Welcome to Delighted Reader! We are excited to have you here with Sophia Rose and myself today!
JAX: I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me on the blog!
SHARI: Tells us a little about the series, Tales of the Underlight and Jolie and Wesley.
JAX: The Tales of the Underlight are punk-alternative stories inspired by fairy tales and set in the very near future in Austin, Texas. The focus is on two warring secret societies. The first is the Order of Ananke, a cult that worships the Greek goddess of fate and pulls their membership from the upper echelons of society. They try to control industry and government from behind the scenes in ways they believe their goddess intends. They use magic and have an army of human-drones (The Order of Atropos) that they’ve created through magic-infused tattoos. Our heroes fight for the Underlight, a nationwide group of anarchists. In Austin, they live in an underground community off-grid and stay out of governmental radar. The Underlight started out a couple centuries ago as a group of idealists forming a free-thought society, but when they stumbled onto the Order of Ananke, they partially turned their mission toward thwarting Ananke’s machinations.
Wesley “Hauk” Haukon is one of the Underlight’s soldiers fighting against Ananke. Five years ago while serving with the Rangers in Afghanistan, he was the only man in his squad to survive a fire. He lost a leg (though he has a high functioning replacement) and has burn scars covering 82% of his body. He doesn’t remember the fire or how it started, but while he was still in the burn unit, he was convicted of arson and thereby murdering his squad mates. He escaped from the hospital and lives with the Underlight to hide out from the law. Ever since the fire, strange things have happened to him—he senses violence in his vicinity and has blackouts during fights in which he pulls off impossible stunts and heals quickly from injuries. Despite his dark past, Hauk maintains a sense of humor and has a “just keep putting one foot in front of the other” philosophy. He thinks he’s got his life back together as best he can after the injury. Then he meets Jolie, and suddenly he wants more.
Jolie Benoit grew up in those upper echelons of society with a path in life dictated for her. She tried to be the good girl her whole life, even giving up her dream of being a professional dancer to please her family. But by the time she was done with college, she’d had enough of being the “right” girl with the “right” friends all set to marry the “right” man—all of which was totally wrong for her. She moved to Austin to get her doctorate at the University of Texas so she could be near her grandfather, a film director with a far more free-spirited attitude than the rest of her family, for his last few months of living with cancer. When the first story starts, her grandfather has already passed away leaving her a large chunk of his fortune, and she’s joined a burlesque troupe for fun and as a bit of defiance against her old life. After her first show she accidentally meets Hauk, who’s hiding from the law at the theater (her troupe’s leader is in the Underlight, hence him ending up there). After he rescues her from a group of thugs and carries her to the Underlight during a blackout, she finds something worth fighting for in the Underlight’s mission.
SOPHIA ROSE: I love all the sub-genre elements that came together for this series. What led up to writing a story mashing together Paranormal elements with a fairy tale theme? Will the series stay with the Beauty and the Beast tale or does it incorporate other fairy tales with each new book?
JAX: Thanks! The first three books, which tell Jolie and Hauk’s story, stick with Beauty and the Beast. If I write any further books with a new hero/heroine pair, they’ll be inspired by different fairy tales. I’m currently toying with Rapunzel for Brayden’s book, but I’m still in the initial planning stages, so we’ll see where that goes.
As for all the subgenre elements, I basically took a bunch of things I love—fairy tales, urban fantasy, Norse mythology, steampunk and my hometown of Austin—and mashed them together. It wasn’t really on purpose. I initially wrote a very short story quickly without spending a lot of time analyzing elements to see if they “fit.” Angela James at Carina saw it and asked if I would be interested in expanding it. Of course I said yes, and after doubling the length of the story, it became “How Beauty Met the Beast” in its current form. Hauk was the initial inspiration for the story, and it all sort of developed around his character.
SOPHIA ROSE: The story setting was innovative, but I wasn’t sure if it was future or if it was just a parallel earth. Which was it or was it something else entirely?
JAX: It’s set in the very near future. Apparently I’m horribly jaded because I think corporations are on the verge of taking over. 🙂 The setting was inspired by web projects like The Story of Stuff, documentaries like Food, Inc and books like Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food (Pollan has written a lot of interesting news articles as well). I started thinking, what if the worst case scenarios these treatises present are right? Then I combined it with an X-Files style conspiracy theory (I used to love that show) manned by a juiced up Skull and Bones-esque fraternity, and that was the launching point for the setting.
As I was turning that original short story into a novella, the Occupy Wall Street protests started, and I laughed because I can totally see the Underlight getting involved in that (or even being behind it!). Then the Robert Murdoch/News Corp scandal happened, and I’d researched him when I was crafting Jolie’s father. The Tales of the Underlight take a somewhat bleak view of the future, but everything except the Order of Ananke’s mind control magic was inspired by something real that’s happening right now.
SOPHIA ROSE: The characters are vibrant and personable. I loved the two main characters, but my favorites were Whitney and Travis. How did they come to you?
JAX: Thank you! Travis is more of my personal “type,” a scruffy surfer boy with wanderlust. I would love to meet him in person. (Ahem, don’t tell my darling DH I said that. 😉 ) We’ll see more of Travis in the next couple of books, although I haven’t gotten to do as much with his character as I’d like. But he may get his own book in the future if the series keeps going. At least if I, er, figure out how to untangle the mess he’s in at the end of book 3…which I haven’t figured out yet. But Brayden’s working on it, and Brayden would be the hero of the fourth book. So… maybe Brayden will figure something out.
Whitney was fun to write. I wanted a foil for Jolie, somebody who showed how far the heroine had come but who wasn’t hate-able, and a preteen seemed like a great way to go. Whitney’s got so many screwed up ideas that she was raised with, but she’s also got a good heart. At the end of book 1, Whitney goes back to Houston to her family and doesn’t make a reappearance in the series (at least in person; she has a mention in passing), but if the series keeps going I may throw her back into the mix, especially as she gets a little older.
SOPHIA ROSE: There were so many bits of foreshadowing in this story to secrets particularly about Hauk’s abilities and that of the secret organization who attempted to kidnap Jolie. Is there any chance you can discuss this a little? Even a hint?
JAX: Haha! Book 2 delves into the mystery of Hauk, the fire that scarred him and why exactly he can do the things he can do. I don’t want to give too much away, but your questions will be answered in How Beauty Saved the Beast. I will say it has to do with tattoos—Hauk had a few before the fire—and the biggest clue is probably Hauk’s whited out eye.
The Order of Ananke is indeed back. They don’t need Jolie anymore, as the issue they wanted to use her as blackmail for has passed. But the Austin branch is weary of Hauk’s ability to foil them—and confounded by why they can’t control him, despite the tattoo of Atropos they marked him with. So in book 2 they’re after him with a new, untested and unstable weapon that cancels out his special abilities.
There’s a schism happening in the Order of Ananke between those who use the order for its power—and find groups like the Underlight annoying—and those who truly worship the goddess it’s named for—and find the Underlight a heretical menace. The true believers have formed a nasty plan to wipe out the Austin Underlight and its defiant anarchy once and for all. The seeds of the plan start in book 2 and come to fruition in the final book. To make it happen, though, they’ll need Hauk and Jolie out of the way…permanently.
SOPHIA ROSE: How many books are projected for the series and are Hauk and Jolie the protagonists in all the books?
JAX: As I mentioned, right now I’m on contract for 3 books. Hauk and Jolie are the protagonists for all three and their story comes to a conclusion in the final book. I have ideas for future books with different protagonists who’ve been introduced in the Beauty and the Beast arc—particularly Brayden (inspired by Rapunzel) and another for Mercy, a fellow dancer in Jolie’s troupe who is introduced in book 2 (which I think would be inspired by Snow White). As I said, I’d love to give Travis a book, but I have a few things to figure out before that can happen. I’d also love to give Catrina, Pussy Will-Oh!’s manager, a story and maybe a short for Tally and LaRoche, the scientists. But most of this is up in the air at this point! Like I said, there is a solid conclusion for Hauk and Jolie at the end of the third book, so while there are a few threads for future stories for other characters, their story has closure at that point.
SHARI: When is the next installment due to arrive?
JAX: Book 2, How Beauty Saved the Beast, just released on February 11, and Book 3, How Beauty Loved the Beast, releases in May (I’m not sure about the actual date on that one).
SHARI: If I were to order pizza for this interview, what toppings and crust would we need to order for you?
JAX: Haha! Like Jolie, I’m a pain to eat with. I don’t have celiac’s disease (thank heaven; that is a whopper to live with!), but I learned about it while dealing with my own food-related medical issues. So I rarely eat pizza. But if I did, and I ate exactly what I wanted, it would be a thin crust pepperoni and mushroom with extra cheese. Yum! If I ate pizza sticking with my current diet (I’m on a rotation as we try to figure out exactly what it is that’s making me sick; currently it’s low histamine which seems to be working. I have yet to decide if I’m happy with knowing that or not as it means giving up chocolate!) I’d make yeast-free buckwheat dough and top it with olive oil (instead of tomato sauce), mozzarella, goat cheese, basil, field greens and shredded chicken. As I mentioned, I’m a pain to eat with. 🙂
SHARI: What is next up in your writing future?
JAX: Uh… keep writing? The Beauty and the Beast books are all with Carina, so those are done from my end. As I mentioned, Brayden’s book is percolating. I have three other competing storylines in my head and I need to settle into one to work on seriously. One is a dystopian sci-fi romance set in Las Vegas after chemical warfare has poisoned the air and everyone who survived lives in fully contained surroundings (all those closed casinos protected a lot of the people in them). I’m having a lot of fun with the setting on that one, but the characters keep radically shifting about. Another is a paranormal romance about a group of men cursed to eternal servitude by a witch during the 16th Century French Inquisition, and what happens when a modern witch accidentally summons one of them. I have an outline for this one, so the proximity to completion is tempting! The final is a faery story about an American bruja (Latin American hedgewitch) traveling through Copenhagen who catches the interest of the bastard son of Gwyn ap Nudd, the leader of the Wild Hunt. I’ve also got a completed New Adult manuscript about an angel and a dragon that I need to edit, but I think I’ve got a few more weeks before I’m ready to tackle that project. Any readers have suggestions on which one YOU think I should finish first? I’d love for somebody else to make that decision for me! Haha!
SHARI: Thank you for stopping by to chat with Sophia Rose and I. We had a blast!
Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.
The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.
Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him—or risk losing him forever…
ABOUT JAX GARREN
Jax Garren is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin then found her own Happily Ever After with a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. Jax loves meeting new people, so if you see her out and about say hello! She’s always happy to raise a glass with her readers (or anyone else) to toast courage, adventure and love.
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