Today I am honored to interview Karissa Laurel on the release of her latest book Touch of Smoke, a paranormal romance available as both e-book and paper book.
Tell me about your book, and is it a standalone or part of a series?
Touch of Smoke is a paranormal romance that takes place in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. If the romance were taken out, the book would likely fall apart, and there is a happy ending, as required by the genre. However, the plot is heavily centered on solving a mystery (the death of the main character’s best friend), so there’s a lot more to it than whether the main couple end up together or not. There’s also a paranormal element that I hope readers find unique and original—but I don’t want to give anything away because it factors into the plot’s main mystery.
Touch of Smoke was written with every intention of being a standalone. I had just finished writing the final books in two different series, and I wanted a break (writing series takes a lot of energy and dedication for me!). However, after it went through editing, it ended up with a less definitive ending than the original version. The new ending finishes the story but also leaves several plot threads untied just enough to allow for a sequel. Several early reviewers have said they’d like to have sequel, but I haven’t made up my mind about it yet.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Research varies by book and genre. My first urban fantasy series was about Norse mythology. I did a lot of research for that, though it’s difficult to quantify how much or for how long exactly. I read a lot of the original Norse myths from several sources, and I spent a lot of time researching details on many, many, many different websites. While I read a lot of the original myths before starting, much of my research and fact checking took place as I was writing. I referred back to the original myths often.
For Touch of Smoke, however, there was less of a definitive body of knowledge to pull from for the mythology I used in this story (I don’t want to give too much away) so I found a few useful online sources, and I also read a few novels and anthology books focused on similar mythology to see how other authors had handled it. While I was writing, I also frequently depended on the internet to provide details, particularly about language and culture, and I asked a few people with specialized knowledge to verify if I got those things correct.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
In my personal life, I’m the only woman in a houseful of guys (a teenage son, a husband, a father-in-law, and a brother-in-law who lives across the street), so I feel like I have a pretty good grip on what men are like. But the main thing I try to remember is to check myself for stereotypes and assumptions and to rely on feedback from my beta readers and editors when they say something doesn’t work. Sometimes I ask my son: “What would you do in this situation” so I can have a guy’s perspective. He loves helping me write. Of course, romantic heroes tend to be a bit more idealized than the average real-life guy, so some things work in romance novels that might not work in other genres.
What did you edit out of this book?
Other than a drastic change in the ending, not much was edited out. A couple of new scenes were edited in, though, when my editor and I agreed that the relationship between the main couple needed more fleshing out and needed to take place over a longer period. It’s hard to say what I edited out of the ending without giving away spoilers, but let’s say that I had made the original ending too easy. My betas and content editors all pushed me to make things harder on my characters and not to tie up things so neatly.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Oh that’s a great question! I wouldn’t say I put any “Easter eggs” in Touch of Smoke, although I have put them in other books before. The town that is the main setting in Touch of Smoke is fictional, but it’s heavily based on a real town in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and I think anyone from that area will recognize several of the landmarks I mentioned.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Fight scenes and love scenes are always the hardest for me, and this book had quite a few of both. Fight scenes are hard because it’s easy to see in my head what the characters are doing but getting those details onto the page without being too repetitive, technical, or just plain boring is challenging. Love scenes are hard because intimacy can be uncomfortable and finding a balance between what is necessary and what is gratuitous takes a certain finesse. Although, anyone who knows me would say that I tend to be too cautions. My beta readers urged me to put in more details when I wouldn’t have, otherwise.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I have a few very dedicated readers who reach out to me often on social media and if it weren’t for them, it would be hard to keep going sometimes. They are super encouraging and supporting and generally ask me how soon I’ll have another book ready. I particularly like when they talk about my characters like they’re real people. While I have had my share of negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (as does every author), I’ve been fortunate to never have received any negative comments directed at me personally.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written many more books than I’ve published. I’ve published seven full novels, one novella, and a smattering of short stories. I’ve written at least four novels that will probably never see the light of day and many short stories that were rejected and eventually abandoned when I realized they were beyond redemption. My favorite is hard to choose. I have ones I like less than others, but I think my favorite tends to be my latest release, until I have a new book to focus on.
What’s next for you? (i.e., another in this series, or something new?)
Next, I have a short romantic historical fiction story, featuring a highway woman and a French blockade runner during the American Revolution, appearing in a pulp fiction anthology from Crazy 8 Press that should be released sometime this summer.
I’m currently working on a YA contemporary fantasy novel set near Asheville, North Carolina focused on bluegrass and traditional music. It was inspired by a random idea to gender-flip the Lost Boys movie from the 80s and substitute sirens for the vampires.
Where can readers find your book?
Thanks, Karissa! And best of luck with the new book.!
You can find Karissa’s website here and follow her on Twitter @KarissaLaurel