Fiction Vixen Book Reviews is pleased to welcome award-winning author Monica Burns today. Assassin’s Honor, Book 1 in The Order of the Sicari series will be released on June 1, 2010. Today Monica is here to talk about writing outside the box and taking risks.
Writers are always hoping to hit a nerve with readers by giving them something different, fresh and unusual without been so far outside the box that readers won’t like the book. As one editor said it, they’re (agents, editors and readers) looking for something fresh, yet familiar. That’s what I tried to do with my Order of the Sicari paranormal series. When my agent encouraged me to develop a paranormal series, I really didn’t know where to start. I’d written one ghost story romance, and that was the extent of my experience in writing paranormal. I wasn’t quite sure where to start.
So I sat back and took a look at all the paranormals I liked and what they had in common. The romance and relationships were a given, but the issue of world-building perplexed me. How was I going to create something fresh when the market had vamps, werewolves and shapeshifters galore and done incredibly well? I took a course on world-building from Cheyenne McCray, which gave me more insight as to what I needed to be doing when it came to finding an idea that would sell. Originally, I started out with a plot that revolved around Atlantis and the survivors of the ancient sunken city and the causes behind its destruction. That didn’t sound fresh enough to my agent, so I went back to the drawing board.
One of the things I love is history, and wanted to find a way to meld that love into a paranormal. Primarily because I love swords, and I wanted my heroes to have swords. So I had to build a culture around my love of swords. I know it’s an unusual place to start, but there you have it. For almost two years I toyed with different ideas, and all of them kept coming back to history and, you got it, swords. Then while watching HBO’s mini-series ROME, I started asking what if questions, and started getting answers. The back story to a new series started to flow in my head, and I realized that I might just be on to something. I had the history and swords I wanted, but I also had those old familiar pieces readers wanted. Paranormal abilities, hot heroes, feisty heroines, steamy romance, and some things that were a bit different.
A lot of paranormals have immortal heroes and heroines. The Order of the Sicari series doesn’t. I wanted to make my characters different than us, but living in a unique world that borders and often merges with our reality—meaning that everyone is mortal. Some people have said it ups the stakes for the characters because anyone can die in the books. I like to think it just makes them more approachable, because with the exception of a paranormal ability, they could be like us. While most of the characters have paranormal abilities, some don’t, some have greater abilities than others, and some have a mix.
It’s all genetic, just like the real world where some of us have a gift for music, dancing, politics, medicine, etc. Everyone has something to contribute, and in the Order, each character brings something different to the overall culture. For me, creating a fresh and unique series was about developing a world where readers could identify with the characters, while still getting that fix of a strong paranormal element along with a culture that while based in historical fact is different enough to be viewed as foreign to our modern sensibilities.
The Sicari culture can be brutal, yet incredibly noble and fair. An oxymoron I know, but it’s how I see the Sicari. They kill to protect the innocent, but it doesn’t make them feel good. I like the imagery that they’re out there protecting us when we can’t always protect the innocent ourselves. It gives us a sense of power that somewhere out there is a good guy who’s capable of doing bad things to protect us, especially when it comes to their mortal enemy the Praetorians. These villains have a culture that’s based in corrupt, immoral beliefs, and they hide behind ideology. They represent all those things in society that we don’t like, intolerance, greed, hate and so much more. They’re vicious and brutal, and yet like the Sicari, they have reasons for being the way they are, and not all of them are bad. Some are even redeemable.
There are plenty of risks writing a series in this way, one because it IS out of the norm. Some readers don’t want to invest the time to get to know a new world. Then there’s the aspect of the immortal character—that need to see death conquered in a paranormal romance. But I think readers will see quite clearly that in a strong sense, my characters ARE immortal. They’re just immortal in a way that’s a little different. Another one of those risks I took in developing this series. The next big risk is writing book three and making sure it rises above the bar that the first two books set.
Writing something that’s a little different and outside the norm is really about putting a new twist on components readers are already familiar with and love. It’s about taking a risk that readers will like your story telling enough to take that risk with you. Of course, I’ve always taken risks with my writing, and hopefully readers will take that risk with me, when they pick up Assassin’s Honor.
So do you like it when authors take risks or do you prefer the tried and true?
Thank you for being here today Monica. Assassin’s Honor certainly has some unique twists to what we’re seeing in Paranormal romance today. I’m sure readers will enjoy The Order of the Sicari series.
Purchase links for Assassin’s Honor:
I have two copies of Assassin’s Honor to giveaway. Leave a comment here and ask Monica a question answer her question from her post above:
“Do you like it when authors take risks or do you prefer the tried and true?”
Contest is open until June 5, winner announced the next day. Open to all.