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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Interviewing author Laura Bickle about her latest releases, Embers and Sparks

Today, I'm thrilled to have Laura Bickle here. I had the chance to ask her some questions about her latest urban fantasy releases, involving the exciting adventures of Anya and her side-kick familiar, Sparky the fire salamander.

Having lived in the Toledo area for decades and avoiding downtown Detroit like the plague, I can see how that setting works especially well to host a population of malicious phantoms. Was it hard to flip the coin and show some light and hope for your heroine, Anya, in such a depressed area, ravaged by hard economic times?

Detroit has some very magical places that are easily reimagined into landscapes for a book. And the Detroit Salt Mine, which stretches beneath the city. It became the perfect place for a dragon's lair. Michigan Central Station became a way station for ghosts moving into the afterlife. 

I want readers to know that there is incredible beauty, power, and magic in the city. Everywhere I looked, I found a story. There's so much history - from speakeasies to the churches - and I wanted to explore that for the reader. 

How do you use Sparky, Anya’s salamander familiar, to show some humor and softer sides of your heroine? Is Sparky’s life ever at risk during Anya’s battles in the series?

My favorite character is, hands down, Sparky the fire salamander. There's a scene in which Anya has crawled into bed and is fretting about her investigation. Sparky ignores the dog bed she's purchased for him, crawls into bed, and snuggles up with Anya and his Glow-Worm toy. He reminds me a lot of unconditional people, we can fail and make wrong choices. But I wanted Anya to have a sense of that unconditional love, even when she screws up. 

Sparky is Anya's protector, and he is the first one to fling himself into a fight with the Unseen. He's particularly vulnerable in SPARKS, when he's guarding a nest of baby newts he's raising in Anya's bathtub. 

In Embers, a supernatural arsonist sets blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity, intending to leave the city in cinders. Does the ancient entity truly exist in the story and make threatening appearances? What real damage happens as a small sample of what may come if Anya cannot stop the arsonist?

The arsonist is attempting to raise Sirrush, who is hibernating in the salt mine beneath the city. Sirrush is a fearsome dragon who's the granddaddy of all salamanders. He dates back to Babylonian times. When Sirrush wakes up, he's cranky. Very cranky. And he turns anything he can see into toast. So our heroes have to try to stop him, or stand back and toast marshmallows while the city burns. 

How does this situation in Embers threaten the life of the man Anya loves?

Anya’s got love in her life, many kinds…but, as for so many of us in real life, there’s no one person that can be her everything. Anya is a fire investigator by day. By night, she works with an eccentric group of ghost-hunters, chasing down malicious spirits. She’s the rarest kind of medium, a Lantern – where other mediums can communicate with spirits, she devours them. She’s an outsider among outsiders. She’s got one foot in the material world, and one foot outside of it. 

Brian, the ghost-hunters' tech guru, is ordinary. He has no special powers, no ability to see into the darkness beyond what his instruments show him. And Anya loves him because he’s ordinary. He’s a touchstone into the solid, physical world. He’s human. 
But Anya, like all the rest of us, wants to be understood. She wants someone to see the darkness in her, and tell her that she’s not a monster. That’s why she falls for Drake, the serial arsonist. He’s the only other Lantern she’s ever met. He understands who and what she is. She doesn’t need to hide or pretend around him. Only problem is…he’s using his power to awaken an ancient power that threatens to raze Detroit on Devil’s night. Drake’s lost touch with his humanity, which is the thing she loves most about Brian.

In Sparks, how does Anya’s struggle with Hope Soloman threaten Anya’s relationship with her lover?

Anya has confessed her feelings to Brian, but she is learning things about him that she wishes that she didn't - including a willingness to circumvent the rules and a disregard for the Unseen. While Anya struggles with what being a Lantern means and wonders what happens with ghosts after she devours them, Brian is entirely unconcerned with their welfare in the afterlife. Anya is willing to go to the Underworld to rescue souls enslaved by a malicious psychic, Hope Solomon, and Brian tries to stop her any way he can.

Thanks so much for hosting me today!
Anya Kalinczyk #1
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
ISBN: 978-1439167656
April 2010

“One of the most promising debut novels I’ve read in a great while… I’d highly recommend this book to anybody who reads fantasy. It reminds me in many regards…of another exceptional first novel…Emma Bull’s seminal War for the Oaks, and there’s not much higher praise that I can give.”
           —Elizabeth Bear on

“Bickle has something great in Anya. Embers has everything: demons, ghosts, dragons, love, sex, police, and murder.”
           —M.L.N. Hanover, bestselling author of Darker Angels

“Gritty but never grim, Embers is a truly urban fantasy, where the soul of a city haunts every page. I can’t wait for more of Anya and the unforgettable Sparky!”
           —Jeri Smith-Ready, award-winning author of Bad to the Bone and Shade

Unemployment, despair, anger--visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit's unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.

Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya--who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern--suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil's Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya--with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team --can stop it.

Anya's accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she's risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she's ever faced.

EMBERS is available now from and Barnes & Noble.

Anya Kalinczyk #2
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
ISBN 978-1439167687
September 2010

The second book in Bickle’s series about Anya Kalinczyk is just as wonderful as the first—Anya is a compelling and likable protagonist and Bickle does an outstanding job in her portrayal of the city of Detroit; there are ruins, yes, but also hope in the ashes. Anya never takes herself too seriously and there is a scene in a baby supercenter that is absolutely not to be missed. (4 stars)
                 - RT Book Reviews

...a charming and inventive read.
                 -Elizabeth Bear, Realms of Fantasy Magazine, December 2010


Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.

After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.

SPARKS is available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Author Bio:
Laura Bickle has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she's never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses. 

Writing as Laura Bickle, she's the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket - Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she's the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE. 

More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here:

Laura/ Alayna’s blogs
She’s also at Facebook.

~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. She is the author of the Ciel's Legacy series, fantasy romance with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE. Look for her first of an epic fantasy romance series, SEEKING A SCRIBE: ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS ONE, to be available March, 2012. For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.


Laura Bickle said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today! I really appreciate it. :-)

Unknown said...

Another addition to my TBR! Great interview :)

Marsha A. Moore said...

BK, it was a great interview--Laura gave good answers.

Glad to have you visit, Laura.