Sally, you're known for your contemporary romances, ranging from sweet to smoking hot. What inspired you to write a paranormal this time? I’d fancied writing a ‘werewolf’ novella for some time. I’m fascinated by the duality of werewolves, but I also wanted to get away from the ‘Twilight’ idea of sexy supernatural creatures and get back to the original unease about their existence. When I pitched to idea to an editor, she said she would give it a go, but could I set it at Christmas. So that led to a whole other aspect of the paranormal, including the Christmas miracle. Unfortunately the story went a bit too far for that particular market and it was felt the readership might not accept the actual existence of a werewolf (they’re quite a traditional readership), so I was delighted when Siren Publishing accepted it. I had to sex it up a bit, but I didn’t mind that!
Did you enjoy the experience of writing out of your comfort zone? Did you find it scary or depressing? I love writing out of my comfort zone, and try to do it often. It keeps my writing fresh, I think, and it keeps me interested in writing. Yes, I worry I’ll get it wrong or make a complete prat of myself, but it’s definitely not depressing. My biggest fear was that people would laugh at my efforts, but that’s the same when trying anything new. The first romantic intrigue novel I wrote for My Weekly, The Secret of Helena’s Bay, was out of my comfort zone and I adored writing that. Until then I had only written short stories. Well, I had written novels, but they had generally been pastiches of those already written. The Secret of Helena’s Bay was the first time I found my own voice as a writer. A Christmas Moon gave me chance to push those boundaries a bit further and really stretch my writing skills by creating an entire world of the supernatural.
I know you did a semi-paranormal before (The Collector of Hearts) and I thought it was very effective. Did you find doing a full-blooded paranormal romance more challenging? Yes, very, but also as I’ve said, enjoyable. When writing paranormal one has to create rules and then stick to them. That doesn’t mean you can’t break the rules, but you have to be clever about it and not deceive the readership. The most important thing is to believe in the world you’ve created, so that the reader will also believe in it. That way you don’t have to explain anything. You just carry the reader along with you. But get it wrong, or fail to be consistent and you lose your readers.
How did your story get that intriguing name? Is that the reason why it was released in December? To tie in with Christmas? As I said earlier, I was asked to create a werewolf story set at Christmas. The original title was The Silvery Moon, but I changed it to A Christmas Moon. When I was researching werewolves and full moons around the time in which the story is set, I found out that there was actually a full moon on Christmas Day in 1901. It was almost as if it was meant to be, and from then on, I more or less knew the course my story was going to take. So it was always meant to be a Christmas story and released in December. However, I hope that readers will enjoy the story at any time of year.
Did you read a lot of paranormal fiction to get a feel for writing this story? No I didn’t actually. I do read a lot, but not necessarily paranormal fiction, and in fact when I sit down and decide to write a particular genre, I prefer to keep as far away from books in that genre as possible. That’s because I don’t want to be influenced by other people’s stories, and I don’t want to feel bound by the rules they’ve created. It can also make me feel a bit inadequate.Having said that I’m a big fan of series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood, and if anything influenced me it was those stories, rather than the spate of ‘teen’ paranormal novels that are very popular nowadays. Whilst my supernaturals are very sexy in their way, I did want to get away from the idea of them being supreme beings who gave a girl rip-roaring sex. I wanted to get back to the idea of their existence being unnatural and something of a curse.I did, however, look up the history of werewolf mythology, and chose aspects of that for my novel. Much of that mythology has been ignored in recent works, so I was glad to give it an airing and, hopefully, find a different way of presenting the idea of werewolves. I also added other mythologies, as is evidenced when Raphael is explaining the idea of shaman and curses to Evie and that speech becomes very relevant later in the story. Most importantly, I wanted to create my own rules and paranormal universe in A Christmas Moon. That way I could rest assured that neither my werewolves nor my vampires would sparkle…
Do you think you could write paranormal again in the future? Oh yes, and maybe with some of the characters from A Christmas Moon. It’s a world I would like to revisit, as long as the right story comes along. Again it would have to feel that it was my story and not a knock off of other paranormal novels out there.
Can you tell us something about your main characters? Evie Price is a vicar’s daughter, born in the 1800s. Her mother and father are very distant with her and her brother, Phelan, leading to Phelan going away with the ‘wolf men’. From then on their lives revolve around his disappearance, with Evie taking second place. To bring an end to this, Evie decides to travel to Hungary and find him. She’s a clever, modern girl (for her time) who has a job with the local paper, but she has a bad temper which she has had to learn to control. She enlists the help of Professor Raphael, who is an expert in supernatural creatures. He is an enigmatic man, but has been dismissed as a charlatan and Evie isn’t entirely sure if she can trust him, especially as he seems unnerved by her presence in his life.
In what way is paranormal romance similar to say, contemporary romance and in what way is it different? The conventions are the same in a lot of ways. Along with whatever is happening supernaturally, you still need the same elements as you would find in a traditional contemporary romance. You have to bring your heroine and hero together and get them to fall in love. The differences come from the setting. There’s nothing to say a contemporary romance can’t be paranormal, but generally they’re set in modern cities or towns, and revolve around people’s day to day lives. A paranormal romance takes both hero and heroine away from their everyday life, even if it happens in their own city, and as well as making them fall in love, it throws a supernatural mystery their way. For me it’s not so different. I write romantic intrigue, and writing a paranormal romance – apart from the obvious need to create a plausible paranormal universe – is very similar to writing any story of intrigue. In A Christmas Moon, Evie has a mystery to solve. The mystery of her missing brother, and this sends her on an investigation. The same would be true if her brother had disappeared in a modern, non-paranormal setting. Phelan ran way for the same reasons many young people run away. He was bored with his life and seeking excitement. In 2013 he might find that escape with drugs or doing extreme sports. In the more restrictive society of 1901 he finds that escape with the ‘wolf men’.
Did you feel pressurised to raise the heat level (sexual content) in this story or is it similar to a sweet romance novel? Do you feel that paranormal stories should be more sensual than other types of romances? I had to add a sex scene in this that was not in my first draft aimed at the original My Weekly Pocket Novel audience. I sexed it up because even in their ‘sweet’ romances, Siren prefer relationships to be consummated. But once I had decided to add a sex scene I also decided not to hold back. After all I was writing about the ‘dark side’ of life, so why be shy about the sex scene? However, it’s tastefully done, I think and not too explicit. I don’t know that paranormal novels have to be more sensual. A Collector of Hearts, which is vaguely paranormal, is very tame by comparison. But I do think that a certain amount of sensuality suits a paranormal novel of this type. Evie is enchanted by the world she finds, and she is also, like her brother, running away from her old life; or at least trying to improve it by settling the question about her missing brother. So it made sense to me that part of her escape would include her sexual awakening and I was happy to be able to include that. I always think a sex scene should enhance and advance the plot rather than just being thrown in for the sake of titillation, so I also made it an important plot point from Raphael’s point of view.
How's your 100k in 100 days writing challenge going? Thanks to this guest blog very well thank you! To be honest, at the time of writing this on the 2nd January, I’m still finding my stride, but hopefully by the time this appears I’ll have started work on something substantial.
Readers, Sally has very kindly consented to give away a copy of the ebook of A CHRISTMAS MOON to one lucky commenter, so please remember to leave a comment to be in the draw.
A CHRISTMAS MOON
It is nearing Christmas, 1901, and Evie Price knows that her family will never move on until her brother Phelan is found. He left home with the wolf men, leaving her mother and father grief stricken and Evie’s life on hold. Evie engages the services of Professor Raphael, a man labelled a charlatan. When Raphael tries to leave her behind, she disguises herself as a young man and takes her pistol and six silver bullets, travelling into deeper and darker territory. With Raphael, she faces dangers and peoples she never knew existed.