When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancee at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer and quick, or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.
On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.
There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may very well transform into a quest for vengeance…
– Inquisitor by R.J. Blain
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Today I’m interviewing R.J. Blain, author of the upcoming witch and wolf novel, Inquisitor.
When she’s not pounding out thousands of words in writing marathons at all hours, she slips down into her Developmental Editing dungeon, where she whips WIPs into shape. The minute I read the excerpts, I couldn’t wait to get her on here to talk about her third published novel.
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What inspired you to write Inquisitor? How long did it take? Why witches and werewolves?
I don’t remember what made me fall in love with the idea of witches and werewolves – and wizards. I think it was in part inspired by The Dresden Files, part inspired by Patricia Briggs, and part inspired by wanting to try something new. I’ve always enjoyed a good werewolf romp, but there is a dire shortage of really good stories out there – stories that made me want to really wonder what is out there that we don’t know about.
The Dresden Files took me quite a bit to get into, honestly – I wasn’t a huge fan of the first one. The others, though? The glorious others!
I’ve always liked wolves, though. I’ve always loved their majestic pride, their cunning, and their beauty.
It was easy chasing after the wildness of the wolf, once I decided to start going.
As for witches and wizards, I wanted to create a magic system based on the superstitions of people. Magic is a multi-tiered system in the Witch & Wolf world. Witches have access to certain types of magic. Shamans have access to a different type of magic. Then there are the taboo types of magic, rare forms that are hunted down and controlled or eliminated.
Wizards are the rarest, as well as the most dangerous. I loved the idea of working with so many layers, and I hope I can bring these varying aspects to life through the characters as they live their lives.
Both as a writer and reader, what excites you about the science fiction and fantasy genres?
Everything, honestly – I love asking questions. What if this happened in the world? What if werewolves were real? How would they survive? Would they go extinct? Who would hunt these ultimate hunters? What could kill a werewolf?
What would a werewolf fear?
What would a witch fear?
What would happen if no one ever died? Questions form the base for science fiction and fantasy novels, and I have always loved asking questions, much to my mother’s disgust.
I like trying to see the world in a different light – it might not be real. . .
. . . but it could be. Who knows? Not I.
That’s why I love these genres. Science fiction is a bit more realistic than fantasy, I’ll grant that – but the best science fiction looks past the stars to what could be, not what is.
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“The Leaning Tower of Booksa”
For each of your works, you handwrite in decorative journals and create story bibles. How did those come into play for Inquisitor? May we see them?
I wrote a very tentative story bible for Inquisitor. I haven’t completed it yet. Half of what is written in there is complete and total garbage. It didn’t make it into the book.
I will create the story bible and plot arc references for this novel when editorial is completely finished. While it’s a standalone, I will be creating other Witch and Wolf novels – Winter Wolf will be releasing this year as well. Ironically, Winter Wolf takes place before Inquisitor – those who read Inquisitor will find a spoiler for Winter Wolf within the pages.
As for being able to see them, why yes you can! Enjoy seeing how I set up to start writing Inquisitor before November 2013.
Foximus Maximus got left at my Mother-in-Laws over Christmas, though. I’m both horrified and relieved.
His squinty eyes terrified me into working. I need a new fox plushie though. And a new wolf plushie. My little wolf given to me by an ex-boyfriend in high school is so worn. Poor little wolfie.
The actual draft of Inquisitor was written in two moleskine journals – the first journal is purple. The second is a limited-edition Hobbit 2014 journal.
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“I can’t believe you brought me to New York on today of all days.” I nodded my head at the park, but taking in the entirety of the city in a single gesture. Even in the relative peace of the park, I could hear the bustle, the honk of horns, and the noise of the restless cityscape. Atlanta wasn’t much different downtown, but at least it was home.
“Oh, come off it, Allison. You like Halloween.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Maybe a little. I still can’t believe you brought me here, though.”
“Anyway, you owe me,” he said before clucking his tongue.
I winced. He had me dead to rights, and I knew it. Mark gathered favors and cashed them in like currency. Resisting was futile. “Rub it in my face, why don’t you?”
“Of course I will. Another time. I’m enjoying myself way too much right now. You’re mine for three whole days, like it or not.”
“I’m doomed,” I groaned.
I didn’t have the courage to tell him I meant it. It was bad enough it was Samhain. The full moon would reach its zenith after nightfall.
If I wasn’t careful, I was going to pop a tail for real. That’d surprise him. It’d also get me killed. I doubted the NYPD would appreciate a wolf running loose in the center of their city.
“Seriously, Mark. What’s so important that you had to fly me in from Atlanta? I do have a job, you know. I’d even like to keep it.”
“You’re owed three weeks, and at the rate you’re going, they’re probably getting ready to force you to take the time off. The way I see it, I’ve done you a favor.”
“Mark,” I growled.
“Okay, fine. It’s my mom. I told her I had a girlfriend so she’d shut up about me getting married for a while. She wants to meet her. To meet you.”
I broke into a brisk walk, cutting across the grass towards one of the other paths through the park. With luck, he’d get grass stains on his pretty, blue business suit. “You brought me to New York to dress up as your girlfriend for Halloween?”
I guess it really was going to be a night for wearing masks and pretending to be the impossible.
If I had a mother, I’m sure she would’ve been proud. I didn’t cuss, scream, or pitch a fit. I did keep walking without checking if Mark kept pace with me.
He did. “Come on, Allison. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
“A Halloween party with your mother, Mark? Have you lost your mind? She’s never going to believe we’re a couple, for one. Two, you live in New York City. I live in Atlanta. You know, that place you flew me in from? She’s got no reason to believe us.”
“I might have told her that you are an old college friend, and we’d been seeing each other on and off since we got our degrees. It’s even true! Just not for the reasons she thinks. Come on, Allison. It’s only for one night. And you’ll save me from marrying a woman I’ve never met.”
I sighed. “Seriously? Did your mother have you betrothed or something? That’s so two hundred years ago. At least you had the decency to book me into a good hotel. How did you manage a room at the Plaza on such short notice?” Using my brown bangs as a shield, I stared at my friend. He was grinning wolfishly.
“Who said it was on short notice? I had our room booked six months ago.”
I tripped over my own feet. A startled cry worked its way out of my throat. Mark’s arm slapped against my chest as he caught me. With a low grunt, he hauled me upright.
My face burned. “Sorry.” I drew a deep breath. Killing Mark in Central Park wouldn’t work — not during the daytime. There’d be too many witnesses. “Our room?”
“We’re twenty five. We’re young, healthy adults. There’s no way my mom will believe we’re a couple if we don’t share a room,” he replied.
“You have a perfectly nice condo, Mark. I’ve seen it. Why not invite me there instead of booking us a room in one of New York’s more expensive hotels?”
“Wait until you see the room,” Mark said. Then he leered at me.
Oh God. I closed my eyes, stood straight, and once again shoved my hands into my back pockets. No tail. That was a start. I counted to ten. Then I counted to ten again.
When that didn’t calm me down enough, I systematically considered all of Mark’s banking accounts I could probably hack my way into, calculating how much I could siphon off without him noticing. I wouldn’t do it, but the figure made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
When I managed to quell my urge to throttle my friend, I opened my eyes and glared at him. “You got a honeymoon suite, didn’t you?”
“Do try to act surprised when I propose. At least you have an easy line. Don’t worry, we’ll call off the engagement in a month or two.”
“Give me a reason I shouldn’t kill you in your sleep tonight.”
“I’m too good looking to kill.”
“I pay you exceptionally well for your accounting skills.”
“True, but no.”
“You like me?” His voice wavered, and I had to work to smother my grin.
“You sound so confident,” I murmured. “Fine. I like you. A little. I’ll do it, but you, dear Mark, will owe me.”
Mark’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You wouldn’t really try to kill me, would you?”
I grabbed hold of his tie and yanked down so I could look him in the eye. A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. “I wouldn’t bet your life on it, if I were you.”
The little color he did have fled from his face. I let him go and resumed walking across the park, whistling a merry tune.
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2014 Hobbit Limited Edition Moleskine® Journal
Tell us about the cover art for Inquisitor. Who is the artist and how did you find them? How did you work together to emerge with the ideal cover?
Chris Howard is my cover artist for all of my novels. Inquisitor’s cover features the main character as she takes her fate into her own hands. I won’t spoil, but the cover features one of my favorite scenes in the novel.
I found Chris Howard through one of my editorial clients, Lisa Cohen. I loved the cover for her upcoming novel, Derelict. She hooked us up, and I’ve been working with him ever since.
Working with Chris is easy. I send him descriptions of what I think might make an attractive cover and he works his magic on it. Inquisitor went through two different covers – the first one was redone because of many reasons – and he went above and beyond with the new version. I do push Chris to his limits though, because I do like a lot more detail than some of his other clients do.
I love his blend of photorealism and pure painted art. He does his art digitally, but it never fails to look like an oil or acrylic painting too.
How do you pay for cover art? Do you crowdfund or just use your editorial and sales revenues?
I crowdfunded my first two novels, The Eye of God and Storm Without End. I did put a crowdfund for Inquisitor and the other novels I released this year, but I used it as a preorder mechanism for those who wanted epubs. I got some sales, but not a lot – many people wanted to just buy the book from amazon.
I pay for my author costs with my editorial fees I charge my clients. I also reinvest my royalties into my novel-writing career.
Have you ever tried doing your own cover art? What advice do you have for authors considering that path?
No – just no. Don’t, if you can help it. Cover art is so, so important. It is the first thing a reader sees about your novel.
I have had fans tell me that they bought my book because of the cover – no other reason. They loved the cover, so they bought the book. Then they liked the book too. But covers sell books. Bad covers prevent books from selling.
Unless you’re good at photo manipulation, I really don’t recommend working on your own cover. There are really cheap cover art services out there and template covers – you won’t have a unique cover with these services, but you’ll at least have a quality cover.
I’ve turned away from many books that just had poor covers. It doesn’t have to be fancy – it just needs to look professional. Unless you can produce a professional cover, I recommend gathering your every spare penny and hiring someone who can create a cover for you.
Covers are just so, so important.
It was well enough our ‘relationship’ was nothing more than make-believe. Our friendship wasn’t much better off, either. Unfortunately, Mark didn’t know that. I shook my head to clear it, staring down at my watch.
I glanced eastward, at the glass-lined wall of the jewelry store I was in. Shoppers hurried about their business in the broad mall hallways, chatting to each other or talking on their too-expensive cell phones. Beyond the walls of the building, I could already feel the moon calling to me, birthing shivers under my skin. In a little over an hour, it would start to rise. I made a thoughtful sound, turning my attention back to the glass case in front of me.
It was a full moon on Halloween. Some people would don masks, confident in their superiority as a human, never realizing how close they’d tread to a very violent and bloody end. Others would remove the masks they normally hid behind, rejoicing in their one night of freedom.
A sad few would have no idea what horrors they had sowed come morning.
I was in a lot of trouble. My fellow boogeymen didn’t frighten me all that much. It was Mark who worried me. Mark, as well as the other humans he’d subject me to before the night was done. I hadn’t lost control in years — I doubted Mark’s mother had been born since the last time it’d happened.
But that didn’t change the fact that it could happen.
Old or not, I was still a bitch. Without pack or mate, it was only a matter of time before I lost control.
Mark wouldn’t stand a chance, and when I finally lost my grip on sanity, I wouldn’t even remember killing him. Why hadn’t I said no? Why had I agreed to travel to New York on Halloween? What had I been thinking?
I hadn’t been, and that was a big problem.
“Is there something I can help you with, miss?” A woman asked from beside me. I about jumped out of my skin.
Shit. I swallowed back my heart and improvised. Without really seeing the jewelry beneath the glass, I pointed at something shiny, and hoped it was a necklace. “May I see that please?”
“That’s a very expensive piece, ma’am.”
I glanced at the woman out of the corner of my eye. A pastel pink blazer was matched with a pencil skirt that showed off thin legs and knee-high black boots. Glittering bracelets clung to her wrists. “Is that so,” I murmured, focusing my attention on the piece I pointed at.
Rubies and diamonds winked at me, woven together in a Celtic knot trapped in the center of a web of delicate diamond-encrusted chains. My cheek twitched.
No wonder the woman was skeptical and eying me suspiciously. Here I was, in some luxury jewelry store poking around to waste time, dressed in a beat-up leather coat, a baggy sweater, and worn jeans, complete with mud splatter from my walk in Central park. As my luck had it, I pointed out a necklace worth more than any car or house I’d ever seen in person, let alone owned.
I felt the eyes of every customer in the store settle on me. Great. Just what I needed. An audience.
Maybe I should’ve acted more indignant. Maybe I should’ve walked away. Instead, I took out my wallet, pulled out my black platinum Amex card, and tossed it on the counter. “May I see that please?”
The sales woman stared at the card and then at me, her eyes narrowing. “Do you really think I’m going to believe this is your card?”
Half of the customers in the store cleared out in the time it took the sales woman to pick up my card.
“Is there a problem?” A man dressed in a business suit stepped forward. His blue eyes took in my clothes before settling on the black credit card in his coworker’s hand.
The woman glared down her nose at me, her gaze settling on my beat-up jacket. “I do believe we have a stolen credit card here, sir.”
The manager snatched my credit card. “Is this true, miss?”
Oh hell no. I felt my cheek twitch again. “It’s not. I’ll just take my card to a different store, then.”
“I think this can be resolved quickly and easily, miss,” the man replied. He frowned at me. “Can I see your ID please?”
I showed him my license. The manager winced. “I’m sorry, there have been a lot of theft of valuable jewelry lately by those with fraudulent credit cards and out of state driver’s licenses. This will only take a few minutes as I verify this is a real card.”
Well, at least he wasn’t going to call the police on me right away. I sighed. “Since when hasn’t my driver’s license been sufficient proof? What is this? LA?”
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What led to your first two books being published last year?
This is such a hard, hard question for me to answer. I’m ashamed at how long it took me to get truly serious about writing. It wasn’t until I met Tad Williams and his wife, Deborah Beale, that I realized how much of a fake I was. I was faking my desire to be a professional.
I will never forget the advice that Deborah Beale gave me. It made me transform a lackluster novel into Storm Without End. It took me a couple of tries – six, really. It took a lot of crying and heartache, but without her advice, without her blunt honesty, I wouldn’t have ever seen the truth.
Because of them, I understand how important it is for me to work hard at learning – and to never stop learning.
I will be eternally grateful.
From the time I spoke to Deborah and Tad, it took me three additional years and seven drafts of novels to get to a standard I was comfortable with publishing. The road doesn’t stop there, either. Each novel, I struggle write better and better.
I don’t want people just to read my novels. I want them to experience them.
Without Deborah and Tad, I don’t think I would have come to that conclusion.
It took ten years from the first draft of a novel I ever completed to finishing and publishing The Eye of God. Storm Without End followed several months later.
I wasted so much time because I was lazy. I’ll make up for that – and more.
What are your thoughts on indie and traditional publishing?
Every author must choose for themselves what path is the correct path – but traditional publication is hard. It’s as hard, if not harder, than self-publishing. It’s a difficult road, no matter what anyone says. There is no easy choice. You either have to invest the money in yourself, or you have to let someone invest money in your efforts.
Either way, you’re investing money – but for the traditional route, you have to play by their rules. But they do bring a lot to the table. There is no denying that. Some traditional publishers are better than others, however, and it’s important that you never forget that.
Every author must do what is right for them.
Right now, independent publishing is what is right for me.
Do you envision Inquisitor as a play, TV series or film? Would you DIY, hire or submit to an indie production company or go traditional?
This never crossed my mind. I don’t watch TV. I don’t watch many movies.
I would definitely hire someone to do it for me, because I know nothing about making a quality show or movie. It isn’t up my alley.
Books are my movies and television shows.
Very likely, I’d have to be pitched by someone to create a series – I don’t know I’d ever have the motivation to do it on my own, unless fans really wanted it – and if I had enough fans to generate the royalties needed to pay for such a venture, why not?
I don’t mind letting someone creative, someone passionate about my stories, turn them into visual art.
But I’m not counting eggs that haven’t been laid yet. If it happens, great!
If it doesn’t, I hope my writing is enough to make memorable moments and imagery for my readers.
Caroline was either the best actress I’d ever seen, or she was really dead. I crouched next to her, torn between touching her neck to feel for a pulse and running away before the sweet scent of a fresh kill overwhelmed my restraint.
A clock chimed ten. The power of the full moon slammed into me, tugging at my heart, and tightening my chest. The need to embrace my inner beast and become one with the night quickened my breath.
Scents flooded my nose. Strong perfumes mingled with cologne, and the sweat of hot, living bodies stirred my hunger. I licked my lips, and for one brief moment, imagined the salty sweetness of fresh blood on my tongue.
There was another hunter in the room with me, and they taunted me with their kill. Their prey was either dead or left to die. It was a challenge to the scavengers, to the hunters, and a warning to the prey.
“What do you think?” Mark’s mother asked.
“I think she’s an amazing actress,” I replied, careful to keep my tone light. I rose to my feet. If I grew a tail, I could only hope my gown would hide it long enough for me to slip from the party and find a place to gain control over myself.
Or complete the change and go on a rampage.
Another minute passed in silence. I shook my head. “This would be why I’m not a police officer.”
The Wicked Witch of the West giggled. I shivered at the sound. “I see. Very well, Cinderella. Shall we mingle with the other guests and learn about this terrible, terrible deed?”
“I thought this was when Mark was supposed to come rescue me from a fate worse than death,” I muttered.
Oops. So much for keeping civil. I guess it was inevitable. Bodies brought out the worst in me. Especially when the body wasn’t one of my making. To make matters worse, I couldn’t exactly raise the alarm.
If I did, I’d reveal to those who knew the truth about werewolves and witches that I wasn’t just some human girl after a wealthy boy. Then the Inquisition would find silver old enough to kill me or reduce me to ashes to make certain they purged the world of one more rogue werewolf.
“Why can’t you be wealthy?” Mrs. Livingston lamented.
The old woman’s question caught me by surprise. Had she heard me? Did she think it an amusing quip?
Was it possible the woman actually liked me? Confused at the question, I answered honestly. “Ma’am, who says I’m not? I’m your son’s accountant. Do you really think he’d trust someone who didn’t have access to at least some money with his money?” I glared at the old woman. At least the brewing fight between us distracted me from Caroline’s body a little. “Don’t forget I know exactly how much he makes a year, where he transfers his funds, who owes him how much, and whom he owes. I know how much he’s paid in taxes, and I know how much I saved him last tax season.”
The witch’s mouth dropped open. “Just what—”
“I paid more in taxes than he did last year. I’ll let you do the math. Unless, of course, he learned how to count from you.” I pivoted on a heel and stalked my way towards the refreshment stand.
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When will Inquisitor be released? Where will we be able to buy it?
Inquisitor releases on May 16, 2014!
It will be available on amazon and in print through amazon and createspace. I am on the fence over distribution to bookstores. It depends on how much the title costs – it could be up to $16 for the print version if I distribute via amazon. It is something I’ll decide soon, though.
You can follow my author page on Amazon and click the sign up for E-mail notifications link in order to be notified as soon as the book launches!
As a tip, there will be a soft launch before the official launch, although I’d love to make Inquisitor a bestseller – if it can get enough sales on its release date.
Will it be ebook only or hard copy also? How can we get autographed copies and Inquisitor merchandise?
The only way to get an autographed copy of Inquisitor right now is to sign up for the goodreads giveaway. There will be two signed copies available!
As for Inquisitor merchandise, I may do a limited print run of the cover art. Follow me on Google+ to see if that becomes a reality.
Will you be doing appearances and readings IRL, as well as online? Where and when?
Real life readings and appearances aren’t on the schedule right now – I have so much writing to do this year that I can’t dedicate the time touring. Maybe next year…
… but for now, I figure the best thing for me and my readers is if I stay home and write so there are more books!
Any final thoughts?
Thank you for having me – this has been a truly fun interview. Now, I have to get back to writing, because these words won’t make themselves appear on the page for some strange reason. . .
Thanks so much for joining us today to discuss Inquisitor, R.J. We look forward to your return.
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RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.
When she isn’t playing pretend, she likes to think she’s a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She also has a tendency to play MMOs and other computer games.
In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.
Follow R.J. Blain at G+ and Amazon.