Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Author - Jory Strong / Spider-Touched Giveaway

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Jory Strong here today to talk about SPIDER-TOUCHED (my review here), the second novel in her Ghostland World urban fantasy romance series following GHOSTLAND (released in April). SPIDER-TOUCHED just hit the shelves this past week.

Jory will also drop by to answer questions, so I encourage you to leave comments. Jory has also graciously provided a signed copy of SPIDER-TOUCHED to be given away to one lucky commentator. Giveaway guidelines are at the end of the post.

Hope you all enjoy the interview. Welcome Jory!



SFG: SPIDER-TOUCHED has just been released. Could you start things off by telling us a little more about the book and the series?

Spider-Touched is the story of an enslaved angel whose memory and power are denied him, and a human who is more than she seems.

The series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the supernaturals have emerged. It has an over-reaching arc of: A war is brewing between ancient, unseen enemies (angels and Djinn) for who will ultimately control Earth. The heroes and heroines who find love and want their own “happy ever after” in each book play a part in preparing for that war.

SFG: Who are the main characters in SPIDER-TOUCHED? How do you go about picking character names?

The heroine is Araña. The hero is Tir. Anytime I come across a name I like, I add it to a list I keep. That’s the first place I go when I need a name for an important character, including those who might one day have their own stories.

When nothing on my list seems to fit, then I hit baby-naming sites on the web. The name has to feel right to me. More than once I’ve changed the hero/heroine names as I got deeper into the story and learned more about them.

I tend to choose out-of-the-ordinary names because they don’t come with a lot of baggage as a result of knowing real people with those names. Tir’s name was on my list. Araña named herself (literally). Her name is Spanish for spider.

SFG: Your publisher bills SPIDER-TOUCHED as urban fantasy romance plus the setting is in a post-apocalyptic America which some might classify as science fiction. There has been a lot of discussion lately about the labeling of genre fiction especially urban fantasy versus paranormal romance. What do you have to say on the topic and where would you like your books placed in the bookstores?

I can see the need for labels. Booksellers have to know where to place a book on the shelves. But the trouble with labels, especially now, as more and more authors are writing stories blending genres, is that labels tend to be narrow and exclusive. Compounding the problem is that there is no way to reach every reader and provide them with specific and defining information. For instance, “Spider-Touched is a romance set in a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy world and contains erotic elements.” Pretty tough to fit that on the spine of a book.

Ultimately, I think time will sort this issue of genre labels out because existing labels will expand to include a wide range of possibilities and readers will come to see the labels as simply a place to start. One of the things I love about the romance audience is that on the whole, they are very flexible and willing to try new types of stories.

Ghostland and Spider-Touched are romances at their core. The story “resolution” is all about HEA for the hero and heroine as far as their relationship goes. So I’d definitely like to see them placed in the romance section. Even better if they are next to my Ellora’s Cave works so readers will know the sex is going to be dealt with straight-on.

SFG: I understand GHOSTLAND and SPIDER-TOUCHED share the same universe but are standalone stories. For someone that hasn’t read the books is it important as to the read order?

They don’t have to be read in order, though like any series, each story builds on and adds depth to the story world. There are supporting characters introduced in Ghostland who also appear in Spider-Touched, as well as places and concepts.

SFG: Tell us something about your research process and the choices you make when creating the story.

I would have to use the term “research” very loosely. The most honest answer is that I do the least amount of it possible in order to write the story I want to write. Sometimes I hit Wikipedia and get enough background facts to proceed—either before I start or when I’m at a place where I need to know more. Other times it might require delving into non-fiction books.

Story choices all come down to answering a series of questions—the biggest, and most important of which, at least for me, is the very first one: “Knowing that inspiration might take me to the 25% mark, but it’ll take hard work to get to The End, what set of characters, story premise, and setting can I get excited enough about to commit myself to?” The Berkley books have a target length of 100,000 words. Just thinking about it is enough to freeze my fingers and make it impossible to type.

I don’t plot in minutia, but these days the trigger event, midpoint scene, ordeal scene, black moment, and resolution all need to be fairly solid, giving me destinations along the way before I start writing. Then I basically ask myself “what if” and “what next”. Sometimes I stop at the first answer. Sometimes it takes a few of them before I hit one that feels right (or workable). I try not to over-analyze. Forward momentum is the most important thing. Once I get to The End and truly know the entire story, then I can go back and refine the individual scenes.

SFG: Do you have a long-term plan or goal for this story universe? What happens next?

If I took no detours to give important, but minor, characters I’ve introduced in the first two books their own stories, or to explore some of the other worlds within this story world (the vampire world for instance, or that of the Founding Families of Oakland), I could probably wrap the series up in six or seven books. A lot is going to depend on what happens with the first three books and whether there is a large enough audience for Berkley to want more of them.

Shapeshifters are the focus of the next book, my current WIP. The setting shifts between the Were brothels in the Oakland red zone (where Outcasts survive by prostituting themselves) and the world of the pure Weres who live in no-humans-allowed territories.

After that…I’d write a story focusing on the world of the Fallen Angels, and the daughter of one of them who is a Finder.

SFG: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell us about?

At the moment I’m working on the third book for Berkley. The heroine is a gifted healer introduced in Spider-Touched. The hero is a jaguar shapeshifter. I’m really, really excited about how this is shaping up.

SFG: You’ve published a number of erotic romances with Ellora’s Cave. What are your favourites and are there any tie-ins to this new series? What made you shift in this new genre direction?

I’ve got thirty published stories with EC and hope to get at least one more turned in this year. There are four on-going series, a couple of trilogies, and then some stand-alones. It’s hard to pick a favorite because each of them represents something different, but important, to me. Binding Krista got my foot in the door at EC by giving me direct access to an editor (though it was initially rejected, then went on to become one of my best selling books after I adjusted my premise by adding wings to my heroes from another planet). Trace’s Psychic is my first published book with EC, while Calista’s Men arrived fully formed and had me racing to get the scenes typed in as fast as they came and before they were lost. Lyrael’s Sacrifice allowed me to experiment with the Djinn, though there are no tie-ins between any of my EC works and those for Berkley.

I still love writing erotic romance and don’t see myself quitting. But I want to be able to do more world building and to explore questions and realities that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the erotic romance genre. Urban fantasy romance is a natural progression for me. It allows me to combine paranormal, romantic, fantasy and erotic elements, all the things I enjoy both as a reader and a writer, into a single story form.


SFG: What books/genres do you read when you have the chance? Any must read authors or series?

I’m eclectic in my tastes. There are middle grade and YA authors who are auto-buys for me, as well as romance, mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy (epic, dark and urban) writers. Just to hit a few of them: Robert Crais, Terry Pratchett, Carl Haissen, J.D. Robb’s In Death series, Michelle Sagara’s Cast In series. Nalini Singh, Justine Musk, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Melissa Marr, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval Artist series, PJ Tracy.

SFG: What music, TV series or films do you like and do any of them influence your work?

I don’t watch a lot of TV since the choice usually comes down to that or spending the last couple hours of my day reading. There are a few shows I’m hooked on though: Lie To Me, CSI (NY and Las Vegas, I’ve given up on Miami), World Poker Tour, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, but only after they get through the audition and weeding-out process, American football, if the Oakland Raiders or San Francisco 49ers are playing.

As far as music goes, I’m just coming out of a twelve year Country phase. Mostly I find myself listening to Rock/Pop stations at the moment. I wouldn’t say either music or TV influence my work, though occasionally they spark an idea for a scene.

SFG: If you could be any paranormal creature. Which one would you be and why?

Djinn, as defined in the Ghostland and Spider-Touched story world. They can take any form or no form, and depending on what House they belong to, have special abilities.



Thank you for being here today Jory and I am looking forward to the next Ghostland World book. But first I need to get to my copy of GHOSTLAND read :)

GIVEAWAY GUIDELINES:
  1. Leave a comment, or question about the book, the series, writing or urban fantasy in general, to be entered into the draw to win a signed copy of SPIDER-TOUCHED.
  2. A name will be drawn at random.
  3. Giveaway runs until Midnight, August 18. I'll announce the winners next Wednesday.
  4. For an extra entry, blog about the Interview & Giveaway and leave the link in the comments.

70 comments:

  1. Hi :)
    I've heard great things about Spider Touched. Thanks for sharing and the great interview!
    I'm going to order Ghostland now!
    What a great premise.
    Is writing the third book in the series easier now that the world and side/minor characters are created?
    :)
    Love and best wishes,
    @RKCharron
    xoxo

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  2. Doug,

    Great interview!! Thank you Jory for stopping by. I have been looking forward to this series. :)

    Michelle

    kweenmg at yahoo dot com

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  3. I haven't read anything by Jory Strong yet. Reading this blog, I thought I would give this series a try.

    Also blogged about this contest at: http://contests-freebies.blogspot.com/2009/08/spider-touched.html

    mischivusfairy-spamme2 AT yahoo DOT com

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  4. Urban fantasy romance is a natural progression for me. It allows me to combine paranormal, romantic, fantasy and erotic elements I like this phrase :)

    I have Ghostland in my TBR pile, (now I'm reading another genre) waiting atm.
    Thxs for interview :)

    ckone223 at hotmail dot com

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  5. I've heard wonders about Spider Touched. Great interview. Please count me in.

    cindyc725 at gmail dot com

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  6. Sidebar here:

    http://juniperrbreeeze.blogspot.com/

    cindyc725 at gmail dot com

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  7. Great interview! Ghostland is already in my TBR pile since I am a fan of Ms. Strong's books with EC. Looking forward to this series.

    shylalou@bellsouth.net

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  8. Thanks everyone for stopping by, and Doug, for inviting me here and for reading/writing up such a wonderful review of Spider-Touched!

    @RKCharron--No, if anything, writing the third book has been harder. There are several reasons for this.

    Here are a few of them off the top of my head:
    - The focus has shifted to the world of the Weres, so that's all new world building (and needs to be different than what other authors have created--it is :)
    - The series arc has to be supported in a way that creates a story that isn't basically a retelling of the first two.
    - "Rules" and facts put in the first two books can't be contradicted in this one, plus I have to work in the necessary backstory for this heroine (who appears in S-T) without it being either a huge spoiler (some is unavoidable) or an info dump.
    - In this story there are glimpses into the Djinn/Angel worlds and the behind the scenes game that's going on as they play with the lives of the hero/heroine, so I have to be careful not to lock something in place that will be a problem in future books
    - This is a more complex story, stretching me as an author, but I'm totally thrilled with how it's shaping up, even if it's taking me a bit further from my erotic romance roots (which is kind of scary for me and sometimes sends me into a worry tailspin)

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  9. Great Interview.I haven't read either book,but plan to asap.I like how its set in a post-apocalyptic world.I'm looking forward to reading them.
    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Spider Touch

    elaing8(at)netscape(dot)net

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  10. Some info on urban fantasy, good, I am always wondering about those two.

    The series sounds great, would love to read the books.

    I was wondering how you came to write in the genres you write in now

    blodeuedd1 at gmail dot com

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  11. Awesome interview and I just love the covers for her series. I also blogged about the interview and giveaway in my blog: http://jeanette8042.blogspot.com/

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  12. Did you do a lot of world building for this series? And if so, did you find it difficult? Fun?

    Sara M
    silentalibis AT yahoo DOT com

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  13. @ Sara. Yes, there's a lot of worldbuilding. Being able to do it was one of the main reason I decided on a post-apocalyptic setting with the supernaturals no longer hiding their existence. I wanted the possibilities to be wide open so I could create worlds within worlds and then explore them. It's challenging but fun, and difficult only if I try to "know" everything up front instead of just letting go and discovering things as I write.

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  14. @Blodeuedd--That's a hard question to answer succinctly, but I'll give it a go.

    I'd pretty much stopped reading romance primarily because after reading them since I was a pre-teen,it felt like the story lines were all the same and if there was sex at all, it was a done deal in a couple of lines, hardly a payoff for all the angst the hero/heroine were put through. Then one day I stumbled on an ad in the classified section of RT about something called erotic romance by a company named Ellora's Cave. Hard to imagine them being so small that they advertised in the classifieds! Anyway, I found the kind of stories I wanted to read and immersed myself in them for about three years before deciding to write one (Binding Krista)strictly for myself and with no intention of submitting it.

    At the time I was still trying to get published as a YA author, though I'd also dabbled in middle grade fiction, mysteries (thankfully I was able to salvage chunks of these and use them to create my Crime Tells series), and picture books.

    I'll do an aside here for aspiring authors. You can't let rejection stop you and kill your dream. It's painful (I've shed a lot of tears in the past and will no doubt do so in the future), but it is not personal. I could paper the walls of my office with the rejections I've gotten over the years. I could paper the bathroom with the half-page form letters the agent who now represents me has sent over the years (hopefully he doesn't remember this :)

    Anyway, once Binding Krista was finished, I really couldn't let it sit and not at least try to get it published. I sent a query off and immediately got to work on the next erotic romance. By the time Binding Krista went through the submissions process and was rejected (editor loved the writing but it was too much like another EC book) I was able to offer Trace's Psychic. It was contracted months later and I never looked back. (Well, truthfully I have from time to time, because I have a drawer full of kids/YA stories that will probably never see the light of day, and that still bumms me out sometimes.)

    As to the books for Berkley, it was an evolution, wanting to grow my talent. But it also had at its roots something similar to what I once experienced as a romance reader. I love fantasy (of all types), but so many times I found myself thinking "This is a great book, but I really wish the author had had the courage/confidence/desire/etc. to write the sex scene instead of closing the bedroom door or gliding over it quickly." So I set about to write the kind of story I wanted to read.

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  15. I am very interested in this book.

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  16. Great interview. Jory's series sounds good. I would love to read this book.

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  17. I've heard great things about this book and definittely look forward to reading it!

    And promoed this on FB (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/profile.php?id=699660271&ref=profile)

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

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  18. I haven't read this series yet but I've heard it's fantastic! I would love to be enterd to win the second book and would run out and get the first one to read in order. I enjoyed the interview!

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  19. I think your book would be a very interesting read. I'm terrified of spiders so the book fascinates me.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

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  20. Jory is a new author to me. I have found a new series to look for.

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  21. The books sounds great!! I will be picking it up to read that is for sure!

    GracieA

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  22. This is a new author to me. The cover is gorgeous.

    AbigailS.Johnson AT gmail DOT com

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  23. I've started reading GHOSTLAND and am hooked, so I'm anxious for SPIDER TOUCHED!

    The premise is different and interesting, and both covers are just gorgeous!

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  24. I enjoyed Ghostland and I'm looking forward to this one! tWarner419@aol.com

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  25. This series sounds great. I love your other series at EC and plan to give this one a try as soon as time and money allows.

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  26. @PamK--Thanks! I'll be back to writing an EC book as soon as I turn the Berkley book in.

    @tetewa--Glad you enjoyed Ghostland!

    And @ KarenW--Fingers crossed Ghostland keeps you hooked :)

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  27. Just finished Ghostland & Spider-Touched today, both very enjoyable.

    I finished all the EC books about a week ago and was just waiting for another day off to start the Ghostland World books.

    Unfortunately, now that I've read all your backlist, it's time to wait for new books from EC and Berkeley.

    Off to check your website for the next release date.

    Thanks for the great reads! Beth

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  28. Just when I think I've read every type of premise of paranormal out there...not read each book, but the outline of a premise, here comes a new to me like Ghostland! I cannot wait to get this on the WWBL! And then a trip to the bookshop!

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  29. I am looking forward to reading Spider Touched. What an awesome premise!

    lesly7ch(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  30. Thanks for the interview. I have Ghostland ordered already and am glad to see Spider Touched looks great too.

    I posted on the sidebar here: http://donnasbloghome.blogspot.com/

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

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  31. I've had several people recommend Spider Touched to me so I'm looking forward to picking it up.

    I wonder is it more complicated to write urban fantasy (contemporary fiction) vs. fantasy in general (world building)? Do you try to tie in current world events or just stay in general?

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  32. well this is new for me too, but it definately got my eye, if i dont win i may have to go and buy it as it has intrigued me

    roswello at hotmail dot com

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  33. This is a new series to me, but your interview has got me excited about it. I enjoy the angst of dark urban fantasy but still crave the sexual tension that romance provides. Your books look like the perfect fit for me.

    Please add me to the list of names for this contest. THank you, Miranda

    mdwartistry at yahoo dot com

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  34. Congrats on the new release!! I look forward to reading Spider Touched. Not a lot of stories revolve around angels, Nephilim, or seraphim. I think they make wonderful characters.

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  35. @Adele--There are trade-offs with respect to writing something based in a contemporary world versus a completely made-up one. I don't think one is necessarily harder to write than the other. There's always worldbuilding involved.

    Spider-Touched is post-apocalyptic. In it The Last War was started by religious zealots (so shades of our real world), but the War, followed by plague, followed by the emergence of the supernaturals is well in the past for the (human) characters who live in this world.

    As a rule, I don't put current events in any story because it locks the time and immediately dates the book.

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  36. @Elizabeth N--I'm totally flattered that you've not only consumed all the EC books but the Berkley ones as well.

    Unfortunately, I'm not as fast a writer as many other authors :( So there will be a wait for the next one.

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  37. Ok I haven't read either but your review says that you can read this stand alone. Correct? If so I'd love to be entered I'm always looking for authors to try. Thanks.
    jessica(at)fan(dot)com

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  38. Hi Doug!

    Great interview!

    I'm completely fascinated by authors of urban fantasy. I love hearing how an author researches for the book, it would seem close to impossible to create a world inside our reality.

    I can't wait to read Spider Touch and Ghostland. Thanks for sharing!

    Please enter me!

    Dottie :)

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  39. I posted your contest under my banner at http://myblog2point0.blogspot.com/

    Dottie :)

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  40. Hi there. This series sounds really good, and I love the covers. It sounds like you're really exploring some novel ideas in the genre of urban fantasy, and I especially like the post-apocalyptic setting. Thanks for the awesome interview!

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  41. What a wonderful concept. Always looking for new authors. Thank you for talking about your book.
    Will you be doing any book signings? Come to Houston!

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  42. @80slady No booksignings scheduled other than the ones at Lora Leigh's Readers' Appreciation Weekend (RAW) in West Virginia, which I'll be attending for the first time. And then those for EC books only at EC's Romanticon in Ohio.

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  43. Hi Jory,
    I am currently reading "Ghostland" and it is a fantastic world you created - I can't get enough of it!
    Best wishes,
    Ina

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  44. Great interview and I can't wait to read Spider Touched, since I loved Ghostland. I do have when question- how/why did you decide to write about djinn and angels?

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  45. @*ina*-Thanks! I'm so glad you're loving Ghostland!

    @margaretmoony-I'm glad you loved Ghostland as well :) As to your question...When I decided to write a book targeted specifically to getting it published by a NY house, I knew two things up front, I didn't want it to be categorized as erotic romance (though it would contain erotic content) and I knew it would be paranormal.

    As much as I love vampires and Weres, that's a lot tougher market to break into and to come up with something fresh for. I'd written a Djinn short story so decided to explore that option further since they are familiar entities but not common ones in romance. I did some research and quickly saw how angels fell in naturally as there are theological connections between angels-djinn-humans, though I have redefined these in my underlying world premise. It was something I could get excited about, and committed to, so I went with it.

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  46. Great Interview...I haven't read the books, but I have seen and read plenty of great reviews (Have had it on my mental wish lists of books I would like to read)

    My question would be as a writer, has there been a character that you've created that you have or had become attached to?

    I have also given up on CSI Miami (lol)

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  47. @Tanya-Yes, I grow attached to my characters. That's why I tend to write series or trilogies, so I can revisit them, even if they aren't the main characters this time around. It's always very difficult leaving the characters in a given story world by the time I type THE END to the newest story. I just want to keep hanging out with them :)

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  48. I'm very interested in the series and will have to track down a copy of Ghostland! Thanks for offering the giveaway.

    Victoria
    oilsdragon(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  49. I love the covers :) And they sound fantastic- totally going on my TBR list, wonderful interview!

    Cheers,
    Cam

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  50. Great interview. Didn't read this yet but after everything I read about it, I put it on my TBR pile.
    aliens72a@gmail.com

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  51. I own both books in the new series and would be first in line to buy the next one. I'm a huge fan (have almost all of Jory's EC in print and ebook too!) I'll follow this author wherever the writing muse takes her.

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  52. This looks like a very interesting series. I have never heard of it before. Going to see about finding a copy of Ghostland. Thanks for a great interview.

    Kate
    neverendingshelf@gmail.com

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  53. This series looks very interesting, and between Jeaniene Frost and Karen Chance, I'm hooked on urban fantasy (romance?). I'm looking forward to reading Ghostland.

    My question is what is more fun to write, fantasy or regular romance books?

    -brittany
    Brittanynoelle AT gmail dot come

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  54. @LaurieF--Thanks so much for the wonderful vote of confidence!

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  55. @Noelle-I'm hooked on Karen Chance's stories as well!

    Ghostland and Spider-Touched are labeled urban fantasy romance because they've got the world building of urban fantasy but are romance stories in that there is a HEA. They're also told in third person and have different main characters in each book versus a single hero or heroine who changes over the course of a series. My EC stories are erotic romance.

    So to change your question up a bit, which is easier to write (they're both fun--at least until the hard work sets in), erotic romance or urban fantasy romance--definitely erotic romance. The world building and plots are less complex, and after having written 30 of them, I feel fairly confident I can deliver a story readers will like. With only two urban fantasy stories, released in a market where feedback tends to be s-l-o-w especially compared to ebook publishing, there's a lot more second guessing, and worrying about getting it right, meaning they take longer to write and are more difficult.

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  56. I am not sure I have ever read Urban Fantasy. I don't like labelling books as genre. To me fantasy is a book based on a place that doesn't exist, so a book based on the real world isn't fantasy to my mind.

    Still maybe I should give it a read ?

    Thanks.

    Neville


    buddytho {AT} gmail DOT com

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  57. Sounds interesting!!
    I added a link in my sidebar here
    http://froggaritavillesbookcase.blogspot.com/

    froggarita(at)gmail.com

    Froggy

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  58. Hi Jory, these look great! I have read and lurved your EC books, and would love to try this series!

    Thanks for the interview and the giveaway Doug!

    ~bella

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  59. PS - added the contest to my FB page! (Bella Smythe).

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  60. Urban Fantasy is a new genre to me, would love to read the book!

    eva.silkka at gmail.com

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  61. @Bella--I'm glad you've enjoyed the EC books. Hope you'll give this series a try!

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  62. I've been seeing your name everywhere, Ms. Strong, so it's about time for me to pick up your book! (Ghostland is on my next amazon order!)

    Thanks for the opportunity to win Spider Touched!

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  63. Shawna Lewis
    weloveourdogs@juno.com

    How do you come up with the cover art? Do you as an Author have much say in in the matter?

    Thanks for this chance to win this amazing book ;o)

    Winks & Smiles ;o) Shawna Leiws

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  64. I've wanted to read this series ever since I saw the cover for Ghostland. I <3 urban fantasy!

    paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com

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  65. I haven't read any of your books yet but I have Ghostland and Spider-Touched on my TBR list. I've even bookmarked your website. Thanks for the great interview & your quick responses to everyone's insightful questions. I'd like to know, besides your own work, what are you currently reading? I always finding it interesting and exciting to know what an author is currently reading. Sometimes I even come across new authors or books by asking this simple question. Thanks.

    kenos89@gmail.com

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  66. @Shawna--Most authors don't have any say over the artwork. I was incredibly lucky to have gotten such fantastic covers. Still can't believe it sometimes.

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  67. @Kainani--I'm very eclectic in my tastes. SciFiGuy's blog has been a great source for discovering new (to me) authors. But to answer your question...

    My most recent reads are Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (fantasy), Hot in Here by Sophie Renwick (erotic romance), Jabril by D.B Reynolds (UF). On my desk and next up, Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey, Zadayi Red by Caleb Fox and A Certain Strain of Peculiar, a YA book by Gigi Amateau.

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  68. ============================
    The giveaway has now been selected and the winner is WANDA!

    Sincere thanks to Jory for a wonderful interview and her participation here for the past week.

    ============================

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  69. I have never heard of the book, or book series before, and the other day I was at Borderes and saw the cover for "Spider Touched" and instintly intrigued! I can't wait to read it!

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  70. Kayla I hope you enjoy. We loved it here :)

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