Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Book of the Month: Grave Dance


One of our feature pieces of the Berkley UK Blog will be our Book of the Month. Think a SFF Richard and Judy Book Club. (Although sometimes it might feature two - or three - books as they are all so good and we all have a different favourite so to save some serious in-fighting amongst the Berkley team, we might have more than one per month).

And so, to kick off this month is a book we actually published in February, but I love it so much I can’t stop talking about it. It’s Grave Dance by Kalayna Price, which is actually the second novel in the addictive Alex Craft series, which began with Grave Witch. If you love feisty kick-ass heroines with a sexy, unexpected and unconventional love interest, then this is the series for you. And here to tell you a bit more about it is Kalayna Price herself. She kindly did an interview with me about the series so read on to hear all about it…

Claire: For those who haven’t yet discovered the brilliant Alex Craft series - which includes the novels Grave Witch and Grave Dance - can you tell us a little about it?

Kalayna: The series follows Alex Craft, a witch who can question the dead. She uses this skill in her struggling PI firm, Tongues for the Dead, and as a consultant for the police on murder cases. In Grave Witch, when she is called in on a case involving a dark cop, a sexy reaper, and a ghost-silencing killer, she discovers that more than her rent is on the line … she might just lose her soul.

Claire: We love Alex and her powers that allow her to speak to the dead. Can you tell us a little about her day job as a Grave Witch?

Kalayna: Alex raises shades, which are emotionless recordings of a person’s life stored in every cell of their body and given form by magic. It’s cold work, as she has to straddle the chasm between the living and the dead and let the chill of the grave into her own body. Her ability is also slowly degrading her eyesight. When she’s using her magic to help the police question victims, the price is a small thing to pay. It is a little less worthwhile when she’s working for private clients who want to know if great uncle Bernie really did have a secret stash of cash hidden in a Caribbean bank account, but hey, a job is a job, right?

Claire: There’s a wonderfully rich and complete magic system in these novels. What was your inspiration for this and did you have to do a lot of research into myths and mysticism in order to create it?

Kalayna: One of my hobbies is studying folklore and mythology, so a lot of folklore makes its way into the stories. I enjoy taking creatures of legend and putting them in a more modern setting.

Claire: Death features as quite a different character from what we would typically expect, as he’s Alex’s potential love interest in this series. Why did you decide to portray Death with a deliciously romantic side rather than a ghoulish taker of souls?

Kalayna: What later became the opening lines of book one was actually the first inkling of the idea for the story. The lines are “The first time I encountered Death, I hurled my mother’s medical chart at him. As far as impressions went, I blew it, but I was five at the time so he eventually forgave me.” I knew from that point on that Death and Alex would have a complicated relationship. A creepy grim reaper just didn’t fit the bill. One who looked good in jeans and a tight t-shirt was more to my liking.

Claire: Alex’s little faithful companion PC is a hairless Chinese Crested. Why did you decide to pick this breed of dog in particular?

Kalayna: I could copout and just say I like Cresteds, but in truth, I gave a lot of thought as to what kind of dog Alex should have. I settled on a Chinese Crested because they are purebred dogs that many people take one look at and assume the dog is ill (if not just odd and ugly). Nicer comments often run along the line of Cresteds being so pathetic looking that they’re cute. Alex comes from a ‘good’ family, but has been disowned for being different. She’s seen as odd. The parallel appealed to me. Also, I like Chinese Cresteds.

Claire: Alex Craft’s magical talent lies in speaking to the dead. If you could speak to one dead person, who would you pick?

Kalayna: That’s a hard choice. Probably someone shrouded in mystery. There are more than a few literary geniuses of the past I’d like to know more about.

Claire: Can you tell us a little about the next book in the series, Grave Memory, which will be hitting the shelves here in the UK in July (and we can’t wait!)?

Kalayna: Alex has gone through a lot in the first two books. She’d like to settle back and have some time to cope with the changes. Unfortunately, life doesn’t cooperate. When she takes a job involving an apparent suicide, it should be an open and shut case, but the shade can’t remember the events leading up to his body’s death. Which means despite the very public manner of death; this is murder.

Claire: Do you have an idea about what the future holds for Alex yet?

Kalayna: I do! But if I tell you, that would give away spoilers. Let’s just say she has quite a few adventures, discoveries, heartbreaks, and quite a bit of danger to face before she has any chance of reaching her happily ever after.

Claire: We know you love hula hoop dancing with fire. How did you discover this and have you ever got burnt?
Kalayna: I started hoop dancing in 2009 for the health and social aspects of the activity. I quickly learned it was a lot of fun as well. Groups of us gather several times a week to jam. I ‘burned’ (as in used a fire hoop) for the first time that November, and let me tell you, burning is an adrenalin rush. The worst I’ve ever done is singe a little hair, but this is one of those don’t try this at home activities. My group is big on safety. We each get a crash course in fire safety before we burn and we always have people standing by with fire blankets and extinguishers, just in case. That said, when you’re in the centre of roaring flames, the rest of the world fades away.

Claire: How do you relax after a hard day’s writing?

Kalayna: I am a girl with too many hobbies. Hooping, obviously, and reading of course, but I also enjoy playing violin, making jewellery, and video games.

Claire: What book did you last read that you really enjoyed?

Kalayna: I’ve read several great authors recently, including a novella by the writing team Illona Andrews, the latest by the fabulous Faith Hunter, an adventure fantasy by Rachel Aaron, I just started the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh, and I’m currently looking forward to starting the latest by Melissa Marr. Reading is something I enjoy immensely. After all, the magic of a good book is what inspired me to write in the first place.

Thanks, Kalayna.

Claire, Editor

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