Cover of Ally Shields' newest book in her Guardian Witch series
Interview with Mystery Writer Ally Shields
1. When did you begin writing? Why?
I've been in love with books all my life. I was the kid that carried a stack of books home from the library one week and was back the next week for another stack. I wrote my first novel at age nine, a 150 page handwritten story of Golden King, a wild palomino stallion loved by a child. Since then I've written for school and college newspapers, the county newspaper, organization newsletters, and numerous office briefs and reports. I've written short stories now, collected boxes of brief scenes or notes for characters, and won a couple of short story contests. My next novel was a cozy written about twenty years ago. Life and work intervened again, and I didn't begin writing full time until late in 2008.
2. When and why did you begin writing mysteries?
I've always been a reader of mysteries and fantasies. Twenty years ago I wrote a cozy mystery entitled "Til Death Us Do Part" but I ended up not pursuing publication. In 2008 I set out to write a traditional mystery with a cop sleuth, but after the first few pages of the manuscript the heroine informed me she was a witch. The final result was a hybrid mystery/urban fantasy that evolved into a series.
3. Are you writing a series or a stand-alone? Explain your basic idea for your series.
My published books are in an urban fantasy/supernatural mysteries series entitled The Guardian Witch. Four books are currently published, the most recent was released October 18. The books revolve around Arianna Calin, a fire witch who serves as the Guardian or supernatural cop for the Otherworlders who live in the fictional city of Riverdale. When working on joint cases that involve humans, she has a human partner Ryan, who is kind of iffy about the supernatural stuff. There is a love interest and quasi third partner in her investigations, a charismatic vampire, Andreas De Luca. Each book has a separate mystery or mysteries solved within the novel but there are also on-going story arcs that re-appear in each novel.
4. Tell us about your journey to publication with this book.
Awakening the Fire, the first book in the series was completely re-written three times over a span of three years, including changing names, title, and POV. Along its journey it was rejected 167 times. After the final major rewrite, I submitted it to three small publishers, and all three expressed interest. I also had the sequel written and the third book drafted. When Etopia Press said they wanted all three, my decision was made. I just recently submitted book five for consideration and plan at least two books after that in this series.
5. Why did you choose to write about the topic, community, issues you chose?
As I mentioned above, I didn't consciously set out to write a paranormal story, but once I did, the themes wrote themselves, along with others that are inherent in crime stories: love, hate, betrayal, prejudice. I've used them all but not deliberately. Any themes are only the logical consequence of the story I'm telling.
6. How have you found it to be published? Share that experience.
Hectic and exciting. I was thrilled the day I signed the contract. Then came the hard work of revisions, editing, proofing—on a deadline—and the all-consuming marketing. I love writing, and I love hearing from my readers. Everything in between has been a revelation and not always the most pleasant one. But I've learned to take most of it in stride, although I do work longer hours than ever before and have less writing time than I want. Still, would I trade it for a different career? No way. :)
7. Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you’d like to share?
I've been fortunate to have very supportive readers. You can find their comments mostly on Amazon and Goodreads, but I share them on Twitter all the time. If readers are interested, they should follow @ShieldsAlly!
8. What other books have you published and where, when?
The four current books in this series are my only published novels: Awakening the Fire, Fire Within, Burning Both Ends, Blood and Fire. They can be found on my website or at most on-line booksellers.
9. Do you have a work in progress now? Is it part of a series?
I have three works in progress for three different series: an espionage series, book six of the Guardian Witch series, and a new paranormal series. I don't read many standalones, so I don't write them. If I get involved with a character, I'd like it to be a long term relationship. :)
10. If you belong to Sisters in Crime, and/or the Guppies, has that been helpful? How?
I would have given up a long time ago if not for SinC and SinC Guppies. I'd been writing full time for about a year and had already collected several rejection slips. No one was taking my writing seriously, including my friends and family. They simply didn't understand why I wanted to spend so much time on my "hobby." Only I didn't see it as a hobby, and I was feeling really alone. The first time I introduced myself on the Guppy list, I ran into the friendliest group of people who understood exactly how I felt about writing. I almost cried when I read their welcoming responses. Since that time they have been an invaluable source of information and support. I couldn't imagine having a writing career without them.
11. What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic?
I've never been to Malice, but I've been to Bouchercon several times and used to go to Mayhem in the Midlands before it was discontinued. However, I went as a reader and aspiring writer, not an author. I just haven't found time to go in the last year. Past conferences were a great place to meet and greet authors and readers, catch up on the latest industry news, pick up writing tips, but mostly to recharge my batteries. Conferences give off a lot of energy which I love to absorb and take home to pour into my writing.
12. What else would like to say about your books, the next one in your series?
Book four in the series, Blood and Fire, was just released October 18. The next book is scheduled for early 2014. While I attempted to write each book with enough background to understand the current story, I recommend that the series be read in order.
Cover of Ally Shields's first novel in her Guardian Witch series
Book Info for Blood and Fire:
Book Title: Blood and Fire
Series Name and book no. (if applicable): Guardian Witch #4
Book Author: Ally Shields
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2013
Publisher: Etopia Press
Link to publisher's page: http://etopiapressblog.wordpress.com/
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Book length: novel
Romance Heat level: 1 (mild)
A dead body, black magic, and a vampire enforcer...
Ari thought her biggest problem was deciding if she should move in with her vampire boyfriend, Andreas. That was before they found the dead body at the bottom of the Riverdale cliffs. And before she realized he'd been cursed by black magic.
Just as she begins the murder investigation, the vampire rulers in Europe send an enforcer to make inquiries into the recent defeat of the Toronto vampire prince. While Andreas has taken responsibility for the brutal dictator’s death, there is much about the incident that he and Ari must keep to themselves—secrets the vampire elders would stop at nothing to learn.
With threats of retaliation hanging over their heads, Ari moves into Andreas’s Victorian mansion—for safety’s sake—while the enforcer begins a campaign of terror. Ari is caught between competing dangers and challenges: black magic, a ghost, a missing Native American artifact…not to mention a new roommate…all while trying to stay alive.
Buy Links for Blood & Fire (Guardian Witch Book Four):
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Fire-Guardian-Witch-Shields-ebook/dp/B00FYZ6XRA/
Book listing on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18583974-blood-fire
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/allyshields
Ally Shields is the pseudonym for writer Janet L. Buck who was born and raised in the Midwest, along the Mississippi River, the setting for her urban fantasy series. After a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time writing in 2009, and Awakening the Fire, the debut novel in her Guardian Witch series, was released in September 2012. She currently resides near Des Moines, Iowa, with her Miniature Pinscher, Ranger. When not writing, reading or spending time with her family, she loves to travel in the US and abroad. Way too often she can be found on Twitter.