First, a short bio.
Ninfa lives in Manchester, UK. Originally from Italy, she's half Spanish, half Italian and British by choice and marriage. Reading and writing have always been a big part of her life and for this she thanks both her parents for passing down the literary gene and the passion for a good story.
Ninfa is big on networking and co-runs an array of Facebook pages and blogs about books and all things supernatural. She also reviews books for the Facebook Bookaholics Book Club on a regular basis. If you'd like to find out more about Ninfa and her stories, you can check out her contact information at the end of this interview.
Some information about Ninfa's book, Bites. (You can see my full 5-star review here.) Bites contains two great stories.
Story 1 - "Last of the Blood"
When the sweet scent reaches me, I know I have found what I'm looking for.
My hands reach out in the darkness to the unaware girl. She's warm and soft, and doesn't even get to scream before I'm drinking deeply from her, her struggles too feeble to bother me.
Only the blood counts.
I've never tasted anything like it. Gloriously sweet, thick and strong, and full of life.
I drink until the hunger subsides, until the body that I hold so close to me hangs lifelessly in my arms. Only then I see. Only then I recognise it, and the agony … oh, the agony is more than I can bear!
Story 2 - "Demonica"
Tonight is the Midwinter Solstice Ball, the most important night in the Daemonic Court's calendar.
This is the night when new disciples are chosen, when demons come out to play, and all bets are off.
As it happens, tonight is also the night I become Queen.
Irina is about to become Queen of the Daemonic Court and Damon is on the run from his own nature …where will their paths take them?
Two short stories that will seduce you with romance, danger, sensuality … and Vampire bites.
Ninfa, I’m so glad you could visit my blog! Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you so much for having me Dakota, it is truly my pleasure :) Well, what can I tell you, I'm 36, a sweetsaholic, married with a 3 year old little monster of a girl, and I live in Manchester, UK with my family, which also includes two lovely cats: Jemima and Shelley. As you know, I have recently published my very first book, Bites, an anthology of 2 novelettes, and I am over the moon about it. I've always loved writing, but never really thought anything would come of it, so to be able to share my stories with so many others has really been a dream come true for me :)
What led you to write a vampire-themed book? After all, there are so many of them out there!
It wasn't really a conscious decision for me, I suppose it just happened, lol. I know there are a lot of Vampire stories out there, so it was never a supernatural creature I wanted to particularly explore. Then I wrote a short story called "Forever", which just happened to be about Vampires, and I received so many lovely comments about it, and so many requests for more information on the characters, that I decided to expand it and explore that particular world. That's how "Last of the Blood" was born. After that, I realized that no matter how many Vampire stories were out there, I sort of wanted to give my own take. I think it doesn't matter how many times you write about a certain theme, nobody can do it through your eyes! :)
Bites is fantastic! The first novella, "Last of the Blood," was a page-turner for me. Could you give us a little background on the story?
I originally wrote "Forever" ( which is now the Epilogue for "Last of the Blood"), to enter an online writing contest. I didn't win, but I received a lot of compliments about it, and also a lot of requests to expand it. People wanted to know more about Catherine and Damon, and about their stories, so it got me thinking about how they had met each other and what their background stories were. Even though "Forever" was, and is, narrated by Catherine, it was Damon that seemed to really have a story to tell. He popped into my mind fully formed and very loquacious, so I just started writing another short story about how he became a Vampire and "The Covenant" was born. But it still wasn't enough. I needed to tell the story of how he had met Catherine and how they ended up being where they were, so I kept writing. The result is this very dark, very melancholic story. It was a strange journey to take, as I had never thought of writing from a male perspective, but I guess you can't argue with the people in your head, lol. For me, "Last of the Blood" was a pleasure to write. The plot just flowed smoothly in my head, and since I had the end, before I even thought of the beginning, it was interesting to discover how the pieces of the puzzle fit with that particular resolution. Also, I think Gabriel is probably one of my favourite characters to write, and even though he only has a secondary part, he's definitely one of the most vivid characters in my head :)
I was fascinated with the second novella, "Demonica", goes back to the beginning, to Eden. Very creative! Why did you want to do an origin story?
I didn't! Lol. "Demonica" was supposed to be a very short story (in fact, it was born a single scene), and there was nothing in the original draft about Angels and Daemons and Eden. It literally was to be a very hot and sexy scene, with Irina as the Queen of the Daemons, and her lover coming back to Court, having been accused of killing the previous Queen. The story/scene was going to be about Irina's lover (originally called Simon!), coming back to court to clean up his name and prove that the whole plot had been concocted by Irina's "Pet-Project", Malcolm, who was jealous of their relationship and wanted to get rid of Simon. But whenever I started working on that story, it just did not work in my head. "Demonica" went through version 1, version 2, version 3, version 3.1 and so on, and it was actually painful to write. Giving birth to my daughter was a walk in the park compared to it, lol. So how did it become an "Origin Story"? I literally gutted the first 3 versions, kept the characters and descriptions that I liked and could work with (Ivan, Irina, Queen Serena, Malcolm and the idea of Irina's lover in particular) and tried to think of a setting where they could interact in an epically fantastic way. The images in my head were very grand so I had to give them a larger than life setting.
Then on my way back from work one day I was listening to Rhianna's version of "Love the way you lie" featuring Eminem in my car, and one line from those lyrics seemed to stick in my head. "Even angels have their wicked schemes..." That was it, the cartoon-like light bulb just lit up in my head. I wrote the Prologue and set the scene in Eden, and the rest just fell into place. I realized who the characters were, and then some of the little twists in the story just worked their way in as I was writing it. There really wasn't a lot of planning behind it, Irina just took my hand and walked me through her story, and we were both very surprised when a certain angel made his appearance, but it just made sense :) Needless to say, the final version of the story is my proudest achievement to date ;)
I found your writing style to be lyrical, your descriptions excellent, and your characterizations well done. In other words, Bites seems like the polished production of an experienced author writing with an assured hand, not a debut offering. How long did it take you to write it and are there other manuscripts gathering dust that you used for practice?
Wow, thank you very much for the incredible compliment, I have a huge grin splitting my face right now :D
Overall, including edits, Bites took about 6 months to write and polish. I must say, a lot of credit goes to my amazing editor and publisher, Dianna Hardy at Bitten Fruit Books, for her insight on both stories and her support throughout the whole project. As a new author, I was very nervous about the process, and about not being able to deliver a good manuscript, but she was easy to work with and for, and always open to my silly questions, and I feel very blessed that I was lucky enough to work with her.
I have to say, "Last of the Blood" is pretty much what you see on the book, but "Demonica" has another 3 versions knocking about on my laptop. Previous to Bites, I had been writing other projects and short stories, so I guess that was good practice,lol. Also, I read A LOT, and one of my favourite authors, the lovely Kelley Armstrong, whom I was very lucky to meet a couple of years ago, was gracious enough to give me the best advice on how to improve your writing: READ! Nothing more instructive than to see what other authors are doing and how they're doing it. By reading other people's stories I was able to decide what style, point of view and genre worked best for me, and hopefully I have done myself justice enough with my first endeavour :)
It seemed to me that both of these novellas could be expanded to novels, especially "Demonica", from which I catch a whiff of a series. Is this it for these two stories, or do you have more development in mind?
I never say never, although it most definitely won't be "Last of the Blood." I really have no plans to pick up that world or any of the characters. For me that story has been told and I'm very happy with the result. "Demonica" is different I guess. The story is very much open and there are different things I could do with the characters. I have ideas, but no plans so far as I have other projects I'm working on right now. My publisher has requested a short story with Irina involved in a sexy threesome, lol, but that won't be happening, sorry guys.
I'm flirting with the idea of mixing a new concept with characters from "Demonica". It's very first stage but I think you'll be seeing more of Irina and her boys, although perhaps not as a main character. ;) I can tell you the new project is provisionally called "Bare Light" and it will be aimed to an adult audience. :)
You have a background as a book blogger and reviewer. Do you think this has helped you in your writing debut or made it more challenging by constantly seeing other authors’ books?
I'd like to say that didn't play a role in my writing process at all, but who am I kidding?! I was very conscious of the fact that I was crossing into the Dark Side, and I think since I found out I was to be published, it has made reviewing books more difficult because I am very aware that someone, somewhere is doing the same to my book. I've always prided myself in giving honest opinions on what I read, but I think it never sank in until I, myself, was biting my nails waiting for my reviews to be published. I also feel that being afraid of bad reviews meant being very through when editing and really asking myself questions like "What else would I want to know?" See? "What else can I tell my readers?" So I guess there were ups and downs to being a reviewer myself, but I wouldn't change that for anything. :)
Tell us briefly about your writing process. Notes? Synopsis? Just start right in? All of the above?
Lol. It really depends on the story I'm writing to be honest. For Bites I had no synopsis. "Last of the Blood" was just getting stuck into it. "Demonica" had random notes, but again, it was mostly free flow. I have a project called "Witch's Brew" for which I have done a synopsis, another called "Goddess" that has a whole folder full of photos...as I said, it depends on the story I'm writing. Some need visual prompts, others need notes, and then there's the "Just do it" kind, where I just sit down and write and the plot stays safe in my head, mulling and bubbling over as if in a big cauldron, until the words are ready and seasoned enough to be written down :p
Down to the nitty-gritty: Which story do you like better, and why?
Oh gosh! This is like "Sophie's choice"! How can you ask me to choose between my two babies??!??! Lol! I'll be very cliché and tell you that I love them both for different reasons, but if I really, really, really had to choose, I think it would be "Demonica", simply because I feel "Last of the Blood" is a more mainstream story, one that people can enjoy guilt-free. I think "Demonica" is a little more controversial, so it's one of those that people might take one way or another. I write Fantasy and "Demonica" is definitely Fantasy, even though I've borrowed Mythology of Origin from several traditions, but I have had some feedback on it where I was told it perhaps "Hits to close to home" when it comes to some religious beliefs.
It was never my intention to be controversial, I just wanted to explore things from a different point of view. We all know why "Good" is better, but why is "Bad" bad? That was my motivation for writing "Demonica" from the point of view of someone innocent who actually wanted to go explore "Darkness". Incidentally, "Irina" means "Peace" and it was a very conscious decision to pick that specific name. Peace can only come when Darkness and Light come together and find a balance, and I think that was the only message I wanted to send out, if any :)
Bites is listed as Young Adult. When I read the stories, I felt that they were for older YA, though there is no such classification yet. What are your feelings on your target audience?
We toyed with a lot with tags, my editor Dianna and I, because as you say, Bites seems to fit in an "Older YA" category because of the dark feel of both novelettes. Truth is, there is a very fine line between Adult and Young Adult nowadays. Series like The House of Night by PC and Kirsten Cast often speak of adult themes and have a high sexual content. Bites is not as overtly sexual, but there are references to sex and violence and I am aware that some parents might not see it as suitable for younger readers.
My parents never dictated to me what to read when I was younger. I was reading Agatha Christie and Stephen King when I was 8/9 years old, not exactly children's books but I loved them, and I'm grateful I was allowed to make my own choices. To me, anyone could pick Bites up and enjoy it, regardless of age, but I know that is my personal opinion only. I think Bites is generally aimed at an older audience, so 17 years old +, and I like to think it appeals to both teenagers and adults alike, as there are many levels to both stories, that can be explored. I hope my readers agree :)
Is there anything else you’d like us to know? What’s next for you?
I'm currently finishing the first draft of a double team project with my Bookaholics Book Club partner in crime, the lovely Misty Price. The story is a full length Young Adult novel called Divine, and it's the story of two sisters who grow up separate, not knowing of each other's existence, until they start developing special abilities and discover they're the daughters of Hades, the Greek God of the Underworld, and that there's a prophecy that was made when the youngest was born that has Olympus all rallied up against them. Divine is full of mythological references, and it's a fun and light read with adventure, romance and some twists and turns that will hopefully keep readers entertained. As of this moment, we haven't submitted it to any agents or publishing houses, but if all goes well, we might have something in the pipeline for it to be released next year, so keep your fingers crossed for us. ;)
In terms of solo projects, I'm working on finishing the first book of my House of Avalon series, Morgan's Legacy, another YA story, and Witch's Brew, an adult book that will kick-start my Chloe Parker, Supernatural Hunter urban fantasy series.... oh so many project and so little time! Lol.
Now the most important questions!
Jellybeans or chocolate?
Chocolate! With Peanut Butter whenever it's possible :p
The Hunger Game or Game of Thrones?
I can haz both plz?
Cats or dogs?
Cats! They rule! :)
Thunder or lightning?
Spicy hot, medium, or mild?
Mild... I'm allergic to chilly and intolerant to black pepper so hot and spicy is a big No No for me :p
Learn more about Ninfa Hayes below (and remember that name - you're going to be hearing a lot of it!).
Win one of THREE copies of the e-book of Bites, plus swag from Ninfa. Each winner will receive a bookmark, a quote postcard, and a personalized thank you card!
Books will be from Smashwords, where you can choose the correct format for your e-reader or a PDF for your computer.
Just leave a comment below with your email included, so I can reach you if you are a winner. The giveaway ends June 30th. Winners will be randomly chosen on July 1st.