Interview with Amanda Bonilla plus giveaway
I imagine it would be so difficult being an Urban Fantasy writer these days. The pressure to be unique must be quite daunting. You must come up with a world that has yet to be written about – or at least put an interesting spin on one that has – and you must write about paranormal beings in a new light, with new twists that make them fascinating. Amanda Bonilla is an author who doesn’t seem to have any issues with either of these two points. Her Shaede Assassin series is beyond unique and her writing is fresh, sharp and gripping. As soon as you pick up one of her books, you know you’ve stumbled on an incredible talent and you want more. And to give us a little more about her books and her writing, here she is, Amanda Bonilla.
Welcome to Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks Amanda!
Thanks so much for hosting me today! I’m so happy to be here! And let me just say, I can’t wait to read another post from your hubs! So funny!
You are the author of the Shaede Assassin urban fantasy series. Tell us about it.
The Shaede Assassin series takes place in Seattle. The main character, Darian, is a Shaede with a couple of upgrades. Whereas Shaedes can only become incorporeal once the sun sets, Darian is unique in that she can become incorporeal no matter the time of day. She’s an assassin by trade, and a jaded, detached, emotionally damaged character. She doesn’t trust anyone because she doesn’t know how. And she has this really insufferable tendency to run off on her own and rush into dangerous situations without backup. She’s a little too arrogant for her own good and it usually gets her nothing but trouble.
The second book in the series, Blood Before Sunrise, was just released on July 3rd! (People, it is AMAZING and you can read my review here) Tell us a bit about what Darian goes through in your latest installment.
Thanks, Julie! In Blood Before Sunrise, Darian is still trying to adjust to all of the changes in her life. She’s in a pretty stable relationship with Tyler and she’s made a true friend in Raif, the Shade King’s brother. BBS continues where Shaedes of Gray left off, and Darian and Raif are searching for Delilah, the Oracle who betrayed Darian and plotted to kill her. But once the Oracle is captured, she reveals that she knows the whereabouts of Raif’s long-lost daughter. And from there, the situation becomes a lot more complicated.
Let me say that your series is incredibly unique. I really have never come across anything quite like it. When you first sat down to write a book, did you feel like you needed to be different and unique or did the idea that popped in your head just happen to fall that way?
In a way, yes. The market was inundated with vampire and werewolf stories at the time. I worried that I’d have a hard time separating myself from the other manuscripts landing on agents’ desks. I had a previous book that had crashed and burned and I was ready to write something new. The idea literally popped into my head. I saw Darian, standing on a roof, talking to someone about a hit. And when she left, she just melted into the shadows.
You have said that you tweaked and made up aspects of the Shaedes in your books to make them fit your world. In Blood Before Sunrise, we learn much about the Fae and you write in some fae lore as well. Did you have to tweak any of that in order to better fit your world too?
I pretty made up my Fae mythology from scratch. I’m sort of obsessed with rituals, history, and artifacts. I knew what I wanted as far as the story goes, and I did borrow Celtic deities for my Fae theology, but other than that, I crafted my own history for the Fae. I have a super over-active imagination.
Now once you sat down with your idea of what a Shaede would be in your books, did the characteristics pretty much stay the same since the very first draft or has your original idea warp along the way?
Oh, no. I wrote SoG completely from the hip, with no outline or storyboard so I was basically just winging it. In the first draft, Darian didn’t eat. Ever. Not at all. And I thought about it later and just hated the idea. Food is so much of a character’s personality and I couldn’t justify the world-building. I mean, she doesn’t need any sustenance. At all? It didn’t work for me and so I re-crafted my world building so that the reader would know that even though my Shaedes were supernatural beings, they were a part of the natural world and similar to humans in their physiology.
Speaking of cool twists on ‘traditional’ paranormal beings, your twist on the Jinn (or genie) is really neat. How they bind themselves to someone and only they can break it, just brilliant. What made you decide to forego the magic lamp and write the way you did?
Honestly, the Jinn world-building has been the most difficult aspect of the Shaede series so far. Sometimes I wonder, what the hell I was thinking when I decided to write them this way?!? I started by researching the Djinn legends and none of them appealed to me. I knew that I wanted mine to be protectors (not demons) and wish granters (not mischievous), and I wanted to forgo the whole lamp thing. And so, since I’m a glutton for punishment, I wrote a creation myth for the Jinn and then set about writing the rules for a Jinn binding. Let me tell you, it’s been a super involved process and I’m not even completely done with it yet. I wrote this huge paper that reads like an encyclopedia entry about the Jinn, how they bind themselves to a Charge, and rules that regulate wish granting.
Your antitheses to the Shaedes, the Lyhtan, are creepy arsed beings. (AND, by the way, I have no idea how to pronounce their name.) For those who have yet to read your books, can you describe these…things and explain where on earth the idea for these things came from. I mean, really, you couldn’t just make your evil do-ers big puffs of purple fluff and lollypops?
It’s pronounced LIE-tan. I found it in a word origins dictionary. Lyhtan literally means to make light. I thought the spelling was really pretty and I wanted everything about my Lyhtans to be an oxymoron. When I first wrote one, it was invisible. But keeping with my theme, I saw these creatures who could melt into shimmering light to be these ugly creatures who could never show their true forms in the light of day. I modeled them after a praying mantis. I wanted them to look as inhuman as possible. My sister works with an artist who read SoG and he drew a sketch of a Lythan that almost exactly matches the way I see them in my mind.
Speaking of odd names, one of your characters in Blood Before Sunrise is named Brakae. And it’s a girl. What an…er…interesting…yeah, that’s the word I’ll go with…interesting name! Where did that name come from?
I get a lot of character names from people I know. I coached high school volleyball for five years and Brakae was a girl that I coached for four of those five years. She’s such a sweetheart, one of my favorite players. I always thought that she had a beautiful name and I wanted to use it in a book.
Odd, interesting or whatever, your characters are all amazing. Do they ‘talk’ to you or are you their master? And do you plan your books ahead of time, like is there a chart?
They definitely talk to me. I’ll have a plan for what direction I want the story to go in and the characters will take me in a completely different direction. Or, one of them will “say” something that makes my jaw drop, like use words I’d never use, that sort of thing. I used to write in a strictly organic way, but now that I have to turn in outlines before the book is due, I storyboard. I have white boards and poster board all over the house with sticky notes that denote characters, creatures, plot lines, motivations, etc. It’s really helped me to be a more efficient writer. But like I said, sometimes my characters take me off the beaten path and I just go with the flow!
Tell us about When Shadows Call, your very first novella which released on June 5th.
When Shadows Call is a prequel to Shaedes of Gray. It takes the reader back in time to the early nineteen hundreds when Darian is still human. You get to see her first meeting with Azriel and get a glimpse into why she’s the way she is and the emotional damage she suffered. It also lets the writer see a different side of Azriel which I really enjoyed writing.
Did you find it challenging to write a story with a smaller word count and less wiggle room?
Yes! My short game is horrible. LOL. I have a tendency to be really wordy and with the way I imagine my world, sometimes it’s hard for me to get to the point in a short story. I begged my editor for just 2,500 extra words when I wrote the novella. And I used every single one.
What’s next for Darian and crew?
The next novel in the Shaede Assassin series, CRAVE THE DARKNESS, releases in March 2013. Darian is going to get a lot of one-on-one time with Anya in this book and I really enjoyed writing it. Xander fans are also going to see a lot of him on the page as well. It was a fun book to write and I’m happy with how it turned out!
Okay, Flash Four time
Flash Four questions about books and writing ~
How long, from start to end, did it take you to write “Blood Before Sunrise”?
I actually started writing BBS in December of 2010 after SoG had been out with agents for a couple of months. But because I was busy editing SoG and getting it ready to submit to publishers, I had to quit writing. I worked on it in my free time in between edits for SoG, final production and promoting, so it took me probably a total of three months to write, but it spanned over the course of almost a year.
Did you see yourself being a writer as you were growing up?
Not until I was about seventeen. I always dreamed about it but never took the initiative to sit down and write a story beginning to end. Over the years, I’d start something and quit. But I think life is all about timing. I came to a point where I had the time to sit down and write and I’d run out of excuses not to. That was in 2008 and I’ve been writing full-time since then.
In what room of your house do you write from?
Usually the kitchen. I sit at the table because it’s the most comfortable place. My house is super tiny and there’s just no room for an actual desk. I used to sit on the couch in our den. The teen called it The Sanctum. But he’s sort of taken over that space because it’s where the PlayStation is. It’s all right, though. I’ll reclaim it someday!
Do you tend to come up with the title for your book before you start writing it, while you’re writing it or when it’s all done?
It depends. I had the title for Shaedes of Gray in place before I was done with the book. A lot of times, though, book titles get changed from when you turn in the manuscript to when it goes into pre-production. It usually takes A LOT of brainstorming to come up with a book title. It’s definitely not my favorite part of the process.
Flash four questions about random things ~
Sweet or salty snacks?
Both! I love sweet and salty together. I think the caramel flavor Bugles are addictive. They have this great caramel coating and underneath is salty Bugle goodness!
What color is your toothbrush?
Pink! My two favorite colors are pink and black. LOL
Your high school experience: good or bad?
Non-existent. I only attended traditional high school for two years. I actually took a year off when my daughter was born (I know, scandalous) and finished my required classes the next year off site. I’m sort of glad I didn’t do the whole high school thing. Way too much drama for me.
What do you like on your pizza?
My favorite is peperoni with fresh tomatoes. YUM! I also like Canadian bacon with pineapple.
Thank you so so SO much Amanda for taking the time to answer my questions today. Your Shades of Gray novel was on my “Favorite Reads of 2011” list and I am positive that Blood Before Sunrise will be on my Tops of 2012 list. You are a wonderful talent and I look forward to reading more from you very soon. It is very soon, right? Right?!
Well… another Shaede Assassin novella will be out in February. It takes place between books 2 and 3 and will be told from Tyler’s perspective. I’m really excited for this story! Book 3, CRAVE THE DARKNESS releases in March which just seems too far away! Thanks again for having me as a guest, Julie! I had a blast answering your questions!
Amanda is offering a copy of Blood Before Sunrise to a lucky reader today and it’s super easy to enter to win it – just leave a comment below. But wait! That isn’t the only one of Amanda’s books that is up for grabs today. A while back, I sent Amanda my copy of Shaedes of Gray to sign and she sent it back with an extra autographed copy! So Amanda is giving away Blood Before Sunrise and I am giving away the autographed copy of Shaedes of Gray. When you enter with you comment below, please specify which book you would like to be entered for. Giveaway open Canada/US and you must leave your comment by Sunday July 15th 2012 11:59est. Good luck everyone and Thanks Amanda for offering such an incredible book as a prize!