If you're an urban fantasy reader, and especially if you like a bit of paranormal demon romance, you need to read Annette Marie's Steel and Stone Series. The first book of the series grabs you by the collar, and you find yourself taking out your phone while you're standing in line at the bank, or hunching over your kindle to brush your teeth just to read it.
Piper is a demon-wrangling heroine of the ass-kicking variety, and she's got two super hot daemons at her side to make things a little more interesting.
Annette Marie published Chase the Dark in November 2014, and sales took off. She's been topping the charts in Urban Fantasy ever since. Since I'm a fan of the books and she hasn't done many interviews I'm excited to get the chance to ask her some questions.
In my mind I’ve been picturing Piper as a young Kate Beckinsdale. Probably showing my age. Do you have particular actors who you envision looking similar to Piper, Ash and Lyre? Have fans shared their thoughts?
A young Kate Beckinsdale is pretty close! I don't personally have any actors in mind for the characters. I'm a big anime fan so I spend a lot more time drawing/attempting to draw the characters than trying to think of actors. A few fans have made pretty good suggestions, but if a movie deal ever came along, I'd probably have to leave casting to the pros.
One of the things I like about the world you’ve built is that there are no black and white divisions between good and evil daemons, or between the morality of humans and daemons. Is there anything in particular that inspired this vision of blurred morality, or did it just make for a better story?
A little of both! Not only does it make things more interesting when you have no idea who you can trust, but I think it's more reflective of the real world. Piper has to challenge a lot of her own, and others', preconceptions about "the good guys" and "the bad guys" throughout the books, beginning with Ash and his past. More and more she'll have to challenge her own morality and where she herself falls on the spectrum of good and evil.
Since Piper is a heroine of the ass-kicking variety, I have to ask—are you a fan of Buffy?
I've seen a few episodes and think Buffy is an awesome character, but as mentioned, I'm more of an anime fan. There are some fantastic ass-kicking heroines in many of my favorite series, such as the sword and magic-wielding ladies from Bleach.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Write a lot! I think many aspiring new writers should consider that their first (and second and maybe third) major writing projects are practice rounds for developing the skills needed to create a publishable work. Although this isn't the case for everyone, I shelved my first two original novels as "good efforts but not quite there" before starting Chase the Dark.
Are any of your characters based on real people? I mean, apart from the magical abilities.
Nope, they are entirely figments of my imagination.
Are there any particular YA conventions that you set out to disrupt? I’m thinking of the fact that Piper is often in a heroic role. And another one in particular comes to mind, though I don’t want to give away a plot point. [I’m thinking of the fact that there’s often a big deal made out of the main character’s virginity and how that makes her special. It was refreshing to have a non-virgin main character. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers annoyed at the whole virginity thing, too.]
Disrupting YA conventions for the sake of disruption wasn't my intent, but I knew when I sat down to write the book that I would be ignoring a lot of them. I'm really not a fan of insta-love. There's nothing more engaging to me in a book than a slow-burn romance, and the love-at-first sight trope is depressingly common in YA. Timid/helpless heroines don't work for me either. Piper isn't perfect and she still needs rescuing, but she also kicks butt and doesn't take crap from anyone.
As for Piper's virginity (or lack thereof) I chose not to make a big deal out of it either way. I wanted her to face other kinds of challenges and barriers in her romantic relationships. All in all, I broke convention not to make any special statements, but to simply tell a different story.
Your books have been pretty spectacularly successful. Has life changed since you published? Do you have really fancy poutine now? (“Poutine” is the only thing I know about Canada.)
Poutine? No thanks! Some things have changed since publishing Chase the Dark, but in other ways, nothing has changed at all. I quit my job after Bind the Soul came out so I could put 110% into finishing Yield the Night on time, and though it was frightening to go all in as an author, I couldn't be happier to have escaped my cubicle.
What led you to self-publishing? (I would ask if you were happy with your decision to self-publish but I think your sales speak for themselves on that one.)
My most motivating factor was timing: I wanted to start my career immediately. After two years of querying literary agents, I started researching self-publishing and realized how much more it appealed to me, both the ability to publish quickly and the control over how I published. Shortly afterward, I received an offer from an agent. I ended up passing on the agent's offer and throwing myself into preparing Chase the Dark for self-publishing. If I hadn't, my first book wouldn't even be out yet, and I'd still be sitting in my cubicle. Bullet dodged!
Before you published, you were designing book covers—and you designed your own covers. What advice would you give to a self-publisher about cover design?
My advice would be to go with a pro. I have over a decade of graphic design experience; if not for that, I would never have made my own cover. My covers aren't just my brand, but also my most powerful marketing. So many readers have told me that the only reason they clicked on my book was the cover. Before approaching a designer, make sure you know what your anticipated readers are looking for (i.e. the covers of your most direct competition), so you can ensure your cover says "I am the same kind of book so you'll like me too" when those readers see it.
Do you have any plans for what will come after the Steel & Stone series?
I don't have any concrete answers yet. I have a few drafts that I'm considering for my next series, and there is a lot more room for new stories in the Steel & Stone universe that I may develop down the road. Either way, those are decisions I'll making as Piper's story comes to a close.