Friday, November 6, 2009

A Tainted Avenger?

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?


limecello said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
limecello said...

Hi Julie! Thanks for visiting with us today! Great excerpt and ... wow O_o the premise of your new series.
How'd you... come up with that? Did something spark that idea?

I love when authors make the world realistic- and complete. The devil's in the details, but also the danger of becoming pedantic. It's a fine line, but many authors do it so well.

As for my favorite character that battles darkness... haha- is it bad Buffy comes to mind first? O_o I wasn't even that in love with the show -but can't help thinking of her. Iconic, really.

Anna Campbell said...

Lime, the chook comes back?

Julie, great to see you back in the lair! You're always such a great guest. I'm just swinging by quickly. I've got guests for the weekend and I'm just doing a final tidy of the house. Wish the place would stay like this. That's one of the things I find utterly frustrating about housework - you do it and then you just have to do it again!

New book sounds fantastic. Congratulations! Nancy, you do bring us great guests!

Julie Kenner said...

Hey limecello! Thanks so much! As for how I came up with the story, I came up with the story, I actually can't answer that without spoilers, because something key in the first book (Tainted) was the kernel of my original idea. I can say 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, and at some point it jelled.

Julie Kenner said...

Thanks Anna! And YES! That is totally my problem with housework. Seriously, I need a house elf....

Minna said...

My favorite character that battles darkness? Angel!

ANGEL - Die Another Day

Miljoonasade: Marraskuu (November)

Llehn said...

Hello Julie,

The premise of Tainted sounds absolutely amazing! I've read California Demon and enjoyed it very much. I look forward to reading more of you works.

Barbara Monajem said...

Whoa! That was intense. It's the wee hours and I should be asleep. Now your excerpt has got me wide awake!!
(And that was the PG version.) Looking forward to reading the rest of the story...

Caren Crane said...

Wow, Julie. This book sounds so dark and sensual and wonderful. I know my teenagers are WAY into the Twilight books. These sound far more sexy than those, but they are always on the troll for more vampires. Is your book at all high school appropriate?

Beth said...

Welcome back to the lair, Julie! Thank you for sharing that fabulous excerpt - I can't wait to read this book!

What advice do you have for authors writing series? Any tips and/or tricks for staying organized?

Thanks for being with us today :-)

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Julie! Thanks for coming by the lair today! I love the Blood Lily concept--your excerpt was hot!

In terms of what I like to see in a paranormal world, one word: accessibility. I know some people put a lot of work into creating a world that's breathtaking & fresh & absolutely unique, and I can appreciate that but what I really need from a book is emotional connection with the characters. And if I'm concentrating on figuring out the rules of this world they live in, I'm not connecting enough.

So I like it when there's enough detail and "ooooh, neato!" stuff to entertain me, yet a familiar enough landscape that I don't have to spent too much time & emotional energy figuring it out. I love JD Robb for this. She's got the neat futuristic gizmos but love always works pretty much the same. :-)

Stacy McKitrick said...

I think my TBR pile is getting bigger. I keep finding these neat blogs that feature writers I've never heard of and now want to read. Thanks for introducing me to another. I love to read.

Julie Kenner said...

Llehn & Barbara, thanks!

Caren, good question. The series has strong language and violence, lots of sexual tension, and some sex on the page. Without being a good judge of what is teen appropriate these days (my kids are 8 and 6), I'd say its okay for older high schoolers, but not for the younger ones.

Beth, I'm actually giving a talk on that at my local RWA chapter next week, and once I organize my notes, I'll post them to my blog (probably later this month). My overview, though, is to find a tool that works for you. I'm not a big notebooker, but that is some writers' lifeline. I like using the computer, so I've become a huge fan of SuperNoteCard, and lately of Evernote (it's a program; check it out) into which I send every bit of information I can think of about characters and plots.

Susan, JD Robb rocks!

Julie Kenner said...

I'm off to give a talk at the University this morning, so I'll pop back in after lunch!

Nancy said...

Limecello, I also like the world to be realistic and detailed, with consistent rules, but not big hunks of information.

Nancy said...

Limecello, congrats on the rooster. :-)

Nancy said...

Hi, Anna--you're going to have a great weekend! Glad you could stop by.

Nancy said...

Hi, Julie--I am so looking forward to this book. And now I'll be looking for that kernel spoiler.

Nancy said...

Minna, a friend of mine is a huge Angel fan!

Nancy said...

LLehn, I love the Kate Connor books, though I'm a little nervous about this new one and what will happen with Kate's heart.

Nancy said...

Hi, Barbara--I read the full version before editing, and I think you'd like it. :-)

Nancy said...

Hi, Caren--this does look yummy-dark, doesn't it?

Nancy said...

Beth, I'm interested in the series tips, too. :-)

Nancy said...

Susan, that's a great point about accessibility, especially in a series. I've read ones I found very difficult to pick up after the first, which isn't always easy to find.

Nancy said...

Hi, Stacy--You have lots of company around here with the big TBR pile! Glad you stopped by.

Nancy said...

I'm at the beach this weekend with college friends, but I'll be checking back!

Donna MacMeans said...

Julie - Welcome to the lair! The excerpt was really intriguing. I'm going to have to read Tainted if only to find that kernel of inspiration (smile). I'll be reading that thinking - is this it?

I agree with Susan. I like a paranormal story that lets me know the rules early on. I don't want to wonder how the hero/heroine is going to get out of some impossible jam only to learn the paranormal universe allows some new unanticipated twist that wasn't mentioned earlier.

I hope you take that RWA chapter course to RWA National as I'd like the answers as well.

Thanks for the software tip.

Nancy said...

Donna, I also think that would be a great workshop program. I'm going to check out those programs.

MsHellion said...

I love urban fantasy and paranormal romance books!! (And incidentally I love the lighter soccer mom books too...hilarious.)

What I love best is the "ordinary stuff" authors put into the paranormal world that tells you this is EXTRAORDINARY but seems so commonplace in the books. I loved how J.K. Rowling would do it in the HP novels. Pumpkin juice and botuber plants and mandrakes and invisibility cloaks.

I love Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter world; and I love how she makes the greek gods commonplace--and their little dramas "real"...

Basically I love how you can tell a lie but tell it so believably that even you believe it. *LOL*

Also I'm a sucker for urban fantasy because a lot of them are first person and I love first person...and the book titles are awesome.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Julie, welcome to the Lair. Your books sound very intriguing. I'll be sure to put them on my TBR list.

How difficult (or not) do you find it to write different types of stories for different houses?

Louisa Cornell said...

Hello, Julie. I've heard good things about the Kate series and this new one sounds right up my alley. Love a paranormal with this much angst, lust and blood in it!

Wow, you are prolific! What is the hardest thing about writing so many different series in so many varied genres / sub genres?

I think the chook belongs to Lime now and she just pimps him out to everyone else!

Louisa Cornell said...

The most important thing an author can do when their story exists in its own world is to create that world with as much detail and in as believable a fashion as possible. And if it has one really great unique twist to set it apart from other world-built stories that makes it even better!

Lady_Graeye said...

Tainted sounds awesome! Count me in!

Nancy said...

Hi, Ms. Hellion--sounds as if you like stories set in a world that's almost ours, just a little different. I'm been reading a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal,too.

Patricia Rice said...

I'm a sucker for worldbuilding, but I need the characters to be totally woven into that world. You can paint the landscape with monsters, but if those monsters aren't interacting on some world logic basis with the protagonists, I giggle and move on.

Hi, Julie! Great excerpt.

Nancy said...

Hi, Jo--glad you could stop by! Your question made me realize we've had a number of guests lately working in multiple categories for various houses.

Nancy said...

Louisa, I also like stories that have little details showing the world is different, bits that just drop in casually as the story moves along.

Nancy said...

Hi, Pat--You integrate your characters and your magically into a unit that works very well. I suspec that's one thing people like about the Mystic Isle series.

Nancy said...

I know everyone's heart will bleed for me as I sit here with an iffy internet connection (currently working well) and look out at the sunlight rippling over the blue Atlantic and the pelicans diving beyond the breakers, but I do have to ask for your forbearance. The connection come and goes. I'll be here as much as I can.

donnas said...

Hi Julie, Thanks for sharing. I love your Kate series and the older books. So Im excited to read about the 2 new series and the newest Kate book. All of which I cant wait to check out.


Nancy said...

Hi, Lady Graeye--Glad you stopped in.

Nancy said...

Hi, Donnas--I love Kate, too!

JB said...

I'm back! (Well, at the babysitter's getting the kids!).

Nancy and Donna, you'll know it when you see it!

As for the talk on series bibles and stuff, good idea! I didn't submit it for this year. Maybe next one.

Ms. Hellion, I'm exactly the same way re the "ordinary stuff"!

Julie Kenner said...

Hi Jo! Story-wise, not so hard. But juggling time and deadlines can be a real challenge.

Louisa, your question ties in to Jo's, and I think the hardest thing really is the time to do it all. I have so many ideas--and I want to pursue them all--and that's just not possible. Also, before you pitch a series, it's hard to decide what to focus on--what to develop and try to sell, because all the ideas mooshing (yes, that's a word!) around in my head sound so appealing to me.

Thanks Lady Graeye

Hi Pat! I totally agree with you, and thanks!

Nancy .... I'm so jealous!! We're actually going to the Texas coast for Christmas, and I can't wait. I love the beach, and even a winter beach has appeal.

Donnas, thanks so much! I hope you enjoy the new series....

Sorry about the earlier "JB"--I was logged in on my laptop under a different Google account!

catslady said...

Paranormals are new for me but I've enjoyed the last few that I've read and your books does sound fascinating.

Helen said...

Limecello he loves staying at your place have fun with him

One of the reasons that I love reading paranormals is the world building learning about a new world is always great and they draw me in.

Congrats on the new release Julie I have added the books to my must have list. Nancy and Julie another great interview.

Have Fun

Nancy said...

Hi, Julie--Glad you made it back. I don't see where you find the time to do everything you already do!

Nancy said...

Hi, Catslady--Thanks for stopping by!

Nancy said...

Helen, glad you enjoyed the interview and that you could make it by today. :-)

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Julie,

I am totally not into worlds such
as yours, at least I haven't been!
Where would one begin if one opted
to dip one's toes into new worlds?

Pat Cochran

Gannon Carr said...

Hi, Julie! I'm loving the sound of your series!

When an author world builds, I like it when they make it believable and sprinkled with enough to keep me happy, but not so much to bog the story down.

J.D. Robb gets that just right. And of course, she has Roarke. *vbg*

Julie Kenner said...

Thanks, Helen!

Nancy, you're right, I need a 36 hour day!

Pat, I would start with CARPE DEMON. It's very much our world ... with demons thrown in :)

Thanks Gannon...and yum re Roarke!

Nancy said...

Hi, Pat--thanks for stopping by!

Nancy said...

Hi, Gannon--info dumps are a drag, aren't they? I don't much care what kind of info is being dumped; I want it worked in more smoothly.

Nancy said...

Hi, Julie--

The boy doesn't even play soccer, and I still relate to Kate Connor's world.

Lynz Pickles said...


I mean, hi, Julie! Congrats, lime! Sorry, the awesomeness of female assassins distracted me. I have no idea why I'm so in love with the idea of one of them being a heroine, but I am. And it's only female assassins. Male ones? Boring.

What powers does Lily have? She's obviously able to read people mind's or something like that - could you expand on that talent a bit, and does she have any others?

As for worldbuilding, I like to get information in dollops. A little here, a little there, and as naturally as possible. I like it when it's subtle; it just feels more real to me that way. Plus no one likes an info dump.

Julie Kenner said...

Lynz - Me too re assassins! I have an idea for a non-paranormal thriller with a female assassin. Doubt I'll ever write it, but I love the idea.

As for the powers question, I can't really answer. It's too tied into the storyline, if that makes sense, to do so without including spoilers! But, yeah, she's got 'em. The what and the how, though, are relevant :)

Nancy said...

Lynz, I like the idea of the female assassin, too!

Nancy said...

Julie, thanks for joining us today. I'm looking forward to this book!

ddurance said...

I like for the author to take me there, literally. I want to believe that what they say is true. That's why I read, to escape my everyday boring life.


Julie Kenner said...

Thanks so much for having me!