Monday, September 08, 2014

Interview with Deborah Blake, author of the Baba Yaga novels - September 8, 2014

Please welcome Deborah Blake to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Wickedly Dangerous, the first Baba Yaga novel, was published on September 2, 2014 by Berkley. This is Deborah's fiction debut.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing fiction?

Deborah:  Which time? (Laughs.) I started writing when I was young. I think I wrote my first novel when I was in 6th grade. (It was very short, and SF, that’s about all I remember.) Then I sent out a bunch of short stories when I was a teen and got a lot of rejections, so I stopped for a while. Then I started again in my late 20’s, got a bunch of rejections…well, you see where this is going. In truth, I got serious after I sold my first nonfiction book (about modern witchcraft) to Llewellyn. Suddenly, I had no more excuses. I’d finished a book. If I could finish one, I could finish another. This was in 2006. As for why—honestly, I think it is just in my blood.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Deborah:  Yes. Oops, sorry, that’s not helpful, is it? I started out as a pantser, but after writing my first two books that way (and not getting an agent), I realized I needed to be more focused. My third book had a 21-page outline as well as detailed character studies before I ever wrote the first chapter. And yes, it did get me an agent, on its first round of submissions. These days, I am a little bit of both. I still start with detailed character studies and a general outline, but how much is outlined and how far into the book that outline reaches varies from book to book.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Deborah:  Revisions. Some authors love revisions, and hate first drafts. I’m the other way around. I love the first draft process, when the story springs into being. Dealing with revisions, first from my First Readers, then my agent, then my editor…not so much. On the other hand, the book is always much better when I’m done, so I’ve learned to more-or-less embrace them.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Deborah:  That’s a pretty long list. I have lots of favorite authors, from Jennifer Crusie (romantic comedy) to Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison (urban fantasy) to Donna Andrews (humorous mystery). The Baba Yaga series was most influenced by books written by Tanya Huff and Patricia McKillip, who are definitely two of my favorites.

TQ:  Describe Wickedly Dangerous (Baba Yaga 1) in 140 characters or less.

Deborah:  A not-so-wicked witch and her dragon-dog help some people, work some magic, and yes, there’s a guy. Absolutely nothing is as it seems.

TQ:  Tell us something about Wickedly Dangerous that is not in the book description.

Deborah:  Barbara Yager (the Baba Yaga in this book) is my favorite of all the characters I have ever written. (Shhh…don’t tell the others.) I love how cranky she is. To me, that makes her very real.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Wickedly Dangerous? Why is the series named after Baba Yaga and who or what is Baba Yaga?

Deborah:  My agent (Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency) and I were talking at one point about what I was going to write next—just spit-balling ideas, really. She said that she loved my witch characters (I’d written a couple of other ones) and we both agreed that we really liked modern retellings of old fairy tales. After we got off the phone, I starting thinking about which fairy tales hadn’t been overdone, and also had witches in them. Baba Yaga came into my mind right away, and once I had done some research, I knew I wanted to write about her.

The Baba Yaga was a Russian and Slavic fairy tale witch who is well known in Europe, but not so much here in the US. She was neither good nor evil, although she was certainly a scary figure sometimes used to scare children who didn’t eat all their peas. Instead, how she reacted was often based on the behavior of those who approached her; worthy seekers received help, those who were not so worthy, well…let’s just say it wasn’t a good idea to mess with the Baba Yaga. I decided to create a story based on a modern, kick-ass version of the old Baba Yaga, updated for today’s world.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Wickedly Dangerous?

Deborah:  I read every old Baba Yaga tale I could find, plus did a fair amount of plain old research about her, some of which gave me some great ideas for the book. In addition, I researched other elements of the book, like fracking (which is a huge issue where I live, but I had to find out a bunch of scientific things I didn’t already know), pit bulls, Airstream trailers, Rusalkas (you’ll have to read the book to find out what they are), and other strange things.

TQ:   In your opinion, does a romance novel always have to have a Happily Ever After?

Deborah:  Well, it at least has to have the potential for a happily ever after. Some series I’ve read don’t always resolve things in the first book, but I do think that eventually, there has to be one. One of my favorite things about the way this series ended up (with different Baba Yagas in each book) is that meant I could give each one her happily ever after. Let’s face it—life doesn’t always come with a HEA…isn’t it nice if we can at least get it in a book?

TQ:  In Wickedly Dangerous, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Deborah:  Chudo-Yudo was probably the easiest (and the most fun). He’s Baba’s dragon companion who travels with her these days disguised as a giant white pit bull—at least in the first story. He was a very elemental creature, and not very complicated. Mostly, he was very loyal and very ready to eat things. I think Liam, the sheriff who is Barbara’s love interest, was the hardest to write. He had to be flawed enough to be an interesting character, and yet strong enough to deal with Barbara, which wasn’t easy. He isn’t your typical “alpha male” protagonist, because really, the alpha of this story was Barbara herself. But he had to be her equal, and worthy of her love. NOT an easy character to write.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Wickedly Dangerous.

Deborah:  When Liam finally gets to see Chudo-Yudo in his true dragon form (instead of as a giant white pit bull, the way he usually appears), he is very impressed, of course. Then Chudo-Yudo turns back into a dog and continues speaking, to which Liam says, “Jeez—you can talk!” and Chudo-Yudo rolls his eyes and responds (and this is the line I love), “Right. So a talking dragon is okay, but a talking dog freaks you out? Dude, you are going to have to adjust to this crap a lot faster than that if you are going to be any help.”

TQ:  What's next?
Deborah:  The second book in the Baba Yaga series, Wickedly Wonderful, is coming out in December 2014. I’m really excited to have two books out back-to-back. And I’m working on something completely different, a humorous contemporary romance. Nary a witch nor a dragon to be seen, although there is one small dog. Plus a Sekrit Project for Llewellyn that I’m not free to talk about yet.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Deborah:  Thanks so much for having me here!

Wickedly Dangerous
A Baba Yaga Novel 1
Berkley, September 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
(Fiction Debut)


Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…

Also out now:

Wickedly Magical
A Baba Yaga Novella
Berkley Sensation, August 5, 2014
eNovella, 73 pages

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one…

Barbara Yager loves being one of the most powerful witches in the world, but sometimes she’d rather kick back in her enchanted Airstream with a beer in her hand than work out how to grant the requests of the worthy few who seek her out.

But when a man appears with the token of a family debt of honor, Barbara must drop everything to satisfy the promise owed by her predecessor—and she isn’t above being a little wicked to make sure the debt is paid in full…


Wickedly Wonderful
A Baba Yaga Novel 1
Berkley, December 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Though she looks like a typical California surfer girl, Beka Yancy is in fact a powerful yet inexperienced witch who’s struggling with her duties as a Baba Yaga. Luckily she has her faithful dragon-turned-dog for moral support, especially when faced with her biggest job yet…

A mysterious toxin is driving the Selkie and Mer from their homes deep in the trenches of Monterey Bay. To investigate, Beka buys her way onto the boat of Marcus Dermott, a battle-scarred former U.S. Marine, and his ailing fisherman father.

While diving for clues, Beka drives Marcus crazy with her flaky New Age ideas and dazzling blue eyes. She thinks he’s rigid and cranky (and way too attractive). Meanwhile, a charming Selkie prince has plans that include Beka. Only by trusting her powers can Beka save the underwater races, pick the right man, and choose the path she’ll follow for the rest of her life…

About Deborah

Deborah is the author of seven non-fiction books from Llewellyn. Circle, Coven & Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice (2007), Everyday Witch A to Z (2008), The Goddess is in the Details (2009), Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook (2010) Witchcraft on a Shoestring (2010), Everyday Witch Book of Rituals (2012), and The Witch's Broom (2014).

She is also the author of the Baba Yaga series from Berkley Romance, including Wickedly Magical (novella), Wickedly Dangerous, and Wickedly Wonderful.

When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 100 year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @deborahblake  ~  Goodreads


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