Tomorrow is the pub day for the second book in Shana Figueroa's Valentine Shepherd series, RETRIBUTION, which follows Valentine Shepherd, a Seattle P.I. who can see the future by using a very unusual paranormal talent. Take a look at Shana's interview below and be sure to get a copy of the book!!
This is the second book in the Valentine Shepherd series. Tell us a bit about it and where it picks up the story.
When VENGEANCE ended, Max and Val were, sadly, broken up due to Val’s inability to deal with the turbulent future she knew they’d experience if they stayed together. They’ve both tried to move on with their lives, but they’re failing miserably at it. Then Val gets a case only Max can help her crack, and though the two try to keep things between them professional, of course it doesn’t stay that way…
How was writing this book different than writing the first? Now that you are writing under contract, do you have to think differently at all?
Whenever you write the second book in a series, you need to make sure someone who hasn’t read the first can pick it up and understand the basics of what’s going on. In practice, this means you need to reintroduce the characters and summarize the major plot points of the first book without turning it into a jarring info-dump. It’s harder than it seems. JK Rowling is the master at this, so I tried to emulate the way she did it in her Harry Potter series. Writing under a contract isn’t different than the way I wrote before. I got contracted to finish stories I was already working on, and I write constantly because it makes me happy. I’m lucky in that I don’t need to rely on my writing for a paycheck. I always write what I want to write.
How do you think your manuscript and/or series has changed since you started working with your editor?
My editor does a very good job of telling me things I don’t want to hear. From her, I get a better understanding of things my readers might not like, and I have the option of choosing to keep those elements in the story or not. For instance, in RETRIBUTION, both Max and Val become involved with other people while they’re broken up. Val in particular falls into a cycle of self-destructive behavior that includes less-than-romantic relations with a, well, less-than-savory character. I knew I was taking a big risk giving Val significantly more flaws than the average heroine, and my editor told me so. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided to take the risk because it was true to the character. I tend to write very flawed, very strong characters, especially heroines. You won’t get any Mary Sues from me. I know some readers won’t like it, but that’s who I am as a writer. It’s part of my brand. Take it or leave it.
What is one of your favorite plot twists in the book?
Toward the end of the book, things are looking up for both Max and Val. They’re ready to leave all their (many, many) problems behind and run away together to finally have their HEA! …Until Max goes back to his condo alone to pack his bags for their trip, and then—well, you’ll have to read the book to see what happens, but my editor wrote “OMG NOOOO!!”
You've gotten some great reviews for the first book, VENGEANCE! What has been the most fun thing about seeing reader feedback? The least fun?
My favorite thing about reader feedback for VENGEANCE were all the comments about how different the book was from anything they’ve read before. I wanted to give people a story they’d never experienced, and based on the feedback it seems I succeeded. The least fun thing is not yet having the opportunity to engage with my readers (except for my friends, and my mom). So far, my reader engagement has been pretty one-sided; I’ll write stuff on my blog or on Facebook, and no one will respond. I’d love to interact with my readers, find out more about what they like and what they didn’t, or where they’d like the story to go…but I guess my author brand isn’t big enough yet. I’ll admit—I suck at social media. But building a fan base takes time, so I’m being patient.
Are you doing any exciting promo that we should keep an eye out for?
I’m considering doing some kind of giveaway for an advanced copy of RETRIBUTION, or a $25 Amazon gift card, something like that, in exchange for people signing up for my author newsletter…Yes, I have an author newsletter now! It’s probably the best author newsletter you’ve ever read, if I’m being honest. You can sign up for the newsletter on my homepage: www.shanafigueroa.com!
Tell us what's coming next with Book 3!
Minor spoiler – by the end of Book 2, Val and Max are together again, living in holy matrimony (they finally get their HEA!). As Book 3, RECKONING, begins, they’re enjoying their new lives of domestic bliss…except for Val’s lingering thirst for vengeance, that is. She can’t forgive and forget the people still walking free who killed her fiancé and terrorized her and Max not that long ago. When a string of mysterious deaths cuts too close to home to be a coincidence, she knows her enemies have finally returned, and she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her family.
Any advice that romance author hopefuls can learn from your experiences so far?
Don’t despair. I mean this in more ways than one. I’m currently serving in Afghanistan, fighting what many might call an unwinnable war. On one convoy outside the wire, we drove by a garbage truck. “Hey, look at that,” one of my veteran squadmates said, pointing at the truck. “You didn’t used to see those here.” The US has been in Afghanistan for fifteen years, and a garbage truck is a major sign of progress. The internet is so terrible here, I can barely communicate with my family. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to remember what my daughter’s hair smells like. Around Thanksgiving, my stepbrother got terminal cancer. Then I watched Donald Trump become my new boss and leader of the free world. What I’m saying is, sometimes you have big dreams for a better world or a better life, and you have to watch those dreams get crushed to a fine powder underneath the foot of harsh reality. The worst thing you can do is give up. When one dream goes up in smoke, don’t despair. Move on to another. Always have lots and lots of dreams to fall back on, and work—fight, dammit!—every day to make those dreams a reality.
What's a fun fact about yourself?
I’m planning on running for office when I retire from the military. Yes, I’m serious (for some reason people always think I’m kidding). I’ll probably return to my hometown of Seattle and run for mayor, or governor, or Senate, or something. I’m very passionate about making the world a fairer and more just place. I write romance because I believe in the power of love, and I want to bring that power into the real world. I’ll be the sword and the shield of the destitute, the downtrodden, the good people who get stomped on by the powerful. It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, and I want to continue doing my duty long after I’ve hung up my uniform.