"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Sara Reinke lives with her family in Kentucky, where she works as a freelance writer and a full-time associate editor for a leading regional travel publication. Her mass-market debut, the historical romance, An Unexpected Engagement, was released in February, 2007 from Medallion Press. Dark Thirst, the first in a paranormal romance series from Kensington Publishing's Zebra imprint will be available nationwide in July, 2007. Awards include 2005 Finalist in the Dream Realm Awards recognizing excellence in electronically published speculative fiction and an 2005 Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. For a complete list of Reinke's available titles or for more information, visit online at www.sarareinke.com.
An Interview with Sara Reinke
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
Sara R.: As far back as I can remember, I have written stories, so yes, I’d definitely say it’s something I have always wanted to do. I can recall writing and illustrating my own stories even as far back as kindergarten. When I reached elementary school, I asked for my first typewriter, because I knew all serious authors typed their manuscripts; they didn’t hand-write them. Between probably third grade and my senior year in college, I had worked my way through at least four typewriters, three word processors and an old Apple laptop computer.
I’ve always had a very vivid imagination, which is why I think I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction so much. When I was young, I was perfectly content to play by myself, to invent my own adventures and casts of characters in my mind. When I’d play with other kids, I’d wind up portraying a dozen characters, and would be the one to dictate how the story of whatever we were playing would go. I think that illusion of control that we have as authors over our creations appealed to me even then, ha ha.
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?
Sara R.: My writing routine has become pretty much catch-as-catch-can. I recently went back to work full-time, after a two year hiatus as a work-from-home mom. I’m also eight months pregnant (at the time I’m writing this), so I tend to get very tired in the evenings, in bed by nine o’clock sometimes. I think once the baby is born and I’m able to set a whole new routine around the house, I’ll be able to more conscientiously devote time to writing. I’m very lucky in that my husband is supportive of me, and is willing to help me find time to work on my writing, as well as all that goes with that, like promotion.
PNR: What is the best part about being a writer? The most frustrating?
Sara R.: I think the best part about being writer, for me, is realizing that someone else has read my work and enjoyed it. Nothing compares to receiving emails from my readers who take the time to let me know what they’ve read and what they think of it. As writers, we very much wear our hearts on our sleeves, so to speak, when we put our books out there, and to hear that someone else appreciates and enjoys it, is immensely gratifying.
The most frustrating part is that this industry can be ruthless. Like any other industry in the arts, like music or acting, writing is a field in which more people fail to fulfill their dreams than succeed. It takes a lot of patience, endurance, thick skin, perseverance, ambition, luck and talent to get your foot in the door, and even then there are plenty of stumbling blocks along the way. Anymore, a writer can’t just be a writer, either. We have to be our own publicists and marketing team, and promotions can be as time-consuming as any full-time job. It’s constant work, and it often doesn’t leave much time for writing, and that can be very disheartening.
PNR: Which author(s) is your favorite? And who or what has most influenced your work? Who or what has been your biggest support?
Sara R.: I don’t know that I have one particular author who is a favorite. I read such a variety of genres, and like a broad spectrum of writing styles. I’ve always been a fan of Stephen King. Other folks I like: Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton, Karen Robards, Catherine Colter, Stephanie Laurens, Tolkien, Pat Conroy, Steven Pressfield, Patrick Larkin. I’ve been very fortunate in that I have been able to occasionally correspond with several authors I particularly admire – Steven Pressfield, Patrick Larkin and Karen Robards – and all have been extremely supportive and helpful.
My biggest supporters have always been my family. I know so many authors, particularly those of us who write romance, who have to put up with ridicule or derision from family and friends and that breaks my heart. My family and friends have never shown me anything but enthusiasm and encouragement, no matter what genre I write. I’m also fortunate in that I’ve made some very good friends from fellow authors over the past few years, particularly Devyn Quinn and the ladies of the Wild and Wicked Authors Group, who always let me vent frustrations or share successes and are in my corner.
PNR: What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
Sara R.: A strong beginning that hooks the reader from the very first line and keeps their attention. A middle that offers enough action to draw the reader along through the story, but also allows for strong, realistic character development. An ending that delivers “pay back” to readers for sticking with you on the journey – action-packed and satisfying, with no loose ends, no villains that get off easily, no overly prolonged melodrama that will bore them.
To me, the most important part of the story has always been the characters. I feel that if you build sympathetic, dynamic, realistic characters that your readers will cheer for, feel for and think about long after they’ve finished your book, then everything else as far as the plot will just naturally fall into place.
PNR: Congratulations on the July 2007 release of Dark Thirst from Zebra. It is the first title in your new vampire series, The Brethren; could you tell us where the idea came from and a little about your vision for the series?
Sara R.: The idea was born about 10 years ago, when some friends of mine and I toyed with creating our own graphic novels. At the time, the story was called “Bloodletting,” and I set about penciling in a half dozen pages or so (which I still have in storage somewhere around here, LOL.) Several years later, when the comic book plan hadn’t panned out, I dusted the story idea off in my head and tried to write it as a novel. It never really took shape, primarily because I abandoned it. That was during the height of Anne Rice’s popularity, and I figured no one would be interested in a vampire story with hers dominating the bookstore shelves. It wasn’t until last year when NY Times best-seller Karen Robards came and spoke to my local RWA chapter and told us that Anne Rice had found God, abandoning vampire fiction and leaving the door wide open for the rest of us, that I decided to resurrect the idea behind “Dark Thirst” and see it through to completion.
All along, I think the premise stuck with me because I realized it was original and unique – two adjectives you can’t always attribute to vampire fiction. I really felt like I had a different angle on the old, tried-and-true legends. For example, my vampires aren’t “undead.” They’re very much alive and can very much be killed. My vampires walk in daylight. When they bite a human, the human doesn’t become a vampire. They become lunch, LOL. My vampires live on enormous communal estates in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region where they raise Thoroughbred horses and own bourbon distilleries, and – like those rare, unsanctioned polygamous Mormon sects you hear about – marry within their clans, have multiple spouses and live very sequestered lives, isolated from humans.
PNR: You have been very successful with your traditional fantasy series, The Chronicles of Tiralainn. Dark Thirst is your first venture into the paranormal; what made you decide to branch out into the vampire genre?
Sara R.: I think my transition to paranormal fiction has been a gradual but inevitable process. The Tiralainn books were my first foray into writing book-length fiction after years of trying to pursue a more “grown up” career in journalism. Because my world-building for the Tiralainn series was always based on actual historical cultures and customs, this sparked an interest in history for me. I moved on to writing historical fiction. I had an agent at the time who didn’t do much by way of advancing my career, but she did give me one valuable piece of advice. She told me if I wanted to write historical fiction, I should write romances because they sold. I’d never written a romance before, even though my books generally had a romantic subplot in them, and love was always a key motivating factor for my characters. It wasn’t much of a leap, in the end, to go into historical romance.
I enjoyed the fact that in my fantasy novels, I had a lot more creative freedom as far as bending and shaping the world I was writing about. With historical fiction, you’re very much constrained by the facts, which is fine and fascinating, but not as much fun as reconfiguring the laws of physics, for example, to suit your needs as an author, ha ha. I found that with paranormal romance, I have the best of both worlds – I can combine the romance angles that I’ve come to enjoy making the central focus of my books, and the artistic liberties and freedom that comes with creating a fantasy world.
PNR: You have been complemented on your ability to create a tangible atmosphere in your writing. 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?
Sara R.: Part of the problem with world-building is figuring out how much to offer your readers so you can paint the scenery in their mind, without overloading and giving them more than they need, or will want to read. The first book in my Chronicles of Tiralainn series, Book of Days, has been criticized for lacking a lot of world descriptions, but it was trimmed down from three novel-length books to one volume to try and make it easier to sell, so of course, lengthy descriptions of the landscape were some of the first things to get the cut. (Double Dragon Publishing will be releasing Book of Days in its original, three-novel format later this year, so I hope that folks will be able to better envision the world and the story as I’d always intended.) As a writer, I usually wrap the world around my characters, instead of struggling to find a way to fit my characters into a world that’s not quite working. Even when I incorporate fantastical elements into my plots, like magic or superhuman powers, I try to find some logical elements within them to keep them grounded in the minds of the readers.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Sara R.: My stories always character-driven. I might have the most bare-bones, basic elements of a plot in my mind to prompt a new idea, but usually all of my books begin with a person. I picture them in my mind, try to give them a name, a face, and then imagine a situation in which they are in trouble or distress. And the rest builds itself around that. The whole process in my mind isn’t nearly as orderly and by-the-numbers as that, and usually I’ll come up with a character and pivotal scene pretty much simultaneously, but it always has to start with a character who intrigues me. If I want to know more about them, if I’m inspired enough to build a story and an entire world around them, then I know it’s time to get to work.
PNR: Your hero, Brandon Noble, is a tortured character who has a disability; what was the biggest challenge you faced while telling his story?
Sara R.: I don’t think there were any challenges with Brandon that I haven’t faced with any other character just because he is disabled (deaf and mute). In my mind, from his very earliest incarnation, he’s always been that way. He’s always been dark-haired, brown-eyed, deaf and mute, and I guess I never saw writing about him, developing his character as any different than any other. I didn’t want readers to feel sorry for Brandon because he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He feels more like being a vampire makes him disabled than a lack of ability to speak or hear, and I wanted readers to empathize with him, not pity him. At the same time, I want readers to find him appealling and sexy, just like any other romance novel hero. I want them to fall in love with him, the way I did.
PNR: Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Sara R.: I like to say that my characters write themselves. I give them the basics to get started, dream up their faces, personalities, backgrounds, etc., but I’ve discovered once they’re turned loose in a story, they tend to surprise me by developing in ways I never originally imagined, and usually for the better.
I like to put just the right face and name with my characters. I have several reference books listing first and last names for various cultures, and will often spend a long time, hours even, trying to find just the right name to fit a character I have in mind, even one who may be only minor in terms of the overall story or plot. Once I have a name, then I go for a face. I used to sketch portraits of my characters (a hold-over from my days of wanting to write and draw my own comic books), but anymore, I’ve found it faster to simply find a photograph that suits my purposes. Sometimes I use celebrities, and other times I go with searching a free stock photo site I’ve discovered in the last year. It’s not the person, per se, who I envision as my characters, but a specific picture, an emotion captured and expressed in one or two particular frames. And only the right ones will do.
For example, I have a half-written historical I’ve been working on periodically. Originally, I decided my hero looked like a photo I found of actor Hugh Jackman. This established, I then set about writing the book, but I kept finding myself stymied whenever a scene with my hero came up. The picture of Hugh Jackman, to me, exuded a type of personality that didn’t seem to fit with what I was writing, with where the character was wanting to go as I developed him. So I eventually had to find a new picture – this one of actor Viggo Mortensen. And amazingly, once I had that picture and could look at it for inspiration whenever I would write about my hero, everything else with him fell into place. I never felt like I hit a roadblock again when it came to working with him, because I’d found his face, and in doing so, I’d uncovered the real character.
I find myself getting emotionally attached to most of my characters but especially my heroes. My personal philosophy is that if I don’t fall in love with them as the author, I can’t possibly expect a reader to. I guess as far as favorites go, I have a special fondness for Brandon Noble of Dark Thirst, just because he was such a unique and dynamic character to watch unfold.
Another of my all-time favorite heroes is Rhyden Fabhcun (pronounced RIE-den FAHV-coon) from my Chronicles of Tiralainn series. He starts off as a teen-ager in Book of Days and winds up my age, in his mid-thirties, by Book of Dragons. Along the way, he suffers all kinds of slings and arrows, so to speak, and accumulates all kinds of emotional baggage that just really made him feel empathetic, realistic and fascinating to me.
PNR: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the love/sex scenes?
Sara R.: I used to find it challenging, because before writing my first romance novel, the historical An Unexpected Engagement, if I included a love scene, it usually occurred behind closed doors or was simply implied. An Unexpected Engagement was my first attempt to get even remotely graphic, and I admit, there was some discomfort on my part, not to mention a lot of giggling. That’s not the case anymore, though. I think as authors, we all establish for ourselves our comfort levels when it comes to sensuality in our books. For example, I admire authors who can write red-hot and erotica, because I can’t. I would love to try, because there’s terrific money in it, but it’s not something I feel comfortable with.
I always advise folks to never write beyond that comfort level, even if it’s extremely sweet, because it will sound strained and forced, and readers will pick up on that. It’s like in the old, original version of “Cinderella” (the fairy tale, not the Disney movie). Originally, when the prince’s herald brings the lost glass slipper around the kingdom to try and find Cinderella, her stepsisters do everything they can to fit their feet into it. One cuts off all of her toes; the other slices off her heel. To me, that’s what trying to write outside of your sensuality comfort zone is like – unnatural, painful and apparently obvious.
PNR: Why do you feel the vampire is such a popular character in books, movies and television?
Sara R.: I think there’s something very sexy about vampire lore that people have always found both sinister and appealling all at the same time. The premise of their assaults – placing their mouths on your neck – is in itself an act filled with very sensual overtures. That vampires like Dracula are most often portrayed as lovers more so than monsters, even though they do monstrous things, lends them a universal allure.
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?
Sara R.: I credit authors with the popularity of paranormal romance, because we’re all taking tried and true ideas like vampires and werewolves, and giving them modern updates, new twists, new ideas. We’re establishing new folklore – our own lore and legends. I also think that readers are to thank for the surge in paranormal sales, because obviously authors only write to fulfill a demand on bookstore shelves. Readers are becoming more open-minded and imaginative, and expect the same things from their books. The success of films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and books like Harry Potter remind folks of all ages of the universal appeal of fantasy, magic and make-believe, as do television shows like Heroes. Paranormal romances are like fairy tales for grown ups.
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?
Sara R.: I really enjoy paranormal romance. As I mentioned before, it combines all of the elements I like the best from other genres I’ve explored – fantasy and historical, primarily. I like the creative freedom found in paranormal fiction, the ability to take the ordinary world and make something extraordinary out of it.
As for a style or genre I’d like to try but haven’t, I’d say no. I don’t feel pigeon-holed into writing one particular genre, or with one particular style, so if I see something I’d like to try, and I can come up with a good enough story idea to keep that interest sparked, then I’ll go for it. I think that would be one draw-back to being a best-selling author, because your readers would then have certain expectations of you and your work, and you’d lose that freedom to explore new genres that comes with anonymity. Of course, you get paid really well in exchange for losing that kind of creative freedom, so maybe it all evens out in the end, ha ha!
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months? A sneak peek perhaps?
Sara R.: As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on getting the original three-novel version of Book of Days ready for release later this year. I’m going to be reworking it as I go, to make it more reflective of my writing style today as opposed to when I first penned it five years ago.
I’m also working hard to complete a project called “Resurrection” which was originally released last year as a novella from the now-defunct Inara Press. I am rewriting “Resurrection” from scratch to make it a novel-length manuscript, so that my agent can begin pitching it later this year to potential publishers.
I also need to get crackin’ on my sequel to “Dark Thirst,” which is under contract with Kensington, and should be released next summer. I have the book outlined, and everything is ready to go. I’m looking forward to diving into that.
PNR: Thank you Sara, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Sara R.: Thank you, Dee, for allowing me this opportunity. I’ve had a blast! I invite readers to visit me online at www.sarareinke.com to learn more about me, enter my monthly contests, check out my blog, subscribe to my newsletter, and more. I have an online contact form at my website, as well, or readers can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing from them, and do my best to reply to all emails I receive in as timely a fashion as I can!
I’d also like to offer PNR readers a free bookmark and signed cover flat for “Dark Thirst.” All you have to do is email me at email@example.com and put “PNR Dark Thirst offer” or something to that effect in the subject line. Give me your snail mail address and your name, and I’ll get your complimentary “Dark Thirst” goodies out to you ASAP!
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July 3, 2007
The Brethren: Book 1
DARK SECRETS When Brandon Noble and Angelina Jones first met, he was an awkward teenager harboring a crush on his tutor's sister. Five years later, Angelina is a streetwise cop who's sure she's seen it all, until Brandon comes back into her life—lean, handsome, possessing a strange, powerful allure. and a terrifying secret. DARK DESIRES Brandon is one of the Brethren, an ancient clan of ruthless vampires. Like other Brethren families, the Nobles have accumulated great wealth and prestige, never marrying outside of their kin, never leaving the isolated Kentucky farmlands where they live, undetected, among their prey. Horrified by his birthright, Brandon shunned the ritual of the first kill, earning the Brethren's lasting wrath. But the exhilarating passion he and Angelina share rouses the primitive impulses he has tried so hard to deny. And even if Brandon can protect Angelina from his enemies, can he save her from his own dark thirsts?
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