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by Karen Harper

Still searching for redemption, fallen-angel-turned-human Brynna Malak now faces the mystery of how a nephilim in Chicago knows exactly when and where to be in order to save humans from certain death… with disastrous results. As the trail of bodies builds ever higher, each new clue leads to more twists in the bizarre case. The second exciting book in the Dark Redemption Series.

I recently had a chance to sit down with the author to discuss her latest book.

Please tell us a bit about the story of Concrete Savior.

Still searching for redemption, fallen-angel-turned-human Brynna Malak now faces the mystery of how a nephilim in Chicago knows exactly when and where to be in order to save humans from certain death…with disastrous results.  As the trail of bodies builds ever higher, each new clue leads to more twists in the bizarre case.  The second exciting book in the Dark Redemption Series.

In reading your bio, I learned you have written in many different genres.  Were you just testing the waters until you found your true home, or do you read and write that widely?  And what has brought you to the paranormal genre and your Dark Redemption  Series?

Actually, I think most of my writing is in the dark fantasy genre, or whatever they’re (they being the mainstream publishers) calling it this year.  Early on it was horror, for awhile it was thriller, then it was dark fantasy, now it seems to be paranormal fantasy.  I write what I like to read, and in my reading, I like suspense.  That can come in a lot of forms, and I think that comes out in my writing.  There are elements of suspense, mystery, horror, fantasy, science fiction, and anything else I can throw in there.  To me it is what it is—I’m hardly ever trying to force fit something into a specific genre.  I write first, then someone else can label it later.  When I wrote Highborn, the first book in the Dark Redemption Series, I was simply writing the book I wanted to write.  It wasn’t until my new editor told me it was “urban fantasy” that I thought of it as anything but, well, my book!

The titles you’ve chosen for your series and your books pack a punch and are very intriguing.  Do you write with your title in mind or “find it” in the course of writing the book?

The only competition the cover has in catching and holding someone’s attention is the title, so I really believe it needs to be as good as you can make it.  I think it needs to reflect something important about the book, and I even try to use the line in conversation somewhere in the book.  Sometimes I have to work at it, writing things down, thinking about possibilities, eliminating others.  And I admit sometimes I get a little help from my husband, author Weston Ochse.  He comes up with some of the most unique and fabulous titles I’ve ever seen.  I don’t believe he’s ever actually named a novel or story for me, but he’s certainly pushed me in the right direction on more than one occasion.

You have also cleverly blended a mystery/police procedure/romance in this novel.  Was that intentional, or did these genres simply grow from your story?  And what comes first for you, characters or plot—or both?

I think it just happened.  Looking back over previous books, it happens a lot!  All of my solo novels have had elements of all those genres, probably because I believe to my soul that most of those are the very things that make a novel worth reading.  It doesn’t have to be a police procedural, but realistically, a cop is someone who can go just about anywhere anytime with authority.  Everyone likes to figure out the answer to some intriguing question, and if your characters don’t care about each other—even if just a little bit—why should you care about them?  Usually it’s the plot the develops first, that what-if question that generates an idea that molds a story.  Then I start building characters, piece by piece, detail by detail.  Then I put them in the story and see what happens.  Stephen King said it best: “First you create characters you want to live, then you put them in the cooker.”

Can you weigh in a bit on horror vs.  thriller?  What elements do these stories share or how are they different?  It seems to me that Concrete Savior is a bit of both.

Gosh, that’s a tough one—everyone’s opinion seems to be different.  To me the difference between a thriller and fantasy is that a fantasy, light, dark or whatever, has some element of magic or supernatural in it.  Horror, however, doesn’t have to be supernatural.  The worst things in the world, at least in my opinion, are what people do to other people.  Dean Koontz insists he is not a horror author (even though he was formerly President of the Horror Writers Association), yet you always find his novels in the horror sections of the bookstores.  Perhaps the line between thriller and horror changes with every reader and their level of tolerance for suspense.

You explained in another interview that when you write, you become your characters and get lost in them and the story.  How was that true for fallen-angel-turned-human Brynna Malak?  Did you plan her, or did she arrive full-blown in your mind or on the  page?

All my characters “grow” in my head, and it wasn’t any different for Brynna Malak.  It’s the writing equivalent of method acting—everything else fades out and I see the room through the character’s eyes, see and react to the situation as the character would.

Although your Dark Redemption Series is fantasy, your ability to write provocatively about real moral issues is amazing.  One excellent review (Bookaholics Romance Book Club) described, “a compelling book that brings up moral questions  of right and wrong,” and you’ve gone to bat for current ethical issues such as  the treatment of former racing greyhounds.  Yet you have also opined on avoiding moving from fiction to  preaching.  Where do you draw the line on such thematic strands in your work?

It’s funny that you bring up the greyhounds (which appeared in deadrush), because that particular scene is one I look back on and find a bit preachy.  I can’t say there’s a specific line.  I think I go on instinct.  My personal perspective is tolerance—I might believe strongly in something, and I think everyone has the right to try to convince someone else to their point of view.  I generally see a very distinctive difference, however, in presenting your point of view and insisting on your point of view.  The Dark Redemption Series is a tricky theme because it deals so heavily with religion, but I go for personal choice throughout the series.  For instance, if you believe in God, that’s great.  If you don’t, that’s your choice, and it does not make you wrong… just different from me.

Could you give us your thinking on the paranormal boom in fiction? Vampires, shape shifters, zombies, nephilim…   What seems to be their appeal in our current culture—or is their allure universal?

I think—and again, this is just my own opinion—that the appeal is power, and whatever that means to each individual.  It can mean controlling someone else, it can mean being able to live forever.  Zombies are, perhaps, a little different, a morbid fascination with the unstoppable, the terrifying, the creature that has no reason or mercy.

Your husband, Weston Ochse, is also an author.  How does it work to have two writers in the house?  Pros and cons?  Do you read and help edit each other?

At the risk of sound mushy and romantic, I can’t imagine life with anyone else.  Wes is my support system, a never-ending fountain of ideas, and my rock.  We read each other’s work when requested (because, let’s face it, sometimes you just want to do it your own way), we bounce ideas off each other.  We understand wanting to go off in our own space and disappear for hours.  There are spans of 3 and 4 days where we see each other in the morning before work, we eat dinner and watch some TV’d show together, then barely speak until bedtime—he goes to his office downstairs, I go to mine upstairs.  I believe that few non-spouse writers truly understand how committed a writer can be to a project, or that blank staring into space when an idea is forming or a scene is working itself out in your mind.

Your “day job” sounds fascinating, working on historic Fort Huachuca in former Apache country.  Are you inspired by the stunning scenery and interesting history of that area?  What exactly do you do at the Fort, now a US Army Intelligence Center and School as well as a historic site.  What a juxtaposition of past and present!

I’m one of the Registrars for several military training courses on Fort Huachuca.  Arizona has always inspired me.  I spent way too many years in frigid Illinois, and I knew since the mid-eighties that the only place I wanted to live was Arizona.  I love the desert, the mountains, the rock formations, the heat.  There are always great ideas to be found out here.

What are you working on and what will we see next from Yvonne Navarro?

I’m giving some thought to another Dark Redemption novel, of course.  I have a fully outlined thriller that I’ve started and would like to finish, plus another paranormal series that keeps banging around in my head and revising itself into something better and better.  For years people have been asking me to get off my toosh and write the sequel to AfterAge that I started a long time ago, plus several more novels keep raising their paper hands and waving me.  Some anthology invites.  I also desperately want more time to paint.  And play.  One must always have time to play.

For more information on Yvonne Navarro, please visit her website.

Karen Harper
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