Sharon Ashwood is a free-lance journalist, novelist, desk jockey and enthusiast for the weird and spooky. She has an English literature degree but works as a finance geek. Interests include growing her to-be-read pile and playing with the toy graveyard on her desk. As a vegetarian, she freely admits the whole vampire/werewolf fantasy would never work out, so she writes paranormal romances instead.
Sharon lives in the Pacific Northwest and is owned by the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness.
RAVENOUS is the launch book in your exciting new The Dark Forgotten paranormal series about a witch who busts ghosts for tuition money. How did you come up with the concept for this series?
The germ of the idea came from a phone conversation with a friend about insurance claims. Because we're both, um, kind of insane, what started out as a perfectly rational, adult conversation veered seriously off track. Soon we were speculating about insurance adjusters evaluating poltergeist damage, then ectoplasm stains, then demons, and it went downhill from there.
The collision between mundane frustrations and the supernatural sparked the story for me. I began wondering weird things, like what would happen if you were born before birth certificates were invented and you wanted a passport? Would health laws restrict werewolves from working in the food industry? If you couldn't age or die, would the cult of youth still hold its appeal? Questions kept piling up until I had to write a book set in this strange, "what if" world. As you can probably guess, there's plenty of humor in the story!
How did you conduct your research for the series? Did it involve any personal experiences?
For me, there's nothing like writing a book to demonstrate all the things I'm clueless about, from classic cars to battle tactics. About the only thing I didn't have to look up was how to make an omelet—at least I have that skill set in common with my characters!
In terms of the supernatural stuff, I've always had an interest in myth and folklore, and there's no shortage of vampire stories out there to draw on. Researching witchcraft is easy—go talk to a witch. I drew the line at personally interviewing the ghouls.
A lot of what I write is obviously made up, but I've had enough encounters with wandering energies (ghosts or whatever one chooses to call them) to make use of those sensations and my emotional response to them. I'll hasten to add that I've rarely encountered anything that was actually more than startling or annoying. My characters fare much, much worse!
Holly Carver is an unforgettable character—how did she spring to life?
Holly, my witch heroine, came straight out of the demon insurance discussion. She's trying to make a go of running the family agency—doing insurance work, ghostbusting, finding lost objects—even though she's on her own and has actually lost most of her magic due to a childhood accident.
In many ways the book is about how she turns her life around. She has to find her power, and that means she makes a lot of choices and a few mistakes along the way. I think she's a very relatable character, because every woman goes through that discovery process during her life. I mean, who hasn't had to boot out the occasional soul-sucking demon?
Tell us about Holly's handsome and undead business partner, Alessandro Caravelli. Could there be a love interest there?
A vampire's venomous bite gives an erotic but very addictive high. Sure, the orgasmic rush is woohoo! but the victim becomes a junkie slave, and the good times are over. There's no opportunity for a real love relationship. Unfortunately, a vampire can't have sex without biting.
In other words, Alessandro will automatically destroy any woman he loves so, despite a most definite mutual attraction, he has to keep his fangs to himself. Alas, all those brains, black leather, and alpha male goodies gone to waste. Of course, all this noble self-restraint lasts about five minutes. This is a romance, after all.
The setting of RAVENOUS takes place in a fictional college town in the Pacific Northwest. Tell us some more about this community and the people (or creatures) that inhabit it.
Fairview is a smallish seaside city that dates back to the mid-1800s. Holly's family, the Carvers, have lived in the area for many generations. Fairview is typical of the rest of North America in that the city has a mix of both humans and supernatural beings. This has been the case since Y2K, when the supernatural community—surrendering to the siren call of cell phones and credit cards—chose to integrate with the rest of the world.
Humans make up about ninety percent of the population. Many of the "others"—largely vampires, werebeasts, and hellhounds—live in the older section of the downtown the locals have nicknamed Spookytown. Human police refuse to patrol the area, but the crime rate is very low. I mean, are you going to shoplift from a vampire? Scribble graffiti on a wizard's garage?
While City Hall is pondering what to do with its new citizens, the supernatural population is carrying on, starting businesses and entering the economy. Naturally, there are those who long for the good old days of terrorizing the peasants, but most prefer living peacefully and keeping their dining habits out of the public eye. Hint: If someone invites you to dinner in Spookytown, politely refuse.
Because each species has its own quirks, history and habits, I created a Monsterpedia on my website at www.SharonAshwood.com. It's a growing testament to my authorial OCD. I'm constantly adding new information as it comes up.
As a writer, what were some challenges you faced while crafting RAVENOUS?
The problems I encountered are probably typical of any debut book of this kind—it's one thing to build a fascinating world, but choosing where to place your focus is a whole separate issue. The camera lens of the story can only take in so much. I mean, who doesn't want to know what werewolves eat for snack foods? But do we need to know that to advance the plot? It's easy to get sidetracked, and good stuff had to be cut out to keep the book on track. That takes willpower!
Another challenge is balancing the various plotlines. This book is a romance with a happy ever after, but it also has some well-developed urban fantasy elements. It's very fast-paced, and there's plenty of magic and action. For me, that's a lot of balls to keep in the air, but I had to write something that satisfied my inner film critic. I want lots of interpersonal drama, but I'm not giving up the car chases and special effects, either.
That being said, the biggest challenge is always facing the blank page in the morning. It's easy to laze around drinking coffee and dreaming of how great the book will be. Sitting down and putting words on the page is much, much harder. Anyone who ever finishes a novel—whether it gets published or not—deserves a huge round of applause.
Will we see any of the characters again in book two of the series? What's the title of the book and when will it be out?
The next book is tentatively called SCORCHED, and right now it's planned for late 2009. It picks up some of the unanswered questions at the end of RAVENOUS and continues the story. Some of the main characters continue on, and there will be newcomers. Keep an eye on my website at SharonAshwood.com, because I'll be posting information and excerpts as soon as they become available.