By Eyre Price
With her new novel, CODE NAME: JACK RABBIT, author Elizabeth Noble makes the transition from romance to thriller. I recently had the opportunity to put a few questions her way.
So…vampires? What attracted to you a genre that has been explored so thoroughly in the past decade?
Vampires are cool. They have the potential for very long lives and that offers a lot of character exploration. That’s my favorite thing about vampires. They also provide characters that have accumulated different skills over the decades, which really broadens what sort of story can be told. Since, in my world, the vampires heal extremely quickly they’re almost super-hero like. They are capable of surviving where a human might be killed. Then there’s the fact of their superior hearing, speed, and strength.
What measures did you take to put your own spin on vampires in order to keep the genre fresh?
This first book in a series I’m calling the Vampire Guard is a spin-off from a romance series I wrote with an author by the name of Anne Barwell. As we developed our original series (The Sleepless City) we wanted our vampires, and werewolves, to be different.
These vampires don’t hunt humans, and all vampires begin life as a human so as a group it’s in their best interest to preserve humans. Vampires can only change a human into a vampire during the few days each year surrounding the time when they were originally changed. They also don’t drink human blood, it’s an addictive substance for them. The blood they consume is a supplement to normal food and has animal sources. A vampire can bond with a soul mate. Once this happens it’s for life. There is an empathic, bordering on psychic, link between bonded vampires. In my series one of the qualities several of the vampire characters have and are proud of is their ability to change with the times. Even those born centuries ago have adapted to each era they live in.
Can you tell us a little bit about what previous takes on the vampire legend inspired you? And, maybe, which versions left you cold?
The vampire character I like the most was on a television show called Sanctuary and was Nicola Tesla. I enjoy the vampires who find a place in society and use their differences to survive and flourish. The dark, brooding vampire always searching for a way to reverse their vampirism who sleeps in a box of dirt puts me off completely.
The editors at The Big Thrill tell me that “the current buzz is that paranormal is making a comeback—but will vampires fall back in style?”
I like to think they never went out! It’s my firm belief that vampires, like any character, will never go out of style in a well-written book.
The editors also want to know “why will vampires always be ‘hot’—and what are some paranormal beasties to avoid as we re-enter the genre…with caution.”
I think the answer to the first question goes back to vampires are cool. They’re close to humans, but they have extra abilities. That long-lived (verging on immortal) trait is very attractive and interesting to many people. I’m not sure I’m qualified to say what other sorts of beasties to avoid. My personal tastes tend toward the simple. I have werewolves in my series, but there isn’t a were-everything. I like paranormal characters with limitations and flaws. Yes, they can survive gunshot wounds, but not an infinite number. Broken bones will heal in a few days, but will still hurt and can temporarily incapacitate. One of my vampires, Jonas Forge, has pollen allergies and gets woozy at the sight of a syringe and needle. Don’t under any circumstances get between him and his coffee either.
What kind of research went into CODE NAME: JACK RABBIT?
There was quite a bit! Since this is an espionage/thriller story I had to research various high-tech tools. There is a biological weapon used is the book based on a number of legends around the world. The Vampire Guard series is multi-cultural and -national. It was important I gave characters appropriate names and attitudes to match their culture and time of origin. That aspect of the research is an ongoing process as more characters are included in the series.
Everyone knows the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But I always add that “still that’s the way they sell them.” The cover of a book is so important to sales and arguably to a reader’s impression of the pages inside. I was struck by your cover for CODE NAME: JACK RABBIT, which features a lake monster against a map of the Great Lakes and a banner featuring what appears to be a Native American bear/word image with the words or name Akhkharu Nasaru. Can you tell us a little bit about what went into the cover design and what it says about your work?
The cover was designed by T. L. Bland, a very talented cover artist. She incorporated a number of themes in CODE NAME: JACK RABBIT in the cover design. The bulk of the story takes place in a town on Lake Erie and the story’s climax takes place in Lake Superior. The lake monster was inspired by ‘Bessie’ and ‘Champ,’ popular lake monster legends in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
The words “Akhkharu Nasaru” are actually Sumerian and translate into “vampire guard.” I chose the bear, wolf, and full moon as symbols of my secret society because those images are represented in many cultures, ancient and modern. Repeatedly, bears symbolize strength and courage, and wolves represent intelligence and intuition. The full moon is mainly because I like it and adds a touch of mystery.
Terry and I spent hours brainstorming what the cover elements needed to be. She designed elements that would be on all the book covers in the series. The background is, if you look closely, a word VampX. That is the name of the operating system used by the Vampire Guard for their computer network.
CODE NAME: JACK RABBIT carries the subtitle “The Vampire Guard, Book One.” Where do you see the series leading? Do you have a complete story arc already in mind for the series with a planned conclusion or will your process be to see where the series leads you?
I’ve currently just complete book three, and the second book, Quarry, will be released in January. There is a loose story arc and overall theme of a secret society protecting the world. I think right now I’m in the “see where it goes” mode. There are plenty of legends—urban and other wise—that can be spun into a good spy story.
ITW has always been particularly concerned with fostering the experience of being a debut writer and shepherding them on to the next steps of their careers. Can you describe for us what your experience has been like, particularly how it fulfilled your dreams…and, maybe, how it diverged a bit from what you expected as well.
Well, I’m not really a debut author. CODE NAME: JACK RABBIT is my twelfth published novel. Currently, I have four more in various stages of editing. My previous books were all sub-genres of romance. In fact, my romantic suspense, Gone Away, was introduced in February 2016 issue of The Big Thrill.
The Vampire Guard in general and CODE NAME: JACK RABBIT in particular are my first forays into more mainstream publishing. The publisher, DSP Publications, is the non-romance mainstream imprint of Dreamspinner Press, which is a romance publishing house. DSP Publications became a reality not quite two years ago. Right now they’re only taking submissions from established Dreamspinner authors, but I understand that will change sometime in 2016. General calls for certain genres will be posted on the website. I know two of the genres that the Editor in Chief, Lynn West will be looking for will be mystery and sci-fi.
ITW has been fantastic. Everyone is very supportive and nice. I was immediately impressed with the diversity among the authors and novels represented in The Big Thrill and on the ITW website. Joining ITW was the first time I’d become a member of a large, professional writers’ organization. It’s nice to have the support and encouragement of others within the thriller/mystery/suspense genre.
As a novelist, what is the one piece of advice that you would give to all of those who have ambitions to become published?
Learn to write well.
Write what’s in your heart and never, ever give up.
Stop editing that manuscript and start submitting it to publishers.
Few things interest writers more than how other writers write. So what’s your writing day like? Practices? Habits? Rituals?
I work full time as a veterinary nurse, so my writing day is shared with my job. Usually I’ll write the most in the evening. It’s very important to me to write something every day. Some days I may write no more than a few hundred words and other days several thousand. On days I’m home all day I’ll edit and work on website maintenance and promo early in the day and still write in the afternoon and evening. I think that habit developed when my children were small and I couldn’t write until they were in bed. I can’t write a book until I have a title for it. The end is something I know right from the time I start a new book.
Coffee or hot tea is my beverages earlier in my day and iced tea for afternoons and evenings. I almost always have something to drink at hand while I write. When I sit down to write I go through the previous day’s work first and do a little polishing and self-editing. I have three wonderful betas and they read each chapter as I complete it, offering comments and suggestions.
Once I submit a book I generally don’t go back and look at it until the official edits arrive in my email. By then enough time has passed I can look at it with fresh eyes and a more analytical attitude.
Along those same lines, what’s on your “writing time” musical play list?
I have Amazon Prime I’ll play the songs in my library in whatever order they pop up. Classic rock is my favorite, but I have songs from a wide variety of musical genres.
What are three things in your writing space that would tell your readers about you as a writer?
Well, my dog and cat are generally in my office with me.
I have copies of all my book covers framed and on the walls.
In my office is a large bookcase with my many reference books I often consult.
And last, the July issue of The Big Thrill theme question is: When the summer weather beckons, what strategies do you use to keep your “butt glued to the chair”?
I have a great strategy for that! I take my laptop outside and write on my patio. I enjoy gardening and find mowing the lawn or pulling weeds is a great time for working out plots. I’m more of a cool-weather outdoor person, so when it’s very hot I’m really happy to sit inside with a fan.
Elizabeth Noble lives by the adage “I can’t not write.” She can’t remember a time when she didn’t make up stories. Eventually she learned how to write them down. A part of every day is spent living in worlds she’s created that are filled with intrigue and espionage. Using a real love of sci-fi and urban fantasy highlighted by twisty plots, she crafts stories taking place in a slightly altered version of our world.
When she’s not chronicling the adventures of her many characters, Elizabeth is a veterinary nurse living in her native Cleveland, Ohio. She shares her little brick house with an adorable canine princess and her tabby cat sidekick. Elizabeth is a fan of baseball, basketball (go Cavs and Indians!), and gardening. She can often be found working in her “outside office” listening to classic rock and plotting her next novel while waiting for it to be dark enough to gaze at the stars.
Elizabeth received several amateur writing awards. Since being published, two of her novels have received honorable mentions in the Rainbow Awards. Her novel Jewel Cave was a runner-up in the 2015 Rainbow Awards in the Gay Mystery/Thriller category.
To learn more, please visit her website.