This week marked the debut of Jenn Burke’s debut novel, the paranormal romance, Her Sexy Sentinel. Jenn and I spend a lot of time talking to each other about our projects (or trying to have a conversation in which autocorrect doesn’t plot new characters and universes) and this book was no exception. But after reading the bright and shiny finished version, I had a few questions left over.
Jenn graciously set aside some time to answer them. Thankfully, she didn’t use her phone to do so!
What’s the story behind the story? Why did you decide to write about a magical community in Ottawa?
I love books and stories that set magic in the “real world”. They’re the ones that seem to stick with me, because they challenge me to wonder if maybe, just maybe, magic is real. Maybe. (Probably not.) Some of my favourite books or series that follow this sort of theme are:
The Dark is Rising (and the rest of that series) by Susan Cooper
Moonheart by Charles de Lint (also set in Ottawa)
Diana Tregarde Investigates by Mercedes Lackey
Blood Price (and the rest of the Vicki Nelson series) by Tanya Huff (actually, just read pretty much any UF by Tanya Huff…she’s awesome)
Jewels of the Sun (and the rest of the Gallaghers of Ardmore series) by Nora Roberts
There are so many more, but I’ll stop there.
And why Ottawa? Mostly because I’ve lived here for almost 30 years. Also, I liked the idea of my little, boring, government-centric city being a hotbed for magic. It tickles my sense of the absurd.
What inspired you to put a portal to hell under Parliament Hill?
In one of my early drafts, I had the portal out in the woods on the outskirts of Ottawa. Out of the way, easy to keep a secret, and so on. But it struck me that the main landmark that differentiates Ottawa from every other city on the planet is Parliament Hill—so why not take advantage of that setting? I picked up the portal and tucked it into the base of the hill on the edge of the Ottawa River. You can actually walk down there—the bike and walking path I mention in the book does exist. There’s no cave with a hell portal though. As far as I know…
Who is Callie?
I don’t know if I really had an inspiration for Callie. I didn’t want her to be a Buffy the Vampire Slayer, confident in her abilities and easily able to kick demon ass. I wanted her to be a little less strong. As much as I love Buffy, and as much as I think we’ve all got untapped reserves of strength we can draw on when we need to, I think we’ve all got some inherent weakness, too. And fear. I mean, if you were suddenly confronted with the idea of magic, wouldn’t you be scared—at least at first? It would throw your perception of the world into utter disarray. I wanted to write someone who had that reaction but managed to claw her way back to a new sense of normal.
What is Callie’s dream (before Derrick)? What did she want to do with her life?
Callie was pretty unambitious, actually. She wanted to live on Prince Edward Island, close to her brother and niece. She wanted to have a steady job that kept her busy, even if it wasn’t challenging. She wanted to have someone to come home to at the end of the day who she could love and care for. In short, she wanted a simple, uncomplicated life. I don’t think she realized how unsatisfying it was until she returned to Ottawa and got sucked into events surrounding the magical Community.
Tell us about Derrick’s t-shirts. Where did the first one come from and does he have a collection? Does he think of his shirts as a collection?
Absolutely, he thinks of his shirts as a collection! He started collecting them when he became a Knight, to remind himself there was more to his life than just magic and demons. Programming and computers are his refuge because they’re completely logical and though a lot of his t-shirts are funny, they’re also anchors to that aspect of the world.
His favourite is his “There’s no place like 127.0.0.1” shirt. He’s got two of that one. Just in case one gets trashed by a demon.
Do all Knights wield a spiorad? What is it made of?
Yes, all Knights wield a spiorad, or spirit blade. It’s a weapon forged from the will of the Knight and just as deadly as a metal sword. The Knight can shape it into any simple form he wishes (so no guns or anything).
What other roles are there in the Community?
Ottawa is the only Community that has a Magus and a Knight, thanks to the presence of the portal. Other than the Council of Elders, Community roles tend to be loosely defined. Elders in the Community who do not serve on the Council may act as mentors and guides for magic-users who just recently discovered the Community or the Community’s children. Other individuals serve as archivists and record-keepers, making sure the history of the Community remains accurate and relevant.
What’s next for Derrick and Callie, any hints? The Community?
Tough to say without revealing spoilers! I’ll just say that I have ideas…we’ll see what the future brings.
What’s next for you?
Well, Kelly, as you know—since we wrote it together!—I have another book coming out on March 2. CHAOS STATION starts a science-fiction romance series featuring a broken super soldier reuniting with his best friend, a former POW, after a devastating galactic war. It’s got adventure and drama and a steamy romance that never fails to make me sigh with happiness…no matter how many times I’ve read it! The second book in that series, LONELY SHORE, will be out in May 2015.