Nalini Singh, author of the RITA nominated "Heart of Obsidian", talks with our romance editor about balancing two complex series. Her latest release in the Guild Hunters series, "Archangel's Shadows," is available for pre-order now.
Alyssa Morris: You have two different, very established series that are pretty much completely different from each other, so how do you balance writing two different series with equally complex worlds?
Nalini Singh: I never actually intended to end up writing two very complicated series. I thought Angels' Blood, the first book in the Guild Hunters series was a stand-alone. And then not until I was getting to the end did I think oh no, it’s not a stand-alone. So I kind of fell into it, but I think the balance comes form the fact that they are so very different. I don’t have a problem separating them out, so when I switch from writing a Psy-Changeling book to writing a Guild Hunter book, I guess I make the switch in my brain and just go for it. And now I’m writing one a year for each, which I think gives me enough time to sort of switch over and keep them separate. I think it would be more difficult if I was writing series that were similar in some way and then I think it would be harder, but the Guild Hunter series, even the language choices are different in that series.
AM: Do you have a bible for each series to remind yourself when you’re switching back and forth?
NS: Definitely. I have to have a bible and I also, when I write, this is particularly for the Psy-Changeling series because each book focuses on a different character, and there are some long-term characters. For example, when I wrote Hawke’s book, book 10, he had appeared in book 1 and in multiple books since. So I would go back and read every mention of him previously, just to make sure I have the same information the reader has. Because quite often as a writer I will write scenes and delete them, but the information from the scene is still in my head, so I don’t want to mistakenly assume I’ve told the reader something that is not actually in the book, so I always go back.
AM: Is there anything in particular you like to eat as fuel for your writing?
NS: Fuel for my writing? Not really food, but I drink a lot of tea. A few years ago I actually had to go totally caffeine-free on doctor’s advice (laughs) just like too much caffeine because I drank so much tea. So now I’m on decaffeinated tea but I still drink like pots of it.
AM: I noticed on your blog you talk about chocolate a lot…
NS: I do eat a lot of chocolate, it’s true. I keep trying to be good and switch over to the dark chocolate, which is meant to be much better for you, I really like it, but then I fall back into my milk chocolate loving ways. That’s the one vice that I couldn’t give up. That’s my little treat.
AM: So we just had a new book in the Psy-Changeling series, but can you give us a hint of what’s next?
NS: So the previous book Shield of Winter was about an Arrow, and the next book is also about an Arrow, it’s about Aiden, who is basically the leader of the Arrows, and he’s different from Vasic in that Aiden seems very together. He ‘s basically got this huge responsibility on his shoulders. And he has to lead the squad into the future. And sort of create a future for them because right now they’re living on the fringes. These are the assassins and the dangerous men and women that people need but they don’t want to live with them because they are so dangerous, so they’re on the fringes. So I guess it’s kind of like Shield of Winter and this book are kind of like a two parter, because Vasic’s made it but now Aiden has to lead the rest of the squad out. So it’s about that and of course it’s, you know, romance. And I’m can’t give you too many hints on there because I need to figure things out. This is a tough one and I just want to make sure that I actually have it working before. I’ve always kind of known who it was going to be. You know, who this couple is going to be. But I just have to make sure that on the page it’s going to translate. I think when it comes out, when I am ready to talk about it, people will realize why I was like, “Oh my gosh, can I make it work?”
AM: I remember with Heart of Obsidian there was so much secrecy about all of that…
NS: Yes that was crazy! Never again will I try and keep a secret. Oh my god that was so hard.
AM: I got a copy to review and I got all of these forms—these are the things you cannot talk about. And then I was like well what can I talk about? (laughs)
NS: I guess it was the whole Ghost thing and like not wanting it to be spoilered for people, and then we were like well what can we reveal? Oh it was just crazy. But it was really fantastic everyone was so good about it. Everyone who had early copies no one was sort of like giving out huge spoilers or anything. But it was so hard!
AM: Do you have a sense of how many more books there are going to be in the Psy-Changeling series?
NS: It’s difficult because with Heart of Obsidian it was the end of the story arc, the original one. And these two books are the aftermath. But then I realized that it’s kind of like a new beginning as well, so I am now working on a new story arc to take us into the future. So once I write this book I’ll have a much better idea of how it’s going to go. But even then I probably won’t know the number of books, because I tend to think in story terms, like this is the story and we’ll see how long it takes to tell it.
AM: Do you think this will be an entry point for people who are new to the series to be able to start at the different arcs?
NS: I think so. Oddly enough I think Heart of Obsidian is a good entry point because it’s so self-contained and focused on the romance. It’s Kaleb and Sahara 90 percent of the book. But I think Shield of Winter and this next book probably aren’t, because they deal with so much of what has happened and linking back and things, but yeah. I think after that, I think there will be a good entry point, because I want to do books like set in the falcon shifters or in the sea changelings. So there are sort of self-contained communities and so even though they will be linked back I think they will be able to.
AM: Explore different parts of the world?
NS: Yeah. I really like it. I think that I love the breadth and the depth of the world.
AM: I think that’s what people like about it, too, it’s so developed. Have you read anything you really loved lately?
NS: Actually, I’ve been raving about a debut author and she’s releasing in November, I think. It’s Sonali Dev’s A Bollywood Affair. It’s fun. It’s this big, dramatic romance. If you’ve ever seen a Bollywood movie you know—
NS: Huge drama and color.
AM: So lush.
NS: Yes. And it really felt like that and it is a romance. It’s very much, you know for my romance reader heart it was like, ahhhhh.
NS: Swoony. It’s got the hero and the heroine you like and it really is really fantastic. And just coming over on the plane I read an early copy of Milla Vane’s she’s calling it the Beast of Blackmoor novella. It’s actually in the same anthology as my next Psy-Changeling novella, Night Shift, in December, and that’s really good. It’s bloody and gruesome but sexy and romantic at the same time.
AM: Are there any subgenres of romance you particularly like to read?
NS: I read a lot of historical. I just love all the balls that they go to and all that kind of stuff. It’s almost like another planet.
AM: It’s pure escapism.
NS: Yeah, it is. And I still like science fiction and fantasy. I like, I guess space opera, where it has the romance in it as well. And last year I found Sharon Lee and Steve Miller and I inhaled all of their Liaden books, which are fantastic. Contemporary, till love reading contemporary. I mean. I’m one of those readers who, if I find something interesting I’ll pick it up. I don’t really read that much paranormal any more because I think I’ve read so much. I really read just a ton. And I love writing it. But for me to get into a new paranormal it has to be something very different.
Interested in romance? Sign up for Romance Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in romance each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from authors.