This week I’m throwing a few questions at a new author, Tamara Jock, whose first book The Willow and the Stone came out just yesterday from our mutual publisher New Concepts Publishing. I think Tamara should be immune from the PayPal madness that has so many of us MIA. She is the first mainstream fiction author that NCP has published, so no sexual naughtiness here ... just good storytelling. It took her 25 years to see her first book published despite winning awards for it ... hmm ... sounds like a familiar story. ;)
Q: Thanks for doing the interview, Tamara.
A: Thanks for having me.
Q: So you don’t write erotica. What genres do you write?
A: I write science fiction and horror. NCP just signed another book of mine, a horror novel titled Lilith.
Q: Why do you write in these genres?
A: As far as science fiction, I’m a big geek. I was raised on the original StarTrek television show, Lost in Space, and Star Wars. I love the idea of adventures in space and the idea that there are aliens out there somewhere. When it comes to horror, I lived in a couple of haunted houses as a kid and so I’m fascinated with the paranormal. I’m a huge Stephen King fan.
Q: Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
A: I’d love to write historical fiction. My interests range from ancient Greece to pirates to Abraham Lincoln to World War II. I’m kind of all over the place I guess. As for what I wouldn’t write, I can’t really come up with anything I wouldn’t try my hand at if I thought up a story that was compelling enough.
Q: What fiction do you read for pleasure?
A: Science fiction and horror. I read a lot of Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, and so many more. Besides Stephen King I’m also into Peter Straub, and you always have to go with the classics of Edgar Allan Poe.
Q: What writer inspires you most?
A: For sheer imagination, and I sound like a broken record here, Stephen King. Ray Bradbury too. Stylistically, I love how Dean Koontz’s writing just flows. You’re halfway through his books before you realize it because he’s just so smooth with his word choices and rhythms.
Q: Outside of writing, who inspires your life?
A: My 6-year old son. He gets out of bed running and just goes nonstop until bedtime. He can’t wait to see what’s new in the world. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t discover something that excites him or makes him laugh.
Q: How much of you do you put in your characters?
A: I feel like there’s a piece of myself in every character, even the ones I base on other people. Heroes and villains alike, I’m pretty sure I’m somewhere in all of them!
Q: Which of your characters is your favorite?
A: Oh, that takes some consideration. I’d have to say Alex Williams in Lilith. She’s a butt kicker who doesn’t take crap from anyone, but she’s also battling fears and insecurities. She puts on a tough facade when she’s shaking like a leaf on the inside.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: The sequel to The Willow and the Stone. I’ve finished the first draft of Willow in the Desert. I’ll probably do at least two re-writes before I can call it close to complete.
Q: Tell me about The Willow and the Stone.
A: It’s probably best explained by the back cover blurb and an excerpt:
Four years ago, insectile aliens arrived on Earth in great pyramid ships. Now mankind is reduced to a few pockets of survivors, skulking in the shadows to elude the creatures that rule the planet. Among those survivors are Carli Dixon and Renee Johnson, an ill-matched pair thrown together through circumstance.
Battling their extraterrestrial enemy and the betrayal of their own kind, Carli and Renee struggle against impossible odds to find safety. Rescuing each other from certain death cements their friendship. But to survive and save others like themselves, they must risk everything … including each other.
Renee slapped her hand over her companion’s mouth. The brunette manhandled the smaller woman into the shadows beneath the stone bridge they‘d just emerged from. Carli didn’t struggle against Renee’s grip, but she squealed a muffled cry of protest into the stagnant West Virginia night air.
"Sssssshh!" Renee hissed, her grip tightening. "Aliens!"
Carli froze against her for an instant before breaking free. She slammed herself against the inside of the arch to merge with the blackest of shadows. Renee crowded her, also sliding into the dubious cover of darkness. The bridge, more picturesque than a bastion of protection, was small with wooden beams buttressing the stones above. A perfect spot for vacationing tourists to pose on for pictures to bore their co-workers with, but a ridiculous spot to depend on for one’s life.
Two monstrous creatures glided into view, their elongated insectoid figures silhouetted in the bright moonlight. They stalked up to the bridge that spanned the dry, dusty creek bed and joined the women in the darkness. Carli and Renee melted behind a support beam.
Trapped, Carli's frantic mind whispered. The monsters had them for sure this time. She squeezed her eyes shut but couldn't block out the aliens' cricket speech. They chirped and chittered, grating against her ears. She wished she could be struck deaf. Sweat tickled its way down her spine.
Muscular Renee, who couldn't begin to approach the power of the spindly aliens, tensed beside her. The creatures came abreast of the hidden women, chirping ear-bleeding conversation right in front of them. Carli tried to shrink further back, mashing her backside into the unyielding, unsympathetic stone. Renee crushed against her.
A pebble slid from under Carli's foot and clinked in protest as it dislodged and rolled down the slope. Her mouth flew open to scream; surely the monsters heard the rock crash down. No whistle of sound escaped her locked, straining throat, but her heart was a bass drum of thunder booming through the night.
Her eyes screwed shut against the sight of the looming predators, Carli waited for the bristle-haired mantis arms of an alien to embrace her. She waited for its needle proboscis to slide into her flesh and secrete its paralyzing poison. She waited to sag helpless in the grip of the monster while it sipped the life from her veins. She waited to die a slow, fading death. Her heart pounded louder than ever, as if to beat as hard and fast as it could in its few remaining minutes.
The chittering aliens, intent on their conversation, stalked past. Disbelieving, Carli’s eyes flew open, and she watched them pass from under the bridge. Motes of moon-glittering dust danced in the wake of the monsters’ long, tapered legs.
She released the breath she'd been holding in a rush and sucked it in again as one alien swiveled its head around. It looked back at the bridge that hid the two women.
Carli's stomach lurched at the pale orb of the creature's face glowing in the moonlight. Wispy tufts of hair sprang in sparse bunches from its bullet-shaped head. The proboscis writhed like a blind worm where a nose and mouth would have been on a human. Its grayish flesh seemed stretched too tight over its skull; there were no wrinkles, not even creases on its face.
Its eyes shocked her the most; eyes cold in intent, but horribly human in appearance, almond shaped and ringed with black lashes.
The creatures’ naked torsos were long and smooth without benefit of hair, muscle tone, or even genitalia. Carli had no idea if skin or a harder shell covered their bones; happily she’d never been in contact with one. Odds were she’d someday lose that joy.
The searching alien's too-human eyes slid over the women without alerting. Carli's body sagged as the creature turned away and stalked on with its companion.
The women huddled under the bridge listening to the monsters' conversation die away and smelling the sour tang of their own sweat. Carli shuddered violently, knowing that Renee could feel it, and didn’t care. Probably Renee was shaking too; this had been their closest call yet.
Frogs broke into chorus from their shelters within the tall grass on the banks. Renee shook free of her paralysis, grabbed Carli's hand, and yanked her out into the open. Under the moon's accusing glare they sped away, tearing a path through the grass to escape the creatures that had all but destroyed the human race.
Q: Well, definitely not the kinds of aliens I usually choose to write about, but it does sound like a wild ride. Good luck with your books, Tamara.
A: Thanks for having me.
The Willow and the Stone is available through New Concepts Publishing as an e-book. You can also visit Tamara’s blog ‘Rifts in Reality’ to keep up on her latest writing projects.