Interview and Giveaway with Ella Drake!
Penny: Welcome to The Quirky Ladies, Ella! I am so glad you're here today. I have really enjoyed reading two of your sci fi/romances, Jaq's Harp and Silver Bound. Science fiction and romance do not seem like a complementary pairing. Sort of like wearing combat boots with a couture dress. What are your feelings about this quirky sub-genre? How difficult is it to weave sci fi details and romance together in one story?
Ella: It’s not difficult. For me, it’s a natural. No matter where people are, what their setting, there’s a fundamental drive to have relationships whether familial, platonic friendship, or romantic, it’s part of being human. Put a bunch of people on a space station, they’ll form connections. They’ll gossip. They’ll fight. They’ll have sex in the virtual reality room!
Penny: I love stories that put a funky new twist on an old legend or fairy tale. (Can you say Santa Claus? hee hee) Jaq's Harp is a cool futuristic twist on the legend of Jack and the Beanstalk. How did you come up with this awesome idea and what were your sources of inspiration for the bioengineered plants? Did it ever occur to you to make the plants more insidious? I like how the human characters are still the main source of good and evil in this story; there is a satisfying sense of temporal universality of basic human good and evil. Regardless of our technological advances, we will always be the source of our own demise. Very cool.
Ella: The idea came from reading the original fairy tale to my kids and the resulting discussion of why in the world was Jack the good guy? He was poor, sure, but did that give him the right to climb up a beanstalk to steal from a giant and then kill that giant? From there, it was my own imagination taking it to “what if” and wondering what would make it okay for someone to climb up to a castle (mansion) in the sky to steal something. Of course, stealing to make things better, to stop the bad guys, wasn’t too big a stretch. And believing the giant was a bad guy in the original helped, so of course, in my story, the giant would have to be bad. It’d a big game of if this happened, then this might… The beanstalk came from wanting to make the story futuristic but not magic based, so the plant had to be science based. Never occurred to me to make the stalk insidious but that does open interesting possibilities! But yeah, it all comes down to good guys and bad guys in the end, or maybe misguided guys.
Penny: Could you tell us about some of your favorite sci fi stories (books/movies/TV shows, anything) and what premises really appeal to you? Who are your favorite sci fi villains? heroes? (My all-time favorite heroine is Ripley from Aliens...she is the ultimate feminist kick-ass heroine.)
Ella: Ripley is right up there! She’s a fantastic character. A premise that has always appealed to me is the one in The Abyss. The idea that there’s unexplored territory down below the oceans. That movie has a strong heroine lead as well. I think James Cameron knows how to write a heroine. Ripley (Aliens 2), Lindsey Brigman (The Abyss), Neytiri (Avatar), Max (Dark Angel), Mace (Strange Days), Helen Tasker (True Lies) and Sarah Connor (Terminator is one of my favorite movies, though not so much into T 2&3). Basically, Cameron’s entire body of work.
Oh, oops. I got off on a tangent about kick-ass heroines. Who can blame me?
My favorite scifi villain has to be Dark Vader, as he was in the first original Star Wars movie. He was such a scary character when he was first introduced. And of course, my favorite hero is Han Solo. Of course.
Penny: Oh, I totally LOVE the movie The Abyss. Good one! I also love the original Terminator...it's a great sci fi love story, and Sarah Connor is a fabulous heroine...especially her transformation from sweet, regular gal into kick-ass warrior. Nice choice.
What is your writing process like? Do you plot everything out ahead of time? Pants it? Do your stories and/or characters ever surprise you? Do you have a tough time adding in the "spicy" parts, or is that an integral part of the story?
Ella: I’m in-between plotting and pantsing. I usually have an idea, write somewhere between a chapter and three by pantsing it, then I stop and do a rough outline. This outline is generally a bullet list of something like ten points of where I want to go. When I write short, I may only have an idea of where I need to go to get to the end and one or two points to get there. The spicy parts aren’t difficult for me. I think mostly because when I start a story, I already know how much of the spicy the story needs. Some need more than others. I don’t force it there if it doesn’t need to be. The growth of the characters and their relationship are the driving force behind those scenes.
Penny: How difficult is it to write a satisfying story when the word count is low? Do you approach it differently than writing a full-length manuscript? As a reviewer, I find some short stories incredibly satisfying, like an "amuse bouche"--a quickie taste of something wonderful. Other quickies leave you feeling unsatisfied, and wishing the story had been longer. How do you circumvent this problem as a writer?
Ella: Writing short to me means sticking to the barebones essential conflict. Usually this means a minimal of secondary characters, though that can be done if the story needs it. It means dealing with a plot that can be resolved satisfactorily in the space available. It also means paying close attention to pacing. Most importantly, the ending becomes crucial. The close of the story can’t be too abrupt or the reader will feel like they’ve been left hanging. And that ending needs to feel substantial, whether everything is resolved or not.
Penny: Are you planning sequels for any of your books? What projects are you working on now? Is sci/fi romance your favorite genre, or are you jonesing for something different?
Ella: I am planning sequels to both of the stories you’ve mentioned. I’m almost done with a prequel for Silver Bound and I’ve planned a story that takes place after the events of Silver Bound. I’ve also finished the next story in the world of Jaq’s Harp. Hopefully I’ll have more news on that one soon. Sci-fi and paranormal romance are my favorite genres, but I also love historical romance and there are a select few contemporary authors I follow and snap up their new releases like candy.
Penny: Since you're on The Quirky Ladies blog, I have to ask....what's quirky about Ella Drake? Do you have a favorite quirky book/movie/music/food?
Ella: Not sure why, but the first thing that popped into my head with that question was a quirky book that’s one of my favorites, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford, which in round-about way reminds me of The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. That brings me to Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. These three novels are some of my favorites of all time, which is amazing since I mostly love and stick to Romance. But when I read outside of Romance, I love to read books that are a bit quirky. All three of these have what I’d call speculative elements. I guess there’s a bit of a theme, there.
Quirky food. I’ve loved this since I was a kid: Take a small bottle of Coke (it has to be a bottle) and pour a packet of salty roasted peanuts in it & drink/eat!
Penny: Those books sound cool. And your quirky food sounds....well....quirky. I'm not sure I could eat that!
Ella, thanks so much for hanging out with The Quirky Ladies today.
We'll be giving away one copy of Jaq's Harp to a random commenter. Just tell Ella who your favorite kick-ass heroine is!
Bio: As a child Ella read books under the covers with a flashlight. There she found a special love of elves, dragons, and knights. Now that she's found her own knight in shining armor and happily ever after, she loves to write tales of fantasy, hot enough to scorch the sheets. No flashlight needed.
Ella writes dark paranormal and science fiction romance. She loves to talk with readers and can be found most days on Twitter, Facebook, & Goodreads. She can also be found on her website and her eHarlequin author page.
Futuristic Romance/Twisted Fairytale/Biopunk -- Short (ebook)
In a world of floating islands and bio-engineered beans, the bad guys are taken down by agents of the Mother organization—agents like Jacqueline “Jaq” Robinson. Instead of accepting her next routine assignment, she sets out on a mission of her own—to destroy Giant Corp, the company responsible for her sister’s wasting illness. Jaq must steal her cure from Giant’s headquarters high above the city…even though she’ll be brought face-to-face with Harper English, the man who left her to go deep undercover at Giant.
For Harp, Jaq had been a distraction the mercenary thought he couldn’t afford. But once he sees her again, Harp knows he’s made a mistake. Even though she vowed he won’t have her again, it’s clear they still have a powerful attraction. Harp’s determined to get a second chance with Jaq—if they can escape Giant Corp and get back to solid ground in one piece…
Please visit her website to read an excerpt of this fantastic story!