I have the pleasure of speaking with Rae Lori, artist and award winning author. Her novel “A Kiss of Ashen” is the first book in the Ashen Twilight Series, and will be the focus of today’s interview. Thank you so much for joining us today Ms. Lori!
Thanks so much for having me! :-)
I have to say that I am in awe of your talent. Your photos, sketches, and other works of art are so inspiring, and then to have the ability to put such beauty into words is absolutely amazing. Yours is truly a gift, and I am sure we would all love to know; how did you begin such an illustrious career?
Thanks for your kind words! I think I sort of fell into it subconsciously. Growing up, I was always inspired by my brother who could create such gorgeous sketches by looking at things. I wanted to do the same so I started sketching doing artwork because it was something that put me at ease. When I saw him start to pen screenplays I also followed suit and we exchanged such great ideas. We were both inspired by the science fiction and fantasy movies and tv shows so it was fun to imagine different worlds and situations. I wanted to become a director so I could bring my own screenplays to life and since I loved movies so much. As I grew up I went from screenplays, to plays, short stories, poems and eventually starting working heavily into fiction when I meant my creative writing mentor in high school. He urged me to send out my work and eventually I began to send my short stories to magazines and online zines when the internet became available for showcasing work and from the advice and feedback I received, I just kept writing and writing until I eventually started forming a career based around my longer fiction.
I think a lot of my screenwriting background and love for visual filmmaking filtered into my narrative work since I see a lot of the characters and setting as a movie. It’s a blast to bring it to life and I hope my readers feel the same way!
The first book in this series is set in Arizona with its beautiful deserts as a backdrop. I read that you currently reside in Arizona. Can you give us a little insight into your personal life, as well as your travels, and is there one place on Earth that really calls to you?
I haven’t been very many places as I would like! I’m definitely a California girl at heart. I grew up in Southern California and have lived in the state for about 20 years before moving to Arizona. The only other places I’ve visited are Mexico and New York, both when I was really young. I really want to travel outside of the US in the near future but mostly I do a lot of research and armchair traveling for now. :-)
I’m a bit of a homebody. I love losing myself in a great book, I’m a big collector of books and sci-fi things ever since I was young, and I’m a self-professed geek girl cause I love learning about things and having in depth conversations.
I’d have to say that Los Angeles will always hold a special place in my heart. Growing up, my family and I would take trips out to LA and since I loved movies so much the city always held this veil of magic around it for me. Here was where movie sets were created to bring any era or place to life and so much creativity was born. Now naturally things are different than they were back then but I think I’ll always hold that idea of LA in my mind and heart.
When you write, draw, or paint where do find the most peace to hone your craft? Is there a special room in your home, or do you simply tune out the outside world no matter where you are?
I’d say in my study, which is connected to my bedroom. I have my television next to me, and a nice big window where I can look outside at the greenery in the back. I’m mostly creative at night or near the evening so I get to see these gorgeous Arizona sunsets that paint the sky in wonderful colors at dusk. I love that time of day. Usually I need to tune the world outside to get into that part of my mind where my characters come to life. I often describe the process as I’m recording everything my characters are doing and saying and my hand is trying to keep up with everything running my mind, like a film reel. It’s strange but when the story really comes to life it flows like that. I love it when that happens!
You have such a creative and expressive personality. Is it hard to concentrate on one medium at a time, or do you freely cross the spectrum at any given moment?
Thanks! I do find it hard at times when a few different stories are dueling for attention. This usually happens when I’ve finished a project and am in between starting another one. I get so many ideas for so many different stories that I don’t really pay attention to genre, unless I see a call for submissions and get a particular story idea. But when they are different genres, that I have to focus on, that’s a bit hard because I always feel like I need a type of mood for my stories. For instance, I’m about to finish and edit a noir/suspense/dark romance story but at the same time I’m also getting ideas for my futuristic sci-fi cyborg story with a romantic backdrop. Both are two different stories with different moods, settings and characters but the ideas are there. I usually have to wait a bit or force my mind to focus on one story or the other and usually I do that by watching a movie that fits the mood I want or listening to a type of music, which helps. It’s a way of tricking myself into right brain thinking so I’m not analyzing it too much on my left side.
Your work is so rich and vibrant, both in culture and emotion. I have to wonder how you view the world around you. Do you see people and places as snapshots in your mind, and hold that image for your art and characters? Or is everything around you like one giant painter’s pallet, where you dabble in bits of color and conversation here and there?
Oh, I love that. :-) I’d say a little bit of both. I love works that speak to me in a way that’s on a level of speaking about humanity both good and bad. It doesn’t matter the genre but if the characters are complex and have a progression, it hits me and makes me take notice because I love seeing characters grow. When I get an idea, I want to do this for my readers. I want to entertain them, but also show them a little bit about humanity and its commentary. I’ll see a type of character, like say an actress, and wonder what her life is like under the glitz and glamour. What would happen if her perfect life were falling apart and no one knew but her? How would that affect her? How would her marriage survive? How far would she go to make her husband pay for hurting her in such a way? (This is actually a story I’m working on now.) Same thing with fantasy or science fiction characters; how would a faerie creature, used to a world of good and doing things right, react to a more ambiguous world where violence and death is a way of life? What if she fell in love with a man who was from this world and even revels in it at times? How would that relationship survive? I’m intrigued by a lot of what-ifs and types of people along with situations in the world give me good ideas to explore them.
As a paranormal lover myself, I have read many vampire stories, some great, some not so great. But the variety is amazing, everything from their traits and supernatural abilities to their personalities. How did you decide what type of vampire would feature in your Ashen Twilight Series?
I love the vampire that is so comfortable in himself and his world and yet has some vulnerability. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles was a bit impact on my reading when I was a teenager and it was Lestat, not Louis, who intrigued me. Same thing with Blood Ties the series when it premiered, it was Henry Fitzroy among all the other vampire heroes that came out around the same time that interested me because these two characters had lived so long, knew they were monsters in a way but still learned to control their desires and sometimes even revel in it. I wanted to write a vampire hero that was like this. Arrogant in a way, but still confident and sure of himself that he knew how to get by.
As one of the main characters in “A Kiss of Ashen Twilight”, Jace is utterly fascinating. He is a 600-year-old vampire, but still bears the characteristics and mannerisms of a troubled and hormonal twenty-something male. Was this a conscience decision at the conception of his character, or did he evolve as the story progressed?
I’m so glad to hear he was fascinating! Whew! He was definitely fun to write.
It was definitely on purpose because I knew his origins would begin during a dark time, the Middle Ages. I specifically wanted the main idea to have these Nightwalkers to come in contact with Vlad Tepes III (aka The Impaler), the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. So I had to make Jace’s age accordingly. He grew up in a time where the plague was killing off thousands, war was everywhere, economic and structural change was continuous. Not too different from our world actually. With the main differences being technological advancements. Plus he lost his mother at a young age. Not long after he was turned, he lost his father in the war between the Turks and the Ottomans—as seen in the beginning of the novel— which Vlad had a hand in, so he basically regressed into a life of not caring about anything or anyone and just indulging. After all, they’re immortal vampires and, as he’s seen since he was young, life was ever changing and not to mention fleeting. He didn’t have to worry about anything so he coped by using and discarding anything and anyone to the point that it angered his uncle for not taking his responsibilities seriously.
He did end up evolving as the story goes and especially once Ariya, our Fae heroine, enters his life. At first he ignores her pleas of help but as his eyes are opened to more than he’s accustomed to when he finds out that the Fae are real, he starts to take his responsibility seriously and start to really live his life with more care for the future.
I found Ariya’s character very complex. She is from the Fairy realm, and the baby of her family, but holds greater power than either of her sisters, yet she does not seem to know the extent of that power. Will her growing knowledge and strength continue to play a significant part in the upcoming novels as well as creating even more angst with Jace?
Oh definitely. At first, I felt that Ariya definitely had more power than was revealed and there was a lot about her that was in the background that is now coming out in the second book, Within the Shadows of Mortals, as I’m writing it. We’ll get to dive deeper into the Aziza fairy realm and as we learn more about her and her world, she also learns more about her own powers and what kind of future she must choose. Now that both realms have collided, she has to make a choice that will impact both sides. One of the things I knew starting the next novel was that there would be angst between Jace and Ariya. Even though they’ve decided to continue on together, there would still be some things they have to overcome, especially when outside forces are threatening their lives. Also knowing how different their backgrounds and beliefs are and how the Aziza have their own version of a vampire myth, I knew I would have to explore how they would feel about their Queen being involved with a vampire. So there are definitely a lot of things to explore, but fear not. There will definitely be an HEA in the end for readers! There will just be some rough and tumble terrain ahead as Jace gives in to his baser instincts and Ariya has to choose how to balance her duties as Queen to her people and also to lend help to her new immortal friends in the mortal realm.
Along with your vampires, you have a plethora of were’s, elves, and Rens. They are all such interesting characters that I hope to see more of them in books to come. The Patriarch’s are especially fascinating, not to mention drop dead (ignore the pun) gorgeous. Are each of these men based on an actual person, a combination of ancient warriors, or completely fictional?
To an extent I based their looks on some actors but mostly they are fictional. I wanted to write Julian Archane, Patriarch to the Nightwalkers and Jace’s uncle, as a much older male so that he was a father figure to Jace. Strangely enough, he wasn’t having it and he came out more Adrian Paul than Patrick Buchau! As I went down the list, they each started having their own looks, backgrounds and personalities so it worked out great. Each book was to explore each origin of the houses but Jace and Ariya became such a focal point to the series that I knew I had to tie in the history as an opening to each story. So readers will be able to learn more about the Patriarchs, their origins and their world as the series goes on.
There are so many intricacies involved in this story, centuries old feuds, family dramas, and of course love and romance. Yet it all works without being confusing or feeling cluttered. This must take a great deal of thought and planning on your part. Can you tell us how long it took you to put this together, or is it a work in progress?
It definitely did! I was so hoping it didn’t come out confusing because all of the characters worked together in my mind and sometimes it doesn’t translate to the page, but I’m glad to hear it’s working with the series.
It definitely takes a lot of thought and planning and much of it is still a work in progress for the rest of the series. The first book was a novella at first but as I let it sit, I had a feeling there was more than what I had written. As I started working it, this world began to grow. I loved history and as I began to really build the world and the character’s backgrounds, everything started falling into place. I did a ton of research, which took months because I wanted the story to feel right. I became completely involved in the fictional world and the real world of Western Africa and the Fon people and Scotland mainly. I was pleased to find so many old cultural articles, stories, ancient folk songs and actual translations of the Fon and Scots Gaelic languages so I can keep it really authentic. I did a little research on small English towns for the second book and for the third I’ll be heavily researching feudal Japan and the African Moors of Spain to bring more history to life. I love bringing the past to life as best as I can because historicals are a great interest to me, which often lead me to research more about the time periods I read about. Plus they teach me things I didn’t know before. So I try to do the same with this series for my readers so hopefully they’ll find it interesting and maybe learn about some things they didn’t know before.
I am so grateful that you took the time to answer my questions today, thank you! But more than that I am thrilled that you share your talent with all of us. Reading this novel was a pleasure, and I definitely look forward to the next installment. Please check out this award winning author, and Rae’s website as well. It holds a beautiful collection of all of her work. Thank you again Rae for all of your time today!