"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Shana Abé is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of ten novels, including The Smoke Thief, The Dream Thief, and Queen of Dragons. She lives in Colorado with a handful of pets.
An Interview with Shana Abé
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
Shana A.: I think I always enjoyed making up stories, and eventually that segued into actual writing. One of my first writing memories is of composing a (completely incomprehensible) play in first grade, and then forcing my little brother and my best friend to act in it. I don’t think it even had an ending, LOL.
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?
Shana A.: Like a lot of procrastinators—uh, I mean writers—I always have this vague sense of guilt and/or panic pressing down on me (depending upon how close I am to a deadline) when I’m not working. Being self-employed has many joys, but it does take discipline. I totally admire those authors who are up before the crack of dawn, churning out page after page of brilliance before cooking breakfast and taking care of the kids, because that’s not me.
I sleep late. I work late. It does sort of make doing ordinary things like running errands during business hours a pain.
I think I work best at night, and I don’t really know why that is. Maybe it’s something to do with feeling all warm and snug and secure in my house at night, instead thinking about all the stuff I should be doing during the day.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy eating. A lot. Seriously, I’m a foodie. Thank God I have a huge, energetic dog who demands very long daily walks. Because constantly having to buy clothing a size larger every few months gets expensive. ;-)
PNR: Most writers are avid readers, is this true for you? What titles would we see in your TBR pile?
Shana A.: Oh, how I love to read. I guess that cliché is very true. I read everything I can put my paws on, including the newspaper cover to cover, travel guides, my very cool dictionary of etymology....
For fun I have giant piles of books to dig into that, frankly, I mostly get at writing conferences. So they span all kinds of genres. I love being surprised by a talented new (to me, anyway) author. Discovering a wonderful book is like opening a really great gift Christmas morning.
PNR: Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer? Who has been your biggest support?
Shana A.: Boy, it’s tough to pinpoint something like a biggest influence. I think education has been huge, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do some globe trotting, which I believe helped broaden my mental horizons. All these things—getting out, living your life—shape who you are as a person, and so who you are as a writer.
My biggest support has been, without question, my fans. They’re so awesome. I get the sweetest, kindest letters and e-mails from people who’ve read my books. It’s an astonishing thing, really, because when you’re writing a story, it’s mostly just you all alone with your computer and the voices in your head. Then later on, maybe your agent or your editor weighs in. But it always feels like a very small, very personal experience; when complete strangers feel compelled to write to you, to share with you how much your story touched them or moved them or made them smile...it’s one of those “wow” moments. Like, wow, I can’t believe my good luck—someone else out there in the world gets what I was trying to say! They must think just like I do! LOL.
PNR: What are the greatest challenges to you as an author?
Shana A.: Self-discipline. And constantly cajoling someone else to fix me food. ;-)
PNR: What do you feel are the essential elements of a great story?
Shana A.: Frankly, all I care about in a story is if I like it or not. I don’t have any hard and fast rules about what might entertain me. I will admit, though, that detailed and believable characterization is something I always appreciate.
PNR: You have received numerous honors, awards and a great deal of reader admiration for your writing. How does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?
Shana A.: It goes back to what I was rambling on about before. You write a story, you try to do the very best job you can every single time. Still, some books are easier than others, and some books are just better than others. That’s the way it goes. I came to peace a long time ago with the fact that it simply isn’t possible to write a story that *everyone* is going to love. Can’t happen; people are so layered and interesting, and we’re all so different. It’s only normal that you’re going to get varied responses to your work.
So when I hear that someone else *does* love a book I wrote, it feels actually very, very humbling. And then I stop to say a little thanks to God and the universe for letting me have this job.
PNR: Readers are anxiously awaiting the release of QUEEN OF DRAGONS on December 26, 2007 from Bantam; this is the third in your much loved Drákon series. Could you tell us what inspired this breathtaking fantasy series and a little about your vision for the project? A sneak peek perhaps?
Shana A.: Thank you for your kind words!
I’ve always loved the sci-fi/fantasy genre, even as a child. When I was first published as a romance novelist, however, there really wasn’t a strong market for anything paranormal-ish. I wrote mostly straight historical romance, and I enjoyed it a lot. But I always wanted to delve deeper into the fantasy realm. One day a couple of years ago, I was outside with my pet house rabbits, watching the skies. (When you let your bunnies play outside, you always have to keep an eye out for them; they’re like nature’s cupcakes—everything wants to eat them.) Anyway, I was looking out for hawks when a pair soared into view. I’ve quite a lot of field experience monitoring hawks, but for some reason this pair struck me as particularly stealthy and graceful.
And I thought, “Ah ha! Dragons!” LOL. Just because I was thinking about how wonderful it would be to be able to fly like that. Hawks are very striking but not, perhaps, so sexy; dragons are fantasy creatures, so I could make them as sexy as I wanted. *g*
Originally I had just one concept, that of group of shapeshifting dragon-people who lived in Georgian England. Their lives would have to be tightly regulated so that their secret could never be revealed; naturally, there had to be a rebel to break all those rules, and that’s how Rue (The Smoke Thief) came to be. She was the shy girl who was picked on a lot because she didn’t really fit in with the rest of her kind, but in the end, she runs away and becomes more powerful than nearly all of them.
And I made her a jewel thief, because that sounded like fun. :-)
Bantam liked the story so much they asked me to write three books about the drákon instead of just one. And then, as I was halfway through the third book, they asked for two more, which totally made me happy, because I’m really caught up in this dragon world. Plus, I realized part of the storyline I had started in Book Three (Queen of Dragons) was too long to wrap up in one novel, LOL.
I’m writing the fourth book now and have visions of the fifth dancing around the corners of my imagination. The fourth book features Rhys Langford and Zoe Lane, and the fifth will be (I’m pretty sure!) Prince Sandu of the Zaharen and Honor Carlisle.
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?
Shana A.: Wow, you make me sound a lot smarter than I am! *g* I don’t know that I’ve ever elaborately thought about what it would take to create this fantasy world; it more just comes to me as it comes. I will say I started out in The Smoke Thief with just the story of Rue and Kit and the drákon of Darkfrith. My editor commented that although she loved the story, she wondered if I could make it “bigger” somehow. And I was so, soooo happy that she liked my paranormal that I answered, “Sure!” without really thinking about it. That’s how the prologue of the Carpathian princess and the dreaming diamond came to be, which is good, because that narrative threads throughout each book. It’s the unifying voice for all the different stories.
I would say I’m definitely more character-driven than world-driven, although in my mind they seem so intertwined it would be difficult to separate one concept from the other. When I envision the drákon, they are nearly always in this gorgeous, eighteenth-century world. I love the contrast of having these beast-people forced to wear powder and lace and corsets and hoops. It seems so counterintuitive to their true nature.
PNR: Could you give us some insight into the mythology of the Drákon?
Shana A.: That’s so funny you ask that, because I recently had a fan (a male teenager) write me and ask all kinds of questions I had never really considered before, like what is their birth/mortality rate; what is the male/female ratio in Darkfrith; is their society largely agrarian or does their hunting as dragons tip the scales....
Yikes. Here’s how it happened: I wanted to write about shapeshifters of some sort, and then I realized I wanted to write about shapeshifting dragon-people. I envisioned them very clearly in their primary setting: a rural, green, misty place; a place where a creature made up of smoke could easily be part of the sky, and where it would be cloudy enough for dragons to fly unseen by human eyes. Again, in the eighteenth century.
So Darkfrith came about that easily. Then, when I added the story of their origins, of how they came into being at the edge of earth and sky, I set it in the Carpathians because I think that area—Romania, Transylvania—has been written about a great deal, but it’s still one the few places in Europe that not many tourists visit. So there was an element of essential mystery that appealed to me. Plus, so many romantic, dramatic legends originate in or around the Carpathian Mountains. It seemed to me the drákon fit there very well.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Shana A.: Ha ha, I think I already answered this one. But just to sum up, character-driven. I love interesting characters, and the plot tends to evolve around them.
PNR: You write wonderfully complex characters that readers really connect to; could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Shana A.: I have to admit that I’m one of those writers who is blessed to have her characters come to her fairly easily; they are very, very vivid in my mind. Then they usually end up riding roughshod over all my preconceptions about them and doing all sorts of surprising things in the stories. That’s actually a lot of fun. *s*
I don’t know that I have a single favorite character to write. I know I do like the rebels, probably because, like a lot of extremely shy people, I have secret I’m-such-a-rebel fantasies. ;-)
I have a more difficult time with a character who is simply straight-up good. Of course, you need your hero and heroines to be good guys, at least most of the time. But I enjoy giving them an edge as well—a bit of moral ambiguity, shall we say, in certain situations. I think people are more like that in real life, and it makes us all more interesting, at least in theory.
PNR: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the love/sex scenes?
Shana A.: Hmm. I’d say they’re about average-sensual. I tend to focus more on the sexual tension than the actual act, because the power of imagination and anticipation can be so much stronger and more aggressively appealing then just two characters deciding to have sex.
Sometimes the love scenes are a challenge; sometimes they just flow. It’s never the same. I try to write them in a way that conveys emotional beauty in addition to physical satisfaction. I’ve got these two people falling in love, and I want that to be clear even during their most intimate moments.
PNR: Dragon lore is deeply embedded in the mythology of many cultures; they are powerful and dangerous yet have a sensual, beguiling quality. Why do you feel mythology in general, and dragons specifically, are such a popular theme in the paranormal romance genre?
Shana A.: Well, a shared mythology is something that binds us together as a culture, as a society, even as a species. Popular folklore and legends allow our imaginations to take flight together; we share the experience, the wonder, the emotions behind the tales. Mythology is a wonderful unifying force.
And you’re right: many, many cultures across the globe have fables of dragons, or at least dragon-like creatures. I find that extremely intriguing, and always have.
Dragons are the archetypal Dark Force of Nature. They’re powerful and often wickedly menacing. They’re typically portrayed as possessing a kind of deadly, sinuous beauty. As the weaker species, humans dream of both destroying them and of harnessing them, of conquering them, just as man has always dreamed of conquering and harnessing nature to suit his own needs.
As far as romance is concerned, I’m afraid I can only speak for me and my dragons, LOL. The drákon have all that darkness, all that sinuous power and grace of legend, but they’re not evil. They’re just beings trying to live their lives, to survive in a society that they didn’t really build and that does not truly suit them. Like every other family of animals, they want to endure, to thrive as much as they can while escaping the notice of those who would do them harm.
PNR: You have written in the historical and fantasy 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?
Shana A.: I like the freedom of making up my own rules, of creating my own myths and folklore for my characters. I enjoyed writing medieval romances, for example, but after a while grew a little frustrated with trying to fit my characters into a world where there were so many restrictions. At first it can be fun, working within those boundaries, being creative while coloring within the lines, so to speak. But I think I’m happier writing fantasy.
As for other genres, I don’t know. I hope to keep my horizons open, LOL.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
Shana A.: So, yes, as I mentioned before, I’m currently working on the fourth book in the Drákon Series. It’s untitled for now, but it has Zoe and Rhys as the main characters, and it’s primarily set in Paris, a few years before the revolution.
Zoe can’t Turn into smoke or dragon, but she has some other somewhat surprising Gifts. As anyone who reads Queen of Dragons will realize (is this a spoiler? I don’t think so), Rhys does not begin in a happy place—but he’s got Zoe on his side, so he’s going to be fine. :-)
As far as the coming months are concerned...holy cow, I can barely even decide what to have for dinner tonight, LOL. Probably for the next few months I’m just going to be hunkered down, working on this story. I do plan to update my web site very soon, to put up a Queen of Dragons page, probably by the time you read this. Oh, and I recently did a podcast with Bantam; that will be on the Random House site, and I’m going to try to post a link for it on my site, as well. (www.shanaabe.com). But it’s not up till January 28, so we’ve got to wait until then for that. *s*
PNR: Thank you, Shana, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Shana A.: Thank *you* for your insightful questions! I had a great time with them.
The best way to reach me is through my web site, and again, that URL is: www.shanaabe.com. I do have a guestbook, and although sometimes I’m too deeply drowning in work to write back, I read every submission. I wish I had time to write every single person back, because so many people who contact me are truly, staggeringly nice. I think I need to clone me!
Seriously, though, if anyone who reads this interview has questions for me, just sign my guestbook and mention the PNR interview somewhere in there. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. *s*
Thanks again, Dee. It was a pleasure. :-)
Featured in this issue: ~Dragon Themed Romance ~Red Rose Publishing ~2007 PEARL Career Achievement Award
December 26, 2007
Drákon: Book 3
Hidden among the remote hills of eighteenth-century England lives a powerful clan of shape-shifters who’ve become the stuff of myths and legends. They are the drákon—supersensual creatures with the ability to Turn from human to smoke to dragon. Now a treacherous new enemy threatens to destroy their world of magic and glittering power.
For centuries, they thought themselves alone at Darkfrith, but the arrival of a stunning letter from the Princess Maricara sent from the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania suggests the existence of a lost tribe of drákon. It is a possibility that the Alpha lord, Kimber Langford, Earl of Chasen, cannot ignore. For whoever this unknown princess may be, she’s dangerous enough to know about the drákon’s existence—and where to find them. That, as Kimber can’t help but concede, gives her a decidedly deadly advantage. And, indeed, it wouldn’t be long before Maricara breached the defenses of Darkfrith and the walls around Kimber’s heart. But the mystery of the princess’s real identity and the warning she has come to deliver, of a brutal serial killer targeting the drákon themselves, seem all but impossible to believe. Until the shadowed threat that stalks her arrives at Darkfrith, and Kimber and Maricara must stand together against the greatest enemy the drákon have ever faced—an enemy who may or may not be one of their own. They have no choice but to yield to their passionate attraction for each other. But for two such very different drákon leaders, will an alliance of body and soul mean their salvation, their extinction…or both?
September 26, 2006
Drákon: Book 2
He could be her master - or her slave...
In the remote hills of northern England lives a powerful clan with a centuries-old secret. They are the drákon, shape-shifters who possess the ability to Turn-changing from human to smoke to dragon. And from the very stones of the earth, they hear hypnotic songs of beauty and wonder. But there is one stone they fear....
Buried deep within the bowels of the Carpathian Mountains lies the legendary dreaming diamond known as Draumr, the only gem with the power to enslave the drákon. Since childhood, Lady Amalia Langford, daughter of the clan's Alpha, has heard its haunting ballad but kept it secret, along with another rare Gift....
Lia can hear the future, much in the way she hears the call of Draumr. And in that future, she realizes that the diamond-along with the fate of the drákon-rests in the hands of a human man, one who straddles two worlds.
Ruthlessly clever, Zane has risen through London's criminal underworld to become its ruler. Once a street urchin saved by Lia's mother, Zane is also privy to the secrets of the clan-and is the only human they trust to bring them Draumr. But he does nothing selflessly.
Zane's hunt for the gem takes him to Hungary, where he is shocked to encounter a bold, beautiful young noblewoman: Lia. She has broken every rule of the drákon to join him, driven by the urgent song of Draumr-and her visions of Zane. In one future, he is her ally. In another, her overlord. In both, he is her lover. Now, to protect her tribe, Lia must tie her fate to Zane's, to the one man capable of stealing her future-and destroying her heart....
September 1, 2006
Drákon: Book 1
For centuries they've lived in secret among northern England's green and misted hills. Creatures of extraordinary beauty, power, and sensuality, they possess the ability to shape-shift from human to dragon and back again. Now their secret--and their survival--is threatened by a temptation that will break every boundary....
Dubbed the Smoke Thief, a daring jewel thief is confounding the London police. His wealthy victims claim the master burglar can walk through walls and vanish into thin air. But Christoff, the charismatic Marquess of Langford, knows the truth: the thief is no ordinary human but a "runner" who's fled Darkfrith without permission. As Alpha leader of the dra´kon, it's Kit's duty to capture the fugitive before the secrets of the tribe are revealed to mortals. But not even Kit suspects that the Smoke Thief could be a woman.
Clarissa Rue Hawthorne knew her dangerous exploits would attract the attention of the dra´kon. But she didn't expect Christoff himself to come to London, dangling the tribe's most valuable jewel--the Langford Diamond--as bait. For as long as she could remember, Rue had lived the life of a halfling--half dra´kon, half mortal--and an outcast in both worlds. She'd always loved the handsome and willful Kit from the only place it was safe: from afar. But now she was no longer the shy, timid girl she'd once been. She was the first woman capable of making the Turn in four generations. So why did she still feel the same dizzying sense of vulnerability whenever he was near?
From the moment he saw her, Kit knew that the alluring and powerful beauty was every bit his Alpha equal and destined to be his bride. And by the harsh laws of the dra´kon, Rue knew that she was the property of the marquess. But they will risk banishment and worse for a chance at something greater. For now Rue is his prisoner, the diamond has disappeared, and she's made the kind of dangerous proposition a man like Kit cannot resist....In this bewitching novel, Shana Abé transports us into a world of exhilarating romance and magic.
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