Author of the “Shrike” and “Ayala Storme” Urban Fantasy Series
JMW: Hello, this is Jeanne Marie Ward for Buzzy Mag.com. With me today is Emmie Mears the author of the “Shrike” series and “Storm In A Teacup (“Ayala Storme”) a new urban fantasy series. Welcome, Emmie.
Emmie Mears: Thank you.
JMW: What attracted you to writing about a woman superhero?
Emmie Mears: I had always been a Buffy fan and when I was growing up, I remember being so upset that my friends wouldn’t let me be Batman or be a Ninja Turtle because I wasn’t a boy. There’s still kind of a dearth of woman superheros when it comes to novels and on screen and film and everything like that. I remember I was in the movie theater watching the trailers for the reboot of Spiderman and I was like, “We’ve done this before,” and I was just getting kind of irritated and it sort of popped into my head, this character, and she… ended up I wrote the book in six weeks. It just kind of happened so it was a fantastic, inspirational moment. But I really also wanted to write a character who was very human, and she struggles. At the beginning, she’s got everything against her and is struggling to find her own agency and be able to make her own decisions in the face of a lot of really heavy stuff and finding superpowers is just a part of that.
JMW: How did you come up with her particular superpowers?
Emmie Mears: Well, I was kind of wanting to do something that was inspired by birds and so I was looking through birds that were native to Europe, and I found the great gray shrike. And it is this phenomenally interesting little bird. It’s a very small bird, but it can mimic the call of other birds. It is a carnivore. It eats beetles, small vertebrates. It’s a hunter. It’s a fighter and also a bit of a trickster. I really liked those qualities, so I worked those into Gwen’s power structure.
JMW: And also to give her agency that carnivore thing, I think.
Emmie Mears: Yeah, she definitely learned to be a fighter so…
JMW: Yeah, and setting it in Edinburgh. A superhero story in Edinburgh, which you think of historical fantasies, steampunk, and that sort of stuff. What prompted you to set it there?
Emmie Mears: I used to live in Scotland. I lived up in Inverness, which is a beautiful little town. I’ve always really loved Scotland and both Glasgow and Edinburgh are cities that I absolutely adore. I liked Edinburgh because it has this… There’s a lot of these very winding closes and it’s such an old city with so much history, but it’s also a very metropolitan city. I wanted to integrate Gwen into kind of a corporate setting. She’s an accountant so that made sense to me to set it in Edinburgh.
JMW: Was it hard to switch from that setting to the Nashville setting of your new urban fantasy series, “Storm in a Teacup?” (Book 1 of the Ayala Storme series.)
Emmie Mears: It wasn’t really difficult for me to switch that. I lived in Nashville for a year as well so I knew the city, and I’ve had family in the South for ages. I used to spend every summer with my grandparents in Little Rock so catching that voice was not too hard for me. I really, really enjoyed the chance to work with an alternate Nashville and get to explore different parts of it because I think that the Nashville that I lived in… writing urban fantasy, you’re always writing some sort of alternate and so writing “Storm in a Teacup,” I was able to do some interesting fun things with Nashville. East Nashville has been kind of an indie central for the last several years, so I made that where the witches lived in my series. I really enjoyed kind of making that little leap, and I like making place as much of a character in my novel as the characters themselves because it really does influence what they’re thinking and what they’re doing.
JMW: You mentioned witches. Is it full-on urban fantasy tropes?
Emmie Mears: Not entirely and also the witches are sort of secondary. In that world, everyone is aware there are four species of human. There’s Homo sapien sapiens and then there’s Morpheus Majus [SP] and Libra. The mediators are the Libra part that wants to balance the scales [inaudible 00:04:35]. Then the witches and the shapeshifters who I call morphs just live within society with the humans and everyone kind of has their own schedules and they do their own thing. And they’ve been fully out and about for a long time. I wanted to depart from that a little bit. I do have demons in my series, but I wanted to try to twist that a little bit and come at it from a different angle. I really like exploring moral gray areas, and I wanted to take a world that was very black and white and mix it into shades of gray
JMW: Both your series are very commercial with great blurbs. Why didn’t you go the traditional New York publishing route?
Emmie Mears: I actually did. I have an agent. I’ve had two different agents, actually. My former agent left the business, but we had a contract with Harlequin, and they actually released “Shrike: The Masked Songbird” first. Then, I was under contract for the sequel to that as well. We had also had a contract with a smaller press for “Storm in a Teacup.” Unfortunately, as publishing goes, sometimes things happen and prints close and all of those books ended up orphaned. At that point, they had already been acquired by publishers, and I didn’t want to just shelve all of those books so I ended up putting them up myself. And they’ve been tremendously successful and allowed me to write full-time for a living, which is amazing. It’s been a really awesome experience to have some sort of agency over my career after that happened. I’m still hybrid. I still have an agent. She actually sold the audio rights for the first three Storm books, which is fantastic. Audible is producing them and Amber Benson is narrating which is amazing.
Emmie Mears: Oh, boy. I went totally crazy when that happened. So I’m really excited to be able to kind of come out of both sides. I’m also a very prolific writer so it works very well for me to be hybrid because I write several books a year and that’s just my natural pace. I tend to write three to four books a year and traditional publishing can’t really keep up with that. So in order for me to do… I feel like it’s been the best of both worlds for me.
JMW: What are you working on now? You mentioned several books a year so what are you working on?
Emmie Mears: Well, right now I have an epic fantasy that I’m really, really excited about, and it’s on commission which I’m hoping it gets picked up. It’s a second-world epic fantasy set in a sort of proto-agrarian Bronze Age culture and that one is one that I just poured heart and soul into that. That’s a book that I wish I could have written when I was 17 and just did not have the chops for it and so, now at 30, we’re going to deal with that. I also have a magical realism that I absolutely love. It’s about a young woman who lost her twin brother in a car accident three years before, and then after that, she starts discovering that the keys in her family home change little aspects of her life, so I’m excited about this project.
JMW: Very interesting. We’re coming up on the end of the interview and as always we ask the same question. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Emmie Mears: I’d just like to say “Taken By Storm,” which is the third book in the Ayala Storme series will be out December 1st along with all three audio books voiced by the wonderful Amber Benson, so I’m really excited about that. Also, the Shrike duology is now complete along with a little short story in the middle. “Shrike: The Masked Songbird” and “Shrike: Rampant” are both out and about in the world, as well. So a lot of things happened this year, and I’m super excited. Thank you very much for having me.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.