Celebrating four years of Blackthorn
Today is an amazing day Bookworms! As a die-hard fan of the incredible Blackthorn series, I am so excited to be able to tell you that Lindsay J. Pryor, author of said Blackthorn series has graciously agreed to take some time away from writing the much anticipated final book in the Blackthorn series – Blood Broken – to answer some questions and have a little fun!
Welcome Lindsay! It’s so great to have you here. Thank you for sparing some time from, what I imagine, is a very hectic schedule for you right now.
It’s such a pleasure to be here, Stephanie. Thanks for inviting me – and coming up with some amazing questions! Many of these are a first for me. Thanks for giving it so much thought.
So this month is a very special month for you and all Blackthorn fans, as it marks four years since the first book of the series – Blood Shadows – was released. Looking back to that time when Blood Shadows was first published, can you remember how it felt to have your first book out there for the public to read?
It was an incredible feeling. It’s clichéd, I know, but it truly was a dream come true to have a book published. Because of that, it was easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and enjoyment of it all. Many days were spent clutching my paperback to convince myself it had actually happened.
However, it was only when I started to receive fan mail and reviews from readers that it truly sunk in that real people from anywhere in the world were choosing to pick up my book and read it. It was such a surreal but inspiring experience. Obviously, as with anyone putting themselves out there in front of an audience, it was scary at times too. You never know what kind of reaction you’re going to get and there’s no taking it back once you’ve put yourself in a public forum.
When you started writing Blood Shadows did you have a firm plan in place as to how the entire Blackthorn series would play out or did you do a lot of discovery writing?
Blood Shadows wasn’t the first Blackthorn book I wrote, Blood Roses was. By the time it came to writing both, the series was all planned out (except for Jask and Phia’s story – more on that later).
Although Blackthorn’s only been published for four years, I began working on it twenty years ago this year. It started out as a labour of love with no intention of it ever being published, so discovery writing definitely played a huge part in the early days. I spent years developing the world in my spare time whilst working on other books as well, writing numerous short stories to get to know both the setting and the characters who inhabited it. Once I had a firm foundation for the overarching plot out of that i.e. the downfall of this oppressive system, the main characters playing a part in that were already glowing from the page. Kane and Caitlin, Caleb and Leila, and Eden and Jessie all evolved from those short stories.
By the time I was offered a publishing deal, two books were written (Blood Shadows and Blood Roses) and the overarching plot was firmly established. That’s how I managed to place all the breadcrumbs in the earlier Blackthorn books ready for those later in the series.
Have you managed to stick to that original plan or have your characters developed in unexpected ways?
I’ve basically stuck to the plan – certainly in terms of how it would start, what needed to happen in the middle and how it would end. Saying that, threads or directions within individual books definitely changed. Bearing in mind that I was 22 when I first started penning down my ideas and I was 38 when it was finally published, aspects inevitably altered over time before then. Some elements changed because I got to know the characters better or that kind of theme or concept had already been over-wrung on TV and in books etc since. I’ll never forget one reviewer telling me he’d have rated my book higher if only I’d shown more originality in choosing a name other than the over-used “Kane” for my hero. The only Kane I knew when I named him was from Bible classes (spelt Cain, of course)!
The biggest unexpected change was Jask and Phia taking on their own story. My editor at the time took a shine to Jask as had author Michele Hauf (who had been my Blood Shadows mentor in the competition through which I was discovered). Both felt Jask deserved a story – and a love interest – of his own. Despite my fears over trying to develop a plausible romance between him and Phia (I thought he’d throttle her first), they sparked beautifully when together. And because I already had notes about the lycans’ plight as well as having established Jask and Phia’s role in the overarching story, it was reasonably straightforward to incorporate. It still remains one of the best editorial inputs I’ve had into the series.
You have four extremely coveted male leads in the series. Do you ever struggle to keep them in line?
I have my moments with them! The character I’ve had the most trouble with is Phia though. She’s so impetuous! The number of times I’ve cringed at the things she’s said or the decisions she’s made… There were a number of times I nearly intervened but I feel that can be the worst thing to do as an author: dictate your own values and behaviours onto your characters. It’s so stifling if you do that. And I’m glad I let her run wild in her own emotive and haphazard way because I think it really strengthened Jask’s character in how well he handled her.
With three books published in a year, it must have been a busy time for you. Do you have a strict writing schedule, perhaps a certain word count that you strive to hit every day?
It doesn’t take much to motivate me. I think that comes with loving my job so much. Saying that, I had to put a lot of pressure on myself this year with having such limited time to write first drafts and, with it, going straight from the mindset of one group of characters to another without a break in between. It’s certainly not easy writing under pressure whilst holding eight books in your head instead of just one.
I don’t so much get caught up with word counts though as the relevance of the scenes I’m producing. When I’m in free-flow writing I can write anything up to 10,000 words a day offset by many more days staring into space as I play all the scenes out in my head like a film first.
How does it feel to have the public show such a passion for your writing and characters?
Creating characters that readers connect with is immense. Every writer starts with nothing but a blank piece of paper, so to bring a world and characters alive in a person’s mind from that is the most incredible feeling – and even more so when readers start to care about them as much as you do. Even when readers loathe my characters, there’s still a compliment in that of having made the characters real enough to evoke those feelings.
As for readers who make their passion public, they’re the backbone that keeps writers writing. The vast majority of readers never let an author know if they enjoyed their work.
Speaking of people showing great passion for Blackthorn, you have a great street team you proudly refer to as your Darklings. As they do such a great job of spreading the love of yourself and Blackthorn, I thought I would invite them to ask a few of questions of their own…
Can I just say my Darklings are incredible! They’ve only been around for the past twelve months and have been one of the best things to ever happen to Blackthorn. I can’t wait to see these questions!
Each character in the Blackthorn series is so unique, how do you decide on the various personalities of the characters?
They develop from many factors. Ultimately they’re created out of conflict (internal and external). A good dose of conflict creates tension. Tension creates questions. Questions create interest. Interest keeps people reading to find the answers. All of my characters’ personalities (and subsequent dynamics) are born out of that.
From then on, building a character is like building anything else: if you get the foundation right, you can refine with the finishing touches later (which is my favourite part). Put them on the page with others and that’s when you really start to discover who your characters are. In the early days, I even used to speed date my Blackthorn characters to check if the spark was instant!
If you were offered a movie or TV series deal, which would you prefer?
Definitely a TV series. It was fantastic for Blood Shadows to be optioned for a movie by Relativity Media but Blackthorn is ultimately written like a TV mini-series, so I think that approach would do the character development and overarching plot more justice. Oh, but if I ever get offered a movie deal which includes me being able to co-write the script, this question never got answered.
If you had to choose just one of the main four boys to kill off, who would it be?
Just one? I was going to kill off three…
Do you have a favourite amongst the four hot boys? Kane, Caleb, Jask or Eden?
Kane. No, Caleb. No, Jask. No, Eden. No, Kane… shall I keep going? I can do this all day…
Have you any more stories you’ve kept in your bottom drawer like you did Blackthorn? If so, are they going to be showing themselves?
Soooo many! It comes with the territory of having been a hobby writer for so many years. I’d like to think one or two will be showing themselves in the not-too-distant future.
Which district would you prefer to live in?
In terms of aesthetics, most definitely Summerton. I don’t cope well with busy urban places. I’m definitely more inclined towards the countryside or beach. I think I’d really struggle with all the elitism in Summerton though. But as I’m a coward when it comes to a foreboding sense of danger, both Blackthorn and Lowtown are definitely ruled out. I’ll pick a spot nestled on the quiet edge of Midtown.
Which pair/couple would you swap around e.g. Caitlin with Caleb?
I know who wouldn’t work: Caleb and Sophia. Shortest book ever! It would go something like… Sophia walked into a room and said something irresponsible and impulsive to Caleb. Caleb reacted. The end.
What characteristics do you share with each of the heroines? Is one of the heroines more similar to you – if so, which one and why?
I have Caitlin’s persistence, am observant and patient like Leila, have no problem standing up for what I believe in like Phia, and have Jessie’s compassion. On the flip side, I can be too focused on my work like Caitlin, opinionated like Leila, have smart-mouth moments like Phia (rarely seen in public, but they’re there!) and, like Jessie, can be closed until I trust someone.
What is your favorite/preferred genre to write?
I love writing complex characters and dark stories, usually with a psychological slant, as these provide the high levels of conflict, suspense and tension that interest me the most as both a writer and reader. I believe those elements are cross-genre. I will always ultimately love the creativity writing fantasy offers though, which is why I’m consistently drawn back to it.
How did you decide on the names of the characters? Is there any special significance for any of them?
More often than not, they come ready-made with names. I have no idea why or how, they just do. I usually go with the first name that comes into my head. I do like to check the meaning afterwards and as long as it’s nothing that would contradict who they are, I stick with my first choice. I remember Leila was inspired by the Eric Clapton song though, even if it is spelt differently.
And I have a lot of fun with the made-up names, such as Feinith which derives from ‘fei’ aka Fairy but has the ‘th’ sound to give her snake-like qualities.
Are there any moments that you can’t help but cry to or get upset when you read the series?
Up to this point, I haven’t re-read my books after they were published. I’m always petrified of seeing a mistake or of wishing I’d done something differently. I’ve definitely had more than my fair share of tears during writing though! I hate losing people in Blackthorn, so that always upsets me. Any of those moments are top of the list.
Kane showing his love for Caitlin at the end of Blood Dark was a killer. Seeing that side of him feeling so helpless really got to me, especially as he showed that vulnerable side not only to Caitlin, but was so caught up in his fear of losing her that he didn’t care that everyone else saw it too. His defenses were well and truly down which is rare for him.
In fact, sitting here thinking through so many scenes (too many to list and too many spoilers involved if I do) is reminding me how traumatic this series has been in places!! I’m so sorry!!
Which is your favorite scene and your hated scene you wrote so far?
Oh, I have lots of favourites. I think one of the ones that stands out the most is in Blood Instinct. I won’t elaborate too much because of spoilers but will just say tennis ball, compound, army, graves. I had that planned from Blood Torn and couldn’t wait to share it. It’s another example of why I put all the clues in earlier books, in this case lycan sensitivity to vibrations (why they sleep on the floor) and why Jask played with a tennis ball in Blood Torn.
As for scenes I’ve hated writing, it’s another from Blood Instinct that stands out again. I loathed writing the scene where Sirius exposes his attitude to the genetically created lycans at The Facility. He’s the epitome of everything I despise about some people’s attitudes to living creatures. Uttering some of what he said really stuck in my throat.
How do you come up those fabulous one-liners from *our boys*?
Ha! I’ll let each of them take credit for their own. Obviously it’s nothing to do with me! Seriously though, it’s just about letting the characters run free on the page and me losing my self-consciousness in order to allow them to do that. I’ve always loved writing dialogue and spent most of my teenage years writing and performing sketches and plays so it’s an ingrained habit to stay in character as much as possible.
When you write a scene is your first thought ‘How can I traumatise the reader even more?’
This made me laugh out loud. I’m so sorry! Basically yes, more or less. There are times when I severely worry about it though. That’s happening more and more with how much my readers now care about my characters. I always aim to have enough moments to pull everyone through with a smile though too!
Do characters sometimes surprise you and go in the opposite direction of what you had planned for them?
It definitely happens but, by some miracle, I also manage to get to the outcome needed! One of the biggest curveballs came from Kane at the end of Blood Shadows. *massive spoiler alert* I’d had it planned that he would intervene between the soul ripper and Caitlin, subsequently play the traditional hero, and only confess later that she could have saved herself. But it had never felt right, more so because it would have made him a coward. Then when I was writing that scene, he stepped back at the last moment instead – and I loved him for it.
However, once it was published, I was really nervous about that scene. I knew a lot of readers who preferred the more traditional approach in paranormal romance were going to hate that Kane didn’t do the typically heroic thing and defend the heroine. And, as predicted, he certainly got a lot of backlash for it. But I think heroics come in lots of different ways and that moment was all about Kane empowering Caitlin and seeing her as an equal. She didn’t need him. She never had. He’d freed her at that moment, giving her the opportunity to walk away from him without any sense of emotional debt. He’d also given her the satisfaction of her own revenge, which is what she ultimately came to him for. He gave her the closure she needed.
From that point on it was definitely about writing Blackthorn as I’d intended to write it and not be intimated by the rules of what I should and shouldn’t be allowed to do. I love my characters for those kinds of curveballs.
Thank you Darklings for those fantastic questions!
So Lindsay, seven books of the Blackthorn series have now been published, with the eighth and final book currently being written. Looking back at all of the amazing and dynamic characters, both good and evil, is there one in particular that holds a special place in your heart?
There are characters I love to love, characters I love to hate and a few that, at times, I hate to love. Even characters I despise such as Rob, Feinith, Sirius are brilliant to work with.
As for my heroes and heroines, they all hold a special place in my heart for one reason or another. When it comes to the most interesting character to write though it has to be the one I’ve been through the toughest journey with: Caleb. He’s so unpredictable and complex. I have the deepest need for him to be happy.
How did you come up with the idea of the ‘fourth species’?
It was whilst devising the conflict for Blood Shadows. I needed to tie Caitlin’s story to Kane’s and so the soul ripper was born. It also helped massively because I needed to give Caitlin a solid reason to be pursuing Kane even though it made no sense for her to put herself in that kind of danger. By giving her three days left to live and a drive for vengeance, she had the ultimate motivation to do whatever it took to get what she wanted.
Out of it, the fourth dimension was created which gave me massive scope for adding further complexities to the Blackthorn world as well as a concept that would play a key role in the overarching plot.
I will confess though that I didn’t create all of the creatures exclusively for Blackthorn. Because I used to write horror, some were from notes for other books. They merely transferred to living in Blackthorn instead.
Are any of your characters based on people you have known or perhaps even certain celebrities, whether physical attributes or personalities?
I’m afraid not. I’m sure there are influences as no creativity comes out of a vaccum. I don’t look at an actor or actress and write them into a book though, or see real life people and write about them. All of my characters are purely from my imagination.
With Blackthorn’s finale approaching, I know many fans will be excited to find out how it will all end. However there is also a sadness in knowing Blood Broken really does mean the end to the Blackthorn series. Do you have any plans to revisit Blackthorn or any of its residents in the future?
That’s the question I’m getting asked more than any other at the moment. I don’t think it felt real for many of my readers when I announced a couple of years ago that there would only be eight books. I know authors can sometimes change their minds and extend a series and some have expected me to do that, but it can’t be done with Blackthorn because of the over-arching plot has been constructed to build up to this point.
I’m just as sad as my readers are that it’s coming to an end. I’ve lived with these characters for twenty years. They’re a part of my family. Saying goodbye to them is going to be tough. I would never rule out working with them again one day though. And as for revisiting Blackthorn itself, it’s a world full of potential. There’s tonnes more left to explore.
Once Blood Broken has been published, do you have any plans for writing a different series, perhaps venturing into a different genre?
I’m already underway with new books now, so watch this space!
Thank you so much for taking the time to be here Lindsay! It’s been great having you!
Huge congratulations to Linda Brandt! (Facebook entry) You have won this fantastic prize!
Thank you to everyone who showed this interview such fantastic support! And of course to Lindsay for taking part!
I am very excited to tell you all that Lindsay has very kindly offered a lucky reader the chance to win a SIGNED PAPERBACK of Blood Bound and a SIGNED POSTCARD!!!
So, for the chance to win this fantastic prize all you have to do is leave a comment either here or on MyBookwormBlogger’s Facebook page telling me what you learned from this interview that you didn’t know before.
The winner will be chosen Wednesday evening. Good luck to everyone!
If you’re new to the Blackthorn series and want to get started, here are the links to each book in the series.