Most of you regular readers know that I have a genre identiy problem. My first novel, The Harrowing, is a supernatural thriller (because in 2006, no one in publishing would use the word “horror”). These days I’m writing a crime thriller series that’s only a little supernatural around the edges – if at all.
But then there’s that whole paranormal thing.
Okay, yes, I enjoy writing sex. And let’s face it – the romance community not only BUYS books in delirious quantities – they also throw the best parties in publishing. What can I say? I was seduced.
And in 2011 I was thrilled to be asked by the mega-talented and generally amazing Heather Graham to join forces with her and sister thriller writer Deborah LeBlanc to write a paranormal suspense trilogy for Harlequin Nocturne. The Keepers series follows a special set of humans with heightened powers who are charged with the ancestral duty of keeping the peace between mortals and the subcultures of paranormal beings who hide in plain sight among humans in cosmopolitan cities all over the world.
The first Keepers trilogy is set in my favorite American city, New Orleans, and chronicles the individual stories of the MacDonald sisters: vampire, shapeshifter and werewolf Keepers, who fight supernatural crime while trying not to become romantically entangled with the beings they are sworn to protect.
(Read more about the first Keepers trilogy)
Now the series is back, with a new set of Keepers working to keep the peace between the supernatural Others and those crazy humans in Los Angeles. Three cousins: vampire, Elven and shapeshifter Keepers Rhiannon, Sailor, and Barrymore Gryffald wrestle with their new Keeper duties in a city where the mortals can be as deadly as the paranormals. Joining us for the new series is the fabulous Harley Jane Kozak, who knows a little something something about Hollywood.
Heather and Harley and I actually have a not-so-secret life together: Harley and I are part of the cast of Heather’s Slushpile Players and band, that perform and play for numerous conferences and other venues around the country, including Heather’s unmissable Writers for New Orleans Conference, held every December in the best city in the world. Over the years Heather has managed to rope us into playing Wild West vampires, zombie strippers, space aliens, and my personal favorite: pink flamingos. In fact, you might say that teaming up to write a paranormal series is one of the more sedate things we’ve ever done together.
Well, today, I’ve asked Heather and Harley to join me to introduce the books and answer a few questions about writing the series together.
+ How did the idea of The Keepers L.A. come about?
Heather: The Keepers exist to “keep” the status quo between the human life that moves along in happy bliss and the denizens of the underworld who are certainly stronger and many ways and have some very scary talents and/or habits. Our first question to one another was, if you were different and trying to blend in, where would you least be noticed? First go round, we all said, “Hm. New Orleans!” This go round, especially with Harley in the mix, we all came up with “Hollywood!” Harley has worked an “A” list acting career there, Alex has worked as a screenwriter and an activist in the Writers Guild, and my daughter Chynna graduated from CalArts and is pursuing the dream–seemed like, hm, yes! Hollywood. If there’s a third go around, my next inclination will probably be my home state and city, Miami, Florida. Trust me! We’re pretty oblivious down here. If you were a different species or an alien life form, we’d just all think that you came from somewhere else in the Caribbean or Central or South America.
Harley: I have no memory of how it started, so I’m glad Heather remembers everything. Although I was born in Pennsylvania and did a small stint in North Dakota and even smaller ones living on location as an actress, I’ve only really lived in 3 places in my adult life: New York, L.A. and Lincoln, Nebraska. Hollywood was thus a no-brainer, because I don’t think Heather and Alex would feel qualified to take on paranormal creatures living in Nebraska.
Alex: You’re right, Nebraska would be a stretch for me. I was nervous at first about the idea of writing L.A. because I know it so well as a real place, not an urban fantasy setting. But Heather and Harley hit on the perfect catalyst for the story: the cousins live in this magnificent, if run-down, old Hollywood estate in Laurel Canyon built by a magician friend of their family. That was so true to L.A. but so timeless, I instantly understood how the whole story world worked.
+ Is it true you three only know each other because Bob Levinson was looking for blondes for the first Thrillerfest awards show?
Heather: Yes, we were introduced by Bob Levinson! I will be grateful to him for many things–he’s a brilliant, wonderful man–but that he put the three of us together was amazing. I think that first day I felt as if I’d just met best friends that I’d known all my life. We can be miles apart for months and months–and it’s still the same, incredible to see one another, as natural as if we’d never been apart. You can see people daily and not have that kind of bond. I’m so grateful!
Harley: Yes, too true. Before meeting her, I’d seen Heather on a panel at the Romantic Times conference, and was wowed by her (naturally). And of course I’d heard of Alexandra Sokoloff (doesn’t that sound like a Russian Princess?) I remember thinking, when Bob floated the idea of the three of us, “I hope they like me” — just like kindergarten. And by golly, it was like kindergarten — and it still is. Whenever the three of us are together, it feels like playtime! How could I not want to write a series with Heather and Alex?
Alex: We do owe Bob for life. We just can’t ever tell him that. I had the exact same “I hope they like me” feeling. I’d read Heather’s books for years, and of course I’d seen Harley in just about everything. In fact, I once won a nice chunk of money in a “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” style movie trivia party game because I knew Harley had starred with Bill Pullman in a film called “The Favor”. So obviously, it was destiny. Meeting Heather and Harley for the first time, it was completely like we’d always known each other. I couldn’t believe how real they were!
The Killerettes, with Bob Levinson
+ What would you say makes you uniquely qualified to write about supernatural mayhem in Hollywood?
Heather: The uniquely qualified here really goes to Harley and Alex–although once Chynna headed to L.A., I definitely became qualified to write about LAX. Seriously, I definitely spend enough time in L.A. and Hollywood, although I admit I’m pretty sure my daughter became a “valley girl” before I actually understood exactly where the valley was. But I also have a young friend who is one of the most amazing “fabricationeers” I’ve ever met; she works for Legacy Studios and she’s been kind enough to bring me through her work place–it’s amazing! Robert Downey, Jr.’s Ironman suit is next to a werewolf is next to a mummy is next to a giant rat is next to . .
Alex: Wow, I want to go see! L.A. does have the greatest costumes. Me, I’ve lived here most of my life, but this was my first time setting a book here. Which is crazy, because it turns out it’s so much easier to write a place that you know as well as I know L.A. I can make fun of it with absolute authority and also show off the truly dazzling aspects of the city. And having worked in the film business I had no problem whatsoever populating it with vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters and Elven. No stretch at all.
Harley: In the early 80’s I was flown from New York to Palm Springs to do a week’s work on location (as an actress) and I was such a yokel that until I was on the plane I actually thought I was heading to Florida. I was confusing Palm Springs with Palm Beach. (Geography is not my strong suit.) I’ve never forgotten that first time, the plane landing, the sight of palm trees, the feel of the air, so different from anywhere else on earth, the eerie quality of the afternoon light. I came here for another job in 1985 and didn’t intend to stay, yet here I am. I can truly say I love L.A.
+ What most fascinates you about the paranormal? To what one influence in your life do you attribute your fascination with the possibilities beyond the “known world?”
Heather: My mom was Irish and immigrated with her family. My grandmother watched my sister and I sometimes and was the world’s most incredible story-teller. She had tales about pixies, leprechauns, gnomes, giants, and all kinds of things that went bump in the night. She really used to warn my sister and I to behave or the “banshee’s be’d getting you in the outhouse.” Her stories were so good we trembled–and didn’t realize until we were teenagers that we didn’t have an outhouse.
Alex: My dad was my influence, totally. He was a scientist, a complete rationalist, but he grew up in Mexico City, and Mexico is just steeped in magical realism. When I was a kid Dad would tell us ghost stories as if every single moment of them actually happened. He was so factual in every other aspect of his life that I think I got confused about reality. Or maybe it was Berkeley that did that. One of those. And as to what most fascinates me about the paranormal – it’s exactly that place where the paranormal and reality meet that I love to explore in my books – the blurry line between what may have been a paranormal experience and what may just be a psychological interpretation. Or drugs. Or just plain crazy.
Harley: My grandma. She was my mother’s mother, Scandinavian, and came to live with us when I was a baby. She read coffee grounds and tea leaves, had precognitive dreams, and the occasional visit from recently dead people on their way to the Other Side. And read fortunes in playing cards (along with playing a mean game of rummy).
+ How was working together on a project for you?
Heather: The most fun ever that someone could pretend to call work! When we’d sit together, ideas would flow, we’d laugh, we’d think. I think our first real hash-through day was in the lobby of the Universal City Sheraton. They film there frequently and the walls behind the check-in desk are covered with pictures of stars from the silent era on. I think if I was asked to walk on water with Harley and Alex, I’d be willing to give it a try!
Alex: There’s such a past-life feeling to it, really. I sometimes forget I haven’t actually lived in a magical old Hollywood mansion with Heather and Harley; it seems like something that happened.
Harley: Same. Every time I drive down Laurel Canyon and come to Lookout Mountain, I crane my neck, staring at “our” house and half expecting to see Rhiannon, Barrie and Sailor pulling out of the driveway.
Alex: So, ‘Rati, the topic for the day is – for writers, can you ever see yourself writing something very much out of what you consider your genre? I never saw myself writing anything in the “romance” category, but the Keepers series not only allows me to write with two of my best friends – it’s also expanded my readership to a lot of people who would never have tried my books before because they perceive my writing as “too scary”. I’m happy to write something lighter for sensitive readers (there’s a lot that I won’t read myself because I find it too disturbing), and even happier when once they know me some of those readers cross over and read my thrllers as well.
And readers – do you read your favorite authors in other genres, too, or do you prefer them to stick to what they’re known for?
Shop the entire Keepers series here!
Keeper of the Night – by Heather Graham
New Keeper Rhiannon Gryffald has her peacekeeping duties cut out for her—because in Hollywood, it’s hard to tell the actors from the werewolves, bloodsuckers and shape-shifters. Then Rhiannon hears about a string of murders that bear all the hallmarks of a vampire serial killer, and she must confront her greatest challenge yet. She teams up with Elven detective Brodie McKay and they head to Laurel Canyon, epicenter of the danger, where they uncover a plot that may forever alter the face of human-paranormal relations.
Keeper of the Moon – by Harley Jane Kozak
Lust. Elven Keeper Sailor Gryffald’s body quivers with it, but is it a symptom of the deadly Scarlet Pathogen coursing through her bloodstream or the proximity of shifter Keeper Declan Wainwright?
Sailor and Declan have had an uneasy relationship ever since they met, and now things are about to get a lot more complicated. A killer is stalking Los Angeles, intentionally infecting Elven with the deadly virus, and now Sailor and Declan must work to keep the supernatural peace while bringing the murderer to justice. But, in doing so, these powerful denizens of the Otherworld find themselves straddling a fine line between lust…and love.
Keeper of the Shadows – by Alexandra Sokoloff
Coming May 1 – available for pre-order
Barrie Gryffald’s work as a crime beat reporter is risky enough when she’s investigating mortal homicides. But when a teenage shifter and an infamous Hollywood mogul are both found dead on the same night, her Keeper intuition screams, Otherworldly.
Reluctantly, she enlists her secret crush, Mick Townsend, a journalist with movie-star appeal, and together, they dig up eerie parallels to a forgotten cult-film tragedy. But it may be too late. With a cast of suspects ranging from vampire junkies to the ghosts of Hollywood past, no one can be trusted. Least of all Mick, who may well prove to be as unpredictable as the Others Barrie is sworn to protect….
Keeper of the Dawn – by Heather Graham
Coming July 1 – available for pre-order
Alessande Salisbrooke has been warned about the legend of the old Hildegard Tomb – how human sacrifices are being carried out by the followers of a shape-shifting magician. As a Keeper, Alessande understands the risks of investigating, but she can’t shake the nagging feeling that the killings are tied to a friend’s recent murder, and she can’t turn her back.
With the help of Mark Valiente, a dangerously sexy vampire cop, Alessande narrowly escapes becoming a sacrifice herself. But as the bodies continue piling up, completely drained of blood, one truth becomes all too clear: life is an illusion, and no one-not even those you care about the most-is who they seem.
Best wishes, you troupers, you!
Thanks, Tom, you're always so sweet!
I'm beginning to agree with you about the romance-writing world. Went to a workshop hosted by our local RWA chapter. Man, they were some feisty, fun-loving women! I go to the SinC meetings, and we're all so sedate by comparison. 🙂
Lisa, I swear I'd belong to RWA just to be able to go to Harlequin's dance parties! But when people ask me what author organizations they should belong to, it doesn't matter what genre they write in, I always say RWA first. They are incredibly organized about teaching the real business of publishing to writers of all genres.
Harley! Hey, sis, what a treat to see you both here and in person in one week. Thanks again for the lovely hospitality, and best of luck with KEEPER OF THE MOON, and to your fellow Keepers, Alex and Heather.
I've always read all over the map. Lately it's mostly crime fiction, but I read some space opera and the last book I read was "Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain" by A. Lee Maritinez, a homage to 1930's pulp science fiction. It depends mostly on the book, not the sub-genre.
In my writing I started out writing science fiction short stories, which went nowhere. Then I wrote a collection of linked mainstream stories which I sold. Now I'm working on a near future crime novel, so I guess I'm not really great at settling on one thing.
Yes, the RWA'ers seemed very organized and inclusive. At one point, they made announcements about membership, and I raised my hand to ask if they welcomed mystery writers too. The response couldn't have been more welcoming! (And who knows, maybe hanging out with them will rub off on me — sex scenes here I come!)
Larry, I've always read all over the map, too. I might read more crime and thrillers than other genres, but hardly exclusively. I don't know why I ever bought into the idea that you can only write in one genre!
Lisa, they do say that romance writers have more sex than writers of other genres! 😉
Fantastic blog post, Alex — and with Harley, and Heather. Love the keepers!
Alex, I will follow my favorite writers anywhere. It seldom turns out I like them best for certain things and not so much for others. Some of my favorite writers have done different things that I have loved just as much, or more but not always. I suspect with some I have been more involved in a series they wrote rather than the writer who wrote it, if that makes sense. I am pretty author–loyal. If I love you now, I'll probably love you tomorrow.