If you haven’t yet been caught up in the Midwest Shapeshifter series, now’s the time to find this delightful urban paranormal fantasy thriller with a side dish of hot romance. Or is it a hot paranormal romance with a side dish of fantasy thriller? Either way, the work of Deb Elliott is highly entertaining, and well worth your time and money. I was lucky enough to interview her yesterday about her exciting new Shapeshifter series.
Genta: Thank you, Ms. Elliott, for this interview. I have so many questions about the complex characters you’ve created, both inside and out of law enforcement.
DE: Thanks so much for taking the time and interest in my series and the main character!
Genta: First of all, congratulations on DJ Jesseray, one of the more complete women detectives I’ve encountered lately. Can you explain DJ, give us an idea of where she came from and what she’s about?
DE: DJ’s as real a character as I can make her. She has highs and lows, triumphs, quirks and doubts. She’s a woman of the upper Midwest, raised with those values and in a loving family; humor and people are important to her.
Genta: Is she based on any people you’ve known? If so, what traits were most important? Will they recognize themselves in DJ?
DE: Yes, she’s the amalgamation of several people I know; she’s persistent, loyal, observative; inwardly emotional, yet outwardly logical; self-aware, and stubborn. None of us have that quality! J
Genta: DJ, in both animal and human form, is a highly sexual character. Those are some pretty hot sex scenes you’ve written. Is there more hot sex coming up in your next book?
DE: Not as much, as the sexuality is in keeping with what drives of the story. Since the books follow her life, the things that take up and demand her attention will reflect that. I’m a great believer in verisimilitude, and not just sex or violence for the sake of sex and violence.
Genta: The other characters in your books are notably memorable. There’s sweet Jordan Burke who doesn’t understand what’s happened to his former partner, but loves her nonetheless. I particularly like Tiny, the FBI agent who becomes her closest friend. I also love Tristan, the British white lion shapeshifter DJ is linked to following a mating ritual that saves her life, and Joseph Amundsen, occasional polar bear and head of the North American Pack Strike Force. Will you tell us more about them? Who is your favorite, and why?
DE: I like Tiny best, simply because he gets to have so much fun at DJ’s expense, and yet, he has his human moments, when he can be kind of a jerk and still be supportive too.
Genta: When did you start writing? What made you begin?
DE: Fifth grade. I started writing poetry, but I became a bibliophile as soon as I learned to read; I think that reading goes hand in hand with writing for most of us who do it. As an adult, I started writing a romance when I started teaching, but teaching is practically 24/7 while the school year is on, so I had to give it up. Then, when writing became my focus as a profession, I needed more extraverted hobbies for a time to balance out that side of my nature. Finally, I realized that work was never going to completely satisfy my deep urge to create, and that’s when I really started to get serious about writing fiction.
Genta: Do you have any advice for those just starting to write? What keeps you writing when your back aches, your eyes strained and your fingers cramped?
DE: Put fingers to keyboard, thumbs to phone, pen to paper, mouth to recorder (whatever your preferred method) and do it – and I’ll be the first to admit, at times, especially when there’s a lot of stress in life, it’s tough to do. As Anne Lamott says, though, “All first drafts are shitty.” And she’s right. Also, get input from other people, people you trust, who read a lot, and listen to them. You can’t grow as a writer unless you are willing to take feedback, a lot of it, especially when you first start out – and use that input to influence how you approach your stories.
What keeps me writing? The deep drive to create, to connect through stories and characters; the knowledge that if I don’t keep doing it, something in my life just isn’t as complete and joyous as it needs to be.
Genta: Who were the main influences on your writing? Which authors inspire you?
DE: Jim Butcher (character development and action), Barbara Kingsolver (fabulous prose and description), J. D. Robb/Nora Roberts (building real-seeming, well-rounded characters and gripping plots; setting the scene), Stephen King, especially his early stuff (developing a character’s personality in a single small paragraph and setting up and maintaining tension).
Genta: We’ve read Race the Night, and I literally absorbed your second in the trilogy, Bring It Home. When will the third one be released, and what can you tell us about it?
DE: It should be released sometime this spring/summer; I’m waiting on the cover. I’ve been blessed with a fabulous cover designer, but I have to respect her needs and schedule. We both have full-time day jobs, after all.
Book 3, Triple Threat, is DJ’s introduction to working for the FBI; it takes place in central Iowa, which is where I grew up. In this version, she literally is under a triple threat, and one of those threats is not only to her health as a shapeshifter but also to her reputation as a law enforcement professional. She meets a new love interest, too.
Genta: Have you written any other books? Where can we find them?
DE: I have two other books; one is my freshman effort that’s waiting for revisions. Since it’s 130,000 words, those revisions are a fairly massive undertaking, and so it’s on the back burner in the depths of my flash drive. It’s a swords and horses fantasy with dragons and man-eating monsters. Working title: Lady of Snows. Eventually, it will be a trilogy.
I’m also drafting the first of another more classic fantasy with evil magicians, unicorns, trolls, goblins, orcs, wargs, etc. This one has two young men as the protagonists, one a bastard prince with a shadowy past and the other a journeyman priest out to rid the world of evil magic-doers. I’m about halfway through drafting that one. Working Title: Valorian’s Quest
Neither of them is as yet ready for publication.
Genta: Ms. Elliott, thank you for your time and thoughtful answers to my questions. I’ll be watching eagerly for the release of your next novel.
DE: Thanks very much, Ms. Sebastian for your time and wonderful questions! Best wishes!