J.L. O’Faolain—a (slightly provocative) interview with the author

Q: Although The Thirteenth Child has some unique twists, it seems the book falls solidly within the urban fantasy sub-genre. Are there particular writers that influenced you?
A: I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. In my college years, I also read Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. Urban Fantasy was always a fascinating genre for me. I never cared for traditional fantasy much growing up, but stories about the spooky and otherworldly living right next door and across the street ensnared my imagination from a very young age onward. Truthfully, it isn’t shocking to me at all that my first published work would be about pixies and goblins living in New York City. Stories about mundane and everyday life bore me as a general rule. Usually, there has to be some exotic or supernatural element to it before a slice-of-life story can grab my attention, though there have been exceptions.

Q: How did the concept for this story arise? Did your characters come first and the story followed, or the other way around?
A: The characters came first. I had been keeping an eye on Dreamspinner’s submission page for a while to see if there were any requests that were up my alley. When I saw the Bittersweet Dreams category, I knew it was perfect for me. I never write anything ‘traditional’. There has generally been some kind of twist or unexpected hiccup during one of my adventures that catches people off-guard. The friends of mine who have read my stories know to expect it by now. Half the fun for them, I think, is trying to guess where it will occur.

The story itself evolved from an incident that occurred in my life a few years back. I’d become friends with a fellow geek at work. In a small Southern town, geeks do not live very social, outgoing lives with the rest of the population, so we kind of bonded over that. When he found out I was bisexual a couple of years after that, it didn’t go over so well. He would still contact me whenever he wanted something, but it left me feeling like I was getting the short end of the deal. Then at a get-together with some other friends of his, he went around whispering loudly to anyone who talked to me, saying that I was bi like I carried the plague. I was really hurt by it, and even after all this time, it still made me mad whenever I thought about him.

The story itself just sort of grew out of that. I sometimes work well when I’m angry. Every so often, one of the people I encounter turn out to be an inspiring Muse of Rage.

Q: In your mind, who is your sexiest character, and why? Who is the easiest to love, and why? If you can’t answer those questions, why not?
A: Cole has a natural devil-may-care attitude that I simply adore. He was never human, nor was he raised during his younger years in a human environment, so human sensibilities annoy and confuse him something fierce. He really can’t grasp the concept of why attraction between the same sex is considered wrong or taboo in human society. It completely mystifies him and I think that gives his character a kind of raw, sexy edge.

Inspector Joss Vallimun is just primal manliness. He’s not attractive in the traditional sense, yet there is just something about him that will make you slightly weak in the knees when he walks past you. You can feel it whenever his character enters a scene. Just by being there, the temperature in the room goes up. Its easy to see why Cole is drawn to him toward the end.

Katalina, however, is my favorite character and the one I cherish the most. The scene near the end was one of the hardest I ever had to write. Cole needs her in his life to give him a strong link to humanity. Without her, he’s terribly alone in the world.

Q: The first line in the blurb is a great hook. Both the blurb and the excerpt we have here feature the crime-fighter element and the sidhe presence. What about sex and romance? How strong is that thread in your story?
A: One of the biggest criticisms in my reviews is that The Thirteenth Child doesn’t have enough romance, or isn’t a ‘traditional’ romance. I didn’t want the story to follow a basic romance formula where the characters meet for the first time, are attracted to one another, fall in love a few pages later, have obstacles they could easily overcome if they weren’t too busy obsessing, only to magically work things out near the end. There is a lot of tension between the guys for a long time. Cole and James have a history with each other that’s left their relationship strained and bleeding. Vallimun is suspicious of Cole at first and doesn’t want to trust him completely. There is a point where you feel the story really could go either way, or in an entirely new direction. As far as romance goes, that’s an aspect I wanted to develop over a period of several books and not just one. You’ll have to read more books in the storyline before you see just how much romance really does factor into things.

As for sex, I wanted to develop the characters and the plot first, so the first several chapters are a ‘dry’ read. Later on, though, things do steam up quite a bit.

Q: The cover for The Thirteenth Child is absolutely beautifully drawn, and very evocative. Who is the artist? How much input did you have into what would be included, or how it would be presented?
A: Paul Richmond designed the cover for The Thirteenth Child. It really is amazing. I was completely blown away by it and so were my friends. I was given the option of describing two types of covers for the book. The one that got picked was the one I was really rooting for, though. Paul managed to capture the essence of what I wanted in the cover brilliantly. I was so moved by it. My favorite part of the cover is where James is reaching around to grab Cole by the wrist. He’s simultaneously clinging to him and holding him back. The ring on James’s finger is a constant reminder to him of the choices he’s made in life and where they have taken him.

Q: The main characters certainly seem to be the types that could have more adventures down the road. Will they come back? What can your readers expect in the future?
A: Book two is already finished and was sent to the editors a couple of weeks ago. I’ve begun working on the rough draft of book three now. There will be a total of thirteen books (of course) in the series, but I haven’t entirely ruled out the possibility of doing a sequel series someday, assuming readers want more.

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