USA Today bestselling author Cathy Clamp reboots the Sazi universe in Forbidden, a tightly-paced, high-tension urban fantasy thriller.
Ten years have passed since the war that destroyed the Sazi Council and inflicted a horrible "cure" on thousands of Sazi, robbing them of their ability to shapeshift.Luna Lake, isolated in Washington State, started as a refugee camp for Sazi orphans. Now it's a small town and those refugees are young adults, chafing at the limits set by their still-fearful guardians.There's reason to fear: Sazi children are being kidnapped. Claire, a red wolf shifter, is sent to investigate. Held prisoner by the Snakes during childhood, Claire is distrusted by those who call Luna Lake home.Before the war, Alek was part of a wolf pack in Chicago. In Luna Lake he was adopted by a parliament of Owls, defying Sazi tradition. The kidnappings are a painful reminder that his little sister disappeared a decade ago.When Claire and Alek meet, sparks fly—but the desperate race to find the missing children forces them to set aside their mutual attraction and focus on the future of their people.
TNL: You co-authored many books with C. T. Adams, before separating and flipping a coin for your ongoing projects. I always admired authors who can write with someone else. How is writing on your own different? Was it scary at any point or was it just liberating?
CC: No, I wouldn’t say scary. We actually always wrote books individually. We would edit each other’s text and add or subtract things that worked or didn’t work for the other person. Now, I just use my editor in that role. I do talk a lot more to my editor than I used to, but since she’s a fan of the series, it’s actually a lot of fun!
TNL: What are your priorities when writing a book? Do you plot and plan ahead and what do you focus on the most?
CC: Oh, I’m definitely a plotter! I have to have a whole scene, including smell, taste and touch, in my head before I can put a single word down on paper. Take, for example, an action scene. It’s not enough for me to just see the battle taking place visually. I close my eyes and try to capture the smells and taste around the characters. Is there bile rising into their throat from? Can they smell the blood? Can they taste it?. Is the sweat making their palms slick from heat or fear? What are the physical reactions to adrenaline? Sharper eyesight, but ringing in the ears, so they can’t hear? I think about all of this—imagine the scene until it’s an interactive movie in my head. Then I just write it down. So the “thinking” process is really slow, but the actual writing is fast and furious. I can pump out 5-10K words a day once I have the scene in my head. I binge write over whole days, barely stopping to eat. But it looks like I’m not doing anything for a couple of months, and then I slam the whole book out in a couple of weeks. Weird, I know.
TNL: Forbidden is the start of a new series, but in an already established world. Do you think new readers will struggle with such a complex world or did you make sure to include and explain all the important details?
CC: No, I don’t really think readers will struggle because these are new characters in a whole new setting. And the world has changed drastically from what the previous set of characters knew. A decade has passed, and stability hasn’t yet been restored. So it’s dystopian, in a sense, after a massacre, after a plague. The people still left have to pick up the pieces and start over.
TNL: What is your favorite thing about the Sazi universe?
CC: Wow! So many things. I love the characters, and because it’s JUST shapeshifters—without a lot of other paranormal creatures—there’s a lot of time to explore the relationships between their human and animal sides. And it’s the best kind of urban fantasy, where our real physics and rules apply. I really have to explain why and how things happen. How they can happen, logically, in our world.
TNL: Luna Lake is a small isolated community with some firmly set rules. Could you tell us a bit more about it and about the people in power?
CC: There’s a lot I really can’t say because they’re spoilers for the primary plot. But Luna Lake started as a refugee camp for survivors of both the snake attack from the previous series and the “Cure”. The short version is that a lot of the snake shifter population was loyal to a madman, who wanted to rule the world. Sargon had the power to rule the world, and nearly succeeded. When he and his people were defeated, it put the remaining snakes in a bad position. Other shifters now fear and loathe snakes and hunt them down without mercy. But most stay in climates that snakes don’t like to keep them as far away as possible. The second event that happened simultaneously was a group of family members of Sazi—of the shifter blood, but who never shifted, turned against their own families and created a chemical cocktail that “cured” shapeshifting. Except it didn’t completely work, or not the same on everyone. It mutated, as cures are wont to do. Some people went insane. Others died when they tried to shift and still others lost or gained abilities. It’s a wild mix that people since it happened have called the “plague.” Because for many, it was.
Luna Lake’s residents are made up of a bunch of different shifter species. Wolves live side-by-side with cougars and jaguars, and bears are next door neighbors with owls or eagles. It’s a very unique place, even for their kind.
TNL: Our two main characters, Claire and Alek, are very different, but they share the same values. How would Claire describe Alek after everything they’ve been through and vice versa? What did they learn about each other through their ordeal?
CC: Claire would likely describe Alek as fiercely devoted to family. He’ll do anything for his family, and not just blood. They have in common that their family of choice is just as important, because they came from similar backgrounds of loss. Alek thinks Claire is multi-layered. He thinks she’s smarter than he is, and can be more ruthless. She has the ability to put aside her emotions to get the job done. He’s not very good at that. His emotions have a huge impact on how he responds in a crisis. It makes them a good pair, because they remind each other of the value of both emotionless intellect and emotional connection.
TNL: The attraction is immediately there for Alek and Claire, but they both make mistakes along the way. Alek especially made some very bad decisions which made me wonder if Claire would ever forgive him. Did you have a course planned for their relationship from the beginning? Do you know where you’ll be taking them next?
CC: The moment I realized that the only way an outsider to a small town could exist was at the lowest rung of society, the course sort of planned itself. Of course, they are both A-type personalities, so the way will be rocky.
TNL: The second book is already titled Illicit. What can we expect from it and when can we hope to have it in our hands?
CC: Book 2, ILLICIT, doesn’t focus on Alek and Claire except as secondary characters. That book will feature Rachel Washington as the heroine and another outsider, DalvinAdway, as the hero. After all Rachel has been through, she needs her HEA just as much as Claire does. And readers will meet the heroine of book 3, DENIED, in the pages of ILLICIT. It’ll all make sense as a whole world arc. Luna Lake, as a town, is a character, too. The location, every building, every tree, has a part to play. There’s a reason the land where the town is has been owned by the Sazi hierarchy since the beginning of time. I think readers are really going to like the new world. And if sales are strong through book 3, I would love to reintroduce some of the characters from the original reality. They still have stories left to tell too.
Thanks so much, Cathy, and thank you to the lovely folks at Tor for organizing the tour.
FORBIDDEN is available now!