Monday, May 23, 2011

Spotlight Review and Interview: Shelter (Blood Haze #1) by Tara Shuler

Two guys, one girl, and two dark secrets that threaten to tear her world apart.

Alice Wright is a young vampire going to high school for the first time at the age of seventeen at the behest of her eccentric mother. In many ways, she's more afraid of the human students than they would be of her.

She feels lost and awkward in human society, but she soon develops a strong bond with the cousin of one of her human classmates, nineteen year old Kai. He is beautiful, but somewhat of an enigma. She discovers a dark secret in Kai's life, and she instantly wants to shelter him from the pain that has tormented him all his life.

Then she meets Maksim Augustine, the incredibly gorgeous guy who seems more like he should be a model than a high school student. She is overwhelmingly attracted to him physically, but her love for Kai causes her to continually push him away. Eventually, she discovers a frightening secret about Max, too.

But Max's secret threatens to destroy everything...

There is something about vampires that is so thrilling, that it’s no coincidence that the majority of the newer paranormal books have embraced them to the degree they have. This book, the first in a series, is one of the many that provide an entertaining view into the vampire’s relationship with humans in an urban setting.

The story itself is interesting, with various aspects that are new to the vampire genre, changing things up a little from the usual solely-blood-drinkers and night-time-loving bunch. The plot was fast paced and amusing, never allowing the reader to grow bored. Some aspects of the story seem a tad forced, like the two main characters falling so irrevocably and quickly in love. But, it worked for Twilight, so who’s to say it doesn’t work here?

The characters are really what make the book different. Alice is fun and someone with a strong core, not a whimpering female, which is refreshing. Kai also breaks away from the typical male character. He is vulnerable and weak, yet oddly charming in his way. Max on the other hand, is what we expect, rugged, strong, possessive. A well balanced triangle. Some of their actions, however, are a bit jarring. One moment any two of them are fighting and the next everything is forgiven. I think their reactions sometimes are a bit exaggerated, but it doesn’t interfere much with the story itself, just with the believability of them as characters.

All in all, this is a fun beginning to what I’m sure will be an engrossing series. If you like paranormal romances, or just a good, easy read, then this book is perfect for you.

And now, a treat, a lovely conversation with the author of this intriguing series, Tara Shulter.

In the increasingly popular genre of paranormal romance, when many writers are attempting to create the next Twilight, how difficult was it for you to write something that was not a copy of previous books?

I didn’t find it particularly difficult. I knew some people would draw parallels between my book and others in the genre. I’ve seen reviews for other books in the niche, and it seems most of them have a handful of people who mention Twilight, even if the book has very little to do with Ms. Meyer’s work. It’s understandable that people automatically lump vampire romance books together, simply because of the popularity of her work.
I wanted to set mine apart from others I had read by creating a stronger heroine and weaker males. Later in the series, Alice becomes even stronger, and her male companions come to depend on her. I think this helps distinguish the series from many others in the genre.

Your characters are well developed. Did you base them on people you know, or are they a potpourri of personalities?

None of them are based on people I know. Alice is a bit like me in a way – she has a strong desire to care for the people she loves. Kai and Max are based on the two sides of the “typical” male – the stereotypical male – that many women dream of. Kai is the soft, gentle side that needs to be protected and sheltered. Max is the stronger, more dominant male. Rather than try to combine both sides in a single character, I chose to have to separate characters. This causes Alice’s conflict… trying to decide whether she wants the weak, sensitive guy, or the stronger, more protective guy.
Later in the series, Alice’s love life becomes even more complicated. In book two, a third suitor is introduced. It seems as though Alice is extremely fickle, but in reality, it’s a product of her life. She’s been sheltered from other people and vampires for so long, she easily confuses friendship, empathy, and physical attraction for love. In book three, she will really come into her own, and she will learn what true love really is.

As a debut novelist, did you find it difficult to find your voice, your own unique way of telling a story?

In honesty, this story told itself. I sat down one day to write it, and it all started playing like a movie in my head. I just had to write as quickly as my fingers would let me and try to keep up! This particular series has been a real pleasure to write, because it’s just been such a natural progression.

We all know how difficult it is in our economic times, with the publishing houses taking less and less manuscripts to support, for new writers to be “discovered”. What was your experience trying to get SHELTER to the public?

I actually never even bothered with traditional publishing houses. I knew my series was going to be very good, and I knew I had a strong chance at finding an agent and being published traditionally, but it wasn’t something I was interested in at the time. It can take 12-18 months (sometimes longer) for a book to be published after the writer finds an agent and a publisher, and that wasn’t something that I wanted to go through. I wanted to get it published immediately.
That’s why I chose to self-publish. I wanted the control and the speed. That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider a publishing contract in the future. It just wasn’t what I wanted at the time.

What is your writing routine, if you have one? Do you write everyday or just when inspiration comes calling? Do you have a favorite spot in your home where you find your ideas flowing easier?

I try to write a little every day, but I find it’s a bit difficult if I push myself when I’m not in the mood. If I don’t feel inspired, I won’t write on my most important projects. I’ll start a new one and write a little on that. Then I’ll put that aside when I’m inspired to get back to work on my original work.
To tell you the truth, I live in one room with six other people. I’ve learned to concentrate with intense distractions! I’ve had people tell me they “can’t” write a book because they “don’t have time” or “don’t ever get any peace and quiet.” When I learned to stop making excuses, I was shocked at how much I could accomplish! Believe me… if I can do this in my situation, anyone can!

What are some of your influences, literary or otherwise?

Stephenie Meyer is definitely a major influence, of course. I read her series, and I was immediately hooked. It’s not so much her writing style that drew me in, but her character building. I felt I really connected with her characters on an emotional level. That’s what I knew I wanted from my own writing.
Michael Moorcock is another major inspiration. His writing is so descriptive and engaging. I still have the first paragraph of his Elric Saga in my head, because it was just so powerful.
I also have to say Gandhi and Mother Theresa, because their tireless devotion to caring for other people is overwhelming. I’m hoping my books will eventually allow me to devote more of my own time to helping others.

And of course, what readers are probably wondering, what are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the third book in my Blood Haze series. The third book is due out late in May, but it may be delayed until early to mid-June.
I also have a few other series in the work, including a vampire series for adults, a science fiction series for adults, and a werewolf series for adults.

Tara Shuler is an American author. Her first book, Shelter - Blood Haze: Book One, was released on April 26, 2011. Book two in the Blood Haze series - Storm - was released May 01, 2011.
Tara enjoys reading books and watching movies in the genres of paranormal romance, action, martial arts, fantasy, and science fiction, and her writing is indicative of those tastes.

Her next book, Betrayal - Blood Haze: Book Three, is due to be released Summer 2011."

You can find her books here: Shelter (Amazon), Storm (Amazon)
Shelter (B&N), Storm (B&N)

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