Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jonetta Interviews Maria Violante

Maria is with us today to tell us more about her series and we welcome her to The Book Nympho!

Maria, thanks for joining us today to talk about your books and this extraordinary series. But before we start, let's get to know more about you.

Jonetta: When you first started your writing career, your first was a horror story. What was the genesis for that book and why that genre?

Maria: I grew up reading a lot of horror. To be honest, I didn't think about the possibility of writing as a full-on career until I started reading the blog posts by Dean Wesley Smith. He puts forth a model in which a person writes a short story a week and manages to eventually build a full time income from that over the course of several years. I thought, hey, I can do that--although, at the time, I wasn't really thinking about it as a career or even a real goal. Just more of an experiment. Of course, I had a hard time coming up with a good story. I knew I wanted to write something that related to a painting I saw in an Indiana art gallery called "St. Dominic and the Devil." The story of the painting, about a demon that appears as a monkey, really intrigued me.

One day, I was driving home from my a friend's house. It was late, dark, and I had plenty of time to think--and by the time I got to my house, Shiver Short #1 was born. I was (and still am) really proud of that story.

That's about when I found out that nobody I knew was into horror. I had a really hard time getting friends and family to read anything gory. Another part of me realized that I wasn't really "cut out" to write horror long term, either--writing about dark things actually makes me kind of darker. I start looking for murders everywhere.

I put writing back on the back burner for a while after that. Looking back, I realize I've spent half my life doing that. I've got a half-dozen unfinished novels, hundreds of sad, angsty poems, bunches of short stories--but I never saw them as a progression toward an end.

Jonetta: You had a major life-changing event that got you thinking about writing full time. What can you tell us about that experience and had you done any writing before that time?

Maria: I was in two car accidents (not my fault!), one of which ping-ponged my brand-new (okay, new to me) Camry around a highway, and the other one which ripped the entire back end off of my Honda. I was slowing down to make a turn, and a distracted teenager hit me so hard he drove the entire back end up underneath the wheel-wells and bent the frame. (I would have been angry, but he was so scared about what his mom would say--and I was so grateful to be, you know, not dead, that I just had to let it go.)

At the time, I had one of those "good jobs"--you know, excellent pay, clerical work, growing company, good career ladder--and I was also suffering from panic attacks for the first time in my life. They were awful--my boyfriend drove me to the E.R. after the first one because we were both convinced I was having some kind of heart attack. I was the last person to go home from my office and I spent a lot of late evenings under my desk or in the closet, just begging the forces that be for the ability to breathe and stop crying.

I hadn't connected the two situations though. I mean, I was doing what I had spent my life preparing for, right? I went to college, got good grades, worked hard on having a professional appearance and demeanor--why would I be freaking out once I actually got the job?

After the second accident, my car was totaled out, and I had enough money to quit for a while. By that point, I kind of had to. My attendance was getting bad, I was having to go home a lot early, and I was having a hard time performing my work duties. I was seeing a therapist and being medicated, but I had also started to do some self medicating, and my personal and professional life were both suffering.

So I quit, but I had no idea what I was going to do. I was really depressed and staying at a friend's house. I guess the accident was still tumbling around in my head, because I had an idea about this book where a woman--an unreliable narrator--falls in love with her car and gets into an accident. She's not sure if is trying to kill her, or what. Just like that, everything fell into place. Finishing that book became my driving obsession. It took me a little under a month and is officially the worst book ever, but it was a great learning experience.

And once I found writing, I actually didn't have another panic attack, and haven't had one since. I was able to quit medication, therapy, everything. That was almost two years ago, and I've never felt stronger. For the first time in my life, I'm happy, confident . . . it's crazy. I just had three books accepted by Liquid Silver Books, a well-respected e-romance publisher, and I have two self-published books in the De la Roca Chronicles with a third on the way.

People talk a lot about how they were saved by art. I never realized how true that could be until it actually happened to me.

Jonetta: You're writing while on the road. Do you find this enhances your creativity with the ever-changing environment or get you stuck more often?

Maria: I am actually taking a break from the semi-truck for a little while, but I'll answer this based on how it was to be on the road. Believe it or not, the environment isn't ever-changing in the way you would think. Most days are the same--road, traffic, drivers, etc. It was actually a great writing schedule, because there were many opportunities to write every day, and it wasn't like I could say, oh, I'll go visit a friend now.

Plus, that life experience and research turned into my current WIP. I'm not sure what to call it yet, but it's about a female trucker who finds herself embroiled in an ancient secret organization that hunts baddies from the beyond. That experience on the truck lets me introduce those little details that make the manuscript really authentic.

Jonetta: What vision do you have for your writing career? Do you think you will continue to focus on the genres you've written in the past as well as urban fantasy and science fiction?

Maria: Oh, I know for a fact that I will stay in speculative fiction for a long time. So fantasy and science fiction, for sure--maybe with romantic or horror elements (my last several books have all had strong romantic elements). I need to finish the last book in the De la Roca Chronicles (fantasy, demon-mercenary-gunslinger) and I'm working on the next Shifting West (historical, western, shifter/urban fantasy, romance) as well as the next New Humanity (futuristic, science fiction, romance.) And then, of course, there's that urban fantasy trucker romance I'm working on . . .

Jonetta: Let's talk about the De la Roca Chronicles series. Your main character starts off in a very dark place. There's quite a bit we still need to learn about her (including her real name!). What do you want us to understand about her?

Maria: The DLR Chronicles is a series that focuses on expansion. We start somewhere simple--the unknown heroine on a quest. By the end of the third book, we're talking about decisions that will make or break entire worlds, universes even. Each book shifts the stage into something larger and lets us understand the heroine on a deeper level.

De la Roca is pissed, and she has a very real right to be. But being pissed is only the first stage of understanding or learning. She's got to move from letting the world throw her around to acting under her own agency--and she will.

Jonetta: While there are a lot of stories out there about demons and the like, there aren't as many that delve into confines of Hell as you have done. Why this exploration?

Maria: The "traditional" way we see Hell--fire and brimstone, punishments--largely comes out of the work of two people. First, we have Dante, who basically outlined all of the sins and their punishments and largely depicted the subterranean, fiery depths we all think about. Then, there was Hieronymus Bosch, a dutch painter that basically illustrated what Dante talked about (although in a really scary, gruesome way. Check it out sometime, but maybe make sure the lights are on before you do.)

Without giving too much away, I want to say that in the DLR chronicles, Heaven, Hell, and Earth all form different planes--dimensions, almost. Each of them has a purpose, and none of those purposes is something so limited as "punishment" or death. If the God of the DLR Universe really loved all his creatures, I doubt he'd create a whole world in which the purpose was just to inflict suffering.

Jonetta: In the first book, I found the world you created to be pretty fantastical, what with the different "planes" (hell, heaven, earth and many others we aren't aware of). Do you plan to continue to explore more of these in the series?

Maria: Oh, heck yeah. Book three opens up in an "off-world"--a world that wasn't created by the same God that created Earth, Heaven, and Hell. As a result, new rules apply, and our heroes find that their powers (akras and kevras) don't work anymore.

The difference in planes and the rules that change between universes is central to everything, including the jaw-dropping ending (that is currently being written) so I guess you'll have to tune in for that.

Jonetta: What would you say is distinctive about the world you've created in this series? The characters?

Maria: The books, as a whole, break a lot of traditional "rules" regarding fantasy and science fiction. Dimensions and planes is a sci-fi concept, but the books operate along fantasy rules and tropes. At the same time, the setting is more "present" and clearly involves Earth and the world we live in, so we've got Urban Fantasy on our hands.

I spent a lot of time figuring out how human to make these characters--because they're not (until book three). If you think you have them nailed down, they'll do something that breaks normal human behavior, because they're actually a different species. At the same time, we can see a lot of ourselves in them.

The world and the setting is actually one of the most commented-on parts of the series. I've had a lot of people ask me, "hey, where does that even come from?" and the truth is, I don't exactly know. There's some of Stephen King's Dark Tower in there, for sure, and maybe some Philip Pullman--but most of it is the way it is because it's the only way I thought things could be.

Jonetta: Angels and demons seem to interact with each other and those who are somewhere in between. Can we expect to find some tensions/conflicts out of these relationships?

Maria: Yes. In a nutshell--Angels form a kind of elite "good old boys" club. They are attracted strongly to ritual, hierarchy, and history, and all of them are suffering from the loss of God, a situation that has imploded the way they understand the world.

Demons are what happens when an Angel is stripped of wings and an essential part of the soul. They all take this punishment different ways. Some of them basically waste away, while others organize and even fight back. While they, too, feel the loss of God, they're also forced into a greater sense of self-reliance, and there's a lot of anger under there that drives them towards a state of evolution and change.

Depending on how long they've been separated from the grace of being an angel and their individual personalities, they can warp or change--especially if they've lost their senses of self or sanity. They could take on an animal form, split off away and create their own plane of existence, run amok in the human realm. . . They become both powerful and dangerous.

Jonetta: De la Roca is a mercenary who doesn't have any memory of who she was before becoming one. Will the next books give us any insight about who she was? Can we expect those memories that return to reshape the character?

Maria: Oh yes, definitely. By the end of the third book, we know exactly who she is and what happened to her. Her essential struggle is to overcome that past and make a decision that will essentially make or break the world.

Jonetta: De la Roca has a touching relationship with her horse, Alsvior. Are we ever going to learn how they came to be connected?

Maria: To an extent. Alsvior's position as De la Roca's horse is the result of a punishment for something that happened in his past. We'll learn all about how that happened.

Jonetta: Your characters, animate and inanimate, have the most unusual names. I remember reading that Alsvior has some relationship to Norse mythology. Is some of the mythology of this series also tied to that?

Maria: Yes. I am a horrible, dirty name-stealer, and I have a serious love for Norse and Celtic mythology. I recently did a guest post ( where I talk about where some of the names came from.

Jonetta: How do you find balance between the darkness of the world you created and the "good" necessary to inspire the character?

Maria: Well, she definitely starts out dark, that's for sure--and to be honest, she never becomes a hundred percent good. I don't think any of us do. At the same time, though, she's not completely evil--just ignorant and immature. A big part of her story is recovering who she is and growing up into something that's not just reacting to everything around her. I like complex characters. Nobody in the series--not even Golden, the main antagonist--is completely evil. Everybody believes they're the hero of their own story. Nobody is completely good, either--including God.

Everybody needs to believe they are the hero of their own life. Otherwise, there's no reason to keep living.

Jonetta: Will we be seeing a romantic interest for De la Roca?

Maria: We'll see one that happened in the past, but no, her story isn't a love story.

Jonetta: Anything else you'd like to share with our audience?

Maria: I've had a lot of fans of the Stephen King's Dark Tower series tell me they really liked the DLR chronicles--so if you're a fan of those books, you might be a fan of these. The third book, Seven Sacrifices, will be the last DLR book (that I forsee), so it's going to wrap everything up. So sit tight, readers, your answers are coming. :)

Jonetta: Maria, thank you, again for being with us today and helping us learn more about you and the De La Roca Chronicles. The first two books in the series are available at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, iTunes and Smashwords. The two-book bundle is available at Amazon only. Maria, you have the last word.

Maria: Jonetta, thanks for letting me do this. It's amazing being able to talk about these books, and I hope your readers really enjoy them.  

Maria Violante is the author of the De la Roca Chronicles, an urban fantasy series featuring a demon mercenary struggling to emerge from hell. There are two books released to date, Hunting the Five and Honor in Hell, with a third, Seven Sacrifices, in the works. Maria also has written fantasy and science fiction short stories. Maria is also the author of the New Humanity series and the Shifting West Books, both of which are coming out in the next few months from Liquid Silver Books. She's doing all of this, with her Chihuahua, on the road sitting in the passenger seat of a semi-truck.


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