"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Award winning author Kathleen Nance lives in Michigan, where she divides her time into writing, working as a pharmacist, trying to lose 10 pounds, and adjusting to the empty nest as her chicks (now all taller than she is) fly off to their respective universities and jobs. Her latest book, -- Phoenix Unrisen -- is on the shelves now.
An Interview with Kathleen Nance
PNR: Welcome back! When we last spoke with you in May 2003 SPELLBOUND, the fourth book in your Djinn series was about to be released; can you tell readers what you have been up to?
Kathleen N.: I’ve since had another three books released. Day of Fire was part of the 2176 action-adventure series; Jigsaw was a romantic suspense featuring an artificial intelligence; just out in October is Phoenix Unrisen, an Earth Magic book.
PNR: Are you able to write as much as you would like? Could you tell us about your writing schedule? What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Kathleen N.: I don’t get to write nearly as much as I would like. I work full time as a pharmacist (it’s the job that pays for things, like, oh, three college tuitions) and recently that job has been demanding a lot of my time and energy. I find it difficult to write in the evenings, so I write in the morning, before I go to work, and on weekends.
On winter evenings, I hibernate. I read, do crossword puzzles, watch TV (I’m a Project Runway and Top Chef addict), cook, putz around the house. I try to exercise every day, I play bells with our church choir, and I belong to a monthly book club – an altogether ordinary life.
PNR: Most writers are avid readers, is this true for you? What titles would we see in your TBR pile?
Kathleen N.: I love reading, although often much of my reading is for contests, critique, or research. My tastes are pretty eclectic and my TBR pile is HUGE. Looking at a sampling, I found Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick, a Kelley Armstrong book, a book I bought in London called Wicked (not the Wizard of Oz spin off, this one’s set in an English prep school), a Donna Kauffman Blaze, two Harlequin Intrigues, a book by Mercedes Lackey, Bonnie Vanak’s The Tiger and the Tomb, and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.
PNR: Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer? Who has been your biggest support?
Kathleen N.: Influence is hard to say; I think I’ve absorbed and learned from a variety of sources, but like any writer, ultimately I have to express that amalgam of experience in my own unique manner. One influence were a classes I took very early in my career from author Martha Corson, who studied with Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham. Their approach is more analytical, but I keep coming back to some those early basics like What does your character want and why can’t he get it?
My biggest support has been my family and my critique partners. My family has always been willing to put up with the fast food and lack of time when I’m under a deadline or having me zone out during a conversation as I work on some story problem. I’ve been privileged to be a member of two special critique groups, one in New Orleans and one in Michigan with partners who challenge me to make the story the best it can be. (as well as reading pages on very short notice and sharing a lot of bottles of wine)
PNR: What are the greatest challenges to you as an author?
Kathleen N.: There are a lot of challenges, and they change at different points in your career; it’s hard to narrow down. I’m not good with the business and marketing aspects like I should be. On the writing -- Keeping it fresh. Not letting doubts eat at creativity.
PNR: What do you feel are the essential elements of a great story?
Kathleen N.: I think the elements are very basic: Interesting characters participating in interesting events. The challenge is that every reader and every writer defines interesting in a different way and that definition changes from story to story. So, it’s an elusive, moving target. I do like when an author shows me something new or puts a surprising twist into the narrative.
PNR: You have received numerous honors, including several PEARL Award nominations and a great deal of reader admiration for your writing. How does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?
Kathleen N.: It’s exciting and affirming, and I very much appreciate them. Writing and book publishing are sort of dichotomous activities. Writing is, in its creation, a solitary occupation generated from the shades of the mind. Then, the results, the books, are given for any and all to read, to comment on, to like or dislike. Hearing from a reader that they have enjoyed my story or receiving an award nomination is the bridge between those and a tremendous thrill. I’m grateful for them.
PNR: Readers are excited about the October 2007 release of PHOENIX UNRISEN from Love Spell. Could you tell us what inspired this magical romantic suspense? Is this the first in a new series?
Kathleen N.: I hope it will be the first in a series I’m calling Earth Magic books.. I’m working on the proposal for another book. I was interested in writing romantic suspense, as it’s a genre I’ve enjoyed reading from the days of Nancy Drew, so I was excited to be able to combine my favorite genres into one story. I very much hope readers will enjoy it as well.
PNR: Does PHOENIX UNRISEN have any connections with your popular Djinn series?
Kathleen N.: It’s a spin off from my djinn series: The hero and heroine were characters in other books – Ram is one of Isis’s brothers (from More Than Magic) and the heroine, Natalie appeared briefly in Spellbound. The focus is on Earth, not Kafian magic, however, and it’s a darker book than the djinn series.
PNR: You have been complimented on your masterful world building. 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 series? Do you write your characters to fit the world you have created or vice versa?
Kathleen N.: Thank you! Building a world is fun, because you get to imagine all sorts of wondrous and terrifying things. But that tremendous freedom also means needing to sort through the multitude of possibilities and making choices. When building a different world, I try to make it consistent and believable. Magic, Greek gods come to life, elves, whatever the world – all need a structure and once that structure is laid out, the author needs to play by those rules. For example, our world is controlled by the laws of gravity. You jump out a window; you fall to the ground. My hero couldn’t jump out the window and suddenly float upward simply because I need him on the 10th floor instead of the 3rd. Unless, I set it up well in advance that he has the power to defy the laws of gravity in a manner consistent with my world. (Antigrav shoes? Turns into an eagle and flies? Has power over the wind to lift him up?)
My characters are products of their environment. I wish I could say I’m an author who has her worlds completely thought out and detailed at the beginning, but I’m not. The worlds and the people tend to evolve together as I write, as I explore and develop.
With the Earth Magic, I’m exploring concepts of how it works and what it means to the mages and how it interacts with technology. I’m very much enjoying this world, and I’m hoping I’ll get to discover and reveal more.
PNR: Could you give us some insight into how you develop the paranormal abilities of your characters?
Kathleen N.: I ask myself lots of questions about what the details and implications of that ability are, how it affects the characters and their society. For example: My hero, Ram, is a mage. Some of the questions I asked: What can and can’t he do? Does magic take a lot of effort or specific rituals to work the magic or can he simply think it done? If it’s easy, why doesn’t he use magic for everything? What are the costs or challenges to wield magic? How do others view him? How does this power affect him and how does his character affect the use of the power? Or, in other examples, if my heroine has visions, what brings them on? What is the aftermath? Why wouldn’t they reveal important information like the villain’s name and face? Or, if a character is a telepath how do they keep from being overwhelmed? How do the thoughts appear to them? A constant hum? Separate words? Shouts? How does knowing someone’s intimate thoughts color your interactions? Why can’t they solve every crime in an instant just by reading minds? Do they have limitations?
The ongoing answers to the endless questions are what I use to shape the paranormal aspects.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Kathleen N.: I used to think of myself as plot driven, and I still am in that as I like to have a driving external plot on which to hang the action of the story. I don’t write introspective or angst-driven stories. But, characters have become more of the starting point for me. I become intrigued by these people and want to find out how they fit in the excitement.
Balancing the two is an ongoing process throughout each draft of the story. While writing, I try to make sure that the scenes’ actions are true to the characters’ nature, and I’m forever asking questions: Has the action stalled? Does this reveal something about my characters? Is there a way I can make this scene more interesting or serve more of a purpose? Etc. etc. etc.
PNR: Your heroine and hero in Phoenix Unrisen, Natalie and Ram, have an uneasy attraction as they have to work to uncover a dangerous threat. What was your inspiration for these characters? Could you tell us about the development of their relationship?
Kathleen N.: Both of them had appeared in previous books. Ram was initially an overprotective older brother, but one who had an open mind to the possibilities of magic. Natalie, on the other hand, was a reporter who hinted to me that she had significant issues with the power that comes with magic. It was their conflict I wanted to tell.
Natalie and Ram have had some encounters in the past, which have not gone well, so they start out very wary of each other. Although they have some fundamental differences in their views on magic and power to work through, and some major secrets to protect, at heart they have similar core values: a belief in the importance of family, a desire to protect the weak, a thirst for knowledge. And, oh the sexual heat between these two . . .
PNR: You write wonderfully complex characters that readers really connect to; who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Kathleen N.: Thank you so much! I love all my characters, otherwise it’s difficult to spend the hours with them and my computer. Simon and Darius do hold special places, since they were my first djinn and heroes. Of course, right now, I’m falling in love with Adam Zolton – the hero in the proposal I’m working on (working title – Dragon Unmasked)
One of the most challenging to write was Fran, the artificial intelligence in Jigsaw. I adored her, and I wanted to make sure she was unique and something different than human or AI’s that have been written about by others.
PNR: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the love/sex scenes?
Kathleen N.: I think my stories are sexual, definitely not sweet, and I’m not afraid to be explicit when needed, but I wouldn’t call them burning or erotic. I do find love/sex scenes a challenge because they can have a repetitious feel. I try to make sure they’re necessary to the plot or character development and express the emotions in an interesting manner. I tend to spend a lot of time on foreplay and buildup and aftermath, as that’s where I find the most revelations, conflict, and sensuality.
PNR: Tales of djinn, sorcerers and other wielders of magic have been with us since the oral tradition of storytelling. Why do you feel that magic is such a popular theme in storytelling? In the paranormal romance genre?
Kathleen N.: Magic represents power, always an intriguing and compelling element to a story. Also, I think you can explore a lot of different aspects and conflicts of life and relationships in a fresh, fascinating manner. Magic allows you to do so many things that people dream of.
PNR: You have written in the fantasy and futuristic/sci-fi genres; what is it about the paranormal romance genre that captures your imagination? Is there a genre you haven’t written but would like to try?
Kathleen N.: The paranormal offers such unlimited possibilities for that extra dimension to the story, something unique and interesting. I really appreciate the challenges and the opportunities it opens in creating characters and stories. Plus it’s fun and can be very sexy. As for other genres, so far I’ve set my stories on earth and I’d like to do a SF or fantasy story within a whole different planet/society. I also think it would be fun to write a historical ghost story.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
Kathleen N.: I’m not contracted for anything right now, but am submitting a new proposal, so keep your fingers crossed. I’ve also written an erotic novella, which I love, and I’m hoping to start submitting soon.
PNR: Thank you, Kathleen, for taking time out to talk with us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Kathleen N.: Thanks so much for asking me to participate.
Readers can e-mail me at email@example.com.Check out my website at kathleennance.com. I don’t update a lot, but I will announce there any news and there is a bulletin board there. You have to register, and be approved, to post, but that’s only to keep off the spammers. If you do register, please drop me a line separately to let me know. I get a ton of spam registrations I have to deny and sometimes a reader request can get lost.
I put out a very low tech e-newsletter once or twice a year, so if you’d like to be on the mailing list, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 2, 2007
Uneasy allies on the track of thugs smuggling exotic animals into the country, Natalie and Ram began to sense a more dangerous ring at work in the city. Despite her mistrust of the magic building between them, Natalie would have to put her faith in Ram or become another victim of the smuggler's terrifying secret mission.
Phoenix Unrisen is the story of a man of magic and a woman who exposes the dangerous temptations of power.
June 1, 2003
As the Minstrel of Kaf, Zayne kept the land of the djinn in harmony. Yet lately, raging desires and unquenchable yearnings were throwing his life into discord and wreaking havoc on his home. He needed a woman to restore balance to his life, a woman with whom he could blend his voice and his body. And according to his destiny, this soul mate could only be found in the strange land of Earth.
Madeline knew to expect a guest while house-sitting for her eccentric neighbor. However, she hadn't expected the man would be so sexy, so potent, so fascinated by the doorbell. Zayne may have been a disaster with modern amenities, but he certainly knew what made her tick. With one soul- stirring kiss, she saw colorful sparks dancing on the air. But Madeline wanted to make sure her handsome djinni wouldn't pull a disappearing act before she could allow herself to become utterly . . . Spellbound.
For Additional Info on Kathleen's Djinn series and other works
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