17 December 2009

An Interview with Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Psy/Changeling and Guild Hunter series. Born in Fiji and raised in New Zealand, she spent three years living and working in Japan. Now back home in New Zealand, she is currently at work on her next Psy/Changeling novel.

You can see travel photos, read excerpts and find behind-the-scenes info on her books on her:

Website: www.nalinisingh.com
Blog: www.nalinisingh.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nalinisingh
Twitter: www.twitter.com/nalinisingh

Paranormal romance has become a very successful genre over the past decade. For the benefit of blog readers who aren't familiar with the genre, can you describe it?

Paranormal romances (pnr) are stories that encompass a wide range of elements beyond the norm – things like psychic abilities, vampires, alternate worlds, and shapeshifters to name a few.

Because of this, there’s a huge freedom in where you can go as a writer – and for readers, this means a wonderful breadth of choice. I think that depth and breadth of content is one of the strengths of pnr.

The three authors who come to mind when I think of paranormal romance are Laurell K. Hamilton (with her Anita Blake series), Charlaine Harris (with her Sookie Stackhouse series), and Mary Janice Davidson (with her Undead series). Each of these, to my mind, combines romance with horror. Would you say that the romance/horror combination is characteristic of paranormal romance, or do romance/science fiction and romance/fantasy also form an important part of the genre?

For me, the three series you’ve mentioned are more closely aligned with Urban Fantasy. UF and PNR are on the same continuum, but in very basic terms, urban fantasy tends to focus on one protagonist’s journey through a number of books, while pnr tends to tell the story of a different couple in each book.

I think one of the best things about pnr is that there are endless possibilities. Horror/sf/fantasy, all of these elements can, and have been utilized by different authors. For example, my book ANGELS’ BLOOD, is very dark and gritty, and could be said to have elements of horror. (This book actually has Urban Fantasy Romance on the spine, which speaks to the overlap between pnr and uf). However, my Psy/Changeling series has elements of science fiction.

In addition to your own work, which paranormal romance writers and novels do you particularly recommend?

As I’ve noted above, the brilliant thing about pnr as a genre is that it is so huge. If a reader wanted to dip their toes into the water, I’d suggest trying a number of different authors and series – not every author works for every reader, but by that same token, there are lots of diverse and vibrant voices in this sub-genre.

Some of my recommendations:

PNR: Meljean Brook, Jayne Castle, Christine Feehan, Lora Leigh
Urban Fantasy: Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews

I’d also recommend Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Trilogy. It’s dark fantasy with a romantic thread, but most readers of pnr really enjoy this series.

If you’re looking for a PNR with fantasy, C.L. Wilson’s Lord of the Fading Lands is brilliant.

And Kay Hooper does a wonderful thriller/mystery series (Bishops/SCU) that also has paranormal / romance threads.

I see that your work has been commended for its strong world-building — and world-building is one of the things I most enjoy about both writing and reading science fiction. How do you go about building the worlds in which your stories take place?

My writing style is very character-based, so I tend to let my characters show me their world. I see through their eyes, and each time they turn, there’s something new to discover.

However, given that I write series, I also maintain complete notes about the world – continuity is so important in world-building, and I make a lot of effort to ensure that it’s maintained from book to book. Nothing makes me crazier as a reader than a writer who doesn’t follow the rules of her own world.

What are the main series you have written or are writing?

I write the Psy/Changeling series, which is set in the not too distant future and features three races—humans, the Psy (who have powerful psychic abilities), and the changelings (who can shapeshift into certain animals). Book one is SLAVE TO SENSATION.

I’ve also just begun the Guild Hunter series, which is set in an alternate earth where archangels hold sway over mortals, with vampires as their servants. Book one is ANGELS’ BLOOD.

They’re two very different series, and I really enjoy that. If your readers would like to check out either series, excerpts are available on my website.

What does it feel like to get on the New York Times best-seller list?

Amazing, stupendous, fantastic!! I still can’t believe it at times. ☺

I'm very impressed by your productivity as a writer. What kind of writing schedule do you maintain, and how do you balance this with the many demands on a successful author's time?

I write pretty much every day, and I think that’s important, not just in terms of productivity, but also to flex and strengthen your writing muscles. I also set daily goals for myself and stick to them.

As for balance, that took me a while to work out, and what I found is that being flexible works for me. If, for some reason, I’m unable to put in productive hours on one day, I’ll work an extra hour or two over the next couple of days to bring myself back on track.

Paranormal romance appears to be a field where there is a lot of collaborative work – multi-author anthologies, and so forth. Have you got involved in many such projects, and do you enjoy taking part in them?

Most anthologies tend to be by-invitation, and I’ve been very lucky to be invited to participate in several, including a recent one headlined by the fantastic Charlaine Harris.

And yes, I love them because I really enjoy writing novellas.

What's next for Nalini Singh?

I have the second book in my Guild Hunter series, ARCHANGEL’S KISS, releasing in February.

Then in July I have BONDS OF JUSTICE, the next book in my Psy/Changeling series, and in August, I have a novella from the same series in the BURNING UP anthology.

I’m very excited about all of these releases!

Nalini Singh Book Giveaway Offer

Nalini Singh has generously offered a signed copy of her book Angels' Blood (US version - the cover image used in this interview is from the UK version) as a giveaway to accompany this interview. If you'd like to be in with a chance to win this copy of Angels' Blood, you need to either (1) Make a comment on this blog post or (2) follow me on Twitter (http://twitter.com/senjmito) and then send me a tweet saying why you'd like a copy. The deadline is one week from today: 5pm on Thursday 24 December (New Zealand time). If you are making a comment on the blog, please include your email address or Twitter or Facebook ID so I have a way of contacting you to get your address details.

Happy commenting and tweeting!

UPDATE: Helen Lowe has interviewed Nalini Singh for Plains FM. You can listen to the interview online, or download the interview in mp3 format, on the Plains FM site.


Kay said...

The visual style of The Archangel's Kiss cover is very reminiscent of a range of fantasy art, including Wellington band Cougar, Cougar's EP release. See http://www.nzmusician.co.nz/cougar2.gif

The paranormal romance genre is popular and vast and unfortunately has little quality control. Nalini's work sounds better than many of the others but it can be difficult for the average reader of urban fantasy (like me) to wade through the slush. Even the subtitle Guild Hunter will be a hook and a confusion with Sherilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series.

With Nalini's cultural background though she should be able to bring a bit more grit to the genre which is frankly almost as bad as Mills & Boons at time.

I would enjoy reading Nalini's books, and I already follow you on Twitter. : )
Kay J

Nalini Singh said...

Tim, thank you for the interview.

Kay, the artist for the cover (Tony Mauro) is brilliant. Here's his websiteif you'd like to have a look at some more of his work (including his fantasy art).

I agree that PNR is a huge genre - but I think that's one of its strengths. There's so much choice for readers.

Also, as someone who started out with Harlequin, I must say a word in defence of M&Bs. There are a lot of innovative and well-written stories that come out of the Harlequin lines. If you're game to try some, Hlqn is giving away 16 ebooks free for their 60th anniversary. You never know, you might enjoy one! :)

chelleyreads said...

i'd love to win a copy of Angels' Blood. I recently started reading Nalini's Psy-changeling series and i love it so far :)


bookmakeupreview AT gmail DOT com

Dino Rubio said...

I'm very excited for Archangel's Kiss! Great interview. :)

Kay said...

Thanks Nalini. I flicked through the Harlequin blurbs but "ick". I used to read books like that when I was 13 or 14. I will occasionally dip into a Sherilyn Kenyon or paranormal mystery. But in general when I read for escapism I don't like straight romances, especially not with arrogant "handsome" male leads. I have a goodlooking (but not arrogant) man at home already, so why read about finding one?

For light reading I prefer mysteries, fantasy & SF or GLBT fiction. Real escapism.

Yes any genre can foster good talent but how easy is it to find the good stuff? At least with Mills & Boons I knew who put more context into their stories (like Essie Summers or Anne Mathers). Some publishers of modern chick lit and other romance categories seem to think quantity beats quality. Book after book from a writer with only the names changed from one to the next. I find this vastly different from SF where in general only good quality books with some originality get published.

When I worked for a children's book publisher we were lucky if we found one submission in a hundred that was worth considering. We only published a few books each year but they were worth reading. Maybe I'm a snob? Perhaps if my local provider of paranormal romance was better organised (like grouping better publishers together) I would learn who to read and who not to.

ms bookjunkie said...

I highly recommend the Psy/Changeling series to all and sundry. The world building, conflicts, relationships and writing (not to mention everything else) are fantastic and very, very satisfying. Also, the books are addictive!

I plan to sample the Guild Hunter series in February, so I can read both books back-to-back…

Nalini Singh said...

Michelle - so glad to hear you're enjoying the Psy/Changeling series. Have you checked out the website? I have some free shorts on there that connect to the series. :)

Dino, me too!!

Kay - sorry the books I linked to didn't work for you, but thanks for checking them out. :) Everyone has different tastes and it's awesome that we live in a time when there's so much choice in reading material.

Debbie Cowens said...

Great interview with some interesting insights in the paranormal romance genre. I'd also like to win a copy of Angels' Blood :-)

cait045 said...

Hey Nalini I love the Guild Hunter series and can't wait for the new release. I really loved the novella in Must Love Hellhounds.

Nalini Singh said...

Ms Bookjunkie - hope you enjoy the GH series!

Debbie - glad you liked the interview :)

Cait045 - Thanks! I really loved writing that novella (and getting to meet Lucy *g*).

Shannon said...

Hi Nalini!

I just love your writing and creativity, and I have read all your books to date! I can't wait for Archangel's Kiss next year, and I'm definitely looking forward to Max, Indigo, and Ria's stories as well. Of course, I'm definitely anticipating Hawke's book in 2011 that I just can't wait to get my hands on! (Definitely my fave along with Illium from Guild Hunters series) I'd love to win a signed copy of Angels' Blood, which by the way was a fantastic read!

Anonymous said...

If you want a good read, try Ilona Andrews...she is so very good, and the husband/wife team stick far more with the fantasy than the romance trend...not to say there isn't, but the world building and characters are fantastic!

I also like Nalini! :)

Calliope said...

I love this series and can't wait for ARCHANGEL'S KISS to be released. I find the relationship between Ellie and Raphael so entertaining and, after reading the excerpt, I can't wait for her to smash a vase over his head, the big jerk. I know there's to be at least 1 more book, likely another Ellie, but I wonder if Sara, Ash and the other hunters will get stories some day...not that I would likely giving up Ellie and Raphael.

Calliope said...

I love the Psy-changeling series, but Guild-hunters are my favourite. I just love how Ellie's and Raphael's relationship is progressing and after having read the excerpt I can't wait for her to smash a vase over his head, the jerk.

I know there's to be at least one more book, likely to again be Ellie and Raphael, but I wonder if Sara, Ashwini and the other Hunters will ever get their chances, even if it does mean I'd be giving up more Elena and Raphael.

May said...

I always recommend Ms. Singh to my non-romance reading friends when they expressed the wish to try PNR. I think Psy/Changeling represent the best that PNR offered. Complex world-building and great characters.

tetewa said...

I love her psy series and look forward to her latest release, sounds good! tWarner419@aol.com

chichaihana said...

Nalini's books are amazing! I can't wait for the next Guild Hunter release! Whoo!!

chichai_hana at hotmail dot com

Rebecca Royce said...

I am such a huge fan of Nalini. Great interview!!

Coistycat said...

I would love to win this book as it would my first introduction to Nalini Singhs writing.

Folowing you on twitter

Edna said...

Great interview!

My first dip into PNR was Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series (just this last month too!). Beforehand, I was doubtful about whether I'd like the genre but she really has some wonderful characters and great storytelling. I'm quite addicted to her books now and I've explored other PNR writers.

nalyne9 AT gmail DOT com

flchen1 said...

Enjoyed the interview, Tim and Nalini! And I appreciate your nod to category romances, Nalini--I read a lot of those as well as single titles, and while it's true that some of the Harlequin and other category titles aren't great, others are truly fantastic. Being able to write a fresh story fitting into the constraints of those publishers is truly a gift, and I have quite a few favorite authors who either have their roots in categories or who write both category titles and longer single title books.

Nalini, congrats on your wonderful successes, and hoping your holidays are warm and joyful!

f dot chen at comcast dot net

Tim Jones said...

Thanks very much to everyone for their comments, and thanks also to Nalini for her replies. Blog commenter Edna has won the "Angels' Blood" giveaway - congratulations, Edna!