Hi Deborah and welcome 🙂
What would you say is your motto or maxim as a writer?
My critique partner and I often send each other this abbreviation as encouragement: WBW! It stands for: Write, Bitch, Write! And yes, that’s probably as close to a motto as I have. Unless “please pass the wine” counts.
Dragon-turned dog or unicorn-turned-cat?
Oh, definitely dragon turned dog. Or Chudo-Yudo would eat me. (Besides, my cats tell me that there is no such thing as a unicorn-turned-cat. Cats are cats—there are no substitutes.)
Let’s talk about your newest release: Wickedly Dangerous
If you had to summarize the book for the readers here
There have been a lot of fairy tale retellings, what made you interested in the Baba Yaga story?
In part, because no one had told the story yet. As you said, there have been a lot of fairy tale retellings—most of which I love—but they tend to focus on the classics like Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty. I wanted to use a fairy tale that people might be vaguely familiar with, but which wasn’t overdone. Also, I love the fact that the Baba Yaga was neither a Good Witch nor an Evil Witch—her behavior depended on the person seeking her out. That made her a really fun character to work with. Plus, you know, dragons.
If your life could resemble one fairy tale, what would it be and why?
Well, there’s no handsome prince in my life, which lets out a lot of them. (Dang it.) Maybe Puss ‘n Boots, since cleverness and ingenuity won the day. (I’d be the cat, of course.)
As you wrote Barbara was there anything about her that surprised you?
Oh yes, she was full of surprises! I’m one of those authors who starts out with an idea of who the character is, and then the characters kind of take over. I knew she was tough and a little grumpy, but I didn’t realize when I started out how much she longed to truly belong someplace. Thankfully, it all worked out okay.
Please share a few fun facts about this book:
I knew that I had read about the Baba Yaga as a child, when I devoured all the fairy tales I could find, and I was pretty sure that I’d first come across her in one of Lang’s Fairy Tale books (The Yellow Book of Fairy Tales, the Red Book of Fairy Tales, etc.) But when I was talking to my mother, she told me that my grandfather (her father, of Russian Jewish descent) had loved a piece of music by Mussorgsky called Pictures at an Exhibition, which featured a movement called “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs,” based on the Baba Yaga tale. So it is very possible that this was actually a story told around the dinner table with my grandparents when I was very young.
When I really started researching Baba Yaga, I was amazed by how many great bits of mythology there were to hang a modern story on. For one thing, the ancient tales often referred to the Baba’s sisters, or said that there was more than one Baba Yaga. So I made the name a job title rather than an individual, and created three different Baba Yaga “sisters” who together were in charge of the United States. I also discovered that there was some indication that in earlier times, before the more commonly told tales, Baba Yaga was a goddess of the elements and life and death, even more powerful than the witch she eventually came to be portrayed as.
I love the cover of the book; the artist did a pretty good job of portraying my image of Barbara Yager, the first of the Baba Yagas we meet in this series. The odd thing is, she ended up looking a bit like (a younger, more beautiful) me—and the artist has never met me. It’s a little freaky. But don’t worry; the second Baba is a cute blonde California girl who bears no resemblance to me at all.
The classic BMW motorcycle that Barbara rides (which is how the fairy tale mortar and pestle she used to travel in has been transformed in the modern world) is based on a fabulous motorcycle and ex-boyfriend used to own. I’m not a motorcycle person, but I loved that bike.
What’s one of your favorite lines from this book?
When Liam, the sheriff, finally gets to see Chudo-Yudo in his true dragon form (instead of as a giant white pit bull, the way he usually appears), he is very impressed, of course. Then Chudo-Yudo turns back into a dog and continues speaking, to which Liam says, “Jeez—you can talk!” and Chudo-Yudo rolls his eyes and responds (and this is the line I love), “Right. So a talking dragon is okay, but a talking dog freaks you out? Dude, you are going to have to adjust to this crap a lot faster than that if you are going to be any help.”
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene you would most look forward to seeing come to life on the big screen?
You mean WHEN, right? (laugh) I’d love to see the scene when Barbara is in the Otherworld with the Queen and King, and confronts the culprit (I can’t tell you who the bad guy is, that would ruin the story).
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Never ask an enchanted refrigerator for pie. And you’ll have to read the book to find out why, but I assure you, it is a BAD idea.
What are you currently working on? What other releases so you have planned for 2014?
The second book in the Baba Yaga series, Wickedly Wonderful, is coming out in December 2014. I’m really excited to have two books out back-to-back. And I’m working on something completely different, a humorous contemporary romance. Nary a witch nor a dragon to be seen, although there is one small dog. Plus a Sekrit Project for Llewellyn that I’m not free to talk about yet.
Where can readers get in touch with you?
I’m easy to find online, and I always respond to people who take the trouble to get in touch. You can look at any of these places:
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: 2 Print copies of WICKEDLY DANGEROUS by Deborah Blake.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: If you were in a fairy tale, would you rather be a character who is rescued by a handsome prince/beautiful princess, or would you rather have powers that allowed you to rescue yourself, and maybe a few other people along the way?
Plopping his hat on over his dark blonde hair, Liam strode up to the door of the Airstream—or at least, where he could have sworn the door was a couple of minutes ago. Now there was just a blank wall. He pushed the hair out of his eyes again and walked around to the other side. Shiny silver metal, but no door. So he walked back around to where he started, and there was the entrance, right where it belonged.
“I need to get more sleep,” he muttered to himself. He would almost have said the Airstream was laughing at him, but that was impossible. “More sleep and more coffee.”
He knocked. Waited a minute, and knocked again, louder. Checked his watch. It was six AM; hard to believe that whoever the trailer belonged to was already out and about, but it was always possible. An avid fisherman, maybe, eager to get the first trout of the day. Cautiously, Liam put one hand on the door handle and almost jumped out of his boots when it emitted a loud, ferocious blast of noise.
He snatched his hand away, then laughed at himself as he saw a large, blunt snout pressed against the nearest window. For a second there, he’d almost thought the trailer itself was barking. Man, did he need more coffee.
At the sound of an engine, Liam turned and walked back toward his car. A motorcycle came into view; its rider masked by head-to-toe black leather, a black helmet, and mirrored sunglasses that matched the ones Liam himself wore. The bike itself was a beautiful royal blue classic BMW that made Liam want to drool. And get a better paying job. The melodic throb of its motor cut through the morning silence until it purred to a stop about a foot away from him. The rider swung a leg over the top of the cycle and dismounted gracefully.
“Nice bike,” Liam said in a conversational tone. “Is that a sixty-eight?”
“Sixty-nine,” the rider replied. Gloved hands reached up and removed the helmet, and a cloud of long black hair came pouring out, tumbling waves of ebony silk. The faint aroma of orange blossom drifted across the meadow, although none grew there.
A tenor voice, sounding slightly amused, said, “Is there a problem, officer?”
Liam started, aware that he’d been staring rudely. He told himself it was just the surprise of her gender, not the startling Amazonian beauty of the woman herself, all angles and curves and leather.
“Sheriff,” he corrected out of habit. “Sheriff Liam McClellan.” He held out one hand, then dropped it back to his side when the woman ignored it. “And you are?”
“Not looking for trouble,” she said, a slight accent of unidentifiable origin coloring her words. Her eyes were still hidden behind the dark glasses, so he couldn’t quite make out if she was joking or not. “My name is Barbara Yager. People call me Baba.” One corner of her mouth edged up so briefly, he almost missed it.
“Welcome to Clearwater County,” Liam said. “Would you like to tell me what you’re doing parked out here?” He waved one hand at the Airstream. “I assume this belongs to you?”
She nodded, expressionless. “It does. Or I belong to it. Hard to tell which, sometimes.”
Liam smiled gamely, wondering if his caffeine deficit was making her sound odder than she really was. “Sure. I feel that way about my mortgage sometimes. So, you were going to tell me what you’re doing here.”
“Was I? Somehow I doubt it.” Again, that tiny smile, barely more than a twitch of the lips. “I’m a botanist with a specialty in herbalism; I’m on sabbatical from UC Davis. You have some unusual botanical varieties growing in this area, so I’m here to collect samples for my research.”
Liam’s cop instincts told him that her answer sounded too pat, almost rehearsed. Something about her story was a lie, he was sure of it. But why bother to lie about something he could so easily check?
“Do you have some kind of ID?” he asked. “Your vehicle didn’t turn up in the database and my dispatcher couldn’t find any record of a permit for you to be here. This is county property, you know.” He put on his best “stern cop” expression. The woman with the cloud hair didn’t seem at all fazed.
FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!
Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them
Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.
But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.
Deborah Blake has published seven books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide and has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.