I loved her Dark Days series. Now Jocelynn Drake is back with a new story to tell. Today she is here to talk about her new Asylum series and its latest novella, The Asylum Tales: Trixie. Please help me welcome Jocelynn to the blog.
Jen: Give everyone a little rundown on the premise for the Asylum series.
Jocelynn: The Asylum Tales series focuses on the adventures of a former warlock-in-training turned tattoo artist, as he tries to help his friends and loved ones without getting killed by the witches and warlocks who inhabit the Ivory Towers. In this new world, everything is out in the open and none of the creatures are hiding. With creatures like werewolves, vampires, elves, and minotaurs as your next door neighbor, poor humans need a little help at times to get ahead. This is where the tattoo artists can give you a hand. With the addition of a potion to the ink, the tattoo artist can improve your love life, give you good luck, or maybe help hex a cheating ex.
Jen: This is a first person male POV. That’s not unheard of in Urban Fantasy, but not nearly as common as a female lead these days. Tell me about the decision to base the series around a guy.
Jocelynn: When I started to think about creating a new series, my first rule was that it had to be completely different from my Dark Days series. With that in mind, some of the first decisions were easy: open world (versus Mira’s hiding vampires) and lighter tone (Dark Days was understandably dark). Once I decided that I was moving away from vampires, Gage immediately came to mind. My storyteller, in my mind, has always been a male. I love the female-lead stories and they are great to write, but I think using a male POV was partially about stretching my own storytelling skills and partially about leveling the playing field. The majority of first person Urban Fantasy stories are from a woman’s POV and I am getting worried that they guys are starting to take it too easy. It’s time for guys to get back into the game and kick a little butt. Can’t leave it to the women to clean up all the messes of the supernatural world!
Jocelynn: When I started writing the Dark Days series, my plan was to tell at least one book from Danaus’s POV. I always saw the series as having two lead characters and it was natural for Danaus to get a book. I hadn’t initially intended to wait until book 4 (PRAY FOR DAWN) for it happen, but I had to get a few things in the series settled before I could tell his story. Danaus’s book was hard to write, but not because he’s a guy. Danaus just doesn’t like to talk much and doesn’t like to show what he’s thinking so it wasn’t easy to get into mind. But it was interesting seeing the world through his eyes.
On the other hand, Gage has been so much fun to write! I can see him in my mind. He’s got my brother’s smirky grin and the same sarcastic, dirty sense of humor that most of my male friends have. Working with him is a lot like sitting around with my friends and listening to them talk. He is very much an open book to me and his mouth frequently gets him into trouble.
Gage is similar to Mira in that they have some impulse control issues when they are angry or their friends are threatened. But where Mira was ready to burn or kill anything in her path, Gage just wants to knock heads and scare. Gage isn’t a killer by nature and he’s paying for some of his hesitance in his dangerous world. Unlike Mira, Gage also has a close network of friends that he relies on. This gives him a stronger foundation to stand on when things get ugly.
Jen: Let’s talk a little about the novellas. What was behind the idea of kicking the series off this way?
Jocelynn: The decision to lead with some prequel novellas is actually two-fold. With the growing popularity of e-readers, e-novellas can be put out relatively quickly and at a relatively low expense for the publisher. As a result, we can keep the prices low for readers. Each novella comes in around 80-ish pages (at least they do in my Word Doc) and includes an excerpt for the first full-length novel, ANGEL’S INK. These inexpensive novellas are a great way to allow readers to try a new series and/or author without hurting their wallets. For $2, a reader gets about 100 pages that are a fantastic introduction to brand new, crazy world. Hey, everybody loves a bargain!
The real selling point for me when my publisher suggested it was that it gave me a chance to ease readers into this new series. The Dark Days series was very similar to the real world, except that it contained vampires and werewolves. The Asylum Tales is … really different. By creating two prequel novellas, readers get the chance to meet Gage, learn about his world in nice bite-sized chunks, and learn how he meets and hires his two friends Bronx (a troll) and Trixie (an elf). The novellas are not only a way of easing readers into this new world, but they also let me show little portions that I might not be able to touch on in the main novels.
Jen: The tattoos and the magic behind them play a huge role in the series. Tell us a bit more about how that all works.
Jocelynn: There are two types of magic in this world – at least in how it relates to how humans use magic. The first kind are the spells, enchantments, curses, and hex that use words, hand motions or wands, and a good dose of magic energy out of the air. If you are a human and you use the first kind of magic, then you are a witch or warlock. When you first exhibit this ability, you are taken from your home and thrust into training with a mentor in the Ivory Towers. This is NOT Hogwarts. You don’t make friends, live in houses, or play games while riding a broomstick. You learn magic or you die. Life is hard, ugly, and painful here. Only the strongest and smartest survive, but the end result is that you become one of the most powerful creatures on the planet. The world lives in constant terror of you and for good reason.
(If you are a non-human and can do this kind of magic, such as an elf, then you keep your head down and don’t catch the attention of the Towers, or you will be killed.)
The other type of magic falls in the potion category. Anyone can do this kind of magic because it doesn’t require an external magical force. All the magic lies in the ingredients. Housewives, doctors, your next door neighbor the trash collector can all do potions. If you can mix the ingredients correctly, then you can do a potion. Some potions can be eaten or drunk, but most need to be added to the bloodstream, which is why they are generally the domain of tattoo artists. A good potion added to some ink can help improve your life. Most potions have a shelf-life of either months or a few years before the effects wear off. All tattoo artists are trained and licensed in both tattooing and stirring potions. They are also tested and monitored by the Tattoo Artists and Potion Stirrers Society (TAPSS).
Warlocks and witches also use potions, but not to a heavy degree. They have no love for tattoo artists and see them as the dregs of society. Meanwhile, tattoo artists in Gage’s world have a somewhat higher place in society. You would keep your favorite local tattoo artist on speed dial like you would maybe your doctor or dentist.
Jen: Without spoiling too much, what can you tell us about the Ivory Towers?
Jocelynn: The Ivory Towers represent the true horror of Gage’s world. There are still countries and wars between these peoples, but those wars seem small compared to the things that the warlocks and the witches are capable of. The Ivory Towers are home to the warlocks and the witches. It is where they live, study, train, and plan. There is one on every continent and they are hidden from everyone that doesn’t live within the Towers. The warlocks and witches devote their lives to the study of magic, removing themselves from the rest of society so that they can’t be tainted. They see themselves as above the rest of the world, believing themselves to be an entirely separate, evolved race than regular humans.
When you see a warlock or witch, you don’t speak to them. You run. You hide. You pray. If you get in their way, they will kill you. If you try to stop them or question them, they will kill you. And there is no punishment for them. No one can stop them.
And so far, Gage is the first one to ever try to leave. He’s escaped, but there is a price to pay.
If you would like to read more about the rise of the Ivory Towers, click here to read the essay that Gage has written. (It is a PDF)
Jen: And Trixie will play a big part in the stories to come, yes?
Jocelynn: Trixie will play a somewhat large role in the story. When the first novel ANGEL’S INK opens, she has been Gage’s friend for a couple years and has worked for him at Asylum during that time. In the first novel, you’ll learn more about why she is hiding the fact that she is really an elf and learn why she had been on the run. I’m also happy to say that she is quite fond of Gage and Bronx.
Both Trixie and Bronx have a wonderful grounding effect on Gage. They help to keep him calm and centered when things are going crazy. They are there to watch his back when things go bad. They are there when loneliness threatens to swallow him up. And they are there when he’s feeling lost in a world he is trying so hard to be a part of.
No matter how hard Gage tries, he is an outsider on all sides. The Towers hate him because they see him as a traitor. If the rest of the world finds out he is a former warlock, they will try to kill him because they will only see him as one of the group that has been persecuting them for centuries. Trixie and Bronx simply see him as Gage, a tattoo artist with a knack for getting into trouble.
Jen: How many books are you contracted for in the series? Will there be any more novellas?
Jocelynn: At the moment, I am contracted for two full-length novels, two novellas, and one short story that will appear in an upcoming Halloween-themed anthology. The current release schedule is:
July 3 – The Asylum Interviews: Bronx (novella)
September 4 – The Asylum Interviews: Trixie (novella)
October 16 – Angel’s Ink (novel)
Later in October – Halloween Anthology short story
Summer 2013 – Book 2 in The Asylum Tales series
The door is wide open for more novels and novellas if the series proves to be popular. I would definitely like to write more novels for the series and I wouldn’t mind writing a novella for Gideon or Jack – two characters you will meet in the first book.
Jen: Can you give us a little snippet from Trixie to whet our appetite?
Jocelynn: Sure! This snippet is actually the opening for The Asylum Interviews: Trixie novella. To set this scene and novella up a bit: Gage gets a call from his ex-girlfriend Jo and is invited to see her band play. Now that Jo has moved back to town, it seems that she’s gotten herself into a bit of trouble but she doesn’t want to involve Gage. However, he is more than happy to jump in with the help of Jo’s friend Trixie when it looks like Jo has more trouble than she can handle.
Sound good?? Jocelynn is giving away three copies of The Asylum Tales: Trixie. This is the second novella, but it absolutely can be read as a standalone. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. A big thanks to Jocelynn Drake for taking the time to chat with me today!