Friday, January 6, 2012

Interview with Alix Rickloff

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Alix Rickloff. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called Heir Of Danger. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

This is the third book in my latest regency paranormal series—The Heirs of Kilronan which follows one family’s struggle to stop a madman from resurrecting King Arthur as part of a plot to instigate a war between Other and Mortal.

HEIR OF DANGER features the final sibling Brendan Douglas. Since his father’s murder, he’s been on the run. But he comes home in a last ditch attempt to stop a war and clear his name. Unfortunately the key to both lies with Elisabeth Fitzgerald, the woman he jilted seven years before. Now trapped together in a reluctant alliance, they must provoke a killer into making his deadly final move, but will the sacrifice Brendan has to make be Elisabeth herself?

Heir Of Danger is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

When we first conceived of the trilogy, my editor told me to throw some title ideas her way. I put together a long list of possibilities, some of them using a pun on Heir as a way to tie the three books together. Heir of Evil, Heir of Passion, you get the idea. Anyway, none of them made the final cut … or so I thought until the third book came into final production and my editor pulled up Heir Of Danger. One of my suggestions! Finally!

Would you describe your book as a cozy, mystery, suspense, or thriller?

I suppose if I had to label it under one of these categories, it would be suspense. I like to keep my readers guessing and definitely turning the pages, but I wouldn’t say I’m thriller-esque as in you’re afraid to turn out the lights, just left on the edge of your seat and eager to follow the twists and turns as the plot thickens and events grow more complicated. The most difficult part of my writing process is balancing the external suspense with the character’s internal conflict and romance. I do a lot of layering once the initial story is down on paper to be sure both arcs work simultaneously.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I’m a European history major and have always loved reading historicals whether they be romances, mysteries, straight fiction or non-fiction. But growing up I devoured fantasy and science fiction from writers as diverse as Mary Stewart, Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Andre Norton. So, I loved the idea of pairing these two genres together to see what I could concoct. I tried this approach first with my recent release of DANGEROUS MAGIC where I added a touch of magic to an otherwise straight regency. I had so much fun with that story, I immediately jumped into the regency-paranormal world with my next book, and from there, I never looked back.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

The inspiration for the story came from a previous manuscript. The heroine of that book’s father was murdered under mysterious circumstances, and now and again there was an allusion to some larger dark conspiracy. From those seeds, the entire Heirs of Kilronan series grew. Though it wasn’t until I began writing the first book, EARL OF DARKNESS, that the King Arthur ah-ha! moment struck. After that, the story clicked into place pretty rapidly. HEIR OF DANGER is the culmination of the three books, so it was where I had to wrap up all my loose ends. This made it both easier since by the time I began writing, I knew my characters really well, and I knew where the story was going. The hard part was trying to write myself out of all the corners.

Do you have all the key suspense/mystery elements thought out before you begin writing?

Not at all. I’m a confirmed pantser so my process requires a lot of nail-biting and hair-pulling as the story moves forward, mainly propelled by my muse and lots of coffee. The hardest part is restraining myself from adding so many twists and turns in the plot that I corkscrew myself right into a corner (see answer above). Before I sit down, I will have a general idea about the major turning points of the story. Then it becomes a matter of connecting scenes to build the tension up to each point. But those scenes always evolve as I go and I’m never certain what will pop from a character’s mouth that will change everything.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

While the historical aspects of the books required a lot of research (let’s face it, regency readers are rabid about their details), I was able to throw my imagination into overdrive when it came to the paranormal/fantasy elements of the story. The series is set in Ireland which is close enough to England that much of Society and custom were the same, but far enough removed due to its occupied status that there was a lot I had to learn before I could place my characters there. I found some fabulous research material on Ireland under the Georges, both city and country life which helped tremendously plus some great travel maps from the period that zeroed me in on every little bump in their roads. And last but not least, my s-i-l is from Limerick, so I was able to pick her brain when I needed an authentic phrase or expression to place in my characters’ mouths.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I absolutely loved Brendan Douglas. He seemed to spring to life from the moment he took the stage. He’s cynical and self-serving, but smart, determined, and never takes himself or anything else too seriously. On the lam with his gambling ne’er-do-well cousin Jack O’Gara, the bad guys don’t stand a chance.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

My characters tend to jump into my head pretty complete from the beginning, in that I know their goals and their motivations, but then I take that and add to it all the backstory minutiae like names of parents and siblings, important dates in their lives, eye and hair color; things I may need to refer back to throughout the story and write that down as reference as I go. Beyond that, they reveal themselves through the writing. Body language, personality traits, relationships, personal history, and even their inner conflict will come through as the story progresses through dialogue and internal thought. I love getting to know the characters as I go. I’m surprised whenever I sit down to write at what I discover about them, and for me, that’s what keeps the writing fun and exciting.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Your blog isn’t long enough to list every author that has ever inspired me, but I do have authors who hold a special place in my heart. I dedicated HEIR OF DANGER to four of them; Mary Stewart, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jane Austen, and Rosamunde Pilcher. These are my four go-to authors. Different in genre, style, characterization, but I read their books over and over whenever I need to get lost in a familiar story where the writing is flawless and the characters are old friends.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

So much about success in writing is complete coincidence or out of an author’s control; bookstore placement, distribution, Kindle lists, reviews. I could drive myself crazy worrying over that stuff. Instead, I focus on what I can do. Being a relatively new author, the challenge for me is getting readers to take a chance on someone they may not have heard of before. I’ve found the best and easiest way to do that is to offer them a free book. Let them kick the tires, check under the hood, take a spin around the block. Hopefully, they’ll pass on their enjoyment to a friend or buy the next one in the series, or check out my blog, website, FB page.

What do we have to look forward next?

I’m working on a new series, but plans are still sketchy at this stage. I’m also thinking about dipping my toe in the indie-world with a new book in my Bligh Family series. Again, I’m still in the beginning stages of this venture, but readers can catch any developments on my website or my FB page

Thanks, Alix!

To celebrate her book release, Alix is offering a free copy of HEIR OF DANGER to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.)

She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

ALIX RICKLOFF has never been able to decide who she enjoys reading more; Austen or Tolkien. That lifelong indecision drove her to create stories of her own, combining those distinct loves. Her writing awards include a final in the Golden Heart, while Romantic Times Magazine calls her work both compelling and original.
To learn more you can visit her on the web at


Kim Watters said...

Happy New Year. Good morning Alix. Thanks for joining us today. I still have a bit of fudge left from Christmas (I hid it from the kids)and it will be out in a moment. Heir Of Danger sounds fabulous. Regency, paranormal and a bit of suspense. What more could a gal want except maybe a visit from Brendan! Since you write series, what method do you use to keep everything straight? Did you make any resolutions or goals for this year and care to share them with us? Enjoy your day with us and let me know if you need anything.

Alix Rickloff said...

Hi, Kim! Thanks so much for having me by to visit. I think I will definitely take you up on that fudge. Goes perfect with my coffee :)

To keep everything straight in my ever-expanding universe, I've begun a file that contains characters, rules of my world, languages, etc... This keeps inconsistencies at a minumum.

My goal this year is to master Twitter. I'm slow to climb aboard any social media, mostly due to lack of time, but also because I'm very techno-phobic. I only began FB in the last 18 months after much prodding, so we'll see how well I do with this resolution.

H.D. Thomson said...

Hi, Alix. You're book sounds really interesting. I love Regency historicals and paranormals. What a great mix! It sounds like you had fun writing Brendan Douglas.

Alix Rickloff said...

Hi, H.D.!

Maybe part of the reason Brendan was such fun to write was because through the first two books he's a bit of a mystery character.

Very much a presence through EARL OF DARKNESS and then in LORD OF SHADOWS you get a glimpse of the man behind the chase, but it's not until HEIR OF DANGER that I got a chance to give his side of the story.

But while I had an idea of how he would be, he really took over his own personality early on and I just held on for the ride.

Elisabeth does that a bit as well, but I think she's far better able to handle him than I ever was. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Alix, your book sounds terrific. I like historicals, paranormals and Regencies and your book seems to have it all. Not to mention a great cover. Sounds like you do a lot of research before you begin writing. Even though you're a pantser, do you have an outline before you start writing?

liana laverentz said...

I've found giving away a free book is one of the best and easiest promotions as well. It also creates new readers! All the best!

Carolyn Hughey said...

Great interview, Alix! I enjoyed hearing about your book, which sounds awesome, by the way, but more importantly, your answers to the questions asked.
It's easy to tell that you're a good writer.

I had to laugh at your response to doing research for Regencies. Every book needs research, but I think I hear authors talk more frequently about the Regency aficionados being the most critical than in any other genre. But I imagine combining it with paranormal gives you a little more leeway.

So here's the deal. If someone tells you that your facts are wrong, tell them it's fiction and as such, you get paid to lie . :-)

Tina LaVon McCright said...

Regency Paranormals sound very interesting.

I admire writers who are pantsers. I hit a brick wall when I try that. I need a road map.

Tina LaVon McCright said...

Regency Paranormals sound very interesting.

I admire writers who are pantsers. I hit a brick wall when I try that. I need a road map.

Alix Rickloff said...

Hi, Cari!

I'm so not a plotter though that may be a New Year's resolution for 2012. I tend to know the major turning points of my plot and the premise, but I fill in around these bones as I go depending on where my characters lead me. This is a hair-pulling process at times, but seems to work for me with only minimum panic. :)

Thanks for the words of encouragement, Liana. And good luck with your own book sales.

Thanks for stopping by, Carolyn. I've decided I'll know I've made it as an author when readers start correcting the paranormal aspects of my books. But I definitely like your answer so don't be surprised if I quote you.

Alexis Walker said...

Alix, as a panster what do you do about series Arc? I am also a panster and about to start the first book in a series, but developing an actual written plan for all the books scares me :-} What do you do?

Alix Rickloff said...

There are times when I think a scene by scene roadmap would be wonderful. Usually those times are when I'm scratching my head going, "how did I get here again? And now what the hell do I do?"

But I've tried working that way and it just never seems to gel. My characters seem to take over and things start happening I never planned and soon all is in chaos.

So I've learned it's best not to fight them, just go along for the ride.

Tina LaVon McCright said...

I admire that. I tried once to see where my characters would go. That sat down and refused to budge without a roadmap. :)

Alix Rickloff said...

Congratulations on starting a new series, Alexis! That's fabulous and I wish you all the best with it.

When I plan a series of books, I usually begin with an end point or goal for the series, ie. save the world, break the spell, kill the bad guy. Then I break the larger story into smaller book-sized chunks with my h/h, antagonist, and a smaller goal that will be gained by the end of the book. That way each book is stand-alone with an HEA but the reader has to read all the books to reach the ultimate HEA for the series.

Hope that makes at least a little sense. :)

catslady said...

Wonderful interview. It's a great way to hear about a new to me author and I always enjoy hearing any background. I have found that winning a free book from a new author has gotten me hooked on many of them that I may not have tried. Thanks for the chance!

Na said...

I love a well-balanced story that has a bit of everything and I do think it can tricky balancing the characters' inner conflict and outer forces. I find suspense in general engaging but when I can connect with the characters that is what makes me want to keep reading. A great interview, Alix.


i love that cover :)

Di said...

I've loved the Regency period, and I've recently become more interested in Paranormal, so this looks like a series I should read.

donnas said...

Great interview. Congrats on the new releaes! Looking forward to reading it.

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