Yes, that's two posts this week, and two authors! Shawna Reppert's new novel, The Stolen Luck (Carina Press), is a fantasy, an adventure, and a curious love story in a world shared uncomfortably by elves and men.
We got together the other day for a few probing questions.
Oh, and when you get to the bottom, there's a very nice giveaway!
We got together the other day for a few probing questions.
Oh, and when you get to the bottom, there's a very nice giveaway!
MSW: Hi, Shawna! What's the story about your new book?
Shawna Reppert: How far will even a good man go to save the home and the people he loves? In The Stolen Luck, Lord James Dupree has to answer that very question when he embarks on a perilous journey with an elven slave.
The ancient elven talisman known as the Dupree Luck once made the Dupree wine prized above all else, and that wine made the family’s fortune. Bur James’s father has been murdered and the Luck stolen, and both the thief and the Luck have disappeared into the Lands Between. The vineyard is failing and creditors are closing in; James’ only hope to recover the Luck is Loren, an elven slave he risked much to win in a card game.
Despite his abhorrence of slavery, James cannot free Loren until the elf has helped him cross over to the elven lands to recover the Luck, and so James violates ancestor’s beliefs and traditions in an attempt to save his ancestral home. But James finds owning another person changes him in subtle ways. A friendship grows between Loren during the desperate journey that may kill them both before they can reclaim the Luck. James need to command Loren is at odds with that friendship. Worse, James finds himself falling for Loren. The crisis of conscience escalates when a hidden enemy moves against them. James must choose between the Luck he needs and the elf he has come to love. He was prepared to gamble his honor for the Luck, but his heart and his soul are really what’s at stake.
MSW: What would you say inspired you the most when you were developing this story line? What kept you going?
Shawna Reppert: It all started with a comment a friend of mine had made. I can’t even remember the context, but she said that the tragedy of imbalance of power is not just what it does to the powerless, but also what it does to the soul of the one in power. I tucked it away in the back of my mind as a theme I wanted to explore in fiction.
Shortly after, I got to talking with another friend about tropes that are too often badly handled in fiction. We both agreed that the master/slave relationship came near the top of the list of badly done plot devices. If someone is a slave owner raised in a culture where slavery is the norm, that person is unlikely to have moral qualms about treating another person as property. Someone who doesn’t believe in slavery is unlikely to have a slave. Of course, being a writer, I instantly challenged myself to find a way to make the trope work as realistic and interesting fiction. I realized I could take a character adamantly opposed to slavery and give him a compelling reason to acquire and keep a slave. The moral stakes that drive him have to be high enough to equal the immorality of owning another person.
The obvious question is why? And what does the character in this dilemma do? And what effect does the decision have on them?
The earlier comment about imbalance of power came to mind. At this point, the whole thing remained an intellectual exercise.
But a few months later, I was stuck in a hotel room because the pipes had frozen in my home. There was about six inches of layered snow and ice on the roads with more falling, and I couldn’t get back to check on my house. Daytime television couldn’t keep my mind off the possibility of disaster.
I was working on another novel at the time, but kept getting blocked. So I dug the idea about slavery and imbalance of power out of the dusty recesses of my mind and started writing.
I soon found myself absolutely hooked on the characters and world I had created. There was no turning back.
MSW: The motif of slavery is a very chancy one and likely to make many readers uncomfortable. Can you talk a little about that? Your choices, decisions, intentions, and so on?
Shawna Reppert: I realized from the beginning that the book was going to be a tough sell because of the slavery motif. Not that I had any qualms about my approach as described above, but I was afraid editors and readers would find the topic so unsettling that they wouldn’t see past the word ‘slave’ to look at how I was exploring the theme. It’s absolutely not your typical master-slave trope story, but rather the antidote. Unfortunately, when you try to turn a trope inside out, it’s hard to pitch it without everyone seeing the original trope.
I actually abandoned the novel several times because I was so uncomfortable with the idea of taking it through the pitch process once it was complete, but the novel kept riding me and demanding to be written.
I still get raised eyebrows when I try to tell people about the novel, and I find myself talking fast to convince my audience that no, it’s not one of those novels. One of the few bad reviews I got on Goodreads was from someone who was looking for BDSM and didn’t find any (what my one friend called ‘a bad review that’s actually a good review’)
MSW: The Stolen Luck is essentially an adventure, which is also a love story not only between two men, but between master and slave. Was that part of your original intention, or did the characters surprise you?
Shawna Reppert: That was very much not part of the original plan. When the story started moving that way, I knew it was going to make the dynamic even more uncomfortable for everyone, including myself. But at the end of the day, the best books are the ones that aren’t ‘safe’ but take us beyond our comfort zone and make us think.
The attraction between James and Loren arises very organically out of who the characters are. I actually fought writing it at first, nearly as hard as the characters fought the attraction itself, but in the end the story not only demanded to be written, it demanded to be written in a certain way.
And from the rules-of-writing standpoint, the attraction between them is a very powerful dynamic. As a writer, you always ask yourself how you can make your protagonist’s situation even worse. James is honorable down to the core. He tells Loren that he would take no one against their will, not elf nor maid nor mortal man, and a slave cannot consent because a slave cannot refuse. He means what he says, and when he finds himself more and more in love with Loren, his heart is breaking with the things he cannot, in conscience, express, and his original dilemma takes on even more depth.
For Loren, it’s hard enough to come to terms with the fact that he has learned to like and respect his new master. He senses James’s feelings before he acknowledges his own, and his fondness for the man makes him hurt for his heartache.
When he finally realizes his own feelings, he knows he must keep them hidden. In his view, no good can come between love between a slave and his master, nor between an elf and a mortal man.
I realized I had set up the ultimate impossible love, and though I consider myself a fantasy writer, not a romance writer, it was just too good to pass up.
MSW: When I’m writing, I sometimes enjoy the research even more than the writing, and sometimes stumble over amazingly useful details quite by accident. Did you have to do any research for this book? If so, what kind of topics did you pursue and what sort of places did they take you?
Shawna Reppert: Oh, I had a lot of fun researching this book. I live in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, probably the reason my subconscious gave me a vintner protagonist. The year I started the first draft, local wineries had gotten together and offered Wineology 101, a self-guided wine tour with tastings and lectures on various topics about wine and winemaking at each stop.
Usually when a writer goes out to research, she comes home with an armload of books, not half a case of wine.
More important, I learned about the risky nature of the vintner’s life, which gave me a nice thematic pairing with James’s skill with cards. I learned how to talk about wines, and sampled a port that was pure ambrosia and became the inspiration for the fortified wine James shares with Loren on their first night at Dupree Manor. I learned about some of the technical growing decisions that made the basis for James’s conversations with elven vintners in the Lands Between. I learned about the importance of timing the harvest (‘the crush’ as winemakers call it), which gave me a ticking clock where I needed one to ratchet up the tension.
And I saw and heard firsthand the passion of vintners for their wines and for their vineyards, which allowed me to imbue James with that very passion.
MSW: What can we look for from you in future books?
Shawna Reppert: I am preparing to indie-publish an urban fantasy, Ravensblood, set in a parallel-universe version of Portland, Oregon. It’s a world of impossible choices, where sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils and a dark mage struggles to save the Three Communities and his own soul.
Corwyn Ravenscroft, last scion of a family of dark mages, struggles to save the Three Communities and his own soul. He turns spy against his master, who would overturn the democratically elected Council in favor of the ancient system where the most powerful mage ruled. His contact with the Council is Cassandra, a former apprentice and former lover, whom he once betrayed. Cass is a Guardian now, trying to live down her dark past until that past
came to her door, begging for help.
Ravensblood has gotten rave reviews from all my preliminary readers, including a woman from France who liked it so much that she came out to the Pacific Northwest on vacation so I could take her on the Ravensblood tour of Portland and surrounding areas.
Hopefully that will keep readers satisfied while I finish and market my newest work-in-progress, a steampunk/Victorian detective novel. Sort of like Sherlock Holmes if Holmes was a reluctantly-involved werewolf, Watson was a woman alchemist with attitude and Lestrade wasn’t and idiot.
There’s also a medieval fantasy making the marketing rounds and trying to find a home with traditional publishers, a sequel to Ravensblood outlined and awaiting my attention, and plans for a series of novels to follow the steampunk/Victorian detective novel.
About ShawnaFrom earliest childhood, Shawna Reppert has had a passion for stories– for reading them and for writing them. She obtained a BA in English with a Writing Option from Penn State University and has participated in numerous writing workshops and seminars given by the likes of Charles de Lint, David Farland and Elizabeth Lyon. Two of her stories have won honorable mentions from Writers of the Future. Previous short stories sold to 10 Flash Quarterly and to Everyday Fiction. Several ‘indie’ short stories are available for sale at Amazon, and her story ‘The Beast Within’ appears in the steampunk anthology Gears and Levers 2 edited by Phyllis Irene Radford. Her first novel is due out as a Carina Press e-book in the summer of 2013.
In college, Shawna volunteered at a raptor rehabilitation center, which became valuable background for her short story The Sword and the Kestrel. Shawna has always had an affinity for wolves, and used to keep a wolf-dog hybrid as a pet. Her current four-footed children are a Lipizzan stallion and an orange-and-black cat named Samhain. She enjoys Irish social dancing and is an ardent supporter of live Irish music. Shawna also likes to play with the Society for Creative Anachronism and can sometimes be found in medieval garb on a caparisoned horse, throwing javelins into innocent hay bales that never did anything to her.
A Pennsylvania native, she currently lives in the beautiful wine county of Oregon.
For more of Shawna ReppertBuy The Stolen Luck at Amazon
And of course, check out her website for more!
To celebrate the end of Launch Month, the author is giving away a Winelight. This is a cool ceramic cork-shaped thing-a-ma-bob with a wick that will fit into the top of almost any wine bottles to turn it into an oil lamp. If you don't already have a bottle you love, it comes with a custom wine label with The Stolen Luck book cover to turn a plain wine bottle into a commemorative wine bottle. Label autographed upon request.
How to enter: Simply comment on either the interview at Maggie's blog or on the author's latest blog over at www.Shawna-Reppert.com by 11:59 pm (Pacific time), Saturday, June 1, 2013. So if you comment both places, that is 2 entries for you! Winner will be announced in both locatio