J.A. Belfield is the author of the paranormal romance series, The Holloway Pack Story. The debut novel, Darkness & Light was released July 1, 2011.
Hi, Julie. Let’s start off by telling us a little bit about your book, Darkness & Light?
I’m going to try and keep my answers concise and sweet, so: Darkness & Light is a story of love, destiny, self-discovery—and werewolves.
I suppose your life has been a little upside down over the last several months. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the novel, can you tell us how all of this came about? I mean, this must be a life-long dream come true for you, right? How did it all happen?
It’s definitely been upside down—but I’m happily taking an active role in the marketing of my book and that’s a real learning venture for me.
And as for ‘a lifelong dream come true’—I get asked this a lot (did you always want to be a writer, etc?), and I can honestly say I had no idea I wanted to do this before May 2009. If I had to pick a regret I have since I’ve started writing, it would be that I didn’t figure out sooner what my daydreaming soul was trying to tell me.
With regards to publishing? I would say ‘I got lucky’—but as I spent eighteen months prior to Darkness & Light’s acceptance submitting to every agent who fit the bill and every reputable publisher who’d accept unsolicited manuscripts, I think I’m not particularly any luckier than the next writer who strikes a deal. I managed to get my novel into the hands of an editor who liked it, and they contacted me to talk about my work and my plans for my career. From there, it was uphill.
So, tell us. Why werewolves? Why not faeries or elves or vampires?
I love everything they have to offer to a story. Lifelong mating. Strength. Enhanced senses. Loyalty. Animalistic characteristics. The fact there are always two sides to the same character—the restrained and the unrestrained. What’s not to love? They’re an awesome race to mould a story around.
What was the driving force behind this story? Why did you feel you needed to tell it?
Totally cheesy answer: Sean made me do it. I get a lot of characters—new and ongoing—show up in scenarios in my mind. Sean’s presence was like a 60 foot giant in size 25 steel toe capped boots kicking any who dared take the limelight out of his way until I had no choice but to listen to what he had to say. Which is why—because I can be just as stubborn and refused to allow him to have everything his own way—I wrote the story from Jem’s perspective.
He did eventually get some stories told from his POV—Marked in the Into the Unknown anthology, and the Instinct novella—as a reward for his patience. 😉
Tell us a bit about the Holloway clan. Who are they? What makes them tick? Something else we can find out about them that is not on your website.
Oldest to youngest>> Nathan Holloway: Pack Alpha. He will do whatever it takes to keep his family (including the pack) safe. He misses his wife. Connor Larsen: A heartbroken male, but his natural laid back and light-hearted attitude never reveals this. He’s too busy being a father and being loyal to his Alpha-and-best-friend to allow his true emotions airtime. Ethan Holloway: Finds himself amusing—often more so than others do—yet would go to the ends of the earth to protect that which he holds dear. You would definitely want this physically powerful wolf watching your back in a fight. Kyle Larsen: Having grown up with Ethan and spending way too much time with him, he has developed a little wit of his own—except he’s slightly more charming and less awkward around females than his closest pack brother. Sean Holloway: He’s an open book. What you see in Darkness & Light is what you get. I’m not saying it’s always been that way, though—to discover just how much Jem has changed Sean, you’d have to check out Instinct (due for release January 2012). Daniel Larsen: Playful yet fierce, his youthfulness shows in his personality. Josh Larsen: Considered the baby of the pack—by readers as well as his pack brothers. Possibly thanks to losing his mother at the age of thirteen, he’s vulnerable and naïve—yet he also fights with deep ferocity when territorial defense is required.
It is said that authors tend to bring in pieces of their personal lives into their characters. Tell us a little bit about Jem, and where did you derive the foundation for her character?
If I told you I don’t know, she just kind of spilled across the page, would you believe me? The biggest part of me you’ll find in Jem is the kinds of relationships she builds—with her best friend (Poppy), with her sister (Jess), whose relationships match those of mine with my best friend and sister—and how she interacts with the other pack members is very much how I’ve spent my entire life around my husband’s friends.
There is a lot of steamy passion in Darkness & Light. Were those scenes of passion difficult to write? Did you ever find yourself blushing or wondering if you were ‘doing it right?’
You referring to the shower cubicle scene with the steaminess comment? 😉
I consider them more sensual than steamy. Romantic and soul reflecting as opposed to anything erotic. I do find an intimate scene can take me a few days to get to the point where I’m happy with it, but I rarely worry whether or not I’m doing it right, I just do it—and I never blush. However, I will admit—because Darkness & Light 1st draft was written when I’d only been writing for around 7 weeks—that the initial intimate scene between Jem and Sean was only a fraction of the size it is now. After acquiring a beta reader/critiquer for the novel (who went on to become my much treasured writer buddy), I followed advice and made it bigger and ‘deeper’—and it grew to almost four times its original size. I’ve had great responses for the scene as it stands now.
This is the first of a series. When you started writing the novel, did you have the whole story planned out or does the story unfold for you as you are writing it?
Not so much a series, Jen, because each story is complete and can be read as a stand-alone. Darkness & Light set that ball in motion, because I had no idea when I started it that I would still be writing about the characters now—I’m still not quite ready to nudge them aside. Did I have the whole story planned out? Um … no. I’m a total pantser. I begin with an idea—a scene/a character, etc—and I jot that down. Once that’s jotted down, I’ll write the next bit. That’s all I do. Take it one scene at a time, one chapter at a time, and I always allow my muse to take the reins. Sometimes, my chapters surprise the heck out of me because they end up going in directions even I didn’t anticipate. Besides, I have to allow all the arcs to formulate on their own because my initial ideas are way too simple and straightforward that the novel would be complete at 40k.
Does creating a story like this require a lot of planning and research or is just a matter of using your imagination and writing down whatever you come up with?
I don’t plan. I just write. When I hit a place where I believe I need accuracy and it’s something I don’t already know or I can’t nag Mr B about, then I’ll go look it up. I didn’t research werewolves because I already had a strong opinion of how mine would be and was happy enough to go with that. I do, however, quite anally research the tiniest of things—like what ointment would best treat bruising, or which is the best ‘thing’ to send a person into unconsciousness (note the obscurity of those—hehe), and I once researched rapeseed for a novella because I wanted my character to walk through a field rife with it. But that’s about as far as my research goes. I do have a future story in the pipelines, though, that will require some major geographical research—usually, I fabricate places that work for my setting.
Skillfully developing a romance between two characters in a book seems like it can be tricky. How do you go about doing this so successfully?
I guess it’s the old method that a lot of romance writers follow. Man’s attracted to woman. Woman’s attracted to man. Now toss in a load of obstacles they have to mount and overcome before they can live happily ever after. However, I do believe the interactions and dialogue go a long way to making it successful and believable—I go to great lengths to ensure my dialogue sounds as natural as possible.
What aspects of writing a book do you find the most challenging and which are the most satisfying?
Switching off my inner editor so I can just toss out those words is the hardest thing for me to overcome, because I constantly mentally nag at myself about every word choice when I should be saving the pedantic stuff for the edits or rewrite. The most satisfying is completing each scene and being content enough to move onto the next, and falling in love with my characters and who they are becoming or are.
Do you find that the media you are exposed to, such as books, movies and TV, during the period that you are working on a book influences the book that you are writing?
Not really. If I’m going to read a werewolf novel whilst I’m writing a werewolf novel, I make sure I choose one in which the werewolf concept in no way reflects my own. Or do you mean writing styles? Because the answer would be no for that, too. It takes a little while for a new writer to discover their voice—the one they slip into like the oldest most battered clothing no one but the wearer should ever see—and once they’ve found it, it tends to be pretty consistent throughout their work.
So was there anything specific that influenced you while you were writing Darkness & Light?
I’d have to leave the house and interact with others to be influenced, right? Hehehehe. The entire story spilled from my brain to my fingertips in such a rush my appendages could barely keep up—I barely even read others’ novels during the period. 1st draft Darkness & Light was written (161k) in 6 weeks. I began at 9am (as soon as my kids were in school), and apart from breaks for fuel and school runs, I continued on until midnight—sometimes later—pretty much every night of the week. What can I say? Mr B has a lot of patience.
What books are you currently reading?
Yesterday I finished Dark Lover by J.R Ward. I’m now around halfway through Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning. I also have Patricia Briggs’ River Marked on the go and have just ordered Lover Eternal—the next Black Dagger Brotherhood to follow Dark Lover.
Other than Jem and Sean, who is your favorite literary romantic couple?
This is a toughie because some of the couples I love reading about aren’t in romance. My ultimate favourite couple are in a novel that is yet to be published (I love the male character)—although I’m seriously hoping the author signs to launch it next year. Other than that, I’d have to go for Roarke and Eve Dallas in the In Death series by J.D. Robb.
Thanks so much Julie for taking the time to do this interview with us.
For more information about J.A. Belfield and her other projects, stop off at her website and take a look.