I have a real treat for you today!
is here sharing her book series and writing process!
Okay, let's begin! Please share a little about yourself, your genres, any other pen names you use.
Thanks so much for hosting me! I've worked in library science, criminology, and technology for several years. I live in the Midwest with my chief muse, owned by five mostly reformed feral cats. Writing as Laura Bickle, I'm the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, I'm the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE for Pocket Books. All are contemporary fantasy.
Two really awesome series! Okay, tell us a little about your latest or upcoming release.
My current release is SPARKS, from Pocket Books. 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. While other mediums allow spirits to use their hands and voices to communicate, Anya incinerates them. With the help of her fire salamander familiar, Sparky, and a ragtag group of ghost hunters, Anya chases down unseen threats to her city.
In SPARKS, Anya’s investigating a rash of spontaneous human combustion cases. With the reluctant assistance of a soul collector from the Underworld, she must track down the supernatural source of the fires and keep Sparky’s newly-hatched newts safe from a malicious psychic.
Man, I totally love the premise of this series! And I’ve always been psyched by our fictional Detroit connection—I have a book set there too. *grins* So, which character is your favorite and why?
Sparky, Anya's fire salamander, is a lot of fun to write. Sparky is a composite of all the pets I've had. He's snuggly, petulant, protective, and snarky. As a fire salamander, he can affect electrical fields and fire...he's been known to chew on cell phones, blow up microwaves, and set of sprinkler systems in the crime lab.
He has a favorite toy that he cuddles with at night...a Glow-Worm. I had a Glow-Worm toy as a child. I was terribly afraid of the dark, and it really helped. I still give them as gifts for baby showers.
LOL! He sounds freaking awesome! My kids had Glow-Worms!!! As the author, what surprised you about this story?
Research is one of the pleasures of being a writer. And I got to research spontaneous human combustion for this book. I was really amazed at the number of theories about how this works...including the theory of the 'phosphenic fart.' In this idea, digestive gases gather and catch fire in one's digestive tract.
Yeah, I know. Bizarre. But fun to see if I can get the heroine to mention that in the story. And if I can get my editor to laugh, that's an additional bonus.
Geez! Everyone run for the Gas-X! That’s terrifying yet oddly cool. LOL What was the hardest thing for you about writing this story?
One of the hardest things is that stories I'm working on tend to invade my dreams. When I'm in the throes of a book, it tends to suffuse my life.
I did have recurrent dreams of one of the settings - Michigan Central Station. It's a gorgeous former train station that's fallen into disrepair. I refashioned it as a way station for ghosts crossing to the Underworld - and that made for some odd dreams.
Yup. Very familiar with that building. Detroit probably has the largest selection of abandoned historic buildings in the country. So, what are you working on right now?
I've got a couple of new things in the works. I can't say much about them, except to say that there will be more things that go bump in the night. I've always loved supernatural stories, and am scribbling furiously to keep up with ideas.
Aw, man, you’re killing us! Okay, guess we’ll wait! What happened to the first book you ever wrote?
Hee. It's still sitting in a shoebox in the bottom of my closet. It was a wonderful learning experience, but I doubt it'll ever see the light of day.
I think we all have a book like that! What do you find easiest and hardest to write?
The beginning is the most intimidating part of a book for me to write. The blank page is a scary place, full of doubts and 'what if's.' Procrastination is my greatest enemy at that stage.
The easiest part for me is the last quarter of the book. Then, I can see how all the factors come into play and the plot threads begin to tie up. It's sort of like running downhill - exhilarating and exciting.
That’s really cool insight into your process. Have you incorporated actual events or people from your own life into your books?
I worked in and around criminal justice for more than ten years, and my educational background's in criminology. I never did any super-secret or particularly exciting criminologist things...but I picked up some ideas that I work into my stories.
I try to ground my heroines' adventures with a good dollop of criminal procedure. My heroines are investigators, and I want to include as many forensic details that are as accurate as possible.
When dealing with the fantastic, I think a healthy dose of realism adds a counterweight to the supernatural elements. If the real-world elements are accurate, I tend to be able to suspend disbelief for the fantastic elements more easily.
Yes, yes! Love that. That really expresses well something I’ve been thinking about with writing fantasy. Is there a theme or message that runs through your work?
I think that my books tend to really focus on how the heroines balance their inner lives with their outer lives. My protagonists tend to have hidden lives with supernatural powers that they must keep secret from their day jobs.
Very relatable! What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
My husband and I are amateur astronomers. I also belly dance a bit...but not in public. Nobody needs to see that, trust me! ;-)
I initially became interested in belly dancing because I wanted to help overcome my shyness. Since I spend so much time in my head, it helped me think of my body a bit more, get outside of myself. I still wouldn't dance in public, but it's a lot of fun to get together with a group of women to laugh and shimmy.
That’s so cool! We want the YouTube video! *winks* Which fantasy book or series do you wish you had written?
I adore Ann Aguirre's work, Marcella Burnard, Jeri Smith-Ready, and everything that Robin McKinley has ever written.
Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why?
I think my favorite heroine is Tara Sheridan, from DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE. Tara survived an attack from a serial killer that left her scarred for life. She's withdrawn from her professional life as a criminal profiler into a self-imposed exile that's both physical and emotional. I like working with broken heroines because people are flawed in real life.
I'd been wanting to write a story about a heroine who uses Tarot cards for years. The inspiration for Tara was the Queen of Swords card from the Tarot deck. It shows a resolute woman staring off into the distance, holding her sword as if she's cut herself. I've always loved that card, and wanted to build a heroine from that archetype.
She sounds awesome! I love broken characters! Okay, now, just for fun:
Milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Dark chocolate. Nom!
Salty or sweet? Sweet
Bed or kitchen table? Bed. Kitchen table is too cluttered with books!
Beach or mountains? Beach.
Give or receive? Give.
Thanks for coming on the blog! Where can we find you on the web?
Okay, everyone, leave Laura some questions and comment love! And thanks for reading!
Laura & Laura (couldn't resist! *grins*)
Unemployment, despair, anger--visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit's unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.
Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya--who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern--suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil's Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya--with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team --can stop it.
Anya's accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she's risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she's ever faced.
A free excerpt is available here.
WITHOUT A TRACE...
Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.
After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.
A free excerpt is available here.
Laura Bickle has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she's never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses.