Join me in welcoming Raven Hart to the blog!
Tell us your background in writing, how did you get started? Did you always want to be a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer. Growing up I wanted to be Brenda Starr, girl reporter. And I was that for less than a year, while I was still in college. Newspaper reporting wasn’t as glamorous as I imagined, though. Lots of zoning board meetings and water-and-sewer deliberations. So I got my Master’s degree in public relations and—during an internship in D.C.—decided that the high-pressure world of corporate PR wasn’t for me either. I wound up being a technical writer for many years, which was pretty boring but it was a living. I wrote fiction off and on, only getting serious about it around 1990.
What do you write?
What I write goes by many labels—paranormal romance, dark urban fantasy, etc. I usually just tell people I write vampire books.
How long were you writing before you sold?
Tell us about your first sale, “the call” and the first book you sold?
I sold my first book to Harlequin. That was several years before the vampire series came along. My editor, Brenda Chin with the Toronto office, gave me the good news in person. She was scheduled to attend Moonlight and Magnolias, the conference put on by my local RWA chapter, Georgia Romance Writers. I was to pick her up at the airport and was on pins and needles wondering if she’d gotten the go-ahead from the senior editor. As soon as she stepped off the plane, she told me that she was buying the book. My agent was standing by in her office in St. Louis, and I had to stop and call her from the airport right after I spoke with Brenda. It was quite exciting. That book was called “Lovestruck,” and I wrote it under the name Susan MacLand.
Do you have a favorite book you’ve written, or a favorite hero/heroine?
I think my most recent book, “The Vampire’s Revenge,” is my favorite. There’s a lot of action, emotion, and some humor too. Jack McShane is my favorite character. I created him for myself as the perfect man. He’s got eyes the color of a blue gas flame, wavy black hair, a body to die for, a smart mouth and a heart as big as all outdoors.
What’s your writing schedule like?
I get up about eight and I have to have my coffee and newspaper right off the bat. That bit of time before I go to work is something I just have to treat myself to. Then I go to my home office, answer some email and get to work. I take a break to fix lunch for me and my family and do a few chores and it’s back to work in the early afternoon. Another break to take care of snail mail and, depending on how large my deadline is looming, I might write until 6 or I might write until midnight.
Where do you get your ideas?
From everywhere. I read two newspapers a day, two news magazines a week and a bunch of blogs on all kinds of topics. A lot of ideas come to me as my characters mature and start dictating what has to happen.
Do you plan out your books? Do you plot ahead of time?
I plot as much as I can ahead of time and believe me, it saves a lot of headaches. The more you can figure out before you start, the easier the writing will be. I’ve written myself into some mighty tight corners when I neglected the planning/outline phase.
Who are you favorite authors/favorite books?
In the literary arena, I love T.R. Pearson. He’s been a big influence on me. For straight horror, my favorites are Dan Simmons and Phil Rickman. My favorite mystery/crime authors are James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane and Carol O’Connell. In my own genre I really enjoy Laurell K. Hamilton and L.A. Banks. The best book I’ve read lately is “The Gargoyle,” which was on the best seller list last year. Fair warning—it’s fairly gruesome. But I loved it.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a bit of a bead artist, so I like doing that and working with polymer clay. I always have a number of craft projects in some stage of completion.
What advice can you give aspiring writers?
If you really believe in yourself, then don’t ever give up.
Give us your first line (or a favorite line) from your current work in progress and/or a blurb?
My work in progress is still kind of fermenting right now, but I like the back cover blurb from my most recent book, The Vampire’s Revenge:
Jack McShane: lover, killer, seducer, family man, and vampire. In the shadows of Savannah, with its hip nightspots and moss-draped oak trees, Jack is trying to save humankind from a threat it doesn’t know it faces: an explosion of the otherworldly, the weird, the wanton, and the wicked. Tourists are heading to Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day—and Jack is racing through tunnels below the city to the edge of Hell itself to hold off a plot posed by the double-dead and demented. But jack must also hold off his own desire for Connie Jones, the beautiful cop he turned into a vampire slayer. Connie, her blood running hotter than she can handle, can’t imagine the games that Jack is playing with her body and her mind, or that the other monster she’s falling in love with is all part of his devious plan. Welcome to the world of Jack McShane, a blue-eyed vampire who knows how crazy things can get—once you get a little taste for blood.
Where can we find you on the web?
Raven is being kind enough to offer one person a book of their choice from her collection! Read an excerpt of her most recent publication, The Vampire’s Revenge, below!
Hey! Watch where you’re swinging that axe!” I yelled as the blade whistled through the air, grazing my cheek. “I’m trying to help you bring that demon down, you know. The least you could do is try not to lop off my head.”
The demon, a nasty little number covered with slimy brown scales, ducked but not before Connie’s axe connected with its shoulder. It howled in pain and outrage from the bricked-in corner of the alley we had backed it into.
“Is head lopping one of the ways you can kill a vampire?” Connie asked. She never took her gaze off the demon, but her eyes lit up with a deadly fervor that made me cringe because I knew it was meant for me.
“Well, yes,” I admitted. “One of the few.” The demon made a break for it, but I caught him in the jaw—if that hump below its mouth was a jaw—with my fist and spun him back into the corner.
Connie sighed. “I have so much to learn. So many vampires; So little time.”
Werm, who’d acted as bait by luring the creature into the side street where Connie and I were hiding, danced back and forth looking for an opening so he could use the ninja throwing stars he’d ordered from a martial arts catalog. He’d gotten each of them specially engraved with an ankh, which was the ancient Egyptian symbol for eternal life and a good-luck charm for vampires, or so he told me. Of course Werm’s greatest weapon was his ability to make himself invisible, but he’d still rather play with kung fu toys.
“And as for you,” I warned, pointing at Werm, “if I wind up with one of those chunks of steel sticking out of my forehead I’m going to make you rue the day you begged to be made into a vampire.”
“What makes you think I don’t rue it already?” Werm asked, holstering his weapons with a pout. The little goth guy had thought being a vamp would be all fun and games and give him a change to scare the shit out of guys who used to kick sand in his face. He didn’t figure close-quarters demon fighting would be part of the deal. Be careful what you wish for.
The demon charged me and I kicked it in the side, slamming it back into the wall. Connie raised her weapon again and swung with almost as much speed and strength as I myself could muster. The demon’s head left its shoulders with a spray of blood and its body fell forward onto the pavement and turned into a pile of dirt. The smell of it mixed with the sickening-sweet stench of the nearby dumpster and made my nose twitch with disgust.
“Another one bites the dust, uh, uh,” Connie sang with a little victory dance. I watched her shimmy her shapely booty in awe, not quite sure whether I should be grossed out by her blood lust or turned on by it. I seemed to be a little of both. Maybe I’d inherited William’s death wish along with all his responsibilities.
“I’m going back to the club,” Werm said. “Call me when you need me.”
As I waved him off, Connie turned her attention to me, noticing the trickle of blood running down my cheek. Her eyes dilated, the pupils turning into slits, the irises blood red. She grabbed me by the neck and pulled my face next to hers so quickly it startled me. I searched her eyes for the spark that was my old Connie, and didn’t see it. Would it—would she—ever be back? Or was she lost and gone forever, lost in the shell of this vicious, half-human killer standing in front of me now?
When she pressed her lips to my cheek, I felt myself go weak in the knees. She hadn’t shown me any affection since. . . the night I tried to kill her. For her own good, of course.
I quickly realized it wasn’t the hots for me that caused her to move her lovely lips along my skin, sending a shiver running down my spine and a throb of desire running everywhere else. As a dhampir, she was part vampire, part human, part goddess. She was savoring my blood for its flavor and its power. She was a predator now, and I was her prey of choice. She flicked out her tongue and lapped away the dribble of my blood.
“Mmm. Good to the last drop,” she murmured in a throaty whisper.
Even as I glanced down to see her pull back her lips and reveal her baby fangs, I felt more yearning than terror. She was born to kill me after all, and I swear if it weren’t for Mel and Rene, I would let her. As long as she made love to me one last time.
I closed my eyes, relishing the serrated rasp of those fangs across my skin, and nearly swooned. I know, I know. Kickass vampires with superpowers like me don’t swoon. But you don’t know Connie. Her hot breath burned a line from my cheek to my neck.
“Please,” I heard myself beg.
“Please what?” Her tongue probed the hollow of my throat, searing my cold, dead flesh.
I bit my tongue to keep myself from murmuring, kill me. It was tempting, but too many innocent people depended on me for their safety. I couldn’t take the easy way out as much as I might want to die in Connie’s arms, at the point of her fangs, and be done with it.
“Nothing,” I muttered. I took hold of her shoulders and gently pushed her away from me, breaking the suction lock she had on my neck. “Remember our agreement. I help you with the demon killing and you don’t eat me.”
“You’re going to get a nice, blood-red hicky,” she teased, ignoring me.
I rubbed at the spot on my neck. It was difficult getting used to the new Connie. Before, she had been a no-nonsense woman. Oh, she had a great sense of humor and could be as playful and fun-loving as anyone, but when it came to matters of life and death—which it came to all the time because she’s a cop—she was as serious as a heart attack and always in control. But the way she went about catching demons as a slayer was altogether different from the way she went about catching regular bad guys as a detective.
When she was activated as the Slayer, she’d turned wild, unpredictable and vicious. Travis Rubio, her father and the only vampire who had faced down slayers and lived to tell the tale, said she would achieve more self-control as she matured. Right now, to her way of thinking the only good vampire was a dead vampire. She saw those of us who refused to do harm in the same light as those who preyed on humans. I hoped that as time went on, she would develop some discrimination. I longed to be able to reason with her, to convince her to fight at our side against the evil ones. I only hoped I could keep her from killing me for that long.
And I also hoped I could keep my beloved Melaphia the voodoo queen from killing Connie to avenge her adoptive father’s death. What was done was done. William was the first vampire that Connie had slain, and nothing could bring him back now.
William would have been the first to approve of the strategy of trying to convince Connie to come over to our side. And he would be the first to forgive her. An evil vampire named Damien, with the help of Eleanor and Reedrek, had manipulated the time and place of Connie’s official switchover into slayer mode, and William had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As I studied the predatory gleam in Connie’s eye and the way she licked the last drop of my blood from her ruby lips, I figured my efforts to keep her from killing me had at best a fifty-fifty chance. She made a little feint toward my neck and I dodged away.
“You’re no fun,” she said, thrusting out her bottom lip in that pretty pout that still drove me to distraction. “And you and Werm are not much help either. The only demons we’ve killed are the ones I could have identified myself because they have scales and stuff. I thought you were going to help me sniff out the ones who aren’t so obvious, the ones who chose to take over human bodies.”
“Oh, yeah, that,” I began as if I’d forgotten our deal. “I’ll be doing plenty of that. But we have to get rid of the obvious ones first so the humans won’t panic.” I pointed to the pile of dirt that used to be the monster. “I mean, if this guy had decided to wander into Clary’s, sit down at the lunch counter and order up a plate of humans on the half shell, it would have made the national news, and we can’t have that, can we?”
“No, I guess not,” Connie agreed reasonably. I wondered if her fellow cops had noticed the change in her. Maybe she went back to acting normal when she wasn’t in the presence of vampires.
“And don’t forget that Saint Patrick’s day is in a few days. Tourists are already flocking in here from all over the country. Humans drunk on green beer and staggering around unfamiliar streets in the dark are going to be easy pickings for the demons. On the other hand, maybe you and the other cops can write off any demon sightings as the ravings of knee-walking drunk tourists. Either way, We’ve got to work fast.”
“Is this fast enough for you?” In a move too quick for me to see, she grabbed the collar of my demin shirt and brought my face close to hers again. “Just make sure you’re ready to step up when the time is right. And be fast yourself or I’ll send you back to the underworld so quick your head will spin faster than that monster’s did, Loverboy.”
I winced at her sarcastic tone, but I could hardly blame her. When she found out I’d tried to kill her, she didn’t take it well. Drinking Connie’s blood was the most horrifying thing I’d ever had to do, but I loved her enough to let her go because it meant eternal paradise instead of enduring life as a monster like me. She didn’t know my motivation, though, and she never would. She only knew I had wanted her dead, and I let her think that so she would be willing to let me go. Technically, my heart stopped beating the night William made me a vampire on a Civil War battlefield, but it truly died the night Connie stopped loving me.
The police radio on her hip squawked and distracted her enough for me to slip out of her grasp. I don’t do cop-speak but the code the dispatcher announced made Connie frown. “I’m on duty, so I’ve got to take that call,” she said. “We’ll pick this up later. Keep your cell phone on or you’ll have to deal with me.”
“Yes, ma’am.” This whole situation might be a lot easier if I wasn’t so damned turned by authoritative women. The closer Connie came to killing me, the hotter I was for her. When she turned to walk away the sight of her handcuffs jingling off the back of her belt against her hips gave me a thrill all the way down to my toes. Man, oh man.
It was harder to stick with the Plan every day that passed, and a major part of it was to keep my hands—not to mention the rest of me—off Connie Jones. Because the Plan was the only thing that might save her, the good vamps, my human family, and my unborn child. It was a good plan. Except for the fact that it depended on elements that I couldn’t control as closely as I needed to.
That thought reminded me that I needed to check on the status of Seth Walker, because even though I was the man with the plan, Seth was the key to its success. Seth was the werewolf I hoped would take Connie and my baby away to safety—and as far from me as he could get them. Every time I thought about that my chest felt like someone was twisting a stake in it. I guess you could say Seth Walker was both my best friend and my worst enemy.
© Raven Hart
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