Lexi: Our guest today will pique your interest with her paranormal writings of angels, vampires, zombies, and cacodaimons. And…wait for it…her vampires do not sparkle. Welcome to the blog, Michelle Belanger!
Michelle: Hello, Lexi, and thank you for having me. I can’t wait to share a little with your readers about the adventures of Zachary Westland in the Shadowside Series.
Lexi: You are well versed in the paranormal world and have written numerous nonfiction books. When did you get the bug to delve into the fiction world and write the Shadowside series?
Michelle: Back when we were filming Paranormal State, a bunch of us were avidly reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files in between cases. Josh Light, our tech guy, often teased me for having the “Dresden effect” with technology – my mere presence seemed to put most of our equipment on the fritz. Eventually, this led to an extended discussion about what our lives would look like if we were characters in a work of fiction. That was the initial spark for the Shadowside. I’d spent ten years investigating some of the darkest hauntings out there – claims of ghosts, demonic possession, cursed items – you name it. My real life was already stranger than most peoples’ fiction, so it didn’t take much to weave those experiences into Zack’s world.
Lexi: Aside from your great technical background you fill your books with pop culture references. How awesome is that! As a reader it is so much fun to be paging along and catch a beloved show or movie reference and laugh out loud. Do you have a favorite one that you used?
Michelle: I’m a huge geek, so it’s hard to pick just one. Most of my favorites revolve around Zack’s descriptions of Lil’s apparently bottomless handbag. Throughout the novels, the Lady of Beasts pulls a dizzying array of useful (and often deadly) items from her white leather clutchpurse, prompting Zack to describe it variously as a bag of holding, a portable hole, and a TARDIS. All of those are fun, but I think my favorite part of the pop culture references is figuring out what shows, books, movies, and games have imprinted themselves on Zack. I’m constantly asking myself things like, “If Zack watched Doctor Who, which Doctor would he like the best?” (the answer is Tennant’s Eleven), and “Is he a console gamer or PC?” (PC, with a preference for games like Assassin’s Creed). Lil, because she’s all business, provides a great foil for Zack’s geekery. She just doesn’t get it. We all have that one friend, don’t we?
Lexi: Speaking of favorites; on your website you have three books listed in the Shadowside series. CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS, HARSH GODS, and third will be THE RESURRECTION GAME. Do you have a favorite book of the series?
Michelle: Right now, my favorite is Harsh Gods. That might stem from the bias of being immersed in the story so recently. But in that book, which readers get to see starting August 30th, I really get to sink my teeth into Zack’s life and the people around him – both his allies and his frenemies. Because he’s immortal, Zack has some wild history with people like Lil, with her ethereal armada of spirit animals, the vampire Remy, and Remy’s Machiavellian mistress, Saliriel. All three of these figure in Conspiracy of Angels, but in that book, we open with Zack in crisis mode, and it’s a struggle for the poor guy just to survive till the end. As the writer, the driving urgency of Conspiracy makes it hard to give Zack a minute to breathe, never mind stopping long enough to appreciate the complexities of the fix he’s found himself in. By Harsh Gods, Zack has his feet under him and, more than that, he’s got a bigger piece of the puzzle – enough to really get a sense of what’s at stake for himself and everything he cares about.
Lexi: HARSH GODS, book two, is releasing on August 30th and will continue Zack’s story. You pitted him against some bad ass vampires in book one but he found out he could really hold his own. What are you most excited about Zack facing in book two?
Michelle: Book one has Zack fighting the tribe of the Nephilim – vampires that literally inhabit their own blood. They’re faster and stronger than Zack, but their threat is largely a physical one. For book two, I wanted to give Zack an enemy that tests his otherworldly skills, so we start with a possession. An entity called Whisper Man has sunk his hooks into a young girl named Halley, and Zack gets called in to assist by an old contact, Father Frank. Halley’s a special prize, and if Zack’s going to save her, he needs to understand the girl as much as the forces that are after her. Because he’s fighting an enemy who seems to be everywhere at once, Zack really has to stay on his toes. For help, he seeks out a couple of familiar faces from the first book – most notably Lil, the Lady of Beasts, and Terael – a disembodied intelligence who inhabits a statue in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Lexi: This is quite a series. For anyone who loves a good vampire book, urban fantasy, or paranormal read you should not miss it. Thanks for stopping by the blog, Michelle! Congrats on the release of HARSH GODS and we will be eagerly waiting for THE RESURRECTION GAME!