Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Tima, and congratulations on the release of ‘Bloodgifted’. You have a very interesting background as an Archaeologist! Can you tell us a bit about that?
I’d wanted to be an archaeologist since I was a little girl. There’s something exciting about unearthing an artefact that hasn’t been seen and touched in perhaps thousands of years. It’s a connection with the last person to have used that object, and nothing beats that feeling!
I’ve worked on sites as diverse as Port Arthur in Tasmania to Neolithic tombs in Portugal and Spain and New Kingdom Egyptian forts in Israel. Then I spent time researching Roman British sites for my M. Phil.
I love Hadrian’s Wall!
Have you been able to mix your love of Archaeology with your writing – plots, characters, etc?
Absolutely! The germ of an idea for “Bloodgifted” came to me while doing research on the Roman legionary forts on Hadrian’s Wall in Britain for my M.Phil. One site in particular – an auxiliary fortress named Vindobala – had been mysteriously abandoned in the mid 3rd century. No one still has still come up with a plausible explanation.
So, I came up with my own!
The genesis of my story, with its major supporting characters – a bunch of Roman soldiers –begins there, and then jumps forward eighteen hundred years into the present. That’s where chapter one opens.
You teach Ancient Roman History, would you ever consider writing in that genre?
For sure. There’s a complete history that runs through “Bloodgifted” which deserves to be dealt with as a separate book. Glimpses of it are evident in “Bloodgifted” and, as an ancient historian and archaeologist, the urge to write and reveal that history is irresistible, especially as it all takes place in 3rd century Britain – my favourite historical period!
Bloodgifted is the first of a 3-part series. Can you give us a sneaky peek at the story line for the remainder of the series, please?
The entire premise of “The Dantonville Legacy” series, of which “Bloodgifted” is the first, is the story of the ending of a curse, and the opposition the protagonists face while trying to achieve that. Without giving away any spoilers, books 2 and 3 will deal with a vampire civil war that threatens to destroy the D’Antonville family in order to claim Laura and use her to breed their own Ingenii – a Bloodgifted who can provide them with the ability to daywalk. It also brings back an old foe who unwittingly becomes the catalyst that forces the family to flee to France and take refuge in their ancestral home – a château in the Rhone Valley. From there, they plan to enter Scotland, where Laura can give birth to the child that will bring about the end the D’Antonville curse.
You shortlisted for the Atlas award in 2011. How important is it for writers to enter into awards and competitions?
I believe it’s essential, as it gives any writer the chance to see how their writing measures up against their peers, and especially against the professionals. The feedback given by the judging panel in these competitions is invaluable in improving your own skills, and should always be taken positively.
What is your writing space like?
I have a “work station” (I use the word loosely!) on the enclosed back verandah of my house that overlooks the yard. Whenever I get stuck with a phrase scene that’s simply not behaving itself, I can turn and gaze at my garden and inspiration returns. My desk is a litter of papers, empty coffee mugs, half-dry pens and reference books, and my favourite falling-to-bits-but-still-hanging-together-with-sticky-tape uni thesaurus! Couldn’t be without it.
Above all this chaos is my corkboard, which is covered in snippets of paper outlining the direction I’d like my story to go. Lately it’s becoming harder to read, as there are so many arrows shooting from one end of the sheet to the other. But, at least they’re all heading to the same HEA.
Are you a plotter or panster?
I’d say 75% plotter, 25% pantser. Being an ex-high school teacher, I just can’t help wanting to be in control, and that includes plot and character. Although having said that, there are times when things don’t turn out the way I planned, and my characters tend to take over and dictate the direction of a scene, and – I let them. After all, it’s their story!
From where do you get your inspiration?
Possibly from my youth spent reading anything on vampires – especially from a historical perspective. This then expanded into fiction, and the first vampire book I ever read was Bram Stoker’s, “Dracula”. I loved it, and from that moment, I was hooked!
When I visited the Roman forts along Hadrian’s Wall, and learnt about the unexplained abandonment of Vindobala… well, it all came together. The entire story sprang into my head – from start to finish – and I knew it had to be written.
What would we find on your E-reader/Bookshelf?
Mmmm… my beloved kindle has such an eclectic collection, but dominating my bookshelf is PNR fiction – mostly vampire, by a wide range of authors. My favourites? I absolutely loved Maggie Shayne’s, “Wings in the Night” series; Mary Janice Davidson’s, “Betsy” series (which makes me laugh whenever I need some light hearted reading); Charlaine Harris, whose books are much better than their TV version, True Blood. And of course, my friend, Lindsay J Pryor whose dark vampire “Blackthorn” series – Blood Shadows, Blood Roses and the soon-to-be-released Blood Torn – is a must for any vampire fan.
But, I also love almost anything written by Gena Showalter, although her PNR books don’t feature vamps.
Can you give us an excerpt from Bloodgifted, please?
Happy to! It’s from chapter 4 in the book – Alec and Laura’s first meeting.
I pushed open the heavy glass doors and stepped into the cool, dark recess. The scent of old polished wood rose from the rows of pews stretching the length of the nave. To my left, a well-worn stone-paved path led past them and through the length of the interior, while a shallow ramp on my right disappeared into a semi-concealed alcove ringed with high-backed wooden chairs.
Which way? If in doubt, follow the yellow-brick road, I thought. Turning left I followed the stone path down the aisle. What on earth am I doing here? I asked myself. Meeting a vampire, came the daft answer.
‘He will find you,’ my aunt had said. Right now, I didn’t know if I wanted to be found! The truth is, I was nervous and even a little afraid searching for an unnatural creature in a gothic building.
How appropriate. All I need is for the cathedral organ to start playing creepy music!
At least I wasn’t totally alone. Here and there a few people milled around, even though most were outside grabbing the last minute Christmas bargain as shopping hours had been extended. It was only about nine p.m. In the balcony at the end of the nave a choir was rehearsing The Messiah. I’m sure they’d hear me scream if this Alec Munro proved less benign than the impression my aunt gave. Why didn’t I bring Matt? I should have simply ignored her warning and dragged him along anyway.
I followed the stone path to the back entrance, around the massive sandstone baptismal font and up the other side. Every now and then the Choir Master stopped the singers mid-note for a correction before continuing their rehearsal. Three Christmas trees, bedecked with massive gold bows, had been positioned on either side of the communion table, while an impressive green wreath hung from the edge of the elevated pulpit.
I realised that the stone path I’d followed led to the small chair-lined alcove I’d originally noticed on entering. It was separated from the aisle by an ornately carved wooden partition, and there, leaning nonchalantly against the narrow opening, arms crossed over his chest, stood a tall, broad-shouldered, impossibly good-looking man with hair the colour of a raven’s wing.
My feet stopped mid-stride as my eyes drank in this strikingly imposing figure who so dominated the space around him, that I wondered how I could not have seen him earlier? Nor the way his piercing lavender eyes gazed back at me, demanding my attention.
I sucked in a breath, not just for the effect he had on me, but that he was the visual confirmation of my aunt’s words even if he didn’t fit my image of a vampire. But then I really didn’t know what to expect – black cape, nasty protruding fangs, glowing red eyes and pale as death perhaps? The man before me belied those preconceptions, and no vampire I saw in the movies ever looked that good in cream silk business shirt and slate grey trousers which hung seductively low on his lean hips. His sleeves were rolled up at the elbows and the top button of his shirt left undone allowing his tie to hang loose.
I swallowed. Was this the blood-sucking creature whose bite left those marks on my aunt’s wrists? No wonder she’d said I wouldn’t mind!
He smiled and softly called my name. ‘Laura.’
Tima Maria will be giving away an ecopy of her debut novel, ‘Bloodgifted’ to one luck winner. All you have to do to be in the draw is leave a comment as to why you would like to win a copy!
This competition will be open worldwide and will be drawn on the 9th of December, 2013.