Laura Bickle is the author of Embers and the book’s sequel, Sparks, an urban fantasy series that takes place in my stomping grounds – Detroit and the surrounding suburbs. Laura also writes as Alayna Williams. I just discovered her writing, and I loved Embers, so I’m happy to see that she has a backlist I can dive into. I asked Laura to stop in the virtual offices to answer some questions and to chat about her books.
[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Laura Bickle] Cat-rancher, Tarot enthusiast, and sometime salamander chaser. Writing urban fantasy and YA as Laura Bickle and Alayna Williams.
[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your Anya Kalinczyk novels?
[Laura Bickle] By day, Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department. By night, she’s the rarest kind of spiritual medium, a Lantern. While other mediums allow spirits to use their hands and voices to communicate, Anya incinerates them. With the help of her fire salamander familiar, Sparky, and a ragtag group of ghost hunters, Anya chases down unseen threats to her city.
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the series?
[Laura Bickle] I was inspired by the idea of a fire salamander familiar. My heroine, Anya, has had a spunky fire salamander since she was a child. There’s not much out there in the literature about salamanders, and I wanted to explore the possibilities. I made him something of an imp, setting accidental electrical fires in to his surroundings. He loves to chew on cell phones and cuddle with his Glow-Worm toy at night.
[Manga Maniac Café] Why did you choose Detroit for the setting of these books?
[Laura Bickle] My husband is from Detroit, and it was wonderful to have him play tour guide for me. Detroit has some very magical places that are easily reimagined into landscapes for a book, like the pieces of the Ishtar Gate at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Michigan Central Station became a way station for ghosts. And the Detroit Salt Mine, which stretches beneath the city. It became the perfect place for a dragon’s lair.
[Manga Maniac Café] What have you learned about yourself through your characters?
[Laura Bickle] I think that my books tend to really focus on how the heroines balance their inner lives with their outer lives. My protagonists tend to have hidden lives with supernatural powers that they must keep secret from their day jobs.
And in a much more mundane way, I discovered that I tend to compartmentalize my life to a pretty substantial extent. I still haven’t figured out a solution to that, but writing made me more aware of it.
[Manga Maniac Café] Why do you think books with paranormal elements are so popular with readers? What do you like best about them?
[Laura Bickle] I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a hidden supernatural world existing beneath our own. 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?
They are a way of testing strange ideas in a safe space – experimenting in reality. And I think that people really respond to that kind of world building.
[Manga Maniac Café] You also write The Oracle series as Alayna Williams – How do you keep track of storylines and characters for more than one series?
[Laura Bickle] 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.
I use a different set of notebooks for each project with notes, outlines, clippings, and research. It helps me to physically shift gears and move into a different world.
[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Laura Bickle] Quiet, solitude, and motivation. Caffeine is desired, but optional.
[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Laura Bickle] Robin McKinley is on my must-read list. I adore her independent heroines and her world building. The first fantasy I ever read was her THE HERO AND THE CROWN when I was thirteen. From then on, I was hooked.
[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Laura Bickle] When I’m not writing, I’m working in a library – which is a dream job for a book lover.
My husband and I are amateur astronomers. I also belly dance a bit…but not in public. Nobody needs to see that, trust me!
I initially became interested in belly dancing because I wanted to help overcome my shyness. Since I spend so much time in my head, it helped me think of my body a bit more, get outside of myself. I still wouldn’t dance in public, but it’s a lot of fun to get together with a group of women to laugh and shimmy.
[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!
You can learn more about Laura by visiting her website and by following her on Twitter.
Laura has several books in stores now, and you can use the handy widgets to order copies for yourself!
Many thanks to Bewitching Books tours for arranging this interview!