This month I'm spotlighting Orbit Books, a leading publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy. To kick off the celebrations, I've interviewed Orbit author Nicole Peeler, whose just-released novel, Tempest Rising, combines vampires with legendary creatures that can morph into seals.
Orbit Books graciously offered two copies of Tempest Rising for me to give away. To enter the contest, in the comments section below the interview, answer the following question: If you could morph into any type of animal, which would you choose? Deadline: Lucky Friday, November 13th. U.S. and Canada entries only, please.
Catherine Karp: Thanks so much for joining me, Nicole. Tempest Rising does indeed contain vampires, but your heroine, Jane True, is actually a creature called a selkie. Please explain a little about that particular legend.
Nicole Peeler: Thanks so much for having me! As for selkies, they are legends that originated in Scotland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, which tell of human/seal shapeshifters. Unlike werewolves, however, selkies don’t so much shift shape as they do take on or off their skins, like a seal coat. This is why - within the real mythology, although not in my books - their seal skin is also their vulnerability: if you steal their skins, you’ve stolen their ability to shift shape.
CK: How did you first become interested in selkies? And how did that interest lead to Tempest Rising?
NP: I read very voraciously, very young, and I always loved mythology. The thing that always struck me about the selkie legend was the tragic story of the selkie maidens. The male selkie legends are your typical stories about faerie folk knocking up human women while their husbands were at sea - what must have been a common way of explaining unexpected offspring without pointing fingers at Sven, the blacksmith with the huge anvil. Anyway, the legends involving selkie women are usually tragic stories about men who stole their skin, either unwittingly or on purpose. That night, a beautiful woman would show up at the man’s house, and they would marry and have a family. Until someone - usually one of the children - would find the skin hidden somewhere, and give it - entirely unwittingly - to the mother. Although she loves her family, the lure of the sea would always be too powerful, and the selkie maid would leave her human life and return to her sea and her selkie husband. Sometimes she took her children, but usually they were left behind, as well. I always wondered about what happened to these children . . . they lived on land, but they were partly of the ocean. What was that like? Did they have some kind of power, etc. These musings are at the heart of Tempest Rising.
CK: How do vampires come into play in the novel? And are there any other paranormal creatures involved?
NP: My central world building idea for my series was to take the problem that inspired Jung’s ideas of archetypes (why do all these diverse cultures, some of which had no contact with each other, have similar mythologies?) and apply to it Occam’s Razor: the idea that in a given situation the simplest solution - however improbable - is usually the correct one. The obvious answer to Jung’s query, then, becomes the idea that these creatures must exist. So I populate my world with everything we know and love from our myths, fairy tales, and horror stories, but with a twist.
One of the creatures I obviously had to have was a vampire, as they are one of the great archetypal myths. But, at the same time, my secondary approach to these myths is to twist them. In my imaginarium, we humans created stories out of our glimpses of the supernatural, but we got things wrong. So my vampires are very specific to my world, and, while they do face a specific set of issues having to do with their sanguinary existence, they’re very different from Stoker’s Dracula or Rice’s Lestat.
VF: Who would you say has it easier, vampires or selkies?
NP: Jane isn’t a true selkie; she’s a human/selkie hybrid. Part of the reason I did that was because I couldn’t imagine, and I still can’t, writing a series based entirely on a selkie. They’re seals, after all. They bask on rocks and play in the ocean. They don’t do much, really. My vampires on the other hand, live very complicated lives. They have to feed, so they have to live amongst humans. They’re very political and very social creatures. So, in my world, it’s definitely a lot easier to be a selkie. All you need is a flat rock warmed by the sun and you’re in seventh heaven. Your only big challenge is to avoid getting clubbed.
CK: You're an Assistant Professor of English Literature at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, so clearly reading must be a love of yours. What are some of your all-time favorite novels?
NP: Oh dear lord, too many to name. I did my doctoral thesis on Philip Roth and Martin Amis, two great loves of mine. But I also adore Iris Murdoch, Jean Rhys, Robertson Davies, Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence . . . If I really started listing I’d be here all day. I’m a very, very passionate reader, and I’ve been very lucky to have had an amazing education both in high school and at Boston University, where I was made to read just about everything.
CK: When did you start writing fiction?
NP: When I wrote Tempest Rising, actually. I’d taken a creative writing elective course, one each, in high school and college, just to pad out my schedule. But at that point I wasn’t very good at writing fiction. I was always a very good writer, but not of creative things. And yet, everyone always told me to “become a writer,” as if it were something one just ticks off one’s list of things to do that day. I’d always responded that it wasn’t going to happen, till one day I read a book by Charlaine Harris that inspired me to write my own urban fantasy. Three months later I had a rough draft, three months after that I had an agent, and a few months later we had a three book deal. It’s been crazy, and I still have no idea what happened, what I’m doing, or what’s coming next. I’m just enjoying the ride.
CK: You're making your fiction debut with Tempest Rising and deserve a hearty congratulation for breaking into the cutthroat world of publishing. What was your road to publication like?
NP: Again, I’ve had a really bizarre story that’s not at all “normal.” That said, I also have the most unimaginably thick skin possible, from being an academic. People say that publishing is cutthroat, but they have no idea what academia is like. If publishing is cutthroat, academia is Jack the Ripper-style evisceration. So I’m very, very, very used to rejection, and I’m also very used to doing things that I am pretty sure I will, indeed, be rejected from. Therefore, I approached querying agents as I did applying for academic jobs: I did my research, wrote my letters, and then I queried everyone and their mother. So even though I got an agent very quickly, and did quite well sparking interest, etc., I was also rejected by dozens of agents before landing the amazing Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh & Otis. So yes, I was very successful, very quickly. But that’s because I hit the market hard, and was hit right back - a lot, and oftentimes in the gut - till I found the right audience. In other words, you can’t fear rejection in this business, because you WILL be rejected, time and again.
CK: Any advice for aspiring novelists hoping to break into science fiction and fantasy?
NP: Do your research, take the time to world build, and know what you want to write: know your tone, your intended market, etc. And then write, every day, till it’s out. Once it’s out, you can make it purty. But it has to get out, onto the page, so start writing.
CK: Tempest Rising will be followed by Tracking the Tempest and Tempest's Legacy. Will this be a trilogy, or do you have any more books in the works for this series?
NP: I have more books planned for Jane True, as well as another trilogy in the works that’s set in the same world, but with a very different protagonist facing a very different set of pressures. And she’s awesome. I’m so psyched about writing this new series it’s unbelievable.
CK: As an Assistant Professor of English Literature (no pressure here), what is your theory about the current vampire and paranormal craze in the world of fiction?
NP: I think our current cultural obsession with vampires makes perfect sense. On the one hand, UF and para-rom are entirely escapist. Everyone’s living through a lot of bad stuff right now, so it makes sense that people want to get away from their everyday existence. But if we look closer, we can see that a lot of urban fantasy is shifting the parameters of more traditional horror. Whereas traditional horror stories often talk of an enemy hidden within that must be destroyed by the valiant vampire hunter or government agent, UF is almost entirely about discovering the “enemy” within, only to find out that they’re not really the enemy. Instead, vampires turn out to be complex and sensitive individuals, while the people in positions of power and authority (the vamp hunter, the government agent, the clergy) are often discovered to be authoritarian, intolerant murderers who fear that which is different. In other words, I see a lot of urban fantasy as questioning authority as well as undermining the sorts of militant political stances that insist we must be “with” a cause or “against” it.
CK: Where can readers learn more about you and Tempest Rising?
NP: You can find out more at my website, NicolePeeler.com, on Facebook, and I’m also on twitter as NicolePeeler.
CK: Thanks so much for joining me, Nicole!
Once again, for a chance to win one of two copies of Nicole Peeler's Tempest Rising, answer the question "If you could morph into any type of animal, which would you choose?" by Friday, November 13th. Good luck!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Suburban Vampire Archive
- ► 2012 (54)
- ► 2011 (151)
- ► 2010 (240)
- Music Monday: Sinead O'Connor, Lee Perry, & vampir...
- A turkey break & my latest contest
- Contest: Sophie Collins's HOW TO DATE A VAMPIRE
- Winners of Gail Carriger's SOULLESS
- Music Monday: VAMPIRES WILL NEVER HURT YOU
- Contest for SOULLESS ends tomorrow
- Vampire Marketplace: Team Alice T-shirts
- NEW MOON breaks records...but is it any good?
- A New Moon/Duran Duran tribute
- SOULLESS and NEW MOON reminders & news
- Another vampire video that'll make you snort milk ...
- Interview and Contest: Gail Carriger's SOULLESS......
- TEMPEST RISING winners
- Nicole Peeler contest reminder & Vampire Film Fest...
- New Poll: NEW MOON
- Music Monday: WHEN DARKNESS FALLS
- Transylmania trailer
- Bonus offer for Nicole Peeler's TEMPEST RISING con...
- Dracula laments not being Edward Cullen
- Interview and contest: Nicole Peeler, author of TE...
- Music Monday: The Rosen-dance Video
- Contest winners: VAMPIRES and WEREWOLVES
- ▼ November (22)
- ► 2008 (264)