Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Welcome Cynthia Leitich Smith & FERAL NIGHTS


 Today it’s my distinct pleasure to host Cynthia Leitich Smith, who is one of my favorite authors and who also lives here in Texas (Austin!) and is not only a kickass writer but a friend and mentor and all around stellar and generous human being.

I first became familiar with Cyn’s work through TANTALIZE, which began the series that eventually spun off into this week’s release, FERAL NIGHTS, set in the same fictional universe. She hooked me in with her world building and her humor and her characters: A girl named Quincie Morris whose name was an homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula! A vampire-themed restaurant in Austin! An author who loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as I did! And on like that!

I have been her fan ever since. And so I’m thrilled to be part of launch week for FERAL NIGHTS, which Amazon describes like this:

When sexy, free-spirited werecat Yoshi tracks his sister, Ruby, to Austin, he discovers that she is not only MIA, but also the key suspect in a murder investigation. Meanwhile, werepossum Clyde and human Aimee have set out to do a little detective work of their own, sworn to avenge the brutal killing of werearmadillo pal Travis. When all three seekers are snared in an underground kidnapping ring, they end up on a remote island inhabited by an unusual (even by shifter standards) species and its cult of worshippers. Their hosts harbor a grim secret: staging high-profile safaris for wealthy patrons with evil pedigrees, which means that at least one newcomer to the island is about to be hunted. As both wereprey and werepredator fight to stay alive, it’s up to mild-mannered Clyde — a perennial sidekick — to summon the hero within. Can he surprise even himself?

Love. Love. Love.

Recently, I chatted with Cyn about FERAL NIGHTS and what else was coming down the line for her. Here is what she had to say.

Joy:   So…  werecats and werepossums and werearmadillos! Tell us about this! I admit I am personally most fascinated by the werearmadillos because I love looking at those giant prehistoric ‘regular’ armadillos at the Houston Science Museum.

Cyn: The werearmadillos are a fan favorite! The Feral series is a spin-off of the Tantalize series, which likewise featured a myriad of shape-shifters. I started with wolves and took a hard look at the tradition of werewolf stories. Then I moved on to study shifter studies from around the world. I noticed that it was often the predator that most competed with humans for food and territory that had been cast in the role of monster (the wolf in Europe, the cat in Asia) and, in some cases, hunted to near/complete extinction as a result. That didn’t fly with me. As a recovering lawyer, I’m predator friendly.

I decided my shifters would be naturally born. Not magical. Not demonic. Just children of a different branch on the evolutionary family tree.

With that in mind, as long as there are wolves, why wouldn’t there be other shifter forms?  So I began populating my world with a myriad of creatures-the werecats and Possums and Armadillos and Deer and Vultures and more.

The Feral series was born from reader questions. They wanted to know more about the cats. They thought that the shifters hadn’t received their fair share of screen time. They suggested. I brainstormed. Consider it launched!

Joy: Tell us about Yoshi and Clyde. I love their names, by the way.

Cyn: Yoshi is sleek, sexy, and fresh off the farm. He’s a Kansas-raised werecat en route to Austin to find his missing big sister. Yoshi is a definite ladies’ man, drives a classic Mercury Cougar, and is looking for something a bit more real and substantial from life—his real family, a real connection to a girl, and real friends.

Clyde is a lovable geek. He’s an Opossum, a loyal friend and quick to crack a joke. He can be incredibly brave when the moment calls for it—but nobody plays dead better in a pinch.

Can I talk about Aimee? Feral Nights isn’t just about the boys. Aimee is a self-described geek girl, Goth-girl, and New Age hippie girl. She defies clear categorization and is the first human protagonist I’ve written in a while.

Joy: The down and dirty: Give us a one or two sentence pitch/log line for Feral Nights.

Cyn: Everybody’s looking for Ruby Kitahara. Her kid brother Yoshi wants to save her, the Armadillo king wants her hide for the murder of his grandson, and the dead Dillo prince’s friends are seeking the truth of what happened the night he died.

Joy: You live in Austin, so it makes sense that you would set stories there, but beyond your everyday familiarity – why Austin? Why does it fit so well with the Tantalize series and now this companion series?

Cyn: Austin is the kind of place where it’s not unusual to see a couple of werebears at Jo’s Coffee or a couple of wereantelope running the Capital 10K.

We just roll that way.

Joy: Speaking of Austin, for the uninitiated, tell us some of your ‘must do/must see/must eat list for your city. Does it include the brisket tacos at Torchys? Cause that would be on my list…

Cyn: Huge question – I can only highlight. For dining, I’m fond of Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, Uchi, Hoover’s Cooking, and Vespaio.

Beyond that, I recommend taking a long walk along the hike-and-bike trail surrounding Lady Bird Lake, watching the Mexican free tail bats exit from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, listening to live music at The Driskill and watching the sun set at The Oasis.

Joy: I’ve asked you some version of this before, but as your career continues to flourish: How do you balance writing/blogging/teaching/travel/life with your delightful spouse Greg who is also a brilliant writer?

Cyn: I’m less good at it than I used to be. I’m working out a lot these days—six days a week of hard cardio, three days a week of weights, and I’m playing more, too, trying to take out more time for my close friends. But I’ve got a schedule, and I’m steady.

On non-travel/tour/speaker days, I’m on the computer by 8 a.m. to blog and handle marketing, event, and reader correspondence. I ramp up the speed and incline on the treadmill at 10 a.m. for at least an hour and then lift during “What Not to Wear” on TLC.  After that comes lunch, and fiction writing until Greg gets home to make me dinner at about 5 p.m. Saturdays I take for either events or play.

Sundays are slipperier. I love to do brunch, but then I’m flexible until early evening when I want to either go out or veg out.

I’ve had to cut back on teaching, though I still lead workshops around the country and take on the occasional private student.

Joy: What’s next for Cynthia Leitich Smith?

Cyn: Eternal: Zachary's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle, also will be out this winter from Candlewick Press. It's a graphic novel adaptation (with new scenes) of my bestselling prose novel, Eternal.

Feral Nights is the first book in a trilogy. The second story just went to my editor, and there’s one more to go after that. I’ll be traveling this spring to author/book events in San Antonio, Chicago, Madison, Fort Worth, Washington, D.C., and Montpelier, Vermont.

Joy: Now it’s time for the Lightning Round:

a.    Chocolate or vanilla?

Vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate syrup, plus chopped pecans

b.    M and M’s or twizzlers?

M&Ms dark chocolate with peanuts

c.    Books for the desert island?

Titles by present company and family aside…I’ll highlight:

The Agency trilogy by Y.S. Lee

Blood & Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

The Witch from Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

d.    Wine or whisky?

White wine--nothing too sweet or too buttery

e.    Guilty TV pleasure?

“What Not to Wear” – but no guilt – I unabashedly love it.

f.    What’s on your playlist right now?

“What Doesn’t Kill You”

Everything by Eartha Kitt

“Xanadu”

g.    Last meal?

Leftover French chicken in a pot, hummus, and Beanitos


Thanks, Cyn, for such a great interview!

Cyn is a champion for authors, literacy and all things writing and you can find all this and more at her  award-winning site CYNSATIONS

And if you want to WIN SOME OF CYN'S BOOKS, check this out:

Enter to win Cynthia's latest books, Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral series), Eternal: Zachary's Story (a graphic novel illustrated by Ming Doyle), and a paperback copy of Diabolical, from Cynsations. CLICK HERE 

And beware of those werecats and were armadillos and vampires next time you're in Austin!



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