Today the Ladies welcome guest blogger Deborah Blake to 8LW. Deborah’s debut fiction novel, Wickedly Dangerous, will be available in your favorite book-procuring place on Tuesday, September 2. We asked her to stop by and chat a little about the joys and challenges of writing this paranormal romance, so Deborah, take it away!
My debut series, the Baba Yaga tales, is coming out from Berkley this year. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited. At the moment, the series consists of a prequel novella, Wickedly Magical, the first book, Wickedly Dangerous, and the second book, Wickedly Wonderful. I’m hopeful to do the third book in the series too.
The basic premise of the series is fairly simple. They are essentially modern fairy tales (although being marketed as paranormal romance) based on an updated version of the Russian Baba Yaga fairy tales and mythology. The original Baba Yaga was a crone-type witch who lived in the forest in a hut on chicken legs, rode through the air in a mortar steered by a pestle, and was sometimes associated with a dragon named Chudo-Yudo. Although Baba Yaga was often depicted as quite frightening (and rightfully so), she was also known to be helpful to those worthy seekers who asked nicely and behaved well. In short, she was neither a good witch nor a bad witch, but rather a very powerful magical being who pretty much did what she wanted to.
The same could be said for my modern Baba Yagas. In these stories, Baba Yaga is more of a job title than the name of an individual (although even in the old tales the Babas sometimes had “sisters”), and there are three of them who are responsible for the care of the United States: Barbara, Beka, and Bella. Each lives in her own updated version of the hut that moved through the woods; for instance, Barbara has an Airstream trailer, and Beka lives in what appears to be a refurbished school bus. Of course, they’re really all still enchanted huts, so they’re full of surprises. Barbara’s mortar and pestle have transformed into a classic BMW motorcycle, and Beka has an improbably well-preserved Karmann Ghia. The women themselves are all very different: Barbara is older and experienced and very self-confident, but has been a Baba Yaga for so long, she feels as though she no longer has anything in common with Humans, even though she was born one. Beka, on the hand, is the youngest of the USA Babas, and barely has any confidence at all.
The fact that the series is based on three different protagonists made writing it both more fun and more challenging than I expected. I’ve written series books before, but they always followed the journey of one protagonist, and were written from her point of view. This time, I had three different heroines, plus, of course, three various love interests, and completely different story lines. It made things very…interesting.
The challenging part, really, was keeping the “world” consistent (the stories take place in our mundane world, but with a magical reality as a hidden backdrop), and the tone of the books more or less the same, while also creating very diverse voices and motivations and personalities for my three Baba Yagas (and their guys). Each Baba Yaga also has a companion Chudo-Yudo (Barbara’s is disguised as a huge white pit bull, and Beka’s as a gigantic black Newfoundland), and they had to different characters as well, while still following the same “rules” of the universe I’d built. And since the stories lead one to the other, and sometime feature a guest appearance by another Baba, I had to make sure the timelines made sense too.
It was tough initially to transition from the tough Barbara in the first book to the more vulnerable (although still kick-ass) Beka in the second. Thankfully, once I got into the actual writing, it only took a couple of chapters before Beka’s voice took hold firmly inside my head. And one of the benefits of writing three separate books was that each one could be read as a complete story on its own, and each Baba Yaga could have her own Happily Ever After (which is one of my favorite parts of any romance).
In short, while writing this kind of series presented a few unexpected challenges, I ended up finding it both fun and rewarding. As much as I enjoy following the adventures of one specific protagonist, I also had a great time looking at this updated fairy tale from a number of different angles. I hope you will too.
Deborah Blake has published seven books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide and has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane. The release date for Wickedly Dangerous is September 2, 2014. Other books in the series include Wickedly Magical (prequel novella 8/5/14) and Wickedly Wonderful (Book 2, 12/2/14).