Interview with Laura Bickle, Author of Witch Creek, A Wildlands Novel. In the backcountry of Yellowstone, evil moves below the surface. Excerpt - Giveaway
The Wildlands Series
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date of Publication: Feb. 27, 2018
Number of pages: 384
Word Count: 88,160
In the backcountry of Yellowstone, evil moves below the surface . . .
Following Nine of Stars comes the next chapter in Laura Bickle's critically acclaimed Wildlands series.
As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has battled supernatural horrors and experienced astonishing wonders. But there’s no magic on earth that can defeat her recent cancer diagnosis, or help find her missing husband, Gabriel. Still, she would bet all her remaining days that the answer to his disappearance lies in the dark subterranean world beneath the Rutherford Ranch on the outskirts of Temperance, Wyoming.
Gabe is being held prisoner by the sheriff and heir to the ranch, Owen Rutherford. Owen is determined to harness the power of the Tree of Life—and he needs Gabe to reveal its magic. Secretly, the sheriff has also made a pact to free a creature of the underground, a flesh-devouring mermaid. Muirenn has vowed to exact vengeance on Gabe, who helped imprison her, but first . . . she's hungry. Once freed, she will swim into Yellowstone—to feed.
With her coyote sidekick Sig, Petra must descend into the underworld to rescue Gabe before it's too late . . . for both of them.
An Interview with Laura Bickle
About the Author
Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.
Welcome to JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder
LB: Thanks so much for interviewing me today!
Tell us a little bit about why you write in your chosen genre, and if you have books in other genres as well.
LB: I love writing about monsters under the stairs. I’ve written contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, YA, and a bit of horror. Mashing up genres is a lot of fun!
My most recent project is the Wildlands series for Harper Voyager. The protagonist, Petra Dee, is a geologist working in the back country of Yellowstone. She’s also the daughter of an alchemist. Encountering the magical creatures of the back country – undead cowboys, carnivorous mermaids, drug-dealing alchemists – unravels the edges of her orderly scientific world.
What was the title of your first book, and what was/is it about?
LB: My first book was EMBERS, about an arson investigator who speaks with ghosts, and her fire salamander sidekick. Anya Kalinczyk works to purge Detroit of ghosts and criminals, but the underworld eventually catches up with her.
Was it a series?
LB: Yes. Anya’s story began with EMBERS. Her story spans the sequel book, SPARKS, and a novella, ASHES. She becomes progressively more disillusioned with her isolation among the living as time goes on.
The first book seems to be the most difficult to get off the ground. What inspired you to write it?
LB: First books are definitely difficult! The first book I ever wrote is still living in a shoe box under my bed.
My husband is from Detroit, and EMBERS was inspired by many cool places in that landscape that he remembered from his childhood. Michigan Central Station, for example, became a way station for ghosts.
What is your most current book?
LB: WITCH CREEK is my newest release. Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick, Sig, face off against a flesh-eating mermaid. Petra’s husband, the undead cowboy, Gabe, is a prisoner of the new sheriff in town. Petra has to find Gabe before the sheriff decides to feed him to the mermaid.
As you can probably tell, I love mermaids, and this was a chance to write about mermaids from a more sinister point of view.
Is it a series?
LB: Yes! Petra’s story began with the prequels DARK ALCHEMY and MERCURY RETROGRADE. Her story continues through NINE OF STARS and now in WITCH CREEK. There are a lot of alchemical monsters haunting the countryside, like basilisks, the alchemical Tree of Life, and unquiet spirits hunting the living. Petra has her hands full!
New books are so exciting. Do you have more stories planned or that you’ve been working on for the future?
LB: Yes! I’m working on the next book in the series as we speak.
Can you share a little bit about your main character’s, and what drives them?
LB: Petra initially came to Temperance, a small town at the edge of Yellowstone, to search for her missing father. She eventually finds him, but discovers that magic holds sway in this mysterious place. She does her best to explain things logically – despite the horrors surrounding her, she is stubbornly nonmagical. She must rely upon her wits to survive, and I like that in a protagonist.
We do too.
Some stories have strong themes. How important are themes in your writing? Is your theme based on the story, or are your stories birthed from a theme/or themes?
LB: The books in the Wildlands series have a subtle theme around stages of alchemy. There are seven stages of alchemy: calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation, and coagulation. These provide plenty of fodder for magical dangers!
Is the theme personal for you, or simply an important issue?
LB: I’ve always been curious about alchemy, about this science that was an art before the time in which magic and science parted ways. It’s a lot of fun to play with these in books.
What other stories have you written?
LB: I’ve written a few YA novels. Two, THE HALLOWED ONES and THE OUTSIDE, are about a young Amish woman facing a vampire apocalypse. FLESH is about a girl who’s grown up in a funeral home facing a plague of ghouls in her small town. And THE DRAGON’S PLAYLIST is about a college-age woman who returns home to West Virginia to care for her father, who was injured in a coal mining accident. What she finds when she gets there is a dragon on the cusp of war with the mine.
I love to bounce around websites because I’ve found I can learn so much about an Author there. Do you have a website, blog, or other place where you showcase your work?
LB: Yes! My website is: www.laurabickle.com
So many Authors are artists by nature. Do you have any other artwork or hobbies you do on a consistent basis?
LB: I collect Tarot cards and enjoy gardening. My garden is my little oasis in the city, and it’s full of wildlife. A Cooper’s hawk just moved in this winter, which is discouraging activity at the bird feeder, though.
What were your passions growing up?
LB: When I was a little girl, I loved spending time at the library. I read every book on the mythology shelf! I was also very much into my She-Ra dolls. I’m very excited to hear that Netflix is bringing her back for a cartoon soon!
I remember She-Ra.
What are your passions now?
LB: Oddly enough, I have fallen into rehabilitating feral cats. Every so often, a feral cat appears in my garden. Eventually, he is lured indoors with tuna, and then the fun begins.
I’ve got one I’m working with now who’s been hiding behind a bookshelf for weeks. He thinks I’m THE WORST. It will take time, but he will eventually be tame enough to sleep at the foot of my bed.
LB: Thanks so much for hosting me!
ExcerptPeering through the cattails, she saw a man with a fishing pole, standing on an outcropping. He seemed alone, caught in a bit of reverie, gazing at his line skipping along the surface of the water.
She dipped below the surface of the water, toward the shiver of the fishing line. With green-spotted fingers, she lifted the struggling fish from the hook. The line jerked away.
The man swore.
Muirenn lifted her head above the water.
“Holy shit.” The man stumbled backward. “I didn’t realize you were swimming there . . . I . . .”
His expression changed from embarrassment to curiosity as he looked at her. The pupils of his eyes dilated. “Who . . . are you?”
Muirenn gripped the fish close to her chest, giving a small smile.
The fisherman crouched on the rock, setting his pole beside him. “Wow. You’re uh . . . green? Is that real?”
Muirenn cocked her head and slipped forward a bit in the water. The edge of her tail skimmed above the surface.
“Is that like . . . one of those tails that the girls have at that park in Florida? For a movie or something?” His suntanned brow wrinkled. “No. That’s real,” he decided. “You, um . . . want the fish? You can have it.”
She was within arm’s length of him. She released the squirming fish into the water.
“You wanted to let it go? Look, I . . .”
The man talked too much. She swam closer, tentatively.
The fisherman looked at her, at her dappled skin and the dark rust hair spreading into the water. She wouldn’t ordinarily have been so bold. The weight off her tail was going to her head. She let him take in the black of her eyes, the gills on her throat. He gazed in wonder, and his fingers twitched to a small square piece of plastic on top of his tackle box.
“Can I take your picture? What . . . are you?”
A smile played across her lips, and she spoke to him in a silvery voice. “I’m the Mermaid.”
“Wow. I . . . wow. I’m, uh, Norm. Do I, like, make a wish or something?”
“You can, if you want. I’ll listen.”
She reached up with delicate fingers to touch him. Her fingers brushed the pockets of his fishing vest, playing with wonder over the bits and baubles there meant to lure the attention of fish. The man forgot about his camera and stared, transfixed.
Muirenn reached up for his collar . . .
. . . and dragged him down into the water.
He splashed and flailed. She brought him down—down to the bottom of the creek. It wasn’t so far, but it was far enough for a land dweller. He couldn’t fight her for long. He thrashed until his lungs grew heavy with creek water. He convulsed as the lack of oxygen reached his heart and filtered up to his brain. And then he stopped.
Muirenn grinned, showing row upon row of shark-like teeth. She ripped off his arm and began to chew. It had been so long since she’d had anything but the errant fish that wandered into her realm . . . this was a meal worth waiting for.
The creek ran red.
Red as the idle red-and-white bobber drifting on the surface of the water.