread out in modern times, but the estate, Iargail, is still where the Alpha and his family reside, and where the seat of the pack’s power stays. This is in large part because of the legendary Stone of Destiny, which the werewolves were entrusted to keep safe, and which remains hidden after the English, led by Edward I in the 13th century, were allowed to steal a false Stone to placate them.
Readers of my first book, Call of the Highland Moon, will know that apart from being a famous relic upon which all Scottish kings were crowned from the beginning, my version of the Stone of Destiny is also the doorway to the realm from which the MacInnes Wolves originated: Coracin, the realm of the magical tribes of the Drakkyn.
In Dark Highland Fire, Gabriel MacInnes, the charming but aimless second son of Duncan, the pack’s Alpha, finds himself responsible for a blood-drinking Drakkyn demigoddess on the run. Instead of running his pub and enjoying the attentions of any woman he fancies, Gabriel soon finds himself defending the stubborn and fiery Rowan an Morgaine against dragons determined to upset the natural order of their world…and falling, against all odds, for the most unlikely mate he could have imagined.
I haven’t had a chance to read your first novel, Call of the Highland Moon, however, I never once felt like I was missing a part of a bigger picture. I’ve also heard that you’re currently working on a third novel for this series and it seems like the ending to Dark Highland Fire has a sense of finality to it. What is the connecting thread between your stories or have you intended that each novel could also stand on its own?
I’m so glad you felt that Dark Highland Fire stood so well on its own! I’d like for readers to be able to pick up any one of the books in the series and enjoy it even if they haven’t read the others, but of course, I feel like the books are most fully enjoyed as a set. If it’s the second or third books that lead people to the others, then that’s wonderful! Each book is about the MacInneses and their evolving relationship with the Drakkyn, in some way, shape or form, and with my first two heroes being brothers, the thread was easy to follow from the first to the second book. And as the third book’s hero is Rowan an Morgaine’s brother, Bastian, and his heroine a MacInnes cousin, that strong family connection continues. I love to be able to check in on my former heroes and heroines and see how they’re doing, and this way, I can get them involved in other storylines as well!
Is the rumor I’ve heard about a third story for this series true, and if so, is there anything about it you could tell us or tempt us with?
Yes, there is definitely a third book coming! I know this, because I’m checking the copyedits on it right now? Wild Highland Magic will be released sometime this spring, and is the story of Rowan an Morgaine’s mysterious brother Bastian. He’s got a dangerous secret…one that a very determined American werewolf named Catriona MacInnes is determined not to let him keep. Throw in one familiar, ornery dragon prince who holds Bastian’s fate in his claws, and a daemon king with reasons of his own for wanting Bastian to suffer, and you’ve got the basic premise of Wild Highland Magic. I hope that bit is enough to tempt everyone to check it out!
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 wish I had a better answer for you, but the truth is, I’m not exactly sure where my characters and stories come from. I’ve always loved stories set in the Highlands (not to mention Highlander heroes), so that certainly went into the mix. And having grown up on a steady diet of fantasy in both books and film, having an otherworld populated by various magical creatures felt right to me. I feel lucky…I’m one of those people who just sort of absorbs a lot of things, and out of all of that comes story ideas. As far as character interaction, I’m a big people watcher, so I draw on that to create my characters and realistically convey how they all interact with one another. But I don’t have a single character who is modeled on a real person…it’s much more fun to create new people out of thin air.
Shapeshifters are a hot topic in the paranormal world, yet you were able to give them your own twist. How did you decide the characteristics and the origins of your werewolves?
There are endless twists on classic legends in romance, which is part of what makes it so much fun to write…the sky’s the limit! I didn’t originally start with the idea that my werewolves would have otherworldly origins, but once I stumbled on the Stone of Destiny story, that part of their past clicked into place (as did much of the basis for the plot for Call of the Highland Moon). The characteristics were all personal preference. I’ve watched plenty of creature features since I was a kid, and I knew I wanted werewolves who were mainly amused at the human notions about them. No silver bullets, able to shift at any phase of the moon, in possession of their wits when they turned Wolf…my werewolves are powerful hereditary shapeshifters, as comfortable in their dual skins as we are in our singular ones. I wanted to give them a proud lineage, not have them be or even feel like monsters. After all, confidence is definitely sexy!
I’m a fan of the Scottish Highlands and love stories that take place there. So I’m wondering, of all the places in the world to place your characters, what is it about the Scottish Highlands that moved you to locate your werewolves there? Dark Highland Fire starts out in Reno, Nevada…what is it about that location that made you want to include them as part of your story?
Just like you, I’ve always loved stories that take place in the Highlands. It’s a beautiful, far-off place, full of mist and mystery, with areas that are still pretty unpopulated. What better place for a pack of werewolves guarding an ancient secret? Dark Highland Fire opens in Reno mainly because I was living near there when I began that book, and the location seemed to work for what I was doing with Rowan’s character initially. It’s nice to have been to locations you write about, and we used to drive the hour to Reno for truly excellent all-you-can-eat sushi at the Sushi Club on a fairly regular basis. And if you’ve ever been to Reno, you know that seedy strip joints are not at all unheard of
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?
Oh, I’m sure I incorporate plenty of little things I see and work in into stories. That’s just part of being a writer. We’re all pretty skilled observers! Just like we’re all great daydreamers. I’m glad I got the added ability to take the combination of observations and daydreams and put the stories that evolve from them on paper! Part of that daydreaming, of course, is wondering what it would be like if vampires and werewolves really did walk the night, or if the doorway to another world was always right around the corner. I’m all for it…the world could use more magic.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m a thirty-one year old Navy wife, mother of three young kids, with a degree in Secondary Ed/English that I’m thinking I’m probably not ever going to use since I prefer working in my pajamas. I’ve always loved to write, always been a bookworm, but for a long time I was afraid to really put myself out there and try to get published. I didn’t know if I could write a whole book, and more importantly, was terrified that I wasn’t good enough to stand out as anything but delusional to agents and editors. I’m really, really glad I took the plunge anyway! Other than that, I’m from Northern New York (in the area where Call of the Highland Moon is set), and I’m a sucker for animals who currently has two aging Pekingese and one huge Siberian cat. I’m extremely musical, I’m addicted to both good coffee and my ipod, and I’m a big Severus Snape fan. I even have a hand-knit Slytherin scarf. Because really, I am a big dork.
Are there any parts of your life that have a significant impact on your writing? When you’re not writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Is there any part of your other activities that influence your novels?
Writing is an integral part of my life, and everything about it is colored by who I am and what I do, the people I love…I couldn’t begin to separate it all out! When I’m not writing, I can usually be found hunting for new music on itunes, browsing in the book section at Target when I’m supposed to be buying something else, driving my kids all over creation, and generally enjoying my family. Oh, and catching up on movie-watching. I love movies, and I don’t get to go very often! Pay-Per-View is my friend.
Who do you like to read and why? Have you noticed your reading preferences changing as you’ve developed as an author? If you could recommend one novel, other than your own, what would it be?
I love to read all kinds of things. I’m looking at my bookcase now, and it’s stuffed with all sorts of things: lots of romance, yes, and Nora Roberts has a big presence, but Stephen King has a shelf all to himself, and there’s Jane Austen, Tolkien, Douglas Adams, JK Rowling, even the poetry of E.E. Cummings…all kinds of good stuff. I love a good historical romance, and I find I read more of those than paranormals in my down time. I think that because I write the latter, the former is even more appealing since I started writing because it affords me a complete escape. Corsets, heated glances, tight breeches: these are things I love! If I could recommend one book to anyone, it would probably be The Stand by Stephen King. It has stayed with me since the first time I read it, and I’ve read it many times since…the characters were so real that I still wonder what happened to them after the story closed. Out of everything I’ve read, that book is utterly singular. There are tons of other books I would recommend, but that one in particular stands out, so I’ll go with it.
For my readers unfamiliar with your work, what would you say to convince them to pick up a copy of your book?
I would say that if you enjoy paranormal romance with a blend of snarky humor, suspense, hot sexual tension and high fantasy, then I’m your girl. If we’re talking influences, I like to think that if you took a Julie Garwood Scottish historical (my comfort food!), warped it forward to present day and then let the inhabitants of Middle Earth invade it, you might be in the ballpark of my stories!
There are a lot of authors who create music playlists to go along with their novels. Was there a certain type of music that helped you while you wrote? Do you associate certain songs with your novels?
I know I mentioned that I was a music junkie…so yes, there are definitely songs and albums that I associate with my books. I listened to a lot of Evanescence, for instance, while writing Call of the Highland Moon. And Keane’s album Under the Iron Sea. That was great for visualizing softer scenes. With Dark Highland Fire, I was hooked on OneRepublic’s song Apologize for some reason, played it all the time while I was thinking of Gabriel and Rowan. I also played a lot of Collide, Ours, and Thrice. Oh, and Travis. And if you listen to all of these, you will definitely notice that my taste is all over the map! But music is an awesome way to get inspired for writing, and yes, all of my books have soundtracks, of a sort.
Thanks so much for having me here today! I really enjoyed it!
Contest Time! Today, we’re giving away a copy of Kendra’s latest novel, Dark Highland Fire. I know it’s the second novel in her Highland Werewolves series, but you won’t really be missing much if you haven’t read the first novel. I haven’t read it yet, but I am going to go find it.
So how to you enter…easy, just answer this question – Where would you like to see werewolves show up? Would you love to read a wolf story in Hawaii or even Fuji? What about South America or even Africa? In order to be entered, you have to answer the question. So don’t be shy.
Now if you’ve noticed, I’m giving away the second novel in a series. So if you haven’t figured it out yet, then pay attention. If you go out and buy the first novel, Call of the Highland Moon, and email me your receipt, I’ll give you 2 additional entries.
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, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer.
The contest will run until midnight on Nov. 4th. I’ll determine the winner with help from the Research Randomizer.