Jessa Slade – in her words

  • A special treat today!  Jessa Slade, author of the new dark urban fantasy series of the Marked Souls answers some of my questions and is happy to answer yours too.  Post them as comments and she’ll reply!

Hi Jessa!  I loved your first novel of the Marked Souls SEDUCED BY SHADOWS and I was totally back in the league of talya, repentant demons fighting the legion-tenebrae on the streets of Chicago, within the first paragraph of FORGED OF SHADOWS.   The world was still vibrant in my memory and I knew who Liam was as soon as he appeared even though I hadn’t thought about him for months.   I didn’t read FORGED as obsessively as I read SEDUCED because I was savoring it more.

Thanks for having me today, Terri.  I’m so glad you liked SEDUCED and savored FORGED.  I read the same way; some books I want to devour, some I want to linger over.  That’s why it’s nice to have a big TBR pile—something for every need 🙂

In fact, I write the same way; sometimes rushing ahead, sometimes relaxing.  I have sample chapters up for FORGED OF SHADOWS and also an alternate beginning that show the difference in starting quick or slower.  In case you didn’t have enough to read 🙂

My TBR pile is towering too but FORGED never landed on it.  As soon as it was in my my hands, I was reading it.  Your graphic action scenes fly off the page and the heroine Jilly makes a few references to Jackie Chan but more to comic book heroes.  Did you have an interest in superhero comics as a child or is that a recent interest?  Did you have any of these fight scenes choreographed?

I’ve read comics on and off since I was a kid.  Although I love the art, I find that it’s not my preferred format because it’s too short.  Even graphic novels just whet my appetite for more.  But, yeah, the Ka-POW! Zoom! Whoosh! and ZaaAAP! choreography might have been going through my head.

I loved Chicago as the setting, explain why you chose this location to open this series.

When I was scouting locations in my head, I knew I wanted a rough-around-the-edges city.  I considered Portland, my current hometown, but Portland is too… well, NICE 🙂  I wanted a city with issues.  Chicago is great because despite the fact it’s a world-class city, it don’t get no respect.  New York is more sophisticated, Los Angeles is more hip.  Chicago is just the Second City.  Remember that episode of The Brady Bunch (yes, I’m dating myself here) where Jan flips out about being the middle child?  Chicago would be totally justified.  Besides, I grew up in the suburbs outside Chicago, and I knew the L—the elevated train—needed to be in a fight scene.  Sure enough, there’s a chase scene on the L in FORGED OF SHADOWS. Here’s a picture I took while scouting locations last winter..

And here’s one of me pretending to be Liam Niall, leader of the bad-ass Chicago talyan.

You read a lot of SF & F prior to discovering romance novels and blending your love for these genres together.  Can you name some of the favorite authors. or philosophers, or mythologies that had (and have) the greatest influence on how you imagined this world of the Marked Souls?

The Christian concept of original sin played a role in my idea for a “penance trigger,” a turning point in the characters’ early lives that led—slowly, indirectly, inevitably—to their demonic possession.  When I started poking around in other religions, I was fascinated with how morality, taboo and sin might change, but evil had a constant presence.  Good and evil, damnation and salvation…  That’s enough to get any writer going 🙂  One of the sites I like to scroll through is It lists a lot of interesting stories from many cultures.

Thanks for sharing that site, I love stories of other cultures and totally get the “penance trigger”.  🙂

I noticed both Sera and Jilly are current day professional women with careers dealing with death and drugs.  However, the male talya have been possessed for decades or centuries.  Did you specifically chose to have your heroes possessed by repentant demons with archaic cultural attitudes toward women, or was that a bonus aspect to the romance that came out after you built the world of your novels?

Don’t all men have archaic attitudes toward women?  🙂  Okay, okay, not all men.  My first three heroes all come from older eras, but they exist now in a strange sort of time warp where they’ve seen many changes but aren’t necessarily touched by those changes, occupied with demon slaying and all.  When the female fighters reappear, the bad ol’ boys are forced to deal.

As for the heroines having day jobs…  If I’m forced to have a damned day job, they get a day job too!

There are references to money/funds for the league of talya warriors that are enough but not excessive, as shown in their new location in FORGED, yet I don’t remember any individual with a financial role.  Are you going to leave the – where the money comes from – as a great unknown?  For me this was the main fantasy.  Everything else was very believable.  🙂

In SEDUCED, I make a passing reference to thoughtful investments by previous generations of the league.  Unfortunately, the bookkeeper in that book was embezzling, so the league has suffered some financial setbacks in FORGED.  It seems to me, in real life, that evil always has deep resources while good often struggles to make ends meet.

Oops, in FORGED, “Bookie” was referred to more for his keeper-of-the-talya-history role so I forgot about the embezzlement point.  I also loved the introduction in FORGED of Bella, Lau-lau, Iz and Dee.  Will readers see more of these human-only characters in the future?  What about Nanette and the angelic possessed?

I think the human-only characters help my demon-possessed heroes remember why they are fighting, help them remember they too are human, if not ONLY human.  And I think, as things get worse (and, oh yeah, things ALWAYS get worse!) the angelic possessed and the human-only and the talyan will all have to work together, despite their mutual distrust and disapproval.  Hell, if we want to save the world, we might have to get the djinn on board too!

The djinn?  Surely you jest!   OK, I’ll have to wait and see how you pull that off…   As an author, you’ve stated your journey consisted of 10 years and a million words.  Now that you’ve made the transition to published author, what has changed and what do you recognize as your personal strengths that got you to where you are today?

I’ve always hated that saying about “An author is a writer who didn’t give up.”  It doesn’t do justice to the struggle.  But I do think it’s true.  While I wouldn’t necessarily call “stubborn-to-the-point-of-stupid” a strength, it was a valuable trait.

What has changed?  Surprisingly little.  First and foremost, I’m still a writer.  The writing is the biggest part of being an author, and the writing itself doesn’t change.  Words on the page, every day.

Thanks so much for your insights.  I’m thrilled to know there are at least two more novels of this series to add to my keeper shelf soon.  I’ll be interested in all nine and someday hope to check out the garden in your yard.

Thank you, Terri.  With luck (and enough interested readers!) I’ll be back here to talk about Book 9 in… um, 2015!  Meanwhile, you can check out my garden after all the rain we’ve had.

As long as the Marked Souls keep the world from imploding, we’ll still be reading in 2015!

Check out Jessa’s first interview on this blog tour at Strange Candy Reviews for more information about Jessa and her first book SEDUCED BY SHADOWS. She blogs at Silk & Shadows with other authors into dark heroes and check out her website for more ways to contact Jessa.

Post any comments or questions for Jessa – and she’ll answer them!

8 thoughts on “Jessa Slade – in her words

  1. Hey Jessa – I’ve got Forged in my hot little hands, and I know I will zip through it just as I did Seduced, which was a fun, thoughtful read with really lovely writing. I was curious about your opening scene/alternate scene in Forged. Looks like the “fast” opening made it into the book. How did you make the decision of which way to go? Did you get advice from your editor/agent on these critical first scenes? I’d love to know! – Meredith


  2. D, you get all summer to read! Sooo jealous!

    Meredith, I sometimes cast about to find my opening. But we’re all told to jump in and get swimming. (Or drown!) So that’s what I did before my editor even saw it. It helps that thanks to a long-term relationship with my critique partners, they identified my weakness for a slow start early on in my writing. Or as my one CP says, Just cut the first four chapters. Ouch! So I know that about myself now, and can compensate without making readers suffer with me 🙂

    Have you ever noticed that many of the “director’s cut” versions of movies on special feature DVDs aren’t as good as the edited version? It’s easy to get too close, too in love with the story, and not see what’s not necessary.


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