Monday, 21 February 2011

Author Interview: Laura Bickles

Today I have a real treat for you - an interview with the lovely Laura Bickle, author of Embers and Sparks (In fact Embers was my pick of the month in January - you can read my review here). But did you know Laura also writes as Alayna Williams with Dark Oracle out now and ROGUE ORACLE out tomorrow. So lets dive right in shall we? :)

First thanks for stopping by – I loved Embers and am enjoying Dark Oracle so far. Can I tax your brain ask a few questions?

Thanks so much for having me! I'm thrilled that you enjoyed my books. :-)

So tell us a little about yourself...

I've worked in criminal justice, information technology, and library science. Most writers I know keep a day job for the glamour and intrigue...just kidding. It pays the bills.
I ditched criminal justice recently to work in a library. I get to pet all the books and be surrounded by all kinds of ideas. It's a writer's dream career. 
I live in the Midwestern U.S., where my husband and I are owned by four semi-reformed feral cats. Cat owners know what that's like...

You write under two different names, Laura Bickle and Alayna Williams how did that come about?

My editor recommended that I use a pseudonym for the ORACLE books. My first book, EMBERS, came out in April, 2010. DARK ORACLE was scheduled for June of that year. We thought it would be confusing for readers to have two UF series going on under the same name, with alternating release dates. For that purpose, it made sense to create "Alayna." In that sense, it was a branding decision.
Building another personality was interesting. I used variations of my own middle name and my husband's, so that it would be a name that I'd react somewhat normally to at conventions. I think that much of that relies upon only hearing my middle name when I was a kid in trouble: "Laura Alayna, get into the house THIS INSTANT..."
But it does make for a very long name badge at conventions.

What’s the main difference between the different books?

They're both urban fantasy. My Laura Bickle books, EMBERS and SPARKS, are best described as "Ghostbusters in Detroit with dragons and arson." They follow the adventures of Anya Kalinczyk, who's an arson investigator and psychic medium. She spends her days working with as an arson investigator and her nights exterminating malicious spirits with an eccentric group of ghost hunters. She's joined by her faithful familiar, a feral fire salamander named Sparky.

My Alayna Williams books, DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE, are about a criminal profiler, Tara Sheridan, who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes. These books are a mashup of science and magic - similar to Fringe and the X-Files. Tara's a reluctant member of an ancient society of oracles tracing their lineage back to the Oracle of Delphi. In ROGUE ORACLE, Tara and her skeptic partner Harry Li are on the trail of a Chernobyl survivor who's selling nuclear secrets on the international black market.

Both books about the supernatural – have you ever had a supernatural experience yourself?

I go to the local Renaissance Festival every year and get my Tarot cards read by the same card reader. She's amazingly accurate...though she warns me that I need to decide to be done with karma this year. Still scratching my head on that one.

Supernatural is very popular theme at the moment for books, TV and films – what do you think draws us to ‘things that go bump in the night’?

I've always been intrigued by the idea of a hidden supernatural world existing beneath our own. Urban Fantasy allows me to explore the "what if's": What if a criminal profiler turned to Tarot card divination? What if the Oracle of Delphi survived into the modern day...and what would they have been up to? What if the future could be told through the use of magic...and how would we try to change what we saw?

I loved the atmosphere you created in Embers of a city on the edge and the descriptions of Detroit – is obvious you have a strong feeling for the city – what’s your favourite part of the city? would be tied between the salt mine beneath the city, which I turned into a dragon's lair for EMBERS...or Michigan Central Station, which is decomposing. I turned it into a way station for ghosts.

In Embers, Anya has a fire salamander called Sparky as a familiar. Sparky is a different type of being than usually seen in UF, what was the inspiration for the cutesy salamander? (I want a fire salamander of my own!)

Hee. I want a fire salamander, too. In this weather, I could
use someone to warm up the car!
Sparky is a composite of all the pets I've had. He's at turns, petulant, protective, and snarky. As a fire salamander, he can affect electrical fields and fire...he's been known to chew on cell phones, blow up microwaves, and set of sprinkler systems in the crime lab.
He has a favorite toy that he cuddles with at night...a Glow-Worm. I had a Glow-Worm toy as a child. I was terribly afraid of the dark, and it really helped. I still give them as gifts for baby showers.

In Dark Oracle tarot cards play an important part of the story - Have you ever had a tarot reading for yourself?

I read cards for myself for fun and use them for story prompts. The ORACLE books were written with a deck at hand. But I would never call myself an expert.

Finally what have you got coming up next?

I'm working on a couple of contemporary fantasy projects. Like my other books, they involve female protagonists. Somehow, my heroines always wind up with they cats, salamanders, or other familiars.

Thanks Laura for stopping by! Tomorrow in order to celebrate the release of ROGUE ORACLE, the second Alayna Williams book,  I have a 30 second quick quiz with Laura and will posting my review of Dark Oracle, the first in the series!


  1. A very interesting interview :) I'll have to check out these series. And now I want a salamander too though I doubt my dog would approve.

  2. Hi, Sandy! Thanks for stopping by. :-)

    Sparky the salamander likes cats, very much. Anya has a friend who has cat familiars, and they enjoy playing chase. Sparky likes dogs, too...I think you would be safe!

    Mel, thank you so much for having me today! :-)

  3. *waves to Laura and Sparky*
    Great interview as always!

  4. I've heard about Laura's cats... they in their overlord goodness demand familiars in all her books! :)

  5. Tell Sparky I have four doggies he can play with. Three are dachshunds. I bet Warlock (my male doggie) would have a blast playing!

    Showing my support for Laura/Alayna!

  6. Sweet! I love pets (if you didn't know that yet, Mel... lol). What a great interview. I'm curious about the karma warning too. That could mean anything!

  7. Danielle, it's true! They insist that there will be animals in every book. I obey my feline masters!

    Raonaid, I've seen pix of your adorable doggies! I wish-wish-wish that we had room for another pet! Thanks so much for coming by!

    Hi, Melissa! I'm still puzzling out the karma thing. I think it has to do with being in the pilot's seat of one's own destiny. I think. :-S

  8. So cool! I didn't realize these where the same author. :) And I want both series. Shame on me! lol.

    Great interview here! Thank you! And if you excuse me I think I have to go count my pennies. ;D Thanks!

  9. It's my not-so-secret identity, Melissa...I get to pretend to be Diana Prince AND Wonder Woman, LOL!