This week we’ve been bringing you all sorts of goodies a la Colleen Houck, and here’s another! The New York Times best-selling author sat down to answer some questions for us, taking time out of her busy writing and editing schedule. Much abliged, Miss! And now, without further ado, ten questions with Colleen Houck!
1) Let’s start at the beginning. I’m sure there are some folks reading this who are unfamiliar with your awesome success story. Tell us about how you got to where you are today with the books.
I was inspired to write after reading about the author who wrote the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer. It was the fact that she was a stay at home mom who just decided to get up one day and write that really spoke to me. Her story and J.K. Rowling’s really gave me the courage to try. Once I’d written the first two books, I self published them on Amazon and things just took off from there.
2) The idea of the world is a fantastic one; could you do a little summary for new fans? Where did this idea come to you?
I say that my series is sort of like Twilight meets Indiana Jones set in India. I have two amazing handsome princes who are cursed to live as tigers. They battle monsters, bad guys, and then each other as they try to win the affection of my heroine, Kelsey.
3) Probably my favorite part of these books (besides the AMAZING intense attraction between Ren and Kelsey) is the fact that, at the end of the day it really is an old-school quest, Indiana Jones-style, like you just said. What type of research did you do to get these ideas? Did you just make a list of any cool adventure that you could think of, or did the ideas slowly come around and evolve over time?
I read lots of books on mythology and didn’t limit myself to just Indian stories. I wanted to create something that was truly unique and left the reader feeling nervous for the heroes as they try to break this curse. I’ve always been a huge fan of adventure tales and chose to include a bit of everything I love: romance, adventure, martial arts, handsome princes, and fantastic creatures.
4) One of the things I love about your characters is that Kelsey is determined to stand on her own two feet and refuses to be a helpless woman victim who sits down and lets the men do everything for her. She sometimes fails, and she gets scared, but she can hold her own which is great. I think this type of character is important in YA, especially YA with such strong attraction between the male and female characters, and that we don’t see it nearly as much as we should. Was it always your intention to write her this way? You created an interesting dynamic with the boys and their old-fashioned chivalrous manners!
I definitely wanted a heroine who could do something other than look pretty. It seems like in most movies and books the girls either do nothing or they become tough characters that I can’t really relate to. Lara Croft is a good example. It’s really cool to watch a woman be the hero but most of us don’t look or act like Lara. I wanted Kelsey to be strong but still retain what makes her like everyone else.
5) You blend a lot of different elements in your stories, including religion, history, philosophy, science, culture… the list goes on and on. All of these add to the story you’re telling, and I doubt it would be what it is without one of them. Was it hard getting all the elements to balance? Were you worried that readers might misinterpret the religious presence in your stories as some sort of way to influence readers?
As I researched, I found fascinating stories and elements from around the world that I wanted to incorporate. Mythology and religion often go hand in hand. Where I see Durga as being a mythological figure there are those that still worship her. It’s a hard line to walk when you are talking about other people’s deep rooted beliefs and I try to remain sensitive and respectful as I incorporate bits and pieces into my story.
6) If there was one task from the first three books that you could do, with guaranteed success, which would you want to experience? There are so many crazy and wild things Kelsey and the guys encounter!
I think the easiest one is climbing the world tree. I think my chances of being successful would be best in that quest. Also I’d really like to attend a fairy tea party.
7) Let’s talk writing. What’s your writing routine like? Any habits or things you do to inspire the muse?
I always light a scented candle when I write. My tendency is to write in the afternoons and do all the correspondence in the mornings. I think the longest I wrote in one stretch was ten hours but on most days I average between two and four.
8 ) Do you write with an outline, or do you free-write and see where the story leads you?
I always have an outline. I’m a bit of an organizational freak so I had the whole Tiger series outlined in the beginning. Mostly I stick to it though I do give myself the freedom to explore new ideas along the way.
9) What’s currently on your read shelf? What are some of your favorite books, stories that you love and that inspire you?
Dozens and dozens of YA books. I try to attend all the YA events at Powell’s in Portland and support the author by buying their book. Then when Borders closed in town, I bought out everything YA so I have a huge reading stack. I’m inspired by really strong characters. I loved The Hunger Games and Harry Potter but my number one favorite is anything romance.
10) What are you currently working on? Any hints you can give us as to what’s in store for our trio in book four?
Book four, Tiger’s Destiny, is the fire book. Each of my books has a theme. Curse was earth, Quest is air, Voyage is water and Destiny is fire so there are all kinds of fiery creatures in this book. I’ve incorporated a Native American myth from the Northwest that talks about two volcanoes, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood. There are so many volcano stories it was hard to choose which elements to focus on.
Bonus Question: Any parting words to your plethora of fans?
My fans are awesome! They are so supportive and helpful. They’ve baked cookies, set up websites, keep lists of my characters’ birthdays, and just show such an outpouring of excitement that it makes getting up every day and heading to my computer fun. Tiger fans are the best!
Awesome. Thanks Colleen! Stay tuned, later today we’re going to be giving away an entire set of all three of the currently published Tiger books. To learn more about Colleen, check out her website at tigerscursebook.com, and you can chat with her on twitter @ColleenHouck.