In a life of impossible choices when sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils, can a dark mage save the world and his own soul?
Corwyn Ravenscroft. Raven. The last heir of an ancient family of dark mages, he holds the secret to recreating the Ravensblood, a legendary magical artifact of immense power.
Cassandra Greensdowne is a Guardian. Magical law enforcement for the elected council— and Raven’s former apprentice and lover. She is trying to live down her past. And then her past comes to the door, asking for her help.
As a youth, Raven wanted to be a Guardian but was rejected because of his ancestry. In his pride and his anger, he had turned to William, the darkest and most powerful mage of their time. William wants a return to the old ways, where the most powerful mage was ruler absolute. But William would not be a True King from the fairy tales. He would reign in blood and terror and darkest magic.
Raven discovers that he does have a conscience. It’s rather inconvenient.
He becomes a spy for the council that William wants to overthrow, with Cassandra as his contact.
Cass and Raven have a plan to trap William outside his warded sanctuary. But William is one step ahead of the game, with Raven’s life, his soul, and the Ravensblood all in danger.
What was your initial inspiration for Ravensblood?
It’s really hard to answer this, because I believe that a really good, original story has not just one source on inspiration, but many, mingling and flavoring one another like ingredients in the slow-cooker of a writer’s subconscious.
I’ve always been intrigued by ambiguous characters— dark heroes, villains with a code of honor. I love a good redemption story arc, especially when the reader is kept in suspense as to whether the redemption will succeed or fail.
To me, Severus Snape is a much more interesting character than Harry Potter. I don’t want to read (or write) about the shining prince, born to chivalry, setting forth to do battle against evil. Give me a black knight with a few dents in his armor, finding honor despite all.
I also like strong, competent female characters. And I know what it is to be betrayed by a lover and by a mentor— though in my case, not the same person!
In addition, I prefer characters who rely on intelligence and strength of will rather than weaponry and physical skills. In short, it was almost inevitable that I write a book like Ravensblood.
Tell us about your favorite scene in the book, without giving too much away, of course.
My favorite scene in the book, at least of those I can share without spoiling, is when Raven first approaches Cass asking her to help him defect from William. We’ve already seen Cass in action as a top-of-the-line Guardian and started to root for her to overcome her shadowed past. And then her past shows up at her door, asking for help.
She doesn’t trust him, of course. Neither do we. But a tiny part of her wants to trust him. And so do we.
Tell us a little about your writing process. Are you a pantser or a plotter, and if you’re a plotter what method works best for you?
I’m a reformed pantser. (I should explain that The Stolen Luck, while the first novel I published, is not the first novel I’ve written.) I used to write without an outline, and ended up writing myself into corners and ending up with a frustrating amount of material that had to be discarded. Still, I resisted outlines until I was in a workshop with the sublime writing instructor Eric M. Witchey. (Eric insists he didn’t make me write an outline. I paid for the course. It was up to me whether or not I was going to do the coursework.)
When I reached the climax and resolution in the outline Eric, er, strongly encouraged me to write, I realized the story was only going to work with the involvement of this secondary character I hadn’t planned on. . .who would have to be woven into the plot at a much earlier point to avoid the appearance of deus ex machina.
If I had made that discovery near the end of writing the novel instead of near the end of writing the outline, I would have been in rewrite hell.
Now I love outlines with the fervor of a new convert. Some pantsers complain that outlines rob them of the joy of discovery. But I find a lot of joy in the outline process itself. By stepping out to look at the big picture (big tapestry?) I can see ways to weave plots, subplots and character arcs into a cohesive whole that supports the theme. I can also make certain that I’m maintaining the tension to trap the reader like a spider traps a fly. (Arachne, after all, was first among weavers.)
Another way to look at outlines— they’re just a skeleton. You still get to have fun fleshing out the details.
And when a reader asks me when the sequel is going to be available, or an editor asks how I’m coming with that new project I told her about, I can answer with more confidence since I at least know where the novel is going and how it’s going to get there.
What draws you to your genre?
This is another hard question to answer. I’ve been in love with speculative fiction for so long that it’s hard to say what drew me to it. I guess it was the sense of wonder, of possibility beyond the everyday world. Also, speculative fiction seems to pay more attention to ideas of honor and questions of right and wrong.
For urban fantasy, the genre into which Ravensblood falls, the combination of fantasy elements and the everyday world makes the magic feel even more real, more like it could almost bleed over into the reader’s life.
Do you need silence while you write or do you listen to music? If you listen to music, what were you listening to while writing this book?
I can write in silence, but if I’m settling in for a long stretch of work I almost always have music on. Usually instrumental, as I find lyrics distracting unless they’re in a language I don’t understand. Celtic traditional music is my default, but often I try to match the music to what I’m writing.
For Ravensblood, I listened to a lot of symphony, as Raven’s taste tends toward the classical.
What’s the most interesting thing you ever learned while doing research for a book, or the most fun you ever had with research?
As far as most interesting, in a morbid sort of way: I learned that cadaver dogs can find corpses underwater because the gasses from the decay process rise above the water surface and can be detected by the dog’s sensitive nose. (I was researching canine tracking ability for a steampunk.Victorian detective novel in which my werewolf character gets pressed into service as a tracker dog. Ultimately I didn’t end up dumping the bodies in the Thames for plot reasons, but I’m sure I can use the information for a future novel in the series.)
The most fun I ever had researching was definitely the research I did for The Stolen Luck. My protagonist was a vintner, and so I had to learn about wines and winemaking. I spent much time touring vineyards and wineries and, of course, wine-tasting. (Oh, the sacrifices we make for our craft!)
Any projects on the horizon for readers to look for?
That steampunk/Victorian detective novel I mentioned is currently making the marketing rounds. Think Sherlock Holmes if Holmes was a reluctantly-involved werewolf, Watson was a woman alchemist with attitude and Lestrade wasn’t an idiot.
The sequel to Ravensblood is outlined, and I will be starting on the writing soon. I’m hoping to have it out in a year or so.
By popular demand, I’m also working on a high fantasy with a male/male romance woven into the plotline. Along the lines of The Stolen Luck, but in a different universe.
For those clamoring for an actual sequel to The Stolen Luck, and especially for more of Ashe, I can only say I have some ideas. Be patient, I’ll get there.
About the author:
From earliest childhood, Shawna Reppert has had a passion for stories-- for reading them and for writing them. She obtained a BA in English with a Writing Option from Penn State University and has participated in numerous writing workshops and seminars given by the likes of Charles de Lint, David Farland and Elizabeth Lyon. Two of her stories have won honorable mentions from Writers of the Future. Previous short stories sold to 10 Flash Quarterly and to Everyday Fiction can be read for free at their websites. Several 'indie' short stories are available for sale at Amazon, and her story 'The Beast Within' appears in the second Gears and Levers anthology, edited by Phyllis Irene Radford. Her debut novel, The Stolen Luck, came out with Carina Press in May of 2013. It won a silver medal in the other world fantasy category of the Global Ebook Awards and is a finalist for an Eppie in the fantasy romance category. She indie-released her urban fantasy, Ravensblood, in October of 2013.
In college, Shawna volunteered at a raptor rehabilitation center, which became valuable background for her short story The Sword and the Kestrel. Shawna has always had an affinity for wolves, and used to keep a wolf-dog hybrid as a pet. Her current four-footed children are a Lipizzan stallion and an orange-and-black cat named Samhain. She enjoys Irish social dancing and is an ardent supporter of live Irish music. Shawna also likes to play with the Society for Creative Anachronism and can sometimes be found in medieval garb on a caparisoned horse, throwing javelins into innocent hay bales that never did anything to her.
A Pennsylvania native, she currently lives in the beautiful wine county of Oregon.
Learn most about Shawna at her website, Facebook, and Twitter. Find her books on her Amazon author page.