Shawna Thomas' debut novel, this month's fantasy tale Altered Destiny got a Top Pick rating from RT's Victoria and made such an impression on her that it was nominated for the month's RT Seal of Excellence. Today we sit down with the author to find out about how she brought her heroine Selia's fantasy world to life, an insider look at her vampiric hero and what readers can expect next from this new talent!
First of all, your debut book was nominated for October’s RT Seal of Excellence. Congratulations! What is one of the other unexpected pluses of your experience as a debut author?
They've all been pluses. From first seeing the cover to working with the people at Carina Press and Harlequin, the experience has been amazing. I love the support of the writing community. In particular, the other Carina authors have been helpful and so kind. So far, the majority of reviews have been amazing, but what I've really been excited about is hearing from readers. I didn't expect it, but I love it! I was also reviewed by Dear Author. When I saw the review, I was so nervous that I called one of my friends to read it first. I've been following Dear Author for a long time. This interview is another wonderful surprise.
Altered Destiny transports readers into a fantasy land, what details did you include to make this world really come to life?
Thank you. It's a fine line between overwhelming the reader with details and adding enough to make the world a believable place. Every civilization started somewhere so I tried to add enough history to give the world a solid foundation. Selia speaks of a house near, but not in, the town. I wonder about that house and I hope the reader does too. There is also the tree in the middle of the square that still bears the marks of the last judged criminal. Religion is also an important part of any culture and Altered Destiny has its own gods such as Svi, or Ari, the Trickster, the Weaver, the dark god and the nameless god. To weave in the post apocalyptic element, Jaden has a device that I don't name, but it's a compass. The road Nathan and Selia travel is a strange material left over from the "ancient ones."
Selia’s country shares a border with Svistra, what are three ways that her people define themselves in regards to the citizens of Svistra?
That is a good question. Selia's people think they are more advanced, superior to the Svistra. They would conclude that they are fair and peace loving where the Svistra are savage. Probably the most prevalent definition is that Selia's people think they are in the right. That they have a right to expand, a right to land, a right to pursue their dreams, no matter what, just because they are human. But history doesn't support these claims.
Selia runs an inn with her brother, Oren, in a very dangerous location. What are some skills that they have that have come in handy more times than she can count?
Selia's knife skills have certainly come in handy a time or two. She is also proficient at hand-to-hand combat. Selia's ability to diffuse a situation is also a big plus when dealing with drunk patrons. She's quick-witted. Oren has a heart of gold, but his size is intimidating, as is his absolute loyalty to Selia.
Jaden is on the run and badly hurt when he meets Selia, what is one thing (other than the injuries) that she notices about him right away?
She notices his facial features are not quite human: slightly slanted eyes, prominent cheekbones, and pale complexion. That's when she realizes she's not dealing with a human. Following that, she notices he has well-made clothes and, more importantly, his manners.
A little birdie told us that Jaden was not your intended hero for the story, but he just kind of took over the book. What about him demands attention from the reader?
Everything! I love Jaden. What first attracted me was his wit. I loved writing his dialogue and just couldn't stop! He's soft-spoken and gentle but doesn't back down from a fight. He's gorgeous. He's kind. And, did I mention his sexy tattoo?
Lets discuss the vampiric aspect of the novel. It is very different from the traditional blood-drinking type. Can you share what inspired this element and how you created your unique spin?
I wanted to write a vampire that was plausible. There are animals that process nutrients from blood. There are humans with conditions in which their bodies are unable to produce essential components necessary to life. These components are found in blood. I did a little research and came up with the Svistra. It's still fantasy, but a little closer to science. Humans and Svistra were once one people. There was a cataclysmic event that affected a portion of civilization, altering them and their offspring. This event is also what created the Wastes. These people became the Svistra and, over time, developed their own customs and way of life.
RT’s Victoria was stunned by the effortless way that you wove your multidimensional plot together, so we’ve got to ask, what is a thread in this cloth that really gave you a challenge?
Okay, you heard it here first. Originally, Selia left the tavern to find her father, and, on the way, she rescued Jaden. Once I introduced Jaden to the mix, the landscape of the book changed. Nathan was originally the love interest. It's fairly obvious he's still interested in Selia, but Selia is not so much into Nathan. Deciding how far to go with the Nathan/Selia thread was difficult. Should she be tempted? Should she seriously consider a safe life with Nathan, a human? I have quite a few deleted scenes between those two. Also, it's a very small part of the plot, but the fact that Selia is a virgin gave me some trouble. One of the criticisms Altered Destiny has received is there is not enough sex. I have to stand by my guns though. She did not want to be like her mother or be perceived to be like her mother. That left visiting soldiers or travelers out. Who was left? People she'd known all her life, who were more like family than anything else. I think there are some very good intimate scenes in the book, but I decided to leave sex out.
Did you sit down to write a fantasy novel or is that what this story became?
Although the characters came first, Altered Destiny was always a fantasy novel. That's where my heart is. I love making up worlds for my characters. I love the dynamic in fantasy.
And of course, can you share a bit about your next novel?
I'm working on two right now. Awakening is the very first thing I ever wrote with publication in mind. It's an epic fantasy and the book of my heart. I'm currently "modernizing" it so it's current with the way I write now—as opposed to 6 years ago. Heart of Stone is an urban fantasy with a Native American heroine. I love these characters, but they are so dynamic, they almost overpower me. This is the book my critique partners keep asking me for because they love the opening chapters.
Until Heart of Stone and Awakening are complete, readers will have to content themselves with Shawna Thomas' debut, Altered Destiny. But, we bet fantasy fans will be more than satisfied with this novel, which RT's Victoria calls "a fabulous find". You can get your own copy now and be sure to check out our Everything Science Fiction & Fantasy Page to keep up with all the latest genre news and new releases!