Tell us a bit about you and your background.
I’ve lived in a cursed town, taken far too many ghost walks, and enjoy a series of healthy hallucinations brought on by a small bit of brain damage. Actually it was the brain damage that got me started writing. The combination of ‘visual disturbances’ (medical jargon for hallucinations), disordered sleep, and a sudden realization of how short life could be left me wide awake at three in the morning, looking for something to do. Writing about scary monsters gave me a way to escape from much scarier real life issues.
Is your writing style planned or freestyle?
I follow the freest freestyle ever. I don’t start with characters or a plot, but with a single scene or a smattering of dialog. That bit of scene or dialog keeps repeating in my head until I write down, often using X or Y for character names. When the next scene comes I start to get an idea of the characters. I write the first five or ten thousand words without character names or physical descriptions. About halfway through the story, I begin a worksheet of dates, ages, and events in the manuscript. That’s usually when the writing switches from fun to work for me, following notes and guidelines takes the adventure out of it.
In what genre do you read?
Urban fantasy, of course, as well as horror novels, especially ghost stories. I can never find enough ghost stories! I’m a fan of mysteries, including historic mysteries from any time period after 1800. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of stories set in the years after WWI.
What resources do you use for picking character names?
It’s important to me that the name sounds right, so I start the Social Security Baby Name Database (http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/). I look for names that occur in the top 50 births for a range of three years before and after the character would have been born. After picking a few favorites, I check name meanings on baby name websites. My hidden gem for names are the portraits at the National Library of Medicine archives (https://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/view/all/what/Portraits/) and the National Portrait Gallery search (http://npgportraits.si.edu/emuseumCAP/code/emuseum.asp?page=search_basic&profile=cap). Both are great for finding a name and a ‘look’ for a character than needs to be grounded in a specific historic era, like a vampire.
Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?
I’m lucky to share my life with a House Rabbit. He’s a Rex, with extremely soft white fur and pink eyes. When I started writing nine years ago, he got into the habit of sitting next to me. If I stopped typing, he’d nudge my arm. If I didn’t pay attention, he’d stomp on the delete key. It happened often enough that he’s now called the rabbit editor.
What do you hope readers gain from your stories?
A new world to escape to when life is hard on them. I want my stories to feel like you’re meeting up with old friends to relax, laugh a little, and unwind. My characters deal with things we all deal with plus some fun and scary supernatural things. Like everyone they’re domestic, maternal, sexy, needy, and powerful to different people at different times. I hope readers will finish my book feeling satisfied and ready to take on the world.
Mallory Mors, death witch and detective with Baton Rouge’s Supernatural Investigative Unit, controls every aspect of death; she can even touch a dead body and know how it died. When she’s called to the scene of the city’s first zombie attack her magic leads to a voodoo queen who claims to be controlled by werewolves. The Werewolf Protection League, a political organization fighting for werewolf rights, insists they have nothing to do with the killings. As the kidnappings and murders continue, everyone becomes a suspect. Aided by her boyfriend, a six hundred year old vampire, and all the supernatural citizens of her city, Mallory fights to close a case that may claim her life.
I turned around a corner and saw them: two werewolves. Bigger than I expected, seven, maybe eight feet tall, they had the body shape of a man, but thick black fur and long clawed fingers. Their heads were pure wolf, with snouts and rubbery dog noses. I remembered Indigo calling them puppies. The resemblance was there, as if someone had turned a cute puppy into something huge and filled with rage.
I was so focused on them, on the way their backs ended in a tail or the way the thicker fur spread out at the base of their neck that I didn’t recognize what was underneath them until it was too late. The jogger that passed me earlier wasn’t going to finish his run. One of the wolves ripped into his stomach and brought out a pink and bloody organ. It swallowed the tissue whole. The sight made me gag, and the noise drew their attention. They turned to me.
I reached out for anything I could use, anything dead. The biggest thing I could control in the area was a flattened squirrel. I decided it was better to flee than to attack two werewolves with a zombie squirrel. I ran, coming face to face with a large black cat. Its acid yellow eyes stared into my own from the same height before the powerful jaw opened up to hiss. I dropped to the ground, trying to protect myself.
It jumped over me as if I wasn’t there, going straight for the wolves behind me. I could only see it when the moonlight reflected off its teeth. I smelled blood and heard a wolf yelp. The cat’s sharp teeth rendered the half-wolf, half-men bodies into a pile of bloody meat. I watched as it greedily ate their hearts from their chests, cracking through ribs like candy. When it was finished, it licked its whiskers free of blood, a sick parody of a cat drinking cream.
I sat frozen on the ground. If the two wolves hadn’t been able to stop it, I wasn’t going to be able to do anything. I briefly thought about bringing the wolves back, animating them. The cat didn’t strike, though. Even as I was contemplating how to save my life, it sat, curling its tail around itself in that classic cat pose. It walked slowly toward me, muscles rippling under that black velvet fur.
I stiffened in anticipation of an attack but the cat brushed itself around me, nudging me gently. It shepherded me out of the park and down the street. The whole city was shuttered, filled with fear while I walked down empty streets lead by a giant cat that saved my life. The lunacy of it all played out under a giant full moon. We turned down a dark alley and I gave up fighting the urge to stroke the cat. Its fur felt as soft as velvet under my palms. A security light blinked on, in the hazy fluorescent light, I could see it wasn’t solid black. There were patterns of darker black that almost looked like roses.
I was so fascinated I didn’t realize we had stopped in front of a door. There was a small sign next to a bell. Giving in to the insanity, I talked to the cat. “This is Indigo’s shop. Do you know him, kitty?”
It gave me that look that cats have, the look that says you are the stupidest thing in the world. It hit me.
“Oh crap, you are Indigo, aren’t you?”
Rachel Graves writes urban fantasy detective stories with more than a few steamy scenes. Her work creates dark and dangerous fantasies that explore the many shades of gray found between the lines of right and wrong. Focusing on strong heroines, their fears, and the men they lust after and maybe, eventually, love, her writing incorporates myths from the familiar vampires to lesser known creatures like selkies and yuki onna. Rachel is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You can read more about her at http://www.rachelgraves.com/ where her blog offers short fiction and more.
Twitter ID: @Rachel__Graves