AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT Jean Murray
Jean Murray, nurse-turned-author has agreed to chat with the bunnies of Joyfully Reviewed….
Jean tell a little about what inspired you to write Soul Reborn.
I had been writing for about a year when my idea for Soul Reborn surfaced. I had just attended my first RWA conference and a panel was discussing ‘what’s hot.’ Vampires, shifters, demons, zombies. Zombies? I remember thinking at the time—hell no. But, I have to say it got me thinking. I was looking for a way to break into the publishing world and although I loved vampires and had a whole series written, I had to face facts that I needed something unique. Since I couldn’t visualize two rotting zombies kissing, *YUCK* I thought what a neat idea it be to have the zombies– revens, as I call them, be cursed human souls. Curses! Now there’s a thought, but how did I decide to use Egyptian Mythos? What better backdrop than the legends of cursed tombs and undead armies. Plus, I love the Ancient Egyptian beliefs in the Afterlife. A life full of second chances, but only if you can pass the test. This story is action packed from beginning to end.
Soul Reborn, the first book in the Key to the Cursed series, is rich and engaging story of love, redemption and war. Asar, the god of the underworld, has been left soulless by a malevolent goddess. He is bent on revenge and will stop at nothing to reclaim what was stolen from him. Fate crosses his path with Lilly, a beautiful human and huntress of revens. But Lilly has a secret—one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If Asar finds out about her role in the goddess’ release, she will lose everything, including his heart.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
A little bit of both. Of course nothing is written down it is all in my head. I have the general character arcs and plot points mapped in my mind. I know where I want the plot and characters to go, but they determine the path to get there. My heroes and heroines often change directions as I’m typing, and I am so grateful, as it ends up better than I planned. I’ve tried to write things out on paper or the computer, but my characters always revolt and my plotting work ends up in the trash. My subconscious is my best plotter.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I am proud to say I’m paranormal romance convert. Back in the day before I started writing, I used to read action/adventure fiction. Nothing remotely considered romance. It wasn’t until vampires gained popularity in the movies, that I even considered reading a paranormal novel. I picked up a novel that had a vampire on the front, not realizing it was a romance. The storyline was good but didn’t have the complexity and action I was looking for in a book. Not quite convinced, I thought I would try one more time. I picked up a novel titled Noah by Jacquelyn Frank. It was one of those AH HA moments. Her world building was fantastic. The romance– spectacular. Everything I had been missing all those years. It opened a whole new world of reading for me. It was around this same time I started writing and reading darker paranormals. I love JR Ward and Lara Adrian, as they both fill my action/adventure addiction. The best part? I now get to write it myself. Soul Reborn and the Key to the Cursed series has everything I love about paranormal romance. It is dark, complex, filled with action, and hot, hot romance.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
Geez, I never have a good answer for this question. All of them? Actors talk about being consumed by their role, I have to say that is true for writers, as well. When I’m writing about my heroes and heroines, they are all I can think about. They consume me on an emotional level. I feel their pain and joy right along with them. So, if I had to pick a favorite right now, it would be Asar and Lilly from Soul Reborn. Okay, that is more than one, but I can’t separate them. If you have read Soul Reborn, you will understand. One cannot exist without the other. They are so amazing together.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
I have no hesitation when I say Kendra, Lilly’s sister and heroine of book 2, Soul Awakened, which I’m working on now. Lilly was so easy to write. She is very much a flawed Alpha heroine. Powerful, strong, beautiful. Lilly’s actions and courage speak for themselves in the beginning chapters of Soul Reborn. Kendra, on the other hand, is anything but strong and powerful at 5 foot 4, and 100 pounds. A child among Egyptian gods who tower over her. I think the challenge I overcame when writing Kendra is making that switch from hard pounding alpha traits to the soft vulnerability that makes Kendra so endearing. She and I had the hard task of learning strength doesn’t always come from size but intelligence. Her transformation is amazing really—from bookworm/wallflower to powerful priestess. My hero, Bakari, calls her his parvana, his butterfly. She may be awkward and bumbling at first, but once she discovers her inner beauty, she will be unstoppable.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
Absolutely, real life is divinely inspirational from the amazingly heroic to the downright stupid.
In any of my writing I base my character traits on common psychological profiles. For the heroines of the Key to the Cursed series I used birth order character traits for Lilly, Kit and Kendra. Psychologists have all sorts of explanations why birth order influences personality development and some of those theories came into play when I developed the sisters’ profiles. Now granted there are no absolutes, but it is a nice basis to start from. My sisters asked me if there were any similarities between the heroines and them. I told them, “Any similarities are just a coincidence.” (Well, sort of)
Lilly is the first born. A career oriented, control freak with an amazing amount of responsibility to shoulder. She watches out for her sisters, putting her life in harm’s way to protect them at all costs
Kit, the second in line, has always been upstaged by her older sister. With few responsibilities, she likes to take pleasure in what the world and its men have to offer. Despite her wild ways, she would follow Lilly into the gates of hell, if she had to.
Kendra, the baby of the family, has always been protected by her sisters and sheltered from the pain of war that has raged around them. She is shy and naïve, and lets her sisters fight her battles.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Finding the time! I work full time, raise three boys (ages 1, 4 & 6), and a husband. I write any chance I get, which is usually between 9pm to 2am. I recently retired from the military, and am on terminal leave, so I’m hoping to knock out a huge amount of writing, before I have to grow up and get back to work. Hubbie says we need to pay the mortgage
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
Okay, now you’ve stumped me. I guess for those that have read my book, I think they would expect me to have a more wild personality (which I do, but I just don’t show it). It does rear its head at times and when it is least expected. I have this great story, one of those– you had to be there stories. I work with mostly males at my current job, and I tend to keep a very subdued and professional persona while at work. We had to attend a conference out of town. The group of us (me being the only female) were sitting down to eat and of course the guys were talking about the cute waitress etc… Somehow the topic took a turn and started to discuss the death of Boner from the Facts of Life. One of the guys asked how he died. My filter failed to grab the thought that popped in my head. Needless to say, I blurted out, “He stroked out.” (Okay, not in the best of taste) Shocked, the guys stopped with mouths gapping then busted out laughing. One guy almost fell out of his chair. Another guy said, “It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for.”
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Writing is my guilty pleasure. I’m not just saying that either. It allows me to escape into a different world which I can control with a touch of a keyboard. I find it so relaxing and satisfying when I see a story come together. I love it. It is comparable to any pedicure or massage, which is another addiction we won’t get into.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
A great cup of coffee, some dark ominous music, and no kids or hubbie pulling me away from the computer.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Oh, yes. Often obsessively so. For Soul Reborn, I have to have Skillet playing in the background. I swear their Awaken CD was made for my series. Hero, Beast and Awake & Alive all play well with the male characters. I just leave it on repeat. I’ve chosen Evanescence for Hell’s Gate, which is my new manuscript. I definitely need powerful music.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
My husband has asked me this same question. He really really really wants my book made into a movie. I told him it would have to be made for HBO due to the scorching sex scenes. LOL. I’ve found great pictures of models to represent the characters, but I’m having trouble finding the right actors. Asar is a very complicated and dark individual, so it would need to be someone that can pull off that scarred and menacing persona. For the Actress, she would need to have a strong personality, a decision maker, not afraid to act, but also have that level of vulnerability that my heroine portrays.
I’m up for suggestions from those who have read Soul Reborn. What actor do you think would make a good Asar or Lilly?
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was at work reading my home emails. I had to muffle my scream, when I saw the offer. I called my husband and got his stupid voicemail. Finally, he called back and I had to whisper in my phone. He had no problems yelling in his office.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Okay, I am embarrassed to say I was 39 years old. Yes, I’m a late bloomer. But it couldn’t have come at a better time. I love the romance genre.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Meeting Lara Adrian at the Authors After Dark in Philly this year and Jacquelyn Frank at AAD 2009 was so amazing. I think if I met JR Ward, this would just be a fabulous year. These folks are on my preorder list.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I am a Navy Nurse. I just retired after 20 years of service. I cried all the way through my retirement remarks during my ceremony. It was a very emotional moment. The Navy has been my adopted family for so long. It was hard to say goodbye. I’m so glad I’m part of the writing community, as I feel like I discovered a new family.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I am finishing up book 2 in the Key to the Cursed series, Soul Awakened. Bakari, Son of Asar, has been imprisoned and tortured by the goddess for the past five years. Kendra is the key to his awakening, but the god who rises may take more than her innocence. Bomani, Commander of the Underworld Legion, has pledged his soul to protect the Carrigan sisters, especially one small, beautiful human who he has no intentions of sharing. Kendra must choose: blood or honor.
Beyond the Key to the Cursed series, I’ve been looking for my next inspiration and I’ve found it, which is very exciting. I’m working on a dystopian/apocalyptic romance. Yes, I do love the dark and foreboding themes. I’m hoping to get this contracted, but we shall wait and see.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
I would love to co-write with JR Ward. I admire her writing. It would be a great experience (from my end, at least)
How do you pick your characters names?
I actually put research into my name choices. I often look up the origin or select a name based on historical references. In Soul Reborn I decided to stick with the Egyptian naming for the gods.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
Both. I think there has to be some level of initial attraction, whether the characters define it as love or just lust at first sight. I prefer the characters to be drawn to each other instantly, despite how much they deny it or avoid it. The relationship between the characters has to grow as the story develops with many hiccups along the way. No offense to anyone who thinks differently, but I read romance because I want a love story that knocks you off your seat and has you laughing, crying and squealing by the end of the story.
I laugh when I read these. I’ve never had someone say these to me, thank goodness, or someone might have to restrain me. When people find out I’m published, they ask what I write or what my book is about. The minute ‘Paranormal Romance’ slips out of my mouth, I get this blank ‘huh’ stare. They honestly don’t know what it means. When I start to give a description of my book or show them my cover, they are even more confused. “But your book has battle scenes, how can that be romance?” I realized that most people think romance novels are the same as what their grandmother used to read. Swooning women and damsels in distress. After some romance education 101, the light bulb clicks on and I get the “how cool is that” stare. I may have converted a few.
Where can readers find you?
Web Address:http://www.jean-murray.com/ http://www.keytothecursed.com/
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Dark Chocolate. Yum! I’m sure you see a theme here. LOL!