Welcome Jess! And congratulations on the success of the series.
So, Mayans. It makes me wonder, how do you typically come up with your ideas? Characters first? Plot? Dreams? Divine intervention?
In this case it was a childhood vacation and a bit of divine inspiration. One of my most vivid early memories is being on a family vacation and climbing up inside the big pyramid at Chichen Itza to see the jaguar throne. People were packed nose-to-butt, crouched down in the narrow stairway, with everyone on the right side going up and the ones on the left coming down. It was dark and cold, the stones were slippery, and I’m claustrophobic. But dude, seeing the jaguar up close and thinking about the people who’d carved and worshiped it… that’s something I’ll never forget.
Years later, I was working on a suspense proposal that involved poisonous snakes, and had a total “ooh, shiny!” moment when I pulled up a website on Mayan serpent rituals. From there, I found a reference to how the Mayan Long Count calendar is going to end on December 21, 2012, coinciding with an astrological event that scientists think could trigger sunspots and magnetic reversals, and maybe even knock the earth off its orbit. And I sat there thinking: Holy crap, this is it. This is what I have to write about.
That is inspiration (and shiny). I know you’ve also written for Harlequin Intrigue. When and how did you make the leap to single title?
My first Intrigue came out in late 2003; my twenty-first comes out in a couple of months (SNOWED IN WITH THE BOSS 3/09). While working on the Intrigues, I kept submitting single title proposals that never really went anywhere, I think because I was trying to write a medical romantic suspense that was longer without really being bigger. It wasn’t until I stumbled on the Nightkeepers’ world that a storyline really grabbed me and demanded that I write it.
After finding the reference to the 12/21/2012 doomsday that inspired the series, it took me nearly eighteen months of in-depth research, worldbuilding, writing and re-writing before I had a strong proposal that not only had the cool 2012 doomsday concept going for it, but also had compelling characters, an intricate plot and a romance strong enough to pull off the concept.
Within two weeks of submitting the proposal to a select few agents, I signed with the wonderful Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. I told her that my dream editor/publisher would be Kara Cesare at NAL, because of the amazing job she’s done with my critique partner’s stories (J.R. Ward and her awesome Black Dagger Brotherhood series). Within a few days of Deidre sending the proposal to Kara, NAL had pre-empted, and we were on our way!
What a great story. And I was so impressed by the depth of detail of the worldbuilding in these books. Can you tell us a bit more about your Novels of the Final Prophecy series?
The long and the short of it is that the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar ends on December 21, 2012. On that day, the sun, moon and earth will align at the galactic center, in a conjunction that some scientists predict could trigger cataclysmic upheavals (sun spots, magnetic reversals, etc.). The Novels of the Final Prophecy tell of the ancient Mayan myths that come to life in the last four years before 12/21/2012, and their opposition by the Nightkeepers, descendants of an ancient magic-wielding race sworn to protect mankind from the apocalypse.
In NIGHTKEEPERS, the last king of the magi is forced to team up with a Miami-Dade narcotics detective in order to reunite his scattered warriors and fight the gods of the Mayan underworld. Wielding ancestral magic based on bloodletting and sex, the king will have to choose between his duty and his love for the human woman who is the gods' destined sacrifice.
In DAWNKEEPERS, Nightkeeper Nate Blackhawk isn’t about to let the gods determine his destiny- especially when it comes to his feelings for Alexis Gray, his ex-lover and nemesis. But when they’re forced to work together, racing to recover seven antiquities before the demons get their claws on the vital artifacts, Nate and Alexis will have to face their feelings- and their past- in order to defeat a dire and ancient enemy.
WOW. Human sacrifice. Demons. The end of the world. Now that's conflict! You mentioned you’re critique partners with Jessica Bird/J.R. Ward. How long have you two been critiquing each others work and how did you meet?
JRW and I met through our local RWA chapter back when she lived in the Boston area. We kept in touch when she moved away, and when she was transitioning away from doing the series Jessica Bird books, she asked if I’d take a look at a proposal she was working on. She sent it to me, and it was hands-down fabulous. It went on to become DARK LOVER, the first of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.
Since then, we’ve stayed in pretty close touch, reading each other’s stuff, talking about the industry and the marketplace, that sort of thing. We have very different styles and voices; I think that’s why we work so well as CPs… that, and because we have a really high level of trust with each other.
Great critiquing is all about trust, isn't it? Congratulations on getting the cover of Romantic Times! How was the photo shoot?
Dude, I had this horrible flu (I think they eventually named it Brisbane; you know it’s bad when it gets a name) on the day of the photo shoot, but I was up against the magazine deadline so I couldn’t put it off. I dragged myself into the salon where I usually go for my annual haircut
In retrospect, I think I was better off being feverish during the shoot. I just sort of zoned out, did everything she said, and didn’t bother feeling self-conscious. The pictures came out amazing, kudos entirely to Julia (and Dennis and Jill at Antenna Hair Salon).
Wow. You'd never know you weren't feeling well from the photo. Your inner-super-model really shone through. Are you a plotter or a seat-of-your-pantser?
Um… a little of both. Because the books of the FINAL PROPHECY series are interconnected (each is a stand-alone with a complete romance, but they add to each other within the larger save-the-world story arc) I definitely plan and outline prior to writing. For each book, I know where each of the characters and plot lines begins and approximately where each should end up, and I’ve got some major scenes and turning points sketched out. However, when I’m actually writing the story, I often find myself getting to a point where I’ve planned for something to happen, and realizing that because I’ve planned it that way, I’ve made it too obvious. I’m a huge fan of being surprised in books/movies/TV shows, and I’d like to give readers the same experience. Thus, when I get to a point where the next step seems obvious, that’s exactly where I say to myself ‘What else could happen?’ and go with that option as long as it makes sense with the character and situation. Life is unexpected, so as far as I’m concerned, stories should be unpredictable within the rules of the world.
That is some smart storytelling advice right there… **Maureen pauses to jot it down** What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows?
Books: anything by Suz Brockmann, JR Ward or Linnea Sinclair. Movies: anything current and loud, with a clearly defined hero and a HEA. Romantic subplot a bonus. TV shows: BONES and the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Hands down, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Hubby is forbidden to speak to me during either of those shows, lest I miss something.
I LOVE Battlestar Galactica. And the final season has finally started! Yippee! So, what are you working on now? (In between episodes of BSG and Bones.)
I’ve just started the fourth book in the Nightkeepers’ series. The third, SKYKEEPERS will be released in August 09. Woot!
Fabulous. Can't wait to see how it all ends up, uh, if we all die in 2012, I guess. And now for the really hard-hitting question: Chocolate or vanilla?
Jess, thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Everyone should visit Jessica's cool website at: www.jessicaandersen.com and NIGHTKEEPERS and DAWNKEEPERS, the first two books in the Novels of the Final Prophecy series, are on the shelves now.