Dear Friends,

Happy almost April!

AAR 2008 Best Debut Author Award I'm thrilled to announce that the All About Romance 13th Annual Reader Poll results are in. And I've been voted as the best debut author of 2008.

Also, the release date of my new book, Not Quite a Husband draws near. Only 8 more weeks before it hits stores. Click here to watch the fun trailer I made for it. Click here to pre-order your copy.

But none of the above is the reason I can't wait to share this month's newsletter with you. Nope, it's because I bagged an interview with Shana Abé, one of my favorite authors. I don't follow series as a rule--but I do follow Shana Abé's Drákon series. It is rare that a writer combines both mesmerizing story telling with mesmerizing prose. Shana Abe does exactly that in her Drákon books, combining beautiful, precise, yet sweeping world-building with intimate, passionate love stories between equals. I can't get enough of her dragon shapeshifters.

The Treasure Keeper Cover To celebrate Shana's new release, The Treasure Keeper, which hits the stores today, Shana is giving away an autographed hardcover copy to a lucky reader of An Infrequent Offer.

And here, without further ado, the lovely, talented, and very generous Shana Abé!

All About Shana

Shana Abe Photo

You wrote six straight historical romance and one book of mermaid novellas before you burst on to the scene anew in 2005 with your Drákon series, beginning with The Smoke Thief, featuring an ancient race of dragons who have learned to shapeshift and pass as humans. I know, from a podcast you did with Sandy Coleman of All About Romance, that it had been a long-held desire for you to write romances with fantasy/paranormal elements. Did you also always want to do something with dragons? Or was it a case of ďHmm, vampires, no. Hmm, werewolves, no. Hmm, dragons, well, well, well?Ē

Actually, you pretty much summed it up right there! I realized I wanted to write about shapeshifting creatures of some sort, but I felt that there were already so many good werewolf/vampire novels out there, I really didnít want to plunge into that pool.

I used to live in the foothills of Los Angeles, where there are a lot of red-tailed hawks. And I have pet house rabbits. A person with pet rabbits always keeps a sharp eye out for predators when theyíre outside playing. I learned to recognize entire family groups of hawks, and I suspect they learned to recognize me. One cast of at least thirteen would circle by nearly every day at bunny playtime in my backyard. Being the superior, brilliant human that I am, I would stand in my yard and try to shoo them away by waving my arms and jumping up and down and yelling, ďGo away!Ē Which astonished my neighbors (not in a good way) and totally frightened my bunniesóbut not the hawks. Finally one day the hawks very firmly and rudely responded by, um, loosening their collective bowels directly above me. Seriously. I had to run away and hide under the porch. And it was a huge mess upon landing.

Anyway! Hawks. Despite all that, itís impossible not to admire their elegance in flight. One afternoon as I was idly watching a courting couple above me, their fantastic circles and loops and turnsówith the back of my brain simmering over my shapeshifting, werewolf/vampire dilemmaóthe answer came to me. It seemed so obvious. Not hawks (I mean, come on, they tried to poop on me!), but dragons. Dragons can fly, dragons are mystical and interesting, and plus, since they donít actually exist, I could make up whatever traits I wanted to about them. :-)

The Drákon books have been an instant hit with both readers and critics alike. The Smoke Thief was Romantic Timesís Historical Romance of the Year. The second book in the series, The Dream Thief, which totally blew me away, made the New York Times bestseller list and was named by Amazon.com its #1 Romance of the Year. Bantam, your publisher, obviously did anticipate just such a reception, as the series is brought out in hardcover. Did you personally expect this level of success?

The Smoke Thief Cover God, no. Like most novelists, I try to write the very best book I can every single time. But still, some books just end up being better than others. I donít know why. As a writer, I do feel a certain tingle of excitement when I compose something I think is good...but I donít necessarily expect anyone else to think itís good. I only hope that they do, LOL.

It was a very happy surprise to get the call from my agent telling me that Bantam planned to release The Smoke Thief in hardcover. In fact, I couldnít really believe it for a while; I thought maybe they had made a mistake. Or that they would come to their senses and change their minds. But they put together a lovely package for it, and I think Iím very, very lucky that it turned out so well.

One thing I love deeply about your books is that they feature power couples. So often in romance--and particularly paranormal romance--the balance of the power is tilted, sometimes overwhelmingly, toward the hero. But your heroines have stunning abilities and nerves of steel and are full equals of your heroes. One of my favorite moments from Queen of Dragons, the third book in the series, is when Kimber, the hero, says to Maricara, the heroine, ďLet me ask you, king to kingÖĒ Ah, it just melts me when a man is strong enough to be secure in the presence of a strong woman. Can you tell me a bit about how you arrive at this dynamic balance between the hero and the heroine?

Queen of Dragons Cover Itís a very delicate balance, isnít it? Personally I donít enjoy a story as much when either the hero or the heroine has far more power than the other, either by societal or supernatural means. Because I chose to set the Drákon Series in the eighteenth century, and then chose my characters to be beasts disguised as humans, I had already set up a radically inequitable balance between the males and the females. Georgian society never exactly embraced the notion of womenís rights, and on top of that youíve got this wolf pack-like tribe of beings whose ruling faction asserts that itís biologically impossible for a female to lead, for example. Itís a double whammy against the girls!

So I definitely needed my heroines to have backbones of steel to deal with this. They were both underestimated and undervalued, even by their own kind. Yet theyíre not soft, fragile little flowers who wilt in the face of difficulty. In my mind, these women are real, and that means they must behave in realistic ways. Even today we struggle with the consequences of sexual inequality, so imagine how much more extreme, and socially acceptable, it was then. I donít know a single woman who feels sheís of lesser value than a man, and certainly not merely because she happened to born with a pair of ovaries instead of the other stuff.

Like real women throughout history, these drákon females have learned to relish their own strengths, to hone them; they understand that the foundation of their world is fundamentally unjust, but they adapt to it. They stretch their boundaries as they can, and sometimes they simply flat-out shatter them. Whether that means challenging the layers of rules that constrict them, or more directly just running away to live free, they make the choice not to endure the role their society attempts to force upon them.

Of course, that means they need a manóa male drákonówho is smart enough and wise enough not only to accept the heroine as she is, but to cherish her strength and individuality. Itís one of the facets of his character that makes him a hero: he falls in love with all parts of this amazing creature, even the aspects of her that buck societal norms and directly challenge his own authority.

In another interview with All About Romance, you described yourself as a young girl as ďScrawny. Chalk-white pale. Lank, dark hair that would never hold a curl. Terminally clumsy.Ē And you wore coke-bottle glasses because you were ďone tiny degree away from being legally blind.Ē But then you went on to become a runway and print model in Japan. I find that absolutely fascinatingóa real life transformation story. How did that impact how you view femininity and beauty and how you craft your heroines?

The Dream Thief Cover Itís interesting how our childhood shapes us, isnít it? In my case, I didnít get rid of the glasses until junior high school, and by then I was so profoundly shy that my mother enrolled me in modeling and acting classes to try to open me up a bit. I enjoyed acting and tolerated modeling, but I never thought it would really lead anywhere. It was a shock to get an offer to model in Japan as a teenager, and to this day I am so grateful for it, because it turns out that traveling to other countries and learning about other cultures is something I love.

But modeling was only ever a job to me, one I always realized would be extremely provisional. In the end, I modeled professionally for about eleven years, which was longer than most girls I knew. I did it around high school and college and then a little later, and the very best part of it was always getting to travel.

However, modeling is a grueling, fiercely competitive and sometimes vicious line of work, and it can breed monsters. I never once thought of myself as beautiful; I had a good look for a strong market, I was very lucky and that was enough. When youíre surrounded by peers whose jaw-dropping physical attributes become almost commonplace, you search for a deeper connection. You search for the mind, for the heart. You want to learn the who of the person instead the what.

Thatís what truly matters. I still believe it. Physical beauty has its advantages, but itís fleeting, and thereís nothing you can do about that. Itís far more important to develop the beauty of your soul, because thatís forever (or, if youíre of a more non-theological bent, itís for the whole of your lifetime, at least).

Most of the other models I met were deeply insecure about their looks. Thatís natural, when you consider how much emphasis is placed upon the seemingly random arrangement of skin and cartilage and bone. Girls I worked with would freak out over a chipped nail. They had reason to. You could lose a job over it, which might be a significant loss of income. A chipped fingernail! Itís a weird, weird profession.

Iím way happier as a writer, LOL.

You live with half a dozen bunnies and a dog. Now lots of people have dogs, so the dog is not very surprising. How did the bunnies come about? And is that the reason I never read about rabbit stews in your book?

Bunny Photo Ha! Once, I think in my first novel (a medieval) I had the hero go hunting and catch a hare for dinner, and I felt like such a traitor after that I never have anyone eat rabbit again. ;-) Iíve also managed to insert the names of almost every one of my rabbits (thereís been quite a few of them over the years) into my books, just for fun.

Many, many years ago, I was a desperately impoverished associate editor at a small weekly paper in Malibu (which shall go nameless but does still exist; itís a really great paper, actually). We had an office parrot and one of my jobs was to go to the local pet store and get him (her? none of us were really sure) supplies.

The pet store, which I very much hope is now out of business, was a sad, small, dirty place. They sold all kinds of animals, and usually for heaps of money (it was Malibu, after all), but one animal they could not sell was this full-grown rabbit. It was a brown lop, nothing fancy or unique, but they kept it in an aquarium because it kept figuring out how to open the wire cages. The aquarium was so small the rabbit couldnít even stretch out.

I watched this rabbit for almost six months, cramped and miserable in his glass prison. No one wanted him. I knew nothing about rabbits. I had no money. I could barely afford my rent, but one day I just couldnít take it any longer, so I bought the rabbit.

I named him Christopher, until I saved up enough cash to have him neutered, and then I named her Katherine. LOL. She was brilliant and sassy and I loved her to pieces. She led to two more bunniesóbrothers, abandoned Easter bunniesóand then to another one with a deformed ear, and so on.

Thatís how it began. Right now I have five rabbits, some very old, one very young, all rescued, all house rabbits.

You need a good sense of humor to have house rabbits, and a lot of wood toys. They chew through everything.

Book four of the Drákon series, Treasure Keeper, hits shelves today itself. It features a son of the original Drákon couple from The Smoke Thief, the girl he first fell in love with when he was thirteen, and is set in a most intriguing and dangerous time and place. Would you tell us something about it?

The Treasure Keeper Cover Well, twist my arm, LOL. THE TREASURE KEEPER is the tale of Rhys Langford, who (as you mentioned) is the youngest son of Kit and Rue from the first book in the series, and Zoe Lane, daughter of the local seamstress (also a drákon). We glimpse them together as youngsters briefly in QUEEN OF DRAGONS, and she seems a little cold then, even as a girl, but itís all explained in the new book.

I wanted Zoe to have different abilities from the other drákon, and so, something like a chameleon, she has the Gift of invisibility. She also sees ghosts in glass, and is shadowed by the dead (but not in a creepy way). Sheís run away from the confines of the English shire in which she was raised because her fiancé (not Rhys!), who was sent out into the human world, has gone missing. Rhys, however, is also missing, because it turns out the drákon have a dire human enemy: the sanf inimicus, human dragon hunters. Both Rhys and Zoeís fiancé are thought to be dead, but only Rhys shows up to haunt her in spectral form.

He starts off in the story a lot like what youíd think the younger, handsome son of a ridiculously privileged family would be: cocky, sophisticated, fairly wild and irresponsible. But deep down heís also kind, protective, and genuinely in love with Zoe, the only vibrant thread of true life in his now-gray existence.

Zoeís made it to Paris, and itís just a few years before the French Revolution. Itís a dangerous and gritty and exciting time. Plus, sheís hiding out in a castle, which is pretty cool, LOL.

I had a great time with both the setting and the protagonists. Every time I get to delve into this world, I learn something new. Itís such an amazing process, and Iím truly delighted that other people have enjoyed the stories of the drákon as much as I have. I know Iíve said this before, but I feel so, so fortunate.

Well, I know Iíll be at the bookstore to pick up my copy. Thank you so much, Shana, for talking with me. And thank you for writing your wonderful books.

Thank YOU for your kindness! I was thrilled that you wanted to chat. Like a lot of folks, Iím a big fan of the Fabulous Sherry Thomas! :-)

::blushes::

Below are links to excerpts for Shana's Drákon books

Shana Abé Giveaway

The Treasure Keeper Cover

There is a contest exclusive to subscribers of An Infrequent Offer. To subscribe, click here.









Book Recommendations

The Thirteenth Tale cover

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. A young woman summoned by a legendary novelist to write the latter's biography and find out, given the latter's propensity to never tell the truth about herself, her true identity. I wouldn't say that I am a fan of the gothic, and The Thirteenth Tale is unmistakably a gothic mystery, yet once I started this book, I couldn't stop. (And since I listened to all of it on audio, this means I did a lot of kitchen cleaning I otherwise wouldn't have done just so I could remain close enough to my boombox to hear another chapter.)

The Hunger Games Cover

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Like Surviver, except the contestants are eliminated by their deaths, The Hunger Games, set in a post-Apocalyptical North America, seems an unlikely young adult book. But what a rip-roaring good read, taut, tense, never a dull moment, as our young heroine struggles to outwit and outlast her rivals in this ghastly reality show dreamed up by the central government to control its once-rebellious colonies.

Last Dance cover

Last Dance at Jitterbug Lounge by Pamela Morsi. If you are in the mood for something more leisurely paced, and set in a more familiar world, you might want to try Last Dance at Jitterbug Lounge. The book intertwines the stories of two marriages, that of Grandpa Bud, and that of his grandson Jack, as Grandpa Bud relives his life on his deathbed and Jack and his wife try to work out the problems in their relationship while coming to grips with having never really known Grandpa Bud. I adore Grandpa Bud, such a good, real man, utterly vulnerable yet strong and honorable.


May your shelves always overflow with great books to read.

Best,
Sherry

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