Friday, March 21, 2014

Interview with Angela McGurk

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?

I’m a dreamer, reader, writer, watcher, designer and that really makes books an ideal ‘career’ for me as I can write, design book covers, and dream a thousand worlds and a thousand characters. As well as writing I run my own wedding stationery and graphic design business and my husband is a photographer (my cover photography is his work), we mesh nicely!

What inspired me to write in this genre? That’s quite a tough question because I’ve written in this genre since my early teens so I can’t really remember why. I’d say Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a lot to do with it and the mythology behind some of the ‘Vampire Alliance’ series comes from a story I first came up with when I was thirteen or fourteen and a huge Buffy fan. It is the background mythology, the story that will become a prequel set in ancient Rome, which developed all those years ago and stayed with me. That helped me develop my ‘world’ for my (predominantly) modern day series.

What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much?

I suppose immortality is a fascinating concept; the idea of permanent youth, having to adapt to changing centuries and changing societies, it offers a unique set of problems to explore. Plus, and maybe more intriguingly, vampire stories allow us to explore the darker side of human nature in safety. There’s seduction and murder, questionable morality, a range of dilemmas we’d never want to face in real life but are curious about in fiction. Vampires also provide an author with the ultimate monster, the ultimate predator, so that lets us develop heroes as well and we can adventure through a fantastic world which shows us both the best and worst of people.

What inspired you to write this book?

Allegiance: The Vampire Alliance Book Two was written because there was so much more to the story and the world than I could fit into Absolution: The Vampire Alliance Book One. It develops that story, takes it to new levels, and explains more of ‘why’ the events of Absolution happened while also giving the main character a wider set of problems.  The series as a whole, if I’m honest, was developed first and foremost because I’d read every vampire book in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy sections of my local bookshop. I needed a new story and wanted something gritty and local so I decided to write my own book. I quickly realized I had a story to tell, a story that incorporated a mythology I’d developed years ago. Then I realized that the story I wanted to tell needed more than one book to do it justice.

Please tell us about your latest release.

Allegiance follows a few months after Absolution ends, the vampire government are becoming ever more oppressive and Eve, the protagonist, once again finds the life she’s built crumbling at their hands. She’s left in a position where she’s mourning, fragile and still not completely aware of what’s going on around her. She has a lot to learn and a lot to overcome in Allegiance in order to become the person she has to be in Antithesis: The Vampire Alliance Book Three which will be released later in 2014.

Allegiance has a lot of darkness in it, but at its core it’s about loyalty, faith in those around you and being able to survive because of those bonds.

Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

Eve was named for the evening as I knew she’d ‘become’ a vampire. I know, how very corny. However, the more I write the more it suits her. There isn’t an intentional religious metaphor in the books but at times there almost seems to be. Eve tempts Rob and Tul to act in ways they previously would’ve considered to be forbidden, she offers forbidden fruit.
Robert Blakethorn the Second was named for the time in which he was born, as the son of English landed gentry. Tulloch Sullivan was born in the same time period but was of Scots-Irish descent and a servant, so his name hints at both his ancestry and his status – it had to be a little less pretentious than Robert Blakethorn the Second.

Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

They were all challenging in the own way. I suppose Eve, the protagonist, was most challenging in that her behavior, driven as it is by grief and fear, is often questionable. It’s difficult to have a character behave questionably and write in a way which adequately explains why she’s doing it and why it’s the correct move.  Her emotionless chapters were really difficult to write; writing in first person without the benefit of emotions is not a task I will ever endeavor to complete again.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

Again I have to say Eve because she does so many things you’d just never do in real life. She’s braver and stronger than me and I’ve lived vicariously through her. That said I also really enjoyed writing the boys, especially in the historical chapters.  Their lives, what happened in the past, influences so much of what happens to Eve and her values that it was really interesting developing their characters and how they interact with each other.

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?

I didn’t have a formula or list of attributes but I knew I wanted Eve to be a walking contradiction until she found her confidence, her strength, her ‘self’. She had to be used, abused and world weary while retaining naivety. She had to be incredibly strong while also being afraid and breakable.

Tul had to be unerringly loyal. He’s really the backbone of the trio. He’s Eve’s strength, and for most of their lives he was Rob’s strength. He needed to be that character so that when his loyalties finally came into question it would create an interesting dynamic.

Rob had to embody a few different characteristics over the course of book one and two, going from self-entitled gentleman, to broken man, to cold a merciless drone.

Basically I knew what the story needed, developed a list of basic characteristic in my head as starting points and then let the characters grow organically in their roles. In this case that seemed to work.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

That’s another tough one as I like a lot of scenes from Allegiance. It’s my favourite book in the series, I love the way the characters interact more in Allegiance than in Absolution and truthfully I don’t think I’ll love Antithesis until it’s re-drafted.  So, a favourite scene… My favourite would be too much of a spoiler I think, so perhaps my second favourite is a better choice. This is from chapter five:

Upton looks bored, picking at his fingernails without so much as acknowledging my arrival. Is his unconcerned appearance an act or had Donal lied? Is this another waste of my time just like when I’d gone to Upton with my bribe? But no, there’s Tul on his knees in front of a line of Enforcers. They won’t have brought him out here unless they’re willing to trade, right?
1352 stands at attention just behind him, features expressionless and eyes devoid of emotion. There’s so much wrong with the picture they paint. I’ve read Rob’s diary so I know what he and Tul should mean to each other. I suppose this picture is just further proof that 1352 is not Rob, not in any way that matters.
Slate blue eyes meet mine as I climb down from the Range Rover, comprehension dawning through a fog of pain and starvation. I can see the denial in Tul’s expression as he asks softly, uncertainly, his voice heart-wrenchingly weak, “What are you doing?”
I can’t bring myself to answer when I know any reply will cause a dispute. I just need to do this, to know he’s safe. “You agree with the trade?” I ask Upton, turning from Tul so I can’t see the denial in his expression even though I can feel it in his emotions.
“Evie, no, don’t.” I hear Tul but I wish he wouldn’t implore me to stop. He is not the first to make such a plea. Does he really think he’ll have a greater chance of stopping me than Rob had when I offered to take his place?
“You never understood it, did you?” I ask him softly and surprisingly without accusation. “Despite any evidence to the contrary I do love you just as much as I loved him. Everything I would have sacrificed to save him I’ll willingly sacrifice for you.”
“You don’t need to do this to prove you love me,” he tells me urgently.
Inexplicably under the circumstances his answer irritates me more than Donal’s snort of mocking laughter. “Don’t you do that Tulloch Sullivan, don’t you try and make this about me trying to prove something. I shouldn’t have to prove it. You can feel what I feel even if you don’t believe it. I’m trying to save your life, nothing more than that, because you are the only thing that matters to me.”

Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book?

Honestly I think the World War One history in book one was the most interesting thing to research. Trench life and the battles the soldiers were required to fight in were horrific, the loss of life was horrific. I had to research a number of battles for the book and it was fascinating at the same time as being very emotive.

 How does this world differ from our normal world?

The vampires have their own government and their society runs alongside but separate to the human world. They have their own politicians, their own laws, even their own police who are called ‘Enforcers’.  While humans in Britain live in a democracy, the vampires are oppressed by the dictatorship which has ruled since World War Two.

The struggle for freedom in the vampire world is the core ‘problem’ in the series. The Senate, the ruling (and only) political party in the vampire system is responsible for most of the heartbreak Eve faces, even as a human, because she became part of the vampire world when she married Rob who was, at the time, a ‘Chief’. Chiefs are local government officials in the Senate. 

Rather than opposition parties those who oppose the Senate have formed rebel gangs, groups of freedom fighters who rely on sympathetic parties and businesses to fund their anti-government activities. Some of the allegiances and business are questionable, such as drugs rings and brothels, but the aim of the gangs generally is to change the regime because there are no opposition parties. Some gangs would change the world for the better, some wouldn’t offer much improvement and some are open to Senate bribes.

The vampire underworld is quite dystopian in some way, there’s a civil war going on, yet it’s all hidden behind the human world.

With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones?

The books can’t be read as stand alones, The Vampire Alliance series isn’t like many paranormal romance books where the focus switches between books or characters change. The series as a whole is a story in its own right, like Lord of The Rings, if you jump into book two you are going to skip a lot of important explanation and developments.  The history in book one is hugely important to what happens in book two.

Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?

I wouldn’t want to do any of what Eve does, but her strength, her determination, is what I would like to possess. She is, in some ways, my ideal version of myself but she isn’t me as such. Or perhaps it’s fair to say she’s an exaggeration of me, good and bad is exaggerated to the extremes.  I think it’s hard, as a writer, not to include aspects of yourself in your characters because you’re creating them.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

Oh, goodness, yes! But in the case of the Vampire Alliance series I’ve always just pushed on through it. I’m taking a short break before I re-draft Antithesis but then I’ll have to push on through that too. Presently I’m trying to write something else to give myself a little Eve-free break but I have so many ideas I just can’t pick on to run with. I suspect I’ll get Antithesis done and then I’ll just have to pick a one and force myself to focus.

Do you write in different genres?

I do, although none of them have been published. I do dabble in historic fiction, sci-fi and fantasy. I’m focusing on paranormal romance and urban fantasy because it’s my favourite but I have ideas and first drafts written for far more than that.

Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?

No, not really. However, I also read different genres so my experience is wide and I enjoy a lot of genres. I read historical autobiographies for fun, so research isn’t an issue either. Coming from a family of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings geeks also feeds my love of sci-fi and fantasy.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. Writing is a huge part of my life, of how I cope with life, and of me. As for considering myself an ‘author’ that’s a different matter. Part of me wants to consider myself an ‘author’ because I’ve sold books, because there are people on the other side of the world who’ve bought, read and enjoyed my writing. However, because I’m pretty much unknown and this series is my debut I don’t really think of myself as an author yet. Maybe it just sounds too pretentious to proclaim myself an author, I don’t know.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?

Reading, I think that’s a must for a writer. I also love camping and kayaking (gentle kayaking, not the whitewater stuff – I’m not that brave). I do also love drawing and painting but I honestly don’t have time for it at the moment, not with a business to run, books to write and a toddler and a baby to chase!

What was the last amazing book you read?

Biting Cold by Chloe Neill, I love the Chicagoland Vampire series. I was trying to re-read them all before the Wild Things UK release date which, incidentally, is today as of two minutes ago (I’m writing this on 20th Feb at 00:02). Hopefully my answer to this will soon change to Wild Things by Chloe Neill! I need to get my Methan fix as soon as possible.

Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?

Anywhere. I pretty much zone out when I’m reading, the result is that I can read just about anywhere and I’m happy as long as I have a world to immerse myself in.

What can readers expect next from you?

Antithesis: The Vampire Alliance Book Three which will be released later in 2014.  It’s the end of this story arc and after Antithesis I’m not really sure if I’ll be doing sequels, prequels, spin offs or something entirely new as I have plans for all of the above.

Where can readers find you on the web?

Twitter Tag: @Angela_McGurk


Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

My stunning green satin dress is torn and blood coats the bottom of my skirts where I’ve waded through the gore of a battlefield. My sword is only loosely grasped in my hand, its tip trailing along the ground as I no longer have the will to hold it up. My hair is wispy, coming loose from the pins and twists which Vanessa Rosa and Sophie-Jayne had so painstakingly plaited into it earlier. The beads and jewels from my curled tresses are falling out around me and cracking in the heat, but I don’t care.
The flowers that had decorated the pews have burned away and the soot from the blaze which destroyed them smears my cheeks where once there had been blusher. My mascara hasn’t run yet and my eye shadow is still in place because I can’t let myself cry. If I begin to weep I will never be able to stop again. I will weep and weep and my bloody tears will flood the Earth in some twisted corruption of a biblical punishment wrought by a vengeful god.
Flames are still licking up the pews but I cannot feel their heat. I can’t feel anything over the ache in my chest, the suffocating pressure constricting my throat as I make my way back down the aisle. I step over bodies, both friend and enemy, as the train of the dress Tulloch had dreamed for me soaks up yet more gruesome evidence of what has taken place.
So many have died today and I wish I’d died with them.
Why does this heart still beat its slow percussion in my chest? Why does this brain still plague me with memories of what had gone before and dreams which will never come to pass? Why does the blood in my veins still move from organ to organ and back again when I long for it to stop, when I long for it to coagulate and turn black? I wish for the world to fade and my body to decay. I want this pain to end but it won’t, just like it hadn’t last time.
I find what I’m looking for at the top of the aisle, a scrap of paper now scorched and tattered round the edges. Blood has dripped and sprayed over the document and it’s only through luck that the grotesque blots haven’t obscured our names and signatures; Eve Blakethorn and Tulloch Sullivan, the scrawls that make us man and wife.
I hadn’t wanted to go through another wedding.
I hadn’t wanted to curse another good man.
I hadn’t wanted to feel this all consuming grief again.
And this time they haven’t even given me a few days of joy.

The Vampire Alliance
Book Two
Angela Louise McGurk

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

ISBN: 978-0-9927894-1-1

Number of pages: 369
Word Count: 112,000

Cover Design by Angela McGurk
Photography by Matt McGurk Photography

Amazon    Amazon UK 

Book Description:

Eve hadn’t wanted a second marriage, she wanted to remain happily unmarried rather than curse another good man to Rob’s fate. If only Tul had listened to her protestations. Instead the Senate are intent on making her relive her own personal hell. Worse, the instrument they seem intent on using to bring about her suffering is the creature, the merciless drone they’d created from all that remained of Rob.

The world seems to be conspiring against Eve and the Alliance, and even among Johan’s band of rebels not everyone is happy to have Eve as part of the group. With Tul missing and friends few on the ground, Eve begins to slip back into the pit of despair which had once consumed her and that may just lead her to behave more recklessly than ever before. Mistakes have consequences however, and for Eve the consequences of her actions may just decide the course of the future.

Is there a way to save Tul? Does anything of Rob remain in the Senate controlled puppet his body’s become? More importantly, why are the Senate determined to take control of Eve and just how far will they go to gain possession of her?

About the Author:

Angela is the author of the Vampire Alliance series. Books one and two, Absolution and Allegiance, are both available for Kindle. Antithesis will follow later in 2014.

While currently occupied running her wedding stationery and graphic design business, Angela spends much  of her free time writing, reading, and trying to find a way of saving all the worlds in her head before they evaporate to some forgotten place never to be retrieved.  As well as being a designer, business owner and writer, Angela is the mother to two fantastic children and wife to a husband who still hasn’t read her books!

She grew up in a small Northumbrian pit village and briefly lived in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne where the Vampire Alliance series is set. One of her favourite places in the world in Rome and when she gets around to finishing the re-write of the prequel to the Vampire Alliance series this will be set in Rome. The prequel, currently going under the working title of ‘Irredeemable’ has been a workin progress for fourteen years, originally written in Angela’s early teens it is currently being re-‘vamped’ and will be published sometime after ‘Antithesis’.


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March 24 Interview
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Angela Louise McGurk said...

Thank you for the tour stop!

Roxanne Rhoads said...

Thanks for being a guest :-)