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by Shelly Holt
Q – How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Shelly Holt – I decided that a paranormal romance would fit my writing style and I knew I wanted to do a shape-shifter story. There are so many, literally hundreds of similar shape-shifting novels out there and for my book to succeed, I knew I had to approach the project from a different perspective.
I sat down and decided that my shape-shifters would not exist due to magic in their world. I created a plot that gave a plausible theory on how over the course of thousands of years, different cultures around the world, some geographically isolated from others, all came up variations of shape-shifter legends.
My heroine, Dr. Rae Hales, discovers that a thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria that lives in hot springs in various parts of the world, can cause the infected person to add a second DNA code to their own. After contact with first the bacteria, and then an animal, they can then pass down the changes to their offspring. I knew I had to make it a difficult infection to catch, otherwise everybody and their grandmother would be a shape-shifter by now. Not everybody is able to become infected, only those with the right RNA receptors and then the genetic changes are passed down from one generation to the next. It's far easier to be born a shape-shifter than to become one.
Once I had a theory on how the thermophilic infection worked, I had to come up with an animal that hadn't been overdone. I was going through my bookshelf filled with library discards and found a book I had bought months earlier and forgotten about. The book was about snow leopards, I knew then and there, I had found my shape-shifter. I then spent a good week or so researching cultures that would exist within the habitat range of the Asian Snow Leopard. It was easy to outline my plot after that.
Q – What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?
Shelly Holt – I originally wanted to write YA, but realized (after more than 40 rejection slips) that I had a much better chance of success with more adult content. That is why my book is so heavy on plot, yet quite adult in regards to the love scenes.
Q – As far as writing goes, what are your future plans?
Shelly Holt – After I finish doing the publicity for Tasting Fire, I will be diving back in and writing the next book in the series. The second book will take place about thirty years after the events in the first one. I have already completed a first draft of chapter one.
Q – Do you have an all time favorite book?
Shelly Holt – Yes, I do. My favorite book is The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. I feel it's the most perfect children's book ever written. I am sad only because it was written in 2003 and I was an adult when I read it. I feel a little cheated.
Q – Do you outline your books or just start writing?
Shelly Holt – I have to outline my story. I don't always stay within the outline of course, but my books are so heavily dependent on mythology and folklore that I have pages and pages of research that are used in conjunction with my outline. In fact right now my desk is full of research for my second book in the Tasting Fire series.
Q – Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book?
Shelly Holt – Yes, I have. The second book in the series will take place about thirty years after Tasting Fire. In it, the fountain of youth will be discovered. The story will introduce us to several new shape-shifting species. The first one that I have written into the story is the Naga. The Naga are a race of shape-shifting snakes. They are a sect of kings, warriors, and priests that have actually been worshiped in India for thousands of years. In fact, many Indian clans claim to be descended from the Naga. I have print outs of some of the artwork dedicated to them and they are INCREDIBLE!!! Great inspiration for a paranormal romance.
Q – What is your favorite reality show?
Shelly Holt – House Hunters, I love that show, I can spend all day watching it.
Q - Who is your favorite actor and actress?
Shelly Holt – Christopher Walken and Toni Collette.
Q – Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?
Shelly Holt – The blackest moment is when humans first react to the knowledge of shape-shifters in the world. I wanted to use real world examples of xenophobia for dramatic effect. Kai reflects on the experiences of Japanese-Americans during WWII in the United States and how they were treated and fears an equally severe treatment or worse of his own people in Central Asia.
Q – If you were a casting director for the film version of your book, who would play your lead roles?
Shelly Holt – The very sexy Yul Kwan from Survivor (apparently, I was watching the wrong reality show!) would play Kai Tenzin.
Dr. Rae Hales would have to be the lovely Scarlett Johansson, although per Wikipedia, Ms. Johansson is currently a few years younger than the character, as I wrote her.
The charming James Hong is Nawang Wangdo. In fact, when I was writing the book, it was his voice in that little theater in my head that gave breathed life into Nawang. You can really hear him when you read the original folktale I wove into the book (How the snow leopard lost her roar.) I would love to hear him read that out loud, in real life.
Dr. Vadim Leonidov was unusual in that his character was fully formed in my head, at least his appearance was. I found I didn't need a physical model to base the character on as I wrote the book.
When the book was being edited, I had a very strange experience I would like to share with your readers. I was at the grocery store and while I was waiting in line, I picked up a People Magazine and was absentmindedly thumbing through it and all of a sudden there was Vadim looking up at me. I quickly read the caption and it was an actor by the name of Hugh Laurie, whose work I am not familiar with, but it was quite startling to see my character staring up at me.
Q – Anything else you might want to add?
Shelly Holt – Yes, Tasting Fire is an unusual combination of elements. The book has an exceptionally strong plot and even stronger character development, due to the fact that I refused to use magic to haphazardly explain the presence of shape-shifters in the world. Tasting Fire also has strong spiritual tones as well and because of the extremely hot love scenes, it really puts the book in its own genre.
Many new authors use other books to help readers understand what type of book they are promoting. Tasting Fire is so unique, I can't do that.
I am quite proud of the story and appreciate the opportunity to come on the blog today and share my experience of writing it with you.
Shape-shifters have always walked the earth. Shrouded in myth and folklore, hiding in the shadows, watching and waiting. Advances in modern science are now about to reveal them to the world. Kai Tenzin is the self appointed leader of the Pari people. He and his kind evolved from the most reclusive predators on earth. They live and hunt in the most fearsome and rugged terrain known to man, the Himalayas. Kai leaves his small village where the mountains touch the heavens, determined to do anything to protect his people. When he is forced to enlist the aid of the beautiful American scientist Dr. Rae Hales, the last thing he expects to find is a woman who will ensnare his heart and endanger them all. Their action-packed adventure will take them around the world to discover the truth behind the legends and reveal the future of humanity.
The short ride to Kizhi island was exhilarating on the open hydrofoil. Kai helped Rae off the boat as it docked at the seven mile long island. The tour group followed their guide off the dock and onto the island. They listened intently as the guide in stilted English advised them that the site had become a world heritage site in nineteen-ninety. There were more than eighty pieces of wooden architecture that made up the outdoor museum’s collection. The guide then gestured for the large group to follow him. The tour group was led up to a magnificent structure. The center piece of the collection that was known as The Church of Transfiguration.
Rae felt as if she had stepped right into a storybook. The guide started his official recitation on the history of the structure “the Church of Transfiguration has twenty two onion domes. It was built during the reign of Peter the Great. No nails were used in the construction and it was created by using interconnecting wood pieces only.” Kai stood back taking picture after picture of the breathtaking silver domes. The guide then indicated for them to enter and put his finger over his mouth to indicate silence.
As Kai and Rae walked in they could hear why the guide silenced them. A trio of singers were performing a deeply moving mass. Behind them a gold leaf Russian icon painting glinted in the light that was streaming in through the dusty windows. The effect transported the tour group back in time. They were now in a time before digital cameras, before cell phones, to a time when the Tzars ruled Imperial Russia with an iron fist.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
My name is Shelly Holt and I live in the middle of the harsh and unforgiving Mojave desert. I write my stories looking out of a window that shows sweeping desert views. Outside is a barren and severe landscape, yet inside my head lives a world filled with exotic shape-shifters come to life, pulled from the pages of myth and legend, ready to entice and seduce any reader brave enough to take them on.
It's funny, I never wanted to be a writer! In 7th grade English, we were given an assignment. We were told to write an original poem and turn it in the next day. I was determined to turn in not a good poem, but a great poem. I spent the whole night working on it instead of watching my favorite show, The Waltons. (Hey! it was 1980.) I turned it in the next day. Apparently, I succeeded a little too well and was accused of copying it from a book. (1980 remember, no internet yet). The teacher stated and I quote "this is too good for a seventh grader, where did you copy it from?" Well, I didn't write for 30 years after that. In my 40's, after a life changing move to rural Nevada as a caregiver to my father, I realized I needed a way to earn a little money on the side. I did some research on the internet and read all about a certain little book, about a certain little college student and a handsome billionaire with some ahem! (issues.) I decided after reading that book, I could do that, and Tasting Fire was born. I'll admit it's been strange revisiting a talent buried deep inside for so long, forgotten, but apparently not lost. It's been an important journey and one I am quite thankful for and excited to see where it takes me.
P.S. Mr. Jordan, I really did write that poem!
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