Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mayan Doomsday With Jessica Andersen

Today's guest is Jessica Andersen, bestselling RITA and RT nominated author of more than twenty Harlequin Intrigues and the Nightkeeper Novels, a hot paranormal series that sexes up the 2012 doomsday. For more information about the books and Jessica, please visit www.JessicaAndersen.com.

You have a doctorate and have done some interesting work in genetic changes responsible for certain types of glaucoma. What made you swap your lab coat for a pair of tracksuit pants (the generic uniform of a writer)?

Well, I write in pretty much the same clothes I wore to the lab (jeans and a comfy shirt), but I get your drift. I’d say it was a case of finding my passion, really. I was around all these people who would willingly stay late at the lab or come in on weekends, and who wanted to go out to lunch and talk about their experiments because they thought science was just that cool. So when I realized I didn’t want to continue down that road for the rest of my life I asked myself what I’ve always loved, and what I would want to talk about at meals, at night and on the weekends … and the answer was “stories with happily ever after endings.” So I set out to see if I could learn to write them, and maybe make a living at it.

The Mayans are at the centre of your Nightkeeper Final Prophecy series. What inspired you to write about the Mayans, and specifically, the Mayan doomsday prophecy?

When I was a kid, my parents used to take me down to Southern Mexico just about every spring. This was back when Cancun was just being developed as a tourist destination, so the ruins weren’t nearly as regulated and restricted as they are now. Getting to climb on, in and around them made a huge impression on me, as did the stories our hired guides would tell. So when I was looking for a new story idea and came across a reference to the Mayan Long Count calendar ending on 12/21/2012, I was like “wow, cool!” So I started researching the calendar and the so-called doomsday, and the more I read about it, the more I wanted to write a contemporary urban fantasy series about the people destined to save mankind when the doomsday arrives.

Your books are full of rich details, including settings and mythology. How do you go about your research?

I use internet searches, books and interviews, and research my stories extensively. But this is a place where I’ll give credit to my science background, not so much in teaching me how to do research, but in teaching me when to stop. When I edit a scientific journal article (which I still do as a freelancer), one of my jobs is to make sure that the authors give the reader enough information to understand the experiments they’re talking about in the paper, but only that much information. There just isn’t room in the average journal article to go off on tangents that might be cool but aren’t central to the study in question. Similarly, one of my big challenges as a writer is to give the reader enough information that the cool factor of the Mayan mythology comes across, but the story doesn’t get bogged down. When that happens, I remind myself: “It’s about the romance, stupid!” (Snickers.)

You have a wonderful knack for weaving romance, suspense, adventure and magic into one. The multi-layered stories span across the entire series. How do you keep track of everything so all the questions will be answered by the end of the series? Or are you planning on keeping us dangling?

Aw, thanks for the compliment! I do try, as I love to read multilayered stories and can’t find nearly enough of them on the shelves. However, it can get complicated! For the most part, the story threads are in my head, largely because they come from characters who have come alive for me. I do plan to answer all of the questions by the end of the series, but probably shouldn’t make any guarantees. The stories are evolving as I write them, so it’s entirely possible that there are threads here and there that I won’t come back to, mostly because the world took me in a different direction. But I think that’s realistic, too, as there are parts of my life that I’ve thought would go one way, but then took a left-hand turn and wound up someplace else entirely!

The relationships of the Nightkeepers are complicated, to say the least. You write from the point of view of so many characters with different backgrounds and talents. How do you get into their heads and make each one unique?

Hm. I guess I don’t really have a problem with it because they’re all so different, you know? When I was writing the first book (Nightkeepers) and it came time to introduce most of the characters, I really made an effort to give each of them a distinct voice and backstory, including lots of details that just kind of came to me without any real plan. That gave me a jumping off point for the later books, which was helpful even if it meant that sometimes I had to account for earlier details that might not seem to jibe with who that character turned out to be. But I think that, too, is realistic, because people aren’t one-dimensional, and sometimes have parts that don’t seem to go together on the surface, but go into making the inner person.

What has been your most memorable research moment in writing the Final Prophecy series?

Actually, it was a memorable post-research moment. I was at a booksigning and a couple of ladies came up to me and introduced themselves as being students of an author I had cited as a major research source on Mayan antiquities and culture. They said that although they didn’t usually read Mayan-set stories because the inaccuracies were so annoying, someone had recommended Nightkeepers to them and they had picked it up and loved it, and passed it around to their coworkers. That was a nice, nice moment for me J.

Quick question (no deliberating!)—who is your favorite Nightkeeper and why?

Lucius. I love me a sexy nerd.

How many books will there be by the time the series is finished? And the inevitable question--what will you do next?

There will be nine books and one novella in the finished series, with the novella in stores soon (Feb ’11) as part of an anthology with the awesome Gena Showalter, Shannon K. Butcher and Deidre Knight. As for what’s next … that’s classified!

The countdown is on to end time. Picture yourself on 21 December, 2012. What will you be doing?

I’m feeling a party. You coming? If yes, what (or who) are you bringing? LOL!

(Alli’s note: I’ll bring along chocolate, wine and Lucius for you and Strike, the Nightkeeper King for me. Deal?)

Jessica, thank you so much for hanging with us at Novel Adventurers and we look forward to the next instalment of the Nightkeepers.


  1. Hi Jessica & Alli,

    Wow, what a fantastic concept to build a series on - I think I may have found my next new author and series to hunt down and read!!! LOL

    I love reading about ancient civilisations and legends - Egyptian and Native American mostly, but I've seen a few Austar doco's on the Mayans recently and they're tweaking the ol'curiosity meter.

    Jessica, I loved your Q&A about the students who came up to you at your book-signing - what a cool moment that must have been for you. And so satisfying as a writer. :-)

    What will I be doing at the end of 2012? Probably what I love doing best - writing.

    Now, I'm off to order the first in the series!

  2. I'm with Kylie! What a fascinating blend of genres and history. And I love multilayered books too. Can't wait to check this series out, especially with that recommendation from the ladies at the booksigning. Thanks, Jessica!

  3. Jessica, your books sound so intriguing, I'm putting them on my TBR list. I've long had a fascination with Mayan legends after working with present-day Mayans from Guatemala. They were amazing storytellers and would weave legends into their tale, so I often couldn't tell which parts were legends and which real. The distinction didn't seem to matter at all to them.

    I think a party is the best way to celebrate the end of 2012.

  4. I can totally vouch for Jessica's books. They are absolutely amazing. Get to those TBR piles, ladies!