AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Dana Marie Bell
Cynful, Halle Shifters Book 2 with Samhain Publishing.
Cynful is the story of Julian DuCharme, a Kermode (or Spirit) Bear from Canada, and Cynthia “Cyn” Reyes, the human female who is his mate. He wants to mate; she wants to date. When someone begins targeting the females at LA Tattoos, it’s up to Julian to keep Cyn safe… and up to Cyn to keep all of them safe.
The idea of Julian (aka Superbear) came when I was doing research for Bear Necessities the first book in the series. Finding out the different kinds of bears, and which ones I would like to have become shifters, led me to the Kermode bear. They’re a rare kind of black bear that live in British Columbia, near Princess Royal Island, nicknamed spirit bears due to their white fur.
The thought of a class of black bears nicknamed spirit bears led me to thinking about a bear shifter with unique abilities, and thus Julian was born. You can see some pretty neat pictures of the Kermode and their habitat at the National Geographic site, http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/kermode-bear/nicklen-photography.
Cyn has always been the strong, tattooed female owner of LA Tats, the one who took a scared young Wolf named Tabby and gave her a home. She did the same for Glory, but that’s a tale for another time. She’ll keep Julian on his toes and his life from getting boring, but she’s still not going to tattoo Property of Cyn on his ass no matter how much he begs.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I’ve heard the term pantser, and I’ve heard the term plotter. I’m neither.
I’m a goalie.
I go in with a game plan, and then try to boot the characters back into play when they come too close to the net. Otherwise I’m just standing there, watching the chaos in front of me and hoping I don’t catch a puck to the face.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I read a lot of sci-fi, fantasy and mythology when I was a teenager. The Lord of the Rings trilogy were among my favorite novels, and later, Stranger in a Strange Land. I utterly devoured everything Anne McCaffrey wrote, from dragons to spaceships.
Man, I wanted to be Lessa so bad.
When I became an adult I tried to make a serious goal out of becoming a full time author, despite diapers and baby poop and jealous cats. I started writing a fantasy novel, but everything I tried turned into a romance. The heroes and heroines, who were supposed to be all dark and emo, actually had a sense of humor.
Oh, the horror. I think it’s against some regulation to have a sci-fi/fantasy character able to, ya know, laugh at himself without it being labeled a rip-off of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.
So Dusty suggested I give in to the Dark Side (they have the best cookies anyway) and write a romance. It still took me a few years, but eventually Samhain picked up The Wallflower, and here I am, four years later and still writing my shifters.
This is probably a good thing, by the way. Have I mentioned I look terrible in tights?
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
I’d have to go with either Jaden or Robin, both from the Gray Court series. Jaden is such a sweetheart, giving up everything so that the people he loved would be happy, and Robin is… well. He’s Robin effing Goodfellow. How can you not like him? I kept thinking to myself, “He’s like my version of Devil Cynster, but with phenomenal, cosmic powers and no itty bitty living space.” The only thing shackling him is his devotion to Oberon, until he finds someone else to live for as well.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Ugh. That one’s easy. Oliver Grimm, aka Odin, from the True Destiny series. I’ll think I’ve finally nailed his evil, but then I go back and do a re-read and it doesn’t quite seem right. But there comes a time when you have to step back and let the book go, or it will never get published.
Maybe by the end of the series I’ll finally be happy with him. He’ll be dead, of course, but I’ll be happy, and that’s what really matters.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
There’s a line from Cynful that I pulled from real life. We were at a barbecue with my immediate family, and my brother was watching my sister and mother argue over something silly. (They do that a lot. We break out the popcorn and place bets on the winner.) At one point he turned to me and said, “It’s like watching two Yorkies fighting over a French fry.”
Needless to say, my family winds up in my books, probably far more than they’d be comfortable with if they knew.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
The middle of the story. Starting a book is relatively easy, even if I spend a lot of time in the beginning double-checking my research and changing my mind on stuff. And the last bit, where I’m resolving everything (or deciding on a cliff-hanger), seems to fly by.
The middle of the book, where everything is sort of still up in the air. And neither the characters nor I seem to know what’s coming next? That’s the hard part. But you put your butt in the seat, your fingers on the keyboard and you pray you’re not typing out fifteen hundred words of crap you’re just going to wind up deleting tomorrow. It’s all part of the job, and the joy.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I’m not sure they’d be surprised by much. I’m pretty open about my video game addiction, my crazy children and my insane love of Brendan Fraser movies.
Hmm. I may have to think about this… No, I’ve got it! I’ve been reading a lot of M/M lately (and by a lot, I mean A LOT. My Nook is starting to reek of testosterone and Cheeto’s®). And I just have this to say:
JL Langley, WHEN ARE WE GETTING STERLING, DAMN IT?!? We’re waiting.
I guess I can wait, since the next Sci-Regency is coming out soon, but I’m still gonna pout for a while if that’s all right with you.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Probably my biggest guilty pleasure is my relationship with pixelated males. I LOVE BioWare games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, partially because I like playing RPG-style games but also because they put real relationships into them. My love affairs with Zevran, Fenris and Thane are the icing on my RPG cake. (RPG stands for role-playing game, a type of story-telling game where you’re the central character and the story mostly revolves around you and your decisions.)
Dusty doesn’t mind too much when I sigh over a new Fenris picture or pout over the fate of Thane. I give him pointers on how to get into Isabela’s pirate booty, and he refrains on remarking on the incredible amount of time I spend comparing Kaiden and Zevran’s naked chests. It’s win-win!
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Music. Always, music. And for each book it’s different music. If the song isn’t a background to the story, if I can hear the lyrics instead of the words in my head, the song gets removed from that WIP’s playlist and replaced with something else. It will take me about a week to get it straightened out, but for some reason it really helps set the mood.
I also like to make sure I’m comfortable, which can mean anything from fluffing a pillow on my chaise to taking pain medicine so I can work without wincing. Dragon NaturallySpeaking® has been a god-send on the days when my hands just don’t want to work right.
I’ve also started using a new program called WriteWay Pro® that keeps my notes in order for me and allows me to jump easily between scenes for editing purposes as I go. I LOVE WriteWay®, and was able to jump right into writing within minutes of opening it up. A similar program that I tried was Scrivener®, but I just couldn’t get into it, though I know a number of authors who like that program.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Funny you should ask that. I wouldn’t say each book has a theme song so much as a theme.
For instance, Very Much Alive, the first True Destiny book, was written entirely to Enya. Boadicea wound up being Logan’s cell phone ringtone. And Steel Beauty was written to They Might Be Giants. Throne of Oak seems to like being written to Celtic Woman.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
Rick Mora for Julian (he was the original inspiration, after all) and Francia Raisa for Cyn.
(Bet you thought I’d say Salma Hayek and Brad Pitt in a dark wig. Ha! Though he was kinda hot as Louis, in a whiney sort of way, wasn’t he?)
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
Have you ever tried to change a hardwired light fixture in the dark? That’s what I did when I first received news that I’d gotten the contract for The Wallflower.
Okay. Yeah, I know, I know. I swear to you, no drugs or alcohol were involved, just my native stupidity.
My husband was on a business trip, so I decided it was the perfect “not going to interfere in my alone-time with the husband” time to re-do my powder room. New paint, new light, new vanity mirror… you get the picture. So I called him all excited and let him know I’d gotten the contract, then I settled down (or not, really, I was kind of manic) to getting that darn powder room done before he got home.
I was painting it lavender. It HAD to be done before he came home, or it would have been blue, or green… just not lavender. I mean, he’s not that picky.
So the base of the light was a different shape from the old one, which meant it had to be replaced before I could paint rather than after. Head to basement, flip breaker switch, head upstairs…
No lights. 9:30 at night. Big ladder, small room, one flashlight, and no helpers. Small children don’t count. Neither do cats.
Okay, so I might have been a little overexcited about the contract. Enough to loose IQ points, that’s for sure. But I’ll never forget what I was doing the night I found out my first book was going to be published.
I remember every single time I step into my pale purple bathroom.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Twelve, maybe thirteen? My grandmother gave me some of her old Barbra Cartland novels, and I devoured them so fast I was taking them out at the library within days. When the librarian saw what I was reading, she directed me to the Harlequin books, and the rest is history.
I’ll admit, though, I never lost that initial love of the historical. Stephanie Laurens can still hold my attention like no one else.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Shelly Laurenston’s shifter novels and Kerrelyn Sparks’ vampires make me squee when I see a new one is coming out. Oh, and JL Langley can get a couch-dance of joy, complete with wavey arms.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
My day job is She Who Must Be Obeyed, aka Olga the House Wench. I applied for Domestic Goddess, but at the time that position was already taken.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
Currently I’m working on two novels for Carina Press: the next Maggie’s Grove, Throne of Oak (name more than likely to change), and a sci-fi I’m not trying to keep from being a romance called Stern Negotiations (also a name likely to change).
As for what else is in the wings? I’ve got a new series called The Nephilim coming out this winter with Carina, as well as the return of an old one with a new publisher: Heart’s Desire with Samhain. And I’ll be writing the new True Destiny book soon, Morgan’s Fate, as soon as I’m done Throne of Oak.
Really, it’s pretty damn crowded in my head. You’d be surprised I can fit anything in there at all.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
Actually, I already tried this, with Robert C. Roman (http://www.robertcroman.com/). He and I did the initial rough draft of Fae Eye for the Golem Guy, but it got turned down for the anthology we were targeting. When he asked if he could take the series and run with it, I said sure, why not? I read the re-write and approved of the changes he’d made, and off he went to Decadent, where he got accepted and has been writing the series ever since.
He has a lot of fun writing those books, but my favorite by him is the Strange Fate of Capricious Jones, a really cool steampunk short story that had me all big-eyed at the end and re-reading to see where the heck I’d missed that little… well. I’ll let you read it yourself. You’ll see.
And he and I still bounce ideas off one another, egging each other on while our spouses pretend we’re not completely bat-shit insane. (Need I go into the alien shifter stripper from another dimension? I didn’t think so.)
How do you pick your characters names?
I do one of two things: say a name in my head and watch for the character to nod his/her approval, or break out the baby name sites. Ashton Ward, Mina Cheney and Greer Berkley were all named from a baby name website, whereas Parker Hollis, Emma Carter, Jaden Blackthorn and Duncan Malmayne liked the names that just popped into my head.
Robin Goodfellow and Oberon named themselves, obviously.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
Depends on the characters and the story. Insta-mating does not mean insta-love, nor should it, but it can make things a little easier if you know without a doubt that you’re staring at your soul-mate.
Having one know and the other not? That’s even more fun.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I smile softly and ignore them. What can you do? Not everyone enjoys romance/sci-fi/fantasy/non-fiction…
Really, as long as people read, and enjoy doing so, who am I to judge? So I let it slide and tell them I enjoy what I do for a living, and ask how many people get to say that? It’s usually enough.
Where can readers find you, Dana?
Dana’s Website: http://danamariebell.com/
Dana’s Blog: http://danamariebell.blogspot.com/
Dana’s Newsletter: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/themagicandmayhemnewsletter/
Dana’s Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dana-Marie-Bells-Fan-Page/185916691436341
Dana’s Twitter Handle: @danamariebell
And, just for the sillies, since I don’t do much with it other than talk about my love of BioWare and link to other people’s stuff:
Dana’s Tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/danamariebell
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
The kind that’s in my mouth.