Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ash Krafton: Bleeding Hearts

This does sort of fit nicely with the A to Z, because fellow  Pink Narcissus author Ash Krafton features lots of nice Egyptian twists on the usual vampire lore in her debut novel. We're lucky enough to have her here for an interview today, so please welcome her and put any questions you have for her or general expressions of delight in the comments. You can find the novel through the publishers, as a paperback on Amazon, in the kindle edition, and probably in a great many other places too. Here's Ash:

Since this is a day for E generally, lets start with research into Egyptology. How much did you do?

Okay. First, let's clear things up—I'm a hobby Egyptologist. The only reason why I call any of it "research" is because I hope to claim my museum tickets as work expenses. I've more or less prowled museums since I was a kid. I love dusty old things. (Explains why my ceiling fans look the way they do.) I am a firm believer that if something is old and dusty, it's either an antiquity or a career politician.

Was it fun?

Yes, absolutely. I have had a huge crush on Tutankamun's burial mask since high school, even though I prefer to wear silver, myself. Recently my husband took me to see the treasures of King Tut when they toured through the Franklin Institute, a large science and discovery museum in Philadelphia, PA. I was enthralled by every tiny piece, every hair comb, every crazy head rest. I don't know why I've always been drawn to this particular culture; it seems that, all my life, it's been a part of me. Kind of strange since the only sand I've ever touched is on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Did you end up with the inevitable British Museum Publications book on reading hieroglyphics?

The WHAT? OMG. I just Googled it. I love pocket guides! Big wisdom in tiny packages! My Amazon wish list thanks you, sir. I have read other books and even own a nifty hieroglyphics stamp set. However, my knowledge of reading the glyphs is limited to knowing that you read in the direction of the way the figures are facing.

Paranormal, particularly with vampires, is such a popular field. Were there ways that was a good thing (finding places to promote, having support, that sort of thing perhaps) but also ways that it made things more difficult (maybe having to hit genre markers, or finding a way to stand out)?

You know, writing in this field is bittersweet. On one hand, I get to write the type of story I most like to read…but on the other hand, it's a beast to market. In the beginning, I was writing the story for me—Bleeding Hearts is my first novel-length work—so marketing wasn't even a consideration. As the story grew, it took on its own form. When plans for publication formed, I knew the story would have to be wrangled into submitable submission.

It took YEARS of researching genres just to label it—and there are still days when I want to add tags to it because it has so many cross-genre qualities.

Unfortunately, it's tough to get a book like this on the market. I had a lot of agents pass because, while they liked the book, they knew it would be tough sell with so many similar books in print. One agent even contacted me twice with her rejection, to couple it with a sincere apology because she already repped a writer in the same genre and didn't want to compete with her own client.

However, I don't regret all the effort that went into getting this book out because there are a lot of readers who feel the same as I do, who are really enjoying the story and are glad I wrote it. I suppose that's the secret—facing a tough market is bearable when you love the book you wrote.

I’ve noticed a few quite dark moments in the novel, but also quite a light tone overall. Is that a deliberate balancing act? Does one necessarily exclude the other, or does it perhaps allow it?

We all face dark moments in our lives. We all face grief and terror—perhaps not on the level of paranormal fiction, but some of us face horrors even writers won't touch. Just remember…We are human and resilient and capable of survival. I like to think that the take-away message of the story is "hope": hope for a requited love, hope for survival, hope for a better tomorrow. Sophie's light tone should reflect that she's able to rise above the dark and murky depths because she represents that hope.

You'd never notice the light if there were no shadows. It's a necessary balance, one that gives each of our actions true meaning.

When you’ve got hold of quite a big, interesting world, is it hard to discipline yourself to focus on just the core dynamic of the story, the relationship? For example, you compress a certain amount of stuff in the relationship where Sophie is learning about Marek’s world, but presumably that’s because you realised that it would take the focus off them as a couple?
Ah, see? This is one of those quirky cross-genre issues that makes the book hard to shelve. If the story were a paranormal romance, the focus would be on the development of the relationship. It would also require the almighty HEA—the "happily ever after" which just isn't necessarily part of this story. I think the story is more about the development of Sophie's character as she adapts to a changing world. She definitely isn't the same person at the end of the story—she's stronger and more courageous. That aspect makes it sound like paranormal women's lit—and even that isn't entirely true, since Sophie's tone and her struggles as a single woman give the story a chick-lit voice. However, one can argue that the story is definitely plot-driven, in which case the paranormal elements would classify it as urban fantasy.

Sorry…what was the question again?

Did you find your relationship with your book changing post acceptance, in the lead up and preparation period to publication? Is that maybe a different challenge for an author?

It is an entirely new world because, when I signed on with Pink Narcissus, I then had partners. My editor, Stacy Giufre, got to know my book almost as well as I do and I honestly feel she claims an ownership, of sorts. It's an odd feeling considering I wrote most of it in secret. Revising was an editorial challenge at first because I wasn't sure what this stranger would do to my story. This challenge quickly became my HEA because Stacy is a wonderful person and sincere friend with whom I knew I could share my book. In fact, everyone at PN are my champions—I never felt my story was at risk. Everything we've done together made the story and the book stronger and prettier and totally deserving of love.

In short, it all came down to my editorial team. I was lucky to have found my champions. I never had a moment of regret or doubt and I can't say we had any challenges at all after all was said and done. If everyone could work with their ideal editors, writers would be the happiest people alive.

With the inevitable question about lead character identification, do you find that you’re the one in your friendships who is always there with advice?

Unfortunately, yes. Even in high school, I was the one to sort my friend's problems. I always attributed that aspect of my personality to the fact that I listened to a lot of Rush and devoured Neil Peart's lyrics.

Eventually, I became a pharmacist so my day job pretty much revolves around two things: counting pills and giving advice. I'm pretty bossy these days and I get miffed when people don't follow my advice. I've scolded more than one customer and even gave one guy a time-out (to be enforced by his seven-year-old who listened to my tirade against her daddy with a look of absolute glee upon her face.)

Joking aside, I care deeply for my friends and family and hope that, if they trust me with their problems, I can help them get to a happier place. I'm not an advice columnist, but I'm sure I can play one on TV.

And an even more inevitable question about process. Are you mostly a character based author? By which I suppose I mean, when you get ideas, are they ideas about characters? Are they the things your attention is drawn to while you build up a sense of what is happening in the story? How much do you feel you need to know about your characters when you write?

Sophie started out as a doppleganger in a series of shorts but, when an actual novel became apparent, I had to make Sophie her own girl. My decision to make her an empath changed how she'd act and react in her world. I'm not an empath. I'm always the last one to figure out when people are joking about me and I trust people to a fault. With Sophie's sixth sense, those things would become entirely her own. I had to get into her and wear her skin for a while.

I suppose I am a character-based author when it comes to this story. The plot is a necessary element, of course, but I carry the characters in my head all the time, deciding their fates as individuals. I'm always trying to grow as a person, to be a better person, to be the change I wish to see in the world. I guess that's what I want for my characters, too, so I'm more concerned what happens to them at the end of the day.

So, what’s next for you, the series and life in general?

The series is in progress! So far, there are two more books planned; Sophie will be exposed to new elements of the paranormal world and will face emotional challenges when she agrees to "nanny" Marek's neice, who is experiencing developmental challenges with regards to her Demivampire powers. She also gets an oracular mentor who isn't her idea of a positive role model. And then there's Marek, who needs her more than ever but is just too stubborn to admit it. She's going to encounter real human situations with a paranormal twist.

There is also an increased focus on the Were population as well as a more in-depth look at the significance of the Horus Bird phenomenon.

As for life in general, I soldier on with the day job and continue to tell people what to do and how to do it. I soldier on with my family and continue to tell my children what to do and how to do it (although they rarely listen). I'll go back to writing the series when my book tour is over, I'll attend conventions so I can show off my ridiculously awesome heels (also business expenses), and I'll wake up every day with a single grateful thought towards Heaven because I live a blessed life. Who could ask for more?

Besides, I'm a writer. If something in life doesn't go my way, I'll just rewrite the ending.


Theresa Milstein said...

Bleeding hearts are such beautiful and unusual flowers.

Ancient Eqypt seems to interest many people I remember it was my favorite part of the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

When we were kids, we used to pluck the blossoms and pull them apart...the inside pieces resemble tiny toys.

I don't support the abuse of those flowers anymore so I recommend taking a peek inside the book. I discuss the pieces and the flower's significance to the main character.

We don't want anyone to have flower mutilation on their conscience. =)

Julie Daines said...

I do love a good vampire novel and something with an egyptian twist sounds cool. Thanks for the interview! I've spent many a day perusing the egyptian section of the British Museum.

Elizabeth said...

Egyptology is pretty fascinating. I can see how one could become engrossed in it.

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

Yay, Julie! Another mummy-stalker! :D