Today, Rhodes Review is pleased to welcome James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, co-authors of Innocent Blood on sale now at bookstores near you.
James Rollins is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers translated into forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People magazine).
Acclaimed for his originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets—and he does it all at breakneck speed. Find James Rollins on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, and at www.jamesrollins.com.
Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel mystery novels have won the Bruce Alexander and Macavity awards and have been nominated for the Barry and RT Reviewers Choice awards; her critically acclaimed novel, iDrakula, was nominated for the APPY award and listed on Booklist’s Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth.
She and her husband and son just left Hawaii’s sunny shores for adventures in Berlin. Find Rebecca Cantrell on Facebook, and Twitter, and at www.rebeccacantrell.com.
Rhodes Review: Have you ever been surprised by a controversy among fans or reviewers – for example, you created a character without thinking too much about what people would think of him, and found some readers loved him and some hated him?
Rebecca: All the time. Every reader brings something different to the book, so you never know! For INNOCENT BLOOD, I predict that we’ll get very mixed reactions to Elizabeth Bathory.
Jim: I personally loved the resurrected Elizabeth Bathory, but that’s just that twisted side to me. But, yes, sometimes I’m caught off guard by people’s reactions. Someone once told me they cried when I killed off the villain of my novel, Sandstorm. I wasn’t expecting that reaction.
Rhodes Review: Have you ever written anything that you thought would be controversial and found it wasn’t?
Rebecca: I thought that vampires living only off transubstantiated wine would be more controversial than it was. There were definitely some readers who had strong reactions, but most readers just went with it.
James: We were definitely battening down the hatches for some negative reaction to vampire priests, but I think we showed enough reverence and respect in general for the Catholic Church to temper elements that some might consider blasphemous.
Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Jim: I must have a Rockstar energy drink before I start my workday (and I believe that company owes me shares for the number of times I’ve plugged them).
Rebecca: I wrote the scariest parts of The Blood Gospel at the beach in the sunshine. I wrote another book on the subway.
Rhodes Review: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Rebecca: Read. Read. Write. Every day. And have fun.
Jim: Exactly. With the caveat that you should write from a place of passion. If you’re bored with the subject matter, it will come through.
Rhodes Review: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?
Rebecca: How well some of the history of the Catholic Church maps to the world of the Sanguinists—wine turning into the blood of Christ, monks wearing hoods that cover their faces from sunlight, the requirements that monks be celibate, etc.
Jim: It was rather disturbing that the more we compared the tropes of the Catholic Church to the mythology of vampires, the more we uncovered…and are still discovering.
Rhodes Review: What do you think makes a good story?
Jim: Pairing up characters who a reader cares deeply about with a plot that raises the stakes throughout the novel.
Rebecca: Vivid characters in interesting worlds solving hard problems in unexpected ways. Plus: FUN!
Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of Innocent Blood?
Jim: In this novel, we introduce a relatively young vampire-priest named Christian. He’s the young buck tossed amidst his centuries’ old colleagues. I loved the dynamic of his humanity still shining through—along with his humor.
Rebecca: All of the scenes with Elizabeth Bathory. She was a fascinating character to follow around—strong, independent, ruthless, but also very complicated.
Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in Innocent Blood?
Rebecca: The scenes where Elizabeth is badly burned and Rhun tends to her. My father was badly burned when I was five, and those scenes gave me nightmares.
Jim: I think it was the climax of the novel, where the fate of a young boy hung in the balance. We were back and forth on his final fate.
Rhodes Review: What do you wish was different about Innocent Blood?
Rebecca: I could edit on parts forever, but overall I’m pretty happy with it.
Jim: I love doorstopper novels. If the market would allow us for that book to be 200 pages longer—to fill in more details, more background, more action—I would be thrilled. But perhaps a leaner and tighter story is best in the end anyway. Maybe down the line, Rebecca and I will write some compendium about this complicated, darkly beautiful world.
Rhodes Review: What are some of your favorite authors/books?
Jim: Michael Crichton still holds a place close to my heart, and I was sorry we lost him so young. I used his novel, Jurassic Park, as a template for “How to Write a Novel” when I was working on my first thriller, Subterranean.
Rebecca: This year I loved the Justin Kronin vampire series: The Passage and The Twelve. Right now I’m working my way through the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series—I love the characters and the fact that it’s always sunny in Botswana.
Rhodes Review: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Rebecca: The living one. Dead people take away my appetite.
Jim: And zombies are not great conversationalists. If I have to pick one person, it would be Mark Twain. If nothing else, there would be good whiskey and lots of hilarious anecdotes.
Rhodes Review: Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?
Rebecca: So far, none of them. Ask me at the end of the tour, and I might have an answer.
Jim: It’s “Where do you get your Ideas from?” I dislike this question, because I don’t really know for sure, and I’m afraid if you make me look too closely at the process, that font of ideas will dry up to dust.
Rhodes Review: How do the two of you collaborate living in two different countries?
Rebecca: Lots of email, and Skyping early in Jim’s day and late in mine.
Jim: I talk a lot by waving my hands, so video conferencing via Skype is a great asset.
Rhodes Review: How do you get it to read as one author?
Rebecca: Relentless editing.
Jim: And then more editing.
Rhodes Review: Will the series continue after the third one or will there be another series?
Jim: Rebecca and I have an entire second trilogy vaguely mapped out. It will depend greatly on how well the books are received.
Rebecca: And that we’re not burned at the stake by the end of the first trilogy.
Rhodes Review: Where do you get the ideas? Do you do a storyboard first together or separately?
Jim: See! I knew that was coming. I am going to sit quietly in the corner with my hands over my ears and let Rebecca answer that.
Rebecca: For INNOCENT BLOOD, we did an outline together via Skype, and relied on the World Bible that we created when we were writing THE BLOOD GOSPEL. And we’re always firing off emails to each other when we come up with new ideas. Would it be cool if… kind of stuff.
We’d like to thank Mr. Rollins and Ms. Cantrell for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers.