Please help me welcome author Shelly Holt to the blog today!
Shelly Holt - Thanks for having me on Where Love & Destiny Collide today.
Q – Tell us a little about yourself.
Shelly Holt - I was raised in Huntington Beach, California, but now I live in the middle of the Mojave desert. I don't live too far from the hottest place on earth (Death Valley National Park.) I moved to Nevada in 2005 to help out my parents who relocated here to retire, but had serious medical issues. It really is a very different lifestyle from busy Orange County.
Q – Did you always want to be an author? What made you choose to write romance?
Shelly Holt – No, but I was always a reader. When I did start to write, I actually tried YA before I tried romance. After 40 rejections, I realized my writing wasn't the issue, the genre was. I did a lot of research and quickly realized that I would have a much better chance of success writing romance. The paranormal genre fit my writing style fairly well.
Q – What is your favorite part of being a writer/author?
Shelly Holt - I love mythology and folklore and part of my process is to find a myth or legend and then create an entire world around it. That was what I did with the Pari (shape-shifting, snow leopards) I didn't make up the Pari, I read about the legends and then developed a colorful mythology and back story around it.
Q – Tell us a little about your book. What inspired you to write it?
Shelly Holt – When I decided to change genres and try my hand at paranormal romance, I knew I would be competing against hundreds if not thousands of other similar books. To succeed, I had to write a very different type of story. Since I chose to focus on the mythology of shape-shifters in cultures around the world, I first had learn about them. I spent a week researching Himalayan cultures and folklore until I found something I could use and build from. I read about the myth of the Pari which are seductive female mountain spirits that if angered can shift into the form of a snow leopard and attack. I drew up a plot that revolved around the hypothesis that if the Pari were real, how did they come to exist? I researched methods of bacterial transmission and eventually came up with the idea that if shape-shifters throughout history were caused by an infection, it would have to be difficult to catch, otherwise everybody and their grandmother would be a shape-shifter. That was how I decided to make the infection come from a thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria that only lives in hot springs around the world. You can't catch it from another shape-shifter, but you can inherit the condition from your parents. This method of transmission gives rise to the many different mythologies of shape-shifters that have evolved from every culture on the planet.
As Dr. Rae Hales, my heroine surmises “if the Pari are real, doesn't that mean they could all be real?” I treat shape-shifting in the books as a medical condition. It has significant physical, social and economic side effects that arise from the condition and the thrust of the book deals with that.
There is no magic in Tasting Fire by design. This forced me as a writer to not use a crutch to prop up weak writing. Instead, I was forced to develop a strong plot and create fully developed characters. There is humor, adventure, passion, and intelligence. Tasting Fire is not a light read. If you want a book where the hero and heroine fall into bed within the first two minutes of meeting each other, than this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a rich, textured story full of world building and character development, and if you want to lose yourself in an intelligent, romantic, sexy, adventure, this is your book!
Rae took an admiring look at the vista below as she dropped her heavy pack on the ground. The mountains in the distance looked purple and the desert brush spread out below them like a master oil painting. It was awe inspiring to human eyes. Rae wondered what would it look like to a snow leopard. She suddenly realized many a biologist would sell their very soul for the opportunity she had at that moment. Rae turned to Kai who had been sitting on the ground with his pack and fishing around for lunch and asked him “what is it like when you're in your Shan form out in country like this?” Kai rewarded Rae with the most brilliant smile she had yet seen to grace the handsome shape-shifter's face.
He seemed truly delighted to discuss the subject with her. Kai stood up to answer Rae's question. He addressed the human scientist. “It's like nothing you can imagine Rae. Every sense is in tune with the planet. See that tree over there” he pointed a few yards away at an ancient gnarled pinyon. “Yes” Rae replied. Kai walked up behind Rae and put his hands on her shoulders and directed her to look even closer at the tree. He whispered intimately in her ear as if they were in a church or another sacred space “when you look at that tree with your limited human vision, the average person can certainly appreciate its form and color. A biologist like yourself would ask what type of tree is it and how old it is. A philosopher might ask who may have sat underneath it in the past or who might sit underneath it in the future. All of you might even wonder when will it die. That's the limit of your human perception. When you're in Shan form every single leaf will bid you a glorious greeting as you walk up to the tree for the first time. Every drop of sap tells you the history of the tree's life like an intimate biography written in the utterly sensual language of scent. The tree itself will tell you if it's healthy or sick. You can smell if the water that nourishes it is bitter or sweet. If you deeply pay attention you can smell every animal that has ever been there.”
Kai looked to Rae like he was experiencing a spiritual moment and Rae suddenly realized he was. The enthralled shape-shifter continued to explain to Rae the nuances of the animal world “when you are ready to move on to another place you reach up with your powerful claws and dig deep into the bark to mark the tree with your scent. It's added harmoniously to the scent of hundreds of other animals. You do this not just to mark your hunting territory, but to tell every animal after you have left this world that you lived and breathed here at one time in the great mystery that is life. That is your only immortality in the animal world. There are no monuments to mark a man's ego, or family albums for a mother to remember her children by, but neither is there hate, nor fear of the future or regret of the past. You are fully alive in each and every moment. It's a wonderfully free existence. I wish I could truly share it with you... words, words pale in comparison.” Kai looked so happy at that moment. Rae was so moved by what he had just shared with her that all she could do was reach out and touch his wrist. “Thank you!” she whispered. Kai nodded at her in acknowledgment, but he was too emotional to even speak.
Q – Plotter or Pantser?
Shelly Holt - Plotter.
Q – Can you tell us about the process of getting your first book published?
Shelly Holt – It was quite the adventure. I knew the story was marketable, but I chose to self-publish because I wanted more control over the work than I would get through a traditional publishing house. I am not sorry at all that I did, just look at the cover art I was able to license! Most covers I see feature beautiful bodies, but they don't relate at all to the story itself, (other than the sex aspect). My cover however, truly reflects the story.
The downside was that I got to wear all the hats, in fact I still am even today. I'm still working on publicity for Tasting Fire which is just as important as the writing. I have written a wonderful story, but if nobody knows about it, than what good is it?
Q – What advice would you give new authors? What have you learned about the business?
Shelly Holt – Trust in yourself. If you know you have a strong story, don't listen to the naysayers and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
Q – Do you have another book in the works?
Shelly Holt – Yes, I am working on the second book in the series. This will take place about thirty years after the events of Tasting Fire. It will explore another species of shape-shifter, the Naga. The Naga are a race of shape-shifters that are half human and half serpent. They have actually been worshiped in India for thousands of years.
Q – What do you like to do in your free time, besides reading and writing of course?
Shelly Holt – I like to sew and I have a strange talent for making purses out of artificial fur. When I bring my handiwork into a store, I usually get quite the reaction. Sometimes people have to do a double take because they think I brought my cat with me to the supermarket, and sometimes they want to know where they can buy one.
Q – Where do you dream of going on vacation?
Shelly Holt – New York City, so many museums just calling my name.
Q- Boxers or Briefs?
Shelly Holt – My guy always wears boxers.
Q – Cookies or cake?
Shelly Holt – Cake, but don't ask me to bake it. I'm quite possibly the worst baker on the planet.
Q – Pizza or hamburger?
Shelly Holt – I make a great soy pizza. I am a good cook.
Q – Beer, Wine or Mixed drink?
Shelly Holt – Margarita!
(Hero/Heroine Character Questions)
Q – What were your first impressions of each other?
Kai – I could easily see how her mother was a Las Vegas stripper, she inherited the physique.
Rae – The most gorgeous man I have ever seen and I don't trust him one bit.
Q – What are you favorite characteristics of each other?
Kai – Her intelligence and her compassion.
Rae – His sense of responsibility to his people.
Q – What are your plans for the near future?
Kai – To help the Pari enter the 21st century with courage and dignity.
Rae – To help the Pari women live out their lives with their families and not be ripped away from their children by their own biology.
Be sure to visit Shelly@
Thanks so much for inviting me on today and sharing the experience of writing Tasting Fire with you.
It was my pleasure!