While I’m here in Australia (in Cairns right now, actually, though only on a tourist basis), I thought it would be great to talk to an Aussie author. Happily, I got a chance to talk with Nicole Murphy, the author of SECRET ONES, about the lines between fantasy, urban fantasy and romance; hot guys named Lucas; and whether e-readers will kill us all —
CG: Tell us about the Asarlai trilogy and the world you’ve built for it — and specifically how we learn about that world in SECRET ONES.
NM: The world revolves around the gadda – they look like us, live amongst us but come from different ancestry then humans and as a result can access the energy of the world around them and use that power in ways we’d describe as magical (they HATE human terms like that). For a variety of reasons, the gadda keep themselves secret from humans, however this means that their abilities are also kept secret. One person – Asarlai – has decided this isn’t such a good idea – what’s the use of having all this power if you aren’t the ones WITH all the power. So Asarlai has set out to change all that, and it’s up to the six guardians of the gadda to stop her.
In SECRET ONES, we’re introduced to the world of the gadda and Asarlai’s plans through the romance of Maggie Shaunessy and Lucas Valeroso. Maggie’s a troublemaker – she’s not all that happy about being gadda and tries to avoid it as much as she can. Lucas used to be a bad boy, but he’s turned his life around and is now a well renowned scientist. What Lucas doesn’t know is that a secret race lives on Earth, and that he’s one of them. Now he has to find a way to bring it all together and win the girl, while she’s struggling with finding her destiny is much more gadda then she’d like.
The great thing about Lucas not knowing he’s gadda is that I get to introduce the readers to the world through him – the infodumping is actually part of the story.
CG: So, I see you, too, have a male lead named Lucas. Why is that name so darned sexy?
NM: I’ve been thinking about this – notice that most male heroes names are quite short – one to two syllables? And there’s generally a hard sound in the middle of it somewhere. For me, there’s a feeling in my mouth as I say a name that works for the image I’m trying to project. Lucas is a strong, sharp name that can also be drawled in a very sexy way – perfect
CG: I am all for sexy drawling of Lucas’ name. I want this on the record. Now, back to book talk: My personal experience with EVERNIGHT was that I knew from the start that I’d be writing a series — but not how long that series would be. Did you know the Asarlai books would be a trilogy from early on, or did you discover this as you worked?
NM: I knew they were three books almost from the start, but not that it would be an interlinked trilogy. Initially they were three romance novels and the world of the gadda was just a setting. They shared characters, followed each other chronologically but there was no shared storyline. It wasn’t until several years after the first drafts, when I went back to work on them, that a reader suggested an overarching storyline. It made it a more difficult task for me – covering a romance in each book plus the storyline of Asarlai – but I think it’s worked really well.
CG: Urban fantasy has been one of the most popular genres since it emerged about 15-20 years ago. Why do you think that is?
NM: I think there were a lot of women (like myself) who were reading fantasy but were getting heartily sick of not seeing strong female characters portrayed. So that’s what urban fantasy gives us – the fantasy escape that we love, but we’re also seeing women and we’re seeing them strong and sassy and sexy and everything that women can be in reality but weren’t being on the page. And there’s also men who aren’t afraid of seeing a strong women, so they joined the bandwagon too.
CG The Asarlai books are categorized as urban fantasy, and yet they don’t follow all the conventions of the genre. In what ways do your novels fit in with the best of urban fantasy, and in what ways did you want to strike out on your own path?
NM: I didn’t see it as urban fantasy at all – I came at it from the romance angle, not the fantasy angle. As the fantasy got overlaid, it strengthened and became the frame within which the romance took place. So I think that’s why I’m not following all the conventions eg first person, the noir feel. My novels are definitely at the lighter end of urban fantasy – I can’t really do dark – and I think they really mix in well with the desire (particularly with as dark as our world has been lately) to believe that there’s more than what we’re seeing in our every day lives. I think they also showcase great female characters – not the kick-arse vampire-hunting type (which are FABULOUS) but strong women within their personality, their life – I want to celebrate all the ways in which women can be strong.
I think the difference is that I’ve got a strong fantasy storyline that melds strongly with the romance which was my aim in writing the trilogy. You can’t separate the two, so it’s not just a paranormal romance, but it has the happy ever after that isn’t always necessary in urban fantasy. I also enjoy some of the political intrigue that I’ve got working there – I grew up in Australia’s capital city so thinking of politics is ingrained in me
CG: Will e-readers kill books or save us all — or something in-between?
NM: In-between. Reading habits will change – I’ve been reading electronically for a few months now and it doesn’t give a freedom books don’t have. I’m in New Zealand at the moment and was able to come with half a dozen books to read in something I hold in my palm – not possible normally. I think people will read more as it becomes easier to cart books around. I think paper books will become a specialised thing – it’s going to be a long time (if ever) before people give up books and bookshelves and the smell and the feel of books. You’ll have your favourite books in a physical form, and the rest on your e-reader. That’s my view at the moment. I’ll see what I’m thinking in a year or so
Thanks to Nicole for talking with me! More Aussie travel reports as the great trek continues –