…talks about humor as an essential element in all writing, and spanning literary genres.
Meg Lacey’s latest book, The Sparrow and the Hawk is a genre-spanning adventure/mystery/romance. Feisty protagonist Jillie faces the world as a documentary filmmaker, but that’s really a cover for her work as an investigator with the NAS (Normal, Abnormal, Strange) agency. Griff is her new “sex on a stick” cameraman-cum-partner and together the two of them meet all sorts of characters and explore some really odd houses while hunting for a rare necklace that could unleash huge amounts of evil and chaos. Here’s what Meg had to say:
Meg, please tell our readers a bit about who you are, and what got you “hooked” on writing?
I never really thought about being an author, although I’ve always written. My goal, education and training were focused on acting and directing. It wasn’t until we left some major metropolitan areas that I changed my direction, focusing on producing and writing for television, video, and interactive websites.
I started two creative production/marketing companies, where I was a writer/producer, so I have always been writing professionally. I remember writing poetry (very bad poetry) in the fourth grade.
I wrote a novel in the sixth grade basically because another girl was writing one and I decided if she could do it so could I. My novel was 128 pages long. Then I actually started writing fiction seriously when my children were little. I started with children’s literature and moved to the romance and women’s fiction genre. By the time I’d written 4 novels, publishing the 5th one, I was hooked.
The Sparrow and the Hawk is a little bit of everything – paranormal romance, mystery, fantasy, and even a bit of black comedy – how do YOU classify it? Do you think some books are overlooked because they’re pigeonholed into too-narrow categories?
This is a great question because all of my writing has fallen “between the lines.” I would write books for Harlequin and the response to some of my favorite ones would be: “We really like this, but the book isn’t quite this or quite that so we don’t know where to put it in our lineup.”
This brings me to The Sparrow and The Hawk. When I first described it to my editor, Linda Kichline at Imajinn Books, I said: “This is a humorous urban fantasy type novel with mystery, adventure and romance.” Luckily Linda is very good at reading between the lines and taking a chance because she sees potential in the story.
I think too many writers and books are locked into too narrow categories. A book of mine was once turned down because the editor determined it was “too intelligent” for the reader. I was floored at that. Luckily I sold it somewhere else.
I think that by adhering to strict guidelines and pigeonholes the readers are shortchanged. Once you start to narrow the ideas, you narrow the available marketplace. I think this is one reason ebooks are also doing so well…all kinds of hybrid books are available from terrific authors.
This book is the first of a trilogy; was that your intention from the start, or was it something that happened during the editing and publishing process?
My intention was always to write a trilogy, or more, depending on where the story takes me. I had outlined three stories that intrigued me and my editor asked if I want to stop at a trilogy or continue. I will continue the series if I have ideas I’d like to explore and if the characters demand it. Of course, much will also depend on whether or not the book finds an audience and sells.
I really liked the character Jillie – she seemed very three-dimensional and vivid. Was she based on a real person, or is she built completely from your imagination? How about Griff?
My background is theatre, acting specifically. In our training we work on building three-dimensional characterization. It carries over into my writing. I used to do long character studies in the beginning, but now I have them in my head when I first meet a character and let them grow.
I did want to deal with a woman who didn’t look like a superhero. I wanted Jillie to be human in the sense that she isn’t the most physically impressive representative for an undercover agent and she is still open to learning and making mistakes.
There’s a line in the book where she thinks she doesn’t look important enough to save the world. That sums up my start of her characterization. So she is mostly imagination, with probably things from people I observe thrown in.
Griff is the same way, although in his case I also saw a commercial for western cologne and the look inspired him physically.
His ability to shape shift developed accidentally, and as for the rest of him…he just came into dimension as I sat down at the computer. I wanted a man with passion, humor and skills but with the ability to make mistakes also. He is floored by Jillie, partly because he is almost predestined to be involved with her, and partly because she takes him by surprise. This woman is someone he would never have considered in other circumstances.
I really love it when a character echoes my own thoughts. As I was reading about Franklin’s house I kept thinking that it reminded me of a weird cross between the house from the board game Clue and the Winchester Mystery House (when Jillie later mentions something about playing Clue, I felt sort of vindicated) – was there a real house that inspired Franklin’s manse?
Franklin’s house is not real but was inspired by a funny Halloween greeting card I saw. The house looked very gothic but approachable on the card. I wanted a house that could look like one thing in one instance and then become something else when the events dictated it. I wanted the house and the settings to become characters that added to the story.
A significant amount of exposition in The Sparrow and the Hawk is in the form of characters’ internal monologues, which means we, the readers, often know more than the other characters. What made you decide to use that particular literary device?
I wanted to keep the mystery of Griff so I didn’t want to change into his point of view during the action itself. In order to understand some of his actions I decided to use internal monologue to give the reader insight into him.
I also use the technique for his archrival, Declan for the some of the same reasons. Although in his case he is not letting you understand his internal thoughts as much as his internal thoughts explain his actions toward Jillie and Griff.
I think the monologues are a powerful technique but they are tricky to do. You have to judge how much is too much and what is too little.
Do you think moments of comedy are important in a romance? How about in a mystery or fantasy? Why or why not?
To me, humor is essential in any book, but that’s because I write with a lot of humor.
I remember talking to a friend who is a very popular “hot” romance writer. She had a situation where her heroine and hero were large and in charge. My friend would look at a couple and the first thing she considered was their sex life. The first thing I considered was how in the hell did they keep from crushing each other. That sums up my take on life I guess.
I think humor adds to your enjoyment of a situation, and ultimately helps you cope. My favorite type of book includes humor as part of the mix. Sometimes it is subtle and other times overt, and other times sheer black humor. As long as the humor comes naturally out of the character or the situation, it works in any kind of book.
Is there a particular scene or passage from The Sparrow and the Hawk that you’re particularly proud of? If so, please share it with us, or describe it.
I love the party scene because of the outrageous cast of characters and their conversations with each other.
I love the fact that the party starts as a get together and is full of party manners and dialogue, but eventually deteriorates into something else, something dark and evil, rather repellent. But through the entire scene there is a lot of humor. The humor comes from the characters initially and then evolves into black humor created by the situation that develops.
The ending of this book resolves only a tiny part of the overall story; can you give us any teasers for the next book in the series? When will it be available?
This series is growing as it goes along, and so are the characters. As we proceed we see Jillie begin to understand more about her background and the powerful abilities that are part of her legacy.
When she starts the book she can see dead people, but she only sees the villains and sees them as children so it doesn’t help solve any crime at all. As the series progress she will have more powers that are pertinent to her role as an agent for NAS. We understand more about Griff and his powers and his connection to Jillie and to Jillie’s mother. We will also discover what the necklace is capable of doing as new people fight to own it.
In the next book Sparrow, Jillie and Hawk (Griff) take on three kitsune, Japanese werefoxes, who take the guise of beautiful women. They run a talent agency and cast Griff in a film they are making. The film is masterminded by Declan and Jillie is hired to make a documentary about the film.
The object is to turn Griff by seducing him with beauty, adulation, fame and money to convince him to join the side of evil and help the antagonists to find the necklace. While this is going on Jillie has her own problems, which are ongoing from facts she learned and situations she faced in the first book.
As I’m still writing the book, I can’t comment on the publication date. That’s up to Imajinn Books. However, I hope we will be able to see the next book around the same time [of year] as this first one.
A social media presence is a vital part of promoting any work – whether it be a novel, an album, or a movie. Where can our readers connect with you?
Web: MegLacey.com Be sure to visit the site, and sign up for the contest I’m running for The Sparrow and the Hawk.