So, if we were sitting somewhere out with drinks having a conversation, are we at a bar or are we at a coffee shop? Just so we know the mood for the rest of this. And what would you be drinking?
Oh, we’re at a bar, a very specific bar in Nashville called Holland House. They have amaaaaaaazing cocktails. If I’m not having something seasonal, I’ll be drinking the Blood and Sand (Pig’s Nose Scotch, Chai Vermouth, Orange Juice, Cherry Heering) – I don’t know much about all of the fancy-schmancy spirits in the mix, but I do know it’s tasty and that I’ll be feeling no pain after one.
And I won’t be driving. Safety first, boys and girls.
What do you write? What have you written, and what’s the next thing we can expect from you?
I started with contemporary romance and have done a couple of contemporary romance microstories for anthologies, but I’m more at home in the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genre. My big projects include the Southern Elemental Guardians Paranormal Romance Series and a soon-to-be-published Urban Fantasy Series. I need to come up with a title for the series before my publisher shoots me, but I’m still brainstorming. Waking the Dead is the first book in that series and the first book I ever wrote. I thought I was going to sit down and write a short story back in 2008. Boy was I wrong! And I’m glad!
In the Southern Elemental Guardians, Bruce, hero of Firestorm, and resident smart-ass in the other books is my favorite. Where did he come from? As a character did he just fill a need, or did he stroll in open his arms wide and say he was the answer to all your problems–ok that last bit is totally how I picture it, but what really happened?
Bruce is one of those characters who appears out of nowhere, comes and goes as he damned well pleases, and steals every scene he’s in. He was part of a subplot in Book 1, and he just came to life as I stared at my computer screen thinking, “What the hell? Who are you and what are you doing in my scene, man?” I had no choice but to sit back, follow his lead, and let him add humor, heart, and a bit of whimsy to Book 1, and then Book 2, and Book 3 (his own – also figures big in Novella 2.5). He’s already weaseled his way into Book 4 and will probably just keep on popping up because that’s just how he rolls. He’ll tell you that he has the answers to all of your problems—and as an empath and purveyor of happiness and light, he probably does (the cheeky bastard)—but he won’t just tell you. He’s all about the journey, meaning you take the journey and he cheers you on/wheedles you/watches you fall/picks you up along the way.
Yeah, I love him. Don’t tell him, though. It’ll go to his big fat head.
I’ll include a little excerpt from Firestorm (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 3) at the end so your readers can get a sample of the Bruce experience.
Where do your ideas come from?
Hmm, on some level they come from my long-standing fascination with mythological creatures and tales of gods and goddesses of old. I rather like the older notions of divinities as flawed entities that represented all of the best and worst of humanity. I love what old myths can tell us about the people who once embraced them. That’s definitely where the supernatural stuff comes from, which is weird given my uber-rational/skeptical brain. Then again, I see them as metaphor and that’s how I use them. On a psychological level, it’s kind of a safe place to explore scary experiences and ideas. I do more of that in Waking the Dead. Of course, every character a writer conjures has to be some part of herself or himself. I can see that in my work for sure!
Not to sound crazy, but do your characters talk to you? Do they contribute to their stories or do control everything about them?
See above with Bruce. Most of the time they just appear. When I’m writing the first scene (total pantser here), I get am image of the character doing something while they’re thinking. I get to be a voyeur as they go about their business, and they’ll reveal something to me that’ll be important to their story. That’s how it usually works. If I already know a character from a previous book (side character or character who’s come back to help/hinder the protags of a subsequent book), it’s easier to dig in because I already know that character and have a good idea of the motivation and obstacles. With a new character, it’s wonderful and exciting to “meet them.” Take Vance Idol from SEG Book 1. He showed up sitting on stage in an empty venue, looking wounded and sexy (as rock stars do), as he played and sang with his whole heart and soul. It was beautiful, but there was no joy in it. All of that talent and he just…didn’t seem to care. It made me mad. And, by extension, it infuriated his heroine, a mermaid who couldn’t sing because of her deadly siren call and would give ANYTHING to have the freedom he had. That’s how it started with Book 1. Seems to be my process.
For your day job you are a heavy duty medical scientist, how do you mesh your worlds of science by day and author of magic and myth by night? Do you have any internal conflicts as a scientist when it comes to writing about the supernatural?
It’s a strange dichotomy, but I’m lucky that it doesn’t come with conflicts. A wise person once told me that today’s magic is tomorrow’s science (AJ Scudiere), so I figure there’s a logical explanation behind the mermaids, dryads, flying men, and Phoenix I write about even if I don’t yet understand it. I even have a few characters in Book 2 who are working to map genetic similarities and differences between shapeshifting merfolk, humans, and hybrids. Maybe they’ll tell me what they find out someday, and then I can tell you.
Have you been able to integrate your real world thesis work into your fictional world? Is that something you have thought about?
Oh, man, I TOTALLY did that in my first published work, Red Shoes for Lab Blues. Cancer researcher juggling biomedical research with a social life? Yeah, that one’s close to home. It was fun, but I’ll tell you, writing something that close to what I do was a challenge! My editor and betas had to help me cut out the mundane details of laboratory work that I included that, while interesting to me personally, were total pace killers. I may revisit the lab in a future story, but for now it’s more fun and easier to escape into fantastical worlds where I can make it up as I go along.
As an unapologetic feminist, how do you justify/defend being a romance author?
Women love sex, and feminists are no different. We love sex with men who are our equals and who view us as equals, so I *try* to write heroes who respect their heroines. Consent is a must, and often enough my heroes ask for it directly or make certain their ladies are on board with the program. They respect the heroine’s intelligence and work with them rather than trying to think or act for them. That’s sexy as hell. Plus, often enough, my heroines are the powerful paranormal creatures falling for mortal/hybrid men. I love that twist and I hope readers enjoy it as well.
When did you start knowing you wanted to be an author?
Around 2008, when I figured out my short story was going to be longer—like maybe 2-3 books!
Can you remember the first romance novel you read?
I don’t know if it was the first, but an early one that really sticks out for me is Montana Sky by Nora Roberts. It made a pretty big impression and I became enchanted with the romance genre after that.
Where you a big reader as a kid and teen? What do you like to read?
HUGE reader! I loved (and still love) Stephen King. Right now I read an eclectic mix of romance (all genres), mysteries and thrillers, and nonfiction related to my field and personal interests. I’m in the middle of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a great (true) story that touches on cancer research, medical ethics, issues of class, race, politics, and the molecular genetic revolution that does and will continue to affect us all.
Tesla or Edison?
Tesla! He was robbed. Big time. Didn’t seem to have Edison’s PR skills, at least from what I’ve read. Plus, as a fan of The Oatmeal, I have a Tesla bias.
How much time do you get to focus on writing, actual writing? About how many manuscripts do you average in a year?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I don’t have a set schedule (advantage of being Indie/Small Press), but I try to write a little bit each day after 8:00 pm and whenever I can squeeze in more words throughout the day. If I have a deadline, I tend to do lots of sprints and exhaust myself. If not, I take my time. I actually had 2 ½ books written in SEG before I started publishing, along with 2 ½ novels from another series and a half-written Rom Com. This year, I wrote 2 novellas from scratch, finished one novel, revised and edited another, and am 1/3 finished with another SEG Book. I published 2 novels and 2 novellas this year, so 2016 has probably been my most productive year.
Do you work on multiple ideas at a time, or do you focus on one story until it’s finished?
I used to work on multiple projects, but now that I’m focused on new material in a single series, I work on one project at a time.
Names are hard, your characters have great names. Do your characters show up with their names, or is that sometimes a struggle for you?
I STRUGGLE with names! Seriously bad at them, and often enough my publishing partners talk me into being sensible and changing difficult to pronounce ancient mythological names with more conventional names.
What’s your not so secret party trick?
Does making Sangria and other wonderful boozy concoctions count as a party trick?
(me: I’m pretty sure it does.)
Adult coloring books (including Psychedelic Marbles), kitchen experiments, and backyard bug hunts with Kid 2.0.
Do you model any of your characters off of any favorite actors or characters?
I do, but after the fact. The character comes first, then an actor/actress with those physical attributes or charisma.
Which would you prefer to have your books to be picked up for a feature film with theatrical release and be true to the story, or a cable TV series where they veer wildly off your established plot?
Ugh, that’s tough. I’d love to see an adaptation and, let’s be real, the cash would be awesome. But given what HBO did with True Blood after Season 3, um, yeah, I’d rather have an adaptation stay as true to the plot as possible.
What’s the funniest thing you have ever read/ seen?
That’s so hard, because I know LOTS of funny people (present company included) and spend way too much time on Facebook. The funniest thing I’ve seen recently is Granny Potty Mouth. Check her out. Seriously. You’ll pee your pants laughing! I want her to adopt me.
Oh, and someone keeps sending me really awesome/funny short stories about strippers. Good stuff!
Award-winning author D.B. Sieders was born and raised in East Tennessee and spent her childhood hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, wading barefoot in creeks, and chasing salamanders, fish, and frogs. She and her family loved to tell stories while sitting around the campfire.
Those days of frog chasing sparked an interest in biology. She is a working scientist by day, but never lost her love of telling stories. Now, she’s a purveyor of unconventional fantasy romance featuring strong heroines and the heroes who strive to match them. Her heroes and heroines face a healthy dose of angst as they strive for redemption and a happily ever after, which everyone deserves.
D.B. Sieders lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, two children, three cats, and her very active imagination.
“Can your brother fly?” he yelled over his shoulder, surprised and pleased that Sera had followed him rather than trying to escape or staying to sulk back at the clearing. He scanned the skies, reaching out with his senses, but he got nothing out of the ordinary.
“No. We don’t fly. Too risky.”
Bruce snorted. “Right. Too risky to spread your own wings, but perfectly reasonable to strap yourself to a mortal and jump out of one of their flying machines.”
Uh-oh. Just got a little warmer.
The air vibrated around them with something akin to water on the verge of boiling. He turned to find Sera standing in the middle of the small clearing, stiff with tension, her brother’s urn in hand. Her eyes screwed shut and her lips pursed, she held her hands in tight fists at her side. Probably counting to ten. Maybe one thousand. He had that effect on most people and was self-actualized enough to admit it.
Oh well. She’d calm down. Eventually. Time was wasting.
“It wasn’t the best plan, but it did have advantages,” she said, opening her eyes and staring him down with defiance.
“Oh? Do tell.” Learning about this harebrained scheme might give him clues as to where and how it had gone wrong. “I doubt it was coincidence that a rogue hybrid interfered with your plans.”
“Probably not,” she conceded, blowing out a breath and looking around. She bent and ran a gentle finger over one bit of scorched earth. Gods, the weight of her sadness nearly brought him to his knees, as did the reek of failure and regret. “Hawk masked his signature well. Almost as well as I can.”
Bruce shook off the vile taste of her negative emotions and tried to lighten the mood for both their sakes. “So you do have some skills. Concealing that level of power isn’t easy.”
She shrugged. “It’s what I’ve been doing since I was twelve. Brandt taught me as soon as my powers started to manifest. It’s probably why his trail’s gone cold. He’ll have gone into hiding.”
“Who taught him to mask his power?”
Rising, she dusted bits of ash off the clothing she’d conjured, a tight, shimmering body suit of gold that accentuated subtle curves he hadn’t fully appreciated before. She wasn’t buxom, but her sleek, streamlined form would work well in flight and held a natural grace. The wings were gorgeous. Yeah, the ancient Phoenix race had been feared, but also held in awe and venerated. Bruce could see why.
“He learned a bit from other elemental guardians, or so he told me,” she answered with some hesitance. “I think he disguised himself as a low-ranking Lampade hybrid and sought help with the basics. He didn’t like to talk about it. I think whoever helped him must have grown suspicious.”
So he could add Lampades to his list of elementals to investigate. A clue and more questions. So many questions. Where to begin?
Well, the beginning would probably be a good start. “Who and where are your parents? Why didn’t they train you? And how many others of your kind are there, anyway? As far as we knew, the Phoenix went extinct ages ago.”
She scanned the skies and scented the air. Good instincts, this one. He could train her in more than the basics given enough time. Whether that was a good idea or not remained to be seen.
“We never knew our father or mother. Brandt rose from ash with little memory of a former life, assuming he had one. Whoever sired us left his urn, a book of instructions for hiding and surviving in the mortal world, and my ashes. I rose later.”
“Why did your brother allow you to rise?” he asked. “Seems risky for a race as dangerous as you claim yours to be.”
Anger flared from her essence. Good. If he could get her to question the necessity of this death wish she harbored, maybe he could convince her to stop pursing it.
“He needed me!”
“Why?” he asked. Given the latest spike in temperature, he was probably pushing his luck. Still, pushing boundaries was one of the things he did best.
She threw her hands up in the air. “To help him, of course. He couldn’t scatter his own ashes after immolating.”
Defensive much? He wondered if she’d ever pondered the conundrum inherent in her logic. Only one way to find out. “If that’s true, who was supposed to scatter your ashes? Did he have a plan, or did he leave you to figure that one out on your own?”
“I told Brandt I could manage. And I would have, too. I will,” she said, more to convince herself than him, he sensed. “I owed him that much. As you said, he let me rise, gave me a chance to live for a time. It was good for him, too, I think. He wasn’t alone anymore.”
And neither were you.
The sweetest tastes of love and devotion swept from her and he drank deeply, inhaling great gulps of the goodness that sustained him.
“What are you doing?” She’d stepped closer, expression painted with curiosity and a smile of reminiscence on those full, enticing lips.
No use being coy. “Sylph, remember? We thrive on positivity and light. Keep thinking about your brother. It makes you taste much better and will keep you focused on finding him.”
Her eyes went wide and she took a step back. “Taste? You actually taste emotions? I thought it was more like an extra sense kind of thing. More…cerebral.”
Oh, wasn’t she just adorable when she blushed? Maybe he could deepen that enticing shade of rose flooding her cheeks. “Little sparrow, it’s more than just cerebral, I assure you. It’s soul-deep, visceral, and can be quite carnal, at least for me. I’m a bit of an anomaly. It’s a family trait.”
With the added bonus of a curse that heightened his sensitivities, but there was no need to bring that up and spoil the moment.
Ah, that’s the shade he was looking for. She bloomed crimson, his favorite color.
Then she frowned and his sweet treat disappeared.
“So what happens when you get a taste of something less pleasant?”
Shit. He gave what he hoped was a casual wave of dismissal and said, “Meh. A little heartburn. No big deal.”
The look she gave him practically screamed “bullshit,” but fortunately something else caught her attention. “Look! Over there.”
Sera jogged past him and over to a cluster of shrubs. The rich flavors of exhilaration and triumph flowed from her as she lifted a brilliant crimson feather. “It’s his!” she cried. “He left a trail— that way!”
He shifted his gaze to the direction she pointed, but she was gone before he could blink. Running gave her a bit of momentum and her wings lifted her a few feet from the ground with each leaping bound as she ran down the trail. Bruce followed until they reached a small clearing.
The grass appeared undisturbed, as did the surrounding foliage. Still, Sera seemed to sense something. Blood ties or experience, perhaps. Best let her sort it out. She moved with more confidence and grace when focused, her intensity masking those horrid emotions that rumbled just beneath the surface. How fascinating she was, such a small, delicate form filled with such untapped power. What would it be like to taste her heat flesh to flesh? He might not survive the experience, but he’d die a happy Sylph.
She bent low to examine the ground. Oh, gods. She had a great ass, too.
He’d best stop ogling, though, before she caught him and sent a jolt of fire to his balls.
The wave of triumph that surged through her inspired a much more pleasant sensation in his balls and had his cock standing up to take notice, too. She unleashed a small flame, fortunately not in his direction, but into the center of the clearing. Orange and red flashed, then blue and white-hot flames emerged and flowed until the seared earth spelled symbols in black char. He didn’t recognize the symbols, but clearly Sera did.
“He left me a message. ‘Save yourself and the book. I’ll find you.’”
She hesitated, confusion and mistrust emanating from her aura. Lots of symbols littered the ground. Too many for such a short message. “You may as well tell me the rest,” he said, and then added, “I gave you my solemn vow of protection, remember? Trust me, Serafina.”
She turned to face him, eyes narrowed and jaw clenched. “Can I trust you, Bruce?”
Uh-oh. “Why do you ask?”
“Because the rest of Brandt’s message reads, ‘Don’t trust the Sylphs.’