When VENGEANCE BORN, my debut fantasy romance for Berkley, was a mere yeast granule in the syrupy depths of my mind, I played the "What if..." game to come up with the characters, their background, and a few half formed plot lines.
Not too many, as I'm a die-hard pantstering-scener (imagine you're standing on a hill on foggy, winter's morning, and all you can see is the tops of other hills in the distance - you have no idea what sort of terrain you're going to cover once you descend beneath the fog but you do know the general direction you're headed - that's a pantstering-scener).
But I digress, back to VENGEANCE BORN!
I saw the opening scene of Annika descending into the dungeon to rescue Kalan, the hero - but what had brought her there? Why was she rescuing him?
What if she were half demon, half human and despised by both races, how would that environment influence her? What personality traits or flaws would that develop? What strengths and weaknesses would she have? A flawed sense of worth? A need for acceptance?
Could any one person balance her upbringing? What role would they play? How could they affect her? Would she have the courage or determination to free herself? Would she be strong enough to rescue herself?
And what about Kalan, the warrior she intended rescuing from her father's dungeon? What was he doing there? Who was he?
If he considered demon's his enemy, what would his response be when he discovered Annika's identity? How would that affect his behaviour toward her? Would it hamper their escape from the dungeon? Their flight to human territory?
Working out the rough details gave me enough to begin writing the story. The opening chapter is up on my website, but this snippet is the first personal hurdle Annika and Kalan face as they escape from her father's dungeon.
Kalan frowned. “Your eyes...”
Annika hesitated in reaching for the pouch at her feet. “What about them?”
“Why do they keep changing color?”
She unlaced the pouch and thrust his clothes at him then turned her back on him to pull her dress on over her head. Was she ignoring his question?
“The color changes with what I’m feeling. This trait belongs only to the Na’Chi.”
“Your eyes are red now. What does that mean?” He laid aside the sodden cloak and slid into his breeches, lacing them up swiftly. They were torn and ragged but better than no protection against the cold night air. He paused, his shirt in his hands, as the silence between them lengthened again. “Annika?”
“You’ve made it quite clear you don’t trust me.” She fiddled with the flap of the pouch. “What’s to stop you killing me if you don’t like some of my answers?”
“There’s always that chance,” he conceded as he pulled on his shirt. He doubted he had the strength for a sustained fight, though she didn’t need to know that. Instilling fear into an opponent didn’t always require a blade.
Yet he owed her, owed her his life. He was out of the dungeon and now he’d have a fighting chance to escape the Na’Reish and live. “But Hesia advised me to listen to you with an open mind and that’s what I’ll do.”
She glanced at him then away, something he noticed she did a lot. “Perhaps we can talk as we keep moving.”
A delaying tactic. The reluctance in her voice was a dead giveaway. He motioned her to lead the way, willing to let her get away with it but determined to get some answers.
A half-moon provided enough light to see by. The grassy bank gave way to a rocky roadway that they crossed quickly. His patience ended as they reached the edge of a densely wooded forest but before he could prompt her, she spoke.
“I’ve used a lot of energy tonight. Red means I’m hungry.”
“Hungry?” He halted by a thick tree trunk, the shadowed darkness beyond it less daunting than the fear that skittered along his spine. “For what?”
His scalp crawled, shock and anger twisting within him. Lady’s Breath! Hadn’t he been trained never to let his guard down? A half-demon, even a pretty one, was still a demon. With a curse he jerked away from her, reaching for a sword no longer belted around his waist. “You drink blood?”
Adrenaline raced through him when he realized he was unarmed. Unarmed against a woman powerful enough to kill with a touch. He fisted his hands.
“That’s why you helped me escape? Why you need me with you?” The image of her latched onto him, feeding, flashed through his mind. “I’m a convenient food source?”
How many Light Blade warriors had he seen fall in battle? How many had he heard scream in agony as demon teeth ripped into their throat or wrists so they could be drained of blood?
Nausea choked him. Too many.
Kalan dropped into a crouch, teeth bared. “Come one step closer and I will kill you."
Their relationship is very Shakespearean - they come from warring houses, and from the start both believe any romantic involvement is doomed to fail, a tragedy in the making.
They have so much to overcome – personal and external prejudices and misconceptions, opposition from those who know them, and it’s complicated by the rising tension between humans and demons. Throw in a couple of culture-shaking secrets and it makes you wonder if they’re ever going to have a happy ending!
Unfortunately, I can't tell you how the story ends, but if you want to find out then share with me one of your all time favorite, happy endings - personal event, book, movie, whatever you like - and I'll put you in the draw to win a copy of VENGEANCE BORN.
I look forward to reading your answers!
(Book #1 of the Light Blade series)
Annika, half-blood daughter of the Na’Reish King, longs for more than her tormented life among her father’s people. Conceived in hatred and bred as a tool of retribution, she’s gifted with a special talent that can heal as well as destroy.
With the Na’Reish vastly outnumbering them, Kalan, a Light Blade warrior, knows the future of humankind depends on him alone. Incursions into human territory and raids for blood-slaves by the Na’Reish Horde have increased. As Chosen-leader, he faces the task of stopping the demons—and convincing the Council of aging Light Blade warriors that change is necessary for survival.
When Annika learns Kalan is a prisoner in her father’s dungeon, her dream of escape seems within reach. She agrees to free him in exchange for his protection once they reach human territory. Now, marked for death for helping him, Annika must learn to trust Kalan as they face not only the perilous journey to the border but enemies within the Council—and discover a shocking truth that could throw the human race into civil war…
VENGEANCE BORN was released with Berkley Sensation on February 7th (USA/Canada).
The second book in the series, ALLIANCE FORGED, is due out on July 3rd (USA/Canada).
Kylie Griffin’s obsession with all things paranormal/fantasy started at an early age, when she used to imagine the jacaranda tree in her front yard was a spaceship used to defend the world from invading enemies. Writing stories seemed a natural extension to her childhood adventures.
Today, she’s a primary school teacher sharing her love for the written word with young children. In her spare time, she writes and reads all things paranormal.
Kylie lives in a small rural village in outback New South Wales, Australia, where she volunteers in a number of emergency service organizations in her local community.
You can visit her website, blog, or find her on Goodreads, Shelfari, Facebook & Twitter.