"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Anne Cain & Barbara Sheridan
Graphic artist Anne Cain has had
a pencil in her hand for just about as long as she can remember.
Though most of her art is created digitally these days, she also
enjoys working in a wide range of mediums including pencils and
watercolors. An author as well as an artist, Anne's favorite
genres are horror and fantasy, and she writes yaoi (a sub-genre
of m/m) stories with her partner in crime, Barbara Sheridan.
* * * * *
Award winning novelist Barbara Sheridan lives in with an unruly menagerie including two children, one grandchild, an older brother, a bird, assorted goldfish, a turtle that think it’s a cat, and five cats—one of which “sees things” and has a mad crush on a Japanese musician.
She's been writing since the "Dark Ages" (pre-PCs) and sold her first book in 1998 to Jove's Time Passages line. She currently has historical, paranormal and contemporary romances out in both e-book and print form. Recently Barb dipped her toes into the YA paranormal romance pool and has an anime inspired time-travel out featuring a gorgeous cover designed by her sixteen year old daughter.
An Interview with Anne Cain & Barbara Sheridan
We are talking with the writing team of Anne Cain and Barbara Sheridan.
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do? What inspired you to begin writing together?
Anne C.: Barb and I met on an online RPG back in 2005. Our characters hit it off from the start, and we loved writing together—leading to the creation of the Dragon’s Disciple universe. Before that, I’d mostly written short fantasy or horror stories for fun. I’ve always loved writing, but Barb is the hard-core pro.
Barbara S.: Hard core pro--LOL That means I've earned a wee bit of cash from the writing and had books on major store shelves twice…a l o n g time ago. Like most writers I was an avid reader from the day I could read on my own. I had a number of short pieces in small press 'zines back in the 1990s (as Barbara Parker) and sold my first book (a time-travel romance) in 1998. As Anne, said she and I started writing together as the result of an online role-playing game. We liked our "bad boy" characters so much that we spun them out of the game and let them have their own wild adventures.
PNR: Tell us about the challenges you both face in working together, are there any instances where it has been difficult? What has been most rewarding?
Anne C.: There are so many great things about writing together. For me, I think having created all these wonderfully different stories with flawed, interesting characters has been the most rewarding thing about the experience. After that, it’s the support of readers and the reviewers who’ve taken a chance on our work. Yaoi is a pretty different form of m/m romance some folks aren’t used to, but so much of the feedback has been positive, and it’s a thrill to hear from readers when they love our stories as much as we do.
That ties into our biggest challenge to date, I think. Our readers loved the first Dragon’s Disciple book and the response to its prequel was amazing. But actually getting the sexually charged and somewhat violent series released has been a real roller coaster ride. Thankfully, we found a great home for them with Liquid Silver Books and this will be the summer of the Poisoned Dragon.
Barbara S.: Actually it's been the most fun I've ever had writing. Anne and I think a lot alike and yet our minds spin off in different direction enough that we keep each other guessing and on our toes. The most rewarding thing is that people seem to love our characters as much as we do.
PNR: Do you have a strict writing schedule? Do you literally write together or are different parts/chapters assigned to a certain person? Could you give us a peek at what a typical writing day would look like and how you make it work?
Anne C.: Barb and I write in ‘real time’—basically, we just have crazy-fun RPing together. *lol* We’ll toss plot ideas back and forth, then let the characters run wild with it. My schedule has been kinda nuts lately and cutting into my PC time, but when we’re into a story, Barb and I can write for hours and hours.
Barbara S.: We might have a writing schedule if our families would cooperate. * glares in their direction * We live in different states so we can't physically get together but we have an online writing journal that we use. As Anne said we write now the way we started out with it being almost like a roleplaying game. Our styles are so similar that we each sort of run with the characters and plot until we get a bit stuck or run out of time then turn it over to the other person.
PNR: What is the best part about being a writer? The most frustrating?
Anne C.: The best part: having a blast bringing these stories to life with the best partner-in-crime ever. The most frustrating: noisy family members who have no respect for the creative process! *lol*
Barbara S.: The best part is that it's fun. It's also a big thrill to have people enjoy the stories. We write mostly fiction that's very much in the yaoi vein and a lot of it--especially the stories featuring the Shu and Sakurai characters-- is pretty dark in terms of violence and horror-like situations.
The most frustrating thing for me is promo. I'm a firm believer in word of mouth being the best advertising and yet I've never quite figured out how to make that happen especially with e-books that aren't on the shelves of every Target or Costco in the land.
PNR: Which author(s) is your favorite? And who or what has most influenced your work? Who or what has been your biggest support?
Anne C.: I love so many different kinds of books, but I think for fantasy Diana Wynne Jones has been my favorite. I also love Mike Mignola’s Hellboy works, and my favorite yaoi creator is Ayano Yamane—check out her “Finder Series”, it’s gorgeous.
Barbara S.: I've got lots of favorite authors. Books that I've read recently that I've enjoyed quite a bit are the last "mediator" book by Meg Cabot and Tempted Tigress by Jade Lee.
PNR: What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
Anne C.: The characters, hands down. With so many books out there, it’s ultra rare to find a 100% unique plot. So it really rests on the shoulders of the characters to hook in readers and make them care.
Barbara S.: For me it's always been the characters. As a reader I have to connect with them on some level and if they come across as "real people" that's fantastic. Anne and I try to put that through in our writing and I think we succeed.
PNR: Congratulations on the January 2007 release of SOUL OF THE NIGHT from Samhain Publishing, readers and reviewers are excited about this second title in your Yaoi vampire series, Dragon’s Disciple; could you tell us where the idea came from and a little about your vision for the series?
Anne C.: Barb and I created the characters for an online RPG about two years ago, and this entire universe just snowballed out of that. The Dragon’s Disciple books are our pride and joy! We can’t wait for readers to lose themselves in our world, and this summer we’ll be releasing the trilogy back-to-back, roughly one month apart.
Barbara S.: What Anne said LOL. All of our stories owe their existence to the trilogy that introduced Mr. Shu and company. For people who don't know our ChildsPrey J-rock series came about because ChildsPrey is the name of the band mentioned briefly as being a favorite band of one of our characters. Then one day the CP boys starting nagging us to write about them too. Soul of the Night came about almost by accident. Kiyoshi was never meant to be a major character but we fell in love with him and had to give him his own stories.
PNR: Reader interest in the Yaoi genre has grown tremendously. For readers who are not familiar with your Dragon’s Disciple series and the genre, could you give us an overview? What influenced your decision to write in this genre?
Anne C.: The most important thing to know about yaoi is that it’s a purely fantasized take on m/m relationships. While there are a lot of guys who enjoy the genre, it’s primarily written for and by women and no plot is too over-the-top. There can be humor, drama, violence and, always, plenty of sex between sinfully handsome men.
Barb and I love yaoi, and we’re also big fans of Japanese pop culture. Since we write what we love, I think that’s what has influenced our decision to write yaoi-styled stories.
Barbara S.: Yaoi is definitely "over-the-top" in so many ways. The guys are hotter, their angst is angstier and they can physically carry on in ways that no mere mortal man could. (Anne adds: AMEN! *lolol*)
PNR: I am captured by the dark and dangerous world you both have created. Can you tell us about the challenges you face in world building and making it work with the ideas you have in mind for the progression of your characters and the series? Do you write your characters to fit the world you have created or vice versa?
Anne C.: We base a lot on historical events and look into the different cultures for inspiration, so there’s quite a bit of actual research going on behind the scenes. Barb is especially great at finding articles and books of interest; for the Dragon’s Disciple series, she dug up so much great information on San Francisco and Chinatown in the 19th century. All of it was critical in making Shu, Toshiro, Yang and Ume real, believable characters.
Barbara S.: What has surprised both Anne and me time and again is how things we've "made up" to further the plot turn out to be very real. An example would be when Ume Itou is threatened by mob boss Ren Yang with being branded and sold as tong property. Back in the 19th century there really were young Chinese women and girls auctioned off underground beneath a temple on Dupont Street.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Anne C.: Barb and I don’t plot out our books beforehand. We start out knowing the general direction of where we want to take the story, then let the characters take over. We’re pretty much swept up along for the ride while our boys (and girls too) have their fun. :)
Barbara S.: We're "pantzers" all the way. I think --at least I hope--that the excitement we feel while following our characters comes across in the writing.
PNR: Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Anne C.: Creating characters is one of the funnest parts of writing! Barb and I are inspired by all sorts of things—Japanese rockstars, actors, characters in books, etc. Then we start obsessively thinking about them and they develop into these off-the-wall, sexy and different characters with lives of their own.
I think my most favorite character to write is also the most challenging—Shu. He’s not a traditional ‘good guy’ at all, and he stretches the definition of ‘anti-hero’ quite a bit. *lol* He’s complex and disturbed, and at the same time a very sexual, alluring character. It’s a challenge to be able to pull that off well, but hearing readers say, “He’s so bad…but damn, I want him!” is awesome.
Barbara S.: What Anne said. We are a wee bit obsessive in collecting pictures of our favorite Asian stars and when it comes to the rockers, some of those guys have been through many different phases and have had so many different looks that they conjure up all these ideas for characters.
Shu is definitely the favorite. He's the one that started it all and the one who is the most fascinating. Shu does face some serious competition from Liu Sakurai though. Sakurai is such a smooth, snarky bastard you can't help but want to be his adoring fangirl/boy.
I think the most challenging character to date may be Dai Matsui. Readers haven't met him yet but he's an NYPD detective who will be showing up in the follow-up to Dragon's Disciple II--Alliances. Both Anne and I want Dai to be as "realistic" as possible when it comes to the police aspect of the book. About a year or so ago I took to lurking around a message board where many NYPD members rant and just generally comment on the state of their department.
Most of those guys are downright scary but I had the great fortune to strike up an email conversation with a retired detective who has been so nice and recently looked over our police related scenes and gave them an "A minus" for believability. (I think we missed the A + by having our Dai be a bit too good of a marksman during a hostage situation LOL)
So thank you Will S. a/k/a ProudPD.
PNR: The Dragon’s Disciple series is both very dark and very sensual, is either of you better at or more comfortable with writing one aspect or the other of the story? How would you describe the sensuality level of your books?
Anne C.: The sensuality level in our books is pretty intense and definitely not for the faint of heart. But we don’t like to throw in sex for the sake of it—the love scenes always further the plot or show some kind of character/romantic development.
Since our writing styles mesh so well, I don’t think there are areas that I feel less or more comfortable writing. But Barb is brilliant with romance and getting real emotions in the characters! I like writing action, so if something explodes in one of our stories now you know why…
Barbara S.: Anne is definitely the one who makes things more action oriented and harder around the edges. Without her we'd be drowning in sea of angst. (Anne: Hey, I love man-teardrops! *lol*)
PNR: Your series is m/m relationship focused; does this present a challenge when writing the love/sex scenes?
Anne C.: Not really. I’ve been addicted to yaoi and m/m for over two years now and there’s just something about the genre that’s so appealing to me. Though, I’m almost totally impaired when it comes to writing heterosexual romance! *lol* It’s not something I read a lot of and I don’t watch many chick flicks either, so I’m always nervous about writing kissy scenes between boys and girls.
Barbara S.: * pokes Anne because her m/f scenes are great * I've been writing more traditional m/f romance for a long time and I think that helps in terms of these stories being enjoyed by a female audience. Will these stories appeal to gay male readers? I don’t' know. I'd like to think so, but yaoi is definitely a genre by women for women, so it's all about the fantasy.
PNR: I have to mention the hauntingly beautiful cover art and illustrations within your books, Anne you are very talented. What is your inspiration?
Anne C.: Thank you so much, Dee! I’ve always loved art and drawing, so it’s great being able to provide the covers for our stories. (Thanks also to our wonderful publishers who let me have so much creative freedom!) My inspiration comes from artists like Drew Struzan, Kazusa Takashima, Kinuko Y. Craft and John Picacio, who are just some of my favorites.
PNR: Why do you feel the vampire is such a popular character in books, movies and television?
Anne C.: I think the nature of the vampire as beautiful, sensual creatures who live beyond the confines of mortality is such a great romantic concept. Then there’s also the horror/scary side of vamps that appeals to readers looking to indulge their darker imaginations. With so many possibilities when it comes to vampires, it’s the kind of legend that won’t ever get old (no pun intended!).
Barbara S.: I definitely agree on all points. I've been a vampire fan forever. These characters can go so many ways as to remain fresh. They can be monstrous killers or dark and brooding heroes.
PNR: Paranormal romance is experiencing an incredible surge in popularity, what do you feel accounts for the sudden interest in the genre? What is it about the paranormal genre that captures your imagination?
Anne C.: It’s the same kind of phenomenon that makes vampires so appealing—paranormal romance is about finding the extraordinary in everyday life and creating worlds where the imagination can run wild. There are so many talented authors out there crafting all of these exciting new stories, and that inspires other authors to explore even more possibilities in paranormal romance.
I love the idea that anything is possible in paranormal fiction. Throw in two gorgeous men who love each other and my imagination runs off faster than my typing fingers can keep up.
Barbara S.: Paranormal romance has been around forever, I remember reading books like Green Darkness by Anya Seton and Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels back in the late 70s. I think PNR being so popular is long overdue. It's one of those things that has high and low cycles but the core audience is always there.
PNR: What is your favorite genre to write? Is there any style or genre of book that you would like to try but haven’t yet?
Anne C.: I love paranormals, but horror is also one of my fave genres. I think I’d like to try doing something cyberpunk-ish one day, but more Ghost in the Shell than ‘androids or aliens in space’.
Barbara S.: Paranormal is at the top of the list, but I've always been a major fan of history in general and the late Victorian era in particular. Any time I can combine the two I'm quite the happy camper. I'd really love to write a mystery/thriller. I love reading them but I just don't have the knack for setting up the clues. I think it's because mysteries involve serious plotting and I'm a hopeless pantzer.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current collaborative projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months? Do you have any individual projects planned? A sneak peek perhaps?
Anne C.: The next few months are going to be really exciting for us. Barb and I have the Dragon’s Disciple trilogy coming out within the next few weeks from Liquid Silver Books. We also have two books contracted with Loose Id and sequels to Soul of the Night and I Do in the works. On the solo front, I’ll have a short, m/m fairytale coming out much later in the year from Samhain Publishing entitled “On Wings of Blue”.
*mops brow* We’re busy gals!
Barbara S.: We're busy but still unknown and poor LOL. I think readers are really going to love one of the new ones coming from Loose ID. Parallel Process was great fun to write and it features a pair of hunky parapsychology grad students who get into a situation involving a lusty Hindu God named Maaya. And Anne forgot to say that Soul of the Night is due out July 17 in paperback from Samhain. It's already up for preorder on Amazon and elsewhere and the book also contains Anne's gorgeous (and hot) illustrations. (These are in black & white while the e-book has the full color illustrations)
On the solo front my YA time travel Mirror, Mirror (written as Chloe Michelle) is supposed to go to print. For those readers familiar with Timeless Wish you'll be interested to know that Mirror features appearances from Jake and Galen Hillhouse. I also have an historical romance that's been revamped and spiced up that will be reissued at the end of July from the new British e-publisher Total-e-bound.
PNR: Thank you Anne and Barbara, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Anne C.: Thank you for the interview and all these great questions, Dee! Barb and I love hearing from readers, so we invite everyone to leave a comment at our blog: http://dragonsdisciple.livejournal.com or to drop us a line at poisoneddragon-at-dragonsdisciple.com (replace –at- with @ please).
Barbara S.: That's so much Dee! Your questions are always the best. As Anne said we love hearing from readers. We love all your comments. If you love something about our work we'll happily bask in the praise but if you don't like something let us know. Writing is a constant learning process and we want to write the best books we can that leave readers feeling their money was well spent.
Readers can contact me personally at bsher213-at-yahoo.com
May 1, 2006
In a world where the nights are darker and the passions run deeper, two young men go from friends to something more when a dangerous stranger appears on their doorstep.
In feudal Japan, war and famine tear through the countryside, and demons lurk in the darkness. Two young men struggle together on the outskirts of a ravaged village: the strong yet kind Liu Sakurai and his beloved gentle hearted Kiyoshi. And as their friendship endures the endless hardships, their bond grows into something more.
When the summer night brings a mysterious stranger to their door, the most dangerous desires of their dreams and nightmares are awakened. Blood now binds Kiyoshi and Sakurai together where once love did, but can this tie last an eternity?
July 17, 2007
January 1, 2007
On the streets of old San Francisco darkness threatens to consume a vampire’s soul, and one man’s love is all that stands between good and evil.
The truth of his vampiric nature a carefully guarded secret, Kiyoshi Ishibe wanders alone in the shadows of the past. Banished from Edo in disgrace, the once famous kabuki actor Ryuhei Nakamura also journeys in loneliness. Both souls find one another in the night, each man filling the emptiness of the other.
But temptation and desire brings out the worst in Kiyoshi, triggering a fascination with the blood of a killer known as the Poisoned Dragon. As this interest quickly spirals into an obsession, everything Kiyoshi and Ryuhei have come to treasure is in danger of being lost…forever…
Soul of the Night includes 9 original illustrations by Anne Cain.Coming Soon from Liquid Silver Books The Dragon's Disciple Trilogy
Liquid Silver Books
July 30, 2007
Dragon's Disciple: Book 1
Silk & Poison weaves the dark and seductive tales of Ume and Toshiro Itou, a Japanese mother and son who find themselves alternately lured and thrust into the dangerous world of rival Chinese Tongs in 19th century California.
Liquid Silver Books
August 30, 2007
Dragon's Disciple: Book 2
Forbidden love and repressed desires of the past and present linger in the atmosphere of San Francisco's Chinatown. Dao Kan Shu, a Chiang-Shih, a vampire, hunts under the cover of darkness, his lust for blood and the craving of a once mortal heart awakened by an art student, Ken Ohara. Drawn to a hot new nightspot Ken discovers that his own hidden past is bound to that of the club's owner known throughout the Chinese underworld as The Poisoned Dragon. Fascinated by Shu's dark world Ken is soon caught in a dangerous web of triad societies, blood lust and a strange relationship he can barely begin to understand.
Fine Arts professor Leigh Gachelsing, tormented since childhood with visions and spirits, discovers a link from the mysterious club owner to Chinatown's violent past where two assassins feared as demons once hunted the streets. He joins Ken's advisor Magda Silivasi who is determined to save her student before he is lost to the echoes of a past life and the deadly embrace of a vampire.
Liquid Silver Books
September 30, 2007
Dragon's Disciple: Book 3
The sorceress Jaya works to revive an ancient evil. By joining forces with the centuries-old vampire Sakurai to obtain both their most sought after desires, they create a web of mistrust and seduction to ensnare four people crucial to their schemes: art professors Meg Silivasi and Leigh Gachelsing, along with Ken Ohara and his immortal lover, Dao Kan Shu. As malevolent forces and their own suspicions drive a wedge between the couples, loyalties are put to the ultimate test.
For Additional Titles from
Anne Cain &
Featured in this issue:
Paraphernalia is a feature of PNR, the official website of firstname.lastname@example.org