Three Way Interview with Kelley Armstrong and Marjorie M. Liu

Book CoverToday, I have an interview with two authors, Marjorie Liu and Kelley Armstrong, and as a twist, they asked me some questions, too. Kelley and Marjorie both have books out today, so happy book release day to them both!

Armstrong’s new book, Waking the Witch, is the 11th book in her Women of the Otherworld series, about a witch, Savannah, who pairs up with a private investigator to figure out a pattern of murders that seem more than merely humans-gone-killing-each-other. Liu’s new book is part of her Maxine Kiss series, and is very chilling: in A Wild Light, Maxine wakes up hours after a family dinner alongside the bloody body of her grandfather with no memory of what happened, and a lot of fear of what she might have done.

On with the nosy questions!

SARAH: What’s the absolute most awesome thing about your upcoming books that you want to share with your readers, the thing you’re most excited about?

KELLEY: Most awesome thing about Waking the Witch?  The foil used for the title on the US cover.  It’s oddly iridescent and transfixing.  It’ll jump off the shelf at people.  Hopefully they’ll like what’s between those covers as well, but this close to a release, I’m a lot more confident about the remarkable attention-getting qualities of the foil.

MARJORIE: The one thing I’m most excited about I can’t even mention.  So I’ll mention the second most exciting thing, which is that readers will get to see a werewolf priest.  Woof.   

SARAH: What do you admire about each other’s writing? 

KELLEY: Marjorie’s prose has a depth and richness that I admire, particularly because it’s very different from my own.  Usually I console myself by saying that kind of writing comes at the expense of pacing and action.  She manages to excel at all of them, which kind of ruins my excuse—damn you, Marjorie!

MARJORIE: So much.  Kelley is not only a tremendous writer, she’s a fantastic plotter.  When you read her books, it’s a fully immersive experience—you’re there, you’re feeling it in your gut, your blood pressure is rising and falling along with the main characters  —and she does all this at a breakneck pace with crisp, flawless language. She makes it look easy, too!  

SARAH: What was your point of access for your latest books, the story point or moment or idea that dropped you into the story? 
KELLEY: I knew I wanted to give Savannah a book.  She started the series in Stolen, at the age of 12.  Nine books later means she’s 21.  My plan was to give her a case while her former guardians (and owners of the investigative agency where she works as an admin assistant) were abroad.  That was easy.  Finding the right case was tougher.  It had to be something that would speak to her past, particularly the little girl in her who’s never gotten over her mother’s death.  I found my case in the Canadian news.  That really was only the jumping off point, though—I doubt anyone who reads the book and knows the case will realize that was the basis for it.

Book CoverMARJORIE: The idea of Maxine finding her dead grandfather, not entirely certain whether or not she murdered him.  

SARAH TO KELLEY: You’ve written a slowly building world where the stories connect to one another and add on to the world you’ve built as you feature new characters. Which are among your faves, and is there a heroine/hero/both you miss writing about? (Don’t pretend you don’t have favorites, because I know you do!!) 
KELLEY: I honestly don’t have true favourites.  Otherwise, I think I’d find it very hard to change narrators—it would feel like denying myself candy and forcing myself to eat celery instead.  Some narrators are easier to write than others, but the more challenging ones are just as much fun because of that challenge.  I’ve learned, however, that just because I like a character doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy writing in his/her POV.  I did a novella with Nick (from my werewolf books) as a narrator, and I openly admit it’s not my best work.  Love him as a secondary character, but he wasn’t ready to go solo.

SARAH to MARJORIE: You are writing across sixteen million different forms of media at this point. What’s next, billboard serial stories? And do you find yourself writing Maxine Kiss and thinking graphic novel representations, or adding spontaneous Wolverine to your romances?
MARJORIE: I love the work.  And you know what?  I’ve actually seen serial stories written onto traffic construction signs (not the kind that use spray paint, either), and they are funny.  
But yes, I’m writing Dark Wolverine, finishing up my run on Black Widow, and will be launching X-23 in the fall—so comic books are definitely on my mind.  Except for when I write my novels.  My brain switches into an entirely different mode.  It has to, because the styles are so different.  Comics are twenty-two pages of script-style storytelling, relying on art to tell the tale—while with a novel, you’re solely responsible for every aspect of reader immersion.  
When I write my novels—in this case, A WILD LIGHT—I do not think of the story in terms of graphic novel representations.  I don’t give any consideration to the possibility that the book might one day end up as a comic.   If I did that, I think it would cheapen the storytelling, because I would be focused on outside considerations that have nothing to do with the book at hand.  Of course, having said that, every now and then I’ll think—wow, this scene would be great if so-and-so illustrated it—but again, that doesn’t mean I change my writing style.  
Mmmm…Wolverine.  Wolverine and romance novels.  Romance novels and Wolverine.  Works for me (especially because I just saw some really sexy art of him that’ll be in an upcoming issue of Dark Wolverine).   

Kelley asked Sarah:

I love your cover snark posts.  I think every author has been the victim of cringe-worthy covers (for me, it’s my Industrial Magic cover, or as I call it, my “naked 80s chick with man-hands” cover)  But what’s worse, in your opinion?  A really bad cover?  Or a really bland cover?

There is NO question in my mind: a bland cover is worse. Even a bad cover is a memorable cover – and an author can take that and make it work. My avatar, the graphic that represents me in the comments, is Christina Dodd’s three-armed lady from her “Castile in the Sky” cover. For one thing, do you have ANY IDEA how much I could accomplish if I had an extra arm?! For another, that cover was a complete crazy pants success because it was a goof, and because Dodd worked it. Same with Suzanne Brockmann’s cover for “Get Lucky,” where she disliked the cover model so much she sent free smiley face stickers to anyone who wanted to cover up the male model’s head.

No one wants a bad cover, obviously. But a bad cover is still memorable, and it will stay in the mind of the reader, particularly if the reader is browsing at the store and thinks, “Wait, isn’t this cover supposed to be really…wow. That is some FUGLY right there.” But then the reader has the book in her hand… and might read the back… and then she and that book might take a walk to the checkout. Memorable is always better for potential sales than bland and forgettable!

Man-hands, for example, are always good for a few extra thousand sales. Trust me on this. I make up my own math.

With the internet, authors have stepped out of their writing caves and into the wide world where they can—and are encouraged to—interact with readers.  The results are not always favourable, as you’ve occasionally highlighted in your blog.  Attacks on online reviewers, attacks on mainstream critics, attacks on…well, anyone who doesn’t like our books and, sometimes, even bad behaviour toward our fans.  Ideally, we wouldn’t screw up in the first place, but if we do, how can we recover?  Is there a transgression so bad we can’t recover from it?

You mean other than my telling a large portion of Australia that I’m a homophobe? (Kidding. Sort of. Kelley asked this question long before I stuck my leg down my throat.)

I think there are very few online transgressions so bad that you can’t recover from them. The internet archive may be forever, but the memory of people online is short. Some might look up the Google cache, but more likely people will forget. And time moves fast on the internet: a week is a long time, let alone months.

Everyone has bad moments. Especially on the internet. Always on the internet, really. That’s why it exists, right after porn and pictures of people’s cats. In the great scheme of things, not everyone is online, not everyone will remember, except you. And you can always learn to do it differently next time.

Marjorie asked Sarah:

I’ve been reading your website for such a long time.  It’s one of my daily visits.  In your wildest dreams, did you ever think it would turn into what it has?  And at what point did you start thinking of it as a business or career, instead of just a side gig showing your love of romance novels?

I had absolutely no idea that it would turn into what it is. I remember back when we started it, we had five readers: me, Candy, her friend in Singapore, my husband, and this guy who Googled “Dominican Bitches” all the time and kept coming back to our site every day. I’m amazed and sort of awed by the number of intelligent readers who stop by to talk with me and each other every day. It’s freaking awesome.

I started thinking of it as a business when we had a number of authors asking if we would run advertisements, and I take that portion of the website very seriously. I don’t take myself seriously, and the content is still about my love of romance novels and related topics, but when it comes to the business element of the site, that’s the un-funny part. There are remarkably few options for romance authors in terms of unique and targeted advertising for books and backlists, and since I not only run our adserver but design a good number of the ads, I pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, what people mention to me that they saw on the site, and whether advertisers are happy. That part is Serious Business.

The part where I comment on covers where the couple has no freaking legs and I talk about books I love, that’s all fun and laughing gas.

Special treat! I have two sets of Kelley Armstrong and Marjorie Liu’s new books to give away. Who wants one? Leave a comment with your favorite moment from either a Kelley Armstrong or Marjorie Liu novel – or both! – and I’ll pick two winners.

You’ve got 48 hours for this one – there’s a lot going on this week. International winners are welcome, and standard disclaimers apply. I’m not being compensated for this giveaway. Offer valid where permitted by state law. Slippery when wet. Your love is like bad medicine. Pour some sugar on me. In the name of love.


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    tea says:

    Woot! Books from two of my favorite authors!

    I first read a Marjorie Liu story in an anthology and I was hooked; I have her first and second books on the bedside – love those live tatts! They’re so unusual and neat. And I have read ALL THINGS Kelly Armstrong after randomly picking up Personal Demon in the library one day two years ago. I started over at the beginning of her series, and have enjoyed that world very, very much. Thanks for an enlightening and fun interview.

  2. 2
    Malin says:

    My favourite moment in any Kelley Armstrong book is probably Lucas and Paige getting together in Dime-Store Magic. Their morning after scene always amuses me.

  3. 3
    Kristi says:

    Maxine’s relationship with her demons is amazing, the balance of protection/destruction they offer her is something that is never far from the storyline.  I started Kelley’s books with Haunted and found Eve to be an amazing character, so Savannah’s starring role in Waking the Witch is exciting.  Great interview!

  4. 4
    Laura says:

    My favorite Kelley Armstrong scene is when Lucas and Paige get together in Dime Store Magic. I love their relationship all over, but I liked her taking the lead a bit there. I like how playful they are with each other, like their own little world apart from how they are with other people.

  5. 5
    Collette says:

    My favorite Kelley Armstrong moment was the moment I started Bitten.  I was riveted and simply could not put it down.  It’s not so much a moment in the story as it was a moment in time.  Time kind of stopped for me and I existed in my own little bubble.  I love that feeling.  So, thanks!

  6. 6
    Heather says:

    This is a comment not necessarily to enter the contest (although I’ve not yet read Liu so I’ll take a free book!), but to say that I really liked Waking the Witch (yes, I read it this weekend, because I’ve developed a relationship with an independent bookseller *grin*.)

    But after reading the book, the one thing that came to mind is, When is the next book coming out?!?!?!

    [Favorite moment? Um, Stolen, when Elena has escaped and meets up with Clay and she doesn’t fall right into his arms, but is timid. They get over it and have … their reunion, and then start joking about how they didn’t actually complete the escape before stopping for their festivities.]

  7. 7
    Zita Hildebrandt says:

    My favourite Elena moment is in Kelley’s book No Humans Involved when Elena is thanking Jaime for the stuffed bunnies she sent to the twins. So cute! In Marjorie’s books, I love the romance between Maxine and Grant. Riveting!

  8. 8
    Allison says:

    My favourite Kelley Armstrong moment is definitely when Jeremy is trying to civilize the six-year old Clay in the bayou. The scene where he makes him put on clothes before eating the hamburgers and the stubborn little Clay takes them off immediately after while smiling smugly makes me laugh every time.

    That was a poorly constructed sentence, sorry.

  9. 9
    SandyW says:

    Can’t come up with a favorite moment. Too busy thinking, Savannah!  SQUEEEE!
    Yes, I have been waiting for little Savannah to grow up for a while.

  10. 10
    MarieC says:

    I love Marjorie Liu’s ‘Maxine Kiss’ series. I’m still struck from the first book, when the ‘boys’ come out to play…

    I’ve had my eyes on Kelley’s series and would love the dive in!

  11. 11
    AmberG says:

    I haven’t had the chance to get into reading anything from either of those authors, but it sounds like they are pretty incredible and I will certainly be looking into them, contest or not.

    After all, i’m always looking for new authors to follow obsessively and new books to read into dust.

  12. 12
    KimberlyD says:

    I LOVE Kelley’s books! I have never read Marjorie’s but I definitely will :)

    My favorite moment in one of Kelley’s books has to be when Elena finally forgives Clay. When she realizes that she loves him more than she hates what he did to her. That made me happy. They are still my favorite characters of the series.

  13. 13
    Kaye says:

    I love, love, love the question “What do you admire about each other’s writing?” I’m always interested in what attracts writers to other writers.

    I haven’t read any of Liu’s work, and I plan to fix that on my next trip to the bookstore.

  14. 14
    Christine says:

    Oh, I love both authors so much! I’m terrible at remembering moments in books, though. I get such a kick out of Jamie the necromancer and the attitude she takes with the dead. And, OK, I’m also jealous that she lands the alpha werewolf. And I seem to recall that in addition to the really sweet romance in Darkness Calls, I really, really liked Grant’s apartment. And also Dela’s loft in Tiger Eye (which I just read). Thank you for the living-space porn, Marjorie!

  15. 15
    kt says:

    I’m a Marjorie Liu fan and have followed both the Hunter Kiss and Dirk & Steele series. As for favorite moment, there are many. But the standout moment for me came in the HK Bk. 1 when Maxine was essentially reborn – stuck and also traveling through nothingness for what seemed like an eternity. If anyone was ever afraid of the dark, drowning, and confined to small spaces, those passages painted such a vivid picture of all of the above.

    I’d love to be introduced to the K Armstrong series; I’ve heard nothing but good things.


  16. 16

    AH! I have such a girl crush on Kelley Armstrong (not only because she spells her name the same way I do.) and produces a fantastic young adult novel.

    I have such a toss up between who my favorite characters of hers are. I love Paige and Jamie Vegas so much! I’d have to say though, that Jamie always has me coming back for more. I love how awkward she is around Jeremy in No Humans Involved, I think its so true how someone can just make you feel like a complete 12 year old no matter how confident you are in your sexual prowess. I also love in the end of that novel that there was no, “lets get married and live happily ever after!” that she knows that the differences between both her and Jeremy are too great to confine it to that and is just happy to be with him in any way, and they make it work! I love it!

  17. 17
    ms says:

    Love the Armstrong series and own almost all of them.  I haven’t read any of Marjorie Liu, but now very interested and I’m off to buy the first in the series.

    OT: Isn’t it “Castles in the Air” or am I remembering wrong?  In any case Sarah is right, no one remembers bland covers.

  18. 18
    Ash Renata says:

    Definitely a Liu fan here. She has SUCH an amazing talent for prose, her storytelling is always beautifully poetic and doesn’t even cross into “purple” in the slightest. I love both the Dirk and Steele series and Hunter Kiss, but I have to say my favorite moments are the interactions between Maxine and the boys. The dichotomy of their childlike behavior at times, mixed with their dangerous invulnerability, also combined with their humor makes the fact that they’re so ancient incredible.

    Please please please, if you haven’t yet picked up a Liu book, do it now!!! She is my absolute favorite. :)

  19. 19
    TheDuchess says:

    I’m a big big fan of Kelley Armstrong ever since Sarah’s review for Bitten compelled me to pick it up. The very first scene grabbed me by the throat and that was it, I was hooked. I don’t think anyone writes paranormal quite like her…

    Favorite moments: The scenes in Bitten where Clay and Elena are in Toronto—they put forth everything that Elena felt was wrong about the way she was living, about how she was meant to be with the pack, and with Clay. I just love it.

  20. 20
    Krista says:

    I have been a big fan of Kelley’s since I first picked up Bitten, probably 8 years ago. As a result, I love everything about Elena. She is what sucked me in to the Women of the Underworld series. Her stories are my favorites. I love her spirit and her attitude.

    I have never read any of Marjorie Liu’s work, but I will definitely work on picking that up on my next bookstore binge.

  21. 21
    Amanda Blair says:

    I love Clay and Elena but my favorite moment has to be between Jaime and Jeremy.  That moment in No Humans Involved when he breaks the sliding glass doorto get to her.  It was awesome seeing Jeremy lose control like that.

  22. 22
    chey says:

    I like the parts in Kelley Armstrong’s books where Jeremy is helping Elena after she’s bitten.  I haven’t yet read Marjorie Liu’s books.

  23. 23
    Jessica C says:

    I am sad to say I don’t believe I have read either Author.  I am a little behind on the paranormal front…  I would love a new book, and give it a try!

    Thanks for the candid post and the giveaway!

  24. 24
    Estelle Chauvelin says:

    My favorite moment definitely involves Paige and Lucas.  It might be the seduction scene in Dime Store Magic… but then I also really loved the moment in Haunted when he realizes that something else is impersonating Paige.

  25. 25
    Brittany says:

    Oh, favorite moment from a Kelley Armstrong novel… So hard to choose! I love every one of her books and there are some great moments in all of them.

    My favorite moment was probably in Frostbitten after Elena had gotten away from the werewolves in Alaska when she came across Nick and she just knew that she was safe. I felt her relief and disbelief at seeing him out in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Kelley really got Elena’s emotions across to her readers in that moment. I loved that.

    And then not long after that, some of her Pack show up (including Clay) to help save the day. Frostbitten is one of my favorite books in the series. :D I loved so many moments in that book!

    Thanks for holding this contest! And what a great interview with these two awesome authors. I’ll definitely have to check out some of Marjorie Liu’s work. :D

    Email: brittany.silva08 @

  26. 26

    I could list a favorite scene from each of Kelley’s books, but we don’t have time for that. One of my all-time favorite Kelley Armstrong moments is the sliding glass door scene with Jaime & Jeremy in No Humans Involved, well, that and the “sock puppet” scene with Eve. I laugh out loud every time I read that!

  27. 27
    Krista says:

    I very much enjoy Kelly Armstrong’s writing.  I don’t think I have a single favorite scene.  I love the interactions between Paige and Carlos though – especially the “I have a scroll, what will you give me to get it” dynamic and their serious approach to life that has a soft underbelly of fun and love.

    I’d really like to read these books.

  28. 28
    Patrice says:

    I love the way Marjorie Liu writes! There are “moments” in all her books that are just so realistic that they almost seem like memories rather than scenes from a book I read. In the Maxine Kiss series I recall Maxine’s memory of the first time she felt her powers in a strange bar with dangerous men. Also when she “met” her grandmother and when she hears Grant’s music in the shelter where they live (and work). I love the boys, they make me laugh and yet are so scary, and I enjoy how we get to know a little more about them in each book.

    I’d love to get into Kelly Armstrong’s series as well. She’s been highly recommended.

  29. 29
    tikaanidog says:

    Wow, favorite part, huh? THAT’S gonna be hard. I am a diehard Liu fan (haven’t read Kelly Armstrong’s books, but oooo, now have a new author name to check out!! squee!!!) and it’s so hard to pick just one scene that sticks out. I think my favorite charachter is Elena in the Dirk and Steel books – When she and Artur decide to marry right then and there while in Moscow is probably my favorite moment.

  30. 30
    SandyH says:

    I really can’t say that there is a favorite special moment. I just love these authors. They write such interesting stories. Can’t wait to read either book. Wohoo

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