02 August 2015

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Tiffany Apan on DESCENT

This week, we're pleased to welcome author TIFFANY APAN with her latest novel, DESCENT, book one in the series, Birthrite. The author will offer a free digital copy of Descent and Sacred Atonement: A Novelette (The Birthrite Series, #1.5) as a bonus. She can also give away a signed hard copy of the books (Descent and the Sacred Atonement novelette).  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

Visions of infant twin boys, clouds, a young woman taking her own life, and a collision of space, time, and realms...a

On the eve of Summer Solstice in 1844, four men in different areas of the world share an experience that impacts not only their own lives, but those of the future generations. The first is Nicolae Ganoush, a young Romany fugitive from a slave village in Wallachia. The second is Jonathan Blake, an eighteen-year-old Irishman in the American Midwest who finds himself falling in love with a young woman from a nearby Sioux village. The third is James Livingston, a prominent figure in Colonial America. The fourth is Hector de Fuentes, a sixteen-year-old from Tuxpan, Mexico with special gifts and visions enhanced by a mysterious and wondrous cave. Each man carries his own inner battle, unbelievable ancient truths deep within their lineages, and demons that are much closer to home than any of them would like.

Later in 1931, seventeen-year-old Dorothy Blake, a descendant of Jonathan and his Sioux wife, is living in Plains, New York, the town founded by James Livingston. The notorious Fleming Orphanage has long fallen into disuse but kept by the town as a landmark. The buildings loom high on a hill, overlooking the town, taunting the townsfolk with its lore. On Halloween night, Dorothy ventures up with friends, and the group of six expects nothing more than a good time along with a few laughs. But they fall into a dark, brutal evil; one that extends beyond the orphanage and town of Plains, far back into history. Their descent is only the beginning…

The Birthrite Series is an epic journey into the vast unknown, plunging deep into the dark crevices of the mind, begging the question of what sanity really is and if the insane truly are. Are we really shown the whole truth of what surrounds us or is it an illusion? It also tells of deep-rooted love, planted centuries ago and a story of family, forgiveness, and redemption.
**Q&A with Tiffany Apan**

What inspired the idea for the series?

A lot of things! Back in late 2011/early 2012, I had a rather vivid dream that pretty much stayed with me. The dream entailed me in deep conversation with a person that would later go on to become a key character in The Birthrite Series. And it's interesting, because what was originally supposed to be a more fun and adventurous time travel romance under the working title Through Time, eventually morphed into something completely different. In fact, almost none of the main characters from the first book in the series (Descent) even appeared in the original draft and concept. But as I wrote Through Time, things just didn't feel right. I mean, the general idea was there and pretty solid but something was missing. At the time, I was also reading through Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. In one passage, he compares writing a story to discovering a small fossil, and then continuing to dig until you uncover the entire dinosaur. And sometimes it will seem as though you are shoveling nothing but crap. But eventually you will make the great discovery. That is exactly how writing The Birthrite was, so I can totally relate!

As time went on, more characters seemed to literally just "walk on," and characters I thought were just going to be minor ended up being major key characters. When this happened, it was a little scary but instead of fight it, I went with it and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

The story seemed to build upon itself as I did more research and created the world in which the people of the story inhabit. It was then the story went from a fun adventurous romance to one that was still fun, adventurous and romantic, but darker and with a lot more mystery. Add to that my passion for history and the process of researching it.

The working title then had to change due to the story's new direction. Bloodlines was the new working title (which I knew would eventually change since there already are so many projects out there with that title).

In early 2013 as I was fleshing out what would be the official first draft, I started posting chapters and excerpts of my unedited work onto what is now my official blog in order to gain a perspective of how much interest there might be in the story. Well, the interest definitely seemed to be there, so in the midst of that little experiment, I started revising and copyrighting it for print.

Finally, I believe in early 2014 (or late 2013), I settled on the official series title, The Birthrite and decided to call book one Descent. Then I decided to release a spin off novelette with Descent titled Sacred Atonement: A Novelette (The Birthrite Series, #1.5). As of December 2014, the beginning of the series has been officially available, both digitally and in paperback form. The next two installments (a full-length novel and a novella) are set for release later this summer and in the fall.

Recently, I also started work for the Depreciation Lands Museum, a historical museum dedicated to bringing the 18th century to life. Even with all the intense research I did for Descent and Sacred Atonement, working for this museum has given me even more access to sources that allow for much deeper research. Those running the museum also take care to immerse the workers in all things 18th century, including offering training in period tasks such as cooking over a campfire and hearth oven to drop spindle classes to weaving. Since The Birthrite Series delves deeper into history as the series continues (half of Descent, takes place in the mid 1800s and the latter half in the year 1931), I feel this will add new layers to the story and my writing in general.

As a side note, the more I research, the more I am fascinated by how distorted many events and eras have become over time. Combine that with my love for Tolkien, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, the Brontes, Wilde, and romantic stories, and you pretty much have my inspiration for the series.

Was the research challenging at all?

Yes and no. As I said, some of the information I really had to dig for while other info I either already knew a lot about or had easy access to finding out of. But even with the internet and all the information it makes readily available (some of the information being very good while much of it is not so good), I still believe in old fashioned research at the library or local bookstore. I'm actually reading several and a lot of it historical non-fiction as I research for my book series. One in particular is A Chainless Soul:A Life of Emily Bronte by Katherine Frank. Another I've finished is Drums in the Forest by Alfred Proctor James and Charles Morse Stotz. Some of the books I read were ones that I knew faced (or are facing) a lot of controversy. This includes Thomas Cahill's book, How the Irish Saved Civilization. In reading the reviews, many seemed outraged by the title, which I think was meant to be more of an attention grabber than anything else, though I could be wrong. But the book is overall a very interesting one about fifth century Irish monks preserving and copying religious, literary, and philosophical texts (both pagan and Christian) on the Skellig Islands after libraries and learning tools on the continent were destroyed. It is a compelling transitional period in history that isn't too often discussed. In other words, don't be so quick to 'throw out the baby with the bathwater.'

My research into the Romani race also unturned many stones, as their history is much different than what I refer to as "Hollywood Gypsies."

In addition, I read works of fiction from the respected eras in which the book takes place, and one in particular that really influenced much of the story was The Vanishing American by Zane Grey.

Do any historical figures appear in the story?

So far, some have only received mere mention, including Cab Calloway and Vlad the Impaler. In addition to that, the character James Livingston is fictional, but the family he descends from was one of the more prominent ones in early American aristocracy.

Now with that said, there may be some figures that just might be making an appearance as the series progresses. For that, you will have to stay tuned. :)

Who was your favorite character to write of and why?

In writing Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1), I spent most of my time with Nicolae and Dorothy.

Since Nicolae is introduced in the book first, I will start with him. He is a Romani slave in Wallachia (Romania) during the early-mid 19th century. For those unfamiliar with what a Romani is, they are a race often referred to as 'gypsies' (no, being a gypsy is not a "lifestyle"...in fact, there are many misconceptions regarding their culture). They have a long history involving persecution and (in some parts of Europe) slavery. There is also found documentation suggesting that some were also shipped as slaves to the Americas during the Cromwellian era. And interestingly, there are many parallels between slavery in America and enslavement of the Romani in Europe. Both were also abolished at around the same time.

One thing that inspires The Birthrite Series is the history not often spoken of by the mainstream, and Romani slavery is among that. When we begin the story, we see Nicolae as a young man of nineteen fleeing his slavemaster's land with his little brother, Sebastian. The reason behind their escape is not revealed until a little later in the story, but Nicolae's story was probably the one I felt the most compelled to and passionate about telling. I feel the Romani are often highly misrepresented in the media, being reduced to a very negative, comical (and not a good kind of comical) stereotype. And I'm not talking about parodies that are understood as parodies and aren't taken seriously. I'm talking about people watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding or Gypsy Sisters and thinking that it's real.

Now that isn't to say that I write Nicolae and the other Romani characters as complete angels. They are human after all, and every group has its good and bad apples. But in my opinion, it has become so easy to demonize certain cultures, thanks to our media. Even though what I write is supernatural, I try to 'reality-ize' it. :)

Now as for Dorothy, she a young woman of almost eighteen and living in the year 1931 in America (in the fictional town of Plains, New York). She was also interesting to write of. Being the age she is in the very early 1930s, she and her peers would have been born in 1913, or at least a year within the 1910s. Throughout their brief lifetimes, Dorothy and her friends Linda and Gail (along with their male counterparts, Carl, Jimmy, and Reginald) would have lived through several transitions within the country. They would have seen great progress made within the new Industrial Age. They would have seen the switch from the supposedly more reserved Edwardian era into the Roaring 1920s and Jazz Age. They would have been alive (albeit young children) when women were granted the right to vote (something that means a lot to Gail and Dorothy). They would have seen many amazing steps taken toward equality for humans and the resistance from certain groups that did not want such equality. They would have seen both Womens Rights and Mens Rights groups stating their cases. They also would have seen the stock market crash and Prohibition. And like many a youth before and after them, they would have been highly influenced by the current trends, which included jazz and "free love", especially since they live in New York, just outside of the city.

I kept much of this in mind as I developed each of their characters, trying to make them as complex as the time they were living in. For example, you have Jimmy and Linda, the more traditional couple as far as male to female roles go. However, these two also take advantage of the fact that the liberation of the 1920s made sexual relations outside of marriage less taboo than before.

Then there is Reginald and Gail having a more egalitarian relationship. Gail is someone whom a reader might refer to as a "touch chick", but she does have her insecurities and vulnerabilities. She is also very much enamored with Reginald and he with her.

As for Dorothy and Carl, I did use the 'good girl falling for the bad boy with a good heart' trope, but of course put my own twisted touch to it. Aside from all the supernatural occurrances taking place, Dorothy is someone struggling with her burgeoning sexuality and Carl has issues and demons of his own. I don't want to give too much away, but it was interesting delving into the psyches of these two.

As a side note, I will add that Dorothy's father, Matthew, was also a very complex and interesting character to get to know.

I guess I'm kind of strange in the fact that when I read, I'm not necessarily looking to fall in love with the characters as I am wanting to be intrigued by them and why they behave the way they do. Therefore, I choose to approach developing my characters in such a way. Are they a product of the environment they grew up in or did some other circumstance make them the way they are? I think this is what separates older literature from stories written in recent years. I think we as a society have become so wrapped up in not wanting to be offensive that much (though not all) of the newer works have become homogenized. I think one of the most important things for an artist to recognize is that you are never going to please everyone, and some won't be pleased no matter what you do. So be bold, be daring, and be offensive.

Did you have any actors and actresses in mind when developing your characters?

Actually no, not really. Most of the characters are pretty much their 'own people.' Though I will say that the character Linda is described as physically resembling Jean Harlow. Some of Linda's personality traits resemble Harlow's, though I also borrowed a little from Tara Reid's character in the film, Urban Legend (Linda's speaking voice also resembles Reid's a little more than Harlow's). A younger Dick Powell was also a slight inspiration for Reginald, but only slight. While I did watch a lot of films from the 1920s and 30s to get more of a handle on speech and mannerisms, that was pretty much the extent of how they influenced the characters. Other than that, the characters developed themselves.

Now when developing the characters, I do try keeping certain elements of their time period in mind. Though much of the story becomes supernatural after a certain point, I think it is still important to write in a realistic sense. How would these characters react? How would someone of their time treat certain situations? I think that is one key element to writing characters that are easy to empathize with.

As a side note, I can become quite emotionally attached to my characters. Therefore, when it gets to a point in the story where something bad is to happen to one of them, it is actually difficult for me to write of it.

Do you listen to music while writing scenes?

I do, yes. And the type of music depends highly on the mood and atmostphere I'm trying to create. One artist I've listened to frequently while writing the series is Loreena McKennitt. Her music is deep into history and folklore (which is perfect for what I'm writing). I also love her outlook on life and art. So she has been a great inspiration.

What are your plans for the series?
            Well as of now, the first installments, Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1) and Sacred Atonement: A Novelette (The Birthrite Series, #1.5) and Made In Heaven: A Birthrite Series Short are available both digitally and in print. As for the next ones, Kindred (The Birthrite Series, #2) and Saturn Sun: A Novella (The Birthrite Series, #2.5) are set for August 31 and early October. The third novel in the series, titled Rapture, is set tentatively for spring of 2016. Then at some point in the fall or after the holidays, I plan to send the series on a blog tour. So stay tuned for that. :)

Regarding writing the series as a whole, the plan is to have five novels with a couple novellas and shorts in between. However, I don't believe in confining a story (and usually stories do not want to be). So if it has to go beyond the five novels, then so be it. There is also a lot of history and back story within the series. Meaning that even after the final book is written, there may be room for a prequel or a Birthrite-verse spinoff series. So we shall see. :)
Learn more about author Tiffany Apan

Official Website (where you can also sign up for my free monthly newsletter): http://tiffanyapan.com

My new online magazine dedicated to all things historical and paranormtal: http://partingofveilswebzine.blogspot.com

Authorgraph (where I give digital autographs!):

As for my books, you can get them at the following retailers: