Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Anathema / Author Interview: K.A. Tucker

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Anathema by K.A. Tucker was such an amazing read that I literally had trouble putting this book down and when I did, at the end, I kept thinking about it. The characters were lodged firmly in my mind and I had a billion questions about how everything was going to turn out down the road - you know, in the next book! 

Here's a little product description to get you started:
Evangeline has spent her teenage years in obscurity. Her foster parents have the emotional aptitude of robots and her classmates barely acknowledge her existence. About to turn eighteen and feeling like a social pariah, she is desperate to connect with someone. Anyone.
When Evangeline meets Sophie after literally stumbling upon her café, she believes she’s found that connection. Willing to do anything to keep it, she accepts a job as Sofie’s assistant and drops everything to fly to Manhattan, where she is thrust into a luxurious world of Prada, diamonds, and limitless cash.
With such generosity and kindness, it’s easy for Evangeline to dismiss certain oddities . . . like Sofie’s erratic and sometimes violent behavior, and the monstrous guard dogs. She’s even willing to dismiss her vivid dreams of mob-style murders, beautiful homeless people living in caves, and white-eyed demons that haunt her each night as figments of her imagination—especially when one of those figments is the gorgeous Caden. When she wakes up with bite marks on her neck, the fairy tale quickly turns into a nightmare. She slowly unravels the mystery surrounding Sofie and friends, and the reality of the bites and the “dreams.” What she discovers is far more mysterious and terrible than anything she could have imagined. 
In a world where everyone has motive to lie for personal gain, Evangeline must decide which deception is least likely to get her killed.

The first thing that struck me about this book, aside from the perfect amount of detail, was the character of Evangeline. She seemed so lost in her own lonely world that you immediately wonder how she came to be that way. Which prompted me to ask Author K.A. Tucker how she went about developing her character and if there was a specific inspiration behind her design. Mrs. Tucker had this to say, "I wanted a protagonist who appealed to readers without being the typical smart-ass, sometimes-sullen teenaged female. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE those characters. But I wanted someone a little different. Someone who was sweet, and caring, and naive, but who exuded remarkable strength and intelligence. I honestly didn't know how Evangeline's character would turn out until I developed the plot. At each critical point, I asked myself how I expected her to react to this situation. That not only drove the plot but her characterization."

While Evangeline is this lost, lonely girl in the beginning, the book follows her in first person perspective through the many ordeals she has to face and the discoveries she makes. Evangeline, while no longer alone, still remains lonely through most of the book. She is always the outsider, the human thrown in amongst vampires and other things. I asked Mrs. Tucker about the first person perspective and if she felt that it was important to tell her vampire story from the human, Evangeline's, point of view and this is what she had to say: "Yes. I wrote this in 1st person POV because I wanted my readers to feel the excitment, shock, betrayal, and fear that Evangeline was going through.  I wanted them to experience it with her. That being said, the second book in the series will have 2 POVs - Evangeline's and Sofie's." 
While Anathema is a vampire story, it is markedly different from others that have inundated the market. There are new creatures in this book as well as a new look at how vampires and witches have unintentionally affected the world they inhabit. Without giving away any spoilers, I wanted to know if the author set out with an inspiration for these characters and pets or if their creation was driven by the need to set her book apart from all the other vampire novels out there. Mrs. Tucker explained, "I don't think any writer out there wants their story to be 'just like all the others'. I am no exception. I wanted readers to finish that book feeling like they've experienced something that they've never seen before. There are a few different ways to do that   - the worldbuilding, the story itself, and the characters. The best way to do it is with all three.Those characters whom we speak of (but don't want to give away here) just fell into place. Honestly. It's quite bizarre but they seemed the natural fit. I needed them to tell the story properly.  I toyed with changing a few of them for reasons I can't explain without including massive spoilers. In the end, none felt right next to these.  And Sofie... well, she was super-fun to create."

Those characters are also super fun to read! Anathema was a pleasant surprise for me. I expected to like it based on the description and the genre, but I didn't expect to fall in love with it or the characters that inhabited it. Evangeline, Sophie, Caden, and a few others are still dancing around in my head as I wait patiently to have those questions of, "what happens next," answered. If you love YA books, fantasy novels, and vampires you really need to grab this book. Be sure to tuck yourself away somewhere quiet and comfortable because you won't be getting up until you hit the end!

For those of you who are curious, here's a little insight into Author K.A. Tucker and the upcoming second book in The Casual Enchantment Series.

First thing is first, tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.

K.A. Tucker:
Hmmm... let's see. Well, first things first, I am Canadian so if you see me saying "favourite" vs "favorite",  I didn't spell it wrong. It's the Canadian way :-)  I grew up in a small town just outside of Toronto. At nineteen years old, I hightailed it out of there with my bags packed, ready for big city life. Now, fourteen years later, I somehow ended up in another small town with the house, two kids, dog, etc. It's funny how your priorities change...
How I got into writing? Well, this is kind of an odd story (I think, anyways). Growing up, I loved reading and stories in general. Aside from my brief stint with the elementary school library "publishing company" - comprised of some cardboard and wallpaper for binding materials and crayons and pencils for print production - I wasn't a 'writer'. I was a very practical girl who excelled in school and was on the path to become a teacher, or doctor, or lawyer... whatever inspired me that week.
Fastforward twenty-five years - business degree in hand and a successful career working at Procter & Gamble - I found myself on a year-long maternity leave with my second girl (yes... that's right. One year. Gotta love Canada for that :-)  ) Now, that may sound like a dream come true. It is. It's also extremely tough to shake the notorious 'baby brain' and get back into work after being off for that long. I didn't want to go through that struggle again. I needed something to invigorate my brain. I also needed 'me time'.  So I started thinking about writing. I loved stories. I loved reading. It's free (big bonus when you're on mat leave and not receiving an income!).And then an idea landed on top of my head. It was more of a question, actually: what would it be like to have a world of vampires and no humans? From there, Anathema was born.

For each Indie author I talk to I always get different answers to this question, so I like to ask it often. What was the decisions to self-publish like for you and how do you find the process of being in charge of making it happen?

K.A. Tucker:
I chose to self-publish because I had a story that I fell in love with and I needed to get it into people's hands. I could not accept the idea of placing Evangeline and Caden and all the other fun characters in a box and shoving them under my bed. It made my heart ache. But I also had to accept that my odds for landing an agent and publisher were slim given today's market. I was okay with that because, through extensive research, I learned all about self-publishing and I knew I could do it. I learned about the benefits - being your own boss, making your own decisions, hiring your own professionals, having full control over cover design, etc. I'm a bit of an impatient control-freak so self-publishing actually appealed to me, not as a last-resort but as the best option. That all being said, it's a ton of work.

As an author you will probably cringe when you read this, but I never read the "teaser chapters" for the next book. Let me explain, I know if I start reading them, I will hate myself for having to wait to actually pick up the book (if it hasn't been released yet).  So - since you left me wanting so much more... tell me all about book two, don't leave out any details! I promise not to tell anyone else!  
Ha ha!
Okay, kidding aside, I know the first book just came out, so it may be asking a bit much for this information, but do you have a publication date set for the second book yet?  

K.A. Tucker:
Kind of, sort of... First draft is done and now I'm going into revisions, which will likely take a few months. I'd love to get it out before Christmas but I'm kidding myself. More likely the early part of 2012.   I hesitate to set specific dates because I'm juggling two small kids and a demanding career. It's easy for writing to get derailed with those priorities. But remember, I'm impatient, so I'll want to get this book out there ASAP.

I have to ask this one because this is what lead me to discover K.A. Tucker's version of Anathema. I had become Twitter/Facebook friends with an author named Megg Jensen, who also happens to have a brand new Indie book out titled, Anathema! I was reading through my Facebook feed when I saw a little link to your blog and a post titled, A Tale of Two Anathemas. You both seemed to take the mixup that occurred with a great attitude.  Can you tell the readers a little about your experience, and do you think that little mix up ended up being a good thing?

K.A. Tucker:In a nut shell, I discovered Megg's book when I was uploading my book trailer to my JacketFlap profile. The administrators uploaded Megg's book Anathema to my profile. It was an honest mistake and mistakes happen. I reached out to them to fix it and then I thought I'd send Megg a quick email, just to let her know in case she stumbles upon it.  We chatted back and forth and then linked up on Twitter, facebook, etc.I truly believe everything happens for a reason.  This mix up gave me a chance to meet a fellow indie author, to introduce myself to Megg's network of friends, who then connected me with their own network of friends, and so on. Selling books is all about word-of-mouth. So, yes. Absolutely a good thing!

I like to throw the authors into their book with my last question, but the question that burning to be answered is also a bit of a spoiler.  So, here's your chance to duck out and leave the interview if you haven't yet read the book. . . 


The main character of your story finds herself split between two worlds for a while and we see how she has to cope with the two very different sets of circumstances, how do you think you would cope if you found yourself suddenly plunged into a very different, yet parallel world to our own?

K.A. Tucker:
It depends - how hot is the guy I'm stuck with?  :-)  I'd probably go batty. I would one thousand percent assume there's something psychologically wrong with me.

I would like to thank K.A. Tucker for her time in answering my questions and for writing such a fabulous book! I can't wait for the second one in the series!

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