Monday, 7 April 2014

The Rabbit and the Raven

I've invited Melissa Eskue Ousley today, the author of Young Adult fantasy The Solas Beir trilogy. Melissa's Book 1 of the series was featured on my blog a while ago, so I took the opportunity to interview her this time during her tour to publicise  The Rabbit and the Raven, Book 2 of her series. 

After the interview look out for Melissa's GIVEAWAY (X5 signed copies and a $25 B & N Gift Certificate), her fantastic book trailer video, and an excerpt from the book. My review will follow, since I read it recently for this visit.

Welcome Melissa! 

Take yourself back 20 years and tell us if you had any aspirations to become an author at that time.

Twenty years ago I was in college, and my major was English. I loved reading literature, and I loved writing, but I’m not sure I considered a career as a writer at that time. I also loved psychology and was thinking ahead to grad school and a degree in counseling.

What were you mainly doing as a daily occupation at that time?

In addition to being a student, I worked in a science museum. It was a lot of fun to go behind the scenes and see how exhibits and planetarium shows were made. The summer before college, I worked for the highway department in Arizona. I was the only woman on the maintenance crew. The roads were so hot that by the end of summer, the treads had melted off my work boots. One of my jobs was shovelling roadkill off the highway. I learned to appreciate gallows humor and to not take things too seriously.

They were definitely memorable jobs. And today? How do you mainly spend an average day?

Writing is my full time job now. Marketing is also part of the job, but I try to spend at least two-thirds of my time writing.

You know, when most authors are asked that question they forget to tag on the amount of time that marketing our books takes and the tendency isn't to list it as an occupation, but you're spot on, Melissa, since it is part of our job. Now jump forward 20 years from today. What do you think you’d like to be doing then?

I’d love to still be writing. When I’m writing, there’s a certain point where I get so far into the story that I become the reader—I am telling the story to myself as I discover new and surprising things about my characters. I get lost in that world and everything else fades away. It is nothing short of magic. That is why I write.

I've so far only read the Solas Beir second book, and it really is immersing fantasy. What’s your preferred genre for reading material?

These days I read a lot of young adult novels, which I love. I’m also a fan of fantasy and horror.

What genre/ sub-genre do you feel comfortable writing in?

Thus far, I’ve only written young adult novels, but I feel very comfortable with that. Young adult books are often optimistic and full of hope, even when the protagonists are faced with difficult and sometimes heart-breaking decisions. Perhaps in the future I’ll try a different genre.

What do you think will be the main reading materials within the next decade? Books, some form of portable tablets?

I’m sure that portable devices will continue to be popular, since society is becoming more cosmopolitan. I’ve moved across the country before, and boxes of books get heavy. Even so, I still like holding a book, and I still like the smell of old books. I’m a book addict.

Yes, I can totally understand that. The book collection in my house goes back to the 1960s and we find it almost impossible to throw out books. In recent years there’s been a movement towards popular cult-type stories- sometimes driven by what’s been popular on TV and the cinema, like Vampire, shifter, time-shift sub-genres. What do you see as being the ideal focus to capture the imagination in 5 years time?

Frankenstein was written in 1818 and Dracula was written in 1897, and yet, these tales continue to capture our imaginations, inspiring new versions of the stories. I think as long as a story is timeless and compelling, it will continue to inspire new readers.

I echo that, Melissa. I try to give a timelessness to my work, too, even though it's mostly historical, the difference being in author's voice, I think. Can you give us an idea of what your writing schedules might be like during the remainder of 2014 and on to 2015?

I just finished writing The Sower Comes, the third book in The Solas Beir Trilogy. It’s in my editor’s hands right now, and my publisher will likely release it spring 2015. I have several ideas for new books, and have already started writing my fourth book. Finishing it will be my focus over the next few months. I can’t say much about it yet, but it is a young adult novel set in Astoria, Oregon. And it has monsters.
I can definitely say I found the end of The Rabbit and the Raven a cliffhanger! It made me want to read the next book very soon. 

Now for some Fast and furious fun:

Ice cream or chocolate cake? Tough decision. I love chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, but then again, chocolate chip ice cream is a favorite. Can I have both? 

Home made lemonade or rum cocktails? I’m not much of a drinker, so lemonade it is.

Cycling tour of France or a beach holiday in the Caribbean? I love to snorkel and scuba dive, so a holiday in the Caribbean sounds wonderful. 

A date with a politician or a date with Gerard Butler? I’m afraid I have a weakness for a Scottish accent, never mind Gerard Butler’s other alluring traits. Although...I’d really have to fight the urge to yell, “This is SPARTA!!” I’m guessing that would be a deal breaker for a second date. (I was brought up approximately 10 miles from where he was raised so I'm thinking he just might find that very amusing, Melissa!) 

Children or pets? Wait—there’s a difference? My ten-year-old twin boys are like non-furry pets, and my dog thinks she’s an exceptionally hairy human. Maybe I’ve been doing this wrong.

Great answers, thank you,
You can find Melissa at:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads  
Buy Links for her books: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In Melissa's rafflecopter ***** GIVEAWAY ***** you can win a $25 B &N gift card or a chance for one of 5 signed copies of The Rabbit and the Raven. You can enter HERE

And now for Melissa's excerpt from The Rabbit and The Raven: 

Out of the shadows of the labyrinth, a massive beast emerged. He was bigger than Calder had been, but while Calder had been a hairless, muscled brute, this feline creature was lean, muscled in a way that was beautiful and terrible at the same time. He had the look of a sophisticated and efficient killer—covered in thick, shiny fur with black-on-black stripes. He approached Abby with a menacing deliberateness, bearing long, primeval fangs.
“Hello, Rabbit,” the creature said as he circled her slowly. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Abby could feel the beast’s hot breath on her skin. Don’t show fear, she thought, planting her feet in a fighting stance and drawing herself up to look taller, brawnier. Look him straight in the eye. If you’re going to die, at least have a little dignity about it. She stared into his eyes and spoke his name: “Tierney.”
The creature stared back, eyeing Abby’s clenched jaw and defensive stance, and then he smiled apologetically. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” Tierney said. “I forget this face can be, shall we say, rather off-putting. Allow me to present a more pleasing visage.” His form changed, melting away like smoke, leaving black ashes lingering in the air. In the creature’s place stood a handsome young man with dark eyes—nothing like the beast he had just been.
Don’t be fooled by the illusion, Abby told herself. He’s the same monster he was before—it’s just a mask. She stood her ground, infusing her voice with authority. “On the contrary. You know that face is off-putting. That’s why you wore it.”
To her surprise, Tierney started laughing—not a mean, condescending laugh, but one of genuine, unguarded amusement. It wasn’t quite the response Abby had expected.
“Well, now,” he chuckled, “you are a surprisingly perceptive one. Do you know why I’m here?”
“I assume it’s to get to the Solas Beir by killing me,” Abby said.
“Oh, come now, Rabbit, I’m hurt. I have absolutely no such plans. None at all,” Tierney replied.
“I have trouble believing that—your reputation precedes you,” she said.
“Well, dear Rabbit, a reputation is really quite subjective, don’t you think? And you must concede that your sources may be a bit biased when it comes to me.” He began circling her again, looking her up and down. “Actually, I’m here because I heard a very interesting story about you. And I must say, I think there’s more to you than I was originally led to believe. I heard that an ordinary human girl rescued the Lightbearer by killing a Blood Shadow—and not just any Blood Shadow, mind you, but one of the strongest among us. And I wondered to myself, an ordinary human girl? How can that be?”
Abby noticed that Tierney used the term “Lightbearer” rather than David’s formal title of Solas Beir. She didn’t think it was an accident. In fact, she was certain that Tynan Tierney never said or did anything that wasn’t calculated. “What is it you want, exactly?” she demanded, putting her hands on her hips.
“Only to see if the story was true. I can see now that you’ve been underestimated. Clearly, you are no ordinary human girl. You are turning out to be much more interesting than I thought you would be, pretty little c’aislingaer,” he said.
Abby glared at him. “Thanks, but you can’t fool me into falling for flattery.”
Suddenly Tierney stepped close to Abby, his arms pulling her to him, his breath on her neck as he whispered in her ear. “No, indeed I cannot. For I have met many a fool, and you are not one.”
He was so warm, and his touch made her skin tingle, much to her chagrin. She fought to show no response, reminding herself to keep her guard up.
He continued, his lips almost grazing her skin as he talked. “What I want, Abigail, is to show you the truth—to help you see my side of the story so you can decide for yourself if my so-called reputation is deserved.” He pulled away suddenly, his head cocked to one side as if he had heard something.
Abby heard nothing.
Tierney turned back, his dark eyes on her. “Your boyfriend is coming. Better not let him catch you fraternizing with the enemy. Until we meet again, little Rabbit.” Taking her hand, he held it to his lips, kissing it with a disarming tenderness. Then he was gone—not in some magic puff of smoke, but simply not there anymore.
Abby heard the crack of a twig breaking as someone approached. Rather than feeling a sense of relief, she felt oddly guilty, like she had been caught in the act of doing something wrong. She had just survived what should have been a lethal encounter with a monster, but instead of being frightened of Tierney, she found herself attracted to him. And that terrified her.

Here's what I thought of The Rabbit and the Raven:
This was an action packed adventure with a full cast of likeable, and some not so well liked, characters. The settings are well described as the forces of light battle against the darker forces. It’s very difficult to find a totally fresh fantasy setting for readers of the genre without there seeming to be traces of other stories but Ms Ousley does a very good job in imaginatively portraying  the protagonists’ journey in  Cai Terenmare, the ‘other world’ of Solas Beir. The language flows easily since the main characters are mostly well grounded in contemporary dialect-even if some of them are not exactly human. The shape shifting aspects of the some of the ‘baddie’ characters made for an added need for me as the reader to keep up with who is who in the story.  
Things happen quickly in both Abby and David’s worlds and I like it that there is no unnecessary description to slow down the pace, yet the places and creatures are mostly imaginatively described. I enjoyed the slow build of the bonding between Jon and Marisol and I’m sure there’s more to come in Book 3 since the story is not yet ended. The relationship between Abby and David is a bit rocky at times in book 2, as Ms Ousley intends, but I wasn’t convinced about the role of Tynan Tierney as the seducer of Abby. It seemed he wasn’t quite trying hard enough, though he has the power to do bend her to his will. Tierney’s treatment of Lucia didn’t sway me either.
However, it may again be that book 3 will reveal Tierney’s intentions more clearly, since the fate of Abby is not quite known yet.
I’ll be looking out for book 3 of the series! 

NB. This review will be posted on Amazon and Goodreads very soon.  

Thank you for visiting, Melissa. My very best wishes to you for a successful tour and for great sales of your Solas Beir books.



  1. Thanks so much for hosting me. I had fun with the interview--great questions!