Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Author Spotlight: Laura Bickle

I'm pleased to have urban fantasy author Laura Bickle as a guest here today. Here's a little about Laura:
Laura Bickle has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she's never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses.  
Writing as Laura Bickle, she's the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket - Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she's the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE. 
More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here: http://www.salamanderstales.com/.

Welcome Laura!

What was your initial inspiration for this story?

EMBERS was inspired by the idea of a fire salamander familiar. In EMBERS, the heroine, Anya, has had a spunky fire salamander since she was a child. There's not much out there in the literature about salamanders, and I wanted to explore the possibilities. I made him something of an imp, setting accidental electrical fires in to his surroundings. He loves to chew on cell phones and cuddle with his Glow-Worm toy at night. 

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book, without giving too much away of course.

My favorite scenes involved places I'd been...like the Detroit Salt Mine in the climax of the book. There's actually a salt mine that extends underneath the city of Detroit, and made the perfect lair for the dragon granddaddy of all salamanders. Anya and her team of ghost hunters must descend into his lair to keep him from awakening and setting fire to the city on Devil's Night.

What was the hardest part of the book to write, again without giving too much away?

The beginning is the most intimidating part of a book for me to write. The blank page is a scary place, full of doubts. Procrastination is my greatest enemy at that stage.

The easiest part for me is the last quarter of the book. Then, I can see how all the factors come into play and the plot threads begin to tie up. It's sort of like running downhill - exhilarating and exciting. 

How long have you been writing and how did you get your start in publishing?

I've been scribbling since I was old enough to hold a crayon. EMBERS is my first published book, followed by SPARKS. It's really a dream come true for me to share stories with readers. 

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 confess. I'm a plotter. I dislike staring at a blank page, like I said earlier. It's intimidating. I want to have some idea of where I'm going and how I'm gonna get there. 

I begin with a high-level outline. A skeleton or scaffolding. As I work through the manuscript, it becomes more detailed. Flesh gets added to the bones. There are ideas that need to be reiterated, loops that need to be closed, threads to tie up. It eventually breaks into a scene-by-scene outline. 

That's not to say that I have no serendipities, no flow. I do chase ideas down rabbit holes and find my own little synchronicities. The outline is not sacred - it's meant to be torn apart and reconstructed. But I like having a light in the darkness to show me where I'm going.

What draws you to the urban fantasy genre?

I've always been intrigued by the idea of a hidden supernatural world existing beneath our own. Urban Fantasy allows me to explore the "what if's." I like the fact that it's wide open. I'm not bound by many conventions as far as structure or the ending...UF doesn't require the story to follow a fixed pattern. I can allow the story to unfold and let it be unpredictable as it develops. 

Do you need silence while you write or do you listen to music?

I'm a big fan of silence. I'm easily distracted, and I find that I write much faster without the television or music going on in the background. I also have found that I can't write in coffee shops or other busy places for that reason. 

Do you put much of yourself into your characters? When you do, does that make it easier or harder to write them?

I think that there's a balance. I like being able to put myself in my characters' shoes to feel what they feel. But I'm also aware that I can't write the same person over and over. They have some characteristics that belong to "me," but other abilities and perspectives that are entirely other. 

What’s the most interesting thing you ever learned while doing research for a book, or the most fun you ever had with research?

Research is one of the pleasures of being a writer. And I got to research spontaneous human combustion for SPARKS. I was really amazed at the number of theories about how this works...including the theory of the 'phosphenic fart.' In this idea, digestive gases gather and catch fire in one's digestive tract. 

Yeah, I know. Bizarre. But fun to see if I can get the heroine to mention that in the story. And if I can get my editor to laugh, that's an additional bonus.

Tell us a little about your non-writing life. Do you have a day job, hobbies, pets that demand your slavish attention?

I work in a library in my day job, which is a wonderful job for a writer. I get to be surrounded by books ...and it makes the research process so much more convenient! 

Please share with us a favorite guilty pleasure that helps you unwind after a long day of writing/revising/editing, whether it’s a decadent food or a strong drink or a cheesy TV show.

Oh, I have many vices: chocolate, Coca-Cola, far too much television... But fuzzy pajamas are my favorite vice, usually preceded by a hot bath. The little pleasures in life are the most joyful, I think. 

Thank you for stopping by Laura!


Unemployment, despair, anger--visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit's unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.

Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya--who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern--suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil's Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya--with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team --can stop it.

Anya's accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she's risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she's ever faced.


Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion. 
After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.