Posted on March 31, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli
USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes the Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series for Berkley (Witchling, Changeling, Darkling, etc.). In the past, she wrote the paranormal Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series, the Bath & Beauty Mystery Series (the latter written as India Ink) and eight nonfiction metaphysical books. With Darkling, she hit the extended NYT bestseller’s list.
Yasmine has been in the Craft for over 28 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in Bellevue WA with her husband Samwise and their four cats.
In this interview, we sit down with Yasmine to talk about her success on bestseller list, how her nonfiction work has influenced her writing, and her involvement with an online auction, created by writer Brenda Novak, to raise funds to find a cure for diabetes.
Can you tell us how you got involved in Brenda Novak’s On-Line Diabetes Auction and what fans can win this year?
I first heard about her auction on one of the author loops I’m on. My husband is Type 1 diabetic and I’ve had to deal with this disease—through him—on an intimate and sometimes nerve-wracking level since 1993 when he first developed it (he had late-onset). I’ve seen the damage it can do, I’ve pulled him out of a low-blood sugar seizure in the middle of the night more times than I care to remember, I’ve watched him try to do that delicate dance of balancing food, exercise, and insulin. It’s a harsh disease.
There are so many potentials for—if not curing diabetes—lessening the impact on the sufferers, and so many of those potentials need funding and research. So this cause is very important to us, and I’ve participated every year so far.
This year, I’m donating a Sisters of the Moon Otherworld basket, which will include: a signed copy of the first three books in the series (WITCHLING, CHANGELING, AND DARKLING) and—if I have one—the arc of DRAGON WYTCH; a quartz crystal ball and stand; a crimson burnout velvet shawl; an Artisan “Flowering teas and Glass teapot” set; a Jessica Galbreth blank journal & pen; a Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck; a Witch’s Brew mug, a black candle in the shape of a goblet, and an assortment of chocolates. Value of the basket is around $230.00.
I’m also donating three separate copies of LEGEND OF THE JADE DRAGON from my Chintz ‘n China mystery series—it’s the one that’s out of print, and goes on Amazon for between 20-80 dollars a copy (I saw one copy going for $250). I figure that if people are willing to pay that much for the book, then the money might as well go to a good cause. I have a very small stash of copies and next year, will probably do the same thing.
You’ve written several other works (like the Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series) prior to the best-selling Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon series. In your mind, what changes catapulted Otherworld onto the bestseller’s list?
One: The urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre is by far more popular than mysteries, and the readers tend to buy the books more than borrow them. This series has a much broader appeal than my other work did.
Two: I absolutely love writing this series. I love the world, the characters, it’s a gigantic playground for me even when the going is tough (and believe me, writing is not an easy career and some days are hellish to get through). In my mind this is most important factor. When an author loves their work, it shines through. I have always loved fantasy/SF/paranormal, and this is my “dream job,” so to speak.
And then, there are marketing aspects that I don’t control. I’m being marketed in mainstream, not a niche imprint. That can make a difference. My publisher is backing this series with promotion. I’m able to afford more promotion because it’s selling far better.
There’s no surefire guarantee to reach the bestseller lists. Timing, hitting the market right when people are hungry for the type of book you’re writing, publisher backing, word of mouth…all of these go into the mix. There’s just no way to sort out what percentage impact one factor had over another.
Was it a conscious decision to include elements of global myth and social consciousness in the Otherworld series?
I really didn’t want to limit myself. And in my world view, all of them really do exist, with different names in different places for the same concept/being/legend. I’m not saying all mythology has a common wellspring, but global mythology—like global ritualism—tends to boil down to similar stories/elements when you begin to examine the core belief structures. There are tales of the Fae worldwide with different names but they’re essentially the same. The ki-rin is similar to the unicorn. The phoenix plays into Greek and Egyptian mythology, as well as a few others. Dragons are a worldwide legend. Even the Yeti and Sasquatch have similar legends.
When Otherworld began to take shape in my mind, I immediately saw that—like the US—it was one giant melting pot: one gigantic realm where all mythologies come together. And Otherworld was, according to the series’ background, formed during the Great Divide. Since the Great Divide was a worldwide event, all of the mythologies are represented. (You’ll find out more about the Great Divide in DRAGON WYTCH, by the way).
How has your non-fiction metaphysical work influenced your writing?
For one thing, I have years of mythological study already behind me. I know ‘modern’ magic—hell, I wrote books on the subject. I’m a shamanic witch with twenty-eight years of experience, and I regularly work with ‘energy’ so I know the feel of it (in terms of my own experience—I’d never claim to speak for all pagans because there are so many variations of belief and practice). This allows me to extrapolate what I already do and know into a wildly fantastical realm.
What message do you have to share with readers who confuse the magic in your books with the magic you have written about in your non-fiction work?
The magic may have some basis in what I’ve taught and what I practice, but it’s taken to the extreme, and it is only a small part of the base for what the characters in my books practice. I have had a few people ask me if the books ‘are real.’ My answer: No, this series is fiction, based on actual mythology and magic freely mixed with my own creative visions. The characters, the stories are all my own creation, but the magic and mythology that provide the foundation for the series: some of that is based in the “real world,” yes.
Where did your inspiration for the Sub-Realms and its leader, Shadow Wing, come from?
The Chinese have multiple layers of hell. Dante wrote about the nine circles of hell. In my world, the Subterranean Realms aren’t ‘hell’ per se, but they’re a very negative world that is divided from Earthside and Otherworld, populated mostly by demons. The Netherworld, as you’ll see in NIGHT HUNTRESS (book 5) is the realm in which the spirits and astral entities dwell. There is some crossover but essentially, the Sub-Realms are more physical than the Netherworld.
I envision the Sub-Realms like the really, really bad neighborhood of all the realms put together. It’s like moving into an ultra-high crime areas where the gangs rule supreme. Otherworld deports demons and greater vampires to the Sub-Realms on occasion, when their level of violence and bloodshed reach a state where they cannot be controlled by any other method.
As for Shadow Wing: he’s not the character of Satan without the red tights. He’s currently the ruler of the Sub-Realms, but like all demons, he’s vulnerable and can be killed—though not easily. He wrested control of the throne by assassinating the previous ruler. Assassination is a handy career advancement tool down in the Sub-Realms!
Shadow Wing is a Soul Eater, which makes him a very dangerous demon—too much more on him would be a spoiler for later in the series, but he’s worse than the Balrog in Lord of the Rings. He’s smart, cunning, and ruthless.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the musicians you’ve listed on the Otherworld site (link) have influenced your work?
I respond physically to music, and it affects my moods. During the times when I listen to music while writing, it has to fit the mood of the work.
WITCHLING‘s playlist was filled with grunge/alternative (which I love). DRAGON WYTCH‘s playlist had a lot more Celtic and Led Zeppelin on it. Yet both books are from Camille’s point of view. The reason for the difference—DRAGON WYTCH has a plotline that delves more into the Fae/mystical realm than WITCHLING did. Each book has a different mood, and I choose my music to go with the mood of the book, and with each sister (you’d never catch Menolly listening to CCR, for example, though Delilah loves them).
Within the Otherworld series, why did you choose to change point-of-view between the three sisters?
To be honest, the round-robin POV was my editor’s idea. I had no idea my publisher thought that’s what I proposed and had originally intended to stay in Camille’s perspective all the way through the series. However, when it came time to start writing CHANGELING, my editor said, “So this one’s from Delilah’s point of view,” and I said, “Say what?”
She thought it might be a nice spin on the series. I honestly wasn’t sure I could do it, but she encouraged me. Christine Zika, my editor at the time, said, “I know you can do it.” So I gave it a try and am truly grateful she challenged me to push myself.
I now love switching from sister to sister, even though Camille’s my favorite. For one thing, it allows both the reader and me to see how each of the sisters sees herself, and then how the others see her. I think this gives each character a more well-rounded and balanced persona as the series progresses.
How has your use of online communities like MySpace, LiveJournal, forums, blogs and other sites helped you as an author?
A broad spectrum of my audience is very net savvy. MySpace really allows me to interact on a larger level and get the word out about what’s coming up for the series. LJ I’m still learning to navigate and don’t have as much of a presence there, though I’m involved in the Fangs, Fur, and Fey community and my Witchy Chicks group may create our own mixed paranormal genre community soon—it depends on time available.
Blogging allows me to communicate without spending all my time answering mail. I now have an assistant who helps me with that, and she posts my blogs and takes care of my MySpace page. But I always read my mail, even if Veronica’s the one who ends up answering it for me. I don’t have time to frequent most forums anymore, though there are several I try to peek in now and then. And I have a discussion group for my books that I peek in on when I can.
Having a strong online presence through my website and through these other communities helps me reach readers who may not otherwise hear of me, or who may want to know more about the life of being an author or the series.
I pay attention to how I present myself online. Just like I wouldn’t want to show up at a signing to find my favorite author drunk and out of control; nor would I want to read the drunken ramblings on that author’s blog.
There is such a thing as too much information, when you’re not specifically focused on that. For example: I wrote a sex magic book which has personal info in it and I do blog about writing sex scenes in my novels on occasion, however I would never write about my sex life on a blog—that’s not the appropriate venue.
How has your publisher’s labeling of the Otherworld series as “paranormal romance” rather than “urban fantasy” affected you as an author? Your readers?
This question really connects to the next one, too, so both answers fit together.
I have no problem being marketed as paranormal romance with one exception: I don’t want people to expect HEA (happily ever after) endings, or to expect the typical man/woman monogamous relationship that typifies a lot of romances.
My characters aren’t fully human, Menolly’s bisexual, the sisters come from a mostly non-monogamous culture. There aren’t any white picket fences or HEAs in this series, even with the passionate relationships that are involved. That’s the only real complaint I’ve had—readers thinking there would be the HEA ending and there wasn’t. Oh—and a few complaining that I’m writing explicit sex scenes now. They didn’t like the shift from my other work.
On a personal level, I just don’t believe in happily ever after. There’s always the next morning, and the next day and week and years…and not everything is going to be easy or happy even when you’re in love.
Not all relationships are founded in one man/one woman, or even simply male/female. I’m bisexual and open about it. I just happened to fall in love with a man. I think a few people are uncomfortable with Menolly’s bisexuality, but that’s who Menolly is. And their friend Tim (Cleo Blanco) is gay and in a committed relationship. That’s who he is. I refuse to sanitize my characters to make them more palatable to a few uncomfortable readers—there are plenty of authors who don’t write bi/gay characters. But so far, complaints have been few and far between and I’ve gotten a lot of thank you letters from the G/B/L/T community for bringing these characters into mainstream work.
While we’re on the subject, I write the sex scenes because I like to, not because I’m ordered to by my publisher (I got asked that question the other day at a panel I was speaking on). I love good sex. To me, it’s a joy in life compared to the violence that’s out there. And if it’s the right place in the book, and the mood is right, then hell yes, I’ll write a good sex scene. (Although, as I also said on the panel—my characters would never stop in the middle of battle to have sex—that wouldn’t make sense).
A lot of my friends are very smart, successful romance writers and I get really pissed off when people denigrate the genre—as I do with any genre, really. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to write a book and get it published, and with romance representing over 50% of the fiction market, there are a lot of readers out there who love the genre.
A number of the men who read my series started out by picking up their mother’s copy or their wives copies of the books and they get hooked. I’m hoping they tell their buddies about the series! ~grins~
What do you feel authors can do to ensure their books are labeled in the correct genre?
Really, this tends to be out of the author’s control. The Marketing department is probably the one who decides how you’ll be packaged, and you have to find a way to make it work. Sometimes you can’t—I still think my paranormal mysteries should have been marketed more toward a paranormal audience, but they weren’t. But you can be upfront with your readers and do your best not to lead them into expecting something they may not get.
Dragon Wytch, told from the wytch Camille’s point-of-view, will be on the shelves in July 2008. Do you have any teasers to share?
Oh, what can I tell you that won’t spoil all the fun? Well, of course it’s a given that Camille gets an up-close and personal examination of Smoky (and there’s something special about that hair of his—I’ll tell you that).
The girls are offered an incredibly powerful weapon/gift that Camille must learn how to use without blowing herself to smithereens. Somebody disappears and nobody knows what happened to them. And Morgaine—who made a brief appearance in Darkling—is back, and she does have an agenda that plays out in a big way in what begins a new story arc in Dragon Wytch. Yes, the girls are still after the spirit seals, but things are about to get a lot more complicated. New allies rise up, and old enemies win a few rounds.
And…is that the sound of wedding bells we hear in the distance? Of course, the fact that we’re talking about the D’Artigo sisters and their friends mean that it’s not going to be your typical serene church wedding/white picket fence type of bonding. In my world, there’s always an ‘after’ so ‘they lived happily ever after’ never really quite works out the way it does in fairy tales. Hey, I’m happily married but jumping the broom at our wedding did NOT magically transform the rest of our lives into worry-free and untroubled waters—life takes work!
Do you have any upcoming plans for other books in the series or spin-offs like graphic novels?
There will be at least nine books—my agent recently negotiated the contract for books 7-9. NIGHT HUNTRESS, book 5 will be out in January 2009, DEMON MISTRESS—book 6 will be out in July 2009. As far as I know, they want to keep me on a six month release schedule. As far as graphic novels—not at this time. I do have other news too, but can’t announce it quite yet. Keep tuned to my website and MySpace page for updates.