Joey W. Hill Author Interview
Author Joey W. Hill is beloved for her steamy paranormal eroticas, particularly those that are part of her long-running Vampire Queen series about dominant female vampires and their subservient human slaves. Today the author shares a look at the series so far, the latest installment, Bound by the Vampire Queen, and the Dominant/submissive elements in her stories. Plus, learn what's ahead for the author as she embarks on an all-new series!
RT BOOK REVIEWS: You mainly write erotic paranormals. What lead you to this subgenre?
Joey W. Hill: My stories are always character-driven, with the central theme of wanting to love and be loved. My protagonists, whether they admit it or not, have a soul-deep need to connect with another in a unique, unconditional way that will carry them through a lifetime. Unfortunately, like most of us, there’s often a lot of shielding and baggage that interferes with that. However, during a true physical and emotional surrender, our most raw and vulnerable selves are revealed. Therefore, an erotic setting provides a wider range to explore that terrain, and erotic paranormals remove even more PC and societal boundaries. For instance, in the give and take of the vampire-servant relationship, the only limits are those that the vampire sets, and so the human servant risks everything to make that connection with their Master or Mistress. To me, that’s a challenging and powerful love story to write.
RT: Your long running Vampire Queen series is about powerful vampires and the relationships they have with their servants. With the couples you write about there is always a Dominant and a submissive. In fact, even when you write your more sensual books (like in the Daughters of Arianne series) you still include a bit of the Dom/sub flavor. What is it about this dynamic that intrigues you?
JWH: I’m a sexual submissive, something I accepted when I was in my mid-twenties. As a writer analyzing the human condition, I started with myself as Square One. Hence, my first erotic romance, Make Her Dreams Come True, was an exploration of that side of myself as much as it was about my heroine Meg. However, from there my work expanded into an interest in the D/s dynamic between many different personality types. A writer in touch with her muse tends to write what she likes to read herself, and I’d grown up with the mainstream romances where the alpha male heroes displayed not-so-subtle elements of sexual mastery. These in turn inspired me to write heroes that came fully out of that closet and embraced being a Dom. From there it was a short leap to also explore stories where it was the heroine in charge.
There are Dominant and submissive elements in a great deal of human interaction, which makes sense, because we are animals, and that dynamic plays a big role in the animal world. However, human animals tend to resist their natural instincts, which makes for great conflict fodder when crafting a D/s story (especially when I have an alpha hero struggling against the desire to sexually submit to a vampire mistress!). Since romance story ideas using D/s elements are endless, most of my characters tend to have elements of Domination or submission, sometimes blatant, sometimes very subtle.
RT: Oftentimes the line between good and evil gets blurred in the worlds you create. Your heroes are actually in some ways anti-heroes, yet as readers we still fall in love with them. What are the ways you make sure that your readers will connect to your heroes? How do you up the “likeability” factor for these characters?
JWH: Establishing reader empathy for them is the key. All of us carry a dark side within us, a concept that was around long before it was so brilliantly imagined in the originally Star Wars trilogy. Perhaps we haven’t experienced homicidal rage, inflicted cruelty on another, or become so mired in grief, remorse, guilt or self-loathing that we completely lose our way, but we’ve all experienced different levels of those feelings. It’s an Eastern/Zen idea that we have to explore and accept our weaknesses as part of ourselves, not reject or avoid the fact they exist inside us. My characters, who struggle harder than most against their darkness, have to come to terms with it to heal and accept love. And their significant other will sometimes employ some extreme methods to make sure that happens. Just ask Gideon, my battle-scarred vampire hunter in Vampire Mistress/Vampire Trinity. Daegan and Anwyn, his vampire master and mistress, cut him no slack at all!
RT: Bound By The Vampire Queen is the eighth title in your Vampire Queen series, a series that you have been publishing since 2007. What have you seen as the evolution of these stories? Have there been any surprises for you during your time with these characters?
JWH: Every book surprises me (laughter). I never know exactly where the muse will take me. I can outline a certain amount, but once I start writing the scenes, the creative process takes over and I’m just along for the ride. What I like very much about this series is each set of characters took me somewhere entirely different in the same world. We started with Lyssa and Jacob, the 1000-year-old vampire queen and her servant, who was a former vampire hunter, Ren Faire knight and drifter (Vampire Queen’s Servant/Mark of the Vampire Queen). But from there we went to 1950s Australia with a much younger vampire trying to reclaim her sheep station with the help of a WWII veteran and Australia bushman (Vampire’s Claim). Then the next book took us to the Sahara, to a 300-year-old legend about a Bedouin girl who fell in love and died for a vampire who mourned her for centuries, until a fugitive from the vampire world fell into his path and required him to open his heart to love again (Beloved Vampire). Then there’s one that takes place on a wildcat sanctuary, with a Native American made vampire who survived the Trail of Tears (Vampire Instinct).
See what I mean? It’s just wonderful where these stories take us. The characters are always so different. The underlying emotional challenge, to trust and surrender to one another utterly, remains the same (because it’s a romance, and that’s the point of a great love story — lol), but they’re different personalities facing unique physical and environmental challenges. Plus, some of the books spawn the ideas for the next ones. For instance, in Gideon’s story, already mentioned above, we were introduced to the concept of Inherited Servants, humans groomed from birth to serve the vampire world, and they’ll be a central part of the next two books.
RT: Throughout the series, you have given some characters multiple books. (For example, Lady Lyssa and her servant Jacob Green both started the series debut Vampire Queen's Servant and they are also the main focus of your latest work Bound by the Vampire Queen.) What makes you return to a couple again and again to write their ongoing story? What is it about Lyssa and Jacob specifically that you find so tantalizing?
JWH: Laughter — well, there’s a two-part answer to that one. Books 1 & 2 of the series (Vampire Queen’s Servant/Mark of the Vampire Queen) and books 5 & 6 (Vampire Mistress/Vampire Trinity) were both basically one long book that had to be broken into two parts because of publisher length requirements. I don’t write short. If you want to see me flee in terror, tell me to write a short story, or worse, sternly admonish me to keep a novella under 35,000 words. The only way I can accomplish the latter is to imagine that the novella IS a short story — and even then I squeak past that 35k limit — ask my editors!
But Bound By The Vampire Queen is an entirely new adventure for Jacob and Lyssa, coming quite a few books after their initial story. I usually try to avoid that. When you write a book about characters who’ve already resolved their major relationship issues, the next book necessarily becomes an external plot-driven story, versus an internal character-driven one. I want the relationship to be just as interesting, and that’s a considerable writing challenge. I’m not lazy, but it’s like the difference between designing and planting a garden, nurturing it to health and growth, and hacking your way through the enchanted jungle of thorns around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Both endeavors require considerable effort, but one is far preferable to the other — I don’t care how good that kiss is going to be!
However, at the end of Mark of the Vampire Queen, there were several key loose ends related to Jacob and Lyssa. Specifically, her Fae heritage, and a major shift in control that happened at the end of the story, where (big spoiler alert!) Jacob got all her vampire powers. I wasn’t ready to write that story at that time, but as Lyssa made some guest appearances in the subsequent books, my muse chewed on the idea of her coming to grips with her Fae blood, resulting in a need to visit the Fae world, Jacob at her side. Since the two of them started the series, I’ve remained very fond of them. Spending more time in their company wasn’t a huge hardship (grin). Okay, maybe during the first draft I cursed their very existence, but only once or twice…
RT: You are currently writing the next two books in the Vampire Queen series. Anything you can tell us about what you have planned?
JWH: Yes! In fact, I just put this on the Future Projects section of my website: The muse is very interested in a ménage a trois story involving Niall and Evan from Beloved Vampire, and Alanna from Vampire Trinity. These three were secondary characters in those books. Alanna is what they call an Inherited Servant, which means she was raised from birth with the intent of being assigned to a vampire. Her master in VT was a pretty awful vampire, and we were left with the impression she might be killed by him. He escaped Council's wrath before accomplishing that (sort of), so now she's an abandoned servant with a Master who is still linked to her mind. The Council has to figure out what to do with her, because no vampire would normally want a servant in that situation. That's where our two heroes enter the picture.
Evan agrees to shelter her in his home. He and Niall have been together for some time (I may get to delve into a little bit of Brit/Scots history on this one, which should be fun). Though Master and servant, they aren’t as intimate as they could be with a woman in the mix. Alanna is emotionally shut down due to her master’s betrayal and her training as an Inherited Servant. They have to help her become a person again, and in doing that it opens all three of them to possibilities.
The other one also has an Inherited Servant twist, and returns to two secondary characters we met in Vampire’s Claim, Alistair and Nina. Nina's sister was being groomed to be an Inherited Servant, but on the eve of that initiation, she's killed. The family must provide a replacement and they choose Nina, who has not been introduced to this world at all. Alistair is a made vampire who doesn't really take anything seriously — your ultimate predator playboy, and Nina is assigned to him as servant. So it will be interesting to see how these two come together.
RT: Even after years of writing, you never seem to run out of stories. In fact, online you go by the title "Storywitch". When did you know you wanted to be an author?
JWH: Fifth grade. That’s when I started writing. I wrote novels and short stories through junior high and high school, melodramatic, tragic things where the heroine died a gruesome yet unforgettably noble death. Fortunately, none of those survived to be rejected by sensible publishers everywhere – or evaluated by psychiatric professionals (laughter). However, the seeds of some of those earlier works were integrated into my very first published book with Dark Star Publishing, Guardian of the Continuum. I’ve never wanted to write anything but romance, though I did pen a few “literary” (aka hugely depressing and dysfunctional) short stories in my teens. From the beginning I was inspired by romance authors whose work reflected strong characterization and haunting emotional intensity – for instance, Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Ashes in the Wind stayed with me long after I read it in the seventh grade. I still have a copy of it on my shelf, the earlier trade edition with Cole and Alaina in an embrace against a white background.
RT: You have a popular fan forum at the JWH Connection, where your readers call themselves "Joeyholics". Other than their love of reading your books, what other what would you say these "Joeyholics", and other fans of your work, have in common?
JWH: First and foremost, they all have my gratitude and love. I want to give them virtual hugs every day because they encourage and inspire me so much. Beyond that, most of them seem to appreciate paranormal and contemporary erotic romances that go to a deeper level, touching them personally. They don’t want a happy-fuzzy surface kind of story, the easy read. They want to cry, laugh, feel, hurt and read it all over again when they finish. When I accomplish that, they let me know it. (They also let me know when I don’t, which is VERY helpful. It ensures that I never stop striving to make each book better than the last). Many of them also have interest in the D/s genre, whether as active participants or just enjoyable fantasizing.
Finally, they fiercely hound me for the next book as soon as the current one hits the shelf – I hope they’ll always share that trait!
RT: And finally, you are starting a new series from Berkley Sensation titled the Arcane Shot books. The series starter, Something About Witches, has just received an RT Top Pick. What was your inspiration for entering into a world filled with witches and sorcerers? What similarities will these characters have to your beloved vampires?
Joey W. Hill: Sorry, I had to stop cartwheeling to answer this one, because this was an awesome surprise. Thank you!
My critique partners always laugh and say, even when I’m not supposed to be writing BDSM, someone gets tied up or spanked. So yes, there is a not-so-subtle undercurrent of D/s in this book, but it doesn’t hold center stage anywhere near as much as in the vampire books. I think. Maybe.
As mentioned earlier, my first published book was an epic fantasy called Guardian of the Continuum. It had witches and sorcerers and explored the building blocks of magical practice in a contemporary setting. When my agent suggested I pitch a more sensuous (less erotic) paranormal series, she said “how about something with witches?” It tickled my imagination, because it was a chance to return to my love of the traditional fantasy genre that showed up in Guardian of the Continuum and actually inspires all my forays into the existing paranormals, whether about vampires, witches or mermaids/angels. (You can learn more on my website here).
The other similarity Derek and Ruby have to my vampires — or any of the characters in my series — is that their relationship will require intense, sparks-flying, heart-breaking scenes to come together in the manner they’re meant to be. In fact, for Derek and Ruby, the trip is even more poignant, because they were soulmates driven apart by a tragedy, and now fate has brought them back together, giving Derek the chance to help Ruby heal and prove his love to her where it failed her before.
The next book in the series, In the Company of Witches, gets even more fiery, because it’s between Mikhael, a Dark Guardian readers will meet in Something About Witches, and Raina, a half-succubus witch who runs a modern-day bordello populated by sex demons. I especially like writing a story where the characters are interesting on their own merits, such that when you bring them together, there are sharp edges that have to fit together – and those sharp edges might draw blood in the process!
|Read The Review >>|| Read The Review >>