"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Nina Bangs always enjoyed stories with strong relationships and happy endings. So it’s not surprising that romance novels became her favorite reads. Before settling down to a teaching career, she dabbled in a variety of jobs ranging from working with Arabian horses to singing in Irish pubs. Along the way, she developed a sense of humor, a love of paranormal twists, and an admiration for cats. Texas is her permanent home now.
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
Nina B.: I’d love to say I was born with a pencil clutched in one tiny fist and a yellow legal pad in the other (sorry, no personal computers way back then), but I’d be lying. I didn’t hear the call of my muse until a lot of years later. I’d been teaching elementary school for many years before it occurred to me that I should make a stab at writing the romance novels I loved to read. Inspiration didn’t come with a clap of thunder. I was between jobs, so I decided to start a book. It was as simple as that. What wasn’t so simple was getting someone to buy one of my creations. Five manuscripts and a critique group later, I finally sold a book to Dorchester Publishing.
PNR: Could you tell us about your writing routine, how do you balance writing and personal time? What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Nina B.: My daily routine stays pretty much the same. I roll out of bed, get some coffee, and check my e-mail while I’m loading up on caffeine. Then I write on and off for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s more off than on.
Balance? There is no balance. I write seven days a week. In between I read, read, and read some more. Books are my passion. I watch some TV (heavy on the Sci Fi channel), go out to eat with friends, and attend RWA chapter meetings, but that’s about it for excitement. As much as I’d love for you to think I’m completely dedicated, I have to be truthful and admit that I spend lots of time online checking e-mail and visiting fave sites. Last year I did take a month off to tour Ireland and Scotland, two countries that I love.
PNR: What is the best part about being a writer? The most frustrating?
Nina B.: The best part about being a writer is when I come up with a new, exciting concept for my next book. In my head it’s always totally brilliant—the characters shine, the plot is riveting, and the dialogue is funny. The most frustrating moments usually come somewhere about halfway through the book. At that point the characters refuse to talk to each other, the plot seems lame, and the dialogue definitely doesn’t sparkle. But don’t get me wrong, writing for a living is way ahead of whatever is in second place. I love it.
PNR: Who or what has most influenced your work? Who or what has been your biggest support?
Nina B.: I suppose all of the great authors I’ve read in my life have influenced me in some way, even if subconsciously. Several of my current favorites are Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris. As I read any author that I enjoy, I try to analyze what makes their writing so effective.
I have a wonderful critique group. Gerry Bartlett, Kim Groff (Kimberly Raye), and Donna Maloy have been there every step of the way for me. I don’t know if I would’ve stuck with it through the tough times without their support.
PNR: What are the greatest challenges to you as an author?
Nina B.: I’m a dedicated procrastinator. When the words just aren’t coming, I have to force myself to stay in front of my computer. Even cleaning the toilet seems tempting when the creative muse goes south.
Coming up with a unique story idea is always a challenge. I spend weeks trying to think of a unique twist on the paranormal theme. For example, the heroine in my next book is a harpy. Has any romance author had a harpy heroine? If so, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.
PNR: You have been nominated for the 1999 PEARL Award for Best Time Travel for AN ORIGINAL SIN, received Honorable Mention in the 2001 PEARL Award for Best Time Travel, THE PLEASURE MASTER, and received Honorable Mention in the 2002 PEARL Award for Best Time Travel, NIGHT GAMES. The PEARL Award is a reader’s choice award; how does it feel to have the readers’ admiration and such positive recognition for your work?
Nina B.: The PEARL nominations definitely thrilled me. I write to entertain, so when any of my books are nominated by readers I know that I’m doing my job. In the end, the only thing that matters is the person who picks up my book looking for a fun read.
PNR: What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
Nina B.: For me, a great story must have characters that touch me, an intriguing plot, and that intangible we call voice. All of these are important, but I believe the most important is voice.
PNR: Congratulations on the May 2007 release of WICKED FANTASY from Berkley Sensation, the third book in the Castle of Dark Dreams trilogy. This is the final title in your popular “Wicked” series; could you tell us where the idea for the series came from and a little about the trilogy for readers who are not familiar?
Nina B.: I knew that I wanted to write a trilogy with three sexy brothers as my heroes, but I wasn’t sure about the setting. Then I thought of the adult theme park angle where visitors could role play their favorite fantasies. It was perfect for what I wanted because it would enhance the sensual flavor of the books as well as allow for lots of unusual situations. And so was born Live the Fantasy theme park where our heroes work at the Castle of Dark Dreams. Eric is the resident vampire, Brynn is a demon of sensual desire, and Conall is an immortal warrior.
PNR: Your Wicked series takes place in a dark and sensual adult theme park. 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?
Nina B.: I didn’t create Live the Fantasy as a place specifically meant to encourage sensual fantasies. I don’t think Galveston would welcome that business concept. Rather I wanted it to be a place where sexual fantasies were possible. A pirate ship is one of the park’s attractions. People can enjoy a perfectly innocent pirate fantasy. Of course, I prefer my characters to have fun with the not-so-innocent role-playing possibilities. My challenge was to make this park believable, a place that didn’t get daily visits from the vice squad. On the surface it had to look like just another theme park with the normal attractions you’d expect to find. But beneath the surface there was a whole nonhuman world and tons of sexy action.
My characters definitely shaped Live the Fantasy. When Holgarth, the pain-in-the-butt wizard who rules the Castle of Dark Dreams with his caustic wit, needed to protect the park, I created gargoyles that he could magically activate as guards. I created the park’s attractions to fulfill the characters’ needs.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Nina B.: I never quite know how to answer this question. I don’t write a detailed outline for my books. I usually have an idea where I want the story to go, but that idea is always fluid. My characters dictate how I reach my perceived ending. So within that context, I suppose my writing is character driven. Without characters that readers care about, a story is hollow. But I also like an interesting plot that moves quickly. The ideal is to have both. To be honest, I can’t give you any great insights into how I balance both elements. All I can say is that I sense when one is overpowering the other. I know, I know, too vague. Sorry.
PNR: WICKED FANTASY features a feisty heroine, who happens to be a vampire, and a sexy alpha hero that heats up the pages. Can you tell us a little about how you developed your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Nina B.: I always try to create as much conflict as possible between my hero and heroine. Since Conall was an immortal warrior cursed to protect the descendants of his worst enemy, it only made sense that my heroine, Gerry, should be the very last of said descendants. Once I had that basic conflict, I thought about how I could ratchet up their instinctive dislike for each other. Okay, so Conall would be all excited at the thought of Gerry dying because he’d then be free of his curse. But if Gerry was a vampire, he wouldn’t be getting his freedom anytime soon. Instant hate. And then there’s the control issue. His job is to protect her, but she’s pretty sure she can take care of herself. After all, she has the big, bad creature-of-the-night thing going on.
In WICKED FANTASY, I had the most fun with the Irish goddess of war, Morrigan, who takes the form of a crow. She cursed Conall centuries ago, and now that things are sizzling between Gerry and him, she shows up to make sure he doesn’t have any sensually fulfilling moments. When she loses her ability to fly and is stuck at the castle, she makes everyone’s life miserable.
But my favorite character of all time is Sparkle Stardust. She’s shallow and proud of it. And just when you want to write her off as a complete ditz, she gives you a glimpse of her incredible power. Sparkle wants everyone to think she’s totally self-involved, but now and then she shows a softer side. And she really loves Ganymede. Eventually I want to do their story.
My most challenging character was in the second book, WICKED PLEASURE. Fo is a sentient demon detector. She’s learning about everything around her, and I had to help her take her first steps into the human world. I tried to make sure she was funny and sympathetic at the same time. In the end, I tried to put myself in the place of a sentient machine. What would I want? I decided that Fo would want to have what humans have—love.
PNR: In May 2006, A TASTE OF DARKNESS, book three of your popular MacKenzie Vampires series was released from Dorchester: could you tell us a little about Reinn MacKenzie and Kisa Evans’ story? What are your plans for the series?
Nina B.: Reinn Mackenzie hates his job. He’s basically the enforcer for the Mackenzie vampire clan. It’s his job to destroy any clan member who doesn’t keep the clan’s bloodline pure. That includes anyone who marries a werecat. Kisa Evans is a werecat. Her sister is marrying a Mackenzie vampire. Oops. And if you think Kisa turns into a fluffy lap kitty, think again. Kisa becomes a saber tooth tiger. According to werecat law, she can only make love with a male stronger than herself. In Reinn, she might’ve finally found her perfect mate.
Starting with ONE BITE STAND in January, I’ll be doing five more Woo Woo Inn books. I wouldn’t be surprised if several characters from the Castle of Dark Dream series show up at the inn. I hear Holgarth is looking for a job.
PNR: Your writing is infused with witty humor and clever dialogue; do you feel humor is an essential element in your writing?
Nina B.: I think every author tries to write to his or her strengths. Humor comes naturally to me, so I’ve tried to make it an integral part of my stories. I don’t think I’d enjoy the writing process as much if I couldn’t inject some humor.
PNR: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the love/sex scenes?
Nina B.: I have a high degree of sexual tension in my books, but I don’t actually have many love scenes. The loves scenes I do have are hopefully unique in some way. Ahem.
Believe it or not, the love scenes are the hardest part of a book for me. I’ve been known to sit in front of my computer for days trying to work out one scene. The scene not only has to be sensual, but it also has to move the story forward in some way. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m running out of ways to describe sexual encounters in new and interesting ways. Any suggestions?
PNR: Why do you feel the vampire is such a popular character in books, movies and television?
Nina B.: I think vampires are the perfect fantasy. They’re mysterious, deadly, erotic, and physically beautiful. I watched Buffy every week, and much of the show’s attraction for me revolved around Angel and later Spike. They’re the ultimate bad boys, never good for us, but oh so tempting.
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?
Nina B.: I think readers were just ready for paranormal romances. Many readers enjoyed movies and TV shows with paranormal themes (see above comment about Buffy), so why wouldn’t they enjoy those same themes in their romances? Personally, I spent years reading and loving historicals and contemporaries, but I was ready for more variety.
I love writing paranormals because they allow me to create my own reality. And as long as I’m true to the world I’ve created, I can do anything. Wow, what a power trip. Paranormals are incredibly freeing. The only rules I have to follow are the ones I make. Ganymede and Sparkle couldn’t exist in a world that didn’t allow for nonhumans, and where would I be without them?
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?
Nina B.: I love writing vampire romances. There’s just something about them that feeds my need for über alpha heroes. I might not want to marry them in real life, but they make yummy fantasies. I guess in a way they’re taking the place of all those Highlander heroes I grew up lusting after in historicals.
I’ve had a great time reading urban fantasies by Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, and others. I’d like to eventually try writing one.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months? A sneak peek perhaps?
Nina B.: In January of 2008, I return to the Woo Woo Inn where we meet another Mackenzie vampire in ONE BITE STAND.
Harpies don’t get callbacks. That’s why Daria’s job as night manager of the Woo Woo Inn is the opportunity of several lifetimes. Where better to prove that in the snatch-and-dispatch business she has CEO potential? So what if she doesn’t really fit the corporate image. So what if she has to nurture her inner bitch to compete. And triple so what if she’d rather take Declan MacKenzie to bed than on a one-way all-expense-paid trip to Tartarus. His sexy blue eyes and hard male body lure her into deep and dangerous erotic waters. With a monster eating guests for its midnight snack, cosmic troublemakers cooking up chaos, and Declan making serious moves on her, this looks like a lot more than a ONE BITE STAND
PNR: Thank you Nina, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Nina B.: I want to thank PNR for inviting me to share a few moments with the wonderful readers of paranormal romances. All of you make it possible for me to do what I love to do most, write weird and whacky stories.
For Additional Titles from
Featured in this issue:
Welcome to The
Castle of Dark Dreams
May 1, 2007
Castle of Dark Dreams: Book 3
Their bloodlines made them enemies. Their fantasies made the lovers....
Welcome to the Castle of Dark Dreams, the yummiest attraction in an adult theme park where only dangerously tempting men play. Wicked Fantasy is the final book in a series that stars three extraordinary brothers—each promising ultimate fulfillment for any woman bold enough to accept his sensual challenge.Conall O’Rourke learned the hard way that goddesses kick butt when you tick them off. After killing an Irish deity’s favorite in battle, he’s cursed to protect his enemy’s descendants down to the last arrogant jerk. Now there’s only one left, and Conall can almost taste freedom after endless centuries. But who knew the remaining descendant would be so beautiful, so sexy, and such a . . .
Vampire? Gerry Kavanagh hunts nonhuman entities that break Texas laws. But she finds more than the sneaky shape-shifting snake she’s after at the Castle of Dark Dreams. The most hated member of the O’Rourkes expects to follow her around so he can “protect” her. Protect? She’s a fanged creature of the night, for crying out loud. Nope. Never going to happen. Too bad he’s a major wow on her personal sizzle meter.
February 6, 2007
Castle of Dark Dreams: Book 2
A man who can't say no meets a woman who won't say yes...
A man who can’t say no
Brynn McNair has spent the last five hundred years of his existence offering his body to any woman who desires him. The evil entity that created him has made sure that if he tries to resist the compulsion to play love slave, he suffers. So it’s no wonder that he thinks of women as his enemy. Until he meets Kimberly Vaughn.
A woman who won’t say yes
Kim Vaughn is a demon hunter. It’s a family business and her destiny. But Kim is all about avoiding her destiny. She wants to marry an ordinary guy, have ordinary kids, live in an ordinary house, and work as an architect. No way does she want anything to do with a man who has paranormal connections. Until she meets Brynn McNair.
Kim comes to the Castle of Dark Dreams, the main attraction in a sexy theme park, to plan a few upgrades. She stays to join forces with Brynn and save Galveston from a supernatural takeover. Can a woman who wants to marry Mr. Ordinary and a man who thinks of love as sleeping with the enemy find happiness together? You’d be surprised.
April 4, 2006
Castle of Dark Dreams: Book 1
Welcome to the Castle of Dark Dreams. It's the yummiest attraction in Live the Fantasy, an adult theme park where women who dare can take sexy role-playing to new erotic heights. Just by looking at the castle you know that only dangerously tempting men would play here. Three brothers—Eric, Brynn, and Conall McNair—run the castle. Okay, so they're not quite human, but that's a secret. This night Eric, the castle's resident vampire, will prove that he's everything bad should be.
Talk-show host Donna Nolan is on the trail of the weird and wacky in the Castle of Dark Dreams. But thoughts of a juicy interview to enthrall her listeners disappear when she meets Eric. With the coldest blue eyes and the hottest mouth she's ever seen, he's a primitive call to the wild in every woman.
Love between a talk-show host and a vampire shouldn't be possible, but then, strange things happen in the Castle of Dark Dreams.
Meet The MacKenzie Vampires
MEET THE MASTER OF ECSTASY
He is everything dark, dangerous, and delicious. And for five hundred years, his sensual power has grown. He calls to all that is wild and elemental in a woman. Warrior, Highlander, vampire, he has returned to his ancestral castle in 1785 Scotland to fulfill a duty.
HAPPINESS IS HER BUSINESS
In a distant future, she works for Ecstasy Inc. to make people happy using only the most modern techniques and her own power. Sensual solutions to unhappiness are forbidden by company policy. She has traveled back to 1785 Scotland to prove that she can make anyone happy. She hasn't counted on a centuries-old vampire for a client.
He believes that sexual pleasure is the key to happiness. She thinks that Ecstasy Inc. has all the answers. Neither one considers love as part of the mix. They're about to discover how wrong they can be.
March 6, 2005
Cindy Harper had an ice-cream flavor for every emotion. Vanilla caramel fudge eased the stress of dealing with her weird and wacky guests at the Woo Woo Inn. But no sweet treat from her freezer was smooth, creamy, or tempting enough to cool down her sensual fantasies about uber alpha male Thrain Davis.
This was a man to be enjoyed on a strictly primitive level. Every woman who ever saw him smile would wonder about the pleasure his mouth could give her and recognize the secrets in his hard blue gaze. Too late she realized the danger of inviting an ancient vampire into her inn. The concept of fanged creatures of the night scared her witless. Besides, he forced her to examine her past when she was just fine with her present. He did have an up side, though. Who needed ice cream when you had a hot and yummy dark immortal in your bed?
May 2, 2006
He’d lived a thousand years for this? Reinn Mackenzie was one ticked-off vampire.
Werewolves--furry pains in the butt. Werecats--sneaky whisker-twitching manipulators. Reinn hated them all. But most of all, he hated his job. Guardian of the Blood. What a crock.
The Mackenzie council, in its infinite stupidity, had ordered him to protect the purity of the clan’s bloodline. What purity? They were all just a bunch of bloodsuckers, for crying out loud. Besides, how could he destroy a clan member for mating with someone not on the council’s approved list when the very sight of a certain little werecat revved his engine?
Kisa Evans made it impossible for him to think about anything but the dangerous fantasy of freeing his own inner beast. No matter how he fought the desire to feel the soft heat of her throat beneath his lips, the craving only grew. Kisa might be the enemy, but he longed to show her the sensual pleasure to be found in...
A TASTE OF DARKNESS
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