Interview with Kait Ballenger
There’s a new paranormal romance series coming to town and it promises to be dark, gritty and of course sexy. The author of this series is one busy lady with a prequel coming out in a little over a month and the first full-length book hitting shelves this August! I’ve read the prequel and I can tell you that it gives you a good taste of what to expect from these books. Things aren’t going to come easily for the poor characters in this series but really, if things were too easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun to read. 😉 I am very happy to have debut author Kait Ballenger here today.
Shadow Hunter is a prequel novella that is going to be published in the After Dark anthology alongside a story by Gena Showalter. Gena Freaking Showalter! How psyched were you when you found out you would be in the same book as such a huge name in the paranormal romance genre?
I was stunned, to say the least lol. The call came at the end of September 2012. I’d already been contracted for the first three full-length books in the series since April, but there had never been extensive talks of a short prequel novel. When my agent, Nicole Resciniti, called and told me the news, there were a couple moments of silence before I said, “You’re kidding me!” She told me she wasn’t kidding and we both started screaming and squealing in excitement. Immediately, I rushed over to the bookshelf in my office and grabbed the first Lords of the Underworld book off the shelf and just held it in my hands, staring at Gena’s name underneath the title as Nic told me all the details. After I got off the phone with her, I screamed so loud the whole neighborhood probably heard me. Then, I shared my news with my husband, my family, and my close friends…and I cried. I couldn’t help myself haha. The thought that I was not only going to be published, but now I was also going to be published alongside Gena Showalter, completely blew my mind. I grew up with my mother, aunts and older cousins all reading paranormal romance and they’d all be fans of her series since the beginning. I remember in 2011, I was just excited to get her autograph when I was at the RWA National Conference. That alone was a big deal to me and my family, but to be in a book with her? Once the initial shock wore off, then I freaked out. “How am I going to write a whole 200 page book that’s polished enough to sit on my editor’s desk within less than one month?!” That’s what Harlequin was asking me. Think NaNoWriMo, but on steroids, because not only did the book need to be written in 30 days, it needed to be good enough to sit beside the writing of an NYT Bestseller within that amount of time. Needless to say, I did it, but it scared the hell out of me lol. But it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Your Shadow Hunter novella is an introduction to your Execution Underground series. Tell us about your series and how Shadow Hunter ties in.
The Execution Underground is an international covert organization which is comprised of hunters of the supernatural from all over the world. With resources only the C.I.A and the Pentagon can rival, the Execution Underground fights to protect humanity from the creatures that lurk in the dark. The series focuses on the six men who are the members of the Rochester, New York division. Shadow Hunter is the story of vampire hunter Damon Brock, founder and leader of the Rochester division. Shadow Hunter is Damon’s origin story and tells how he came to establish that branch of the organization. It also gives some insight into his character. The Damon you see throughout the rest of the series is very different. Shadow Hunter is meant to show Damon’s softer side and how he became so hardened and cold, like he is throughout a good portion of the series. He’ll have a full length book to himself toward the end of the series though, and you’ll get to see him find his happily ever after.
Your series features vampires, werewolves and all other manner of supernatural beings. Was it intimidating to come up with a way to make your vampires and other creatures of the night stand out in a genre that is already full of sparkly vampires and angelic vampires and crazy blood-lust infected vampires and jerk vampires and evil werewolves and cuddly werewolves and…?
Hmmm…I wouldn’t say intimidating, but somewhat challenging. Coming up with fresh myths in a very saturated paranormal genre can be difficult, especially since it’s not possible for every paranormal author to read all the other paranormal authors’ books. The time you get to spend reading definitely suffers when you’re a writer. So it’s challenging, but at the same time, I think there is something to be said for the age old mythology as well. It’s time tested and as long as it’s not stereotypical and cliché, I think true fans of the genre will still enjoy it. I think at the end of the day, if you have a good story, characters that people care about, a romance so full of passion readers can’t flip the pages fast enough, and a narrative voice that readers want to continue reading, then not having the freshest mythology on the block won’t be a massive hindrance.
One thing that is very different is that when your vampires are killed, they don’t turn to ash…they poof in a burst of blood! Um…EW! Where did that idea come from?
Haha! Yeah, my vamps are messy when they die. No crumbled ash for them. I can’t make it that easy on my characters lol. The idea actually came from older vampire lore. I took a class once in my undergrad on vampire literature from around the world. I know all the traditional vamp lore all the way to strange Filipino vampires who suck out women’s insides with vacuum-like tongues—gross, right? So when I decided to write vamps into the Execution Underground world, I didn’t want them to be typical. What fun is fighting bloodsuckers if you don’t get a little dirty? 😉
You do something with Shadow Hunter that I personally have not seen in a novella: you end it with one hell of a cliffhanger! I mean, it is one of the most intense cliffhangers I have read in a while. I was not expecting that! Does that mean that people will have to read the novella before getting into the series when book one releases later this year? Will readers feel as though they missed out on a huge chunk of the story if they decide to just pick up Twilight Hunter this September?
Readers can definitely pick up Twilight Hunter without having read the prequel. I wrote Shadow Hunter after I had already written Twilight Hunter, and until Harlequin asked me to write it, I’d never intended on writing Damon’s origin story. So readers will be able to pick up the series without having read the prequel, since Twilight Hunter was my original starting point. Damon will have a full length novel to himself later on down the line, which like all the books in the series, will stand alone and be capable of being read without the others, but it will answer the big cliffhanger question left at the end of the prequel book, so readers won’t be left hanging forever. Damon’s full length novel is tentatively scheduled as the last book in the series, book number six and as of current (this could change) is titled Dark Hunter.
As I mentioned, the first full-length book in your series, Twilight Hunter, will be releasing in August. (The 27th to be exact). Tell us what we can expect.
In Twilight Hunter, werewolf hunter Jace McCannon must partner with the Rochester packmaster, female alpha wolf Frankie Amato, in order to catch a sexual sadist murdering women in the city, but Jace has to confront his own two-natured identity in the process, along with his budding feelings for one of the creatures he hunts. Jace is a pistol of a character. He’s the ultimate bad boy, and he’s got one hell of a dark secret the Execution Underground doesn’t know about.
Okay, Flash Four time
Flash Four questions about books and writing ~
How long, from start to end, did it take you to write “Shadow Hunter” and “Twilight Hunter”?
I wrote Shadow Hunter in less than a month, because of the deadline I had to meet for Harlequin. Placing me in the anthology was very last minute, so we had to move into production fast. For Twilight Hunter, I originally started the first couple chapters in early fall of 2010. Then I put it aside for a long time before I finally picked it back up again in January of 2011. That’s when I really started working on it. I finished it in May of 2011.
Did you see yourself being a writer as you were growing up?
Not really lol. For a long time I didn’t even really like reading, so I would not have guessed I’d become a writer. It wasn’t until I reached mid-way through my undergraduate degree that I decided to become a writer. If you’d asked me in early college, I would’ve said a Spanish professor. In high school, I would’ve told you I’d be an obstetrician/gynecologist. Before that, if you’d asked me what I would be in middle school, I would’ve said a musician, and in elementary school, an actress haha. I’ve had a lot of different interests over the years, but now that I’ve found my home as an author, and soon-to-be creative writing professor, it’s permanent.
In what room of your house do you write from?
Either my office, the living room, or my bedroom. I’m kind of all over the place, but when I really need to crack down and get work done, it’s in my office at my desk.
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?
I’ve done all three lol.
For Twilight Hunter, I came up with the title not long after I’d started writing it, but Twilight Hunter actually wasn’t my title lol. The original title didn’t go with the angle HQN wanted to present for the series—they didn’t think it was dark or sexy enough—so Twilight Hunter was the title they gave it. I came up with Shadow Hunter for the prequel though (after I’d written the manuscript) and Immortal Hunter for the second book in the series (before I started writing it, which I’m currently in the midst of doing), but I had the guidelines of having to use the word “hunter”.
Flash four questions about random things ~
Sweet or salty snacks?
Depends on my mood. I love things that are sweet and salty at the same time. Things like chocolate covered pretzels = yum.
What color is your toothbrush?
White, pink, and blue
Your high school experience: good or bad?
Excellent! I loved high school. Middle school was a different story though. Hated it.
What do you like on your pizza?
Just plain ol’ cheese, but I’m not picky when it comes to pizza.
Thank you very much Kait for taking the time to answer my questions today. I’ve read Shadow Hunter and it really does a good job setting up the world you have created and building curiosity for your series. I will definitely be reading Twilight Hunter when it releases! 🙂
Thanks for having me!