Good Morning Everyone. Today I have Joanne Brothwell here to talk about her new novel Stealing Breath. Please welcome Joanne.
Hello Joanne! I’m thrilled to have you here and thanks for being today’s “Pick”.
Please share a little about you, your works and what got you into writing.
I’m a daydreamer. That’s what got me into writing - the myriad of stories and scenarios that constantly clutter up my mind. I’ve always been accused of daydreaming, but now I finally have a reason – I’m a writer!
I loved your story and the aspect of the Skinwalkers, can you tell a little about where that legend came from.
I first heard about the legend from a friend of mine, an Indigenous woman, who told me a story of her experience with the Skinwalkers of the four corners (Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado). It was a creepy story where she was basically harassed in the middle of the night while she was parked at the side of the road. She could hear maniacal laughter outside and her car was shaking violently. When she looked around, nobody was there. Later, her Navajo relative told her the experience may have been the result of Skinwalkers.
After I heard that, I just had to learn more! I began to research Skinwalkers online and in the library, and became increasingly intrigued by these evil shaman who can perform astral projection. Interestingly, the legends actually resulted in a paranormal investigation of an area near the four corners, called “The Skinwalker Ranch”!
According to history, the Benandanti were forced into giving up their beliefs because of the Inquisition. Over time, like any cultural genocide, the Benandanti just died out. But the history books don’t mention what happened to the Malandanti, so I started wondering – did they go extinct as well? Maybe not – maybe they survived, underground, undetected by the Inquisitors. Hmm… makes for a good story, no?
We meet Sarah (perfect name by the way, but spelled wrong…LOL) in the beginning and she is unaware of her heritage and her powers until her unfortunate encounter with the Skinwalker. She is an empath in a way, how does that shape her character in the book?
Being an empath is both a gift and a burden for Sarah. To have the emotions of others continually invading her consciousness takes a psychological toll on her, but it also offers her unique advantages that a regular human wouldn't have. Killing someone with kindness, if you will!
Sarah can put her feelings into tangible forms when she needs and manipulate energy. How did her abilities develop?
The first time she was able to manifest those abilities was when psychologically, she was in a place of complete and utter terror, facing the Skinwalker for the first time. Fear brings out our most primal instincts, and it was only under such dire circumstances that this ability was initially expressed.
We are also introduced to the enigma called Evan Valente. I love mystery men. Evan is somewhat Sarah’s opposite in many ways, but also so much like her. Evan has a history in the good vs. bad spirit people, but has a conscience that contradicts who he is supposed to be. We see him in so many lights, how did that come to play in his character?
I love mystery men too! I see Evan as a victim of his past, the end result of years of trauma and brainwashing. This is a nature vs. nurture issue, and I suppose that theme reflects the core beliefs of mine as an author - that people are basically good at their core. Evan’s childhood environment nearly poisoned his mind irreparably, but his underlying character, his basic personality remained intact. When he met Sarah, he was finally able to break free of the bonds of his past.
When Sarah finds out about Evan’s true mission she is abhorred, to put it mildly. And she runs, only to get caught between Evan and his brother, Stefano. Evan chooses sides and gets pitted against strong evil magic and his own sibling. How easy was it for him to turn against Stefano?
Evan had been subconsciously looking for a way to escape the Malandanti heritage for his entire life. It just wasn't until he had a reason to live, a reason to hope, beyond his horrible past that he was actually able to recognize it in himself and act on it.
Evan has as much to hide, as his true secret is revealed to Stefano after the pendant is removed. How is it that Stefano knows what/who he is when this came out, but Evan knows little about what it means to him?
Oh, boy – good question! The talisman (Valente pendant) Evan wore was given to him by his mother, whose ultimate goal was to hide his true nature from everyone, including Evan. After he has renounced his loyalty to the Malandanti and the pendant is removed, two things change simultaneously: he has lost both his protection the talisman provided as well as lost the magical advantages provided by the evil (the ability to see auras). He can’t see his own aura, and he can’t see Sarah’s anymore, either. Only Stefano sees it at that pivotal moment.
What can you tell us about this without spoiling the upcoming, Silencing Breath?
Here’s a little blurb:
Just as Sarah Ross is learning everything she can about her new abilities as an Indigo Child and settling into a normal life with her beloved Evan, her entire world shatters when Evan disappears without a trace.
Desperate to find him, Sarah’s attempts to uncover clues to his whereabouts end up leading her to a sadistic serial killer who confirms her worst fears are true; Evan has been kidnapped, and he is once again in the clutches of his abusive family of necromancers.
Sarah’s search leads her not only to Evan's dark past he tried so desperately to protect her from, but also to The Key of Solomon, an ancient text for summoning the dead.
In this dark sequel to Stealing Breath, Silencing Breath is coming in March, 2013 from Crescent Moon Press.
Did the plot and characters work out as you wanted or did they shape the story as you were writing?
The main character, Sarah, is basically the same as I wanted, although I did make her a little braver than I originally intended. Evan is completely different from what my early conception of him was, and his character definitely developed as the story unfolded. It was such a cool process to go through!
Lastly the fun questions:
Plotter or pantser?
Early Bird or Night Creature?
Are you more like Sarah, Amber or Kate?
Sarah – definitely!
White, Milk or Dark chocolate?
Milk Chocolate, yummy!
Coffee Tea or other?
Coffee – Strong and black, please.
Music or quiet while working?
Silence. Absolute necessity. I’m too easily distracted *squirrel*
Favorite place to sit and write?
My comfy sofa, with my feet up on a stool, and a steaming cup of black coffee at my side table.
Computer or good old pen and paper?
Computer! I can type about 50 words a minute and I think really, really fast.
Pick your poison (alcoholic drink of choice when going out)
Okay, I don’t really drink, but when I do, I really love a cold beer on a hot day. :)
Thanks for stopping in Joanne, it was great to be able to pick your mind and talk about Sarah and Evan.
An ancient evil has resurfaced,
the soul of the Indigo Child is at stake.
Beware those with the Stealing Breath...
Deep in the backwoods of North Dakota, Sarah Ross is searching for a missing child when she is attacked by a glowing-eyed, transparent creature known to the Navajo as a Skinwalker. Using mysterious abilities, Sarah escapes, only to run directly into Evan Valente, a handsome, charismatic stranger who helps her back to safety. But why is Evan out in the forest so early in the morning?
Sarah learns her eyes bear the mark of the Indigo Child, an evolved human with the ability to feel the emotions of others; unfortunately, her indigo aura is highly desirable to those who wish to steal her powerful essence.
Soon, Sarah falls deeply in love with Evan and wants nothing more than to follow her heart, but she can't ignore the lingering feeling that Evan is hiding a terrible secret. The deeper she digs, the more danger she faces, forcing her to face the darkest, innermost parts of her soul.
“You saw that Evan guy again?” Amber asked. She sucked the last of her frothy pink drink through a straw. The mischievous look on her face was mirrored in the giddy emotions she gave off, emotions that were always especially loud when she was drinking. They resonated within me like a bouncy ball flying around in my stomach.
I downed another shot of “Sex on the Beach”, hoping it would finally be enough to filter out the emotions of everyone here. Smooth at first, then tart, the booze finally burned its way down the back of my throat. The buzz-on was almost immediate, and the effect was wonderful, the way it almost obliterated all of the sex-obsessed feelings that seemed to roll off of nearly ever patron at the bar like a hot blanket being wound around me. Sick.
We sat at a booth right next to the bar. Amber held her glass up, signaling to the bartender who nodded and began to pour. He bobbed his head to the blaring country music from the loudspeaker.
Tables ringed the bar, booths along the wall and stools on the other side. Every few feet a brightly lit neon beer sign provided a dash of garish décor. Right in the middle was the dance floor, a little postage-stamp sized circle of parquet flooring that reminded me of an interlocking puzzle. Alongside it was a raised section with a few pool tables.
“Yeah, I saw him.” I proceeded to explain his land development business to Amber and Kate, who listened with rapt expressions.
“That’s amazing. Nobody ever comes to Slave Lake. People only leave,” Amber said. Our waitress, dressed in skin-tight jeans and a too-tight tank-top, brought us another round. Behind her, the giant flat screen on the wall lit up with random explosions of fuchsia, neon yellow and acid green, perfectly paced with the lyrics of the canned music.
Kate sat across from me on the bench seating, her copper hair shimmering pink from the neon “Budweiser” sign and the black light hanging on the wall behind her. Her teeth were glowing an unnatural white in the light, and every piece of lint on her black shirt stood out like a 3D movie.
“How interesting that you both were out in the bush that morning,” Kate said. I nodded. “I know. Quite a coincidence.”
Amber sat beside Kate in the bench seat, facing the bar. She leaned forward in one fluid motion, her black hair sweeping the table. “Sarah. Look who just walked in.” I turned in my seat. “And he’s coming right over—”
“Mind if I join you?” asked a familiar voice, before I’d even had a chance to look.
I turned and smiled at Evan. “Sure.”
He pulled a stool up to our table, his arms rippling with the movement. His very presence seemed to heat the air around me, his cologne eclipsing the bar smell of dirty jeans, stale beer and desperation.
I glanced at Kate and Amber, who both stared at him, bright-eyed. His dark fitted jeans hugged his legs, the denim slung low across narrow hips. A black t-shirt made of a material I couldn't identify hinted of the peaks and valleys of muscle beneath and a single silver chain with a dog-tag hung at his neck, a crest emblem engraved on it with the name Valente. This guy would look good in a burlap sack. Or nothing.
“You remember Kate and Amber from the campground?” I asked. They nodded in acknowledgement and exchanged niceties. Then Amber and Kate excused themselves and hit the dance floor. They’d been dancing together since we’d become bar age, both of them with the attitude that they weren't about to wait around for a guy to ask.
Evan and I watched as they twirled each other around, the only people dancing in the whole bar. Then they attempted to two-step, each of them fighting to lead. Goofballs.
I turned back to Evan. “How are you?”
He flashed that thousand-watt smile. “I’m great. You?” He inched closer and the atmosphere around my head seemed charged, like a swelling electrical storm. A shiver traveled through my body.
“Fine, thanks.” I smiled.
“You look great.” He gestured to my outfit. I looked down at my jeans and a loose white shirt and glanced back up at him, cocking my eyebrow. “Thanks?”
“What? Not used to compliments?”
“Not when I’m dressed like a slob, no, not really.”
He rolled his eyes. “You look awesome. Seriously. Want to dance?”
I stared at him, half-expecting he was kidding. But his face showed no trace of a joke. I glanced at the dance floor where Kate and Amber had begun to dance hip hop to the country beat.
I turned back to him. He held out his hand, across the table. Reluctantly, I took it and he led me to the dance floor where Amber and Kate made room for us, their expressions barely-muted surprise. People rarely danced in Slave Lake. Except for Amber and Kate, of course.
Evan placed his palm in my right hand and set his other hand on my waist. I glanced up at a set of smoldering eyes and immediately looked away, his gaze too intense. Unfortunately, by looking away, I realized that every single person in the bar was staring at us. Some people, who should have had their backs to us, had actually turned around on their stool to gawk. I felt like a fish in a fishbowl.
Evan leaned down, his breath caressing my cheek. I caught a silky coil of his scent, a rich, musky fragrance of expensive cologne, soap and his own unique smell. It was addictive. The hand on my waist snaked around to my back, pulling me closer. Heat radiated over my entire body as we began to move in slow, gentle circles. When the song came to an end, my arm fell from his shoulder. His hands didn't move.
“One more?” he asked as the music transitioned to a faster song, modern country with a dance beat. Kate and Amber were already dancing to it in a way that looked more fitting for a city club, Amber’s arms reaching up and over her head, hips swinging. Kate had her own little groove going alongside her.
“Sure,” I said.
He smiled and set his hand back on my waist, and suddenly we were in the fastest two-step I’d ever danced in my life. We moved around the dance floor at a dizzying pace, spinning circles around Kate and Amber who were laughing out loud watching us.
He twirled me several times, only to end up back in that break-neck, two-stepping pace once again. Now I was giggling to the point of breathlessness, my head spinning from the four shots I’d just downed and my racing pulse. He spun me three more times, and when the song ended, he lowered me into a long dip.
With his arm around my back, I was gently pulled up, our bodies touching from torso all the way down, so that even the tips of our shoes connected. I looked into his face, expecting to see a grin, but was met with a burning look that made my heart stutter and my breath catch. The whiskey on his breath was all I could think of, the heat of his mouth, so close to mine.
Then a sensation folded over me. A soft lethargy, like I was levitating, weightless. My eyes closed, and explosions of purple and blue light flashed behind my eyelids. I relaxed into the feeling.
“Are you okay?” Evan asked. I opened my eyes. He peered down at me, forehead wrinkled with concern. His skin was flushed bright pink.
My lungs began to re-inflate as my entire body tingled like I’d just had the best orgasm of my life.
Had he even kissed me? I licked my lips, but there was no taste of whiskey, no evidence of his mouth on mine. Obviously I’d had one too many shots. And yet, I felt perfectly lucid, his gorgeous face crystal clear before me.
“Uh…I’m fine,” I said, my voice breathy. There had to be an explanation. Like maybe I was losing my mind. Or maybe my fainting spells were starting to happen again, ever since the stressful Skinwalker incident. Whatever it was, right now I had to make sure this perfect specimen of a man in front of me did not think I was a raving lunatic. I forced myself to speak, my mind scrambling for small-talk. “I…I had no idea you could dance like that.”
The concerned look faded, and he flashed his perfect teeth. “Thanks. You’re not too bad, yourself.”
I dropped my hand from around his shoulder and backed up. He let go of me slowly, as if with reluctance.
“Come on. I need a drink,” I said, motioning back to the bar where Amber and Kate had just sat down. We veered toward them.
Evan made eye contact with the bartender who nodded at both of us. “Scotch, on the rocks, please. What are you drinking?”
“I’ll have a Long Island Iced T—”
“Who’s he?” A guy’s voice said, close enough that I cringed from the volume. I whipped around.
Jeff Hansen. Town drunk that never seemed to do much of anything, other than sit in the bar, hit on locals and look pissed off. And boy, did he look pissed off. Emotions rolled off him like jagged pieces of glass, hurt and anger all twisted up into one gigantic ball of irritation.
“He’s cool, Jeff. He’s with me,” I said. My heart started to pound as I remembered the last time Jeff had picked a fight. He’d bitten a guy’s ear and torn part of it right off.
Jeff stared at Evan, his teeth exposed like he was snarling.
“Is he treating you right, Sarah?”
“It’s all good, Jeff,” I said.
“You think you’re pretty tough?” Jeff said through gritted teeth. He stepped forward and poked Evan in the chest. Evan was pushed slightly off-balance, and he took a step backward.
My stomach clenched. “Jeff, I said it’s cool.”
Evan straightened up. He had at least four inches on Jeff and well over thirty pounds. Jeff stepped back, and the sickly-sweet smell of weed came wafting off of his ratty jean jacket.
Evan looked down his nose at Jeff. “Back off, man.” His jaw muscles popped in and out, and his hands balled up at his sides. The only thing Jeff had going for him was a bad attitude and liquid courage.
“Shut up, asshole!” Jeff slurred, a fine mist of spittle burst from his mouth and rained all over us. Jeff turned his head and flashed a snide grin, probably to impress his buddies who watched the spectacle along the sidelines of the bar.
“Jeff, stop it!” I said. Jeff ignored me completely, staring at Evan. I reached for Evan’s hand, wound my fingers through his and tugged. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
Evan nodded, and we strode toward the exterior door. I glanced back to see Jeff running. He ran straight into Evan, knocking him forward.
Evan hit the crash bar of the metal door, his body weight forcing it wide open so that it squeaked when the hinges were pushed to their limit. My heart jumped into my throat as he stumbled and fell onto the cement outside. Immediately, he righted himself and jumped back to his feet.
Jeff smiled, eyes flashing. “I bet that hurt, didn’t it, tough guy?”
I ran toward Jeff. “Stop it! Just leave him alone!”
Jeff smiled at me. “Aww, you’re getting your little bi-otch to fight for you.” Then he turned back to Evan. “Tell you’re ho to shut her pie-hole, or I’ll shut it for her.”
“You’re going to wish you’d never said that,” Evan said, his voice a low, warning growl.
Jeff snorted. “You’re in my town. You’re gonna regret having a mouth.” His arms rose above his head in some kind of attempt to look intimidating, but to me he looked like a bird about to take flight.
“Stop it, Jeff.”
Stepping forward, Jeff hurtled his fist toward Evan’s face but Evan snatched his clenched fist mid-air. I lunged toward them, placing one hand on Evan and the other hand on Jeff’s jacket.
Instantly, the atmosphere around my head changed, filling with static.
The lights above the entryway flickered, humming like dying bees before building into a sizzling pulse. With a bang, the lights exploded in a rainfall of glass shards. I ducked to shield my face.
I opened my eyes and gasped. Jeff lay crumpled on the ground, his torso folded inward, his limbs pulled into a fetal position, moaning as he clutched his stomach. Then his face went slack, and his eyes rolled back into his head. Why was he on the ground? And why did he look like he’d been knocked out cold?
I glanced around, but all I could hear was the retreating sound of footsteps running outside, the parking lot no longer lit up by the overhead light.
“Evan?” I called out.
Stealing Breath is a darkly romantic tale of a young woman’s journey for love within the fearsome realm of the paranormal. It is a spellbinding read that mines the inner workings of the human character. Love, loss and the quest for redemption, these characters will echo in your mind long after you've put the book down.
Joanne Brothwell lives in the country on the Canadian prairie with her family where her stories are inspired by the dead things that appear at her doorstep on a daily basis.
Sarah is out for an early morning walk when voices, which sounds like the local missing girl, start to be heard. Sarah follows the sound to an old decrepit house in the woods. She enters thinking the missing girl is inside, but the voices are gone. Soon she gets the feeling she is being watched. That's when the eyes appear surrounded by a dark matter. She is scared out of her wits, but with thinking she can fend off the creature she pushes out with her feelings and manage to temporarily fend it off and flee. Out in the woods she runs smack dab into Evan.
Evan appears in the woods rather...suddenly and helps Sarah calm down and he takes her back to their camp site. He can't help but feel that there is something about her that draws him in. But with his own secrets haunting him getting close to Sarah will only put her in danger as well.
Sarah returns home to try and go back to normal, but when she tells her friends they know something is up. They send her to see her friend Kate's mom. when she tells Sarah only confirms that skinwalkers have come. They try to cleanse Sarah, but something isn't right... the shaman tells her there is a dark, evil presence that wants HER.
As Sarah begins to see Evan things start to unfold. They go from good to bad once Evan's brother, Stefano, comes into town. Sarah soon finds out SHE is their target. She flees and is then pursued by Stefano. Even when Evan tries to plea his case the trouble seems to multiply. Evan's secret soon comes to the forefront and he must decide which side he's on. his choice only puts them both in danger as they find out Evan is also a gifted child. Realizing that only together can they defeat Stefano. They fight him off, but not before he can escape to continue to hunt them down. However, their fight had a high price to keep them both safe. Now they are on the run...
As part of her Tour Joanne is giving away 2 eBook copies of Stealing Breath. All you need to do is fill in the rafflecopter form below to enter. Good Luck and thanks for dropping in!a Rafflecopter giveaway