Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Interview and Giveaway with Maureen Willett

What inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always been a writer, since the time I was in grade school.  And I’m an avid reader, although haven’t had as much time for that as I’d like.  There’s something so powerful about the written word and how it makes you feel. 

Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?

Definitely wait until after it’s written.  The title changes many times before then. 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

          Even though The Soul Stealer is paranormal/fantasy fiction, there are very real themes running through it about trust and love.  It’s actually a metaphor for the downside of dating.  You meet a handsome stranger, he seems perfect, but as you get to know him, his past and secrets become obstacles to your relationship.  In The Soul Stealer, Malia and Hunter do that same dance, only it’s intensified because he doesn’t want to just hide his past from her.  Hunter has to hide the fact that he’s not really human and that he’s supposed to kill her to take possession of her soul.  So, with Hunter comes some extreme baggage.  But he’s hot, so Malia decides to put up with it.

Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

I was single for 20 years and grew very tired of dating.  A love interest can seem perfect when you first meet him.  But all too soon, when you get past that perfect façade, you become disillusioned with “the right guy.”  It happened over and over to me.

What books/authors have influenced your life?

Diana Gabaldon, Stehpen King, Anne Rice.  I think you see where my interest in paranormal started.

What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?

I’m just finishing a paranormal historical novel based on stories I’ve heard about my ancestors’ experiences immigrating to America in the 1800s.  I’ve taken these family stories, twisted them a bit, added a touch of magic, and created a tale of an Irish family who flee the old country to escape being accused of witchcraft.   The come to America to homestead in Kansas, encounter outlaws, Indians, and cowboys, among others. I expect it to be published this summer.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Here is an excerpt from Near The Wild:
Leprechauns were feared, even in Ireland.  Of course, Ma and Da denied that we were related to the magical people in the forest, the sidhe, but there was no denying that the other good families in our village of Clonmel didn’t know how to do the things we did. 
Ma would shake her head and tease us, calling us leprechauns whenever we asked if we could play our favorite game.  But then she would close the shutters so the fun could begin.  Surely none of our neighbors should see us huddled around a table that was two feet off the ground.  It was just a fortune-telling game to us.  We’d make the table rise off the ground merely by thinking it should do so, and then we’d ask it simple questions.  The hovering wooden table would tap one of its legs on the ground to answer, once for “yes” and twice for “no.”  As our confidence grew, our questions became more outlandish, making my younger brothers giggle uncontrollably. 
I’m not sure where that game came from, but I do remember Ma playing it with her sisters, too, whenever they all got together.  We’d watch in fascination, because they were so much better at it than we were.  The table would rise much higher and then almost pound out the answer to the “yes” or “no” question posed to it.  None of us children understood the implications of what we were witnessing.  But the elders of the village and church did.
Then, there was the business about Finn and me.  I didn’t think anyone outside our family could see him, so as we got older I got lazy about keeping our friendship secret.  We began to venture out of the thick forest, where we had played since we were babes, and sit together in the meadow on the outskirts of Clonmel.  We’d lie back and let the tall, green grass engulf us.  Finn would make fun of some of the townsfolk to make me smile.
I soon learned my mistake.  One day, the baker’s wife marched into the middle of the town square to point her finger in Ma’s face, making a holy show of herself and poor Ma.  The sour-faced woman said I was inviting trouble, that I’d be stolen away to the sidhe’s world, or worse.  The baker always gave Ma a complimentary meat pie when she went into the shop, while his wife watched with a scowl.  I think she had it in for us.   
Ma told the woman to “hump off,” much to my delight and horror, and then demanded an apology from the fat, old crone.  I received less support when Ma got me home, though.  She yanked so hard on my ear, it felt like it’d come off, and the heat of her anger made her face go scarlet. 
“Maeve MacKeighry,” she shouted through clenched teeth, still pulling my earlobe, which I feared had now been deformed forever.  “I’ve had enough of your sprite!  You will not see Finn again, or so help me Lord Jesus!”  When Ma took the Lord’s name in vain, it was serious business.
But we both knew Finn could not be so easily discarded.  He was a wild spirit, full of good intentions but no regard for rules, or restrictions, as his kind often were.  Even if I tried to avoid him, he wouldn’t let go of me.
Ma feared I’d never have a respectable suitor, even though boys in Clonmel gave me admiring glances, especially when I wore my long, thick curls loose.  Ma used to say I had classic features offset by fiery hair.  Although I did inherit the high cheekbones of the MacKeighry clan, I don’t quite know what she meant by “fiery” since my hair was more brown than red.   In either case, boys did look my way whenever I passed by, but none approached me.  Maybe because my stride wasn’t as dainty as most girls looking for husbands, or maybe because of the challenge they saw in my green eyes.  Most likely, though, it was because they’d heard the whispered tales about Finn and me. 
Then the whispers became more frequent, and villagers stopped knocking on our door.  Rumors of witchcraft started to spread.  Never mind that the baker’s wife was the culprit, it still made townsfolk close their shutters when we walked down the street to church.  When Father Donoghue at St. John’s shunned our family after Sunday mass more than once, Da left to start a homestead in Kansas. 
Ma said they were giving away land in America.  It might as well be the moon for all I cared, because America meant nothing to me.  And the land must not be worth much if they were giving it away for free, I figured.  Nevertheless, some months later, we followed. 
“The Lord is giving us a chance at a better life in a new country,” Ma told us all one rainy afternoon.  The weather made us housebound, so we begged to play with the table.  “None of our games will be allowed in our new home.  We’ll have a fresh beginning, and one without the ways of leprechauns,” she had said with a pointed look in my direction.  

Do you have to travel much to do research for your books?

No, not for my writing.  But I do travel quite a bit for my other job, and I often incorporate experiences from those travels into my writing.  For example, in The Soul Stealer, there is a scene where Malia and her father are on the Big Island of Hawaii and go to the volcano to see the lava flow into the ocean.  Although I don’t live on that island, I often go there on business, and whenever I can, I visit Volanoes National Park.  It is the most magical, powerful place I’ve ever been, and I find it very inspirational.  I try to do it justice in this scene. 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep writing, no matter how crazy or a waste of time it seems.  It isn’t either.  And the only way to get better is to sit down and do it.  

The Soul Stealer
Maureen Willett

Genre:  Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

Publisher:  Publish Green

ISBN:  978-1-62652

Number of pages: 251
Word Count: 92,317

Book Description:

Hunter Blackthorne has almost all he needs: powerful magic and the seductive art of deception.  Now, all he needs is her soul.

In the dark, twisting world of The Soul Stealer, half-human Hunter Blackthorne embarks on a quest to vanquish the heir of his father's enemy by stealing her soul.  Though his father would settle for her mere death, Hunter is determined to pilfer Malia Smalls' very essence in hopes of obtaining supreme power.  The Soul Stealer is a story of questioned loyalties, power struggles, and decidedly unconventional romance.

Since his target is a mere human, Hunter's mission seems laughably straightforward.  However, upon meeting Malia, Hunter realizes that this task is anything but uncomplicated.  Hunter starts to waver between commitment to his father's cause and an unshakable feeling of foreboding guilt over his mission.  Hunter thought he knew everything there was to know about his identity and his family, but signs of a darker truth lurk below, threatening to overturn everything.

A story of alternate realities and twisting complications set in exotic Hawaii, The Soul Stealer is a story of fantasy, magic and mysticism, but also a story about humanity and the moral and emotional conflicts that we all face.  The Soul Stealer transports the reader to an exciting, dangerous, and captivating world that won't be easily forgotten.

About the Author:

Since she was in grade school, Maureen Willett has been a writer of fiction that pushes the boundaries of what is and isn’t.  At that time, she twisted class writing assignments into stories about witches, tricksters in the night, and sparkling faery dust.  And, participating in the art of levitation every time her family gathered at holidays made Maureen feel more than qualified to write fantastic tales.  Magic had always been a secret part of her family’s legacy--toyed with but never spoken about. 

But life got in the way.  A successful career in automotive journalism and public relations in Los Angeles took her places in the corporate world she had dreamed of while majoring in communications in college.  Climbing the corporate ladder to vice president of a prestigious public relations agency was engrossing, but did she really want to spend her days writing about cars and monster trucks, and trying to break through the thick glass ceiling of the automotive world?

Then one day, she was offered a transfer to the Honolulu, Hawaii, office of her agency.  She jumped at the chance to change her predictable and stressful existence for one of soaking up the sun on a white, sandy beach.  Or so she thought.
Hawaii didn’t prove to be as stress free as Maureen had hoped, but it did offer a fresh perspective.  After two uncertain years of trying to blend into the foreign island culture, Maureen fell in love with Oahu and vowed never to leave.  The tropical paradise held a soft yet powerful mysticism that inspired her to set pen to paper once again. 

Even the office buildings in downtown Honolulu were haunted.  Maureen often saw ethereal beings in the halls of the radio station where she was the manager of local and national sales.  These pesky pieces of grey mist didn’t bother her, though.  Maureen thought of them more as interesting topics for urban fantasy tales than scary apparitions.

Magical creatures pop off the pages of her novels, but at the core of each story are great characters in very human conflicts that anyone will find compelling.  Very often, Maureen writes about angels, faeries, and even leprechauns, but they are always woven through an authentic story. 

As an avid reader herself, Maureen wants a page-turner that keeps her up until the wee hours of morning.  She strives to create that same experience for her own readers.  Each novel is carefully crafted as an exciting, mind-bending experience that will take readers beyond their day-to-day lives.

But don’t expect to think too hard, or contemplate the meaning of life.  Pure fun and page-turning entertainment is what you’ll find in a novel by Maureen Willett.  It’s almost a magical experience.

Twitter: @maureenwillett 

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Unknown said...

Thank you for the giveaway> THIS BOOK SOUNDS REALLY GREAT

julkbearReads said...

Great give away

Unknown said...

Great post! I loved the interview, the book sounds exciting, and I loved learning more about the author!