Now, for the interview...
Hi! Thanks so much for hosting me today. The website doesn't mention that I currently work in a library, which is heaven for a book-lover. I also collect rubber duckies. As a hobby, I belly-dance. I don't dance well, but it's a fun change of routine that gets me out of my turtle-like shell.
You write YA and Adult. How do you make it work?
Central to both is my love of fantasy. I love asking the 'what if' questions: "What if the Oracle of Delphi survived to the modern day?" "What if we could really control dark energy?" "Would fire salamanders blow up microwave ovens?" The field's wide open to ask and answer those kinds of questions, to create a skeleton of a story and give it life.
Sometimes, a story comes out as a YA story, and sometimes it comes out as one for adults. My first YA book, THE HALLOWED ONES, was originally intended to be contemporary fantasy for adults. But it came out as a YA book, purely by accident. The character spoke in the voice of a young Amish woman facing the end of the world. I didn't want to tamper with her perspective.
My other books were squarely in the adult realm. DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE, by my alter ego, Alayna Williams, are about a criminal profiler who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes. EMBERS and SPARKS, which I wrote as Laura Bickle, are best described as "Ghostbusters in Detroit with dragons and arson."
An arson investigator and a ghost hunter, huh? What was some of the most interesting research you did and what would Google think of your searches? LOL!
It's a very good thing that no one looks at my library records! I've checked out books on arson, crime investigation, spontaneous human combustion...loads of fun!
For the Oracle books, the most interesting research I did was about Chernobyl for ROGUE ORACLE. My criminal profiler, Tara Sheridan, chases a serial killer who has roots in the Chernobyl disaster. That part of the story dug around in some old childhood fears. I was in elementary school at the time of the Chernobyl disaster, and I remember some of the images. I was a bystander's bystander...half a world away. But there was something supernaturally fearsome about that incident that lodged in my head, and I wanted to write about it. The more I researched, the more the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up.
So what are your views of ghosts and how does the “human bug zapper” idea work? (This would be the inner geek and paranormal investigator getting out again. LOL!)
Hee! The "human bug zapper" is Anya, my heroine from EMBERS and SPARKS. In EMBERS, Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest kind of psychic medium, a Lantern. Where other mediums allow spirits to use their hands and voices to communicate, Anya devours ghosts. It’s a talent she had no choice in - she’s always been a Lantern. And it comes in handy in her nocturnal work as a ghost hunter. But she wrestles with the costs.
The first cost is physical. Devouring a spirit leaves a burn, a scar, on her body. The second is psychological - Anya feels apart from ordinary humans, and can’t make a connection with her fellow ghost hunters. And the last one is spiritual. Anya wrestles with the idea of what happens to a ghost after she incinerates it. Does it go forward into an Afterworld? Or has she killed it entirely?
Tell us about your books, Embers!
By day, Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department. By night, she's the rarest kind of spiritual medium, a Lantern. With the help of her fire salamander familiar, Sparky, and a ragtag group of ghost hunters, Anya chases down unseen threats to her city.
What’s something about your characters that your readers wouldn’t know after reading the book?
Sparky, Anya's fire salamander familiar, has had a long life and an interesting history. He's been a familiar for Joan of Arc and Van Helsing. He was also implicated in that Hindenburg disaster, but has never confessed.
Where can readers purchase your book?
I'm always thrilled when readers check out my books!
May we read an excerpt from the book and can you provide it here?
More info (and a link to the first chapter) on EMBERS: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Embers/Laura-Bickle/9781439167656/excerpt_with_id/16039
:: From EMBERS by LAURA BICKLE (Pocket Books, 2010) ::
She stepped into the bathroom and clicked on the overhead light. The black-and-white retro tile gleamed. A collection of rubber duckies lined a shelf on one wall, grinning down at her with cartoon smiles. Anya turned the bathtub tap as hot as it would go, dropped a fistful of bath salts into the water. She plucked her favorite duck, a jaunty pirate with a plastic eye patch, from the collection and dropped him in the water. He spun in lazy circles under the faucet.
She peeled off her sticky, pickle-stained clothes and stuffed them in the washing machine in the bathroom closet. The chill rippled over her body as she measured detergent into the basin and set the water temperature to hot. When she'd moved in, Anya had the foresight to install an extra-large water heater. As a fire investigator, her work was always filthy and she didn't deny herself the luxury of as much hot water as she needed.
She paused, catching sight of her reflection in the mirror. Her light chestnut hair swung over her milky-pale shoulder which was studded with a constellation of beauty marks. Her fingers fluttered over her chest. Below the salamander collar that housed Sparky, a black char mark was burned into the flesh over her left breast. The wound didn't hurt. She knew it would eventually fade, like all the other exorcism burns, but it was a lingering reminder of the soul she'd devoured.
She stepped into the bath, wiggling her toes, feeling the warmth begin to radiate up her legs. She sank up to her neck in the water, massaging the hot water through her hair. The pirate duck bumped against her toes. She reached for a loofah and began to scrub hard, as if she could scrub the memory of the dead child away from her skin.
The sepulchral voice captured on the recorder buzzed in the back of her head, and her thoughts nipped at it:
"Sirrush is coming."
Her brow wrinkled. She'd never heard the name spoken aloud, only read it in books. Sirrush was an old term used for firedrakes and salamanders, a name used only in witches' ceremonial magic to draw down the element of fire. But the spirit's message seemed to be aimed at her and she chewed on it, tasting it for any flavor of a threat.
As the water cooled, Anya climbed out of the bath. She smelled no pickles or ash as she pulled the drain plug, just soap and a hint of jasmine from the bath salts. The pirate duck spiraled around the drain.
Anya toweled off, and pulled on her robe, decorated in a pattern of yellow cartoon ducks. Wet footprints on the shag rug in the hall trailed behind her. She paused in the hallway to turn up the thermostat, looking forward to the warmth of her bed. A simple futon piled high with blankets dominated the small bedroom. Anya couldn't bring herself to buy a second-hand bed. All beds were stained too much with the dreams of their prior owners.
Anya climbed under the blankets, sighing. She'd be able to get a couple of hours of sleep before her shift began. As she drowsed, the salamander collar warmed around her neck. Sparky unpeeled himself, slipped down to the floor. He padded across the floor to a large flannel dog bed placed against the wall. Resting in the bed was his favorite toy: a Gloworm. The stuffed toy was a flashlight ingeniously disguised in a cherubic plastic head and a caterpillar body. Since it ran on batteries, there was little electrical damage that Sparky could do to it that would result in a hazardous situation.
Sparky placed his paw on the Gloworm. It lit up. He removed his paw, and the light winked out. He cocked his head, watching it, then patted it again.
Anya scrunched her eyes shut against the blinking light. As much as he enjoyed biting ghosts and other ghoulies on the spiritual plane, Sparky could only directly affect two things in the physical world: energy and Anya. The toy had brought him many hours of delight. She'd placed it in the dog bed that he never used, hoping that Sparky could eventually be persuaded to sleep on his own in his own bed.
A whine emanated from the side of Anya's bed.
Anya opened one eye. Sparky's head peered over the mountain of covers. Anya groaned. She was too tired to try to Ferberize the salamander tonight.
She climbed out of bed, grabbed the Gloworm, and tossed it into her bed. Sparky climbed in, rooted under the blankets. He made himself comfortable, draped over one of Anya's hips. He cradled the Gloworm between his paws. Anya idly stroked his loose speckled skin and Sparky began to purr, a low vibration in the back of his ribs.
Sometimes, Anya wondered what it would have been like to have had Brian's warmth next to her. She'd seriously contemplated it in the past. But she didn't know how to explain sharing a bed with a familiar elemental spirit. While it was true that humans couldn't see Sparky, his presence could be sensed: fluctuations in temperature, static electricity, a sense of being watched. When Anya had taken lovers before, Sparky had not taken well to them. It was distracting to be in the act of making love to a man with a five-foot salamander sitting at the foot of the bed, head cocked, slapping his tail on the blankets. Sparky manifested at will, unpredictably. But he could always be trusted to always make an appearance whenever Anya was in the presence of spirits...or when the possibility for intimacy with a man presented itself....
But then again, maybe sex was overrated. Sparky's warm tail coiled around her ankles and he snored softly. At least, Sparky had good manners: he didn't fart, scratch himself, or have morning breath. He was rather like sleeping with an electric blanket. . . which was probably the best Anya could hope for at the present.
Curled in the warm embrace of the salamander cuddling his toy, Anya drifted to sleep
Where can your readers connect with you on the web? (provide links)
I love to hear from readers!
My website is www.salamanderstales.com. I keep a blog at http://www.salamanderstales.blogspot.com I'm also on Facebook.And Twitter...@Laura_Bickle
Thanks so much for hosting me today!