Jared Bruin doesn't know who he is. He remembers nothing of his early childhood before the age of seven when he was abandoned in a park in St. Louis, left in an unfamiliar world that terrified him. He knows only that he is driven to learn everything he can about swordplay and sixteenth-century combat.
Almost twenty years later, as he is battling a heroin addiction, suicidal tendencies and a violent affliction he doesn't understand, he is hired to teach swordplay to an enigmatic woman with secrets of her own, who somehow provides a link to his past.
Then a missing journal arrives that provides many answers to Jared's past, and in it another world is revealed, one of a Goddess, prophecies, elves, a devastating love triangle, and a war in desperate need of a hero.
Hi everyone! Please help me in welcoming dark-fantasy author, Ashley Barnard, to Lovin' Me Some Romance!
Hi Ashley! Welcome to Lovin' Me Some Romance. SHADOW FOX is your first published novel with two sequels to be released in 2011. Congratulations, btw. :) Having been writing consistently for twelve years prior to publication, can you take a moment to tell LMSR readers a little bit about your road to publication and how it felt to finally make your first sale?
Thanks, VampFanGirl! It was a loooooooong 12 years, but I wouldn't trade them in for the world. If I had gotten a publishing contract on my first round of queries, I wouldn't be able to show my face. Shadow Fox was then a 973-page monster that was poorly written and frankly embarrassing. I learned so much in those 12 years about writing, including my realization that the story would be much better in three volumes instead of one giant one. Starting from scratch, rather than just revising it, gave me the chance to omit characters that were useless, and add ones that were interesting. I added and deleted entire subplots and greatly improved the writing style. I also wrote more novels along the way, all of which were great opportunities to improve my craft. And I will tell you, after over 300 rejections, landing an agent and then a publisher was the most incredible feeling EVER.
Your tag line on your website for SHADOW FOX is "From Champagne Books comes a dark-fantasy series with a contemporary twist". What is the contemporary twist to your dark-fantasy series? What about these two genres do you love the most? Why do you think the combination makes a compatible duo?
Most of Shadow Fox takes place in our modern, contemporary world, so "twist" is a bit of a misnomer. (But it sounds better on my website.) However there is a gateway to another world, which gave me a lot to play with as far as secret pasts and that kind of thing. I really love contemporary fiction, but being able to manipulate it without rules was very fun. As far as the two genres relating to each other, it's bit like The Wizard of Oz. The stark, cold darkness of contemporary London and San Francisco worked as a great foil to the bright magic of the fantasy world.
Jared Bruin, your SHADOW FOX hero, is dealing with a lot of issues. He's an addict and a suicidal being with no recollection of where he's from after being abandoned at age seven, plus he's got a somewhat of an uncontrollable violent streak. This is one tortured hero! What was it like to write this kind of pain? Did any life experiences help you to create and strengthen your hero's complexities?
Writing this character was definitely cathartic for me. While I wouldn't say I was suicidal when I started writing it, I was definitely suffering from a "dark night of the soul" and floundering. I've never done heroin and I rarely drink, so writing about a heroin addict and alcoholic was a stretch, but it really wanted to go that way. I felt, often, that this book wrote itself. I'm not sure where most of it came from, but I definitely felt lighter and happier when it was done.
Wonderfully, it seems as though you threw all but the kitchen sink at this novel what with the uber tortured hero, the rules of another world, not to mention war. I love when authors take risks and one could say that tossing and juggling a lot of balls in the air in terms of plot is considered a risk. What was the inspiration that moved your hands across the keyboard to create such a dynamic novel? Did feel that you were taking any risks and if so, what were they?
I think the whole idea was a pretty big risk: I am asking people to buy into a magical gateway that can be opened only by certain people, and two people that don't belong in our world manage to find each other amongst our staggering population. Because I don't like a lot of technical explanation to bog down the narrative, I'm asking for an awful lot of suspension of disbelief. And all of the dark material is always a risk. Not everyone wants to read about drugs, attempted suicides, sexual dysfunction and quite a few F-bombs. I can't really explain where the inspiration came from, except that I started building this world in my head when I was a kid. The themes have obviously matured with age, but I can say I started working on this book when I was five years old. The characters were all foxes then, but still. : )
In addition to fantasy novels, you also write plays. From your website, the two plays that you list are Jane Austen stage adaptations. Which came first with your writing, plays or novels? What's your favorite Jane Austen novel and why? Did she inspire you in any way with SHADOW FOX?
The plays sort of came in the middle. My husband and I started a theater company the same year I started writing novels. Some six or seven years into it, he talked me into adapting "Sense and Sensibility" and directing it. By then I think I had written three or four novels. I did use a lot of Jane Austen-isms in a subsequent novel called BYRON'S SHADOW which is being shopped around by my agent, but SHADOW FOX was mostly written before this. The play was published in 2005, so it still took a few years before I would see one of my novels published. As far as Jane Austen, my favorite novel would probably be "Northanger Abbey." It's so overlooked, but I just love the wit of her male protagonist. And I love how it parodies the gothic novel of the age.
Cover Talk: The cover for SHADOW FOX definitely brings to life contemporary and fantasy elements which is great for prospective readers because it gives some hint of the genre written beneath. What are your thoughts on this cover? Did you have any input at all with its creation?
I was allowed to give input on the cover, but my suggestions were thankfully ignored. I think the cover the artist came up with is stunning, and it has received a lot of great feedback and interest. It absolutely captures the mood. At first I thought -- wait, where are the swords? Where's the fox crest? But stepping back and looking at it with unbiased eyes made me realize it was a stroke of genius. Commercial, intriguing and absolutely within the integrity of the novel's atmosphere. I love it, and can't wait to see what Amanda Kelsey comes up with for the two sequels.
And finally, what's next for Ashley Barnard?
Boy, I'd love to find out! I will soon be doing edits for SHADOW FOX's sequel FOX RISING which comes out in April. Beyond that I have a couple of manuscripts that are being considered by publishers, and I'm trying to find motivation to work on a new novel. But thanks so much for asking, and for hosting me on your site!
Ashley Barnard is giving away one ebook copy of SHADOW FOX to one lucky commenter. Here's how to enter:
**Contest Open to ALL**
***Must be 18 or Older to Enter***
****Contest Closes Tuesday, November 23rd at Midnight U.S. Pacific Standard Time and the Winner will be Chosen Randomly and Announced Wednesday, November 24th****