Owl and the Japanese Circus is the start of a brand new urban fantasy adventure series by debut author Kristi Charish. It’s about a young woman named Alix Hiboux a.k.a Owl. Alix is a former student of archaeology who now “acquires” antiquities for private collectors for the right price. She’s tough, resourceful, a little hot headed, and possibly in over her head with the variety of supernatural creatures she’s working for.
I was able to speak to Kristi about writing a character like Alix, her inspiration, and her experience jumping into the publishing world for the first time.
Hi Kristi! Thanks for agreeing to take part in this interview.
Thanks for having me!
You’ve said that you like adventure-heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists. Tell us a little bit about your protagonist Owl. How does she fit that description?
Owl (a.k.a. Alix Hiboux) is an ex-archaeology grad student who had her career scuttled by the International Archaeology Association for stumbling into the supernatural. Instead of taking this lying down (or blindly following the traditional heroes path of battling corruption—Alix isn’t that kind of hero), she takes a slightly more “give the world the bird” attitude and becomes an antiquities thief for hire, swearing off supernatural forever. Needless to say that jinxes everything.
Alix has her strengths; she’s loyal to her friends and cat, Captain, is resourceful, unwilling to conform to expectations she feels are unfair, and is unwavering to the point of pig-headedness in her convictions. She also has some serious faults; she’s un-trusting to the point of paranoia, has a severely remedial filter, and acting before thinking is the game plan. Even though she’s damaged, she still tries her best to do the right thing—though her version of right and everyone else’s don’t always mesh. And that to me is a strong female protagonist.
The cover copy describes your protagonist Owl, as a modern-day “Indiana Jane.” Was Indiana Jones a big influence for you?
Indiana Jones, The Mummy, Big Trouble in Little China, the video game Uncharted, plus a ton of other 80s style adventure movies all heavily inspire my writing. I really love adventure for the sake of fun adventure and I think the Indiana Jones genre does an amazing job delivering it. Sometimes you just want to escape into an adventure and that’s what I wanted to write!
What other authors (or strong, savvy female protagonists) have inspired you?
In the urban fantasy wheelhouse, women writers who’ve inspired me are Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, and Kelley Armstrong. As far as female protagonists go, I’m a fan of Tomb Raider, a number of X-Men (Storm, Dazzler, Rogue, Kitty), and a new favorite is Rat Queens—a graphic novel featuring an all female adventuring team I highly recommend.
Owl is a gamer. Will we see more of that side of her life? (I know I would read Owl and the Quest to End GamerGate) Is that something you draw on personal experience for?
Absolutely on both counts! Owl’s gaming is her one escape from all the problems in her life. It’s a mainstay and will continue to feature more in the series. As far as playing? I love RPGs. Some of my favorite story lines are in Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Uncharted, but there are lots out there!
In the course of the novel she travels to a number of exciting locations, including Las Vegas, Japan, and Bali. Were you able to travel to any of these places? For research of course 😉
No! They are all places I’d love to go but I haven’t had the chance yet. I got around that using Google Maps and lots of internet research 😉
One thing I really enjoyed about Owl and the Japanese Circus was the different supernatural creatures she comes into contact with. There were traditional ones, like vampires, but there were also a variety of creatures you don’t see very often. Did you know when you started writing which creatures you were going to use?
I definitely had some in mind when I started (ie: the vampires), but most came as the plot developed—ie: if I had to hire a supernatural assassin, which creature would be a good choice. In most cases, I went with what served the plot and situation best.
Can you give us a hint as to what creatures we might see in future books?
There are some return characters (Vampires, Dragons, Nagas) and some new ones, but beyond that I’d be revealing spoilers
You have a PhD in Zoology and specialize in genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology. How does this inform or influence your writing?
It certainly helps when trying to design supernatural creatures or come up with plausible biology explanations, but the area it really helps with is plotting. In research science, we use the scientific method to solve problems, but the same logic method can be used to solve plot problems as well. Practical application of logic!
Owl and the Japanese Circus is your debut novel. What has surprised you most about the publishing process?
Honestly? That people are reading it! I think everyone comes into publishing figuring no one will read their first novel except for family members (who you’ve guilted into at Christmas 😉 ). Beyond that, just how many book come out in one year, especially in Urban Fantasy. There are a lot of debut authors out there and the realization is humbling!
Moving away from Owl for a minute—you have a second series Kincaid Strange coming out in 2016. What can you tell us about it?
Kincaid Strange is my second UF series about a voodoo practitioner who lives in Seattle with her roommate, the ghost of deceased 90s grunge rocker, Nathan Cade. Things go from bad to worse when a serial killer starts targeting members of the paranormal community and Kincaid becomes a prime suspect. It’s still my version of a fun urban fantasy, but with a slightly darker feel and serious edge. People can find more about the Kincaid and Owl series through my Facebook, Twitter, and website. It’s scheduled for release in May 2016, so there will be lots more soon.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait for Owl and the City of Angels!
Aww! Thanks for having me! And hope you enjoy Owl and the City of Angels as much as the Japanese Circus!