Thursday, March 15, 2012
Tooth and Nail: A Review and Interview with Author Jennifer Safrey
Gemma Fae Cross, a tough-girl amateur boxer whose fiance is running for congress, has just made a startling discovery about herself. She is half faerie - and not just any faerie, but a tooth faerie A hybrid of fae and human, Gemma is destined to defend the Olde Way and protect the fae - who are incapable of committing violence - from threats to their peaceful and idyllic way of life, which must be maintained by distilling innocence collected from children''s baby teeth. But when a threat to the fae mission emerges, Gemma is called upon to protect her heritage, and become a legendary fae warrior... even if it means sacrificing everything she knows about being human.
There are some books that grab you the second you see the cover. Yes, I know. It is shallow, but cover art matters. So does the story hidden under it. Happily, the wonderful publisher sent me a copy of this amazing book to review. Tooth fairies, boxing, kick butt fae politics and the hidden terrors masked behind the shining facade of your neighborhood dentist. (shudder) This book was one rocking great time and I was even more thrilled when author Jennifer Safrey took some time out of her busy life to answer a few questions.
What I liked:
The use of tooth fairies as fae is unique. Except for that memorable movie with the Roc, I don't remember another tooth fairy book or film. Gemma is a tough character with depth that you can't help but start to care about. Every piece of dialog and action is well written and the plot is original with exceptional orchestration. This book is a sleeper that I want to tell everyone about.
What I Didn't:
Why, oh why couldn't it have been another five or six hundred pages? (*sob*) I hope it becomes more than just one book.
The plot, characters and voice are amazing and I can't wait to read more from Ms. Safrey. Gemma is a character that will stick in my mind for a long time. I can honestly say that I will be looking a little more closely at the samples I get from the dentist. Excellent book. Make sure you post it on your Goodreads page as a book to read this year.
Now for the interview!
1. When did you find yourself interested in the fae?
I am a longtime fan of paranormal romance and urban fantasy (even back when romance writers were told it's a small niche market!), and after a long period of time travel and vampires and shapeshifters, I began to see fae pop up here and there. I like fae as a catch-all term for the supernatural, and I suppose that's how I use it in my book.
2. What are some of your favorite faerie movies and books?
I loved, my whole life, the fairy tales that were as likely to turn out gruesome as happy, like Grimm stories. The crazier the story, the more real it seemed to me. I mean, the princess was so pissed at the frog for taking advantage of her that she picked him up and threw him against the wall as hard as she could, and that was when he became a prince. The best part is that the frog had been holding the princess accountable for broken promises, and she was beyond angry that he was right. Impetuous Gemma would totally do that, even though it was not the right thing to do, but she is a human caught in a fairy tale. That's great stuff.
3. Did you write with music playing while you were working, or did any particular music inspire you?
I really can't write to music. Lyrics are something I memorize and listen to so if I hear words being sung I can't concentrate on creating my new words. Sometimes I listen to wordless yoga music, which is nice, but I listen to that so much at my studio now that it doesn't really translate well anymore in the writing part of my life.
4. Gemma is a fierce heroine and a character I have come to care about in only a few pages. How did she come about?
When I created Gemma I really wanted to set her apart from other urban fantasy heroines. The problem is, I love urban fantasy heroines, so differentiating her but still keeping the kind of moxie I love was not easy. I wanted her to be more real, somehow. I wanted the reader to come away with feeling that she is always human first, fae second. And humans make a lot of mistakes. In some scenes, her timing really sucks. She is quick to emotionally react to things. But deep down, she is intrinsically good. She doesn't want to kill anyone, even the bad guy...and that was crucially important to me in building her character. In a lot of urban fantasy there is a lot of killing, and often killing with zero remorse because in those worlds, that is the expectation. But if Gemma is a human first, she's no more likely to kill someone as any normal human. Warrior or not, she thinks murder is not what you do. I worked very hard to make that come across as heroic and not righteous.
5. Tooth fairies are an original topic when you think of faerie tales and even current fiction or movies (except for that really interesting movie with The Roc in a tutu). What made you decide to take faeries down this road?
I did a writing exercise some years ago with a freewriting group and the prompt was to write something from the point of view of the tooth fairy. I think I was the only one really interested in what came out of that. I thought about it for a long time. I saw that paranormal stories were beginning to feature fae and I wondered what angle of fae wasn't being covered, and wondered what I could really bring to the table in terms of unusual and unexpected. I ended up with an amateur boxer fae warrior. Go figure. :)
6. Outlining is something I am learning a greater appreciation for. Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?
If I don't have a contract I have a tendency to just meander around with writing, but if I am under contract I can't mess around. I have tried having extensive outlines and I think I don't do it because once the outlines are done, I am drained of energy to creatively fill in the blanks. At this point, I outline three chapters ahead. I know the beginning, the end, the general middle, and the general direction the story is going in, and so I'm always plotting the chapter I'm writing, and two chapters ahead. It's like a flashlight in the woods. My flashlight won't go to the edge of the woods and the way out, but if I illuminate enough of the space in front of me, I'll find my way.
7. What is your best advice to prospective writers out there? (Every scene is down pat and your dialog and movements are solid. Wonderful!)
I guess my best advice is to get physical with the writing. I read every single scene, every single dialogue exchange out loud, many times, until it sounded like I wasn't reading, but just saying casually. Only then did I know it wasn't stilted. For the final showdown fight, I took stuffed animals and made each one a character and moved them around my office to make sure their actions made sense. I pantomimed every kick, every punch, to feel if it was genuine and gauge what the character's effectiveness could be. Of course, if you'd opened the door to my office and saw me pretending to 360-degree roundhouse kick my teddy bear, you'd think I was nuts, but it worked for me. I'm not a spatial thinker so I need to see everything in front of me. I loved this part of the writing...getting phsyical with it. If you do it, and you feel it, your readers will feel it too.
8. Your descriptions of being in the ring at the gym are very visceral and real. It is not your typical meat market gym either, but the not so posh side that makes it interesting. Have you ever participated in sports in that setting? Did you find your experience was like Gemma's?
I did some boxing for a few months. It was at a trendy gym but they did have an actual boxing ring and I loved it. My instructor was a black belt in taekwondo and encouraged me to give that a try because I must have done something to make him think that could be my thing. I moved to taekwondo, trained for years, and earned my black belt.I competed a little bit, but then I opened my yoga studio, and the new business left no time for martial arts training. Recently, though, I began to study muay thai. It's nice to be training again. I tried a little jiu-jitsu and I might pursue that as well. Gemma has had a much more hardcore, inner-city experience than I ever did, but I liked the idea that not only is she accepted at a tough boxing gym, but she is considered a real leader there because of her tenure. Competitive fighting is really opening up for women, expecially in mixed martial arts. Also, for the first time in the Olympics this year, there will be a women's division in boxing. I think even women who don't fight for sport are inspired by and respect other women who do use their bodies and their brains to fight competitively. And I know from experience that men will respect a female fighter. I certainly am not the best muay thai fighter in my class of all men but I am always treated equally. I like that Gemma is showing female readers this side of sport, this surprisingly fair dynamic between genders in a gym setting.
Many thanks to Jennifer Safrey for this
great interview! Thanks also to Night Shade Books for
providing a review copy of Tooth and Nail.
We will be looking forward to your new writing
projects and hoping for another glimpse of Gemma
and the morning fae!