Thursday, December 6, 2012

Amy Lee Burgess and The Wolf Within #guest

I never get enough of having Amy Lee Burgess over on my blog. While I may no longer be editing at Lyrical Press, I am still more than happy to beta-read Amy's writing, and am so pleased to see how well her The Wolf Within series is doing. Welcome, Amy!

Amy Lee Burgess
If you had to sum up the entire The Wolf Within series so far, what would you say to your potential readers? 

For centuries the Great Pack has existed hidden in plain sight from the Others, normal humans. The Great Pack, wolf shifters, live in packs both small and large, spread all over the world, but they are careful never to reveal themselves to people who cannot shift.

The Great Council, with the help of Regional Councils, rule the Great Pack and settle territory disputes, interpersonal problems, violence within packs and murder.

Constance Newcastle is a woman who has lost everything – her bond mates and her pack, and yet she is not beaten. She wants to find happiness again even though she is haunted by her past. Stanzie has been on her own for two years of self-imposed exile. Her pack believed she was drunk the night of the car accident that killed her bond mates, but she knows she wasn’t. When the invitation to attend the Great Gathering arrived, she didn’t have to think twice to know she would attend.

Liam Murphy was Alpha of the largest pack in the world, Mac Tire, when his pregnant bond mate fell down an office staircase and died. Consumed by guilt and grief, he left everything behind to grow vegetables in the back garden of a small cottage in Belfast until his former pack mates convinced him to attend the Great Gathering in Paris.

If not for Councilor Jason Allerton, one of the most powerful members of the Great Council, Murphy and Stanzie may never have met, but they did and that fateful meeting set off a series of events that included murder, intrigue, betrayal, conspiracy and maybe even love.

Each novel is a mystery which builds upon events that happened in previous books. Stanzie and Murphy become Jason Allerton’s Advisors and he sends them to investigate missing persons, strange occurrences in small packs, and conspiracy within the Great Pack.

As Stanzie and Murphy learn more about each other, they also come to know themselves.

Stanzie's personal growth has been amazing to watch. We begin with a very withdrawn woman who's reluctant to reach out to others, who faces so much judgment from her peers, to the Stanzie at present, who constantly finds herself in predicaments yet with the strength and resolution to work through it. Was this always your intention, or did you just let her bloom?

I did want to show Stanzie on a journey of self-discovery. She started out as a lonely woman cut off from her friends and family – desperate to belong again and has gradually rebuilt her life with the help her boss, Councilor Jason Allerton, her bond mate, Liam Murphy, and some pretty amazing friends and family she’s either met along the way or has reunited with after a period of estrangement.

One thing I knew I wanted was to make sure that Stanzie never got too bitter about the less than ideal circumstances of her life. I wanted her to always be willing to reach out, even if she got burned. But she’s taken over her own story at this point.  I’m finding out new things about her every book in the series. Oh, my God, the shoes. They have taken over.

Stanzie's and Murphy's relationship is, as always, not plain sailing, and in that sense its status always feels a bit ambiguous. As a tension-building device, this is excellent, keeping readers on their toes. Can you shed a little more light here? I gain the sense there's constantly a "happy for now" rather than "happily ever after" in store for Stanzie.

At first I had intended to write about two people who meet after losing the loves of their lives – how would that play out? Could they find love again together? Would the new love be more powerful or not as strong as the firs t time around?

So Murphy and Stanzie have both suffered tragic losses in their past (and along the way in the series) and their love is of the second chance flavor rather than the boy meets girl and live happily ever after sort.  I’m not sure I intended their relationship to be quite as ambiguous as it eventually became but that is where their characters led me.

Stanzie has a huge heart and I think she bends over backwards sometimes too much to accommodate Murphy’s insecurities when it comes to relationships.

Stanzie’s backstory with Grey and Elena has evolved so that everyone knows she was blissfully happy with her bond mates and it was rather like a fairy tale they were so happy.

Murphy’s story is darker and more complex and he has secrets about his relationship with Sorcha that Stanzie can’t even imagine. So he’s not as trusting as she is and yet he wants to give Stanzie everything but sometimes he doesn’t know how.

Each book they get a little closer only to have things blow up in their faces. I’m not sure they will ever have a happily ever after, but I hope that each book ends on a positive note, each one becoming a bit stronger and more confident.

We get a much-deeper glimpse into Pack dynamics with Inside Out. Some difficult scenes to write here too, I'm sure. Which scene did you struggle with? And the one that you enjoyed writing the most? 

There were a lot of scenes that were difficult to write in this one because Stanzie goes home to her birth pack, Mayflower, to help her cousin Faith, the current Alpha female, figure out what is wrong with the pack.  On the surface, the pack is fine, but beneath it is festering with a terrible secret. Stanzie is great at unearthing secrets which generally blow up in her face and sometimes become life threatening. The secret she uncovers in this book is not so much life-threatening, as life-altering. It changes everything.

So it was a difficult book to write because she has to confront her past and dredges up all sorts of old grudges and toxic mental sludge that she tries hard to overcome so she can work in the present. It was difficult to keep her as open and self-honest as I’ve tried to do in the past because she is just so bitter about aspects of her child- and young adulthood and I didn’t want her to come off as petulant child since she is thirty-two years old!

There was a scene I struggled with where Stanzie helps to initiate a young man’s wolf. In her world, people can only shift after they’ve had sex with other Pack members and they can’t shift until after puberty. So there’s a period of time in a young Pack member’s life between the ages of 17 and 20 usually, where an older member of the pack initiates the younger. Sounds sexy but I didn’t necessarily want it to be something only erotic, but also something honorable and sacred. The initiator was usually someone from the same pack who had been like an aunt or uncle or even a brother or sister and that can verge into incestuous if it’s not written right.

So Stanzie is asked to initiate a young man’s wolf. She used to babysit this young man when he was baby and a young child and so there was a delicate line I didn’t want to cross. Now in this novel Stanzie is in her thirties and the young man is twenty-one and they haven’t seen each other in ten years, but it was still a difficult scene to write. The most difficult sex scene I’ve ever written. The Great Pack doesn’t have the same cultural rules as the Others (regular humans) so they’ve been brought up with the notion that aunts and uncles become lovers when people grow up and can shift, and I wanted my readers to go on that journey with Stanzie and Alan and not get weirded out. I hope I succeeded.

The scene where Stanzie decides she will initiate Alan’s wolf is one of my favorites. She initially is against it because of her wolf. (Stanzie’s wolf is not like other Pack wolves. She’s very childish and obsessive – more wild than anyone else’s.) She is heartbroken she can’t help Alan – considering how brave he was to ask her with all the strange things going on in the Mayflower pack – but she turns him down.

The male Alpha of the pack, Scott, tries multiple times to get her agree to do it and offers to be there with his bond mate, Faith, during the actual shifting so that Stanzie’s wolf doesn’t have to guide Alan’s.

Scott Charest is probably my favorite character in this novel and the scene where Stanzie agrees to initiate Alan’s wolf illustrates why.  He is a great Alpha and yet he is also vulnerable too. The relationship he develops with Stanzie is one of my favorite plot lines in the book.

Here's your chance to tell readers what other reviewers have said: give us some quotes from reviewers who wax lyrical about your stories.

For Beneath the Skin: Long and Short Reviews says:

Ms. Burgess has written an amazing take on being Pack. From shifting abilities, to their history and even their future, I was captive and intrigued. I was in utter awe of her ability to expand on a well used subject matter and make it all her own. This is her first published novel and all I can say is WOW!! Her storytelling abilities are fantastic, the pace of the book was perfect and her continuity was spot on.

For Scratch the Surface: Night Owl Reviews says:

The way the relationship between Liam and Constance grew throughout the story was done brilliantly as was how they were both able to move forward with their lives and leave behind all of the pain and loss.

For Inside Out: Dark Kiss Reads says:

What amazes me about Amy's writing is the way she tosses in a throwaway remark that almost gets missed and yet proves integral to the story. It’s why her books are such fun to read over and over, still revealing unseen things on second and third readings

Beneath the Skin picks up two years after the accident when Stanzie goes to a Great Gathering in Paris to meet a potential new bond mate and rejoin the Great Pack. An old boyfriend of hers dies during the Great Hunt and suspicion is cast upon Stanzie. Liam Murphy, another Pack shifter with an equally sad past, steps in to defend her. So does a Councilor named Jason Allerton, who asks Stanzie and Murphy to investigate not only the death at the Great Gathering, but other suspicious deaths, which have taken place in packs worldwide.

Scratch the Surface deals with Stanzie coming face to face with her old pack, Riverglow, and what really happened the night of the accident that killed her bond mates.

Hidden in Plain Sight, the third novel, sends Stanzie and Murphy to Vermont to find a missing sixteen year old girl from a pack called Maplefair.  The possibility she was abducted by a serial killer adds tension and danger to the investigation.

Inside Out concerns a situation where members of Stanzie’s birth pack, Mayflower, in Massachusetts are acting very strangely and the Alpha, Stanzie’s cousin, Faith, calls Stanzie in to get to the bottom of everything,

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