Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there’s more to fear than just the cold…
From critically acclaimed author Laura Bickle comes the first novel in the Wildlands series
As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors – especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can’t explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.
The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn’t helping matters. He’s a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill – a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra’s partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he’s all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.
It’s up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.
Releasing Dec 27th, 2016
Where are you from? Does the area you live in influence you writing?
I grew up in rural Ohio. Nature was right outside the backdoor – there was a sluggish, muddy river in our backyard. I spent a lot of time looking for salamanders, fishing (pretty unsuccessfully) for bluegill, and digging up sassafras. The soundtrack to my childhood included frogs, cicadas, and bobcats shrieking at sunset in the fall. This taught me the importance of setting as a character in a story. No matter where you go, the land has its own distinct personality.
Now that I live in a city, I have to dig a bit deeper to find nature. I’ve built a pretty big garden in our backyard, which is a favorite place for feral cats to lurk. We have more fireflies in summer than anyone for miles around. And just the other day, I moved our trash can on the street and found a little DeKay’s snake underneath the can. I took him to the back garden, where I’m sure he’ll find a few late-season crickets to nosh on.
Tell us your latest news!
My newest book is NINE OF STARS, coming out December 27. It’s about the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee, who’s on the trail of a creature killing wolves in Yellowstone and leaving their skins behind. As she and her coyote sidekick investigate, they uncover the legend of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century product of a failed alchemical experiment.
When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?
I’m one of those people who was writing stories with crayons about the family pets. I’ve always been doing it, but started pursuing publication in 2009. I like asking the “what if” questions and exploring the outcomes…what if a dragon lived in the salt mines underneath Detroit? What if the descendants of the Oracle of Delphi survived today? What if there was a large scale disaster and the Amish were uniquely-equipped to survive? I love playing with these.
What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
I first read Robin McKinley’s THE HERO AND THE CROWN when I was thirteen. It was the first fantasy book I’d read with a strong female protagonist who slew her own dragons. The other fantasy books I got my hands on mostly featured male protagonists battling magical wars with mighty beasts and mysterious powers. They were great stuff, but I didn’t connect to them fully, as the women seemed so peripheral to the stories. I couldn’t really put myself in their shoes, whether they were velvet slippers or barbarian boots.
Tell us about your characters and how they came to be? Have they been in your head for a long time?
Petra, the protagonist of NINE OF STARS, is a lot of fun to write. She’s a scientist, a skeptic facing supernatural monsters she can’t explain. She’s also the daughter of an alchemist, trying to wrap her brain around what her missing father’s been up to in the Yellowstone backcountry for the last couple of decades. I wanted to create a character who explored her world from a standpoint of reason. She has no special powers – she’s not the Chosen One. I identify with her a lot because she’s ordinary.
Her partner, Gabriel, is decidedly not ordinary. He’s the last of a group of undead cowboys, the Hanged Men, who subsisted on magic for hundreds of years. He’s been let down hard by dwindling magic – he’s become an ordinary man, and coming to grips with what that means.
What motivates you to write?
I really like putting together new worlds and new characters to populate them. For me, writing is a giant puzzle, unraveling a story from start to finish. I never really have the full vision until the first draft is done.
What is the hardest part of writing?
The hardest part of writing for me is facing the blank page. It’s just nothing – and I have to conjure something from it.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
(Laughs) I learned how to cast bullets and how to sabotage a snowmobile. Doing the research is my favorite part of writing. Maybe it’s my inner nerd, but I love foraging for weird facts…and this book has giving me the opportunity to play with alchemy, forensics, and the sociology of wolves. I learn as I write, and that’s the best part of my process.
Where do you get your ideas?
They come from odd places. For NINE OF STARS, I was inspired by a vacation my husband and I took to Yellowstone. It’s a larger-than-life landscape that I just knew had to be populated by magical creatures in the shadows!
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband is my first reader. He’s pretty good at finding things that don’t make sense, dropped plot threads, and overused words. And he’s honest with me. If something isn’t working, he’ll tell me. I’d rather catch it earlier in the process than in a later draft.
And the cats…well. Our cats take turns sitting on my desk and knocking things off with
expressions of contempt.
You win some, you lose some.
What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?
Try National Novel Writing Month at least once. I’d written a book before I tried NaNoWriMo on a dare, and that book took me years to finish. Mostly, that was due to paralyzing perfectionism, and that book is still sitting in a shoebox under my bed. NaNo helped me get my inner critic to shut up and let me write.
What book are you reading now?
I just picked up Fleming’s THE DARK SIDE OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT. It’s all about alchemists and occultists from a historical perspective. Imagination juice, for sure!
Laura Bickle is an award-winning author of multiple works of YA fiction. She grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016. More information about Laura’s work can be found at www.laurabickle.com.
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