Thursday 12 June 2014

Blog Tour Interview - Ringmaster by Trudi Jaye

by Trudi Jaye
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Date Published: May 28, 2014

Book Description:
Roll up! Roll up! Join us for the greatest show on Earth!

The magical Jolly Carnival is the only life Rilla Jolly knows—and it’s all falling apart around her. Just as she’s thrust into the role of Ringmaster after her father’s unexpected death, an old family friend turns up to challenge her birthright.

Her rival's sexy son Jack isn’t helping either. Despite being a greenhorn and an outsider, he’s intent on charming everyone, convincing them that Rilla isn’t up to the task. It’s not going to be easy to persuade the Carnival folk she’s still the best choice to lead them all.

But Rilla must also contend with another threat—the ongoing sabotage that has been disturbing their delicate magical balance and threatening to destroy the Carnival. All signs point to an insider, making it impossible to know who to trust.

To save her beloved Carnival, Rilla must do everything in her power to find the saboteur before they attack again—but if she takes her eye off the battle for Ringmaster for even a second, she risks losing the one thing she’s trained for her entire life.

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Author Interview

1. Tell a little about yourself. What you do when you’re not writing? What are your aspirations for the future?

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, with my lovely husband and my cheeky three-year-old daughter. She’s pretty active, so looking after her involves finding as many things to do in a day as possible. We live near the beach, so we spend a lot of time there swimming and eating ice creams in the summer, and walking and building sandcastles in the winter.

I work part-time as the staff writer at a local tertiary institution, where I get to write about the research being done by various lecturers and professors. It’s an inspiring job, telling the stories of these fascinating people and their research, which is generally around topic they’re really passionate about, in an area that hasn’t been studied before. (And it doesn’t hurt as inspiration for my writing either!)

I also do karate, which I began in about mid-2013... Learning a martial art is something that’s always fascinated me, and I had this vague idea of being a role model to my daughter when I started. I’m now a yellow belt, and love the feeling of confidence that it gives me, and also the fitness that I’m gaining from the weekly classes. My other time out comes from yoga, which I really enjoy, despite not being very bendy. Both these activities require me to focus on my body, and help me to completely forget about the outside world for a while. It’s a truly amazing stress relief!

And of course I love reading and writing!

My aspirations for the future involve raising a kind, caring, delightful child as best I can, and allowing my novels to make it out into the world, for other people to read, and hopefully enjoy. And finally to get better at writing and telling stories as I go along.

2. When and why did you start writing?

I remember a story that I wrote when I was twelve about an ordinary pen that turns into a golden pen when it does a good deed – or something along those lines. I was pretty proud of it at the time. But I started my first serious full-length novel about 12 years ago, and I finally managed to finish it about two years ago, after years of reading how-to books, going to writing classes and spending time in writing groups. Since finishing that first book, I’ve finished another two, and have several more plotted and planned, including the third book in the Carnival series.

I have an over-active imagination, and I’ve always loved to read, especially science fiction, fantasy and romance. I loved the idea of creating different worlds, inhabited by strange creatures, and intriguing storylines. So it kind of seemed natural to start writing my own stories using the ideas that came into my head.

3. Have any particular novels or writers influenced your writing?

I loved Anne McCaffrey as a kid, and still count some of her books among my favorites of all time. I think her ability to tell the story of ordinary people living in extraordinary times really captures what I aim for as a writer. I also love Roald Dahl, especially his adult short stories, for his quirky twists in the tale, and I would love to be able to incorporate that into my books (not that I have yet. I just like the idea). Georgette Heyer’s books I can go back to time and time again, and never get tired of the situations and the wit, and she just wrote and wrote and wrote, so I admire her dedication. If I had to say who I wanted to write like, it would be a mix of the above writers, plus Jayne Anne Krentz, mixed with Patricia Briggs, Lois McMaster Bujold, Gail Carriger and Meljean Brook. Just because that would be really cool.

4. Give us some back story about Ringmaster, where and when did you write it?

Ringmaster is the first book in an ongoing series, and emerged from a few different places. I was trying to think of a world that would provide ongoing stories that would be interesting, quirky, and have characters that I could really enjoy writing about, and that people would enjoy reading about. The dark Carnival idea came when I was watching a music show that had a circus theme – I really liked that freaky, dark carnival concept. The fun of the carnival, tipped slightly askew, with what is going on behind the scenes never quite what it looks like from the outside. From there it was just months of thinking about it, working out the characters and then starting to write.

It was also not long after my father died that I started writing Ringmaster, so the death of Rilla’s father Abacus was kind of inevitable. They do say that your early books can be autobiographical, and some of the feelings that Rilla has about the death of her father can be directly attributed to my own feelings at losing my father, although I’m nothing like Rilla, and Abacus is nothing like my dad.

I wrote the first draft over about nine months in 2012. I have some great writer friends who helped me work out the kinks, and had a second draft of book one, and a first draft of the second book in the series by the end of 2013.

5. What was your favourite part of writing Ringmaster?

Definitely creating the world of the Carnival, the rules and the lives of the people who inhabit it. It’s colorful, crazy, and exciting to be part of that world, and I love it.

6. What does your writing schedule look like?

I write or edit every night for an hour or two, once I’ve put my daughter to bed. It’s the only time I can find to write, because I’m really not a morning person, and during the day I’m either at work, or have a three-year-old girl demanding attention! When it comes to writing, I believe it’s important to write every day, otherwise you waste a lot of time re-reading what you were doing last time, and trying to remember where you were up to.

I also have a few hours every Friday, although that tends to end up being about the business of writing – things like marketing or accounts, or meetings.

7. Which fictional character would you like to take to dinner and why?

Oh so many! It’s hard to choose. Perhaps the Masterharper of Pern (from Anne McCaffrey’s dragon riders series), just because he always seemed so wise and knowledgeable to me, manipulating and managing the complicated politics of Pern so easily, but still being a loving and kind man to those in his care. And I grew up with those characters and in that world, so they hold a special place in my heart. Oh, and he’s been on a dragon, and that’s pretty amazing.

8. Besides your lead, do you have a favourite character in the story?

I love Frankie, he’s a little bit dark, has a great backstory, and you just know there is a book about him coming some time in the future.

9. What is one of the most surprising things you've learned as a writer?

I think it’s how if you can do a little bit of writing every day, that little bit can really build up to a meaningful amount of writing in quite a short space of time. Even if you can only turn your computer on for half an hour, just do it, because it keeps the flow going, and your head inside the book. Don’t wait for the big blocks of time once a week or whatever; write every day. It really does make a significant difference.

10. Any advice for aspiring authors?

Same as above – keep writing every day, and you’ll not only get better and better, you’ll stay in the story, and keep the flow, which will make the second draft that much easier.

And never give up. You have to be determined in this business. Oh, and find a writing group. Having the support of a group of writing friends is invaluable!

Excerpt from Ringmaster

The red-and-white tent roof shuddered in the wind and rain. Ropes and canvas flapped, as if Abacus himself were objecting to his final resting place.
Rilla swallowed hard around the lump that had been permanently stuck in her throat since she’d been told of her father's death. All around her were Carnival folk, their heads tilted upward, tears running down many faces.
It couldn't be true. Her larger-than-life father was limitless, unbeatable. Certainly not meant to die in a stupid car crash.
Over their heads, Missy crawled along the high-wire rigging toward the top of the massive tent. The silver of her leotard sparkled under the lights, and her long legs clung to the ropes with an elegance that hid powerful muscles. Every pair of eyes in the tent watched as she completed the tradition that had been started three hundred years before, by the nine original families.
The ashes of almost every member of the Jolly Carnival who’d passed on were contained in one of the two huge round tent poles. They literally held the very essence of the Carnival. And now her bright and brilliant father was another collection of ash in the Carnival tradition.
Barb squeezed her hand; Rilla glanced at her and nodded. It was Barb’s daughter Missy up there doing the final ceremony, and she was glad it was someone who’d loved her father almost as much as she did. Rilla looked around the tent, trying to memorize the people. Everyone was there, from the newest greenhorn to the oldest hand, crowded into the massive big top. She knew every face in the room.
Rubbing at the tears running down her face, Rilla felt her anger flare again. She’d been keeping it at bay, but every so often, it burned its way up her throat. She wanted to shout at someone, hit them, cry out at the injustice.
It wasn't right.
A violin began to play a slow, haunting melody. The tune hit the chorus and she recognized it. She tried to smile. From her other side, Christoph’s muscular arm clamped around her shoulders, and she listened silently to the rest of the ABBA song that Viktor was playing in slow time.
The song was a lovely idea, but her father would have hated the slowness. He loved the speed of the tunes by the Swedish band. He'd always said the tents went up faster to the beat of “Mama Mia.” And he'd always preferred the nickname Abba to his full name Abacus.
"He wouldn't want you to be sad, little one," said Christoph as he gave her another squeeze with his massive arm.
She looked up at him and took comfort in his familiar lined features. He was the strongman of the Carnival in more ways than one. "I know. But it doesn't help."
"No, it doesn’t. Come, we should go now." Rilla allowed Christoph to gently pull her toward the tent flaps that would take them away from the crowds of people. His mustache twitched, and she knew he was trying not to cry at the loss of his friend.
As they walked out, a flash of blue hair caught her eye. A man stood near a side entrance to the big top, his expression a strange mix of anger and excitement. His shock of blue hair stood at attention on his head, and he wore a black shirt with matching black trousers. A ripple of unease washed through Rilla. The stranger caught and held her gaze. Then he turned and disappeared out into the storm.
Rilla frowned. She opened her mouth to question Christoph, then closed it again. Her father knew literally thousands of people. He’d been a big, charismatic personality who’d lived his entire life on the circuit. There could be any number of people she’d never met who could claim a relationship with him.
The blue-haired man might have seemed out of place, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t be there.
She glanced back up at Christoph as they neared the exit. For the first time, she noticed the grey hair mixed with the black on his head. Her father and Christoph had grown up together, lived their lives together. The big man had helped Abacus raise Rilla when her mother had left. He was going to feel the gap left by Abacus just as she did.
"Rilla, there's a problem."
"Pardon?" Rilla turned, trying to focus on the scruffy boy who’d stopped her. She blinked and recognized Joey, one of the younger runners.
"There's a man. He says…" Joey trailed off as an older man strode past him, straight up to Christoph and Rilla. He pushed out his chin and glared at them both.
"My name is Blago Knight. I’m here to claim the title of Ringmaster."
Rilla felt the world sway. If Christoph hadn't been holding her up, she didn’t think she would have remained standing. The momentary confusion cleared and she blinked, looking at the man in front of her. Her gaze narrowed.
Who the hell did he think he was?
"You do realize this is my father's funeral?" she said, her voice breaking in the middle. She cleared her throat and pulled herself together. She was the Carnival leader now.
"Of course I realize it, young lady. But it doesn't change the fact that I demand to speak to the Nine. You must convene an emergency session."
"You’ll have to wait, Blago. This isn't the time." Christoph's voice boomed unnaturally loud. Every eye in the crowded room focused on Rilla and the stranger.
"I know the rules as well as anyone, Christoph. I have to announce my intentions to the Nine immediately or it’s too late.” He glanced at Rilla. “If you stand in my way, you forfeit your rights to the Ringmaster claim."
Shivers raced across her skin as she stared at the old man in front of her. Bushy eyebrows covered bloodshot eyes, dark and fierce at their center. The lined face was surrounded by a seething mass of white, frizzy hair. He held a black cane in one hand and an old-fashioned bowler hat in the other.
How could he have a legitimate claim? She didn't understand. She'd never even heard of him.
A knot of tension pushed against her temple, and a headache crawled across her scalp. She lifted one hand to her forehead and rubbed at it, trying to break up the pain that was bashing around inside her head. She just needed a moment to clear her head, time to think without this grief filling her up until she was ready to burst with the pain.
But rules were rules. "Come with me. It will be informal but enough to judge your claim and if you’re valid."
"‘Course I'm valid. Just ask ol' Christoph here. He'll vouch for me."
Rilla looked up at Christoph in shock.
Her oldest family friend nodded and she realized he’d used Blago’s first name a moment ago. Of course he knew him.
But how? And why had she never heard of this stranger? “Fine.” She looked around and gestured to the others in the Nine. They would meet immediately to determine his claim.
Rilla paced along the narrow aisle in her caravan, clenching and unclenching her hands. "How can someone I've never heard of have a claim? It doesn't make sense," she said.
Christoph lifted his head from his hands. "I'd never have thought…" He cleared his throat. "Abba… your father would never have expected him to come back. It was so long ago." He lowered his head into his hands again and seemed to shrink into the small sofa in Rilla’s lounge area.
"What was so long ago? What is this all about?"
He looked up again, shaking his head. "He was in the show crew, probably would have been Showmaster instead of me if he’d stayed. But he was thrown out, thirty years plus three."
"Thirty-three years?” Rilla stopped pacing. “Isn't that…? He tried to stop a Gift?"
Christoph nodded. "Got himself and his family kicked out. Everyone back then was shocked, especially Abba. They were tight."
"His whole family?"
Again, Christoph nodded. "Mother, father, sister—they all helped him. He fell for the Mark, interfered with her Gift."
She'd been told, her father had drummed it into her, but she'd never really thought… The Carnival had thrown someone out? Left them behind to survive without the help of the group? "But surely…" She stopped when she saw Christoph shaking his head. "No wonder he's pissed."
"Listen, Rilla, he'll have support from some of the older ones who've been rumbling that you're too young to be Ringmaster and that you won’t be able to deal with the sabotage problem."
"It's not against the rules to be young." She crossed her arms and glared at him. Her father hadn’t expected to die and leave her to run things at twenty-four years of age, but she was perfectly capable of doing it.
"No, just uncomfortable for some of the older ones to accept." Christoph heaved a sigh and rubbed one hand over his forehead.
"And some of the younger ones."
He shrugged. "You'll just have to prove them wrong. You've been raised for this, Amaryllis Jolly. It's your family name on the sign out front, your family that survived the wreck, and your father that's been running the show for the last forty years. Don't forget that."
“I can’t forget it. But…” She rubbed her hand over her stiff neck muscles.
“Don’t doubt yourself, Rilla. This isn’t the time or place. You’re the acting Ringmaster until the Carnival chooses someone to lead. You’ve got an advantage and you need to use it. You need to prove to everyone, especially the Carnival, that you’re the right person for the job, and you’ve got to do it quick. Blago, he’s a smart man. He’ll take every advantage he can get.”
“How well do you know him?”
Christoph sighed. “He was one of the old gang. We were all tight when we were kids. But I’ve changed since then. Maybe he has too.”
Rilla took a deep breath. “The Nine accepted it pretty easily.”
"What else could they say? He's legitimate, Rilla. Him and his son."
"His son?"
"The fella that was waiting outside the tent. Tall, dark hair."
Rilla shook her head. How could she have overlooked the son? It frightened her that she could have missed something so simple.
"Nah, he stood back. Let his da do the talking. Blago was raised Carnival. But the boy, he's green and he looked it. That'll count against him, no doubt there."
Rilla nodded. Outsiders weren’t welcomed easily.
"Where are they now?" She had to plan, to figure out how she was going to fix this.
"In the food tent, where you should be."
"I'll get there.” It was her father’s funeral; of course she would be there. “How long do I have?"
"‘Til the end of our stay here. Three weeks. After that, we’re headed for the Compound with a new Ringmaster."
Rilla nodded. Winter was almost on them; they were due a rest. "Has there been a Mark named yet?"
Christoph shook his head. "Maybe there won't be. We'll be busy dealing with this. Maybe the Carnival will give us a break."
"We can't count on it,” said Rilla. “Tell Joey to keep an eye out, and let me know as soon as something happens. We can't lose focus just because we're in the middle of a crisis."
"Listen, Rilla, no one expects you to—"
"What? Do what I've been trained to do? This wouldn't have stopped my father, and it won’t stop me." Rilla banged her fist against the wall. Glass rattled in the ancient trailer, and she scowled. It might be the biggest trailer in the Carnival, but it sure wasn't the newest.
"Christoph, what happened to the Mark he fell for?" she asked.

"Last I heard, Blago married her."

About the Author
I’ve always loved books, and the stories they bring to life in my head. I’ve always had an overactive imagination as well, and distinctly remember sitting at the base of the big oak tree at school when I was a kid, building houses for the fairies, telling their stories as I went.

Born and raised in New Zealand, I have also lived in the UK, US, and Denmark. I love to meet new people; it’s a fantastic way to gain exposure to new ideas and cultures and, of course, to get story ideas.

For the last ten years I’ve been a magazine writer, and currently I get to write about innovative and cutting-edge research for a tertiary institution in New Zealand. It’s an inspiring job, talking to people about their passion, and I try to tell their stories in the best possible way.

I live in a secluded haven amongst the trees in Auckland with my lovely husband and cheeky three-year-old daughter. I enjoy yoga, although I’m not very bendy, and karate, although I don’t like the idea of hitting anyone. It’s about pushing my boundaries, and both those activities are physical, in a way that my work as a writer isn’t.

I’ve worked as a camp counsellor, a waitress, a checkout girl, a citizenship officer and an editor. But none of those jobs compares to being able to call myself a writer.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi! I'm a new follower of your lovely blog via GFC.
    Have a nice day!