Bestselling author Julie Kenner returns to the Lair to chat about her new series, the Blood Lily Chronicles, and just to generally catch up with us. Welcome back, Julie! Tell us about the Blood Lily Chronicles.
The series is about a young woman, Lily, who goes out to murder the man who’s raped and torment her little sister. But things don’t go as Lily planned, and she’s the one who ends up dead. Or not so dead. Because she’s given the chance to come back to the world with a purpose: to fight the demons that are trying to open the gates to hell. The series opens after she’s made the decision to come back, but she doesn’t remember that decision right away, and so she’s thrust immediately into the action—not to mention an unfamiliar body—and has to figure out what the heck has happened to her. Now she’s faced with learning to be an assassin while also learning to fit into the life of Alice, a pub waitress…and all the while she has to figure out who her allies are, who her enemies (and Alice’s) are, and how she’s going to survive in this strange new life.
What inspired this new series?
I actually can't answer that without spoilers, because something key in the first book (Tainted) was the kernel of my original idea. (Don't give it away folks! I've been thrilled so far that reviews are keeping tight-lipped!). But what I can say is that even before Lily or her circumstances were conceived, I wanted to write a story about an assassin. Not even necessarily a paranormal story, but that idea buzzed around in my brain. It was a very amorphous, fluid, long-term process, but eventually, it all jelled and Lily was born.
I had heard you were writing these under a different name, but I see your “regular” one is on the cover. Can you share the factors in that decision with us?
Yes, the Blood Lily series is with Penguin Putnam, which publishes Kate, and I’m “Julie Kenner” over there. I have a new series with Random House (I believe it will be published under the Dell imprint) called The Shadow Keepers (the first 3 books are WHEN BLOOD CALLS, WHEN WICKED CRAVES, WHEN PLEASURE RULES, and they’ll be published back to back). For that series, I’m J.K. Beck (combo of my maiden name and Julie Kenner, or my critique partners’ nickname for me, which is “JK”). As for the decision, partly it’s the tone of the books in that I’m going back to romance, but it’s a much darker romance than my earlier Julie Kenner single title romances (which were last published several years ago and are very light). These are dark paranormal romantic suspense books and because of the tone, we wanted a new name. They are similar to the Tainted voice, but the books for Penguin are urban fantasy, not romance, and so the new name made a lot of sense.
How cool! Will you give us a look inside Tainted?
Sure! I've edited this slightly to stay PG-13.
He looked me up and down. “Are you okay?”
There was such concern in his voice that I had to remind myself that only hours before, this man had tossed another person across a room as if he were nothing more than a sack of laundry.
“I’ll be fine.” Possibly not the truth, but it was the best I could do. His eyes raked over me, his assessment like a physical touch.
I forced myself to remain steady, my legs suddenly not working properly. “Okay, then.” I nodded toward the pub’s back door. “I should get back inside.”
He moved closer, his hands closing around my upper arms, one hand warm and the other strangely cold. I took a step backward in a futile attempt to keep some distance between us, but he mirrored my movement. He was too close, and I was finding it harder and harder to think. As if he were radio interference keeping me from tuning in to my very own head.
“You haven’t told me why you were here,” I said, as much for something to say as because I was genuinely curious. His presence was a lucky break for me, but most men didn’t hang out in dark alleys waiting for damsels in distress.
“You’re the reason. I don’t handle being stood up well. I wanted to get to the bottom of it.”
“Oh.” I figured that was my cue to skedaddle. I took a sideways step toward the door. “Now’s not the time. I need to get back in before Egan—”
He stepped into my path, effectively blocking me.
“Hold up a second.”
“No, I really—” I looked him firmly in the eyes, then pressed my hand against his chest to push him away.
And that’s when it happened.
The world around me melted away, starting with his eyes. They shifted, turning from brown to black to a boiling red.
I tried to gasp—to scream—but it was like I wasn’t there anymore. I was watching, but I wasn’t controlling.
And what I saw scared the shit out of me.
A kaleidoscope of images. Dark. Dangerous. Heat and lust and power and fear.
I heard myself gasp, but the sound was muffled by the distance between my body and my reality. Instead, the beat of my pulse filled my ears, the dull, rhythmic rush of blood through vessels, of life humming along with each beat of my heart.
Hot and demanding, pulsing and throbbing.
Red silk, crushed velvet. A sensual feast full of terrifying pleasures.
I tried to pull out of this vision, this dream, this whatever-it-was that had grabbed hold of me, but it wasn’t letting go. He wasn’t letting go. He was holding tight, pulling me close, his pulse matching mine, the beat hypnotic and deep, drawing me in, threatening to drown me, to pull me under.
Hot fingers. Bare flesh.
And desire as sharp as a blade.
Somehow, I’d gotten lost inside his mind. A vision I didn’t want but couldn’t stop. We were wrapped up in horrific images and sensual pleasures, and my instinct to run was countered by a desperate desire to stay.
Behind this strange curtain, my nipples peaked and the inside of my thighs ached. I moved closer, squirming against him, desperate to find satisfaction. But whether this was real or only in my mind, I didn’t know. Right then, I didn’t care. Right then, I knew nothing more than the touch of his hand and the desperate thrum of desire.
His fingers roamed my back, his body pressed so close to mine I could feel his heartbeat along with the steady tickle of his breath against my hair. Caution abandoned me as quickly as modesty had, and all I wanted was his touch, the feel of his skin against mine.
As if answering my prayers, his lips danced across my skin, finding my mouth, then claiming me in a wild, violent taking that left my body shuddering and my mouth begging for more.
He moved to break the kiss, but I pulled him back, frustrated when he resisted, as if he knew that some change was coming.
And then it was there—a flash—and suddenly my mind’s eye turned gray, painting us in black and white, all lights and darks, highlights and shadows. The shadows sucked us in, and with another flash, my mind was seeped in gold.
I could see only his eyes. Warm and soft, without any hint of the rage I knew lurked beneath the surface. Only desire and need and longing so intense it pulled me—compelled me—until I wanted nothing more but to melt into him, to merge into one.
It didn’t last.
Those eyes, they changed in a flash. Snapping to a dangerous black, like a shark’s eyes. The change so fast, so sharp, I flinched, as if I’d been chastised for trusting too easily despite the man I’d seen earlier in the bar—the man inside Deacon who terrified me.
I tried to pull back, but I was too far gone. The lens of my mind turned red, but those eyes stayed black. A deep, yawing black that sucked me in, consumed me.
I recoiled from the abyss I saw before me. There was evil here.
I wanted to look away—I didn’t want to see. But I couldn’t help it.
And what I saw broke my heart.
Pain and loss and fear. It pummeled through me.
His pain. His loss. His fear.
All held out in front, like a talisman to hold at bay a flood of dark rage, bloodred anger, and a vile malevolence the depth of which could burn a hole in a man’s soul.
I struggled then, trying to pull away. Trying to get my head out of this dark place.
But I couldn’t break free. His hold on me was too strong.
You’re mine, his voice seemed to whisper in my head, the words so intense I would almost swear they were real. I looked down, my eyes finding a dozen white flowers, rivulets of blood running down the petals like rivers.
I gasped, dread shooting through me as the not-so-subtle symbolism broke the spell.
The images evaporated like so much mist, and I jerked suddenly, as if awakening from a trance.
Mortified, I jumped back, my blood still pounding with desire and fear.
And when I looked up, I saw none of my confusion on his face. Instead, all I saw was anger.
“Goddammit, Alice,” he growled, snatching my upper arm with a motion too quick to dodge. “You swore if I helped you that you’d stay the fuck out of my head."
What’s going on with your demon-hunting soccer mom, Kate Connor, these days?
Kate’s latest adventure came out last month, DEMON EX MACHINA, and there will be a Kate and Allie short story in an upcoming anthology (check my website in a few months for details!). I’m plotting out some short content for Kate to go up in 2010, too. And there are a few Kate irons in the Hollywood fires at the moment, but I’m knocking wood and keeping tight-lipped with crossed-fingers!
You attended your first DragonCon this year. What were your impressions of that event?
I loved it! I thought the energy and the excitement were amazing, and I’m really hoping to go back in 2010!
I hope you can. Trish and I love it and are trying to get some of the other banditas there, too. What’s next for you?
Writing, writing, writing! In addition to the Blood Lily books in November, December and January, I have a Christmas and a New Year’s Blaze (STARSTRUCK and MOONSTRUCK respectively) and an April Fools Blaze Encounter written with Kathleen O’Reilly. I’m currently finishing up the books in The Shadow Keepers series, along with the Kate Connor short story. After that, lots of potential, but nothing firmed up, so check my website to see what’s coming down the road!
Thanks so much for having me!
Julie's giving away a copy of Tainted to one commenter today. Do you have a question about Julie's books? What do you like in to see authors do when they build paranormal worlds? Who's your favorite fictional battler against the forces of darkness?