Sunday, August 23, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Traci L. Slatton, Author

Traci L. Slatton, Author
Book 4 After Life Series
International best-selling author Traci L. Slatton has just released BLOOD SKY, the 4th book in her dystopian After Series that combines the apocalyptic with a poker game played in the American West to save the world. And there’s romance. She claims her characters led her there! Reviewers of her previous books praise her characters as “Believable, energetic, interesting characters who make very human choices facing inhumane foes and unbelievable circumstances.” Indeed, Slatton informs us that “facing our choices is part of maturation.”

Slatton, who lives in New York with her artist husband, spends most of her time writing. She is also growing her independent press, Parvati Press. She provided a previous interview for this blog when she released BROKEN, a paranormal historical fantasy.

Q: You have merged several genres into your new novel, BLOOD SKY, including, Dystopian/apocalyptic/American Western/Romance. How did you conceive of the story? Did you start with the concept of the world coming to an end and then look for intriguing ways to keep that from happening?

Traci L. Slatton: Joyce, good question and good eye, I did merge those genres. The whole series started with a scene that flashed into my mind a few years ago. It was a man and a woman, very much in love, walking away from each other. Behind them stretched a desolate world. From that initial scene came the whole edifice of the series…. I’m not sure I intended to merge the different genres, it just happened as the story unfolded and I stayed true to it.

Q: What inspired you to use a poker game as a means to win or lose all? Do you play poker? Did you have to research the game?

Traci L. Slatton: I grew up playing poker at the kitchen table with my mother, grandmother, sister, and various assorted friends and beaux. Poker was a time for us to connect and also a time for storytelling. My mother and grandmother were great raconteurs, and they usually had me in stitches over their tales.

Yes, I did have to do some research. My husband Sabin isn’t much for card games so I haven’t played in a while. I didn’t want to rely solely on my memory. Also, I played out the hands I wrote about.

Q: Reviewers of your previous books tout your characters. How do you make them engaging – especially in a dystopian world? Why do readers care what happens to them?

Traci L. Slatton: First, thank you for compliment! Second, for creating characters, I use two different methods. One is a character X system. This is a variation on something learned in David Freeman’s Beyond Structure screenwriting class.

A fully dimensional character needs 3-4 character traits to flesh him or her out. Fewer than that, the character feels flat; more than that, and it’s hard to get a handle on who the character is. So I draw out an X on a clean sheet of paper and I label each of the end-points with a character trait. I try to make sure that at least one of the traits isn’t too noble—I think it’s hard to relate to a character who’s too perfect. For example, Arthur’s basic four traits are: Charismatic, Intellectually Brilliant, Athletic, and Jealous. There are nuances, of course. But I always have the character X on hand when I work. It helps me keep the character coherent.

There’s another technique that I also use. I studied astrology for a long time, and I draw out charts for my characters. Sometimes the charts are just partial horoscopes, but they speak to me in rich symbolic form. For example, Arthur has Sagittarius rising and a Leo sun, Venus in Virgo. Emma has Virgo rising—the classic healer—and moon in Leo. Her moon interlocks with Arthur’s sun, and Arthur’s Venus in Virgo shows his appreciation of her.

Luca Bastardo, the protagonist of my historical novel IMMORTAL, had a hell of a tight Pluto-Venus square.

Those astrological signatures communicate to me in rapid shorthand and help me with character development.

Q: What do fans of dystopian fiction expect to read in a dystopian novel?

Traci L. Slatton: They expect to enter a speculative world that intrigues them and enlarges their consciousness, that shows a possibility under certain conditions. They expect the protagonists to meet extreme challenge and hardship, thus revealing their intrinsic character.

Q: How helpful is setting (Old West?) to tell your story? Does it add to the suspense, romance, or character development?

Traci L. Slatton: Well, the Old West just crept itself in, unbidden. I work in two ways in writing a novel: 1, from an outline, and 2, from wild inspiration. I usually start a novel in a burst of oceanic creativity, from a scene or a character who emerged from my unconscious. But sometime during the first chapter I’ll write an outline to structure the story. There is craft involved, you know?

But I also allow and cultivate the oceanic, protean nature of creativity, which means that themes and motifs and characters crop up and I don’t know why but I allow them to emerge and then I pursue them. It’s a process of trust and discovery, and it’s part of the fun of writing a novel.

So that’s how Outpost City and the Old West came into my dystopian tale. I think it adds resonance and richness….

Q: I know that you write to entertain, but in previous books you’ve also had a message or two that you wanted to deliver. Is that true for BLOOD SKY? Did you have something you wanted readers to think about?

Traci L. Slatton: There are some ideas that matter to me. For one, we have greater abilities than the concrete senses that Newtonian science acknowledges, and I try to share that with readers. Also, BLOOD SKY turns around Emma’s choices. She has to come to understand that she is making a choice at every turn. I think facing our choices is part of maturation.

Q: Does humor help to tell your story or develop your characters?

Traci L. Slatton: There tends to be humor in my stories, and my characters tend to have humor. Some of my characters can be humorless if that’s who they are—I am true to my characters. Arthur’s a bit humorless, I find. But he’s so hot, does it matter?

Q: What’s next?  Will you leave the dystopian world?

Traci L. Slatton: I write the After Series novels between stand alone works.

Having finished BLOOD SKY, I’m currently working on a novel called THE YEAR OF LOVING. It was entitled THE YEAR OF LOVING A YOUNGER MAN, but then the protagonist went and got herself involved in a love triangle with a younger man AND an older man, and her best friend has cancer, so I realized it was THE YEAR OF LOVING. I’m also researching the siege of Montsegur and the Cathars for a historical novel.

Q: What have you been doing since you last visited here almost a year ago? Anything fun?

Traci L. Slatton: Writing, writing, writing! And growing my independent press, Parvati Press.

About Traci L. Slatton

Traci L. Slatton is the international bestselling author of historical, paranormal, and romantic novels, including IMMORTAL (BantamDell) and BROKEN; the award-winning dystopian After Series which includes FALLEN, COLD LIGHT, FAR SHORE, and BLOOD SKY; the bittersweet romantic comedy THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE; and the vampire art history romp THE BOTTICELLI AFFAIR. She has also published the lyrical poetry collection DANCING IN THE TABERNACLE and THE ART OF LIFE, a photo-essay about figurative sculpture through the ages. Her book PIERCING TIME & SPACE explores the meeting ground of science and spirituality.


In a time of apocalyptic despair, love is put to the test… Deep in the badlands of Outpost City, in the Dark Horse saloon, a poker game is being played. The stakes are life and death—for the world. What can Emma afford to lose? Will she gamble on herself, or on Arthur? Will love find a way when the apocalypse closes in? A mystical odyssey, a haunting love…

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