Sara: How would you describe your novels, Embers and Sparks, for readers who haven’t heard of them before?
Laura: Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern. In Embers, she suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil's Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya -- with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team -- can stop it.
Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell -- but her newest case in Sparks creates suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.
After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains -- or, more precisely, the lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims -- and she is sure this was no naturally-occurring blaze. Soon she's unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit's poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more -- she's collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky's freshly-hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.
Sara: How would you describe each of your main characters in one sentence?
Laura: Anya's got one foot in the seen world and the other in the hidden world of spirits; she's a fire investigator who is reluctant to user her power as a Lantern to devour malicious spirits.
Sparky is Anya's faithful fire salamander familiar who cuddles with his Glow-Worm toy and fiercely defends Anya from supernatural threats.
Brian is the tech manager in a group of ghost hunters who has been wanting to date Anya, who keeps pushing him away.
Drake is a serial arsonist, crime victim, artist, and... also the only other Lantern Anya has ever met.
Sirrush is the granddaddy of all fire elementals, who's taking a nap in the salt mine beneath the city... until summoned by Drake.
Sara: What sets your novel apart from the rest of the Urban Fantasy genre?
Laura: I deliberately set out to do something different, something out of the box. The primary supernatural creatures in the story are ghosts and a fire salamander elemental. Salamanders haven't gotten much press since Paracelsus' time, and I wanted to imagine what a relationship with such a volatile and unpredictable familiar would be like. One of my characters tells the heroine that "There's a reason no witch will take a fire salamander as a familiar, you know."
My heroine, Anya, does not always do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. She's human, and she makes mistakes. She's flawed, but I think she's flawed in interesting ways that make her less predictable than many heroines I've read. She's not the kind of woman who will easily find a "happily ever after."
The other unique quality about the story is the setting. The story is set in Detroit, which has a very distinct voice, and became a character of its own in a true urban fantasy sense.
Sara: What was the inspiration behind Sparky, Anya’s adorable and hilarious familiar? Did you always want him to love all things electrical, or did that trait come later on in the writing/editing process?
Laura: Sparky was named by my husband for Sparky Anderson, the former MLB manager for the Detroit Tigers.
In terms of personality, he's a composite of all the pets I've owned. He's protective, snarky, and chaos follows him wherever he waddles. And he does love to fiddle with electrical things - chew cell phones, blow up microwaves, activate sprinkler systems. Salamanders were said by Paracelsus to be fickle creatures, entirely unsuitable as familiars. And I can see why.
I think that it's important for Anya to have a source of unconditional, nonjudgmental love in her life. At night, Sparky sleeps on Anya's bed and cuddles his Glow-Worm toy. She needs that sense of security. I think that we all do.
Sara: Your knowledge of the arson investigation really comes through while reading Embers. How much research was involved in this series?
Laura: My background is in criminology, and I've worked in and around criminal justice for more than ten years. I have a good understanding of criminal procedure in conventional investigations, but arson was all new. I spent a lot of time at the library, taking notes and paging through fire science textbooks, to learn how things burn, how evidence is collected, and what techniques are used to analyze the evidence.
Sara: The paranormal investigation team, DAGR, was an interesting addition to the series. It’s not too often I read about these teams without it being a spoof. Are you interested in shows like Paranormal Activity? If so, do they serve as research or entertainment?
Laura: I've seen some of the television shows about ghost hunting. I think it's an interesting premise, and I do take note of the equipment they use. The group dynamics for a bunch of people chasing something so slippery is also fun to watch.
Sara: Can we look forward to more books in Anya and Sparky’s world? Please?
Laura: At the moment, I'm only contracted for Embers and Sparks. I would love to continue, as I have notebooks full of ideas for new adventures. And I love the characters dearly... especially Sparky. We'll just have to wait and see what happens in the mysterious world of publishing and sales!
Sara: What are you currently reading?
Laura: I'm currently reading Lucy Snyder's Spellbent. Lots and lots of fun. I'm also reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy and Linda Robertson's Fatal Circle. Also on my nightstand, in no particular order, are: Batman: Vampire, The Instant Tarot Reader, Sam's Learn HTML in 24 Hours, and The Sonambulist.
Thanks so much for having me! I had so much fun. :-)
And now for the giveaway. Laura has graciously offered one lucky commenter a copy of Sparks. All you have to do is answer the following question, or ask Laura one of your own!
Do you think having a magical familiar would be like owning a pet? What kind of familiar would you want?
WITHOUT A TRACE
Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department -- while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell -- but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.
After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains -- or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more -- she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.
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** This giveaway will end at midnight EST on Wednesday 09/15 and the winner will be announced Thursday 09/16. Winners will be chosen using Random.org.