I love Kick-Ass heroines in my books, what’s the story behind how Devil’s Kiss was born?
I think having two daughters certainly played a major part. That and I love action adventure with a supernatural twist. My favourite authors are Anne Rice, Angela Carter, Clive Cussler and Bernard Cornwell. So I wanted to create a series taking all those influences in, horror, dark fairy tales, high adventure and historical fiction.
The original version of DK had a lot of flashbacks to the medieval period, I think the very earliest even opened with the death of the last Templar Grandmaster, Jaques de Molay. But as drafts came and went that story faded into the background.
I think the parent-child dynamics are stronger between different sexes. The cliché is always about the son following the father’s footsteps. A whole new level was added by making my Templar protagonist a girl. In children’s literature there’s enough male heroes, I didn’t feel I had anything to add. Once I started writing Billi SanGreal, my 15 year old heroine, I discovered there’s a whole library of female action heroes, Buffy, Anita Blake et al, but by then I was having too much fun writing mine I couldn’t stop.
How did you react when you got the news about being published?
Insanely pleased. I’ve been very lucky that over the last five or six years that I’ve been writing seriously, something’s happened every six months or so to encourage me along. There’s been constant rejections and criticisms, but then there’s been encouragement and positive feedback too. The odds of getting published are so remote that, if I’d really thought about them, I might have been put off.
But the great thing about writing is the pleasure is in the learning. I’ve gone on courses that have inspired me and then there’s the work of favourite writers. You’ll read something amazing then be driven to write yourself.
Can you share a little teaser from Devil’s Kiss with us to give us something to salivate on?
What if the Angel of Death unleashed the 10th plague now? To slay all the Firstborn? That’s the premise of the story. I wanted a villain who knew he was a good guy, he is after all God’s killer.
So we’ve got a rogue archangel and what’s left of the Knights Templar, fighting it out in London. The city’s the perfect setting for a gothic supernatural adventure, and the key aspect of gothic tales is that nothing comes without paying a terrible price. Characters are aware of the doom that awaits them, but have the courage to go forward nevertheless.
Billi doesn’t want to have these sorts of responsibilities, she wants to be normal, be ignorant. The book’s about the hard choices she’ll have to make and the price she’ll pay.
Where there any parts in this book difficult to write?
Yes, the romance. There’s one particular scene in a cafe where Billi’s meeting a very cool guy and she’s trapped by terrible indecision and lack of confidence. Is he interested or not? How cool does she play it? I remember those awful times as a teen when you were really keen on someone but everything you said to them made you die inside.
In comparison the action scenes were a doddle.
How many books can we expect in this series?
I’ve finished The Dark Goddess, the sequel, so expect that this time next year. If these two did well I would hope to do two more, mainly because I’ve such a cool title to Book 4! Devil’s Kiss is a very urban adventure. It’s set in London and the story is dominated by the city. The Dark Goddess is out in the Russian wilderness. Well out of Billi’s comfort zone.
It was a long journey to get to where you are today, how are you celebrating the release of Devil’s Kiss?
Just making sure I don’t take any of it for granted. It’s way too early to be resting on any laurels and I’m keeping in mind this is now my day job. I’ve still got responsibilities to my family, to the publisher and the many other people who are part of the process of getting books on shelves and into readers’ hands. That said, it’s a bloody fantastic job!
What makes your book so different from other supernatural books out today? Why should readers buy your novel?
One trend that’s become pretty common is the normalization of the supernatural. I think it began with Anne Rice and we glimpsed the lives of the creatures that’d previously been the villains and the monsters under the bed. In a way this stripped them of their mystery. Vampires, werewolves and fairies have become known, they are the lead players and while that’s great I think it’s robbed them of the thing that fundamentally frightened us and what made them attractive in the first place, the sense of them being the Other. That’s what we fear.
I want to bring that back. The darkness is something to be afraid of. The creatures out there aren’t like us, they don’t empathise or have compassion towards humanity. They hate. They hate with an overwhelming passion everything we have that they do not. Vampires aren’t cool, they are savage and selfish and cruel. The immortality comes at a price and Devil’s Kiss shows you what an awful thing it is to become one of the Hungry Dead. The same is true in The Dark Goddess and the werewolves that serve her. They’re not eco-warriors howling in pretty forests. They are eaters of manflesh. They revel in slaughter.
If anything, my story is a return to old school. I want the reader to be afraid, again.
What are your plans in the future after this series if finished?
Looking at Kali, the Indian goddess and patron deity of the Thuggee cult. It’s about time someone wrote a book where they are the heroes.