#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong saw kind enough to sit down and answer some questions for us here at Lytherus. In the interview we talk about the characters in her Otherworld series, the meaning of sex in her books, her writing life, and more!
This interview is slightly spoilery if you are completely unfamiliar with the Otherworld series, so proceed with caution if you want to be surprised.
Take it away Kelley!
1: I know this is the boring standard question, but for those who might not be aware, give a general intro to the awesome Otherworld you’ve created.
Women of the Otherworld features a changing set of supernatural women, each with her own story, usually adventure or suspense. While the narrators change, it’s set in a shared world, so the characters from one book appear in others. It started with Bitten in 2001 and wrapped up this summer with Thirteen.
2: I read somewhere that Bitten was written as a stand-alone, but then the series sort of grew into what we know it as now. Take us through the process of creating such a big task. Was it hard to come up with new story lines? Once you realized this was going to be more than one novel did you know off the bat you wanted to jump into other characters’ heads besides Elena?
When the publishers suggested a series, I knew I didn’t want to do countless novels with the characters of Bitten. I love them, but after a few books, I’d be struggling to find fresh plots. So I came up with the idea of the wider supernatural world, introducing new supernatural characters in book two, Stolen, and spinning into their stories starting with Dime Store Magic. The changing narrators really help to alleviate some of the problems with coming up with new story lines. Whenever I switch, the new character lends herself to plots that wouldn’t work for others.
3: Of all the beloved characters you’ve written in this long, amazing series, why Savannah to finish it off? What about her character compelled you to write the final three books from her perspective?
I selected Savannah as my final narrator because she’s grown up in this world. It seemed fitting to show her coming into her own as a “woman of the Otherworld.” Also she’s the character most tightly bound to all of the others. That made it easy for her to get help from all the others as she deals with her biggest personal and professional challenge.
4: Let’s talk about the hotties of this series. You’ve created some pretty spectacular men for these wonderfully powerful women (I’m partial to Adam, myself!). Was it hard writing the other gender? What did you enjoy most about creating these strong, sexy, often-times volatile characters? Also adding to this question, did you know from the start that sex was going to have its presence in the story the way that it does?
With first person narrative, I’m more comfortable writing it from a woman’s point of view. When I started this series, I didn’t consider using a male voice. Yet it gets easier every time I try it, just as it gets easier to do characters who are more different from me in other aspects (age, personality etc). As for why I enjoy creating these characters, it doesn’t matter if they’re male or female—strong, complex and sometimes damaged characters interest me and seem to provide the best plots.
When I wrote the sex scenes in Bitten, they were seen as daring for the times. Explicit sex made sense with werewolves. Elena jokes they spend a big part of their lives engaged in the three F’s of basic survival: feeding, fighting and…reproduction. What I didn’t realize was that it might establish a baseline for the series. With changing narrators, it seems odd to me if they all have the same amount and type of sex, and they all relate it to the reader with the same degree of explicitness. That was an issue sometimes—editors believing that readers expected the same in each book while I argued that it depended on the character and the situation. I stuck to my guns, but I do think the changing “sex level” did bother some readers.
5: The epic battle between good and evil that takes place in Thirteen has been building for a while now. Where about in the series story line did you decide this was how it was going to end? Was it always going to be about revelation and the battle between revealing one’s true nature vs not? (Interesting, because the whole series is basically about this on a personal level, in one way or another).
For the past six books I’ve been laying the framework for this final plot. Book six was the point where I began to believe that the series could last long enough for me to fulfill my plan. With each subsequent novel, there were dangling threads or new discoveries that ultimately led to the end. Issues of identity and “who you trust to know your inner self” have been a core theme in the books, so it made sense that this would be the final question.
6: If you could step into your Otherworld, and be any supernatural being, what would you be and why? There are so many awesome powers out there!
I would love to be a werewolf and experience life in a different form. The secondary characteristics would be amazing, too, but some of those also make it hard for werewolves to blend, so if I was being very practical, I might go with spell-casters.
7: You’ve been a professional writer for a while now. Take us through a day in the life.
My basic routine is get up at 5:30 and write until I need to wake the kids. Once they’re off to school, I continue writing and editing for the morning, then get things like business done in the afternoon.
8 : When creating, do you outline or free-write? What’s the process you follow to bring a book from idea in your head to book in our hands?
My process is always evolving. Being published means having deadlines, so it’s become important to learn which method work most efficiently. For me, that’s an outline. My finished novel never completely follows it though—better ideas arise during the first draft and I follow them wherever they lead.
9: What’s currently on your reading shelf? Any goodies you’ve read lately that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m an omnivorous reader, grazing from genre to genre, depending on my mood. Recent hot finds? A lot haven’t come out yet, but my next recommendation would be Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, coming in early September. I love gothics and Sarah does it with style and humour.
10: Are you really done with the Otherworld series? If so, what are you going to miss the most? What are you working on now — Any new ventures?
Yes, the Otherworld is on hiatus with Thirteen. I do plan to write more stories—and maybe even a future novel or two—but I’m ending the book-a-year schedule.
What will I miss most? Definitely the characters. The world is fun to play in, but it’s the characters who’ve made it a real treat for me.
As for what’s next, I’ve sold a new adult trilogy that combines mystery with paranormal aspects (different one than we find in the Otherworld) The first book, Cainsville, comes out next summer.
Anything else you want to say to your fans out there reading this?
Thank you for your support J When I wrote Bitten, I’d never have imagined it could last through thirteen books and it was the readers who made that happen. I never forget that.