Thursday, January 23, 2014
Interview of Author Elizabeth Schechter
Latest Book: Tales from the Arena: Opening Gambit (Tales from the Arena, Book 1)
Elizabeth Schechter is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Central Florida with her husband and son. Her first novel, Princes of Air, was published in 2011 by Circlet Press, and her second, a steampunk novel entitled House of the Sable Locks, was released in June, 2013. Her most recent work, the Tales from the Arena duology, was published in November, 2013.
Elizabeth can be found online at http://easchechter.wordpress.com/
Q: How did you celebrate publishing your first book?
A: By dancing around the room and squeeing at the top of my lungs. And then some friends took me out for a combined happy birthday/happy first book dinner.
Q: Your novel is being made into a TV series/movie. Who’s in your dream cast?
A: I had one person in mind for Virin, in Tales from the Arena: Playing for Keeps (the second book in the Tales from the Arena series. Virin is Rupert Graves, who is I think best known for playing Lestrade in Sherlock.
Looking at Tales from the Arena: Opening Gambit, I think Gavir would be Tom Hiddleston, but he'd have to let his hair grow out. I didn't really have an actress in mind for Iras, and I still don't. I can't think of someone who has that level of power combined with the vulnerability. Although... maybe Keira Knightly?
Q: What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
A: I have my writing time slated out on my schedule. I write at least four hours a day, and I try to hit at least 750 words a day. Sometimes, though, it isn't so much writing time as research time. I do a lot of research for my books, because I want the details to ring true.
Q: How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
A: Depends on the character. I think there's a small aspect of me in every character that I write. There's more in the smart-alecks, I think, but there is enough of me that people who know me can hear me when they read my work.
Q: Of all your characters, who’s your favorite, and why?
A: That's like asking a mother to choose between her children. Although there is one that I initially wrote as a spear-carrier, and who became so much more. That was Oscar, in Princes of Air. He turned into a character that I like a lot, and I wish there was more I could tell of his story. He's the only one of the brothers who rated a stand-alone story.
Q: Do you eat comfort food/listen to music when writing?
A: Music while writing is a necessity, but what I listen to changes depending on what I'm writing. There was a lot of techno and trance music for Tales from the Arena.
And for comfort food? More like comfort drinks. I like hot tea or hot chocolate if I'm writing at night. Coffee during the day.
Q: What genre would you like to try writing that you haven’t yet tried?
A: I've been toying with the idea of a romantic suspense, but I haven't had the idea to go with the genre yet.
Q: Any part of a book that drives you crazy as you write: beginning, middle, or end?
A: The sex scenes, but only because they slow me down. I have to take my time with writing the sex scenes because I hate reading a sex scene where the reactions aren't right. Which means I have to make sure that this leads into that leads into the other thing. There's probably more work in my sex scenes than in any other part of the book!
Q: How many stories are swirling around in your head? Do you keep a mental list, a computer file, or a spiral notebook filled with the ideas?
A: I've told people that I have a cast of thousands in my head, and that I am never not working. I have a notebook in my purse, and one in my car. I used to have one in the diaper bag. On my computer, there are folders with ideas and snippets and outlines. And those are just the ones that I thought had legs! I can't even tell you how many I never bothered to write down!
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: I love Halloween. Our neighborhood has a lot of creative kids who make their own costumes, and I love going out and seeing what they've done this year(on the years that it's my turn to do the rounds with my son -- my husband and I trade off.)
Q: What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
A: I am an ordained minister, and I am surprisingly boring at home. If I'm not writing, I'm knitting or cooking.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a writer. I win!
Q: Favorite food.
A: Chocolate. Dark chocolate, preferably.
Q: Favorite happy memory.
A: Just one? I snuggled my three-week old nephew just before writing this. How's that?
Q: Favorite drink.
A: Coffee. I love good coffee.
Q: Hot summer days or chilly winter nights?
A: Crisp fall days, with the leaves changing. We don't get many of those in Florida, though.
Q: What is the top thing on your bucket list?
A: The top thing? Europe. I'd love to take a month or two and just go to Europe and travel and research.
Q: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
A: To write faster!
Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all!
The Ishkarin were created to be the perfect soldiers. The perfect predators. The perfect sadists. But what happens to the perfect soldiers when the war they were created to fight is over? In the Arena, the Ishkarin find an outlet for their natural instincts. Populated by the Collared, the sexual submissives who live to kneel before the predators, the Arena guarantees that the Ishkarin will not prey on the people they have sworn to protect.
On the eve of his appointment as second-in-command to the Ishkarin forces, Gavir is gifted with a night with Iras, the so-called Queen of the Arena. One wild night of passion and pain later, Gavir is enthralled by the woman who wears the red Collar. But when his fascination reveals a secret long buried, how far will Gavir go to protect the woman who has captured his heart?
"What are we supposed to do with them?"
The question echoed in the cavernous university lecture hall that had been acting as the ersatz Council chamber ever since the bombing of Amali City, the capitol of Tyese. No one answered. Andradae looked around at her fellow Council members and sighed, fighting the urge to rub her temples against her growing headache. When she'd volunteered for the Council, she'd never expected to become Senior Councilor. Damn the Aakari, and the bombs that had killed most of the Ruling Council in Amali. Ten years, and still no end in sight--
"Pardon, Councilor, but did you mean the researchers? Or the... soldiers?" someone asked. Andradae didn't recognize the voice. One of the newer Council members, she assumed.
"Both," Andradae answered. "They're heroes, the lot of them. They've saved countless lives, not to mention the entire Tyesean nation. They won the war. More importantly, they ended the war! And... they're illegal. So, the question remains: what do we do with them?"
As if someone had been waiting for their cue, the doors at the rear of the hall swung open, and into the chamber marched a dozen black-clad men and women, accompanied by two men wearing the white and red coveralls of the medical research college.
Andradae rose. "What is the meaning of this?" she demanded.
One man in black stepped forward and bowed. "I ask the Council's indulgence. My brothers- and sisters-in-arms have asked me to speak for them. I am Quaran, Ran-ti-ar of the Ishkarin."
"Ish--" Andradae blinked. "That's Old Tyesean."
Quaran almost hid his smile. "Yes, Senior Councilor. I am -- I was -- a linguistics scholar, before I volunteered." He looked around, and Andradae was struck by his calm demeanor, and the intelligence in his dark eyes. He was older than she originally thought -- this close, she could see the silver at his temples, and the wrinkles around his eyes.
"I see," Andradae said slowly. "And it means?"
The smile was definitely visible now. "It means Black Sword, Councilor."
"Thank you," Andradae said with a smile. "You've come to speak to the Council. The Council is listening."
Quaran bowed again and clasped his hands behind his back. "Thank you. Councilors. I am Ran-ti-ar. That is, I am the acknowledged leader of the Ishkarin. And I come to you to with a request, and with a proposal."
"Why do you think you have the right to come to us and ask anything?"
Andradae gasped at the hateful tone of Under-Secretary Durrant's voice, but Quaran merely looked amused by the question. "I am Quaran. I am a son of Tyese, a son of this very city, as are you, I think, Councilor Durrant?" He didn't wait for an answer, looking at the rest of the Councilors. "I am as you are, save in only one area. You did not ask to be born. I did. We all did, my brethren and I. We volunteered for our new lives. We gave up our families, our careers, our castes, so that we could become something more, and serve Tyese."
"You did," Andradae said. "You did, and we are all grateful. But your purpose is now served."
"And that is why we've come. Our purpose is served," Quaran agreed. "The war is over. But we face the aftermath now, and the question of what is to be done with the Ishkarin must be answered."
Andradae nodded. "And... I presume you have an answer?"
"One possible answer, yes, Councilor," Quaran said. "On behalf of my Ishkarin, I hereby volunteer our services to the Council, and to Tyese, in perpetuity."
"Your services?" Durrant asked. "What need does the Council have for a troop of manufactured killing machines?"
"Durrant!" Andradae snapped. "That was uncalled for!"
"We've been called worse," Quaran said drily. "And, to answer the question? There have been no riots since the ceasefire was called. No looting. No disorder. Not here, nor in Aakar." He fell silent, and smiled.
"Malena?" Andradae asked without turning. "Is that true?"
"It is, Senior Councilor. And frankly, we've been wondering why. It's... not the norm," Malena answered, and Andradae heard soft beeping coming from Malena's datapad. "Every time we've had a break in the fighting before, the damage from... call it friendly fire, was worse than what we'd had from across the Melnamore."
Andradae nodded. "Thank you, Malena. Quaran, this was your doing?"
Quaran bowed slightly. "It was, Senior Councilor. There is no point in winning a war if there is nothing to come home to. This is our proposal. That the Ishkarin become the military arm of the Council. We will maintain the law, maintain the peace, both in Tyese and in Aakar." He fell silent, and the Council members all looked at each other, their confusion plain.
Finally, Andradae cleared her throat. "Let me see if I understand you plainly," she said slowly. "You are volunteering to become... peacekeepers?"
"Yes, Senior Councilor," Quaran answered. "We feel that there would be a need, and it is the logical role for us to take. We are made for conflict, and it will be quite a few years before the people of either nation come to terms with being at peace. There will be enough for the Council to worry about without having to think of keeping order. The armies of both nations are tired, and rightfully so. To ask them to take on the role would be cruel. Let them go home."
"But, to maintain that kind of presence here and in Aakar..." Malena frowned as her voice trailed off. "Quaran, how many are you?"
"Our main force is made up of four hundred and thirty-five men and women, Councilor. We had some losses," Quaran answered.
"How many losses?" Andradae asked.
"Fifteen, in the final push to the Imperial compound, Councilor."
Andradae nodded, then actually heard what Quaran had said. "Your main force," she repeated. "That number... that isn't the total number of Black Swords, is it?"
Quaran smiled broadly, and his unassuming features were suddenly strikingly handsome. "I see why you are the Senior Councilor. No, Councilor, that is not our total number. We have twice that in training, men and women who are too young to serve at this time. And we have children--"
"You can breed?"
Quaran ignored the outburst from the Health Minister, a man who had nearly had apoplexy when he'd discovered what his own researchers had been doing under his nose. "-- who may or may not have inherited the enhanced abilities. Time will tell."
"I see," Andradae murmured.
"Senior Councilor, may I?"
"Of course, Malena." Andradae took her seat, suddenly feeling as if she'd been standing for years. Malena rose and smiled at the Ishkarin.
"Quaran Ran-ti-ar, you said a proposal and a request. We've heard the proposal. What was the request?"
Quaran looked oddly embarrassed. He shifted slightly, from one foot to the other. It was a small movement, one barely visible, but in someone who had been standing at attention, it was startling.
"We... are hunters. Predators," Quaran answered, obviously searching for the right words. "It is what we were made to be. And... it is what we are. Our purpose was to end the war. Now, we have no purpose. It is my hope that acting a peacekeepers will fulfill some part of our... instinct. But I am afraid that it will not be enough."
"Speak clearly, Quaran," Andradae said. "What is it that you need?"
"Prey, Councilor," Quaran said, his voice flat. "We must have something on whom we can prey. We've tried mock drills, and they are not enough."
"If I may?" One of the researchers stepped forward, a tall, bony man with unwashed brown hair. "I am Brinnock. I was Researcher Mathias' assistant in his work of creating the Swords."
"Oh, good. Then you can tell us where we can find Mathias," Health Minister Lurton said.
"He's dead, Councilor," Brinnock answered. "He died in a bombing raid, last year. The one that destroyed the northern research facilities. We've continued his work, but... we none of us have his touch. And, from his notes, I can tell you that the modifications of the Black Swords was never meant to be permanent. But without Mathias, we've no hope of reversing what was done."
"And the traits breed true?" Lurton asked.
"In sixty percent of recorded cases, yes, but--"
"Wait," Lorton said, holding up one hand. "If you can cite a reliable statistical sample of how many children have inherited these abilities, this project has been going on longer than any of us thought."
Quaran nodded. "That is true, Councilor. I volunteered for the program when I was eighteen. I am now forty-one."
"Over twenty years," Andradae murmured. "Well, then, Brinnock. What can you tell us?"
"We chose the candidates for the initial test subjects based on several factors. Intelligence was one factor. Aggression was another, as was a certain... ruthlessness, I suppose you would call it. What we ended up with were soldiers who would stop at nothing to defeat their enemy. What we didn't expect was that those traits, when enhanced, would also lead to a certain..." he paused, then looked at Quaran.
"We enjoy what we do, Councilors," Quaran finished. "The hunt, and the aftermath. It is... as a drug to us. We call it the bloodlust. The only problem is that if we do not regularly experience that... release, we descend into.." he paused, frowned, then nodded. "Uncontrollable rage. Which is probably about as similar to what you would call rage as saying that your glass of water there is the Melnamore. We must have prey."
"You want us to supply you with victims?" Durrant asked, his voice spiraling up in disbelief. "Have you all gone mad?"
"Not unwilling victims!" Brinnock answered quickly. "It is... there is something that Mathias discovered, as he tested for candidates for the program. That there were some who were... well, mirrors. Exactly the opposite of what he wanted. People with incredible empathy, with a need to serve, and an odd affinity for... ah... call it adversity."
"Adversity?" Ancrade repeated, and watched as the researcher turned red to his ears.
"They... ah... they seem to... to find... stimulation in... suffering," he finally stammered. "Mathias thought that these people could be trained as... as healers of sorts. The natural complement to the Swords, if you will. These would be people who could serve in the aftermath of the war, both as the logical targets of the Ishkarin's aggression and as counselors to the men and women who had spent so many years of being on the front lines of the war. He anticipated some... aftereffects among the Swords, you see, that would need more than a physical outlet. He developed a program to test for those qualities, to train them to his purpose. And he died before we could implement that second stage of his work."
"So, what you are proposing is that we approve this... program?" Andradae asked. "Is that your request?"
"It is, Councilor," Quaran answered.
"And... that is also the reason that you want to become peace-keepers?" Andradae continued, the whole suddenly clear. "Because if the entire nation is under your protection--"
"Then perhaps I can keep my Swords from preying on the people they serve," Quaran finished, nodding. "A case, perhaps, of using wolves to guard the kine."
"Wolves who still need to hunt. I see," Andradae said, rubbing the bridge of her nose with one finger. "Thank you, Quaran. The Council will consider your request and your proposal. If I may ask, how long before your wolves need to hunt again?"
Quaran bared his teeth and Andradae blinked, startled to see the human wolf standing before her. "Soon, Councilor. There are Aakari rebels in the mountains, and I will take my troops there while we wait for your decision. If you decide against, then we will remain in the mountains. For as long as I can keep them there." He bowed. "Thank you, Councilors, for your time."