Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with Ann Aguirre

Today we are thrilled and honored to welcome one of my favorite authors in the world, Ann Aguirre. Ann is an extremely productive and versatile writer. Science fiction, urban fantasy, young adult dystopian - she writes it all, and she writes it well. A chance to interview her was one of my biggest dreams back when Lisa and I were starting The Nocturnal Library, so I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a little carried away with my questions. After reading (and loving) ten of her books, there were just so many things I wanted to know, and besides, I wanted to give our readers and fellow bloggers a chance to learn a thing or two more about Ann and her work.  

Hi, Ann! Thank you so much for agreeing to stop by and answer a few of our questions. One of my favorite things about your books is, of course, the worldbuilding. You’ve created two worlds for Deuce (one below and one above ground), an entire universe for Jax, and just when I thought Corine Solomon’s world was fairly simple, you chose to throw her into the extremely detailed and incredibly complicated demon realm in Devil’s Punch. How do you even begin to build a world like Jax’s? What was similar about creating those worlds and what was different? Do you have one you feel most attached to?

My worldbuilding process seems to be unusual in the sense that I don’t create worlds before characters. With me, character is king. The people I write are real to me, and basically, they tell me about their environments on a need-to-know basis. To many people, this probably sounds crazy; fictitious people who live in my head tell me things that I didn’t know before? Suuuure.

Walter Jon Williams penned an interesting novel called Aristoi, wherein he taps the idea that we possess fragments of other personalities locked away inside our brains; he called them daimones. These sub-personalities can think and feel independently and possess talents that we need. It’s an intriguing take on beneficial schizophrenia, and I sometimes wonder if there’s a kernel of truth to it. Because the fact is, I don’t know where Jax (or her world) came from. She told me about it as we went along. That same is true for Deuce and the Razorland world.

The one component I impose in my worldbuilding is that all elements should be internally consistent. If there is no magic in the world in book one, I can’t solve a problem with a spell in book three. But generally, my protagonists make it clear early on whether they’re living in a science-based world or a paranormal one, and all logic descends from that reality.

In terms of similarity, I create all my worlds in the same fashion; my heroines tell me all about them. It’s that simple and that complicated.

I never pick a favorite, however. All my books are pretty, and I love them all. *g*

Not counting the new ones (simply because we know very little about them), you were, until recently, writing three different series with three memorable heroines. Sirantha Jax, Corine Solomon and Deuce are all strong-willed, resourceful and independent, but they’re also very different. I’m interested in that time between finishing one and starting the other. How did you manage to keep their voices so separated? Was switching between them hard, was there an entire process involved, or were you able to just step out of one and into the other?  

That’s a good question. As you’ve noted, I’m a productive writer; I work a lot. That’s because this is my day job. I devote at least forty hours a week to it, and often it ends up being more when you add in admin stuff, promo, interviews, business emails, travel (and the list goes on). But once I wrap up a project, I walk away. For a minimum of one week (and sometimes two), I don’t write. I handle minimal email during this time, only the emergencies. In short, I do other things to let my brain refuel.

Then after that necessary break, I’m ready to take on a new heroine, a new book, and a new world. This holiday lets me shift the voices without problems. For this reason, I prefer not to multitask. I work on one project at a time, until it’s complete. I know some writers draft on multiple books simultaneously, but that method isn’t for me.  

The Sirantha Jax series is coming to an end - the final installment, Endgame, will be released in September 2012. It was the first series you sold, so I suppose it’s safe to say that it changed your life. Now that your work is (mostly) done and you get to look back through more experienced eyes, how do you feel about it? Are you happy with how it all went or would you change something if you could?

I will always love Jax. Is the series perfect? Of course not. Would I change some things? Possibly. I mean, I believe I’ve improved in the past five years. I’m a stronger, more confident writer. But on the other hand, there was some quality that made readers fall in love with Jax--to root for her--and follow her to this conclusion. So maybe I wouldn’t change anything, after all. Mistakes make us who are; and so, no. In short, I cherish Jax for who she is, who I’ve written her to be, even with various scars and imperfections in my execution. She did, indeed, change my life.

The social media today allows readers and authors to communicate more. Authors have instant feedback and the readers have a chance to get some additional questions answered or just enjoy updates from their favorite authors. You are very present on the internet and very generous and gracious to your fans. What are some of your favorite experiences with readers?  

Since it took me twenty years to get published, each time a reader reaches out to tell me they enjoyed something I wrote, or that my book spoke them? It feels like a miracle. Each email, each Tweet, is precious, remarkable. I’m the girl who grew up in a farming town, across from a cornfield, where people hoped for jobs in factories, on assembly lines or in the steel mills. Instead, I build worlds and spin dreams for a living. Can you imagine anything more wondrous? I can’t; I never once had another dream, not since I was eight years old and won an opportunity to hear Shel Silverstein read from Where the Sidewalk Ends.

But I suspect you want a specific anecdote. The story that sticks in my mind is an email from a young man, who had been arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. In his email, he said he had always been a good kid, and he kept thinking it was all a terrible mistake--that he’d be released soon. During that awful time, his dad brought him a copy of Grimspace. Which he read repeatedly, over and over, to keep him sane while he was incarcerated. He said he read it until the pages fell out. Eventually, the police found the real culprit, and this reader was released. He told me he ran to the bookstore and spent his last few dollars on Wanderlust because he was so invested in Jax; her struggles had become his. She (and I) kept him sane during the worst moments of his life. He’s now gainfully employed, engaged. Happy.

There’s nothing I can add to that. I only ever wanted to entertain a few people. If I’ve done more, if I’ve offered respite or comfort as well, then I am overwhelmed. I am so honored that a reader would turn to me to transcend his or her life for a little while.

But really, all emails move me. As I’ve said before, without my readers, I’m a woman alone with my keyboard.

Presumably not all our readers keep as close an eye on you as we do (just healthy interest, no stalking, we promise!), so even though you’ll be repeating what you already wrote on your website, could you please tell us as much as you can about your upcoming projects?

Oh boy. Do you have a comfy chair? This could take a while. I’ll put together a tentative release schedule for you.

The Dread Queen series (SF, Jax universe)
(September 2013)
(September 2014)
(September 2015)

The quick and dirty: Prison Break in space, set on an impenetrable detention ship. There are no guards; everything is automated but rundown, broken and ramshackle. The ship was old, even before they retrofitted it, a former deep space mining and refinery ship. It’s enormous, slow, and the jump drive has been removed. Its orbit is fixed around a large, unpopulated asteroid with no other civilization in the system. On board, there is no administration or authority. The inmates run the asylum; this is where they lock up the worst of the worst and throw away the key.

The new series will occur after the Jax books end (for our purposes, 30-40 years later). JAEL, who was a villain in the Jax series and was incarcerated on Ithiss-Tor at the end of DOUBLEBLIND, is the romantic lead. He’s a Bred human, a result of DNA experimentation that results in a Wolverine-like ability to heal and regenerate. This makes him damn near unkillable, as well as slows his aging; he’s much older than he looks. For many turns, he’s been persecuted by the authorities, who want to lock him up and experiment on him to see why he’s one of the few surviving prototypes. Most Bred humans died in utero or went insane and had to be terminated in the labs. But just before the program was shut down, Jael escaped along with a few other subjects. Their whereabouts are unknown. In the interim, he worked as mercenary under a variety of aliases, but early betrayal taught him to trust no one and to value nothing more than the credit. He’s as amoral and dangerous as they come.

DRESDEMONA “DRED” DEVOS is the heroine. She’s not an innocent wrongly accused; she's a killer. She has a specific Psi gift that lets her hunt those with psychotic and violent pathologies. It’s a specialized form of empathy, and in time, she honed it to find these predators, but the constant influx from their bloody deeds drove her vigilante, and she executed a bunch of murderers. Only when you're an unregistered Psi outlaw and you do that without proof? You wind up with the exact dregs you were trying to eliminate. Dred’s really messed up in the head, a cold as ice killer with her own code, and life in lockdown has made her even scarier.

Now watch these two fall in love. If they survive, it will be epic.

The Beauty trilogy (paranormal)
Mortal Beauty*
(2014, Fall TBA)
Dire Charm*
(2015, Fall TBA)
Dead Lovely*
(2016, Fall TBA)

Pitched as Doctor Faustus meets Mean Girls, set in a dark world of secret societies, twisted bargains, and forbidden love. The heroine is named Edie, and the hero is called Kian. I’m not going to tell you more than that because it’s insanely complex in what my agent calls the “down the rabbit hole” way. Plus, I feel a little superstitious about this project. It’s the biggest deal of my career and I don’t want to leak too many details until I get the first book finished.

Steampunk series (as A.A. Aguirre, with husband Andres)
Bronze Gods*
(May 2013)
Silver Mirrors*
(May 2014)

This series takes place a dark, lush dangerous world set in what we’d call fairy. Only “under the hill” isn’t the pastoral utopia it once was. Because there are fairly regular crossings (once every hundred years or so), our technology has gradually infiltrated the other world. So when steamships go missing, well, that’s where they’ve gone. The original population, the Ferishers–what we’d call the Seelie and Unseelie–have long since interbred with the humans who crossed. Now there are no pure bloods left, and noble houses have formed on the basis of how much Ferisher blood is left in their lineage. Ferisher blood permits human descendants to work small magics and cast glamours. The fey who refused to share their world with the interlopers fell into the Fade; their bodies withered and died, leaving them hungry, angry spirits that haunt the countryside. Some citizens can summon those spirits and use them to gain strength and power. In the first volume, there’s murder, mayhem, dark rituals, theatre, forbidden romance, a dark stranger who’s been called the Lord of Spiders, a drug-addicted gray knight who works as a cop, and a genealogist cursed with sensing lies.

It’s steampunk with a gaslight fantasy-noir bent. Sound intriguing? My editor, Anne Sowards, says: “It’s such an interesting world!” After I complete revisions for her, I’ll post the first chapter so everyone can enjoy a sneak peek.

And I’m spent.

*titles could change at any moment.

Thanks for having me!

Thanks again, Ann! For the record, I wouldn’t change a single thing about Jax either, I even named my cat after her. The entire series is perfect just the way it is. And the upcoming projects sound so very interesting that I can’t even pick a favorite. I want them all! :)

Since Ann has three ongoing series and I simply couldn’t force myself to choose just one, we’ve decided to give away the first installment of each of those series. That would be one copy of Enclave (Razorland, #1), one of Grimspace (Sirantha Jax,#1) and one of Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon, #1). You can see the covers above. (Of course, If you already have the first book and want another one in that series, we won't be difficult about it.) Three winners will be notified at exactly the same time: first to get back to us will be able to choose the prize.
The giveaway is, as always, international, i.e. anywhere The Book Depository ships. It will close on Saturday, April 7th. Good luck to all of you and thanks for stopping by.
*click on 'Read more' for the Rafflecopter*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I think I'd like to win Blue Diablo :)

  2. If I win Grimspace, I promise to finally read it. It's been on my mind forever and ever.

  3. I have blue diablo on my wish list but i would also be happy to win a Sirantha jax book to complete my serie ( so book3)

    all the best and thanks you a lot for this international giveaway

  4. I think I'd like to win Enclave. I've heard really good things about it. :)

    Thank you so much for this giveaway!

  5. Grimspace, because I already own good!

  6. Thanks for the interview! I would like to win either Grimspace or Enclave please.

  7. I would like to win Grimspace, because I discovered Ann through Enclave.

    Btw, if you haven't read Enclave, read it- it's awesome!

  8. I'd like to win Grimspace - it sounds amazing and I've read (and loved) the Corine Solomon books

  9. Ooooh! I haven't read any of them but I think I'd pick... uhh.... Grimspace. :D

  10. I'd love to win Enclave since I have Grimspace. I Just Finished Reading "Hellfire" a Corine Solomon book. I Need To find Blue Diablo So I Can Start at the beginning. I Don't know where you get your Spark for writing but May it never run out. Love your work!! Thank you for sharing your words.

  11. BRILLIANT interview, guys. That anecdote about the young man who was arrested is amazing. It definitely makes me even more eager to get started on my copy of Grimspace. I also can't quite believe Ann has so many new books planned! I'm looking forward to hearing more about the Beauty trilogy. :)

    I would love to win Enclave. I LOVED that book and would love to have my own copy. :) Thank you for the giveaway!

    1. Right, Sam? I mean, I expected some funny story about a fangirl (like myself) but I never expected something so powerful.

  12. What a gracious and busy lady. I really need to read more of her works. Looks like she has plenty of goods coming out. The interview was wonderful guys. That story about the young man wrongfully incarcerated was moving to say the least. I ak excited to check out her steampunk series. Thanks for the giveaway.

  13. Grim space would be my choice. Thanks for giveaway.

  14. I'd love Enclave!

    Thanks for the giveaway and the interview!

  15. Seriously, this is one of the most interesting interviews I've read. That story about the wrongfully accused reader is crazy and wonderful at the same time. I can't even imagine what it would be like to know that my writing had that much effect on people. I loved Grimspace and I have no idea what is taking me so long to finish the rest of the series. This interview might be the catalyst:)

    1. Oh, and I don't know which one I'd want. Probably Blue Diablo? I own the DTB and ebook of Grimspace and the ebook of Enclave so yeah, I guess BD is my pick. I'm glad I spent so much time thinking it out lol. Esp. considering that I recently won one of your giveaways so I don't deserve to win another anytime soon:)

  16. Thanks to everyone for the kind comments... and to Maja for the interview and the lovely giveaway.

  17. Really, really great interview ladies! I am so excited that Jael is going to be in his own series! I can't believe how many things she has going at once - that's incredible.

    1. Right? I despised him in Doubleblind because he kept trying to take March's place, but in a series of his own?! *fans self*

  18. Hi! Thank you for the international giveaway!
    I've heard lots of good things about the first book, the Enclave, but I think I would pick Grimspace :)
    The blurb is intriguing and I love the cover!

  19. I'd like to win Enclave

    Thanks for making this giveaway possible

  20. ANN!!! I seriously, honestly had no idea that you were so awesome because then I would've made sure to read more books by you! :) <3 It's such a great idea to take a break after finishing each project because then you give your brain time to rest instead of trying to force yourself to write. My confession is that I always try to multitask but never do a good job LOL -- I should probably do things more your way x)

    Amazing interview, you two! :) I've only read Enclave so far, but now I'm definitely planning on picking up that steampunk series because, with Ann's cool world-building, I can bet it's going to be awesome! :) <3

  21. Grimspace or Enclave... which one? Which one?!?!

    But in any case, this interview was amazing and I'm so, so happy to have read it! Thanks for the chance, girls!

  22. Oh wow! Talk about a true writing machine. That is quite the release schedule.

    Ann, I'll be honest, that reader who reached out to you and said that you kept him sane... I teared up!!! How amazing to touch that many people's lives even during their darkest times. Thanks for sharing that story.

    Jax sounds like an amazing character, so I have to go with Grimspace.

    Thank you!

    1. Ohh, Missie, you'd love Grimspace, I just know it. Plus, there's book boyfriend material in there! March is... well, he's March, There's no one like him.

  23. Maja, this interview is so great! I've never read any of her books, but Sirantha Jax seems right up my alley! :)

  24. Thanks for the giveaway!! I've really been wanting to read Enclave. :)

  25. I've NEVER read a book by Ann Aguirre. How crazy is that? Hmmm...if I had to pick, I think I'd go with Grimspace.

    Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  26. I would pick Enclave, pleasee!

  27. I would pick Grimspace. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  28. Thank you for this amazing giveaway. <3 I would like to win Enclave :D
    Love, Carina

  29. I believe I'd like to win...Grimspace! I've heard so much about it!

  30. This is such an amazing interview ladies, it's incredible to see just how much of an impact your books can make on an individual's life, the story of the wrongly accused reader was so heartfelt. Thanks for the giveaway! I would love to win a copy of Grimspace

  31. Wonderful interview you guys. I would like to win Enclave.

  32. I'd love to win Enclave! I've heard so many great things about it! Thanks for the giveaway!

  33. I'd love to win a copy of Grimspace - I have read Enclave and it is a firm favourite of mine.

  34. I'd like a copy of Grimspace because the plot sound very interesting.

  35. Enclave has been on my TBR list for SO LONG! I've been dying to read it. Great interview too. 20 years to get published!? Wow that must have felt amazing when a pub finally picked her books up! I can't even imagine. It's why I read Self Pubs. There are some amazing books out there that pubs declined for random reasons and not only because it's not good. It could simply be because it would compete with another similar novel they picked up. Anyways, I have to read Ann's boooks! :D

  36. I would go for Enclave, thank you so much

  37. I would love love love to win Enclave!

  38. I think I'd like to win Blue Diablo b/c I already ran out and got Grimspace when you "ordered" me to read it ;)

    Awesome freakin' interview. You asked the most intelligent questions and I loved Ms. Aguirre's answers. She sounds like my favorite author and I haven't even read her yet!!! Thanks for the awesome interview and giveaway.

    ps. sorry I've been absent from visiting you guys for so long. My heads been you know where... I've fixed the situation ;)
    -Kristin @myparahangover

  39. What an excellent interview Maja. Yeah right, healthy interest my a&&, I know stalking when I see it! Although, who wouldn't want to be stalked by you, Maja?!

    I think I would like to get Grimspace, if I win. Thanks for the awesome giveaway! :)

  40. Btw, are you staring at the helicopter again? Stop it!

  41. Great interview, girls! Ann's name didn't ring a bell but I recognised the cover of Enclave, I think I'll add it to my to-read list ;)

  42. I would love to win Enclave. It's the only book by Ann that I don't have (I'm waiting impatiently for my copy of Devil's Punch to arrive.)

  43. Such a brilliant interview! I love it that Ann communicates with her readers a lot. The story about the man who didn't commit a crime is very touching. If I were an author, I would like my book to have that big influence to my readers too! :)

    Thank you for the amazing giveaway! This is awesome and I'd love to win a copy of Enclave. That sounds like my cup of tea! But I think I'm going to check the rest of her books... I'm very intrigued after reading this interview! :)

  44. I'd love to read Enclave! Great interview, and thanks for this amazing giveaway! :)

  45. I would like to win either Grimspace or Enclave please.


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