Giveaway (US/Int): Bestselling Vampire Queen series author Joey W. Hill on writing ménage and characters that resonate
Please help me welcome the lovely and incredibly talented Joey W. Hill!
Never. Again. That’s what I said after writing a ménage a trois story for Vampire Mistress/Vampire Trinity. Dealing with three different personalities linked together, such that you have to cover six possible relationship dynamics? Talk about masochism. But I should know by now, saying “never” is like holding a red cape in front of my muse. And wearing a hot red sequin dress, while juggling ripe red tomatoes. Ahem.
There’s always something that kicks off the idea for a book, and opens the floodgate of creative inspiration. It can be something very small, just a passing mention from a reader. Which is exactly what happened to inspire Taken by a Vampire. I hadn’t put Evan, Niall and Alanna together. All I had on Niall before that was that he was Scottish and had dragon tattoos on his chest. I had less on Evan – he was a vampire, and not a very highly placed one in the vampire pyramid. Niall was his servant. The two men were secondary characters in Beloved Vampire, and not even very significant ones at that.
Then a reader on the fan forum said–innocently enough—“hey, wouldn’t a cool ménage be Evan, Niall and Alanna (from Vampire Trinity)?”. The moment I read that, a big loud sonar ping went off from the muse.
Let me give you the blurb for Taken by a Vampire before telling you more, so I don’t leave you floundering:
Groomed from birth to be an Inherited Servant and serve only the most powerful vampire masters, Alanna never resented her destiny. Then she did the unthinkable: she betrayed her Master to the Vampire Council. Now death is her future, but until her Master is captured, she must be protected.
The Vampire Council assigns her to Evan, a vampire whose wandering lifestyle makes him the perfect guardian… Alanna’s training was for a vampire of power and ambition, not for someone like Evan who lives in mountainside shacks and caves. Even his servant, Niall, is rough-mannered.
But these two men are about to teach Alanna something her rigorous training never did. How to feel, how to desire…perhaps even how to love.
Okay, back to the “ping”. Once that reader spoke up, the few magic beans I had on Evan and Niall just started sprouting like crazy. Soooo… Evan would be an artist…a photographer/painter who travels the world. He has the sponsorship of Lord Uthe, a powerful vampire currently on the Vampire Council. Four hundred years ago, Uthe met a young artist dying of a wasting disease; he was so moved by the potential of his work, he offered the young man (Evan) the chance to be immortal. Because of that patronage, Evan moves more freely than most vampires in the vampire world. However, he’s not as strong physically as most vampires his age, and definitely has no interest in positioning himself politically. Which can be a liability in the “might is right” world of the fanged.
Then there’s Niall. Evan made Niall his servant when Evan was 100 years old. When he met Evan, Niall had a wife and family, but Evan sees something in Niall that suggests he’s meant for more than the hard and poor life of a crofter in 1700s Scotland… Okay, no spoilers, so we fast forward three hundred years, to the contemporary time/setting of the book. Niall is entering the final years of his life (servants typically only live to be around 300), which means the two of them are doing a lot of reflecting on the life they’ve shared…and the things left unsaid. Being men, they’re having a little problem dealing with the emotional debris. Fortunately, Alanna is going to be the catalyst that helps resolve that.
Alanna had the most fleshed-out backstory of the three. She had good reasons for betraying her Master, but Inherited Servants are dedicated since birth to the service of vampires, so her action makes her a despised outcast to other InhServs. It also makes her question her own worth. She won’t have to question it long, however, since the Council is hunting down her Master. When he’s executed, she’ll die, because a fully marked servant dies when her Master dies. Until then, she’s in Evan and Niall’s keeping, thanks to the Council’s decision that having her with the nomadic vampire is the most advantageous strategy.
As is the norm for three complex people, there were a lot of intriguing things to address in their relationship. Remember me mentioning the desire to beat my head against the wall when it comes to writing ménages? Well, there you go. For one thing, Evan and Niall have a much more informal, egalitarian relationship than Alanna understands. On top of that, they have to keep her out of her former Master’s hands. In the meantime, they’re dealing with issues of life/death, regret and self-worth. Oh, and the strong chemistry between them absolutely demands a lot of sex. Really no way to avoid that, what with a hot vampire, a handsome Scot and a beautiful female in close proximity. The muse knew I couldn’t resist a character/relationship exploration like that – She apparently knows what my red cape is as well (laughter).
Yes, writing ménages is hard…but when I look back at Vampire Mistress/Vampire Trinity, and the finished result, the journey I took with Daegan, Gideon and Anwyn was well worth it. Being on the “the end” side of Evan, Niall and Alanna’s story, I feel the same way. Every trip with a set of characters is new and different, and takes me places I don’t expect.
So, onto some fun stuff about the book. Though you’re welcome to imagine them as your favorite heroes or heroine…
[quote]in my mind I saw Niall as a Chris Hemsworth type, and Evan similar to the character portrayed by Adrien Brody’s King Kong role (earnest, lanky sexiness and definitely sans cheesy goatee). Alanna has an Olivia Wilde thing happening in my head.[/quote]
Here’s a short glimpse of the dynamic between the two men, followed by a follow up from Alanna’s point of view. Hope it will tempt you to learn more about the three of them!
Evan and Niall’s conversation…
“What the bloody hell are you doing?”
Evan didn’t look up. “I told her to serve you as she serves me.”
“I dinnae want a bloody trained poodle.”
“You think that’s the kind of Master I am?” Evan held the camera lens up to the light, frowned at it. Swore. He’d obviously found a scratch.
“Ye know what I mean. One minute you want her thinking for herself, the next you tell her to treat me like she treats you. As if the whole bloody world revolves around my farts. It’s a total cock-up.”
“It’s a multipronged strategy. Different approaches, same goal. We’re trying to get her to be who she truly is. Serving us both will help.” Evan glanced at him. “Be who you’ve always been, Niall. That’s all that’s needed from your end of things.”
“Oh, well, aye. Your cryptic responses always solve the universe’s problems, for certain.”
Evan didn’t use sarcasm, such that when Niall did, he felt a bit mean-spirited. At least if Evan would respond in kind, Niall could put his head through a wall. Then Evan could break a limb or two to teach him a lesson. It would relieve the frustration that came with conversations like this.
* * * * *
Then, the next morning, when Alanna wakes…
Serve Niall as you serve me.
She’d fallen asleep puzzling over that. When she woke in the early afternoon, once again discomfited by how long she’d slept, it was to the sound of . . . well, she wasn’t sure what the sound was, until she rose and discovered Niall chopping wood on a stump in the narrow front yard. Apparently they needed more logs for the woodstove; she remembered him saying something about that on their plane ride, along with the assurance that it was a chore she wouldn’t be asked to do. She was sure she could learn to wield an axe, but then she remembered the blocker. While a human woman could chop wood, a third-marked servant would make short work of it. The blocker prevented her from having that strength.
Thinking of the treatment reminded her it was time to take it. She grimaced through the burn of the injection, then showered and dressed. In the bathroom, she found Niall’s shaving gear, toothbrush, other toiletry items. Using a comb, she cleaned his hairbrush. The brown strands wound into the bristles looked like they’d been forming a nest there since the brush was bought. She also picked up the cloth he’d carelessly dropped on the floor and dried the water spots on the sink. After she straightened all the towels and cloths, she swept a critical eye over the bathroom and gave it a nod. Not too clean for two men, but tidy enough for a woman.
Returning to her room, she donned one of the long-sleeved shirts. Niall had opened the screened windows, letting in the cool air as well as the fresh smell of the forest. Though she suspected she might need hiking pants or jeans later, she went ahead and slipped on a thick cotton skirt that swirled around her ankles. Unless their vampire instructed them otherwise, female InhServs rarely wore pants. They were supposed to be accessible to the desires of their vampires at all times, and for women, pants were an obstacle to that. So the skirt felt more comfortable.
Serve him as you serve me . . .
As she went to the kitchen window, she saw Niall stripped down to jeans, each swing of the axe capable of making a female heart do an extra trip at the display of male strength and virility. She was accustomed to noticing sexual appeal, using it to stoke desire on command. But she was trained to notice far more details than that, and what she saw told her Niall was not in a good mood. He was chopping the wood as if he was cleaving an enemy, tossing the pieces into a pile with a bit more aggression than needed.
Given his habits, she was sure there’d be dishes in the sink if he’d had breakfast. So he hadn’t eaten. Pinning up her hair, she started on breakfast, planning enough if Evan wanted to sample her cooking later tonight or Niall wanted more later. So she started the coffee, found some eggs, a slab of bacon. A biscuit mix quickly became dough and the rolled pieces were put in the oven. A few raw vegetables still surviving in the crisper were chopped up for the omelets.
The primary job of the chefs at the Council headquarters was preparing delicacies for the vampires. The servants might get the leavings, but for their own nourishment, the InhServs had a small kitchen area to prepare their food. She’d often cooked for the others, as well as visiting servants. Because of that, she’d learned one universal truth about men and well-cooked food.
As the biscuits browned in the oven and the coffee percolated, the axe bit into the wood at a slower cadence. A tiny smile touched her lips when the thudding stopped at last, and she heard the well pump. He’d probably don his shirt, making her regret not snatching one last glimpse out the window. She’d also like a closer look at those tattoos in the daylight, as well as what tattoos he might have on his back.
Was it wrong to indulge her own lust that way? She frowned. Acting on it without a vampire’s order was forbidden. But Evan had said . . . She suppressed a sigh. Since last night, she’d come up with so many interpretations of that one statement that all she’d done was confuse herself.
Art in every form is to be appreciated, Alanna. Ogle him as much as you wish. You might even make him blush.
Startled, she knocked the plate of bacon off the counter, barely saving it from the floor. Yesterday, she’d accepted Evan’s voice in her head. But after the break provided by a few hours’ sleep, her brain had rebooted. The only voice she’d been used to hearing in her head was Stephen’s, and for the past few months, Stephen’s voice brought pain, agony.
It wasn’t Stephen. She settled her heart down to a regular beat. It was Evan. Evan.
Yes. His voice was warm, but she caught something dangerous in his tone, unexpectedly effective. He has no hold on you here, Alanna. We’ll let no harm come to you.
Self-preservation was supposed to be the least of a servant’s concerns, but one didn’t argue with a vampire. Plus, it did make her feel better. Thank you, sir. Would you like me to bring you some breakfast?
Not right now. Still sleeping. Your incessant inner monologue woke me.
She would have blurted out an apology, but she picked up a wry note suggesting he was . . . teasing her?
The minor downside of a female servant, I suppose. Niall’s mind is exceptionally unobtrusive. Like an oak stump.
Niall came through the door then, filling the room and making the floor vibrate with his weight, underscoring Evan’s point so well, she had to bite back a smile.
There you are. I’m going back to sleep. Try to be less chatty in your own head.
She blinked, not sure how she was supposed to accomplish that, but she supposed not thinking about how to accomplish it would be a start. She’d move on to breakfast.
Good girl. You’re getting it.
* * * * *
[quote]If you’d like a bit more, there’s a Chapter One excerpt on my website. [/quote]Both Chapter One and an exclusive Chapter Two excerpt are on the fan forum, access info here. After that, you’ll just have to go get the book! Or at least I hope you will (smile). Note: TBV can be read as a standalone, though you may enjoy it more if you read Vampire Mistress/Vampire Trinity first to meet Alanna and get more of a sense of my vampire world.
Thanks for letting me be here with you today.
Happy Release Day to Taken By A Vampire!
Read our review of the brand spankin’ (har har) new Vampire Queen novel Taken By A Vampire by clicking on the cover below. You can also check out our reviews of other Vampire Queen series novels in case you haven’t had a chance to check em out yet!
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About the author
Joey W. Hill writes about vampires, mermaids, boardroom executives, cops, witches, angels, simple housemaids… If there’s an erotic love story to be told, she’ll take the plunge. As a result, she’s proud and humbled to have four series and almost thirty award-winning and highly acclaimed titles, as well as the support and enthusiasm of a wonderful and widely diverse readership. In 2009, she was nominated for a Career Achievement award in Erotica by Romantic Times.
According to her personal memo book, seen only by her eyes–probably because it would reveal that she loves the Partridge Family and the movie Pure Country–the top three ways to ensure her readers continue to come looking for her books are #1 Write a great story, #2 KEEP writing great stories and #3 “For the love of God, don’t let them get to know the author – that will scare them away.” (Particularly if they find out about the Partridge Family.)
She has become known for writing the type of erotic romance that not only wins her fans of that genre, but readers who would “never” read BDSM romance. That’s because first and foremost, she thinks what attracts a reader is strong characters.
“Whatever genre you’re writing, if the characters are compelling and sympathetic, the readers are going to want to see what happens to them. While I strive to make sure my work includes essential elements of the storytelling craft – tight plot, engaging dialogue, etc. – if the character development isn’t there, there isn’t much point in reading. It can be the coolest plot ever, but if the reader could care less whether the hero or heroine survive (in fact, in some cases you may be rooting for their destruction just so you can be done with the darn thing), then it’s not a story worth reading.”
Why is that? She believes that our world is an ironically isolating one. Humans have overrun the planet, armed with a plethora of communication tools. Yet we feel very alone in our own heads, trying to make a connection with someone. The “ah, there you are – where have you been?” person. The person who gives us an anchor, but also the courage to release our tedious baggage to embrace ourselves fully.
That’s what she seeks to accomplish in every story. Bringing characters together who have numerous emotional obstacles standing in their way, watching them reach a soul-deep understanding of one another through the expression of their darkest sexual needs, and then growing from that understanding into love.
So why erotic romance? “Writing great erotic romance is all about exploring the true face of who we are – the best and worst – which typically comes out in the most vulnerable moments of sexual intimacy.” Who wouldn’t want to write about that?
How does she accomplish that? She suspects it’s the perfection of a Vulcan mind meld with the characters, which takes an effective mix of manic depression, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive behavior that would make “Monk” look like a light weight. Not to mention the broad streak of romanticism that forms an asphalt four-lane highway through her heart. It’s a tendency that sends her back to her favorite book and movie scenes for toe-curling or tear-inducing inspiration. (Her husband reports this with loving resignation, since he’s often called upon to stoically endure the movie scenes and hold her hand while she weeps through the mushy parts.)
Take the plunge with her, and don’t hesitate to let her know what you think of her work, good or bad. She thrives on feedback!
Are you already a Joey-holic or maybe a new reader looking for your next “must read” author? Well, either way, this giveaway is for you! Joey is giving away one physical signed copy (or electronic, if you prefer) of the winners’ choice from her published book list. To enter to win, leave a comment and let us know what you think about Taken By A Vampire then fill out the Rafflecopter below. We’ll leave the giveaway open for a few weeks to give you plenty of time to share with all your friends! They’ll thank you for it! *wink*
Psst – this giveaway is open internationally, even if you choose a physical copy as your prize!