Rachel returns to the spotlight with the release of her newest addition to the Soul Screamers series, My Soul to Keep. This book continues to follow Kaylee Cavanaugh and her attempt at balancing her desired life as a normal teenager and her unavoidable life as a banshee (bean sidhe).
ME: June is another month loaded with special holidays. Here are a few: 1st – Atlantic Hurricane Season; 5th – World Environment Day; 14th – Flag Day; 19th – Juneteenth Day (Freedom/Emancipation Day); 20th – Father’s Day, 21st – Summer Solstice; 24th – St. Baptiste Day; 27th – Helen Keller Day. When you stop to consider trends and traditions, June marks a time of beginnings (marriages, commencements). What about you, any weddings, anniversaries or graduations to attend this month?
RACHEL: No, actually, I don’t have any of those this month.
ME: While April 22nd marks Earth Day, June 5th is World Environment Day. What will you do to celebrate our environment?
RACHEL: I don’t have any specific plans on either of those dates. These days, I mostly celebrate our world by staring out at it from behind my office window. ;-)
ME: Speaking of the environment, do you strive to be more energy efficient or more environmentally conscious? How do you accomplish this goal?
RACHEL: Yes, I turn off lights in empty rooms, keep the air conditioner set for a reasonable temperature, and I use reusable water bottles, rather than burning through disposable ones. And, of course, I recycle.
ME: What traits make the men in your life good father figures? Will you do anything special to celebrate these men? If so, what will it be?
RACHEL: A willingness to listen, even when there’s no advice to be given. My father is proud of me and of my accomplishments, even if he doesn’t really understand my fondness for dark fantasy. ;-) And yes, of course, I’ll call him on Father’s Day. ;-)
ME: While the summer solstice occurs on June 21st, warmer weather usually arrives earlier than that, encouraging people to get out and enjoy the weather. What activities do you usually start in June?
RACHEL: I don’t start anything specific in June. I’m not much of an outdoorsy kind of person, because I’m very pale, and I sunburn (complete with blisters) very, very easily. Also, I live in San Antonio, so it’s been hot here for quite a while now.
ME: While people generally clean in spring, they need to do something with all the stuff they find they do not need. If it isn’t given away or donated, many people have rummage or estate sales. What about you, do you like to hit the rummage sales on a nice warm morning? Do you go alone or with someone else? Is it a family tradition?
RACHEL: No. I don’t do the garage sale circuit. I’ve never enjoyed that. But I do donate my unneeded things to Goodwill.
ME: In many areas, private community schools tend to schedule festivals and bazaars as fundraisers throughout the summer. What about your area? What kind of festivals and bazaars can be found and when will they occur? Do you make appearances at them, or do you avoid them? If so, why?
RACHEL: I don’t know. This will be my first summer in the area. But I’d be open to something held at night, when it’s not quite as hot.
ME: The weather in June seems to be a great mix in almost every state, and most people tend to plan vacations in June. What about you, are you a June traveler? If so, where will you be going? If not, when do you prefer to travel and why? Where have you gone or will you be going this year?
RACHEL: I’m doing a group bus tour with four other authors for several days during late June, and that’ll be the extent of my travels this month.
ME: We’ve had our fun now, so let’s put the focus on your writing. While there are many genres to choose from, what specifically brought you to YA? Why this genre over the others?
RACHEL: Well, YA isn’t really a genre. It’s a targeted age range. But even that is very flexible. Young adult books are available in many, many genres, including fantasy, romance, literary, science fiction, dystopian, urban fantasy, etc… But what drew me to young adult fiction was the passion and immediacy with which things are felt in adolescence. I remember that feeling, and I love recapturing it.
ME: YA novels have always been popular with teens, but not always so much with adults, yet recent years have shown an explosion of the YA genre marked by an increase in YA Authors and interest by adults into the YA genre. What, in your opinion, is the reason for the explosion of the YA genre and for the strong interest and appreciation for the genre by adults?
RACHEL: I think people are just now starting to realize how much good young adult literature is really out there. It’s a renaissance, of sorts. And I hope it lasts a long, long time.
As for why adults are so interested in YA fiction, I think that’s because we can all remember what it felt like to be discovering so many things in life for the first time. Some of us want to recapture that feeling. Some of us what to read about people who had a better/more interesting/more fantastic adolescence than we did.
ME: Earlier, we asked about what traits make the men in your life good father figures. Now, we want to know, have any of these men, or their traits, been inspiration for characters in your stories? If so, which men, what characters and/or traits and why?
RACHEL: No, not really. None of my characters are based on real people. They’re all fictional. Some are obviously idealized versions of what some of the people I know look for in a father/lover/brother relationship. But none of them are real.
ME: For a writer, inspiration can be found everywhere and in almost anyone, but sometimes specific people, places and events can inspire certain characters, personality traits, events or situations that happen in our stories. In your current story that we’re promoting here today, My Soul To Keep, did any one particular person, place or event inspire you? If so who/what was it (were they), how did it/they inspire you and how is this inspiration reflected in your story?
RACHEL: Nothing specific in this story was inspired from any real events or people. I would never do that to someone I know. But the range of emotions Kaylee goes through—those feelings of frustration, and anger, and betrayal—are things that I know well, because I know someone in real life who’s going through something similar to what Kaylee is suffering.
ME: Without giving away anything pertinent to the story, tell us about the hero and heroine (s) of your story. What do they look like? How do they meet (or “did” if this is not the first book with these same characters)? What are their personalities – Are they comical cut-ups, are they serious or are they a mix of the two? Please give us a little bit of dialogue from the story that can illustrate this. (Not much, but just a few lines and from a different section than the main excerpt – Thanks!)
RACHEL: Kaylee and Nash have been dating for about four months at the start of MY SOUL TO KEEP, and while there are some light moments, theirs is not a cut-up kind of relationship. Not in this book, anyway. They’re dealing with some serious issues. Here’re a few lines from the book:
“Kaylee…” he began, and I could already hear the protest forming. He sat up and I let one leg hang off the bed. “Whatever Fuller’s into is none of our business.”
“He’s taking Demon’s Breath,” I whispered with a nervous glance at the closed door, hoping his mother was still in the kitchen. “How is that none of our business?”
“It has nothing to do with us.” He stood and snatched a shirt from the back of his desk chair.
“Don’t you want to know where he got it? He could have killed someone last night. And if he takes any more of it, he’ll probably kill himself.”
Nash sank into his desk chair. “You’re overreacting, Kaylee.”
“No, you’re underreacting.” I scooted to the edge of his bed. “What happened to looking out for your friends?”
“What am I supposed to do?” He shrugged, frustration clear in the tense line of his shoulders. “Go up to Fuller and say, ‘Hey, man, I’m not sure where you’re getting secondhand air from a demon you don’t even know exists, but you need to lay off it before you kill yourself’? That’s not gonna sound weird.” He kicked a shoe across the room to punctuate his sarcasm.
I crossed my arms over my chest, struggling to keep my voice low. “You’re worried about sounding weird in front of a guy who’s getting high off someone else’s breath?”
ME: The main characters are usually great, but sometimes, secondary and tertiary characters are known to steal the scenes, even if the author did not intend this to happen. Who are the secondary/tertiary characters in your story and what do they look like? What’s unique about them? What is their relationship to the hero/heroine? Have any of these characters gone on to become scene-stealers? If so, who and how did they do it? Is there the possibility for them to get their own story? (Again, please give us a small bit of dialogue to illustrate this – thanks!)
RACHEL: Emma, Kaylee’s human best friend, and Tod, Nash’s grim reaper brother, are the most dynamic secondary characters in the series so far. And yes, they’re both scene stealers, from time to time. Here’s a little snipped with Tod, as he and Kaylee leave the hospital where he works, reaping the souls of the dead:
Tod’s footsteps went silent as he circled the car toward the passenger’s side, and I knew that no one else could see him. Still, I was grateful that he hadn’t simply blinked into Emma’s bedroom, leaving me to drive back alone.
“So, you’re not going to get in trouble for leaving now?” I asked as I settled into the driver’s seat.
He shrugged, unconcerned. “It’s a slow night. No one’s scheduled to tumble into the abyss for another hour and a half, and if I’m not back by then, I’ll get someone else to cover for me.”
Interested in reading more My Soul to Keep? Then read on!
AND KAYLEE IS ABOUT TO SCREAM HER HEAD OFF...
Kaylee has one addiction: her very hot, very popular boyfriend, Nash. A banshee like Kaylee, Nash understands her like no one else. Nothing can come between them.
Until something does.
Demon’s breath. No, not the toothpaste-challenged kind. The Netherworld kind. The kind that really can kill you. Somehow, the super-addictive substance has made its way to the human world. But how? Kaylee and Nash have to cut off the source and protect their friends—one of whom is already hooked.
And when the epidemic hits too close to home, Kaylee will have to risk everything to save those she loves.
EXCERPT: “You know I’m not interested in Sophie,” he whispered. “I wouldn’t do that to you or Scott.” He leaned down and kissed me again. “There’s only you, Kaylee.”
My entire body tingled in wave after wave of warm, exhilarating shivers, and I let my lips trail over the rough stubble on his chin, delighting in the coarse texture.
“Oh, blah, blah, blah,” a jaded voice said, drenching our privacy with a cold dose of sarcasm. “You love him, he loves you, and we’re all one big, happy, sloppy, dorky family.”
“Damn it, Tod!” Nash stiffened. I closed my eyes and sighed. The couch creaked beneath us as we sat up to see Nash’s undead brother—fully corporeal for once—sitting backward in Mr. Carter’s desk chair, arms crossed over the top as he watched us in boredom barely softened by the slight upturn of his cherubic lips. “If you don’t quit it with the Peeping Tom routine, I’m going to tell your boss you get off watching other people make out.”
“He knows,” Tod and I said in unison. I straightened my shirt, scowling at the intruder, though my irritation was already fading.
Unlike Nash, I had trouble staying mad at Tod lately because I considered his recent reappearance a good sign. We hadn’t seen him for nearly a month after his ex-girlfriend died in October—without her soul. And when I say we’d not seen him, I mean that literally. As a grim reaper, Tod could choose when and where he wanted to be seen, and by whom.
But now he was back, and up to his old tricks. Which seemed to consist entirely of preventing me and Nash from having any quality alone time. He was almost as bad as my dad.
“Shouldn’t you be at work?” I ran one hand through my long brown hair to smooth it.
Tod shrugged. “I’m on my lunch break.”
I lifted both brows. “You don’t eat.”
He only shrugged again and smiled.
“Get out,” Nash growled, tossing his head toward the door. Like Tod would actually have to use it. One of the other perks of being dead, technically speaking, was the ability to walk through things. Or simply disappear, then reappear somewhere else. That’s right. I got swirling eyes and the capacity to shatter windows with my bare voice. Tod got teleportation and invisibility.
The supernatural world is so far from fair.
Tod stood and kicked the chair aside, running one hand through short blond curls that not even the afterlife could tame. “I’m not here to watch you two, anyway.”
Great. I scowled at the reaper, my eyes narrowed in true irritation now. “I told you to stay away from her.” Emma had met him once, briefly, and we’d made the mistake of telling her what he really was. He’d been watching her covertly before, but after Addison’s death and his obvious heartbreak, I’d assumed that had stopped.
Tod mirrored his brother with his arms crossed over his chest. “So you won’t let me go near her, but you’ll let her get in the car with some drunk jock? That doesn’t even kinda make sense.”
“Damn it.” Nash was off the couch in an instant and I followed, whispering a thank-you to Tod as I passed him. But he’d already blinked out of the office.
I trailed Nash down the hall and through the packed living room, accidentally bumping a beer from a cheerleader’s hand on the way. We ran out the front door and I wished I’d stopped to find my jacket when the frigid air raised goose bumps all over my skin.
We paused at the end of the walkway, and I spotted Emma near the mouth of the cul-de-sac, a brief glimpse of long blond hair. “There.” I pointed and we took off again. We got there just as Doug pulled his passenger’s side door open. He had Em pressed against the side of the car, his tongue in her mouth, his free hand up her shirt.
Emma was totally into it, and though I didn’t think she’d have gone so far in public if not for the beer, that was her business. But getting in the car with a drunk crossed the line from stupid into dangerous.
Em,” I said as Nash slapped one hand on Doug’s shoulder and pulled him backward.
“What the hell, man!” Doug slurred as his hand pulled free from Emma’s bra hard enough that the elastic slapped her skin.
“Kaylee!” Emma smiled and fell against me, and I glared at Doug. She didn’t know what she was doing, and he was being a complete asshole.
“Em, you know how it goes.” I wrapped one arm around her waist when she stumbled. “Come together, stay together…”
“…leave together,” she finished with a wide-eyed, pseudo-serious expression. “But we didn’t come together, Kay…”
“I know, but the last part still applies.”
“Fuller, she’s drunk.” Nash angled him so that Doug fell into his own passenger’s seat. “And so are you.”
“Noooo…” Emma giggled, blowing beer breath at me. “He’s not drinking, so he gets to drive.”
“Em, he’s wasted,” Nash insisted, then glanced at me and tossed his head toward the house. “Take her back in.”
I started walking Emma up the sidewalk, trying to keep her quiet as she told me how nice Doug was. She wasn’t just drunk, she was gone. I should have watched her more closely.
A minute later, Nash caught up to us as I was lowering Emma onto the porch. “Did you get his keys?” I asked, and Nash frowned. Then, as he turned to head back toward Doug’s car, an engine growled to life and a sick feeling settled into the pit of my stomach. Nash took off running and I leaned Emma against the top step. “Tod?” I called, glancing around the dark yard, grateful there was no one around to see me talking to myself.
“What?” the reaper said at my back, and I whirled around, wondering why he always appeared behind me.
“Can you sit with her for a minute?”
He scowled and glanced at Emma, who stared up at us, blinking her big blue eyes in intoxicated innocence. “You told me to stay away from her.”
“Hey, I remember you,” Emma slurred, loud enough to make me wince. “You’re dead.”
We both ignored Em. “I know. Just watch her for a minute, and don’t let her get into any cars. Please.” Then I raced after Nash past the entrance to the cul-de-sac, confident Tod would watch Emma. That he’d probably been doing it all night, though he’d catch hell for missing work.
Ahead, streetlights shined on the glossy surface of Doug’s car, gliding past like a slice of the night itself. Then, as I caught up to Nash, Doug leaned suddenly to one side, and his car lurched forward and to the right.
There was a loud pop, followed by the crunch of metal. Then the crash of something more substantial.
“Shit!” Nash took off running again and I followed as that sick feeling in my stomach enveloped the rest of me. “Oh, no, Kaylee…”
I knew before I even saw it. The street was lined with expensive, highly insured cars belonging to people who could easily afford to replace them. But the drunk jock had hit mine. When I got closer, I saw that he’d not only hit it, he’d rammed it up onto the sidewalk and through a neighbor’s brick mailbox.
My car was crunched. The driver’s side door was buckled. Bricks and chunks of mortar lay everywhere.
Behind us, Scott’s front door squealed opened and voices erupted into the dark behind me. I glanced back to find Tod—now fully corporeal—ushering Emma away from the crowd pouring into the yard. When I was sure she was okay, I turned to my poor, dead car.
Until I noticed that Doug Fuller had yet to emerge from his.
“Help me with him,” Nash called, and I rounded the car as he pulled open the completely unscathed driver’s side door of the Mustang. Doug’s head lolled on his shoulders, and he was mumbling drunk nonsense under his breath. “…with me. Somebody else in my car, dude…”
Nash leaned inside to unlatch the seat belt—what kind of drunk remembers to buckle up?—but he couldn’t fit between his friend and the steering wheel, which had been shoved way too close to Doug’s chest. “Kay, could you get the belt?”
I sighed and crawled across his lap, wedging my torso between the wheel and his chest as I felt around for the button. “Scared the shit out of me…” he mumbled into the hair that had fallen over my ear. “He was just there, outta nowhere!”
“Shut up, Doug,” I snapped, seriously considering leaving him in the car until the cops arrived. “You’re drunk.” When I had the belt unlatched, I backed out of the linebacker’s lap and he exhaled right into my face.
I froze, one hand braced against his thigh, and that sick feeling in my stomach became a full-body cramp. Ice-cold fingers of horror clenched my heart and shot through my veins. Emma was right. Doug hadn’t been drinking.
Somehow, Eastlake High School’s completely human first-string linebacker had gotten his big, dumb hands on the most dangerous controlled substance in the Netherworld.
Doug Fuller absolutely reeked of Demon’s Breath.
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