Thursday, June 2, 2016

Interview with Christi J. Whitney, Author, Shadow, The Romany Outcasts Series Book Two

What made you decide to be an author? I’ve always loved writing, and I wrote all kinds of stories – stories that I never finished, really – but I set it aside to pursue a career. Many years into teaching high school, the writing bug hit me again, but it was actually my students who encouraged me to write my first novel.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? I’m sure a lot of authors say this, but one of the best things is being able to go to work in my pajamas (with a large cup of coffee in hand). I also get to set my own schedule, which is really nice. What I like the least about being a writer – besides the exhausting emotional and creative drain it gives you  – is the publicity and marketing side of things. As a debut author – and despite having books out with a well-known publisher – it’s totally my responsibility to get the word out about my books. I never realized just how much time I would have to spend trying to find a readership and looking for ways to make my books stand out from the millions of others around me. I love connecting with readers, but promotion is a real challenge.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? I think coming from a theatre background really helped me as a writer. As a theatre director, I looked at scripts and figured out how to create a whole world on the stage, based on pages of dialogue with very little description. I worked scenes over and over again, layering them and adding more to my actors’ performances until I had a product I was pleased with. Writing is very much like directing for me. Both create worlds and tell stories.
Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Grey and Shadow are written from the point of view of my main character, Sebastian. His internal thoughts and monologues just flowed in a way that was really fun. I didn’t have to work much at all with him – except to trim him down when he got too wordy.
You’ve written two novels and are working on a third novel. What’s your favorite time management tip? I don’t really have good time management tips, since every day is different, filled with their own distractions. I have learned to carry a notebook and pen with me, ready to write down ideas or bits of a scene. I’ve written in doctors’ offices and carpool lines. I also try to get as much writing done while my kids are at school as possible. I’ve had to learn to write even when I don’t feel inspired.
Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? I definitely prefer to write “in the moment”. I start with dialogue most of the time, and then I just expand from there. I have a general idea of where I’m going, and I know how I want things to end, but I like just sort of running away with the material for a while. But there always comes the time when I have to stop and map things out – usually with sticky notes pasted on the walls around my desk.
If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Don’t be afraid to write crap. I can’t tell you how discouraged I was during my early years of writing because I would write so many things that were just awful. Well, to be honest, I still write a ton of stuff that’s just awful. I mean, totally cringe worthy. But believe me, not one word is wasted. It teaches you what works and what doesn’t. It shows you where you need to grow and improve. You can’t see the good without first seeing the bad.
Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? Music always plays an important part in my writing. It definitely helps me set the emotional tone of the character or scene, and I love listening to my playlists when I’m mulling over story thoughts. My playlist for The Romany Outcasts Series is pretty long, but when writing for the character of Sebastian in the series, especially Grey, I found myself listening to Turning On My Own by Satellite and Hello Love Goodbye by To Be Juliet’s Secret.

When stone hearts break they shatter.

Sebastian Grey used to be a normal teenager. Now he’s a creature whose sole purpose is to be a guardian for secretive gypsy clans.

When the Romany gypsies need his help, Sebastian is given a second chance to protect Josephine Romany – the girl he loves. But this is no easy task when some of them think he’s as bad as the shadow creatures attacking their camp.

Yet to keep Josephine safe, Sebastian might have to embrace his darker side. Even if that means choosing between his humanity and becoming the monster everyone believes him to be.
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  ‘My apologies if Caliban hurt you,’ said the man. ‘It’s what he’s trained to do.’

  The men lowered their hoods. It was Phillipe and Stephan – two of Quentin’s  Marksmen.

 They watched me with disgusted expressions as I forced myself to stand. My muscles felt like iron cords.

‘You’ve trained him to attack innocent people?’ I snarled, brushing myself off.

‘Of course not,’ Phillipe sneered. ‘He’s trained to attack your kind.’

My kind.

I really hated that phrase.

I examined my arm. The sleeve of my jacket was ripped, but there wasn’t a mark on my gray skin. My eyes widened. Not even a scratch. But it still hurt like crazy, and I rubbed my arm gingerly.

‘It’s fortunate we weren’t out with the rest of the dogs,’ said Stephan with a cold smile. ‘Caliban here is relatively mild-tempered.’

As if on cue, the dog’s muzzle flashed with sharp teeth.

‘Nicolas asked me to come,’ I said evenly.

Stephan tilted his chin. ‘Yes, we know.’

I was about to get an escort, I realized.

‘Come with us,’ Phillipe ordered.

Stephan slid his bow from his shoulder and fitted an arrow to the string. ‘Caliban and I will follow behind. Just as a precaution, of course – in case you start getting any ideas in that ugly gray head of yours.’

Quentin Marks’ welcoming committee was not something I’d anticipated. I gathered my bags, and Phillipe led our unpleasant little party across the Sutallee Bridge. I unconsciously slowed as we passed over the abandoned mine shaft where Josephine and I had taken refuge so long ago. There was a sharp poke in the middle of my back, right between my pent wings.

‘Move it,’ Stephan said, jabbing me again. ‘We’re already late for lunch.’

I fought the insanely strong desire to whirl around and shove the arrow down his throat. Instead, I bit my lip, tasting blood, and picked up my pace. We reached the iron fence that surrounded the Fairgrounds. Phillipe pulled out a ring of keys and opened the gate.

I’d assumed everything would look as it had the last time I’d been within the walls of the Circe de Romany. But there were no tents or pavilions. No rides or decorations, either. Only trailers – along with several RVs, trucks, and buses – arranged in a tight circle, right in the middle of the property.

Their configuration created a large open space in the center of the caravan. Tarps were arranged over tables and chairs. A fire pit had been built, and laundry hung from clotheslines spread between trailers. People bustled around the clearing, preparing for the approaching storm. Another peal of thunder echoed overhead. The clouds had thickened, and the sky looked ready to split apart at any moment.

‘Hurry it up,’ said Stephan with another jab to my back. ‘I don’t intend to get wet.’

Lightning flashed. Women scurried to get the clothes off the lines while men anchored the tarps more securely in the ground. Phillipe led me to a small trailer and flung open the door.

‘Get inside.’

The howling wind was motivation enough – even without Stephan’s sharp arrow in my back – and I scampered up the steps. My nose instantly wrinkled at the unpleasant smell. Phillipe caught my look.

‘The dog trailer,’ he said.

‘Just be glad they’re out on patrol,’ said Stephan with a malicious laugh. ‘They’re quite territorial.’

The Marksmen backed me into the stinky enclosure, weapons drawn.

‘We’ll come for you when Nicolas returns,’ said Phillipe. ‘Until then, welcome home.’

With that, he slammed the door, locking me inside.
Christi J. Whitney is a former high school theatre director with a love for the arts. She lives just outside Atlanta with her husband and two sons. When not spending time with them or taking a ridiculous number of trips to Disney World, she can be found directing plays, making costumes for sci-fi/fantasy conventions, obsessing over Doctor Who, watching superhero movies, or pretending she’s just a tad bit British. You can visit her online at or connect on Twitter (@ChristiWhitney)

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