First up – thanks for having me. :-)
Tundra Books has taken a very light approach with the US/Canadian edition, with all changes being minor and relating to individual words. There are some basic changes, like ‘carpark’ becoming ‘parking lot’ and ‘takeaway’ becoming ‘takeout’, and then others where the Australian terms would have had no meaning to those unfamiliar with them – ‘loo’ (washroom), ‘jumper’ (sweater) and ‘doona’ (blanket). And, of course, ‘stubbies’ have become ‘shorts’. Stubbies are a brand of shorts that are quite iconic for working class guys in Australia (or, in the case of the Butler brothers, farmers of illegal crops).
Happily, nothing has changed relating to characters, plot, structure etc.
2. One aspect of Shadows I particularly enjoyed was the balance of supernatural and human characters. So often, the human characters in paranormal stories can come off as helpless or totally one-dimensional but some of my favorite moments involved Maggie, the Butler Brothers, or other fully human characters. Do you have as much fun writing those characters as you do those with more fantastical abilities?
Absolutely. The Butler brothers are among my favourite characters to write, particularly Mick as he says exactly what he’s thinking, without finesse. I don’t share his attitudes, but I like the idea of having meat-head guys like the Butlers getting caught up in this epic battle involving demons, angels and half-angels. I enjoy writing Maggie too. It took me a little while to flesh out her character because I definitely wanted her to be more than a one-dimensional best friend. The light bulb moment for me came when my editor challenged me to think more about why Maggie and Gaby had become friends. Once I worked that out, their relationship became more organic and real, and is now one of my favourites in the series.
3. Without getting too spoilery, memory loss plays a part in the plot of Shadows. While I’ve read in other interviews that you knew the overall story arcs for the series, when you worked on Shadows, did you know everything that had happened during that “missing time”? (e.g. Did you have an outline of prior events that took place before the novel?)
Mostly. :-) From the start, I’ve known what happened between Gaby and Rafa, and what Gaby and Jude did that left everyone thinking they were dead. I’m still refining the detail as I work my way through the series and the critical moments take more solid shape (particularly the events leading up to them). The more time I spend with the characters, the better I understand them, which helps flesh out the detail in a way that feels ‘real’. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say readers will know the details of those critical past events by the end of the series – with a few other reveals along the way as well.
4. Think there’s any chance we might ever get to see those two plays and five manuscripts you finished before Shadows?
Hmm, not sure about the plays, and three of those earlier manuscripts will definitely never see the light of day. But I still think the fantasy series I was working on before Shadows has some promise, so I’d like to return to it some time in the future. (One of the rejections I received was on the basis it was YA, so I guess it’s a YA fantasy series – which I’m comfortable with.) I’ve learned so much as a writer since working with a professional editor and I’d like to apply that knowledge to the series – but not just yet. I have too many other ideas to explore first.
5. I have to be honest, I don’t usually like angel books. Shadows is one of the only exceptions I’ve found and I read it because so many bloggers and Goodreads friends of mine recommended it to me. What do you think of the role social media sites play in book publicity these days? Do you think word-of-mouth recommendations like the ones I received have affected you as an author?
Great question! For a genre-writer (especially a genre YA writer), social media and word-of-mouth is invaluable. In Australia, it can be tough to get genre YA novels reviewed in mainstream media, so bloggers, social media and word-of-mouth has been really important. This probably sounds naïve, but I had no idea how many angel books were out there when I wrote Shadows, and had no clue of the love/hate relationship readers have with them. So the very kind word-of-mouth provided by book bloggers and on Goodreads has been a huge bonus. You’re right, it’s enticed readers to give my series a go – not just in Australia, but in other parts of the world. Of course Shadows is not for everyone, I get that, but it’s nice not to be dismissed straight out of hand for being ‘another angel story’. And I have a lot of wonderful bloggers to thank for that.
6. You’ve said that you feel Shadows is more urban fantasy than paranormal romance and that you agree with idea that UF might be described as a story in which the romance could easily be removed and the story wouldn’t fall apart. (or the story wouldn’t lose its biggest element) Do you read much in the UF genre? Do you have any recommendations?
Tags for books are such tricky things, and they can’t help but shape reader expectations. I tend to describe the Rephaim series as urban fantasy over paranormal romance because, while the relationship between Gaby and Rafa is a core part of the story, theirs is not a sweet, epic romance. I worry that readers looking for a more traditional romance (as the paranormal romance tag might suggest) will be disappointed/frustrated when it doesn’t deliver. But if they like an antagonistic relationship and are interested in the broader world building within the story, then the Rephaim series could still work for them.
As for other recommendations that could (very) loosely be tagged urban fantasy: Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series. (Okay, so this is just an excuse to talk about two series I particularly love.)
7. What’s next after you finish the Rephaim series? Any stories itching to be written?
As a matter of fact, I’ve had an idea percolating away for a few months now, again starting with two characters and an interesting situation. It’s YA, has an urban fantasy twist, but is nothing to do with angels. I’ve written some preliminary notes, but won’t be developing the idea until I’ve submitted a draft of Book 4 of the Rephaim series.
8. You’ve managed to do something extremely notable with the two main characters in Shadows—you wrote a female character who is very capable and a male love interest who treats her as an equal. (I wish this wasn’t notable in YA world) Who are your favorite couples in literature? (Yes, I realize that Rafa and Gaby aren’t technically a couple but let’s be real here, everyone who reads the book is rooting for them.)
Thank you. That’s a huge compliment.
This question turned out to be deceptively tricky! I love so many books and characters, but when I thought about favourite couples it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. So, after mulling it over, I realise that two of my all-time favourite couples are in Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles: Finnikin and Evangeline and Froi and Quintana. In both relationships, the people involved have to see beyond each other’s flaws and address their own. Love and trust is hard-earned – on both sides – which makes it all the more sweet and rewarding when they finally sort themselves out. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice rank up there too. I’m actually really interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this one.
9. Even though the first book in the Rephaim series is only just being released in the US/Canada, the second has already been released in Australia. Now that you’ve spent so much time with your characters, do you have any actors/actresses in mind when you write, in terms of either looks or personality?
Not when I’m writing them, but I do occasionally see an actor in a particular role and think they’re the right ‘type’ for one of my characters. For example, in Friends with Benefits, there’s that moment when Mila Kunis’ character runs into the doctor she’s just spent the night with when he’s trying to sneak away. To me, the send off she gives him is vintage Gaby (and her look is very close to how I imagine Gaby – except Gaby would be a bit taller). Fellow Aussie author Vikki Wakefield told me she pictures Taylor Kitsch when she thinks of Jude, which totally works for me. :-) As for Rafa, I really haven’t seen anyone that captures the image I have of him in my head. But of course that’s the beauty of characters on the page – we can imagine them in ways that work for each of us.
10. What are your favorite types of scenes to write? The action ones? The witty dialogue?
I love writing dialogue. I learn so much more about my characters when they’re interacting. The witty stuff is fun (glad you found it witty!), but so are the arguments – especially between Gaby and Rafa. I also enjoy a good action scene, especially one that gets my heart racing when I’m writing it (like the cage scene at the Sanctuary). And those moments when Gaby and Rafa are doing things other than arguing…they’re fun too. :-)
Have you read Shadows or any more of the books in the Rephaim series? What did you think? What'd you think of Paula's answers to my questions?