Barbara Chepaitis is the author of 8 published books, including The Fear Principle featuring Jaguar Addams (Wildside Press), and the critically acclaimed Feeding Christine and These Dreams. Her first nonfiction book, Feathers of Hope, is about Berkshire Bird Paradise and the human connection with birds. She’ll follow that up with a book about Eagle Mitch, a bird she helped our US troops rescue from Afghanistan. Barbara is also past director of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, and faculty coordinator for the fiction component of Western Colorado’s MFA program in creative writing.
Facebook site for Barbara – http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=615302442
Facebook site for Jaguar – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jaguar-Addams-and-the-Fear-Series/135879429815445
Barbara’s website: http://www.wildreads.com
Q: Thank you for this interview, Barbara. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Fear Principle, is all about?
A: The Fear Principle, first in a series of novels, features Jaguar Addams, a woman whose psi capacities are only exceeded by her skill with the red glass knife she carries up her sleeve. She and her supervisor, Alex Dzarny, work in a future prison system where they rehab the worst criminals by telepathically making them face their fears. Their current case is hitwoman Clare Rilasco, emotionless, beautiful, and part of a death machine plot that threatens Alex’s life. Jaguar can’t tell who the bad guys are anymore, as she’s dragged into her own terrifying past by Clare’s telepathic tricks. While the search for the man behind the mirror continues, Jaguar and Clare are enmeshed in a relationship of seduction and trickery that makes Jaguar face her own deepest fears.
A: The two main characters, Alex and Jaguar, are both empaths and telepaths, but they’re different from each other in some crucial ways. Alex is an Adept, someone with precognitive capacities. He knows how to strategize and how to manipulate the Governor’s Board that administers the system. Jaguar, on the other hand, is a chant-shaper, someone who can assume the shape of her spirit guide, and she could care less about the bureaucracy. You could say that they both run with scissors, but Jaguar points hers out. And they’re trying to learn how to trust each other in a dangerous world.
These two have a supporting cast which includes Jaguar’s ex-prisoner and best friend, Rachel, who acts as a Girl Friday for both her and Alex. Jaguar also is friends with ex-prisoner, Gerry Wallach, a strange guitarist who runs the band Moon Illusion, which she sometimes sings with. And of course various members of the Governor’s Board appear now and then, just to throw a wrench in the works. It’s really a conglomerate of misfits, runaways and throwaways, just the kind of people I like to write.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
A: Some of my characters are based on real people, but others just appear. Jaguar, for instance, was totally herself from the first moment she appeared to me. I hesitate to even say I imagined her because she feels more like someone I met than someone I thought up. On the other hand Clare, the hitwoman involved, is imagined from the circumstances I thought would create someone like her. And Adrian, I’m sorry to say, is a combination of few guys I dated long ago.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
A: I tend to spend a great deal of time in what I call the prewriting phase, when I’m simply daydreaming about the characters and situation. By the time I sit down to write, most of the sequence of events has already been played out in my mind, and I know most of what will happen, though details will fill themselves in along the way. I don’t outline any of it, though. It’s more like an experience I’ve had which I’m relating to readers than an imagined plot. I like to keep things vivid and immediate, and that’s the best way I know how to do so.
Q: Your book is set in a replica city of Toronto. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?
A: I wanted the Planetoid Prison system to resemble earth as much as possible, so I gave it cities that replicate those we all know. Toronto, in particular, is a hub city, home to many different kinds of people, yet distant enough that it feels to the reader as if they’ve left home. Since I spent some time in Toronto with family, it was also both familiar enough, yet strange enough to me that it made a good setting.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
A: Jaguar’s an off-leash kind of woman, so I had to make it possible for her to roam. The setting shifts from book to book, but each one is a reflection of what the characters need to learn in a given novel. The virtual reality site, the university she visits in the third book, her relationship to her home in New Mexico all create a mood that’s central to the story and its issues. Of course, the most important setting of all is Jaguar’s mind at work.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
A: Jaguar is having a tough conversation with Nick, an old friend and partner in her work, but he’s in rough shape. He’s been entering prisoners’ minds telepathically but he’s not skilled at it so he’s absorbed the darkness of the criminals whose minds he explored. He’s become a danger to Jaguar, who also worries that she’ll become like him, filled with poison.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
A: : “You’re way out of line, Jaguar,” Alex said coldly. “You better keep track of yourself.”
“Oh, I can track myself. Don’t you worry,” she replied. She put her hands on his desk and her face level with his. “I can track a cat under a new moon, or the smallest scent of death in open air. I can track last week’s eagle in a cloudy sky. And I can track you, Alex. Even you. So keep Nick away from me, or I’ll take care of him myself. My way.”
She shifted her arm, letting him see the tip of her glass knife, gleaming red at her wrist. She gave it a second, two seconds. Then she turned on her heel and left.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Barbara. We wish you much success!
A: Thank you! I hope all your wishes come true!