Welcome author Jay Shaw here today for some nosy questions on my part, and to find out more about her paranormal story, Wolfhaven, the first in the Duality series.
Hello, Jay! I’m delighted to have you here with us, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?
Hi McKenna, thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
I’m a mum of two teens who stays up early and wakes up late. I love snuggling down on a wet windy day and losing myself in a wonderful book. Other passions of mine include photography, sci-fi and action movies – hopefully with some romance mixed in, reading, steak with mushroom sauce, cheesecake, and hot military men in combat boots and thigh holsters.
I write sci-fi, paranormal, action, and contemporary, romances. I find a single genre boring to both read and write, so I tend to blend them together. Life’s a melting pot of awesomeness, both in the complexity and variety of people, and the endless possibilities out there. It’s why you’ll find both M/F and M/M pairings, set in wild and wondrous worlds you’ll want to escape to and explore, over and again.
I know exactly what you mean, Jay! I write some paranormal stories, but some urban fantasy and contemporary too. I like to mix it up. 🙂
I’ve never been too fond of labels, pigeonholes, or boxes, so I write stories I enjoy, and hope they find their way to other eager readers who will read and love them as much as I do. As for my characters, they will, through trials and tribulations, adventures and discoveries, ultimately find their one great love – a love that all of time and space will lie down and be still for.
What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?
I’m a Kiwi, from New Zealand, where I was born and raised; and where, for the foreseeable future, I intend to remain. I grew up in the suburbs of Auckland, breathing fresh air and sunshine, pretending I was Princess Leia with my arms out flying X-wings in the back yard, while four or five Luke’s and Han’s battled invisible Stormtroopers with stick-lightsabers.
There were roller skates, bicycles, rolling down the grassy slope in cardboard fridge boxes with my brother, the neighbours’ kids, and the dog, mudslides, bouncing on the trampoline with as many of our friends as could possibly fit, and not coming home until the streetlights flickered on. Yes, I grew up in the time before the internet, and cellphones came with a battery the size and weight of a brick, lol. Some might beg to disagree, but I think I turned out all right.
Today, I live in a small town fifteen minutes’ drive from the beach, where I juggle life as a mum, and semi-reclusive writer, who – on occasion – does lunch with her close-knit group of most-excellent friends.
Your childhood sounds amazing–I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, it looks amazingly beautiful! I’m more a mountain girl than a beach girl, but you make it sound tremendously appealing!
How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?
I’ve always loved the written word. Stories about handwritten letters lost to time and history, only to be discovered generations later, always fascinated me. My imagination was nurtured on a diet of Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, MacGyver, and supplemented with Danielle Steel novels, and Wilbur Smith adventures. But aside from a high school English assignment where we had to create a myth/legend to explain the existence of a natural landmark, I didn’t write as a child. My passion came later; when after my marriage ended and I was trying to work out what the next chapter in my life would involve. It took a few years and many false starts before I realized writing was my thing. With the encouragement of a new friend, I signed up for Nano, and wrote WOLFHAVEN’s first draft that November. Two months later, I’d published my first book. I had found my passion and my path.
That’s AMAZING. I tried NaNo once, and it nearly crippled me as a writer. I’m so impressed that not only did you complete the challenge, but you turned it into a published novel as well!
Have you written in other genres?
The short answer is, yes. I doubt I’ll ever be one of those authors who stick to one genre their entire career. There’s too much potential out there, too many stories in need of telling. The genre I feel the most at-home in is science fiction romance. I love the freedom it offers, the chance to create and explore new galaxies and the beings that inhabit them is too good to pass up, lol. There will be more paranormal, and sci-fi, romances to come in 2018. But for the moment I’m discovering a love for contemporary romance. My current work-in-progress is book two in a Movie Star Romance series.
Contemporary romances definitely have their appeal–sometimes a story can only be told in a contemporary fashion–but like you, I crave the excitement and storytelling potential that comes with paranormal and sci-fi settings!
How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?
Not usually. Characters introduce themselves to me fully-formed and it’s not until I’m writing them do I learn who they are beyond what I learned in our initial meeting. If I need a food, drink, music, transport, or likes/dislikes, that don’t immediately come to mind, then I’ll turn to my preferences and see if any of them fit the character or situation. Sometimes by sifting through those, I discover what doesn’t work and that can actually be more useful.
Editing: love it or hate it?
Love it. The hard work’s done. You have your draft, words on paper or screen that together weave a magical spell to entrance your readers. I love seeing the pattern of a story and being able to conjure it into the best version of itself I can. Nothing beats that sense of self-satisfaction and achievement when, at last, you see your vision come to life; and you breathe a full breath for the first time since your first pen-stroke or key-clack.
Yes, I love the editing part too–sometimes the hard part for me is to stop tweaking–I can always see room for improvement!
Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?
Hell yes! Everyone says don’t read them, reviews are for readers. But, what with still being a new author, I can’t help but get giddy over the fact that someone took time out of their day to read my book. Good reviews have a tendency to add pressure to meet readers expectations. Bad reviews cut me to the quick and give me stage fright. It’s best to offer up a thank you, and remember not everyone reader is going to love your creation. And keep writing stories as they’re meant to be told. A story will always find its reader.
Yes, it’s funny how one negative review can negate 50 glowing ones in your mind, isn’t it?
Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?
No, because their stories don’t end. I don’t type The End. I prefer to think my characters’ journeys continue on without us, and I hope it leaves the readers with the ability to imagine and wonder what the characters are up to next.
Sequels are funny things. When I’m writing what I think is a stand-alone, secondary characters will step up and demand their own books, or something will happen that earmarks itself as a potential plotline I hadn’t anticipated. It’s a wonderful feeling.
That’s an awesome way of looking at it!
Tell me about the world-building you chose for Wolfhaven. How does it differ from shifter stories? It looks complex and layered to me–what was your inspiration for the structure of the society you created?
I’m not a plotter. When I start a new story it’s usually begun life as a single character introducing themselves, or a question requiring a fifty-five thousand word answer. WOLFHAVEN started this way. I was scrolling through Pinterest when the name Asena caught my eye; its meaning was “Mother of Wolves”. I pinned it and as I scrolled some more another name appeared on my feed; Connell – “Strong Wolf”. I was onto something.
Within those first few precious moments of inspiration I knew, Asena was leader of a wolf pack and Connell was her grandson. I also knew Connell didn’t want the destiny expected of him. From then on the world of WOLFHAVEN expanded as I wrote. Each time I needed something – a conflict, a character with certain traits or desires, a location – it unfolded before me, clear as day. I knew the world in this story would represent two points of view, and everything would be in tandem with each other. Nothing in life is ever black-and-white, and I was keen to show that through both characters and the world they inhabited. It’s why the series is called Duality.
Everything is about balance; life and death, wolf and human, pack against pack, dictatorship versus leading by example, two brothers with opposing views which actually aren’t so dissimilar when you look closer, summer and winter, love and hate, organized religion versus being in tune with nature, differing sexualities and lifestyles. WOLFHAVEN has it all. This duality wasn’t something I set out to weave into the story, but rather a side effect of a story about coming of age and discovering how to make your destiny unite with who you’ve always known yourself to be.
I think WOLFHAVEN differs from other shifter stories mainly because wolf and human are an integral part of themselves and their lives. The connection is never questioned or doubted, and there is enough complexity and interesting potential for future stories. I’d like to believe it offers the reader a chance to think beyond the page, to imagine what living in the WOLFHAVEN world would be like; to be a wolf patrolling the borders, inhaling a million and one scents as the cooling wind ruffles their fur.
WOLFHAVEN Blurb: For three generations, an uneasy truce has existed between the shapeshifter packs of Wolfhaven and Silver Ridge. But Equinox is fast approaching; and all is about to change.
Connell, grandson of Wolfhaven’s chief, is hungry for adventure; and eager to explore the world beyond the boundaries of where he grew up. Is this a plan set for failure? Only Lupa, Goddess of Wolves, can know; for it is she who bends destiny to her will.
Thayer, heir apparent and Connell’s older brother, has found love with Lena – Mistress of the Moon – and daughter of Silver Ridge’s alpha. Yet, the course of true love never runs smooth. Lena is matched to another. A wolf of her father’s choosing.
Fierce and strong, Kellan is Arden’s second and will make the perfect mate. If only Lena wished it. Silver Ridge, a world of zealotry and submission, is no place for a freethinking female. Especially not one, whose lover whispers of a world beyond her father’s reach.
Will Connell’s dreams of freedom and adventure be thwarted, as Thayer and Kellan challenge for the right to claim Lena as their own? Or will Lena resolve to put the traditions of her pack and the demands of her father over those of her own heart?
Excerpt from WOLFHAVEN
Connell woke amid the confusion of his pack sprawled all around him. Some were in human form, their limbs tangled with those of their mates as they slept; no space between their bodies. Others had chosen to enjoy Equinox in wolf form. He had been alone when he left the clearing, unnoticed by any of his writhing packmates as they fucked with abandon under the full moon. Its ethereal glow highlighted the curve of a spine here, and the shadows where bodies arched in the rictus of pleasure there.
Connell couldn’t help the flash of Thay and Lena in his mind, the mating that had turned his life into something he didn’t recognize. Many had approached him, made brave by Equinox, to proposition their chief. He had gently refused them all and suggested alternative interested parties in his stead. Connell wanted more than a casual coupling.
The council lodge was deserted when Connell had curled into a ball of creamy white fur, tail tickling his nose, and fallen asleep. Now though, a slumbering tapestry of every shade of brown and red and cream imaginable was spread across the octagonal floor. They had found him after moonset and chosen to stay close, rather than return to their own cabins. Perhaps it was a safety thing, but the growing warmth in Connell’s chest said otherwise.
He stretched his senses outward, ears pricked to catch the smallest of sounds. All was still. As if on a wave Connell felt the room close in around him. His position, the expectations of his pack, his fear that he lacked what it took to meet said expectations, his anger at Thay – every emotion swirled thick and potent in Connell’s gut. He had to leave, flee, and run until he could run no more. Maybe then the answers and the insight would come, and he’d be the chief his pack needed. The chief they deserved. Connell was up on his feet, moving to the doorway lit with morning light on white snow; luring him forward with the clean crisp scent of freedom and solitude.
The snow was cold under his paws and against his belly as Connell bounded toward the track at the edge of Home Boundary. Patrol would be hard going, but the exertion was what his wolf craved. Too long confined by his human as Connell had taken his brother’s place at their grandmother’s side.
Connell stretched his wolf, pulled at the snow with his forelegs to gain speed and distance from Wolfhaven and his sleeping pack. He let his mind loose, gave it free rein, and took in the stark beauty of the wilderness he had always called home. Familiar scents came to him as he ran, reached out to welcome him on the still air; sharp bite of frozen water, a stag somewhere to the east, a flutter of feathers on a cedar perch as he passed beneath.
He heard Dex shadowing his tracks, watching his back even as he gave Connell space. It was a comfort Connell had not been aware he’d needed. He was grateful it was just the two of them out here in the undisturbed quiet. Dex had left Arabelle’s warmth to be out here with him.
Connell snorted, annoyed at himself for allowing his mind to go there. Dex deserved happiness and the comfort a mate would provide. But for some reason Connell couldn’t help resenting whoever his friend finally chose.
He snarled in annoyance and drove onward, muscles bunching and releasing. His breath a cloud of white around his muzzle, as he reached the giant cedar and turned into the climb; only to startle to a halt at the scent of blood flooding his snout.
That was terrific! Thanks so much for stopping by, Jay! I hope you’ll come again and share more of your stories with us!