Hello, nocturnal readers!
I am currently enjoying my vacation in Sarajevo, but my long-awaited Q&A with Indra Vaughn was worth coming back for. Indra's Shadow Mountain novels, which I reviewed just recently here, are unique and unforgettable and undoubtedly among the very best M/M fiction has to offer.
Series: Shadow Mountain, #1
Released: December 31st 2014
Length: 284 pages
Two towns flank the looming Shadow Mountain. A dark myth of the Predator drifts through the dense trees, a tale Police Lieutenant Hart never paid much attention to. When one unresolved death follows another—some people dying without discernible cause while others are clearly, and often brutally, murdered—he can't ignore it any longer. Truth may lie in myth, but this one is spread to deceive everyone. The Predator exists, but he's not entirely human. Hart will have to find the connection between the mysterious figure and victims with only one thing in common: a faint tattoo on the backs of their necks, a mark left when someone healed their incurable diseases.Isaac Lasko has been in love with Hart since he moved in across the street seven years ago. He’s been helping Hart renovate his home, and their friendship grows more intense with the years, but Isaac can't help wishing for a deeper bond. When he finally breaks through the lieutenant's armor, the mystery surrounding the Predator threatens them both. Help will come, but at a price.
Dear Indra, thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us. Your Shadow Mountain series remains one of my biggest, most pleasant surprises this year. I love every minute I’ve spent with Hart and Isaac so far and I look forward to anything that may be coming in the future. What were your hopes and expectations when you first started writing the series and how did they change over time?
Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be interviewed by you so I’m very happy to be here, and so pleased to hear you liked the series.
When I first started writing the Shadow Mountain series, it very much wasn’t meant to be a series at all. It was meant to be one book, and the villain was completely different. Then the story sort of took a life of its own and kept on growing beyond what I could fit into one book. So I decided to turn it into two, and by the time I was halfway through Fragmented, I knew there would be a third book. And two spin-offs.
Could you tell us a tiny bit about yourself? What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing or reading?
I’m a single mom and very new at it, so a lot of my time right now goes to my three-year-old. Over the past month we sold our home, said goodbye to lots of friends, moved countries,… It’s a lot to take in, especially since he has to deal with a language barrier too.
When things settle down a bit and he’s used to going to school here, I’ll be going back to work (I’m a nurse), and then most of the ‘me-time’ will be devoted to writing and everything that comes with it. I do try to squeeze in some yoga and a run every now and again.
Okay, let’s chat about Shadow Mountain for a bit. Your character development is simply stupendous, and I’m not just talking about Hart. The series has enough substance even without the paranormal parts. How did those come about? Did you set out to write a paranormal mystery, or was the romance first on your mind?
Wow, thank you!
I wanted to write something paranormal, and at first the romance didn’t play much part in it at all. I knew Hart and Isaac would end up together at some point, but it was supposed to be very much a background thing. But as it turns out, nobody puts Isaac in the background…
As for the paranormal part, my aim was to find something that could smoothly fit into our own world without creating a whole alternate universe. A lot more of that will become clear in Julian and Mauro’s story. I wanted it to be a red thread throughout the books, but not the overwhelming plot line.
Hart is an incredibly difficult character in every sense: he is a difficult person, and often difficult to read about. Is he difficult to write? Do you ever get frustrated with him? I don’t think he sees himself very clearly, but how do you see him? And how do you think Isaac would describe him?
Funnily enough, he’s at his hardest to write in the third book. In the first book, I knew he was this stoic-looking loner, who deep down was just lonely and not convinced he deserved anyone’s affection, least of all Isaac who is like sunshine to him. So in the first book I got frustrated with him, but I had a very clear handle on his faults.
The second book was the easiest to write. I still don’t quite know why, but that book just poured out of me at record speed, and I knew exactly how I wanted Hart’s character to grow, while he still stubbornly clung to what he knew, and what was ultimately a safe, pain-free existence. The way I see it, after being alone for so long, and being comfortable that way, giving himself over to Isaac took a lot of courage. And even more the second time around.
In the third book, he’s being a pain in my foot, I have to say. Everything is supposed to be going smoothly (until it’s not, obviously), and I’m having trouble letting go of some of Hart’s… how should I put this… less admirable qualities.
I think it would be easy to mistake Isaac’s love for Hart to be a blind love, but the truth is, Isaac knows exactly who Hart is. (Up to a point. Which is the point.) Hart has been a driving influence in Isaac’s life since Isaac was 16 years old, and while he did start out with a hero-worship infatuation, he quickly learned Hart’s flaws, and loved him all the more for them. He knows Hart is stubborn and set in his ways, but he also knows Hart has a heart of gold and is a rock Isaac can lean on when he needs to.
The love between Isaac and Hart is so strong, it jumps right of the pages and envelops the reader completely. But it’s complicated and intense, a tangled mess that is the farthest thing from a conventional romance. What are your thoughts on the dynamic between the two and how they differ from every other romance couple I’ve ever stumbled upon?
In the first book and the beginning of the second, I think their love is actually fairly imbalanced. It’s not just the age thing, with Hart being that much older, but the fact that Isaac has been in love with him since he was a teenage boy. I think a situation like that inevitably brings a power balance that isn’t necessarily healthy. And that balance is righted in the second half of Fragmented.
How they differ from every other romance couple you’ve ever stumbled upon… God, I have no idea! I’m not sure that they do. I certainly didn’t set out trying to be different, but maybe the way their dynamic starts out is a little unusual? I’m really not sure. I can only hope that means I managed to create two unique individuals and I’ll take that as high praise.
Three? Only three? Oh man… Okay, I can do this.
1 – Anne and Captain Wentworth from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I read this at a very young and impressionable age (and it ruined me forever—just kidding) and this is beyond a doubt THE couple I think of when I hear “romance”. I mean really:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating...
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.2 – Paris and Roan in Andrea Speed’s Infected series. I can’t even think about these two without going all misty-eyed.
"I'm always going to be with you, you know. As long as you remember me, I will exist. Memory is a form of existence, life after death."3 – This is just so cruel. I have at least four couples I want to add in here, but I think I’m going to go with Darian and Ash from Alexis Hall’s Glitterland. This is probably the most perfectly mismatched couple I’ve ever come across and it’s just marvelous how Alexis makes it work. Also, the writing is beyond this world.
— Andrea Speed (Bloodlines (Infected, #2))
“And when he kisses me it feels a bit like fear and tastes a bit like tears, but it’s as bright and sweet as sherbet, and I decide to call it joy.”
― Alexis Hall, Glitterland
I love Glitterland! Such an amazing story and gorgeous characters! What was the last thing (book or movie) that touched you to tears?
I never used to cry over books or movies. Seriously, not ever. And then my son was born and suddenly I bawl over those ‘dogs greeting their military owner after 9 months away from home’. I’m not kidding. That’s literally the last thing I cried over today. But if we’re talking books, that would’ve been Up Island by Anne River Siddons. (Even though the ending made me mad!)
Are you working on anything else right now? Are there any new projects on the horizon?
Leta Blake and I are laying finishing touches on Vespertine, the book we’ve co-authored. It’s about a priest and a rock star, and that releases on September 10th. I have another story that is in edits right now, which starts out very dark and certainly has a good chunk of my own grief buried in there, but it lightens up considerably. I don’t have a release date for that yet. And I’m also going to try and finish a story this month which will be out for Christmas. (Fingers crossed.)
What’s next for our boys?
In book 3, we’re jumping 4 years into the future. Their house is nice and finished, Isaac is a full-fledged therapist, while Hart is still keeping Brightly safe. Things have been relatively quiet for them, which of course changes the minute the story starts. They’re up against another murderer, more spooky Mountain things, and then there’s the little hint I dropped in the second book, which hangs over the both of them like a dark cloud. But all will be well in the end. Sort of. Maybe.
That's not at all comforting! But I'll guess we'll just have to be patient, which isn't easy for me. Thank you so much for your patience and willingness to answer my questions!
And thank you all for stopping by!