I am pleased to bring you Rachel Vincent, author of the Soul Screamers (for YA readers) and Shifters (for adults) series. I had heard her name mentioned in other circles and became curious about her. Then, I discovered that I could get her eBook novella, My Soul to Lose, for free from the Sony Digital Editions library, so I signed up to get the free software, just so I could get something of hers to read. I read enough of this story to know that I liked the writing style and that I wanted to read more of her work and I knew that our readers would love her stories (as many of us do love the paranormal here), so I decided to shine our spotlight on Rachel this week.
Kaylee Cavanaugh is a normal girl with normal wants and needs. And like many of the other young female heroines (Zoe Tempest of Vampire Island, Janie Hannagan of the Dream Catcher series, Ever of the Immortals series, Cass McKenna of Give Up the Ghost) mentioned here is this room, she's completely normal except for one thing. In Kaylee's case, that one thing is knowing when someone's about to die.
Yeah, sure, it might seem like it would be good to be able to know when someone's about to die, but it's hard to do something about it when you're screaming bloody murder. That's what happens when Kaylee is near someone who is just about to die, she screams and she doesn't always know who it will be if there are too many people about her. She's so embarassed about her condition, that at the beginning of My Soul to Lose, she hadn't told her best friend Emma yet. Emma seems to think they're just panick attacks. If you've read Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe, you can understand why Kaylee would be more than just a tad hesitant to tell her friend what's going on. Cass' best friend freaked and practically turned the entire school against her.
How would Emma react if she found out the truth about Kaylee's panick attacks? Does she find out or is Kaylee sly enough to continue hiding the truth? You'll have to read My Soul to Lose if you want to find out the answers! What would be the fun in me telling you before you've had a chance to read the book?
Now, on to what you've all be waiting for, my interview with Rachel Vincent! Be sure to stay tuned because after the interview, we have an excerpt of My Soul to Save!
ME: Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions like watching a Lifetime Channel movie marathon, spending the day with your significant other, writing, etc.? Do you have a favorite movie that you love to watch or a book you like to read on Valentine’s Day? Is there any movie or book that you’ve saved for this time of year? If so, what’s the title?
RACHEL: No, we don’t have any specific traditions for Valentines Day. This year, my husband and I went to our favorite pizza place (they have these awesome weird pizzas, like chicken and pine nuts, and Mediterranean with lamb, feta, and olives, and stuff like that). It was really cold, so we were the only ones in the outside seating, with a heater under a big tent, and it was just generally awesome! Then we came home and watched Zombieland on BluRay. It was a great night. My favorite Valentine’s Day ever, which is saying something, considering that we’ve been together for 13 years!
ME: Many of us feel that Valentine’s Day is just one more day that has been overly commercialized and isn’t something that should only be celebrated once a year, but at least once a day. What was the most romantic gift you’ve ever received, when did you receive it and who was it from?
RACHEL: Um… I’m not an overtly romantic gift giver or receiver. I don’t wear jewelry, other than my wedding ring, and I’d much rather have plants I can put in the ground than cut flowers. But my husband is a very thoughtful man. He often comes home with things I’ve mentioned liking or wanting, but would never have thought to actually buy for myself, because they don’t seem practical. Like, a couple of years ago, I saw these tiny clear glass mugs with short wine glass stems. They were intended for hot chocolate, and I love hot chocolate. I just stopped and looked at them at the store. He must have noticed, because he came home with them a couple of days later, when I was having a bad day. So we had hot chocolate in these tiny glass mugs. Stuff like that, that he does just to make me smile. I think those are the most romantic, heart-felt things ever. [Awww! Rachel's got herself a keeper, that's for sure!]
ME: Since this is the time of year when many people (teens included) feel the need to find a significant other, what suggestion(s) do you have for our readers as to what trait(s) should be added to their list?
RACHEL: You know, rather than looking for specific traits, I’d probably make a list of traits to avoid. You’re never going to find the “perfect” guy or girl, and you can drive yourself (and everyone else) nuts trying. So make a list of traits you don’t want. Like cruelty, aggression, derision, etc… That way you leave yourself open to liking people you might never have considered, if you automatically discount everyone who doesn’t open doors (or whatever is on your list).
ME: There are many relationship superstitions out there such as, “rain on your wedding day is bad luck,” are you superstitious when it comes to love or relationships? Why or why not? If so, what superstitions do you believe have merit?
RACHEL: No, I’m not superstitious at all, actually. It did rain on my wedding day, and I did see my husband before the service. And we’ve been married for almost thirteen years now. And no, I don’t think our thirteenth year will be bad luck. ;-)
ME: Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe in the power of love? If so, do you think that love can exist beyond this life and carry over into the next or has the power to keep a soul attached to the mortal coil never to cross over? Do you believe that ghosts have the ability to effect humans in a sexual manner?
RACHEL: I don’t believe in ghosts. I do believe in love, but I don’t believe in “meant to be” or “love at first sight.” Love is hard work. It’s never perfect, because people are never perfect. But for the sake of fiction and movies, I love ghost stories and stories about love so powerful it can affect the afterlife. I love writing (and reading) about things that should be impossible (or nearly impossible) in the real world. That’s the whole point of fantasy and romance, right? ;-)
ME: Please tell us, if you have any, 3 funny, strange or silly things that happened to you, or someone you know, on past Valentine’s Days. Any rendezvous fiascos that you now find humorous to tell? Have they ever been inspiration for some hi-jinks in your stories? Which ones? (Sharing may help others not feel so bad if it happened to them, as the saying goes, “misery loves company”)
RACHEL: Um… I only have one. When I was a young, intemperate, impulsive high school senior, Valentine’s Day happened to fall on national safe sex day (not sure if that’s always the case or not). So my best friend and I hatched a plan. She went to a public clinic and got a bunch of condoms, and we glued them to pink hearts, and glued the hearts to safety pins. Then handed them out at school.
Needless to say, we were told, in no uncertain terms, to cease and desist. ;-)
[Lol! I love this story! Such great hi-jinks!]
ME: Now, let’s switch gears and focus on your writing: What genre is your work considered to be (besides YA Fiction)? Why this genre? What was the draw for you?
RACHEL: I write urban fantasy, for both adults and young adults. I love urban fantasy because it combines a real-world setting with elements of the fantastic. Monsters, mythology, folklore, etc… Writing fantasy lets me explore real-world issues dressed up as fantasy. So I can write about sexism and discrimination as it applies to stray and Pride-born werecats (in my adult Shifters series), without sounding preachy or being labeled an “issues” book. And I can write about mental illness, addiction, and “selling out” in terms of bean sidhes, grim reapers, and hellions, in my Soul Screamers series. That way, if you’re interested in social satire and “statements,” you can find them. And if you’re not, you can read just for adventure and entertainment, which is the whole point of a good book anyway.
ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please be creative and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
RACHEL: Fantasy, action, and romance, centering around strong female protagonists. I like to put my characters in situations that provide no easy way out, no good choices. That’s the true test of character. What does a truly good person do, when all of the options will hurt someone else?
ME: Do you prefer romantic gifts (flowers, chocolate, jewelry, etc.) or romantic acts (massages, dinners, fun night out, etc.)? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
RACHEL: While I do love chocolate, I typically buy it for myself, and I don’t wear jewelry. So I’d say I’m more of a dinner out, movie in (or out) kind of girl. I want people I love to spend time with me, not money on me. And yeah, I think that comes through in my writing. My protagonists (Faythe, from the adult Shifters series, and Kaylee from the Soul Screamers books) both have strong feminine sides, but they would never be described as “girlie.”
ME: What school of thought are you when it comes to romance, love at first sight or that love takes time? Does this show through in your writing? If so, how?
RACHEL: Love takes time. The initial attraction is almost always physical, but things are never perfect after that. Love is hard work, and that’s definitely reflected in my writing. Though Kaylee and Nash do have a decent “honeymoon” period in the first couple of Soul Screamers novels.
ME: When reading stories, many of us find secondary characters to be as interesting as or more interesting than the main characters. Are there any secondary characters that you plan on giving their own story? Or any that readers have requested have their own story? Are any of them your favorites? Why?
RACHEL: Yeah, everyone wants to see more of Tod and Emma. Possibly together. We’ll have to see about that. I’d love to write a story about Tod. Probably not a novel, though, because the thing about secondary characters is that they’re fun because we see what they do and hear what they say, but we’re not inside their heads. That funny magic would be very hard to sustain if we actually felt Tod’s trauma.
ME: Of all of your heroes, who would you say is the most romantic and why?
RACHEL: Um… In the Soul Screamers series, I’d say it’s Tod. But in an offbeat kind of way. What he’s willing to do for love in My Soul To Save (Book 2 of the series) and My Soul To Keep (Book 3) is…well, staggering, in my own opinion. Even if it causes serious fallout.
ME: Of all of your heroes, who would you say is the least romantic and why?
RACHEL: I don’t think I have any unromantic heroes, but if you’re judging them based on outward appearances, I’d have to say Marc. He doesn’t do roses and candy (Not that she’s ever asked for them), and he’s very possessive and temperamental. But he loves Faythe with every single cell in his body, and he’d do anything for her. Which is probably why he’s a big reader-favorite from my books. ;-)
When the door closed behind us, I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other on the slick, marbled floor. Step-ow! Step-ow! Over and over again, breathing through the pain and doggedly avoiding eye contact with any of the creatures in the room. At least, any of them who actually had eyes.
Regan’s breathing sped up until she was practically panting, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw her hand shaking. I wrapped my hand around hers and squeezed to tell her she was fine. Everything was okay. Then I made myself look up, though not at anything in particular, when I realized that walking with my eyes down practically advertized my status as prey.
And I would not be prey.
Near the fountain in the center of the room, two headless human-ish forms stood with their backs to us. One was male and one female, and she was bent to let her hand dangle in the flow of water that looked thick and smelled foul. When and if they turned, we’d find their facial features imbedded in their chests, as if they’d swallowed their own heads, and the lost parts were trying to break free from the inside. I knew that because I’d glimpsed this species briefly the day Emma died.
But what I hadn’t known—since peeking renders everything in shades of gray—was that their skin tone would be a smooth, delicate pink, as if they’d never lost the soft flush of the birthing process. If creatures like that were even birthed in the first place.
“Just keep walking,” Nash whispered, and I glanced quickly at his profile to find his jaw tense, his hands in his pockets. “Tod’s waiting for us by the elevators. We’re almost there.”
I followed his line of sight. Tod was indeed waiting for us by a bank of very normal-looking elevators, his arms crossed over his chest. His expression was strong, closed-off, and arrogant, as if to say he might not belong there, but neither was he afraid.
But we were not almost there. We’d gone less than a quarter of the way—just far enough to attract attention.
As we crossed the room, oddly lilted, strangely pitched snippets of conversation began to fade into silence as one creature after another noticed our presence. Then, as we passed an arrangement of formal, burgundy-colored couches, that conversation started back up, as if I’d just yawned to pop my ears and could suddenly hear again. This time I caught actual words here and there.
“…taste their fear…”
“…plump, soft flesh…”
“…beacons of energy…”
“…swimming in pain…”
“…strong, young hearts…”
Chills traveled up my arms and down my spine. I became aware of a steady movement toward us, as the creatures slowly converged, slinking, slithering, lurching, and gliding in our direction from every corner of the room. I caught glimpses of extra arms, coiling tails, and flashing eyes in all manner of wrong colors. Whispered hisses followed us. Outstretched appendages welcomed us.
Something brushed a strand of hair from my shoulder, then trailed lightly down my back. I swallowed a shudder of revulsion and forced myself to face forward. To keep walking.
“This one smells like warm rot….” a female voice whispered into my ear, though as near as I could tell, the speaker was all the way across the lobby, beside the reception desk. Skeletal hands peeked from beneath long, wide sleeves, but she stood on nothing that I could see. No feet. No paws. No flippers. She simply hung on the air, sunken eyes glowing a dark, eerie blue.
As we moved forward, the crowd parted reluctantly, some beings moving so slowly we had to wait for them to vacate our path. Oddly textured hems brushed my jeans. Scalding fingers tugged on mine. And something cold and airy, like a breeze somehow made solid, wound around my ankles, forming an almost physical resistance to my forward motion and introducing a new, prickly cold pain to the agony still throbbing in my leg.
When we finally reached Tod and the bank of elevators—I’d come to view them as salvation itself—my sigh of relief was audible. Without a word, he pressed a button on the wall, and a set of doors slid open. We stepped inside, and Addy jabbed the “close door” button repeatedly with one trembling finger.
When the door closed, she turned on us, tears welling in her oddly blank eyes. “What the hell was that?”
“Hell’s about right,” I mumbled, and she whirled on me, fierce anger overwhelming her fear for the first time.
I was glad to see it. Leaking fear in the Netherworld was like leaking blood in a shark tank.
“You could have warned us!”
“What did you think you were getting into when you sold your soul?” Nash demanded, and I glanced at him in surprise. Contempt shone in his eyes. “These creatures live off the human life-force that bleeds through from our world to theirs. Some of them eat souls. Some of them eat flesh. Some of them just like new toys. Either way, walking through that lobby was like dangling a bloody stake in front of a tiger, and Kaylee and I did that for you two, even though she’s in horrible pain and huge trouble with her father. And neither of us have a thing to gain from this. So if you have any further complaints, you can lodge them right up your own ass, pop star, because nobody here gives a damn who you are or how much you’re worth. Without us, you’re meat, pure and simple. Got it?”
Addison blinked her big, empty eyes. Then she nodded, still trembling, and I couldn’t resist a smile.
Are you interested in the Soul Screamers but want to start from the beginning? You can still get My Soul to Lose for free from Rachel's website. Click here to get your own free copy of My Soul to Lose. Just click on the book. It's the one with the green cover.