Stephen dines with Jaye Wells

I recently had the great pleasure of dining and talking with urban fantasy author Jaye Wells, whose Mage In Black hits shelves today. In fact, in our two-book giveaway, one lucky commenter on this interview will receive a free copy of Mage in Black while a second will receive a copy of Red-Headed Step Child. So, be sure to comment below.

Ms. Wells is one of my favorite new urban fantasy authors. Her books are driven by action and suspense and spiced with humor and remind me of the popular series by Jeaniene Frost and Karen Chance. To be honest, though, I was a bit nervous about a face-to-face lunch with Ms. Wells, because during my research, I stumbled across reports of her stunningly brutal brawl with fellow Orbit author Nicole Peeler.

SB Frank: [sits to order] Out of curiosity, are these violent tendencies something that happen frequently when you’re out in public with fantasy authors, or, say, um, fantasy critics?

Jaye Wells: [laughs and picks up a menu] No, no, I only assault other fantasy authors who deserve it… [Rants for several minutes about why Nicole Peeler deserved it for daring to disagree with her]. My point is that critics are perfectly safe… unless, of course… [Laughter snaps off suddenly. Eyes transform into sharpened gimlets.] You liked my book, didn’t you?

SB Frank: [gulps] Ha, ha. Never fear. You are in no danger of getting a bad book review from me! [On a completely unrelated note, see my four-star review of Mage in Black here].

[Still, despite my initial nervousness, I had a good feeling that I was going to like Ms. Wells because I’d read on her website (www.jayewells.com) that she had “decided to leave the facts behind and make up her own reality.” Those who know me know that I have extensive personal experience with this particular lifestyle choice. In fact, it is somewhat of a Frank Family tradition, though unlike Jaye we are merely dedicated amateurs, not paid professionals. Ms. Wells’ website also claims that she has a life-long fascination with the arcane and freakish. So, I asked her about this.]

Jaye Wells: As far as I can tell, my fascination has two sources. The first is that I’m a recovering Catholic. No offense to any believers out there, but being raised in a church that actively employed exorcists had an interesting effect on my young, overactively imaginative mind. For example, I used to believe a vampire waited outside my window at night for me to go to sleep. It’s funny to think about now, but back then it caused many sleepless nights. But I guess at some point in my life, my fear turned into fascination. In high school, I discovered Anne Rice‘s Vampire Chronicles and just couldn’t get enough of them. They’re not horror, per se, but seeing heavy Catholic undertones used to portray monsters as heroes shifted something for me.

The other source of my twisted sensibilities is that all the men on my dad’s side of the family were involved in emergency services. My dad was mainly a fireman, but he did consider becoming a mortician at one point. In addition, both my mother and father were involved in the police reserve force when I was quite young. Therefore, I spent a large portion of my youth around people with unique perspectives on things most people find uncomfortable. Gallows humor is pretty common as well as spinning good yarns for entertainment. I remember spending hours around my grandmother’s table listening to the adults crack wise and share tales about their exploits. I maintain that this early exposure to dark humor was critical to the development of my own sick sense of humor and fascination with the darker sides of human nature.

[Wells’ twisted sense of humor comes out early on in Mage in Black, when Wells’ protagonist, Sabina Kane is assaulted by vampire assassins in a convenience store. Throughout the novel, the humor was well developed, a balance between witty narration, clever dialogue, comical situations, and great character interactions.]

SB Frank: Let’s move to the inevitable where-do-you-get-your-inspiration-from question. You claim that you take inspiration from objects as mundane and diverse as porch lights and wine bottles…

Jaye Wells: You know I think part of this just has to do with how my brain is wired. It’s not really a conscious effort to find ideas anymore. My mind just tends to make odd connections between seemingly disparate items. For example, the porch light you mentioned. I was driving by an apartment complex one night. Outside one of the doors, someone had replaced their regular bulb with a red one. For some reason it fascinated me. Now, probably the person did it because that’s all they had or because they thought it was cool. But to me it became a secret signal, like they used on the underground railroad or something. Since most of my stories tend to include a vampire, I started thinking about a vampire on the run, desperately looking for this red light and the safety it symbolized. That idea was the inspiration for a short story I wrote called “Red Life.”

That said, I always try to warn new writers not to fixate too much on ideas. I see sparks of ideas everywhere. Most writers do. It could be a conversation, a news story, a soup label, whatever. But ideas matter much less than execution when it comes to story. That’s what non-writers don’t get when they ask “Where do you get your ideas?” We get them everywhere. What they really want to know is, “How do you do that?” And the answer to that question is, you sit your ass in the chair and flesh out the idea and characters, you type and revise and then do both some more until you have a story. Ideas alone are worthless.

SB Frank: You (as do several other fantasy authors) place a great deal of symbolic significance on the apple. I get the whole Garden of Eden thing, but what I’m wondering is: why fruits and not vegetables? Sure, I mean fruits are sweet and tempting and kids would rather rip their own heads off than eat vegetables, but it still hardly seems fair. If you were going to pick a vegetable to be the symbol of loss of innocence and whatnot, which vegetable would you pick, and why?

Jaye Wells: Hmm, loss of innocence? Has to be asparagus. Beyond the phallic and aphrodisiac implications, there’s the whole unfortunate, um, urination issue. Asparagus is a lot like evil, I guess. It’s fun when you’re eating it, but you’ll pay the price later.

SB Frank: Hm… Darn. I had this idea for a children’s book with a magic asparagus. Now, I may have to choose another veggie… Changing subjects, I understand you’re currently contracted for three books in the Sabina Kane series. What else is in the works?

Jaye Wells: Even though I pitched the series as a trilogy, as I’ve gotten deeper into Sabina’s world I’ve realized there’s just too much there for only three books. I’m hoping that once I turn in the third book, Green-Eyed Demon, that my publisher will want more. Other than that, I have another urban fantasy series bubbling on the back burner. I can’t really talk about it yet, but it’s got major elements we haven’t seen yet in the genre.

SB Frank: Well, I for one can’t wait. Thank you so much for joining us today at fantasyliterature.com!

Readers, be sure to comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Mage in Black or Red-Headed Step Child.


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STEPHEN (S.B.) FRANK, one of our guest contributors, earned a Ph.D. at Duke University and works in the field of education reform. When he needs a break from real life, he likes to indulge in urban fantasy. He has a particular love for humor, so some of his favorite authors are Dakota Cassidy, Mary Janice Davidson, Mark Henry, Julie Kenner, Katie MacAlister, Richelle Mead and Christopher Moore.

View all posts by Stephen B. Frank

40 comments

  1. Excellent interview. I like the whole idea of monsters etc being fairly normal – there is something darker and more sinister in seeing a horror that is not far removed from what is perceived as normal.
    I’m always looking for new books to read and I would love to read one of these.

  2. great interview! “Has to be asparagus” hehehe. Books look great, thanks for making a contest :)

  3. Anonymous /

    I am so excited to hear there are going to be more than 3 books. I love series.

  4. Great interview! I love that photo, but poor Nicole Peeler! Hehe I’ve had these books on my TBR list but now this interview makes me want them all the more. It’s always interesting to read where authors get their inspiration!

  5. I’ll never eat asparagus the same way again….

  6. Thank you for this interview and contest! I found very interesting the answer to the question *where do you get your inspiration from*! Everyone has ideas, but it’s how you put and develop them in your story that makes all the difference.

  7. “I can’t really talk about it yet, but it’s got major elements we haven’t seen yet in the genre.” Oooh, intriguing!

  8. Ahhh, now I understand where Jaye gets her sense of humor. My husband is an RN in an inner city emergency room. ER people have the most wicked sense of humor. It’s how they deal with all the crap they see. :censored: I can’t to read her books!

  9. Hi Everyone! I’m so relieved Stephen edited the parts of our lunch out where I got drunk and verbally abused the wait staff. Ahem.

    Another Daydreamer–What he didn’t show you was the picture following the one posted here where Nicole whacked me over the head with a folding metal chair WWF style. Not pretty. And yes, the picture actually exists.

    Thanks everyone else for stopping by. Hope you enjoy the shenanigans of Sabina and her motley crew.

  10. Jaye!! I loved Redheaded step child cant wait tor ead mage! awesome interview

  11. Yay! More than 3 books (crossing fingers)! I loved RHSC and can’t wait to read MiB!

    booknerdd(at)gmail(dot)com

  12. Given the huge surge (one would almost say glut) in urban paranormal fantasy right now (e.g., virtually every interview on this site for the past few months has been a female, urban paranormal fantasy novelist), what do you do to make your stories different?

    If I were to write “Female protagonist is rogue cop/detective/bounty hunter in big city, at odds with vampires/werewolves/ghosts, has romance with partner/huntee” I’d be describing something like 75% of the urban fantasy being written right now (and could probably pick up another 10% with minor tweaks). Some of it is very good, some of it not so much…how does one stand out in such a crowd?

    (This isn’t meant as criticism…I haven’t read your books yet; they could turn out to be the very best of the genre…It’s a real question about how to thrive in such a market).

  13. I enjoyed redheaded stepchild so I’m excited to start the next in the series. Love that photo!

    dawnpnr at aol dot com

  14. I love series :). Can’t wait to read Mage!

  15. I love the photo with Nicole! Authors have all the fun :)

    The books sound fantastic and I love written humor! Please count me in!

  16. I really like Red-Headed Stepchild, it was one of the few books I actually bought in a bookstore last year! I am looking forward to The Mage in Black. Funny interview, I think it would be fun to tussle with certain fantasy authors. Haha~

  17. I’m a sucker for red-haired heroines! Always witty and quick. And what’s up with the asparagus derogations ?!

  18. Great interview :)
    Really enjoyed red-headed stepchild, can’t wait to read The Mage in Black!

  19. I love the covers for these books! Thanks for the giveaway and interview. It’s always cool to hear what the person behind the book has to say!

    Kelsey
    krae991@yahoo.com

  20. @Mike Good question, but just to defend FanLit, here are our planned interviews for the next several weeks: ;-)
    Jim Butcher, Sam Sykes, Joe Abercrombie, Guy Gavriel Kay, George R.R. Martin, Blake Charlton, Skyler White, Deborah Beale (Mrs. Tad Williams), Janni Lee Simner, Rachel Caine, Matt Forbeck

  21. Awesome interview and the pic is hilarious! I think Red-Headed Stepchild sounds like a good read and the title definitely captures my attention!

  22. Anonymous /

    Nice interview. I haven’t read any of her books but they look really interesting.

  23. I have Red Headed Step Child in my tbr and I really can’t wait to get to it. I’d LOVE to have Mage in Black to go with it!

    Oh, and asparagus? LOL!

  24. Love the Picture. I know that if I saw a red light on someone’s porch I definitely wouldn’t have thought of it as being a signal for a vampire sanctuary. i guess that’s why I’m a reader, not a writer.

  25. Anonymous /

    I love the covers of these books…very striking. Great interview!

  26. I loved, loved, loved Red-Headed Stepchild and I’m looking forward to Mage in Black so much. I love Jaye’s take on the vampire mythos and her secondary characters – especially Giguhl.

  27. Mike: Saw Kat’s response, which is right, we’re branching out. The female, urban fantasy bias is because that’s my genre, and I’ve done most of the recent interviews. So, mea culpa, But what I want to reply to is your excellent question about how authors differentiate and how they market their differences. I won’t speak for Jaye (heh, okay so maybe that’s a lie), but I do think every author puts a slightly different spin on the genre. It’s like in a hard-boiled mystery novel, each detective is sort of Sam Spade with a twist. What I like about Ms. Wells is not the originality (she buys into many of the genre tropes after all), but the execution. If you’re not looking for a cozy mystery, then don’t buy one. And if you’re not really in the mood for a female-protagonist urban fantasy (Sabina was raised as a vampire assassin), then this isn’t the series for you. But if you’re looking for a fast-paced, fun read, then I think you’ll like the series. It’s funnier than some, but I don’t think novelty is what differentiates this series. Hope that helps.

  28. Anonymous /

    This was a very interesting interview. I love the name of the books!! I haven’t read any of her books, so I’m dying to win one of these.. Please count me in.

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  29. I hear nothing but good things about Wells’ novels. I should really give ‘em a go already. :)

    -Bryce

  30. Anonymous /

    Awesome interview. The Red Headed Stepchild was one of my favorite reads last year. I am really looking forward to The Mage In Black. Thanks for sharing taking the time and sharing this.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  31. My friend has been raving about the books! I need to go pick up a copy soon.

  32. LOL!! GREAT interview! Jaye Wells really has a wonderful sense of humor. *stop* That is a sense of humor, right? Not, not, she’s not really that mean as to beat everyone up right? :blackeye: LOL!

    I hate to admit it, but I have not had the chance to read the first book of the series yet. I have heard such AMAZING reviews of the books and would really love to get to them.

  33. Great interview. These books are now on my TBR list.

    Given that the apple wasn’t actually specified in Genesis some scholars have theorized the the forbidden fruit was in fact a fig. I would love to see how you would incorporate figs into one of your stories.

  34. Great interview, haha, seems you two had fun :-)

    I loved asparagus, now my love is tainted.. :-( lol

    I’m really glad to hear Jaye has more than 3 novel-worth of story in the Sabina universe, I hope her editor will realise that too! :-)

    Wishing you lots of success for the future Jaye, and many more books for us readers! :-)

    Stella

    stella.exlibris (at) gmail DOT com

  35. Loved the interview!!! Is there a planned re-match with Dr. Peeler?

    Please enter me for The Mage in Black only. I already have Red-Headed Step child, and Loved it!!!

    heatwave96(at)hotmail.com

  36. I’m so glad that there’s going to be more than three books! Fantastic interview!

    echs2007@gmail.com

  37. I haven’t read anything by Jaye Wells, but I want to. And winning a book would really help that goal, lol. Seriously, the interview was fun & I love the titles of her books in this series & the covers, though how much input she got to give for either is possible negligible, as I understand it.

    Anyway, please do enter me! Thanks for the giveaway!
    ambience.of.rain {at} gmail.com

  38. Thanks for the awesome interview! I would totally read an asparagus-based kid’s book :)

    hawkeyegirl at gmail dot com

  39. I’d love to read these books! Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

  40. Our lucky winners are…….Dawn and Melissa (My World…in words and pages)!

    Dawn won a copy of Mage in Black
    Melissa has one a copy of Red-Headed Step Child

    Please contact Justin within 5 days after contest ends.
    http://www.fantasyliterature.com/contact-fanlit/