Ally Shields was born and raised in the Midwest, along the Mississippi River, the setting for her urban fantasy series. After a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time writing in 2009, and Awakening the Fire, the debut novel in her Guardian Witch series, was released in September 2012. When not writing, reading or spending time with family and friends, she loves to travel in the US and abroad. She’s particularly fond of ruins–castles, pyramids, ancient archeological sites. Way too often she can be found on Twitter.
- What inspired you to become an author?
It was one of those things I always wanted to do but life kept intervening. Finally I just decided this is it. I’m going to take my shot. I started writing, treating it as a full time job, and I joined Sister in Crime, when I realized I needed to commune with kindred souls. I soon discovered I loved writing fiction and talking with authors, but I was taken by surprise that my first books were paranormal. I started out to write a traditional mystery, and…it just evolved.
- Is there a hidden message in your story and if so what is it?
I’ve been told there are many themes in my stories but all I ever intended to do was entertain. Well, and maybe remind people that men don’t have a monopoly on the fight against evil.
- Did you use a critique partner or group to help with revisions and editing?
I don’t know what I would do without my crit partner Kath Marsh. She is my biggest critic and biggest cheerleader rolled into one. I don’t submit anything until she runs her eyes over it. I tried several critique groups but just didn’t find one that was compatible. I like working more one or one doing direct exchanges of stories and feedback.
- What makes your novel unique?
The Guardian Witch series crosses genres, blending at least three: paranormal, mystery and romance. Interestingly enough, readers see the stories from their own chosen genre and hardly realize the other elements are there. I often get comments that I should spend more time on the Ari-Andreas relationship, as they see that as the main storyline. It isn’t to primary to me, but shares the limelight. The series is built on a mystery framework, even verging on a police procedural, and set in a paranormal world where police officers and crime solutions often involve the magical. The romantic element is intended to add interest and depth to the characters.
- How long did it take you to write the novel verses revising it?
Burning Both Ends is the third novel in the series, so time put into the initial draft was much shorter than earlier books. My world, my characters, even on-going storylines were already in place. I completed the first draft in about six weeks, but revision took twice as long. Unfortunately, I am a “tweaker” and still making changes, looking for just the right word, in those final galley proofs. I drive my editors nuts.
- Is there anyone who stands out as a mentor in your writing career?
I took a creative writing class, an adult education course sponsored by the local community college, many years ago. The instructor was so good at inspiring her students that several of us are still writing. When I started writing full time, she read my first manuscript and told me this was the one, and that I should keep working on it. The manuscript eventually became my first published novel.
- What advice regarding social media and marketing to you offer to new authors?
Don’t try to do it all. Try-out the various sites, see what appeals to you, and make one or two your primary marketing tools. If you attempt to do them all, you won’t have time left over to write that next book.
- What is the one thing about a book that will make you close the cover and not finish it?
Shallow, boring characters. I relate to the people in a book. If I like them, I can accept the most incredible plot lines! I have also abandoned a few ebooks due to significant formatting issues (every other sentence had no spacing between words) and an outrageous number of repetitive words and phrases (every character was “wringing” their hands and “pinching” their noses). The experience has made me more careful with the editing stages of my own novels.
- What is the strangest thing currently housed in your refrigerator?
A half-gnawed dog bone in a baggie. My little dog weighs 15 pounds. The bones from the butcher are about one-third his size, so it takes a while for him to clean it to his satisfaction. Left outside, they can begin to smell like roadkill. So I grab them and put them in the fridge or freezer until he wants it again.
Burning Both Ends (Guardian Witch #3), Etopia Press, Jul 2013
Friend or lover. Life or death…
Supernatural cop Ari Calin arrives at the hostile Toronto vampire court with an ultimatum from the Riverdale vampires: Sebastian, Toronto’s vampire prince, must stop his unprovoked attacks—or else. Ari wasn’t expecting a fight—the “or else” was typical vampire grandstanding. But even with vampire Andreas De Luca by her side for a show of strength, things get ugly fast. Toronto’s vampire world is in crisis, and surrounded by enemies, Ari and Andreas find themselves under attack.
That’s when Ari gets the call from the Magic Council ordering her home. Steffan, a good friend and leader of Riverdale’s werewolves, has gone missing during top secret negotiations with the US government, and is believed to have been kidnapped—or killed.
Andreas can’t abandon the Toronto vampires, and Ari can’t leave him to face impossible odds alone. But neither can she disobey her orders from the Council, or leave her friend Steffan to be tortured and killed. Ari’s loyalties pull her in two directions—the closest thing to love she’s ever known on one side, and friendship and duty on the other. If she can stay alive long enough for the choice to matter.
Fangs flashed where her cheek had been an instant before. Ari whirled, crouching to meet the vampire’s return charge, and her fingers sparked, witch blood clamoring for action. Refusing its urgent call, she threw the magic powder as he wheeled and sped toward her in a blur. Green particles sparkled. A loud thump. The vampire recoiled from the invisible barrier and took two staggering steps. A direct hit. Before a smile more than touched her lips, the dark figure recovered and leaped. Ari backpedaled, but his weight drove her to the hard ground.
He grinned down at her, a lock of dark hair falling across his forehead. Trapping her arms above her head, he leaned close, his dark eyes glittering. He brushed her lips with his and whispered, “Better—but not yet good enough.” Andreas shifted his six-foot, muscled body, sprang up, and offered her a hand.
Ignoring the courtesy, Ari scrambled to her feet. Getting pinned by your boyfriend wasn’t always a good thing.
- Awakening the Fire (Guardian Witch #1), Etopia Press, Sep 2012
- Fire Within (Guardian Witch #2), Etopia Press, Mar 2013
- Blood and Fire (Guardian Witch #4), Etopia Press, coming Oct 2013
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