Interview with Author Judith Graves

ED- The Eerie Digest is very pleased to present Young Adult (YA) author Judith Graves to all of our readers. Judith, your writing reaches out to an explosive segment of our writing industry. So much has taken place recently within the young adult audience to encourage this phenomenon, such as ‘Twilight’, that writers, and Hollywood, are turning to this new and captivated population of readers and viewers. What encouraged you to seek this genre for your work?

JG- I’ve been a keen reader of adult paranormal fiction since I was a teen. When I started writing and realized my voice matched the YA market, I knew I’d be writing paranormal YA fiction. As a Canadian and as a library technician (working in a school library), I noticed a marked lack of this kind of fun, sexy, commercial fiction set in Canada or written by Canadian authors. I wanted to change that. With the Skinned Series, I work in Canadianisms, lore from First Nations peoples and various creatures from different regions around the world, now settled in Canada. My characters are mixed-bloods, a “melting pot” of paranormals if you will – call it globalization for monsters.

ED- Tell us what influenced you the most to choose writing for your career.

JG- I started off as a singer/songwriter, performing in folk-rock bands, doing music festivals, and busking. Gradually the stories I wanted to tell, couldn’t be told in three minutes. I branched into flash fiction, short stories, and finally novels. Libraries have been a second home for me, as a kid and as an employee. I’ve been surrounded by music and words for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I chose writing; it chose me.

ED- I have been caught up reading about you. Please tell our readers all about yourself and where you come from.

JG- I’m a military brat who moved around Canada from Ottawa, Prince Edward Island, to Vancouver Island, and finally settled in the prairies. I know what it’s like to be the new kid, over and over again. I can blend in with the crowd, be still like broccoli, or crank out a tune and hog the spotlight. No wonder I write about shapeshifters. ;0 My husband is a high school social teacher and basketball coach. He’s my “in” on hip teen speak, trends, etc. He sees it everyday and fills me in on tricks like… when girls don’t have access to a mirror, they’ll use theirs cell phones to take pictures of their hair. Ingenious, really. Since the publication of Under My Skin I’ve been touring Alberta with the Young Alberta Book Society and the Writer’s Guild of Alberta, getting into schools and public libraries for workshops on the writing process, finding your voice, creating characters that ROCK, and other dreadfully cool writerish stuff.

ED- Your first novel, ‘Under My Skin’, has received some great reviews. Tell us about these and how they have encouraged you with your writing.

JG- Awww…thanks. I’ve been thrilled with the general response to UMS. No pus-filled tomatoes so far (as a songwriter, I’m used to ducking). It still shocks me when I do a presentation, and it’s obvious someone in the crowd has actually read UMS and still came out to say “hey.” I think in some ways having your first book out helps with your confidence – you’re published, you’re on your way. But then there’s the pressure to produce a better story with your next book, and so on. I do have to say that bloggers are the pulse of YA. Without their kind words, support on social media sites, prompts for more info on Second Skin, the second book in the Skinned series, etc…I would be lost. Thanks guys!

ED- Please tell us about the theme behind the story.

JG- Under My Skin is intended to be an entertaining, Buffy-esque read. I like to pitch the series as Buffy meets Beauty and her inner BEAST. That being said, it does touch on some heavy issues, cutting, self-image and identify, the fear of abandonment and rejection, choices, temptation, betrayal and loss. Ultimately Eryn discovers that every decision she makes takes her one step closer to being a girl, or a monster. Don’t we all struggle with reining in our inner beast for the betterment of those we love? Here’s the blurb: All her parents wanted was for Eryn to live a normal life…Redgrave, Alberta had its share of monsters before Eryn moved to town. Mauled pets, missing children. The Delacroix family is taking the blame, but Eryn knows the truth. Something stalks the night. Wade, the police chief’s son and Redgrave High’s resident hottie, warns her the Delacroix are dangerous. But then so is Eryn–in fact, she’s lethal. But she can’t help falling for one of the Delacroix boys, dark, brooding–human Alec. And then her world falls apart. A normal life? Now that’s the real fairytale.

ED- Tell us about your publisher and your publicist, Rachel Sentes, as well.

JG- Leap Books is a new US publisher, founded by Laurie Edwards. Leap produces quality books with tons of visual appeal – each title has illustrations – the stories LEAP off the page. Being a small press, Leap is interested in building foundations, establishing authors and their careers. They even took my suggestion for an illustrator for UMS and agreed her style was perfect for my gothic tale. I’m referring to Val Cox, a graphic designer from Edmonton, Alberta (www.valcox.ca). Seriously, Leap has been peachy. 😉 Rachel Sentes, from gal-friday publicity, has also been a wonderful member of my team. I found her via word of mouth. The manager of a Chapters bookstore in Edmonton recommended her to me (thanks Brian!), and I’ve been ever so pleased with Rachel’s tireless efforts on my behalf. She works with literary agent, Brian Wood (hmmm….she’s kind of surrounded by Brians, eh?). Plus, she loves dogs and, since I have two crazy labs….we bonded, ya know?

ED- We also understand that Hollywood may have an interest in this. Can you give us a hint on that possibility?

JG- My little brush with Hollywood proves the power of social media – you never know what will yield results. I recently had a feature on the wonderful site, Authors Now (www.authorsnow.com), which I recommend all debut children’s authors join. A major film company spotted the piece and approached me via email saying they were interested in reading Under My Skin, and did I have an agent? I fired off an email to Rachel, my super-fantastic publicist, and she’s fielding that aspect of things for me. Nothing may come of it, but for an author living in a small northern Alberta town, the memory of reading that email for the first time will warm me through many a bitter winter’s day.

ED- Your sequel to this is entitled ‘Second Skin’. Please tell us all about it and the characters within the novel.

JG- Second Skin continues the story of Eryn McCain, half shapeshifter and half human as she and her crew of hunters are faced with their darkest fears. Here’s the blurb: With FIENDS Like Eryn…Eryn struggles to resist the beast clawing at her soul as darkness settles over her like a second skin. She’s made a deal, and she can’t let a dead man down. Not unless she wants her friends and family to relocate – six feet under. When Eryn and her crew each face their own demons, loyalties are tested and temptations abound. Can she share a future with the brooding, noble, human Alec – the hunter after her heart? Or will she succumb to her enemy’s son, Wade, a seductive predator as bloodthirsty as she is? What happens when you’re both the beauty and the beast?

ED- You also have another novel, ‘Skin of My Teeth’. Does this fall in line with your other works ?

JG- Yup. Skin of My Teeth is the final book in the Skinned series where we’ll see which path Eryn chooses, the dark side….or will she redeem herself in the end? The burning question in every love triangle is: which guy will win her heart? But with Eryn the question is more like – will she have a heart left to give?

ED-Where can our readership locate your writing?

JG- Under My Skin is available in Chapters bookstores across Canada, online at the usual suspects: chapters.ca, amazon.ca, amazon.com, amazon.uk.co, amazon.fr, barnesandnobel.com, booksamillion.com, etc., and through my publisher, Leap Books (www.leapbks.com).

ED- We learned that you have more work on the drawing board in an upcoming novel called ‘Witch’s Shadow’ . Can you give us a sneak-preview of it?

JG-The plot for WS in a nutshell: When a vengeful spirit threatens the uneasy truce between Norms and Paranorms in the pseudo-Salem town of Origins, it’s up to a fledgling witch to keep everyone alive. Witch’s Shadow: Prologue Origins 1672 Vengeance, cried the wind skimming over long midday shadows. High on a hilltop stood a lone Arbutus tree, its knotted, twisted copper trunk in stark relief against the sunlight. Bare of leaves, the skeletal branches rattled together like bones. A murder of ravens settled in the tree, ready to dine. “No!” a boy yelled down at the ground from his perch upon a mare’s back, a ring of rope across his neck, his hands bound. “Choose this path and choose your ruination.” He spit his oath as if at the fiery depths of the earth. The magistrate slapped his cane on the mare’s trembling flank. She bolted, and the boy slipped from her back. Rope taut, his neck broke with a crisp snap. “Where’s your magic now, eh, boy?” The black-robed magistrate jabbed his cane at the lean body suspended in the air, sending it into a slow spiral. “Where are your unholy fires?” On the dust beneath their feet, the boy’s shadow widened, then narrowed with each turn. Gathered to witness the death of Jonah Cale, the small crowd exchanged uneasy glances as the magistrate continued to prod the corpse. Young Cale had been accused of witchcraft, and his final words lingered in their murdering ears. “You see, brethren,” the magistrate said, “even the devils he served fear our wrath and abandoned the boy to his fate. We have done goodly work here this day. Our families will be much relieved.” The magistrate led the villagers down the hill, leaving the boy to swing. And he did. His wind-tossed hair, black as pitch, his blue eyes bulging in their sockets, vacant. Dead. All was silent save for the wind’s mournful howl and the branch that creaked with the boy’s swaying weight. For long minutes his shadow diligently shifted on the earth. Then with a subtle ripple as if suddenly under knee-deep water, the shadow detached from the boy and drifted across the land. Vengeance.

ED-Judith, where can you see your writing going within the next five years?

JG- Improving…and hopefully proving Canadian young adult fiction can be sexy, action-packed, and snarky as hell.

ED- We want to thank you, Judith, for spending time with us. I am most sure that our readers have been thrilled to meet you, and will be shopping for your novels as soon as they read this. We wish you much luck and ask that you keep us informed of all that you do in the near future.