Author Interview With Thea Harrison

Author Thea Harrison thrilled us with her debut paranormal romance, this month's Dragon Bound. Harrison's story pits spunky heroine Pia against a dragon hero who is determined to uncover all of her secrets. The tale got a 4 1/2 stars Gold rating from RT Senior Reviewer Jill Smith who says, "Utilizing vivid characters, edge-of-your-seat danger and an intriguing alternate reality, Harrison crafts a novel that grabs you from the first sentence and makes you bitterly regret that the book must end." Now we chat with the author for an insider look at her brilliantly paranormal world, dynamic characters and what fans can expect when her series second hits shelves in August!

RT BOOK REVIEWS: There are a lot of interesting mythical creatures in Dragon Bound from gryphons, to an evil Dark Fae King, witches and even a temperamental dragon hero. How did you decide what characters would populate your world?

Thea Harrison: I didn’t approach these decisions in any overarching systematic fashion. Mostly I went with my gut. When I researched a mythological creature, I asked myself if my “take” on that creature might be both fun for me to write and interesting for others to read. If the answer was no, I passed. If the answer was yes, then that creature got tossed on my list of possibilities to explore. Diversity was the only other criteria I had. I wanted elbowroom for lots of conflict and places to grow.

RT: With so many deadly otherworldly creatures to navigate, it can be difficult to survive in the world you have created. What are three rules readers should keep in mind to keep them safe while they visit your alternate reality?

TH: Rule # 1: The less you say, the safer you will probably be. Neither I, nor any of my characters, manage to keep our mouths shut. But I felt like I should write this down somewhere, because it IS a good rule.

Rule # 2: When packing for an Elder Races adventure, make sure you take your sense of humor with you. It belongs in the toiletries bag. Or maybe with the alcohol.

Rule # 3: Save your dineros (insert cost of paperback plus tax here) because you know what the best news is? Although there is a satisfactory conclusion, the story doesn’t end when you reach the last page. Berkley has given you, and me, the chance to explore this world through at least six books!

RT: As the story opens, your heroine, Pia, is having a pretty lousy week. She has stolen from Dragos' horde and now he is out for revenge. However, what Pia has actually taken is merely a penny, and she leaves a penny of her own, so it doesn't sound like this is such a horrible crime. What is the real significance of Pia's paltry theft?  

TH: The real significance of Pia’s theft is that it shows Dragos that, despite his best efforts at secrecy and his finest spells that are “older than the pharaoh tombs of Egypt and as subtle as tasteless poison on the tongue,” his defenses are not impenetrable.

This becomes true in more than one way. As Dragos grows to care about Pia, he realizes his sense of invulnerability has been stripped away. That means he can be hurt in ways he’s never been hurt before. He can suffer emotional pain, fear and loss. Of course there are emotional rewards as well in caring for someone—laughter and desire, and the discovery of tenderness.

RT: Dragos is a hero who is sometimes a difficult to like. He can be domineering, egotistical and downright rude. However, in his defense, Dragos is a dragon. Plus he was there to watch the cosmos born and in the past he has been worshipped like a god. Are his faults forgivable because of his incredible past? 

TH: I don’t want to let Dragos off the hook too much. I think his faults are understandable because of his incredible past — and I certainly hope they’re entertaining — but I don’t want to go so far as to say they’re forgivable. He needs somebody to call him on his stuff, but more than that, he needs to allow for that to happen.

That’s where Pia comes in. He respects Pia and cares for her opinion enough to try to modify his behavior when she calls him on his behavior. Of course “try” is the operative word there.

In some ways Dragos is an antihero and much of his difficulty, along with his triumph, comes in how he manages to build bridges to other people. Sometimes he gets it right, and sometimes he fails — and this challenge continues beyond Dragon Bound into other books. He is always going to be a dragon, and that means he is a spiky, sometimes difficult character. It causes problems.

RT: If you had a dragon hoard like Dragos what would you collect?

TH: I love this question! I’m actually not much of a hoarder. Recently I moved west to California, and how I chose to do so was to get rid of almost everything. I had all my worldly possessions down to what I could fit in my car (that included two ten-pound dogs), plus three shipping boxes. But if I were to hoard something, it would definitely be books. I hate to part with books of any kind and eventually I need to settle in a house large enough to hold all the books I buy.

RT: He is ancient, she is in her mid-twenties. He is nearly omnipotent and she doesn't fully understand her own powers. They don't have a whole lot in common, so what is the key ingredient to the passion that flares between Pia and Dragos?

 

TH: Aside from a serious smokin’ hot physical attraction, the real key to the passion that flares between Pia and Dragos is how they fill a deep-seated need in each other. Dragos has qualities that Pia needs in a mate, and vice versa. They didn’t know they needed each other, but they did. They also like each other and make each other laugh, and they learn to trust each other too, although that takes more time.

RT: Pia's greatest weapon seems to be her smart aleck mouth. To protect herself she disarms others with her sharp wit and kooky comments. Do you have this same ability or is Pia's voice a departure for you?

TH: Pia’s voice is definitely a departure for me. I’m almost sure of it. I would never utter a kooky comment. Ask anybody. No, I won’t give you references to follow up on that. You’ll have to take my word for it. Okay fine, I’ll ask everybody I know for you and tell you what they said. You’ll believe me, don’t you? You’ll…believe… How did you know to ask me that? I hadn’t even written Rule # 1 yet!

RT: Pia's mother told her that magic versus intrinsic natural ability is a tricky thing to define. Personally would you rather be magical or have natural ability? 

TH: Ooh, another delicious question! Today I think I would rather have natural ability. Specifically I would love to be able to fly. Today is quite sunny and warm though — I might answer differently if it were gray and rainy outside!

RT: Names mean a lot in your world. Telling people your true Name is when they have power over you. So can you tell me what significance the two main character's names hold for you — Dragos Cuelebre and Pia Giovanni.

TH: I named Dragos first. His character had formed enough in my mind that he had definite opinions when I researched names for him. The whole thing sort of went like this:

“Geez, that was a perfectly good name,” I said to the figment in my head. “Why won’t that work? Why does this matter so much to you?”

“Because names are important,” he whispered. “You have written how so many others have named me through the ages. This name we pick now is the name I will choose for myself. And I will not allow it to reveal too much of me. It will say what I am. Nothing more, nothing else.”

“Oohkey-dokey,” I said. (See, even I think I’m a bit cracked.) “If it matters, it matters. I guess we’ll take the time and do it right.”

Pia’s name came a bit easier. I was feeling nostalgic for a research project I had once done on Renaissance Italy, and I happened to also be thinking of Pia and her mother. I loved the names from my research project; they had a lyricism and an elegance I wanted to recapture. Pia Alessandra Giovanni seemed a natural fit.

RT: Your Elder Races series has gotten some great buzz from paranormal authors including Christine Feehan, JR Ward, Nalini Singh, Ann Aguirre, Angela Knight, Shannon K. Butcher and Anya Bast. Which of these authors would you say your writing is most like and why? 

TH: These authors are incredible, accomplished writers, and I’m so honored they enjoyed Dragon Bound. I apologize, but I don’t know that I can answer this question very well. I can’t step outside of myself enough to compare writing styles in any kind of meaningful, objective way. Perhaps this is best left for the readers to decide.

I do know that I admire each writer for different reasons — Ann Aguirre and Shannon Butcher have such talent for tight suspense, and JR Ward has kicking POV prose. Christine Feehan, Angela Knight and Anya Bast have beautiful, unabashed sensuality in their books, and I adore Nalini Singh’s worldbuilding and her depth of character. So if any reader sees something of these authors in my writing, I will feel highly complimented indeed.

RT BOOK REVIEWS: The second in your Elder Races series, Storm's Heart, releases in August. We will be seeing some familiar faces in this next novel. Why did you choose to write the second book about Tiago one of Dragos' quietest commanders? 

Thea Harrison: I found Tiago as a character too exciting to resist. Personally, I haven’t read of any thunderbirds in paranormal romances or urban fantasies. Thunderbirds may be out there in the publishing wild. I just don’t know of them. As soon as I realized this, I stopped researching. I didn’t want to see if someone else had their own take on the psyche of a thunderbird character. I was itching to get my writerly hands on Tiago for myself to see what happened!

Thanks so much for having me for this interview! I really enjoyed the visit!