Please help me welcome Kerry Schafer, author of the new fantasy release WAKEWORLD (The Between, #2) (Ace Books, January 2014)
Kerry Schafer lives in Washington State with her family. Her job as a Mental Health Crisis Response Specialist takes her regularly into odd pockets of reality that provide inspiration for her writing. A self-styled perpetual student, she earned an RN from Royal Alexandria Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta; a BA in English (Honors) from York University in Toronto, Ontario; and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Washington State University. She is the author of Between.
Vivian Maylor is trying to hold it together. But her attempts to build a life with the man she loves seem doomed by the dragon inside her yearning to break free. Vivian is a dreamshifter, the last line of defense between reality and the dreamworld, and the only one of her kind.
Weston Jennings also believes he is the only one of his kind. He fears his powers as a dreamshifter, and resists learning to control them. After suffering a tragic loss, Weston heads deep into the woods of the Pacific Northwest to embrace a safe life of solitude. But when a terrible mistake leads to an innocent’s death, his guilt drives him to his former home, where he encounters what he never thought he would find: another shifter.
Now Vivian and Weston must work together to defeat a new threat to the dreamworld.
I met Kerry back in 2012, when we joined the Debutante Ball blog as part of the class of 2013. Since then, I’ve become a huge fan of Kerry’s books, and am lucky to call her a very close friend as well. I’m thrilled that she agreed to return for an interview about WAKEWORLD, and so, with no further ado, here’s Kerry!
What inspired you to write fantasy, and how did you come up with the original idea for the BETWEEN series?
I can’t seem to help myself. I’ve actually tried writing other things, but inevitably one of my characters opens a magical door, or finds some sort of mystical object, or get sucked into another world or eaten by a dragon. As for the BETWEEN, the seed of that was planted by that weird sensation of being half asleep and half awake and unsure whether whatever you’ve been dreaming is real or not.
Your new novel, WAKEWORLD, is the second book of the BETWEEN, featuring Vivian Maylor, an E.R. doctor turned dreamshifter. Did you find it more difficult to write the second book in a series than to write the first one? Can you tell us about a unique challenge you faced in writing a series?
It was more difficult in a lot of ways. It was my first experience of writing a novel under contract with a deadline – which was alarming all by itself. Even more challenging, I’d always been a pantser and my editor requested a detailed multi-page synopsis of the story before I started writing. Panic! I did manage to produce a convoluted plot summary for her, but it shifted dramatically during the course of writing the book. Just to add an extra level of difficulty, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and ended up having a double mastectomy while the deadline was looming. My doctors were disconcerted by my focus on questions like, “how soon will I be able to type?” as part of the pre-operative educational session. But, you know, these things are important! (And yes, I made the deadline. I think there might have been a day to spare)
Conversely: what’s your favorite aspect of writing a series?
By the time I got to the second book, the main characters were already friends. I didn’t have to create them from scratch. They already were set on a course, and I knew where they needed to grow and what their personal challenges were going to be. Also, a lot of the world building was already done.
You also wrote the recently-released DREAM WARS series, a trilogy of novellas about a mysterious merchant who can sell a person any dream (s)he desires … at a price. Did you find it difficult to work on two different series simultaneously? How did you keep the two series so distinct and yet individually compelling?
That’s sort of like asking somebody who has lived in two different cities how they keep them separate in their heads. You spend time walking streets and smelling the air of a place and it gets embedded in your pores; book worlds are no different for me. By the time I was done writing Wakeworld I was solidly grounded in the world of the Between. As for the world of the Dream Wars books, I drew heavily on my childhood memories of the town I grew up in. Williamsville was always clear in my head. And Jesse just started in talking on page one and all I really had to do was run to keep up with her.
Do you have a favorite author, book, or genre? If so, who (or what) is it, and why?
In general, I don’t do the favorite thing much. I have authors that I love, some living and some deceased, whose books I read and re-read with a deep and abiding love, but they are many and there’s not one I can say I love above all others. My favorite genre is definitely fantasy. That said, I also adore mysteries and thrillers and will read pretty much anything set in front of my nose.
Although the BETWEEN series and the DREAM RUNNER series are very different, they both center on dreams and the way that dreams interact with reality. What drew your creative focus to this unique theme?
I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, I think because I’m always looking for magic in the real world and there’s precious little to be found. But dreams, now! We really know so little about them and they raise so many questions. How is it that some people have precognitive dreams and are given sneak peeks at the future? Science suggests that the subconscious puts together clues the conscious misses and is able to predict what’s coming, but I have to wonder whether we somehow do connect with another plane of reality. I read one interesting bit of research that showed a high correlation of similar dream content between family members, but also between a group of total strangers sleeping in near proximity to each other. And then there’s lucid dreaming and shamanism and so many fascinating angles.
Do you have a favorite scene in WAKEWORLD? If so (and if you can tell us about it without revealing any spoilers!), what makes that scene stand out for you?
Here we go with the favorites again! My ‘favorite’ anything is what I’m in love with at the moment. I do love the slime toad scene, though. And since Susan loves it too, here’s a little snippet:
“Facing him was a creature straight out of nightmare. Needle-sharp teeth as long as Zee’s arm were set in jaws of blackish green, the texture of toad skin. It had no real face. Where its nose should have been there were only two black holes. Red-brown eyes goggled out of its head, independent of each other, the pupils spinning in opposite directions. It had an amphibian body, with powerful back legs, poised to leap. There were claws on its nearly human hands, but the arms were short and not well muscled. Batlike wings sprouted from its shoulders. A spiked tail twitched, catlike, hitting the ground at regular intervals and raising clouds of dust. Slime oozed out of its skin and rained down into the dust with a continuous plop, plop, plop.
Zee tightened his grip on his sword and stepped forward, putting himself between the creature and the wounded man.
“We wants no trouble with one such as you,” the thing said, in a lilting, musical voice. “We only wants what is ours.” Drool flowed in little rivulets from the corners of its wide mouth.”
Slime toads. These unique creations you feature in WAKEWORLD literally gave me nightmares (pun intended). How on earth did you create such a scary creature?
Trust me – you don’t want to see what’s lurking in my subconscious. Zee needed a monster to fight and I wanted something new. So I started writing and the slime toad assembled itself right there on the page without much help from me. Who knows – maybe it’s a real creature in some other version of reality. (Evil grin for Susan)
Authors find productivity in different settings and different times of day. When and where do you prefer to write?
These days, preference has nothing to do with it. I get up at 4:30 and start swilling coffee in order to get awake enough so my fingers don’t tangle on the keys. When my brain is more or less on board with stringing words in sequential order, about 5 am, I hit the keyboard and write until 6. Then it’s time to get ready for the day job. If I’m awake enough at the end of the work day I get in another hour or so before bed. On days off and left to my own devices, I really like to get started around 8 am, put in a couple of good, productive hours, and then come back to it in little fits and starts throughout the day as ideas jump into my head.
And now, the speed round:
Plotter or pantser?
Coffee, tea, or bourbon?
Socks or no socks?
Definitely a barefoot girl
Cats, dogs, or reptiles?
Cats & Dogs. Are dragons reptiles?
For dinner: Italian, Mexican, Burgers or Thai?
Completely dependent on mood and availability. See above comment about having favorites.
Thank you, Kerry, for joining us today!
I loved both BETWEEN and WAKEWORLD, and strongly recommend the series to fans of fantasy and urban fantasy. The books are great, and Vivian’s penguin sidekick, Poe, is one of my favorite characters not only in fantasy, but in books.
You can find Kerry at her website, on Twitter (@KerrySchafer), and on Facebook, and you can find BETWEEN and WAKEWORLD in paperback and ebook formats at bookstores everywhere and online at IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere else books are sold. This is NOT a series you want to miss!