Interview Q & A with Joanne Brothwell (Stealing Breath)
Why is the story set in North Dakota?
Well, as a writer based in Canada, I wanted to have wider appeal than just Canadians. But to tap into the US market, I was told in no uncertain terms, that Americans do not like to read about anything but America *ducks*. I’m sorry, I can’t say whether that is true or not, but I also wasn’t about to challenge it and find out it was true the hard way. So I wrote about North Dakota, which I believe is the most similar, geographically, to Saskatchewan.
When did you start writing?
I wrote father’s memoir about ten years ago. It was both challenging and rewarding. In terms of challenge, I had to wade through hours and hours of audiotapes my father made for me and transcribe them. This was fun at first, listening to his fabulous stories of prairie life in the 50’s, but there were so many words and expressions he used that I was unfamiliar with, I was constantly having to rewind and listen over again.
In terms of the process being rewarding, I now have all of my father’s stories, forever captured in a book that will be enjoyed by me and my family for years to come.
What is the inspiration for Stealing Breath?
One of my friends, an Indigenous Canadian, told me a story of a time she was on a road trip in the US. It was the middle of the night and she was growing too tired to continue driving, so she pulled her car over to the side of the road, somewhere in Arizona near the “four corners” (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah). She planned to have a nap, but was startled awake when her car started rocking as if someone was jumping on her car, their mocking laughter outside sending shivers up her back. Quite abruptly it stopped, and when she spoke to some of her Navajo relatives later, they said these tricksters were Skinwalkers, people who practiced “Bad Medicine” and could perform astral-projection!
How does Skinwalkers tie in with Indigo Children?
About four years ago I had this story idea of a spiritually evolved human, based on the New Age concept of the “Indigo Child”. This person would be spiritually closer to God, with psychic abilities and a purple/blue aura. This concept came long before the Skinwalker story. But after the Skinwalker story, I began to think— if Skinwalkers can walk outside of their skin, can they walk inside the skin of another? If yes, can they steal the souls of their victims? If they can steal souls, wouldn’t they want a special purple/blue one that’s closer to God?
How do you respond to criticism?
The first time was after I’d paid for a manuscript evaluation. I got it back in the mail and it took a long time to muster up the courage to open it. It was about four pages long, with approximately three sentences highlighting the manuscript strengths. The rest was solid criticism. Too much telling. Too many adjectives and adverbs, improper grammar, no story structure. The negatives went on and on.
I felt positively sick. I can honestly say, I’ve never felt so deflated and mortified in my entire life. It was a good thing the critique was done by someone anonymous, because I’m certain their Inbox would have been filled with hate mail.
I took a short break from writing after that, to decide whether I even wanted to continue. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had a 100,000 word manuscript already written, I may have quit. But I felt like I’d already invested too much time and energy to give it up. So I picked myself up, licked my wounds, and got right back on the saddle.
What is your favorite moment in the book?
There is a seduction scene about a quarter of the way in that I’m very proud of, where Sarah and Evan are playing pool in the town bar. It’s a hot and steamy moment that showcases the wonderful euphoric feeling of intense infatuation. In real life, those moments cause a cascade of powerful brain chemicals, the highly addictive ones we all crave. After getting the characters all hot and bothered, I finish the scene off with a big bang. Literally!
That pretty much sums up Stealing Breath:
Infatuation + Supernatural = Flash/Bang.
By Joanne Brothwell
Deep in the backwoods of North Dakota, Sarah Ross is searching for a missing child when she is attacked by a glowing-eyed, transparent creature.
Using mysterious abilities, Sarah escapes, only to run directly into Evan Valente, a handsome, charismatic stranger who helps her back to safety. But why is Evan out in the forest so early in the morning?
Sarah learns her eyes bear the mark of the Indigo Child, an evolved human with the ability to feel the emotions of others; unfortunately, her indigo aura is highly desirable to those who wish to steal her powerful essence.
Soon, Sarah falls deeply in love with Evan and wants nothing more than to follow her heart, but she can't ignore the lingering feeling that Evan is hiding a terrible secret. The deeper she digs, the more danger she faces, forcing her to face the darkest, innermost parts of her soul.
I awoke to rustling outside my tent. The crunching of footsteps on gravel, twigs and branches snapping. Was that a voice? I lay motionless inside my sleeping bag, heart pounding, listening.
“Help.” A disembodied whisper. Was it right outside? I strained to hear but the throbbing pulse in my head drowned everything else out. I sat up. The atmosphere within the domed tent was wet, ripe with morning breath. The tip of my nose was cold as an icicle.
“Help.” The murmur came a second time, more audible than the last. I was sure it was a child’s voice. My heart skipped a beat. Could it be the voice of the eight year-old, Jessica Crow, who had gone missing from the neighboring Indian Reservation three days ago?
I thought of the drive out to the campgrounds when my friends, Amber, Kate, and I had been listening to the radio report on the status of the missing girl from the Wakina Reservation.
Poor Amber. Once again, she’d cried at the reminder of her third cousin, Jessica, lost and alone in the forest. Everyone in the community, including Amber, had been searching for her night and day but had found nothing. I’d practically dragged Amber along camping, telling her she needed a night off from her worries. It was a hard sell, but she’d finally agreed.
I glanced at where Kate and Amber should have been laying, but their sleeping bags and pillows were missing. The last I’d seen them had been around the bonfire at two in the morning. They could have ended up crashing just about anywhere, and I wasn’t about to go peeking into random tents to find them.
Having fallen asleep in my jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, I slipped on my jacket and shoes, pulled the ponytail holder off my wrist and wrapped my hair into a tight bun. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. Then, unzipping the door flap of the dome tent, I stuck just my head out.
Nothing was out of place. Empty cooler bottles atop the picnic table, charred wood in the fire-pit, and the car we came in. Every campsite around us was nearly silent. The sounds of late-night make-out sessions, pounding music, and yelling were replaced by the occasional snore.
Using my empathy, I focused on trying to pick up on the emotions of any lucid person around, hoping I would hone in on Jessica’s emotions. Normally, the waking feelings of others hit me like a gale force wind, without my even trying. In fact, it had always felt like a bit of a curse that I was a walking sponge for other people’s pain. But right now, all I felt was…nothing.
The voice had seemed right outside the tent. Could I have imagined it?
I slipped out. A low, white fog blanketed the earth, enveloping the world in silence. The temperature hovered around freezing, way too cold for camping. And last night’s vodka was no longer taking the edge off. I shivered.
After checking around the cars and circling the campsite, I started down the road. Inside the forest, the eerie glow of early morning and the cool fog blanched the world a ghostly white. The moist nip in the air sharpened the scent of pine needles that littered the camp ground. I continued down the road for about ten feet until it led to the mouth of a hiking trail.
Now that I was half-frozen and shivering, the May long weekend at the campgrounds of Greater Slave Lake, North Dakota, seemed like a very stupid idea, even if it was the annual spring kick-off party.
“Help!” the diminutive voice called out again, this time, louder.
The memory of Jessica’s face flashed through my mind when I’d met her last summer; honey-brown eyes and springy hair that always stuck up around her head with static, and her sweet smile, part baby teeth intermixed with adult teeth. She was such a sweet, innocent child. If she had survived this long, she could be dangerously close to death from cold. My heart battered against my chest wall, and I fought off the urge to start running, directionless, into the bush to find her.
The voice had originated from further within the tree-line, I was sure of it. Closer now, yet still far away. I entered the trail and headed straight.
“Jessica?” I called out. No response but the echo of my own voice from the trees around me.
The trail was straight and narrow for well over a hundred feet, the trees like two solid walls of green on either side of me. Then the trail began to snake back and forth until it forked into several side-trails. I stopped to listen.
A dry crackle emerged from the trail to my right, and I immediately followed the sound. This far into the forest it was darker, the only light filtered through evergreens and fog. I looked back. The vapor had closed in behind me, obscuring the pathway like a curtain of white. Shivering transformed into shaking.
Despite running these trails in the early morning numerous times, today it looked different. I cursed under my breath and shoved my hands into my pockets.
“Hello?” I called, my voice immediately diminishing, muffled by the woods. Other than the odd bird chirp and frog croak, the forest was quiet. If the voice really had been Jessica, she would need help and most likely immediate medical attention. I forced myself forward.
The trail wound to and fro, the brush dense, the fog almost material as it clung to the spruce needles. The path grew thin and sparse, barely enough room to place one foot in front of the other, with the way the underbrush encroached on the trail. I stumbled on twigs and logs as branches clawed my cheeks and pulled my hair. I began to trip, reaching out for something to hang onto. I fell, my hand forced into a thorny bush.
Damn it! I stood up and peered at my scraped hand, blood beading out of paper-cut sized scrapes. I’d been out here for at least ten minutes, but still, I heard nothing but the crunch of my feet snapping the twigs underfoot and my breath echoing through my own head. Ready to turn around and head back to my tent, the high-pitched voice rang out once again.
Joanne Brothwell is the author Stealing Breath, a paranormal romance from Crescent Moon Press, who has also published Vicarious, the prequel to Stealing Breath. Joanne lives in the country with her family where her stories are inspired by the dead things that appear at her doorstep on a daily basis. You can find her online at www.joannebrothwell.com
Author Joanne Brothwell
Ms Brothwell is offering up an ebook copy of Stealing Breath will run from 5/8 -5/15
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This giveaway has ended.