Message From The Author

Author's Message

Jessica Andersen Creates A New Series That's A Keeper:

With NIGHTKEEPERS, The Mayans And A Countdown To Destiny!

By J.R. Ward

I am absolutely thrilled to
be interviewing my critique partner, Jessica Andersen, whose first single-title novel, Nightkeepers (June, Signet Eclipse), kicks off a spectacular paranormal series called "Novels of the Final Prophecy." Based on Mayan mythology, it's one of the strongest, most powerful paranormal worlds I've come across in years.

How'd a nice scientist like you end up as a hot-and-steamy romance novelist?

I love science, but
I found lab research exceedingly frustrating. (Hats off to those of you who stick it out!) My lab experience consisted of asking research questions, designing experiments and then banging my head against a wall for a few months or years while iterating
to a final answer. So I became a romance writer, which, in my experience, consists
of asking a story question, designing scenes and then banging my head against my desk for a few months or years while iterating to a final manuscript. Go figure.

You're obviously tight with research, based on your background. And that must have come in handy when you were working on the Nightkeepers, right?

Absolutely! But I kept including all these cool details I'd dug up about Mayan civilization, mythology and religion
and wound up with a 700-page manuscript. As I was cutting it down, I kept chanting something I say lots when I freelance as a scientific editor: This is an interesting detail, but how does it relate to the matter at hand?

You write long too! No wonder we get along. But you've also done category romance, getting your start in Harlequin Intrigues. What's your background there?

I'm going to have to give a nod to two amazing authors I met via the New England Chapter of RWA [Romance Writers of America], back when I was flailing my way through my first manuscript. Suzanne Brockmann and Lisa Gardner were both very kind to wide-eyed newbie me (and have continued to be kind in the years since!).

Have to interject here that I'm a huge, drooling Suz fan, as you know, and Lisa scares the hindquarters off me on a regular basis (and is the nicest person ever!). Let's have a couple of fan-girl high-fives! Right, sorry about that! Go on ...

(Jessica rolls her eyes.) Anyway, both of them are incredibly talented writers who started in category and eventually made it huge as single-title authors, writing the kind of books I love to read -- i.e., the ones where stuff blows up and people fall in love. Since, y'know, I like setting my sights high, I decided I wanted to be like them when I grew up. It was also fun to have a tax-deductible excuse to read a ton of action-oriented category romances as I looked for a way to put my own spin on things with the medical-suspense angle.

Then you moved to single titles. How'd that happen?

My first Intrigue came out in late 2003; my 18th and 19th are out now (Twin Targets, May and With the M.D. ... at the Altar?, June). While working on the Intrigues, I kept submitting single-title proposals that never really went anywhere, I think because I was trying to write a medical romantic suspense that was longer without really being bigger. It wasn't until
I stumbled on the Nightkeepers' world that a storyline really grabbed me and demanded that I write it. I have no clue if I'll ever come within spitting distance of Suz- and Lisa-level success (or yours!), but I'm having a heck of a time writing the books.

And it shows! Your categories are outstanding! Now, about the Nightkeepers, how did you get the idea to focus on the Mayan mythology?

One of my most vivid early memories is being in Mexico on a family vacation and climbing up inside the big pyramid at Chichen Itza to see the jaguar throne. People were packed nose-to-butt, crouched down in the narrow stairway, with everyone on the right side going up and the ones on the left coming down. It was dark and cold, the stones were slippery, and I'm claustrophobic. But, dude, seeing the jaguar up close and thinking about the people who'd carved and worshiped it ... that's something I'll never forget.

Very cool -- and that Indiana Jones-creepy vibe totally comes through in the series. Did you have a specific "aha" moment that triggered the series?

I was working on a suspense proposal that involved poisonous snakes and had a total "ooh, shiny!" moment when I pulled up a website on Mayan serpent rituals. From there, I found a reference to how the Mayan Long Count calendar is going to end on Dec. 21, 2012, coinciding with an astrological event that scientists think could trigger sunspots
and magnetic reversals, and maybe even knock the Earth off
its orbit. And I sat there thinking: Holy crap, this is it. This is what I have to write about.

Precisely how it was with me and the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And speaking of males, one of the things I liked best in the book is the romance. Strike and Leah, the hero and heroine, are fantastic together. But then I have a thing for alpha males, and he certainly is one. Now that I've gushed, what do you love about them?

I love Strike because he's got that "stranger in a strange land" thing going on. He was raised knowing he's among the last of the Nightkeepers, and it's his job to prevent the 2012 doomsday, but he's also a normal guy in many respects, because all signs suggest that the barrier between the Earth and underworld has been sealed, the apocalypse averted by the actions of the previous generation of Nightkeepers. However, when Detective Leah Daniels spins into his orbit and the apocalypse countdown reawakens, and he's reunited with a fighting force he didn't know existed, he has to alpha-up real quick. With a good chunk of the Nightkeepers' magic based on sexual intimacy, and the gods demanding Leah as a human sacrifice, Strike winds up having to choose between his lover and his duty as a warrior-king ... or seeing if he and Leah can find a way around a 3,000-year-old prophecy.

Who's up next in the series?

Hmm... (ponders). Let's just say it's a pair of Nightkeepers who look well matched on the surface but underneath have some majorly crossed purposes and bad history (some of it theirs, some of it not). When they're sent to track down a lost Mayan artifact that contains a vital spell, they quickly realize they're not the only ones on the hunt -- and they're going to have to learn to work together (very, very closely) in order to survive.

Are you going to make me beg for that book? 'Cuz I will.

Dude, I pretty much ducked the last question. What do you think? (Snicker.) Bribery will get you further than begging. I've always liked those sunglasses ...

In closing, it's a privilege to have you as my CP -- you're a huge talent and the 12 smartest people I've met all rolled up into one incredible woman! Thank you.

Awww (blushes). Thanking you right back for your support, always.

Enjoy An Excerpt from Nightkeepers!

Goosebumps broke out everywhere Leah had skin -- not just because he had that "oh, crap" look on his face, but because the expression doused the afterglow enough to smack her with a whopping reality check.

She was trapped in an ancient Mayan ruin ... and she'd just had total stranger sex.

Heart jolting, she scrambled out from underneath the guy and backed away in a defensive crouch. "What. The. Hell. Just. Happened?"

"Nothing," he rasped. "Everything. I don't know. Damn it." He sat up and dragged both hands through
his dark hair, which had come free from its ponytail.

With his hair hanging to his shoulders and the close-clipped beard along his jawline, his body stunningly naked and ripped with a fighter's muscles, and firelight flickering on the ancient carvings behind him, the whole scenario could've come from another age, when all this would've made way more sense.

Torchlight played over the long, lean lines of him as he stood and snagged his clothes. Naked, he was a statue. A fantasy. Even though they'd just had at each other and she didn't even know his name, need knotted Leah's belly once more.

Then he pulled on his cutoffs and T-shirt, and toed on his sandals and he became a man again. One she was going to have to deal with because something very strange had just happened to her. Several somethings, in fact, starting with a botched human sacrifice and ending with an orgasm.

Brain churning, she turned away from him and got dressed while she tried to put her thoughts in order. Her pants were soaked but otherwise okay, but her shirt and bra were a write-off. Knotting the material as best she could at her midriff, she turned to face him and stuck out a hand. "Detective Leah Ann Daniels, Miami-Dade Narcotics."

Might as well start with the introductions. Then it'd be time for "What the hell is happening and whose side are you on?"

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