Today we welcome multi-faceted author Ann Aguirre to the Lair for the first time. Ann writes the wonderful Sirantha Jax romantic science fiction series and the urban fantasy Corine Solomon books. This month marks her debut as a romantic suspense author, under the pen name Ava Gray, with Skin Game. Welcome, Ann!
We love Call stories here in the Lair. Would you like to share yours?
My first big break came when I signed with Laura Bradford, who fell in love with Jax. She didn’t rep SF at the time, but she learned the ropes for me. (I thought I’d written a futuristic romance, mind you. Shows what I know.) She signed me on March 29, pitched on April 11 (my husband’s birthday!), and within two weeks, we had a nibble. An editor fell in love with the book and she took it immediately for approval. I was on tenterhooks.
On that fateful day, May 14, my son forgot his lunch and his swimming kit. I hiked over to his school, seven blocks away, so I was sweaty when I got back to my home office. (Walking on a hot day in Mexico City is tough!) There was a cryptic email waiting for me from Laura. “Hiya, pop onto IM when you get a chance, would you?” My first thought was: crap, she wants to let me down easy. I knew, despite the editor’s great love for Jax, our nibble was a long shot. There were other pitches out, but none at the approval stage. So I squared my shoulders, signed on, and typed: “I’m here.”
I waited. It was a sunny day. The sky was heartbreak-blue overhead, sunlight dappling the fine pale whorls in the bark of the Noche Buena tree outside my office window. I know this because I stared at it for ten minutes, waiting. I scuffed my bare feet. Waited. I studied the purple bougainvillea climbing the terracotta garden wall and decided it needed trimming. Fidgeted. I thought stuff like, if this is good news, I’ll light 27 candles for the Virgin Mary, and then become a good Catholic. I’ll give up sex for Lent. Please don’t let this be another rejection. I don’t have any chocolate in the house.
Then Laura’s reply popped up: “We have an offer from Ace.”
Ace. My dream publisher. Their authors include those I’ve venerated over long years of dreaming: Sharon Shinn, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris. The idea that I would join such august company undid me. When I caught my breath, I yelled until the housekeeper came to see if I was hurt. Through tears, I told her, “Marta, vendí mi libro! Vendí mi libro!!” and then she yelled with excitement too.
What a terrific story. I love Jax (and March), so I'm very glad the book sold. We're here today, though, to celebrate the release of Skin Game. Who are the book's hero and heroine, and what's their biggest problem?
Reyes, a hitman, and Kyra, a con-woman. The fact that he was hired to kill her.
What inspired these particular characters, and can we have a peek into the book?
My desire to write a dark, gritty romance.
Here's an excerpt from Skin Game:
She snagged her share of the money, aligned the bills, and then she slid them into her wallet. After shouldering her bag, she glanced at him, oddly uncertain. If there were rules for this kind of thing, she didn’t understand them. She’d never been out on a true date. In some respects she was as inexperienced as an Amish girl.
They locked the door behind them as they left using the analog metal key, and she took a cursory look across the parking lot. No signs of pursuit, but there was always a chance. Kyra found the Marquis right away.
In contrast to the darkening sky, it gleamed pale blue like the sky at the highest altitudes, all delicacy. It cost a mint to fill the thing up these days, but she’d never considered selling it. Everything she loved had somehow become bound up in the metal.
“I grew up here,” he said, gazing out over the shared balcony that ran the length of the motel.
He’d requested a second-floor room because he didn’t trust people. At least here on the corner, they would hear someone coming up the stairs; there would be some warning before disaster struck. Rey had tried to insist that they should share a room—that he didn’t like the feel of this place, but Kyra had stayed in enough fleabags to know this one was much like any other, no better, no worse.
“Here, as in Taos? Or here, as in New Mexico?”
“New Mexico,” he answered. “Not far from here, actually.”
“Did you stay in one place?”
A flicker of something passed across his dark, sharp face. “More or less.”
“That must have been....” She trailed off, not knowing what to call an experience that differed so vastly from her own.
Part of her wanted to say boring; another part thought comforting might apply. As a kid, she’d thought her life was one big adventure. Most days, she still thought so. Dismissing profundity, Kyra stepped away from the flimsy rusted railing and headed for the stairs. His tread followed immediately, giving her the ridiculous impression that he had her back—that she could rely on him.
“It was what it was,” he said, as they reached the car. The look she’d noticed upstairs had winnowed down to something fierce and quiet and sad, like a titanium needle lodged deep.
Before she could rethink the impulse, she went to the passenger side and tossed him the keys. She told herself the offer didn’t serve to cheer him up or ameliorate emotional baggage she wasn’t equipped to deal with. Rey caught the jingle of metal, blessed with her genuine lucky rabbit’s foot, looking astonished.
She muttered, “It just makes sense. You know where we’re going and all.”
“You’re letting me drive?” As if he needed to hear it. “Your Marquis?”
“Yeah,” she said softly. “Be gentle with her.”
“As much as I know how to be.” Rey laid his long fingers atop the roof, and she felt it on her skin. “Let’s go.”
You also write the Sirantha Jax books. Grimspace, the first one (pictured above, with the second book's cover shown here), is the first book I ever read several pages into before realizing it was in present tense. For me, the first person, present tense narration works extremely well. Please tell us what that series is about and, if you will, give us a hint about what's in store for Sirantha and her strong, tormented March.
It's about a selfish, thrill-seeking navigator who lives for her next jump. Her character arc is quite interesting, and she's grown a lot by book three. Jax narrates her story, and as far as she's concerned, it's not finished. So she dictates to me in present-tense. I also think from a technical aspect, it adds to the sense of danger and insecurity. The reader lacks the unconscious security of knowing she must've survived in order to tell her story. In Doubleblind, the third book, she's forced to become a diplomat, against her natural inclinations. I won't say more because it constitutes a spoiler.
I was heavily into Sirantha's world when I saw Blue Diablo, the first Corine Solomon book, in the store. Who is Corine, and what's her life like?
She's a human female, daughter of a witch, with a complicated personal life and the ability to read objects with a touch, a gift called psychometry. Her life is difficult to say the least. I do torture my characters before allowing them to be happy.
You do it so well, too! What's next for you?
Skin Game is my current release. It came out on November 3. My 2010 schedule is cracking:
HELL FIRE / April 6, 2010
SKIN TIGHT / June 1, 2010
KILLBOX / September 2010
And my YA, Razorland, might be out in December 2010. It could also be Jan 2011. The details are not firm yet.
For more about Ann and her books, check out her website.
Ann is giving away a copy of Skin Game or, if the winner wants something not quite so dark, a different book from her backlist.
So tell us - Who's your favorite tormented couple? Do you reach first for science fiction with a romantic twist, romantic urban fantasy, or romantic suspense? Have you ever tried writing in varied styles? Do you have a question for Ann?