Sunday, January 18, 2015

Feature: Melissa Eskue Ousley, author of The Rabbit And The Raven

Book Blurb


Darkness is beguiling...and power always comes with a price.


Adopted by loving parents, David Corbin had no idea his life as he knew it was a lie. Then he met a girl. Abby Brown freed David from the spell keeping him from the truth, that he was the lost heir to the throne in a magical realm.


Even though he got the girl and gained a kingdom, David had no clue about the unfathomable power he would inherit, nor did he realize how much he would have to sacrifice to keep the throne.

If there is any hope of winning the war against Tynan Tierney and the deadly Blood Shadows, David and Abby will have to journey to the outer edges of the realm to secure the loyalty of the four Oracles. Along the way, they will learn just how seductive darkness can be.



Abby woke up cold. She reached behind her for David—he was still there. She could hear him breathing steadily, fast asleep. She looked to the fire. It was still going. Whatever had bothered them the night before seemed to be gone—or, if it was still lurking about in the dark, it had run out of things to scream about. Sleepily, she closed her eyes and rolled over to snuggle up to David, face to face. In his sleep he stirred slightly and draped his arm over her. She nestled her cheek against his warm chest and began to drift off.

“Hello, Rabbit.”

Abby’s eyes flew open. She found herself looking not into David’s blue eyes, but Tierney’s, which were so dark and intense, they were almost black. She recoiled and tried to wriggle away, but his arms were around her, holding her close.

Tierney grinned. “Please, don’t get up on my account. It wouldn’t do any good anyway—I’m in your head.”

Abby glared at him. “What do you want?”

Tierney studied her clenched jaw and laughed. Apparently the enraged look on her face filled him with delight. I’m so glad to be a source of amusement, she thought angrily.

He reached out and caressed her cheek. “Don’t be mad, love. I wanted to see you, of course.”

“What did you do with David?” she asked.

“He’s still here, lying beside you,” Tierney said, gesturing to his body. He was wearing David’s clothes. “If it makes you feel better, I could wear his face too.”

“No,” Abby said quickly, fighting the urge to shudder. The idea of this monster pretending to be the boy she loved filled her with horror. Even though she was dreaming, she thought Tierney looking at her through David’s eyes might drive her mad. “No, don’t do that.”

“Why?” Tierney asked, feigning innocence. “Would that bother you, dear Rabbit?”

“No, no, I…” she said, grasping for an answer. If Tierney knew how much the idea repulsed her, he might do it just to toy with her.

Tierney raised his eyebrows expectantly. “Yes?”

Abby looked into his dark eyes. “I want to see you as you are,” she said firmly.

“Do you, now? How very interesting,” Tierney replied.



What inspired you to write this book?


I love mythology and psychology. Carl Jung talked about archetypes, and how there are similarities in the mythology of every society. I was thinking about monster legends, specifically bogeyman myths. They are all essentially talking about the same dark creature that steals people in the dead of night. I started thinking, what if these stories were just different versions of the same creature? What if these monsters, found in tales all over our world, came from the same place, a parallel dimension? That is how the Blood Shadows from the realm of Cai Terenmare came to be.


Can you give us an interesting fact about your book that isn't in the blurb?


Sometimes I like to use symbolism with character’s names. The villain, for example, is named Tynan Tierney, which means dark lord. Ravens play a big role in the series, and David’s last name, Corbin, means raven. Lucia, his treacherous aunt, has a name that means light. I like the irony since she’s joined forces with Tierney and is anything but a ray of sunshine.


How did you choose your title?


Ravens are usually the bad guys in literature (I’m looking at you, Poe), but not so in The Solas Beir Trilogy. In my books, they are creatures of light, capable of transcending the thin membranes between worlds. Ravens are clever and inventive, and these traits make them good allies. The people of Cai Terenmare have the ability to transform into animals (hint: this is where the title comes in). Some of them are good, and others, like the Blood Shadows, are not. The Blood Shadows like hiding in plain sight, so in our world, they sometimes take the form of stray cats.


Tell us about the cover and how it came to be.


My publisher works with Aaron Cheney, a wonderful graphic artist who designed the covers. I liked the simplicity of the animal silhouettes and enchanted forest against the velvety green background. Because we are working with a trilogy, we wanted all the books to have a similar look. The first book in the series is blue-grey, and also features a raven, and the third book…well, that’s a surprise. We’ll be revealing the cover for The Sower Comes later this spring. I’m thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive response readers have given us about the covers for the first two books, and I hope they feel the same about the third.


Did you self-publish or publish traditionally and why?


I work with a small, independent publisher. I appreciate the collaboration involved in creating a book and the one-on-one mentoring I’ve received.


What do you consider the most important part of a good story?


Every story has a framework supporting it—the world building, the rules of logic or magic that govern how things happen in that world—but everything has to come together seamlessly to draw in a reader. For me, the characters drive the story. The more I get to know them, the more they take on a life of their own. If I’m true to what the characters desire and need, the world of the story is believable.


Are you a plotter or a pantser?


I’m a pantser. I might begin a story with a “what if” question and some basic plot points, but the characters are at the helm, and I’m willing to abandon my original plan for what is true to the characters and the story, rather than force the story forward to fit a rigid plan. The characters are always right—where they take the story is much more interesting than my initial thoughts about it. I began writing fiction five years ago, when I worked as a researcher at a university, writing articles in social science. Although fiction is vastly different from academic writing, the need to be open to revision is the same. Sometimes you have to abandon your original plan for a stronger idea.


What part of the writing process is the hardest for you?


Dialogue comes easily when the characters find their own voices. It’s harder for me to describe body language, to show what the characters are doing while they chat, or to describe facial expressions, without using the same phrases over and over. Sometimes I’ll “transcribe” character conversations, jotting down notes, and go back later to fill in that kind of description. Description is much easier for me when writing about setting—it’s easier for me to visualize it and include details about sounds, smells, and textures.


What tips can you give on how to get through writers block?


When I get stuck in a story, I’ll write something else, whether it’s skipping ahead to capture a possible conversation between characters, or focusing on something that will be used to market the book, like the book blurb or a blog post. Sometimes it helps to step away from writing altogether, to take a walk and come back to it.


What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?


Mostly alternative. Some regulars in my playlist: The Black Keys, Augustana, Imagine Dragons, and The New Pornographers.


Who is your favorite author?

Stephen King is my favorite because I am consistently thrilled by his writing, and I have read more of his books than I have read works by other authors. The Talisman, which I read when I was about twelve, remains one of my favorite books. On Writing, his non-fiction guide, has been a tremendous help to me. Other authors I enjoy are Christopher Moore, George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, Kendare Blake, and Holly Black.


Read anything good lately?


Have you read Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown? I highly recommend it. Her vampires are incredibly cool (no pun intended) and I love the pop culture references.


What do you like to do when you're not writing?


I live on the Oregon coast, and the forests and coastline are stunning here. I love to hike, swim, and kayak. It’s fun to stroll along the beach and see what has washed ashore. I’m also a diver, and would love to go cage diving with great whites someday.


What advice would you give an author just starting out?


Two things: make sure you present your best work, and be open to revision. If you can, work with a professional editor. If you can’t, at least find some beta readers to critique your work and help you find errors.


What's your next project?


The Sower Comes, the third book in The Solas Beir Trilogy, will be released in 2015. There will be lots of giveaways, so I invite readers to connect with me via my website, Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. I’ll be posting more about that soon.


I’ve also been writing a young adult book set in Astoria, Oregon, where The Goonies was filmed. Similar to my trilogy, the story references mythology. There is also a vengeful ghost haunting the labyrinth beneath the city.


Thanks so much for having me!


Melissa Eskue Ousley is the award-winning author of The Solas Beir Trilogy, a young adult fantasy series. The Sower Comes, the third book in the trilogy, will be released in 2015. Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and their Kelpie, Gryphon. When she’s not writing, Melissa can be found walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.

Before she became a writer, she had a number of educational jobs, ranging from a summer of scraping road kill off a molten desert highway, to years spent conducting research with an amazing team of educators at the University of Arizona.
Her interests in psychology, culture, and mythology have influenced her writing of The Solas Beir Trilogy.