Jaye Wells is the bestselling author of urban fantasy. Her new book, DIRTY MAGIC, is released this month from Little, Brown & Co., as a trade paperback original.
Jaye graciously agreed to sit down with THE BIG THRILL and answer some questions about the new book and her work.
Can you give us an elevator pitch for DIRTY MAGIC?
DIRTY MAGIC is the first book in my new Prospero’s War speculative crime fiction series. Kate Prospero, a former coven member turned cop, gets promoted from walking the beat to a federal task force that’s trying to track down the source of a dirty magic potion that turns its users into werewolf-like creatures. The top suspect is a member of her old coven—and her former lover—who’s determined to bring Kate back into the dirty magic game.
What led you to create Kate Prospero? Any autobiographical in her?
I wanted to write about a cop because I wanted to write an episodic crime fiction series, but as it happens there is some autobiography in that my mother was a cop. When I was in preschool, she spent her days working at a bookstore and her nights tracking down perps as a reserve officer. She was also a single mother, which is similar to Kate’s situation as the guardian of her little brother, Danny. I didn’t take any specific details from her experiences, but it’s nice to be able to call her up and ask research questions.
I guess some of that police blood is in my veins because I had an absolute blast researching the police side of things for this series. I did a twelve-week citizen’s police academy in my town where we got to drive police SUVs at high speeds through obstacle courses and watch bombs explode with the bomb squad. I also did an eight-hour ride along with an officer in the deep night shift, which was quite an adrenaline rush. In addition, I attended the Writers’ Police Academy in North Carolina, where we got to learn from DEA, ATF, FBI, and state and county police for three days. I have the best job ever.
Did you begin writing DIRTY MAGIC with a series in mind? Why or why not?
I definitely knew it would be a series. I really enjoy writing series because it allows me to really dig into characters’ lives over a long period of time. With this series, I really wanted to tackle a more police procedural-type structure like you might see on a cop TV show—with each book revolving around a single case while also building on a larger story arc.
Will you be doing a signing of DIRTY MAGIC? If so, where and when?
I have a signing scheduled at one of my favorite indies, Murder by the Book, in Houston on January 24 at 6:30 pm. Beyond that, I’ll be attending the RT Book Lovers’ Convention in NOLA in May, and Phoenix Comicon in June. More dates are always being added, so anyone interested should check out my web site for upcoming events at www.jayewells.com.
Most of your books involve a series character. Is it easier or more challenging to write a series and why?
I’ve never written a stand-alone novel, so I can’t speak to how it compares. I just naturally gravitate towards series because I consider myself a character writer. All of my plots revolve around putting my characters through the wringer and seeing how they evolve. It’s probably no different for a stand-alone author—I just get to torture them for longer.
What does Kate Prospero have or lack that makes her different from your other series characters?
In my previous Sabina Kane series, the titular character was an assassin with major anger issues. She shot first and kicked you later. Kate Prospero is too jaded to be angry. She grew up on gritty streets in a crime syndicate and now she’s a cop. She can’t afford to let her emotions rule her, so she uses her head. But she’s like Sabina in that she has a beat up set of baggage that she hauls around on her back. I like writing really conflicted characters. They’re a lot of fun.
How did you research magic for this series? Is there research available?
Most of the magic research revolved around alchemy, and there’s plenty of research available since it was an actual art practiced for thousands of years. The magic in Prospero’s War is all a bastardization of alchemy and other magical traditions, so I could play with the ‘rules’ a little, but I had to be sure that the magic felt convincing enough for people to suspend their disbelief. Alchemy is extremely fascinating because it’s not only a complex art form, but also an in-depth and fascinating symbolic metaphor for a person’s personal growth. In other words, it’s a very interesting playground for a writer.
What first got you interested in the mystical scenarios of your books?
I’m not really sure why I’m drawn to writing about the uncanny and arcane in my books. I believe part of the reason is that talking about magic and monsters allows me to say things about humans that would be too off-putting if I was too literal or used more mundane imagery and archetypes. I also think it’s just plain fun to take the mythical and weave it into our world.
Do you focus on one writing project at a time or do you have a couple working at the same time?
I used to have to focus on one project at a time, but I’m afraid I don’t have that luxury anymore. Now I’m usually working on a novel at the same as I’m writing novellas, short stories, and outlining other books. Part of the reason for this is there’s more demand for stories, which is fantastic, but I also have found that the more I write, the more ideas I have. If I only wrote one thing at a time, I’d run out of time to write everything I want to write.
You’ve said on your blog that you grew up around independent bookstores, how has that background affected your transition to eBooks?
The only thing it has affected is that I have a deep love for story. I love print books dearly, but it’s the magic inside the covers that matters most. So I’m not really picky about whether a story is in print or electronic—I just want a good story. That said, I am an outspoken advocate for independent bookstores because I believe bookstore culture is worth saving. It’s not about economics so much as trying to maintain a community of booklovers who aren’t as motivated by book sales as they are sharing a love of story. But I also see and appreciate the strides that more convenient retail outlets are making in creating new readers. Adults who never read for pleasure and discovering the joy of reading through ereaders. That’s a great thing. Both models are worthy and offer different benefits and drawbacks. It’s an exciting time to be authors because we have so many more outlets for our stories now.
For Halloween you put out a novella, was it easier to write than a novel?
RUSTED VEINS was a novella set in the world of my Sabina Kane urban fantasy series. Novellas aren’t necessarily easier to write. They take less time, generally, but they have their own challenges. For one, you don’t have the luxury of taking 400 pages to develop characters and the story. Writing tight is a challenge for a lot of novelists, so novellas and short stories can be really difficult. When you’re writing a novella set in an established world you also have to be careful to write a contained, complete story instead of using it as a teaser for the rest of the series. Regardless, I loved writing RUSTED VEINS because I got to revisit some old, much-loved characters, and I got to set it in New Orleans, which is one of my favorite cities.
How can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young ago. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. Jaye lives in Texas.