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Blurb for Heirs to Darkisle:
Briana has never met anyone like Sebastian...there's something about him that's not quite human, and the woman claiming to be his sister is even stranger. When a murder occurs in their small seaside town of Darkisle, and her connection with Sebastian makes her a suspect, she is forced to confront her darkest suspicions about the man she has fallen for.
Let's get to know, Cassandra!
1.) You have great reviews coming in for Heirs to Darkisle! With the Twilight and vampire craze, did you approach things differently when writing a vampire romance story?
Believe it or not, I had never even heard of Twilight when I began the rough draft for Darkisle. Later, I bought the book just to be sure mine wasn’t inadvertently similar (it wasn’t). I was afraid that I would be accused of imitation when in fact I was simply writing the kind of story I’ve enjoyed since I was a teenager and obsessed with Barnabas Collins.
Writing about vampires came naturally to me. I did read Maggie Shayne, a little Anne Rice, and some Chelsea Quinn Yarbro during my formative years, but I would say the TV cult favorite Dark Shadows and the Saturday morning reruns of 60s Hammer horror films had more of an effect on my love for vampires than any particular writer. I still prefer a Gothic flavor, which went out of fashion a bit with the 70s but will probably be back in full swing someday. The mystery and hint of perversion that goes hand-in-hand with a Gothic setting seems tailor-made for romance. That’s the direction my imagination drifts in, even though various college professors and cynical acquaintances have tried to steer me away from it.
Of course, I’m very happy that readers have rediscovered how amazingly sexy and exciting a good vampire romance can be, and that publishers are putting out plenty of candy for vampire fans. These days, I buy a lot more vamp romances than I have time to read, but I love it!
2.) Why did you choose to write an erotic romance as opposed to a sweeter, mainstream romance?
Well, let’s face it—readers today expect more frankness in their romances, and I have to admit that I enjoy a really hot scene or two as much as the next person. Personally, I think some of today’s erotic romances have gone too far, leaving nothing to the imagination. Sometimes, as one romance reviewer once put it, there’s a fine line between daring and nauseating. Vampires are erotic figures for many people, and have been since the early 1800s, when a popular novel used a thinly veiled portrait of Lord Byron as its vampire hero. In my own work, I tried to strike a balance between Gothic titillation and modern explicitness.
As a writer, I found it a challenge to envision what sex with a vampire—someone who is either dead or a different species, depending how you look at it—would be like. I tried to make those scenes as realistic as possible, and the plot actually depends on the growth of intimacy between the leads. I don’t think I could have told the story effectively, or even in a way that made sense, if I shut the bedroom door on them just when things got heavy. My characters seem real to me, and therefore they should probably behave as real people would in today’s world.
3.) Your character, Sebastian, has been compared by you and others to Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights has always been a dark, tragic love story in my opinion. Others see it as a hate story with unredeeming, selfish characters. How did you feel about the book and how does Sebastian compare to Heathcliff?
The connection to Heathcliff is certainly no accident, as you correctly point out. Really, all romance novels spring from the fertile ground tilled by the Bronts and Jane Austen so long ago. Darcy is the quintessential gentleman, but Heathcliff and Rochester are unapologetic Byronic heroes, which were very popular in the first half of the 19th century.
Reading Wuthering Heights as a teenager changed my life. I became obsessed with Emily Bront, even visiting England twice to see their see their home, which is now a museum. I eventually earned a PhD in Victorian literature, all because of that one book. It’s only natural that I would create heroes that Emily herself would’ve found interesting. When readers pick up on that and compare my book to Wuthering Heights, I consider it the greatest of honors.
That said, I don’t think I would want a lover like Heathcliff for myself. In the novel, even Catherine describes him as “a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man.” Sebastian is less ruthless, and he isn’t hung up on revenge like Heathcliff. His vampire nature makes him dangerous in what I consider an appealing way, but he is never gratuitously cruel. It’s true that Heathcliff had no redemption in Wuthering Heights—that was left to the second generation of Earnshaws and Lintons. However, Sebastian finds it with my heroine. They have the happy ending Heathcliff and Cathy never could.
4.) Do you take time to plot and world build before you write or do you just jump in and go with the flow?
This might sound like a copout to an excellent question, but I actually write and world build simultaneously. The first scene I wrote for Darkisle showed Sebastian standing on a stone terrace high above the ocean, wrapped in a sheet, wondering what his Victorian parents would think of him now. At the time, I wasn’t sure what was going on and where he was, but I wrote out the scene and gradually filled in town landmarks, backstory, and created conflicts. World building is incredibly fun, but I always find that it takes time away from simply generating words, scenes, and the spontaneous tricks your characters pull on you that make writing worthwhile.
I have found that what works best for me is a loose outline and a daily minimum word count. The rest can be deepened and smoothed out on subsequent rewrites. Over-planning can suck the joy out of creating a manuscript, at least for me. This might be why it’s so hard for many people to actually finish their novels. They might be spending too much time in the planning stage.
Of course, if I were writing a fantasy set in a distant land or sci-fi with an alien culture at the center, I might proceed differently. I can see how that would require a lot of preliminary research.
5.) What are you working on now and what can we expect from you in the future?
At the moment, I am about 75% done with the follow-up to Darkisle. I’m introducing new characters, new vampires, and a very different (for me) kind of love relationship, but the plan is to tie everything together in the third book. Eventually, Sebastian and Briana will decide to get married, which should bring up a whole new set of interesting problems for them to solve. Depending how much writing time I can find for myself this summer, while I am not teaching, I may be able complete both these and other projects. I have dozens of ideas for books, but I need the time to pound on the keyboard. I don’t consider myself particularly fast at writing, though I hope that will change one day.
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Buy Heirs to Darkisle HERE
Available on Amazon Kindle HERE.
Thank-you for being a Guest Blogger today, Cassandra! I look forward to reading Heirs to Darkisle. It sounds exactly like something I'd like to read.
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