Giahem’s Talons finds the kingdom of Elysia invaded and Lluava trying to correct her past mistakes which led to the kingdoms demise. Now on the fourth book in your series, do you still plan the novels starting point or do the previous novels dictate where the story picks up?
The answer depends on the specific book in the series. The first novel was intended to be a stand-alone book. Yet, when I realized that this was going to be a four-book series, I developed the major plotlines of all three sequels at the same time. Though certain subplots and twists revealed themselves to me during the writing process, the end of each novel dictated where the next book would begin.
The emotional turmoil that Lluava feels throughout the story is palpable and deep. How were you able to capture and convey her complex emotions?
I always wanted to make Lluava a character in which her morals become more and more muddied as she navigates through a kingdom at war. Since I believe that war is devastating and destructive in more than just physical ways, my main character needed to have her innocence stripped slowly away. The decisions she must make have no good answer, and her hard choices cause the emotional turmoil which you referenced. The burden on her shoulders grows to monstrous proportions. In the end, Lluava is not the heroine that we would have wanted, but she is the one that the kingdom of Elysia needs in order to survive.
This novel is exceptionally well written. Is there a scene in the novel that stands out to you for being relatively difficult?
There is a battle along the walls of the capital in which Lluava and her followers struggle to reach sanctuary. This scene was harder than normal for me to write because I wanted to convey the sheer randomness and luck that goes hand in hand with the madness and chaos of war. I wanted the reader to glimpse some of the moments occurring simultaneously as Lluava is fighting her own opponents. There is no way for her to aid or save her comrades. Good people do not survive simply because they are good. Heroic acts do not always succeed. Friendly fire is not unusual. And the fear of death can undermine the best intentions. Although some of these topics are better represented later on in the book, the sheer pandemonium of this particular scene challenged both me and my style of writing.
What can readers expect in book five of The Incarn Saga?
Unfortunately, this is it. Giahem’s Talons is the final book in The Incarn Saga series. It was sad for me to say goodbye to all the characters that I had grown to love and care for, but it was time to let them go and live their lives beyond the final pages of the book. I am happy to announce that I am working on two very different series simultaneously. One will be a young adult adventure fantasy, while the other is a novella series for adults that deals with Norse mythology. I hope my readers, whatever their age, will be pleased with the new works that are being developed for them.
According to legend, when the world was young, Giahem, King of the Gods, realized that the pantheon was on the verge of self-destruction due to his own actions. To protect his favorite child, he hid the infant and gave her a false name in the hope that she would survive—a name that would forever be associated with the young goddess: Issaura.
Now, the capital has fallen to the Outlanders, the king has been overthrown, and the Raiders have entered the kingdom of Elysia in full force. Eighteen-year-old Lluava must flee in order to survive. After all the losses she has endured, the battles she has fought and won to no avail, she must face the worst fact of all: that she alone is responsible for the kingdom’s demise. Will she ever be able to rectify her wrongs?
In Crocotta’s Hackles we follow Lluava’s mission to uncover the truth about the Incarn and how that affects her future. What were some ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from the first two books?
Crocotta’s Hackles differs from the first two books in a number of ways. For example, both Issaura’s Claws and Ullr’s Fangs deal predominately with the Kingdom of Elysia’s human-oriented society who comprise the ruling class. The native Theriomorphs, a shapeshifting race, have been forced to assimilate into the human culture. Most Theriomorphs have altered their clothing, switched their religion, tweaked their names, and lost touch with the customs, social institutions, achievements, and arts of their own culture. In Crocotta’s Hackles, both readers as well as the main character, Lluava, discover what Theriomorph society was like before being conquered by humans. In a sense, I wanted to express the tragedy and loss of forcing a people to assimilate into another culture and lose their own in the process.
I also wanted to showcase women-in-power in a world that is primarily patriarchal. By the third book, readers are already familiar with Lluava’s warrior-type personality. In Crocotta’s Hackles, I introduce other strong women whose strengths might not be physical, but their gifts and talents are no less impressive. Other aspects that I wanted to flesh out were the interrelated concepts of the Incarn, prophecy, fate versus free will, and the ever-present questions of whether Theriomorph gods exist, and if so, do they care about their people? Lastly, I wanted to make it very clear that no race is entirely good or evil. There will always be individuals and subgroups that defy stereotypes.
I liked how you handled the point of view in Lluava’s dual form. How did you plan this part of the novel?
As a Theriomorph, Lluava Kargen’s point-of-view is intrinsically different from a human’s simply because of her birthright. All Theriomorphs are born with the ability to transform into an animal form, their dual form as they call it. They not only think and act like humans but also have innate abilities including hyperactive senses and instincts that is indicative of their animal nature.
Lluava’s dual form is a white tigress. Unlike humans, she has keener night vision, better hearing and sense of smell, and a sixth sense for oncoming danger. In this book, she struggles with a darker side of herself, and it appears to be a losing battle. When this aspect of her personality is triggered, she experiences a telltale alteration of vision, and the world appears in tints of blue and green—the colors that felines can see. If she succumbs to that darker side, she risks blacking out. When she loses control, the white tigress takes over, leaving bloodshed and carnage in its wake. Her fear of losing herself creates a dichotomy within her, and she does not know if she can ever trust herself in her animal form.
Fear of the “Beast”, as well as the “monster within”, has existed for centuries. From werewolves and vampires to the terror of Jaws and serial killers, the phobia of bloodthirsty beasts and losing oneself to a darkness persists in many forms. I wanted to fuse these fears with Lluava’s more-than-human viewpoint previously established in the earlier books. This was an entertaining and unnerving concept to play with and explore.
There is an exceptional cast of characters in this book. Who did you enjoy writing the most?
Although I always enjoy writing Lluava, in this book, my favorite character to write was High Priestess Yena. She is very complex. Driven to do right by her people and the gods in which she believes, Yena is fierce, regal, mysterious and a dark beauty. She is a powerhouse; beware any human or Theriomorph who stands in her way. Her seeming ability to know what is to come gives her an exceptional advantage and her unshakable faith kindles her inner fire. I can still hear her sharp keel of laughter even though I have moved onto other projects. Yena will always be by my side for better or worse.
What can readers expect in book four, Giahem’s Talons?
The final book, Giahem’s Talons, chronicles the last stand for the Elysians as they struggle to fend off those that wish to destroy their kingdom. Readers will learn more about the mysterious Obsidian Guard, experience some of the power of the Incarn, discover the Raiders’ true leader, and mourn the loss of those that fall in the midst of battle. War is dark and dismal for all sides, and this book does not shy away from that hard truth.
“According to legend, when the world was young, Crocotta, Queen of the Gods, discovered her mate’s faithlessness. She vowed to prevent future threats to all matrimonial pacts henceforward, but for her it was too late. The child born from the illicit coupling was a warrior goddess—one whom Crocotta would seek to destroy throughout eternity. Now that the Raiders’ elite army is threatening the kingdom of Elysia’s northern borders, seventeen-year-old Lluava must leave the familiarity and safety of her native land to venture into the wilderness. Her mission is to discover others like her who will come to Elysia’s aid; her hope is to unravel the secrets behind what it means to be Incarn. But what she finds could destroy everything.”
Ullr’s Fangs is a dark fantasy following the experiences of Lluava as she faces some massive responsibilities. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
The initial inspiration for Ullr’s Fangs, as well as the two succeeding other books in the series, stems from the backstory of Lluava’s family. Her true origin if you will. As a writer, I need to know not only the personality and characteristics of the main characters but also the secondary characters as well. I challenged myself to understand Lluava’s father who had died before the first book begins. In understanding his story, I discovered where Lluava’s would lead.
Ullr’s Fangs is full of characters that are trying to serve their own interests by manipulating governing officials or pursuing ancient prophecies. My protagonist, Lluava Kargen, must discover whom to trust while struggling to forge her own path against formidable enemies and daunting situations.
Another important concept involves the Berserker. I love ancient Nordic myth and history. In reading and researching countless sagas and historical novels, I was drawn to the mighty and almost supernatural warrior known as the Berserker. This was the inspiration for a new threat to the Kingdom of Elysia that is introduced in this second novel of The Incarn Saga.
I was impressed with the way in which you dealt with the mental decline of King Thor. What were the ideas you wanted to explore with his character?
I grew up with a grandfather who dealt with Alzheimer’s. Though my earliest memories were positive, the majority of my dealings with him were watching a man, who was the patriarchal figure of my mother’s family, slowly deteriorate and lose most of himself to that disease. Thor was, in part, inspired by those experiences and the heartbreaking moments when old memories blended with the present or were irretrievably lost. I hope readers will relate to the bond his grandson shares with Thor as well as the desire to protect this man who is not only his grandfather but also his king.
The second reason for developing Thor in this manner involves plot. As Thor’s dementia increases, he becomes a puppet king easily manipulated by other members of the government who crave control. A power struggle ensues between the heir to the throne and those that have determined policy, made laws, and insured their own interests for years. I also wanted to express that even at the highest levels of power, corruption exists.
The Theriomorphs are exceptionally intriguing. Where did this idea come from and how did it develop while writing?
I have always had a passion for both animals and myth. Growing up, I read anything I could about either topic. Yet it was not until I had a dream where shape-shifting people were training in a military camp that Theriomorphs were essentially born. After that night, I explored shape-shifter and skinwalker stories.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of theriomorphic means “having animal form”. I used that terminology when I started developing my own race of animal shapeshifters. I wanted both human and animal forms to have shared characteristics and personality traits. For example, the main character, Lluava, has platinum blonde hair, jet black eyebrows and olive-hued skin. She has an athletic form and a personality that is fierce, assertive, and sometimes hotheaded. Her animal form, which is referred to as a dual form, is a white tigress.
Theriomorphs cannot choose their animal form; it is something they are born with and it is linked to hormones. For this reason, most males (testosterone) have larger and more volatile dual forms like tigers, bears, and stags. Females (estrogen) typically have smaller and meeker forms like house cats, ducks, and backyard birds. Lluava’s dual form of a white tigress emphasizes the fact that she is atypical even among her own race.
As a society, I wanted the Theriomorph race to encompass the idea of a native culture that has been conquered and forced to incorporate the social traits of those who have taken over their lands. Like many native tribes, their religion is based on a complex system of polytheistic beliefs, one that is very much in tune with nature. In Ullr’s Fangs, it was fun to slowly reveal more details of the original Theriomorph society and their beliefs so that readers could continue to immerse themselves in the kingdom of Elysia.
This is book two in the The Incarn Saga. Where does book three, Crocotta’s Hackles, take the story?
Each book in The Incarn Saga reveals more of the darker realities of the Theriomorph world. It is not until the end of Ullr’s Fangs that the reader begins to learn what the Incarn are. In the third book, Crocotta’s Hackles, Lluava’s personal mission is to discover the truth about the Incarn and what that means for her own future. I also delve into what the original Theriomorph culture was like before humans reached the shores of Elysia.
Crocotta’s Hackles is full of sudden twists and new realizations that will distinctly alter what both Lluava and the readers believe. I truly hope fans of the first two books will fall in love with the third as much as I did when writing it.
“According to legend, when the world was young, two gods of war — one male, one female — were destined for each other. Yet Ullr, forever unfaithful, lost the love of Issaura, his true match, and was forsworn. His violent anger and bitter rage grew and intensified, poisoning all creation and humanity.
Now that the Raiders’ long ships have faded from sight, the kingdom of Elysia is beginning to recover from the summer’s war with the brutal invaders from across the sea. Yet darker forces have taken root, forces that can alter the future of the land and its people in unthinkable ways. Seventeen-year-old Lluava must discover the means to prevent her world from collapsing. But in doing so, will she succumb to that darkness?”
Issaura’s Claws follows Lluava as she is forced to take action against stereotyping and inequality in a kingdom divided by racism. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
Growing up in the South, one becomes aware of prejudices around oneself. Personally, I have always had a strong sense of equality whether for race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. As a result, I wanted my debut series to open up a dialogue about prejudice of all sorts. Throughout the Incarn Saga, my four-book series, the main character Lluava is blatantly aware of racial, religious, and gender divisions within her society, and she stands up against them. Yet, even she occasionally comes face to face with the fact that she, too, is influenced by flawed thinking and must overcome those learned behaviors.
Lluava is both strong and intelligent and her character gains depth as the story progresses. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
I love strong women. I do. From historical figures like Pharaoh Hatshepsut to fictional powerhouses including Ripley from the Alien series or Laura Croft from Tomb Raider, I have always gravitated toward strong, self-confident, and empowered females. In my writing, I choose to focus on heroines that have great inner strengths though they may not all view them that way. As for Lluava, I wanted to shine a light on the fact that women can be smart as well as physically strong. I follow fitness competitors and have competed once myself, so more often than not, I find some time each day to work out in the gym. I also wanted my initial heroine to demonstrate that women can encompass intellect, physical prowess, and a curiosity for the unknown. Yet a good heroine is also flawed. I say this because all people are flawed. No one is perfect. Lluava is hotheaded and overly quick to act at times. As book and series progress, she must recognize and overcome her weaknesses and learn to make better choices — a great goal for every person.
The Kingdom of Elysia consists of humans and the shape-shifting Theriomorphs. Were the backstories for these races planned before writing or did they develop organically while writing?
The true beginning of the idea for the series came from a dream about humans transforming into animals. After that occurred, I was fixated on the concept, going over and over it before ever beginning to write it down. Because of this, the initial backstory of the two races from Issaura’s Claws developed rapidly. Only when nearing the end of my first draft did I realize there were three more books to come. With each subsequent book, I added more depth and complexity to the Kingdom of Elysia and the long and volatile history between the races.
This is book one in the Incarn Saga. What can readers expect in book two of the series, Ullr’s Fangs?
As mentioned earlier, the concept for the final three books came after Issaura’s Claws was almost complete. Because of this, the other books do have a darker, grittier feel as the world expands, the war intensifies, and morality is questioned. In Ullr’s Fangs, Lluava heads to the capital and encounters corruption within Elysia. New characters are introduced including a strong foil for Lluava’s military partner. And the enemy that they thought they had begun to understand is nothing like what they expected.
“According to legend, when the world was young, the goddess Issaura appeared among men. Those who treated her with kindness received the gift of the gods—the ability to transform into an animal form. This was a great honor but one that separated this race from other humans. Before Issaura departed the mortal realm, she promised to return if her people were ever at the point of destruction.
“Now a threat is rising from a land across the mists of the ocean, a threat that will push this race to the brink of extinction. Responding to the call to war, seventeen-year-old Lluava heads off to find her destiny, one that will carve her name in history.”