Demon Trapper’s Writer: an Interview with Jana Oliver
Jean Marie Ward
If you want to know what people are really thinking, check out the Young Adult section of a brick-and-mortar or virtual bookstore. Sparkly angst occupies a very small percentage of the whole. The most-talked-about titles tackle the big issues: good versus evil, and how a single person’s choices can tip the balance of human survival. Choices such as those made by Atlanta teen Riley Blackthorne in Jana Oliver’s Demon Trappers Daughter.
Demons, demon trappers and demon hunters notwithstanding, Riley’s dystopian Atlanta is uncomfortably close to our own. A long-time Atlanta resident, Ms. Oliver takes her world-building cues from local news and landmarks. When it comes to her writing career, however, Ms. Oliver blazed her own trail, from self-published to award-winning small press author to a major New York release. Kinda like Riley…only with different demons.
Who is Riley Blackthorne?
Jana Oliver: Riley is the seventeen-year-old daughter of Paul Blackthorne (former schoolteacher, now master demon trapper) who just wants to be as awesome as her dad. That’s going to take some doing as she’s trying to break into a male-dominated profession. Fortunately Riley is pretty good at rolling with the punches so she’s decided that nothing is going to stop her from getting what she wants.
Can you tell us a little bit about her world?
Jana Oliver: I created an alternate Atlanta in the year 2018 based on what the city could be like if the economy only got worse. Like Atlanta’s other citizens, Riley and her dad are just trying to make ends meet while someone keeps shortening the strings. It’s particularly hard for her as she remembers when things were good, when the city had money, she went to a regular high school and her parents had jobs. Now it’s a daily scramble to survive.
How did things get so bad in Atlanta-or is Atlanta’s situation pretty typical?
Jana Oliver: In my series, the entire country is suffering, but for some reason Atlanta seems to be getting the worst of it. Gas is $10/gallon, the city is bankrupt, schools are closed so classes meet in abandoned buildings and demons run loose in the city.
When did the demons become a real problem?
Jana Oliver: In my mythology, the demons first appeared the moment Adam and Eve stepped outside Eden’s boundaries, newly aware of the nature of good and evil. To begin with, the demons weren’t that widespread, but as humans multiplied so did Hellspawn. They really became a threat when we moved into cities as that clustered us all in one place and made it easier for the demons to wreck havoc on us.
What’s the difference between a demon hunter and demon trapper?
Jana Oliver: The primary difference is that the demon hunters are sanctioned by the Vatican where the demon trappers are an independent organization which does not require a specific religious belief to belong. Techniques vary as well: the hunters kill demons on sight, whereas the trappers (by virtue of their name) capture Hellspawn and then sell them to demon traffickers. At that point the fiends are sold to the Church who takes control of them. There are reasons why the trappers handle fiends in this way and those reasons are revealed later in the series.
Why does Riley want to break into this boy’s club?
Jana Oliver: At first she wanted to be a trapper because of her father, but once she met some of the guys in the Atlanta Demon Trappers Guild, she wanted to prove she was as good as them. Now it’s a matter of pride. If she wimps out it makes her look weak and silly. She’s not about to let that happen.
What was the inspiration for this series?
Jana Oliver: I adore urban fantasies and was disappointed that I wasn’t finding a kick butt heroine in most young adult novels. I wanted to write a heroine who didn’t have special powers or a hidden heritage, an everyday girl facing extraordinary circumstances and doing the best she could in the those situations. That’s why I wrote the Demon Trappers Series.
Jana Oliver: I thought it would be cool to write a series that wasn’t focused on vampires or werewolves or fairies. At the time I was working on the concept (late 2008) there were scant few demon/angel young adult novels. That’s not the case now, but I’m still glad I went down a less-traveled path.
How did the idea change over the course of its journey to published book?
Jana Oliver: The original synopsis for Demon Trapper’s Daughter ended differently, incorporating more from now what is considered Soul Thief (Book Two) than what actually happened. But for the most part, the idea didn’t change as dramatically as I’d expected.
How did you get the voice right?
Jana Oliver: I actually had to tap into my memories of being seventeen (ugh) and all the hopes, fears and insecurities that came with that age. I also had to remember that when I was a teen I was impulsive and inclined to make snap judgments. I would agonize for hours over a comment some boy said to me in the hallway. It’s the way things are at that age. When you’re older, you’ve acquired a thicker hide and a lot more rolls off, but that’s not the case when you’re just sprouting your wings and moving into the adult world. The trick was to make Riley sound her age without making her be too pop culture or silly. It took a lot of work, but I pulled it off.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Jana Oliver: It varies all over the map. I’m not an author who can sit down and start writing early in the morning. I’m just not wired that way. I detest alarms, so I don’t set one so I’m usually up by eight or eight-thirty to send the spouse off to work. I collect my cup of coffee and troll through my e-mails, the news from overnight and post on various social sites. In other words, I ease into my day. When the brain Jana Oliver: is fully functional, I start working on my writing or revisions and if things are flowing well, I may work until eight or nine at night with a break for supper. Other days, I get little writing done because the brain is working out some scene or another.
Any special rituals-music, exercise, etc?
Jana Oliver: Music helps me get in the mood and the kind of music varies depending on where I am in a story and how hard of a slog it has become. One of my frequent musical selections is the Lord of the Rings soundtrack especially when I’m nearing the end of a particularly gruesome edit. Lots of slogging up Mt. Doom and then I can toss the manuscript over the edge into the fires of New York publishing.
Buzzy Multimedia: Anything you’d like to add?
Jana Oliver: I’m running a special contest from now until mid-September to celebrate the new series. Monthly, I’ll be giving away prizes that include bookstore gift certificates and special Demon Trapper goodies (including copies of Demon Trappers Daughter. and early copies of Soul Thief.). In September, I’ll be giving away an Apple iPad and an iPad Touch. Once you’ve registered, your name stays in the hat until the Grand Prize drawing September 15. Contest is open to U.S. residents only. For more deets check out: Demon Trapper Contest
To learn more about Ms. Oliver, her novels and short fiction, check out her web site at Jana Oliver.com .
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.