Hello, Ms. Chepaitis, and welcome to Broowaha. Would you please introduce yourself to the readers here?
I am the author of eight published novels and two nonfiction books. My most recent novel is The Green Memory of Fear, fifth book in the ‘fear’ series featuring Jaguar Addams. I am also director of the fiction writing program at Western College of Colorado’s Master’s program in creative writing.
I am a huge fan of your Fear series. Let’s start out with an intro to what the series is all about.
The Fear series is a detective series, with paranormal and futuristic elements. In it, Jaguar Addams and her supervisor, Alex Dzarny, rehab the worst criminals by making them face the fears that drove them to their crimes. Both Alex and Jaguar are telepaths and empaths, with other psi capacities they use in their work. Jaguar’s a maverick who colors way outside the lines and runs with scissor, pointed out. Alex is low key, and likes to keep everything running smoothly. He’ll also run with scissors, but he points them down.
The prison system they work in was created after the massive urban violence known as The Killing Times, or the Serials, when serial and ritual killing reached epidemic proportions in the cities of North America. Both of them survived the trauma of that time in Manhattan and went on to work for Prison Planetoid Three, a satellite of earth, built with cities that replicate home planet places. Jaguar and Alex work in the replica city of Toronto, but their cases often take them back to the home planet, or to other parts of the Planetoid system.
You’re currently on an online tour with your fifth book, The Green Memory of Fear. What are Jaguar and the other characters up to in this book?
Quite a lot. Alex has declared his intent to court Jaguar, in style, but that gets interrupted when Jaguar takes an assignment on the home planet, investigating the case of a little boy who was abused by a psychiatrist named Dr. Senci. She soon discovers that Senci has some powerful psi capacities, and an agenda that’s more about her than the boy. He tells Jaguar he’ll kill Alex and everyone else she cares about unless she consents to be his consort, becoming the same kind of monster he is. To protect those she loves, Jaguar goes off on her own to try and take him down. But Alex isn’t about to let her go it alone. He finds her, and - well, I won’t give the ending away here. Let’s just say it’s an intense mix of love and danger, with two people who don’t hold back on either.
Readers should also know that the book explores what it means to be a victim of abuse, and to heal from that trauma. I know so many people who have to deal with that experience, and Jaguar’s world is a good setting to approach it in both its most horrifying aspects, and in the hope of overcoming that horror.
Dr. Jaguar Addams has to be one of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a long time. I imagine she simply waltzed into your mind and told you her story. Is that the case or was it a completely different process?
You’re almost exactly right. She rose up in my belly, while I was on my way to visit a friend who’d just given birth to a baby girl. It’s still an oddly vivid moment to me. I was stopped at a red light, pondering my life, considering whether or not I wanted another child. I had a son, but a daughter would be nice. . . .
Then, Jaguar appeared, fully herself, sitting in her living room which I could see quite clearly. She said, “This is what you’ll do next,” and began describing her world and stories to me. I pulled off the road immediately and started making notes. Within two weeks I had more than 250 pages of her, in various stories that I later expanded into novels.
Though I’m accustomed to being attacked by stories, even for me this was, um, unusually aggressive.
In the Fear series, you’re rather unapologetic about getting into deep, dark subjects. Your characters have very real flaws, the fears people face are often incredibly dark and twisted, and even the larger subjects you write about have a hard edge to them. Did you set out with the intent to write that kind of fiction or did it emerge naturally?
Unapologetic. I like that. I am all that, because I think writers are here to serve the stories without apology for the ones that tap your shoulder, asking to be written. Certainly I didn’t have a conscious intent to fall so deeply into so many dark holes. I was just listening to Jaguar’s agenda. She dictated the topics I’d write about, dragging me into darkness with her. But as she does with all her prisoners, she did so only to make sure I got to the light.
In spite of the hard edge of her world, Jaguar believes thoroughly in the possibility of healing, and is always working toward that goal. As Alex says of her, she turns poison into medicine. Often when I’m writing her stories I think of a poem by Joy Harjo which says, “Keep us from giving up in this land of nightmares, which is also the land of miracles.” Jaguar knows both, and working with her has helped me do the same.
The Fear series is set in a familiar but definitely different environment for humanity in the future, and I am incredibly impressed with your worldbuilding. You touch on everything from psychic phenomena to virtual reality to a time where humans have created the Planetoids. Where does the research begin for something so… big?
Actually it all grows out of the same source - taking what is, and imagining a little bit beyond that, so much of the ‘research’ is in my very busy brain, making connections between what is and what might be. The Planetoid replica cities aren’t that different from what any reader knows now, with current technology developed a little more. If I’m uncertain how to name or explain any of that, I have plenty of technogeek friends who will gladly talk my ear off about it.
There’s a greater complexity in the human interactions since the novels are character driven, but beyond reading about neurology and psychology - which I do for fun - that’s mostly studying people. Observation and reflection are really the primary research tools of any writer.
And Jaguar and Alex’s psi capacities are just ramped up versions of human skills we all have. For instance, from my many years of teaching I’ve gotten really good at reading nonverbal signals, which sometimes makes me look like a telepath. Or for instance, Alex’s skill of being able to make himself temporarily invisible - most FBI and CIA agents are trained to do just that.
Again, my inherent interest in the richness of consciousness - human and nonhuman - makes it a joy for me to learn, and to play, with those concepts. I’m always asking myself what is possible, what is plausible, and what’s the best way to write that so it’s real for the reader?
This question comes purely from my fan side: How many more books can we expect?
How lovely that you’re asking! I’m always excited about the next Jaguar myself. And honestly, Jaguar is so much fun to write, I’ll do as many as I can get away with.
Right now, I’m fine editing the sixth novel, A Strangled Cry of Fear, when Jaguar and Alex will deal with ghosts and corruption on Planetoid One. I’ve got rough drafts of the seventh and eighth novels - Voice of Fear, where her prisoner is a rock star who shot up his audience, and The Racing Heart of Fear, which puts Jaguar in a Formula One racing car. I’ve also got some notes and scrawlings on three beyond that.
Where can people find out more about you and your books?
The books are available through Amazon, through Wildsidebooks.com, or through your local bookstore. You can find me and Jaguar on Facebook, or on my website - wildreads.com
Would you like to mention anything else?
Just what Jaguar says - See who you are. Be what you see.
Thank you your time and this interview.
It’s been a pleasure!