Friday, April 18, 2014

Author interview: Elizabeth Corrigan, author of "Raising Chaos"

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I8PMHD2/?tag=kb9-20
"When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge."

So begins the blurb for the recently-released novel Raising Chaos. It's the follow-up to "Oracle of Philadelphia," which introduced readers to Carrie, an immortal oracle who lives in modern times and is surrounded by an intriguing cast of angelic and demonic characters.

Raising Chaos builds on those characters in creative, humorous, and entertaining ways. Author Elizabeth Corrigan has created a rich world and some delightful concepts that will surely provide ample fodder for a string of future books.

Readers and reviewers of Raising Chaos are describing it as "truly engaging," "refreshing," "highly entertaining," and "a wonderful escape."

We have to agree! It's our pleasure today to interview author Elizabeth Corrigan.

Welcome, Elizabeth, and congratulations on your second book! In a few words, how would you describe Raising Chaos for our readers?

At the end of Oracle of Philadelphia, the oracle Carrie really ticked off the archdemon Azrael. In Raising Chaos, Azrael is back for revenge, so Carrie's friend Bedlam needs to race Azrael to the Spear of Destiny and undergo a number of tests in the process.

How was the experience of writing your second book different from the first one?

Raising Chaos actually took me a lot longer to write than Oracle of Philadelphia did, because I took a huge hiatus in the middle, based on uncertainty about where the series was going, or if it was going anywhere. Other than that, there wasn't too much difference, just lots of sweat and perseverance. Even the editing wasn't too much easier for my second book, because even though I learned a lot editing Oracle, I still had (probably still do have) lots to learn.

The cover of the book is getting a lot of praise in your blog tour. Tell us about how that came to be.

When Red Adept asked me what I wanted on the cover of Oracle of Philadelphia, I was like, "Ummmm.... Stuff?" So they handed it off to Streetlight Graphics, and I love what they ended up with. It also gave me a template to work with for the second book. I basically went to them with instructions: "I want it like the Oracle cover, but red instead of teal, Bedlam instead of Carrie, a spear instead of a sword..." Even with that it took us a few iterations to get it perfect, but I'm pleased with what we ended up with.

In this novel, the story is told from the viewpoints of different characters. It's very effective, and the voices are so distinct. Tell us a bit about that creative decision to alternate POV throughout the novel.

I originally intended to have a single character narrate each book---Carrie for book 1, Bedlam for book 2, Gabriel for book 3, etc. But as I thought about the plot of Raising Chaos, I thought it was very important that we know what Carrie was doing while Bedlam was searching for the spear. By this point, I had already written Oracle of Philadelphia, so changing the POV to 3rd person would have meant going back and rewriting all the pronouns in that. I would have done it---I did it once with another of my projects, though it wasn't fun---but I felt like Carrie's power to read minds wouldn't come across as clearly if her parts were told from the third person. I decided the best thing to do, then, was multiple first person POV. It was a bit of a risk, I think, since it's something difficult to do well, but hopefully I made it work.

It was a good choice! Let's talk about that demon Bedlam, whose character is advanced significantly in this novel, with his interesting motivations and internal dialogue. Many readers and reviewers rave about their fascination with him. What would you say is behind the attraction that readers have for Bedlam?

People do love Bedlam. I was actually a bit concerned for how people would react to him in Raising Chaos. After Oracle of Philadelphia, people would tell me that they loved Bedlam, that he was so funny, but some of their comments made me think that he was a light-hearted, comic relief character. And the whole time I knew that he was actually a lot deeper and darker than that. But people seem to love him EVEN MORE after Raising Chaos. I think it's partly because he's a good balance of likable and flawed, and partly because readers like the trope of the bad boy with the heart of gold. And, you know, he's funny. People like funny.

You also introduce us to someone new: Siren, the Angel of Truth, who is unable to lie. This results in some memorable scenes in the story. What inspired you to add Siren to the cast of characters?

When I was creating the pantheon of angels, I made Siren as the exaggerated angel version of me. I am a pathological not-liar, so I made her the angel of truth. Not only did she never lie, but no one could tell a lie in her presence. And since I like to sing, I made her a super amazing singer. I am not a super amazing singer. I am only decent. Siren is also a lot more confrontational than I am. But people who know me well recognize that she shares traits with me. I intended her to be a side character, more of a joke than anyone else, an annoying angel no one really liked all that much. But I started thinking about her more and more, trying to figure out why the other angels didn't like her. Around the same time, readers of Oracle were telling me that Mephistopheles was their favorite archdemon, and I wanted to give him a back story. So I combined that with some thoughts about Siren, and she ended up with a starring role in Raising Chaos.

The book puts a distinctive spin on some familiar stories from the Bible, like Cain and Abel, the golden calf, and the virgin birth. It's entertaining as a reader to think of those in new ways -- and it seems you had fun writing those parts. Tell us about how you approached that.

My personal belief is that the Bible is not 100% accurate. I realize that not everyone believes the same thing, and I respect and support that. In my mind, though, the stories have been changed in re-tellings, transcriptions, and translations. What is there in many cases is vague, especially to a writer who is constantly being told to use lots of details; to show instead of tell. My perspective of the Bible, though, does not in any way impact my attitudes toward the existence of God. To me, the exact details of the stories don't matter nearly so much as the messages they hold, which I think influences the themes of the Earthbound Angels series. Angels, demons, Bible stories. They may not be exactly what you have always thought. But that doesn't change the fact that God is there, that God loves both angels and humanity, and it doesn't change the fact that it is always worth fighting to do what is right.

The story is fast-paced, but still has comic moments as well as heartwarming scenes. How do you manage the pacing of the storyline?

I feel like the cultural narrative is that authors write far more words than they need and then have to cut out all the unnecessary ones. This is not at all true of me. I am not at all a verbose writer. I actually added 25,000 words to Raising Chaos during edits. The down side of this is that it's much harder to add words than it is to take them out. The upside is that things end up happening pretty close to each other.

Speaking of pacing, many authors struggle with flashbacks. You handle these well, providing glimpses into the back-story of characters through short sojourns into their past. Please comment on this aspect of writing a novel.

I think I originally added flashbacks to Oracle as a way to boost my word count. I have a number of author neuroses, and one of mine is that my books will be too short. (I actually became writing-paralyzed at points during the first draft of Chaos because I didn't think it would get to book length. And the final version is 91,000 words, so clearly I was mistaken.) But what started out as filler actually became an integral part of the story. I started thinking about all the places and times Carrie had been, and how that shaped her character. I decided that I needed to have flashbacks like this in all my stories. There are fewer flashbacks in Raising Chaos, and they all relate to a single story Siren is telling, but I think they are even more integral to the story and the mythology of Earthbound Angels than the ones in Oracle.

Even though the story centers around angels and demons, there is no clear moral high ground for angels, or outright evil for demons. Each character has flaws and endearing qualities. What are your thoughts about those nuances and how they add depth to your characters?

People have told me there are lots of shades of grey in the Earthbound Angels series, but I'm not entirely sure that's true. I think there are very clear right and wrong actions, and the characters we like are the ones who uphold those values. What I think they really mean is that Heaven and Hell do not necessarily represent the good and evil. Well, Hell is pretty evil, though the demons do have motivations that are sometimes understandable. Heaven, though, is not particularly good, for a variety of reasons. Many of the characters---Carrie, Gabriel, Siren, even Michael to an extent---are trying to do what they believe is right as much as they possibly can, but the world is simply not structured in a way that allows them to do this without seeming flawed. Bedlam isn't usually trying to do what is right, but sometimes his refusal to accept the world's limitations means that he ends up succeeding where the others fail.

The ending of the story is a surprise twist that has shocked and delighted readers. At what point in your writing did you come up with that ending?

Would you believe I don't remember? I'm sitting here trying to remember at what point in the plotting process I decided to do it and am coming up completely blank. I always did feel a little bad about its originality, since I've seen it done in other novels. Simon R. Green's Nightside series is springing to mind, but the same twist was less central there. I'm glad people like it though. And I will tell you that I have one beta reader who follows my novels a chapter at a time as I write them. When I left her at the end of chapter 22, and she had to wait for me to write some more, she was not happy with me.

What's next on your writing schedule? Will we be seeing more in the Earthbound Angels series?

I've been working on another project for a while now, though I can't offer any promises about if and when that will see the light of day. I've got some work done on book 3 in the Earthbound Angels series, and now that I'm almost done with my blog tour, I'm going to be steadily working on that. Right now the narrators for book 3 are Gabriel, Michael, and Bedlam, and I hope my readers are looking forward to the new POVs as much as Bedlam's.

That sounds intriguing! Congratulations on creating this fabulous read, Elizabeth. Thanks for talking with us today!

Thank you!


Raising Chaos is available now to download to your Kindle!
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