Welcome back to Duck Chat!
Today we’re talking to Bonnie Vanak, who is a very busy lady. As I put the finishing touches on her interview, she’s on her way to Haiti. Wow, what a way to spend a week! Right? That’s what I thought too. But it’s definitely not so. Read on and you’ll find out why writing romance is a balm to her soul.
Bonnie lives with her family in sunny Florida. Well, at least it’s sunny when the hurricanes decide to hurtle in a different direction anyway. She has a journalism degree and worked as s journalist for a few years before she began writing for a large international charity. After traveling to Nicaragua, Haiti and other poor countries, it was writing romance that helps her recover after encountering such horrific suffering.
Her first book was the beginning of her Egyptian novels, The Falcon and the Dove in 2001, followed by The Tiger and the Tomb in 2003, The Cobra and the Concubine in 2005, The Panther and the Pyramid in 2006, The Sword and the Sheath in 2007, and The Scorpion and the Seducer in 2008, and in April 2009 will be The Lady and the Libertine. She’s also written several Silhouette Nocturnes that feature her Draicon shape-shifting wolves, The Empath, Enemy Lover, and Broken Souls, a Nocturne Bite, in the Midnight Cravings anthology. When in the world did she have time to sit down to talk with us? Thank goodness she found a few spare minutes.
Bonnie will be in and out of the Pond today, so if you have questions or comments, let her know. Now let’s chat!
Duck Chat: You’re so busy writing both your Egyptian historicals for Dorchester and your werewolf books for Silhouette Nocturne! Do you have a set schedule you adhere to for writing each genre or do you just write one book until it’s done before going on to the next? Or something else?
Bonnie Vanak: I usually have a schedule because I must space apart my deadlines due to the day job. But sometimes I’ll have something unexpected (a nice surprise!) to write, like with Unwrapped, the novella for Holiday with a Vampire III.
DC: If you could retire any question and never, ever have it asked again, what would it be? Feel free to answer it.
BV: Why do you write porn for women?
Honestly, someone asked that recently. I do get tired of the whole “romance is trash” attitude, always from those who never read romance or my books. I’ll share a story about this. A few years ago, I was in Haiti for the day job. After we finished work, I was in the hotel lobby reading Pamela Clare’s Ride the Fire while waiting for my co-workers so we could go to dinner. Great book. I’m chilling.
And along comes the newbie, the newest member of my department. We start talking, and he discovers that I write romance novels. The newbie looks at me and says, “Oh, those books are read by desperate women.”
The other co-worker joins us. This guy, who thinks it’s great that I write romance, tosses out some impressive stats about the industry that he heard on NPR, such as how Nora Roberts outsells the leading MALE fiction writer. Then I launch into the reason why I write the books. To balance my life after seeing the hunger and suffering in places like Haiti, because my romance novels always have happy endings.
The newbie wants to know if I write sex scenes. I tell him yes. Then he gets this goofy look and says, “Oh, and you use words like thrust. Romance novels are like PENTHOUSE.”
I ignore that and give an impressive little talk, woven in with stats about what percentage of American women buy romance novels, what kind of market share in publishing romance garners… how the books are character driven and the books are love stories about relationships, etc, etc.
When I finish, he says, “So it’s all about the thrust.” He pumps his fist forward. Some days, I just regret wasting my breath.
DC: Your seventh historical is The Lady and the Libertine which is due out in April. Would you tell us a little about it?
In this book, a displaced English earl seduces a virginal beauty in order to steal the pharaoh’s treasure she guards in Egypt. I pitted Nigel, a thief, liar, and libertine, who was cheated out of his birthright as earl, against Anne/Karida, who has sworn to be upright and moral. Karida was born in England and taken to live with my Khamsin warriors of the wind in Egypt. They entrusted her with a ruby that unlocks the key to a fabulous treasure buried in the sands.
Nigel was fascinating to write and may be one of my favorite heroes because he’s so complex. He does the wrong things for the right reasons. He’s very naughty, and just when you think he’ll change, he turns around and does something wicked again.
I loosely based the pharaoh’s treasure tomb on the Valley of the Golden Mummies in the Bahariya Oasis, four tombs of about 105 mummies excavated by Dr. Zahi Hawass.
DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes?
BV: Definitely. A good example of that are the gremlins in Unwrapped. They literally popped out of nowhere. I had this image of little grinning, green guys dressed like Santa singing off-key Christmas carols and waking up Adrian, the vampire hero. I set them loose in the story, and they provided good comic relief to the darkness. One of my favorite scenes with them is where the gremlins are using the heroine’s bra to launch coconuts at a dummy for “target practice.”
DC: Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing?
BV: Yes, but they usually win.
DC: You’ve got several of your Draicon werewolf stories coming out over the next year. Broken Souls is a Nocturne Bite being also being released in April. Please tell us about that and then what’s in store for us next year in the series.
She was forbidden by the Draicon to cast the blood-to-blood spell. But Katia was determined to find her father, and the spell was her only option. The Draicon had taken her into their pack when her own family had been destroyed by the Morphs. But Katia had never given up hope that her father was still alive, and refused to mate for life with her beloved Baylor until she found him. Now Baylor had given her an ultimatum, and Katia was forced to take drastic measures.
But when Katia’s spell summoned a Morph claiming to be her father, nothing Baylor said could convince her of the danger. Baylor knew too well the cost of trusting a loved one who’d turned, and desperately wanted to save Katia the pain he’d lived with for so long. He also knew that if he spared the Morph, it would destroy Katia, but if he killed this evil being, he risked losing her love forever.
Immortal Wolf is Raphael’s story. The Draicon’s executioner is sent to ritually sacrifice Emily, a female Draicon who can kill with a single touch, but discovers she is his destined mate. That Nocturne is out this October.
Unwrapped will be a story in Holiday with a Vampire III this December and features a vampire who’s given a doll by gremlin carolers as a gift, a doll that shifts into a female Draicon he secretly loves.
And next up is another Bite, Gabriel’s story, which I’m temporarily calling The Shadow Wolf and which I still have to write!
DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?
BV: The day job, lol. I work as a writer for a large international charity, travel to impoverished countries like Haiti to get stories of poor people who need help, and then write fund-raising appeals to help them. [Ed. Bonnie just returned from Haiti and has posted her thoughs and some pics at her blog. Do check it out.]
DC: How do you feel your male or female characters have evolved over your career? Do you think you write them differently now than you did when you started?
BV: I have noticed my writing has gotten considerably darker, more intense and emotional. That’s why I love writing the Nocturnes, which are dark paranormals. Raphael in Immortal Wolf is very dark, immortal, and the Draicon’s executioner. I also wanted him to be sexy, like a dark angel, so he’s a Harley-riding Cajun who has an earring and long hair. And he’s a lethal fighter as well.
With the Dorchester historicals, I’ve relished the freedom I had to experiment. That’s a huge asset to a writer’s creativity. My editor always let me write what I wanted, so I could have a hero who was sexually abused as a child (Graham in The Panther & the Pyramid) or a dark-skinned heroine who was subjected to racial bigotry (Jasmine in The Scorpion and the Seducer) or even an English earl who is a thief, liar, and seducer who has a ménage à trois in the fourth chapter (Nigel in The Lady and the Libertine).
DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?
BV: I always try to put a little mystery, and a twist, in my stories, and I’d like to try writing RS.
DC: Is there a current work in progress you can give us sneak peek on?
BV: Actually, I just got off deadline and I’m taking a very short break, but I can give you a glimpse of Immortal Wolf, Raphael’s story, which will be out this fall. Raphael is the Kallan, the only Draicon who can take life away without consequence. He is the Destroyer, who not only swiftly delivers a merciful death with his sacred Scian, his gold sword, but prepares the soul for the journey to the Other Realm. Emily, his “transition,” is believed to kill everyone she touches with her bare hands. Raphael is to ritually sacrifice Emily to prevent the spread of her curse to the entire Draicon race.
Excerpt from Immortal Wolf:
He was the Destroyer, the bringer of death.
Minutes later, he parked the bike in front of the Full Moon bar. Music poured down the street in an acoustic tidal wave; soft, cool jazz and hard, pounding rock. A few women lounging on the sidewalk and sipping hurricanes gave him the twice over. Wind teased the pure white streak of hair at his temple, played with the gold dagger earring dangling from his left ear.
A collective female sigh, soft as a Mississippi River breeze, drifted toward him. He angled his famous half smile at the staring threesome. “Evening ladies,” he drawled.
Three in one night. Nothing new. Hard, fast female company, the bliss of quick, anonymous sex and the energy it brought pushed back the loneliness a little. The tallest had a lush figure, with enough flesh on all the right places he loved to caress. He adored females. Even human women who were too frail to absorb the rough sex Draicon males sometimes relished.
But sex with anonymous strangers never touched the empty space inside him. Raphael gave the women a charming smile and walked away. Behind him, their murmurs of disappointment buzzed like mosquitoes in the bayou.
He headed toward the scratched wood bar and a last mug of beer before his ritual purification necessary to committing trasna. Male and female Draicon nursing drinks stared. “That’s him,” he heard one female whisper. “The Kallan. They say he was appointed because he killed 80 Morphs in one day when they were about to slay a pack in California.”
Sometimes the story boasted over 100 Morphs, and the pack of Draicon were from New England. It mattered not, for the legend shadowing him was far bigger than reality.
Too often he felt as if he were dancing atop a paper pedestal erected by his people. When would he fall off because his blood wasn’t pure enough? Only his family treated him normally.
He snorted. Normal? He was immortal. Normal wasn’t part of the package.
He had never dispatched a female before. Raphael hoped he’d have the strength and emotional detachment to execute the cursed Draicon. It could be worse, he thought grimly. She could be someone I know, even love.
Two of his brothers shouted a hearty hello. He was crossing the distance between them when a voice spoke in his head.
“Amant? Are you there?”
The whisper made him halt. It was her, the one he revered above all others. Raphael held up a hand in greeting to his brothers. He retreated to a solitary table.
“Erin. I’m here.” He reassured her.
Her voice sounded shaky, as if she tried disguising her fear. But something deeply worried her.
“I thought I’d lost you. You haven’t spoken to me since yesterday.”
“Hush, little one,” he soothed. “I’m right here, as I have been. What troubles you, chere?”
“I just missed you, that’s all.”
“I missed you too,” he admitted, pulling out a chair and propping one booted foot upon it.
One month ago, he had been preparing crayfish for the family barbecue when he’d heard her telepathically. His draicara, his destined mate, seeking him out. Raphael had gone still at the sweet purity of her voice, the low melodic tones. He felt bathed in serenity and yet sharpened by sexual need.
It was the most erotic thing he’d ever experienced, and yet she’d spoken but one sentence.
Since then, they’d talked nearly each day. He wisely did not press her, and allowed her to seek him out. He’d given her the nickname bestowed on him by his brothers. Amant, the French word for lover. He didn’t want to frighten her or have her overcome with awe at the legendary Raphael, the most feared and respected Draicon.
“Where are you now? What are you doing?” Erin asked.
“In a bar. Talking to you.”
“Oh. There must be many pretty women there.”
He heard the uncertainty and sadness. Raphael spotted his older brother Gabriel flirting with a blonde woman in a low cut dress. “No, just a few big, hairy males.”
“Hairy males. And it’s not even a full moon.”
Her dry joke made him laugh aloud. He leaned forward, placing both feet on the floor. “What’s wrong, Erin? You sound sad. Are you alone?”
A tiny sigh went through him like an arrow. “Where I am, I am always alone.”
Where was her pack? Her alpha?
“I must go. It isn’t safe here. I have to go to someplace safe.”
He picked up her anxiety, like little hairs brushing against the nape of his neck. Raphael frowned, wishing he could see her. “Your people, are they near? Do you feel threatened?”
“It’s just some males from my pack walking nearby. I can’t let them see me.”
His hackles rose at the suggestion of someone daring to touch his draicara. Automatically, he flexed his muscles, his protective instincts rising. “If they try anything with you, they will pay.”
“Don’t worry. They won’t come near me.”
“They’d better not. You’re mine and mine alone.” He couldn’t help rumbling.
She gave a light laugh, as sweet and airy as a songbird. “I can take care of myself. Trust me. I have for a while now.”
“It’s my job to take care of you.”
Her voice deepened. “You’re so good to me, even if you aren’t here. I cherish our times together these past weeks. When can I see you?”
Raphael blocked away thoughts of the task awaiting him. “Soon. I have an assignment, then I will come to you.”
“Promise?” Despair punctuated her voice. Troubled, he sent her waves of reassurance, soothing images of forest and glen, the deep quiet of the green woods. He felt her tension ease.
“How I wish you could kiss me now. Kiss me and tell me all is well.”
Her admission sent waves of erotic heat through him. He would kiss her, inch by sweet inch. His body tightened with need. He wondered what she looked like and wished she would allow him to see her reflection in a mirror.
“I am eager for us to meet. I can’t wait to touch you,” he admitted in a husky, sensual whisper.
Her distress screamed in his mind. Raphael frowned and speculated. Even if she were a virgin and scared of her first time, such fear wasn’t normal.
“Has someone hurt you?” He didn’t mean to make his voice so sharp, and softened his tone. “Tell me, so I may help you, chere.”
“I will be fine.” Her wistfulness gave his heart a twist.
“Let me help you. I’m your dracairon. It’s my duty to care for you, and see to all your needs, be they large or small.”
“You sound as if I’m an invalid who needs assistance getting out of bed.” came the tart reply.
Raphael gave a small, amused laugh. It might come to that. He blocked the thought from her of the sexy image of Erin lying languid and flushed in bed, dazed by the pleasure he’d given her. “Of course not. But I am your mate, and it grieves me to know you are in such distress. Tell me what you need.”
“You.” She went silent a few heartbeats and added, “Do you want me?”
Her deep, sultry voice sent lust spiraling through him. Raphael gripped the chair’s armrests. Want her? “You have no idea how badly I want you.” Mentally he sent her an image of an enormous bed, two bodies tangled together between rumbled silk sheets. “All that and much more,” he said softly.
“Oh! Oh. I didn’t realize, I’ve never… um…”
Silent delight filled him at her charming, blushing innocence. “Don’t worry, chere. It’s your first time, and I will be gentle. You have nothing to fear from me.”
“I’m not afraid of you. I could never be afraid of you.”
Satisfaction poured through him. He would cherish her, and be mindful of her innocence at their first joining.
“I wish I could touch you.”
The absolute sorrow in her voice gave him pause. His heart twisted. “Soon,” he promised.
DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?
BV: I’d tell her, “Sweetie, disco is dead. Get over it already.” LOL!
DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?
BV: Time traveling back to the 19th century. I wish! Sometimes I think I’m an anachronist at heart. I love history, and that’s why I started writing the Victorian-era Egyptian historicals. Then again, I’d hate wearing a corset and couldn’t live without modern plumbing or Advil.
– dark or milk chocolate? Milk chocolate, mmmmm
– smooth or chunky peanut butter? Smooth! (I’m getting hungry now)
– heels or flats? Flats
– coffee or tea? Coffee. Actually amaretto espresso from Nicaragua, yum, I get some each time I travel there
– summer or winter? Since I live in Florida, I like winter and the cooler temperatures and the fact I don’t have to fret over hurricane season
– mountains or beach? Mountains!
– mustard or mayonnaise? I’m a mayo girl
– flowers or candy? Red or pink roses
– pockets or purse? Purse. I have a collection from my travels
– Pepsi or Coke? Diet coke
– print or ebook? Print, only because I’m on a computer day and night, so my eyes get very tired of looking at a screen
Some more fun stuff:
What is your favorite word? Onomatopoeia. I love the sound of it.
[Ed. Okay, had to look that one up, Bonnie! Here’s the pronunciation: on-uh-mah-tuh-pee-uh and then the definition: the formation of a word, as cuckoo or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.]
What is your least favorite word? Cancer
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Free-thinking, independent, upbeat people who dare to reach for their dreams, who look beyond the ordinary and accept that we are all different and respect those differences.
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Closed-minded, pessimistic people who disdain those who don’t think as they do and think only they are right.
What sound or noise do you love? A Baltimore Oriole (the bird, not the baseball team) breaking the hushed silence of a deep forest
What sound or noise do you hate? The alarm clock on Monday morning
What is your favorite curse word? &#*@#&@*&#. LOL!
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? If I were better at science, and had a stronger stomach, I’d love to be a forensic anthropologist.
What profession would you not like to do? Accounting.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
I hope He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I hope He doesn’t say, “You were supposed to take the down escalator.”