Thursday, January 9, 2014

"The Soul Stealer" by Maureen Willett

The Soul Stealer
by Maureen Willett

The Soul Stealer is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author. You can also enter the author's giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Hunter Blackthorne has almost all he needs: powerful magic and the seductive art of deception. Now, all he needs is her soul.
In the dark, twisting world of The Soul Stealer, half-human Hunter Blackthorne embarks on a quest to vanquish the heir of his father's enemy by stealing her soul. Though his father would settle for her mere death, Hunter is determined to pilfer Malia Smalls' very essence in hopes of obtaining supreme power. The Soul Stealer is a story of questioned loyalties, power struggles, and decidedly unconventional romance.
Since his target is a mere human, Hunter's mission seems laughably straightforward. However, upon meeting Malia, Hunter realizes that this task is anything but uncomplicated. Hunter starts to waver between commitment to his father's cause and an unshakable feeling of foreboding guilt over his mission. Hunter thought he knew everything there was to know about his identity and his family, but signs of a darker truth lurk below, threatening to overturn everything.
A story of alternate realities and twisting complications set in exotic Hawaii, The Soul Stealer is a story of fantasy, magic and mysticism, but also a story about humanity and the moral and emotional conflicts that we all face. The Soul Stealer transports the reader to an exciting, dangerous, and captivating world that won't be easily forgotten.

Hunter Blackthorne had seen the face of death on others and now wondered how it might look on him. The journey through the abyss to another reality proved more difficult than before. Loud, torturous screams filled the silence as he churned around and around.  It didn’t matter if he closed his eyes or not, because the bleak darkness made it impossible to see. Maybe the screams belonged to him.  Hunter wasn’t sure.  He was in an often-used wormhole and anyone could be in there.
The journey ended with a gut-wrenching fall as he dropped through layers of atmosphere to reach the portal - the one place where the wormhole was soft enough to get through.  Wind whipped around and penetrated his body with sharp force. Then, light increased and the ground pulled at him, getting closer and closer, until he could no longer refuse his destination. The twirling before his eyes stopped just in time to gain control and ease the point of impact.
As he touched down, he gulped in warm, moist air, but he was too dizzy to maintain footing and fell flat on his back.  Life-ending pain seeped into his pores like poison, but he was pretty sure he hadn’t died.
He never landed in the same place on the island but, even so, he felt more disoriented than usual.  The soothing coconut tree palms swaying in the breeze overhead were not an unexpected sight but much too serene for the way he felt. Even the scent of gardenias couldn’t ease the pounding in his head. Souls cried out in anguish all around him.
The toxins of the abyss mixed with the pollution of this reality were already affecting his ability to focus.  He needed to purify in a quiet place; gather his thoughts and feelings in meditation. Whenever he traveled here, Hunter marveled at how much the humans in this reality had snuffed out their ability to live harmoniously, even in the most remote place on the planet, one heralded as “paradise.”
Hawaii was one of the few places that was still forming, spitting fire and rocks from the belly of volcanoes. And with that new life came all sorts of mystical creatures, attracted to the power and magic of the heart of Earth. The strong magnetic field around the active volcanoes pulled the portal out of the clouds and toward the land, but the unsuspecting people inhabiting the islands had no idea that all sorts - good and bad - came through the funnel from inner space.
Hunter had been to Hawaii many times and had seen it disintegrate over the years - an unfortunate thing, for soon the portal between the two realities would be clogged with all the crap they let seep into their air, and no one would be able to get through.  It was of the utmost importance he capture her this time, because he might not have access to this world in the future.
That would heartbreaking; he liked it here despite all the flaws.  It was so easy to fool everyone into believing he was human.  In this tarnished, stale world, unlike that of his own reality, no one believed in magic anymore.  It was quite freeing. No one got suspicious of him the way they did at home.
Hunter got to his knees and brushed off the dust from his clothes but then looked around to make sure no one was there to see the glittery sparkles flying all around a man who had just fallen from the sky.  It was then he noticed all the broken and faded headstones with barely discernible engravings.  Some were written in Chinese or Japanese characters, but most were in English.  None had flowers by them.  Green moss and ferns overwhelmed each plot. Hunter smiled as he ran his fingers over the smooth headstone he had hit on the way down.  This particular spirit was no longer around.  Not even remnants still existed.
A crack of thunder made him look up.  The air felt heavy with moisture as black clouds roiled overhead, and the pungent smell of rain hitting hot pavement somehow seemed real even though the squall wouldn’t hit for a few more minutes. As with most island storms, it would pass quickly, but the downpour would be harsh while it lasted.
The small square cemetery was enclosed with a wrought-iron, spiky fence that was discolored and mossy.  Outside cars whizzed by.  Indeed, no one noticed him standing there, looking as disheveled and worn as the gravestones, surrounded by death in the bustling city of Honolulu.
Another crack of thunder made Hunter grab his leather satchel and vault over the fence. He ran to the nearest awning, stumbling toward the doorway of a nearby electronics store to wait for the storm to pass.  It was then he checked the front pocket of his leather bag to make sure he still had it.  As his fingers grasped the cool, smooth emerald and ivory handle of the dagger, Hunter wondered if he would find her this time.  He almost hoped she’d be able to resist him.
Most of the time, he hated inflicting pain, but this time there would be pleasure, too. The taste of her lips played heavily on his imagination, and he anticipated being captivated by the slanted green eyes and golden hair he had seen so many times in his visions.  Yes, he would find selfish pleasure in this particular task.  His father had devised the plan well, but even he didn’t understand what it truly meant to Hunter - the power it would give him to capture their enemy’s only heir.

Hunter Blackthorne is half-faery, half-human. He wants to embark on a mission to steal the soul of the heir of his Fathers enemy. But he does not realize what he is in for when he meets the lovely Malia Smalls. He is torn between loyalties, love and power struggles.
Set in Hawaii with vivid details, the reader fees as if they are there, in the middle of the story watching it unfold. Filled with emotions, romance, and secrets The Soul Stealer is a page turner that fantasy/romance lovers will enjoy.

Interview with the Author
Hi Maureen, thanks for joining me today to discuss your book, The Soul Stealer.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
As a young girl, I loved Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and especially The Mummy, which has a more romantic twist. Those books started me down the paranormal path, both as a fan and a writer. She really created the basis for the genre and was unparalleled for many years.
What age group do you recommend your book for?
What sparked the idea for this book?
Actually, I saw a good-looking young man dressed in the same clothes every morning while I commuted to downtown Honolulu. No matter what time I drove down the hill into the city, he was walking up the hill. But there’s no businesses up that hill, so he caught my attention. I began to create scenarios for his purpose for going that way dressed in jeans and a white linen shirt every morning. Eventually, I had concocted an entire story about a guy from an alternate reality coming to Honolulu to murder a young woman, only he falls in love with her instead and uses his supernatural powers to keep her safe from his rather violent family.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
They rush at me all together, but it’s usually the idea for the novel that builds into an actual plot and outline. The characters naturally develop from that.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
My novel is set in real cities that I’ve lived in: Los Angeles and Honolulu. But that made it difficult because I wanted to make sure I reflected the very different lifestyles and cultures of both places. And I also didn’t want to include any actual establishments in my book, so I had to make them up and fit them into that city appropriately. Malia’s dress shop doesn’t exist, but the street it’s on does, so I had to imagine what a dress shop on that particular street in downtown Honolulu would look like, without copying any existing businesses. It’s a fine line to walk.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I want readers to tell me it’s a page-turner, they couldn’t put it down. That’s the experience I want when I make the time to read a novel and that’s what I want to give readers as a writer. Also, the story is an allegory for what happens when two people meet and fall in love. Most of the time, each person is on their best behavior, afraid the other won’t love them if they reveal all their dark secrets. The same happens with my two main characters, but their secrets are a bit more fantastic.
How long did it take you to write this book?
About a year, and then six months for rewrite.
What is your writing routine?
I work full-time and am a mother, so I tend to write on the weekend mornings or at night when things have quietened down. Once I start, I can go for hours, so sleep can be minimal when I’m working on a first draft.
How did you get your book published?
I published it myself through a digital publisher. After going to various writing conferences, I realized the paradigm for the publishing industry is shifting to digital. We don’t even have any more major brick and mortar bookstores in Hawaii. The last one just closed.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Take the time to learn how to write in terms of grammar and creating sentences that mean something. Every writer should strive to perfect their craft by knowing language. Then, rewrite, rewrite your manuscript. Then pay a professional copy editor to edit your piece. Once that’s all done, decide if you want to go the traditional route and be frustrated by all the rejection slips, or publish it yourself. There are some good digital publishers that do all the work for you at a nominal cost. But whether your novel is successful or not all comes down to the story, characters, and quality of writing.
Great advice , Maureen. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
My family is involved with outrigger canoe racing, which is the biggest sport in Hawaii. Although I don’t race competitively anymore, I still enjoy getting out on my one-person canoe on the ocean. Clears my head, too.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’re supportive, and my 10-year-old son is now writing a novel about dragons.
That's great! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I had a somewhat traumatic childhood. My mother had cancer from the time I was little and finally passed away on Father’s Day when I was 11. It’s shaped my life and my writing. Guess that’s why many of my characters are traumatized by their childhood for one reason or another.
Sorry to hear that, Maureen. Did you enjoy school?
Not really. I was easily bored. But I did well, especially in English and writing classes. It wasn’t until college that I realized it was my calling.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Yes, I read constantly. I was the stereotypical child with a flashlight reading all night in bed.
Me too! What was your favorite book as a child?
Black Beauty made me cry. The first novel that really got to me, though, was The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.
I loved The Outsiders as well. Who were your favorite authors as a child?
The first author I really followed and read all her books was Anne Rice, but that wasn’t until high school.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In third grade when I had to write a Halloween story for a class assignment. It turned out pretty well, and my mother and I decided I should write more stories.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Definitely. Your childhood shapes who you are, and that always comes out in my writing. My characters all have a reflection of me in them in some way. How could they not?
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
They say The Soul Stealer is a page-turner and that they couldn’t put it down. That makes me smile.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’m currently working on a paranormal historical novel about a family from Ireland who immigrates to Kansas in 1870 because they are about to be accused of witchcraft in their home village. A leprechaun/faery follows them to the New World. I was doing my family tree last summer and came across some interesting anecdotes about my ancestors’ journeys to America and have incorporated those stories into this novel. Of course, I had to put a supernatural twist on it, too.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Maureen. Best of luck with your current project. It sounds fascinating.

About the Author
Since she was in grade school, Maureen Willett has been a writer of fiction that pushes the boundaries of what is and isn’t. At that time, she twisted class writing assignments into stories about witches, tricksters in the night, and sparkling faery dust. And, participating in the art of levitation every time her family gathered at holidays made Maureen feel more than qualified to write fantastic tales. Magic had always been a secret part of her family’s legacy - toyed with but never spoken about.
But life got in the way. A successful career in automotive journalism and public relations in Los Angeles took her places in the corporate world she had dreamed of while majoring in communications in college. Climbing the corporate ladder to vice president of a prestigious public relations agency was engrossing, but did she really want to spend her days writing about cars and monster trucks, and trying to break through the thick glass ceiling of the automotive world?
Then one day, she was offered a transfer to the Honolulu, Hawaii, office of her agency. She jumped at the chance to change her predictable and stressful existence for one of soaking up the sun on a white, sandy beach. Or so she thought.
Hawaii didn’t prove to be as stress-free as Maureen had hoped, but it did offer a fresh perspective. After two uncertain years of trying to blend into the foreign island culture, Maureen fell in love with Oahu and vowed never to leave. The tropical paradise held a soft yet powerful mysticism that inspired her to set pen to paper once again.
Even the office buildings in downtown Honolulu were haunted. Maureen often saw ethereal beings in the halls of the radio station where she was the manager of local and national sales. These pesky pieces of grey mist didn’t bother her, though. Maureen thought of them more as interesting topics for urban fantasy tales than scary apparitions.
Magical creatures pop off the pages of her novels, but at the core of each story are great characters in very human conflicts that anyone will find compelling. Very often, Maureen writes about angels, faeries, and even leprechauns, but they are always woven through an authentic story.
As an avid reader herself, Maureen wants a page-turner that keeps her up until the wee hours of morning. She strives to create that same experience for her own readers. Each novel is carefully crafted as an exciting, mind-bending experience that will take readers beyond their day-to-day lives.
But don’t expect to think too hard, or contemplate the meaning of life. Pure fun and page-turning entertainment is what you’ll find in a novel by Maureen Willett. It’s almost a magical experience.