Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Unforeseen by Lauren Grimley: Character Interview, Excerpt

Alex was quite sure that "gifted" was a term which delusional parents applied to their strictly average children, that vampires were gorgeous dead guys in her eighth-grade girls' novels, and "Seers" was a middle schooler's misspelling of a department store famous for power tools. Teachers, however, don't know everything, and it’s Alex’s turn to be educated.

Hoping just to clear her mind, Alex Crocker leaves work for a late night run across the small city of Bristol, Massachusetts. Instead she is dragged violently into a feud she never would have known existed. She quickly learns she’s being hunted for possessing a gift she never wanted, one that could kill her or provide her the power she’ll need to protect herself and those she cares for.

Despite her desire to maintain her independence, Alex quickly becomes tied to the Rectinatti vampires through bonds of friendship, loyalty, and most surprisingly, love. These bonds, coupled with the new knowledge that she is in grave danger are enough to make her want to stay, but it’s learning what is really at stake that drives her to fight.

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I have two excerpts on my website from the very beginning of the book, so I chose this one from a little later in the book. This is from the end of chapter two when Alex is just beginning to realize that the vampires who took her in may have answers to questions she’s had about herself for years.

    Darian sat across from her on the edge of the cream colored upholstered wing back. His temper was calm, and as he leaned over, resting his elbows on the knees of his khaki pants, Alex struggled to remember who, or what, she was having this conversation with. The only reason she answered him was because her own curiosity couldn’t be quelled.
    “I don’t know how, really. It’s never happened before. Not like this, not so strong. And it’s like he said, I can’t seem to stop it or block it out,” Alex was as much working through her own thoughts, as answering Darian’s question.
    “But what is it you can do, exactly?”
    “I—this is going to seem nuts—”
    “You’re in a room full of vampires, one of whom has been reading your thoughts for the
last half hour. That in itself would seem nuts to most humans,” Rocky pointed out.
    “Can I gag him?” Markus asked Darian.
    “What? He’s the one flashing his fangs at her. You think she passed that off as a dental
    Darian began to run his hands through his hair again. The moment Rocky saw it he
blanched and quickly backpedaled.
    “Sorry, Regan, I just—sorry.” He looked at his feet. Seeing the reaction, Alex wondered
how often Darian doled out shiners, but for the meantime, he maintained his cool.
    “Please, continue, Alex.”
    Alex looked at Sage who looked away. She had never put words to what she could do before. Ever since she was a teen she had fought an over-active mind. That wasn’t right, either. It wasn’t her mind—it was her emotions, or her other sense, as she thought of it. She was hypersensitive to others’ feelings, and not just guys crushing on her. She had often found herself caught up in the emotions of her family, friends, even her students. A school counselor once labeled her extremely empathetic, though when others’ moods distracted or upset her, she had just felt pathetic. And that was when what she felt was merely vague glimpses.
    “I can sense his emotions. I can sense them as strongly as if they were my own. It’s disconcerting.”
    “Tell me about it,” Sage muttered.
    “Is Sage the only one you can sense?”
    “Yes. Well, the only one I can feel with such consistency and clarity. I . . . I think I may have been doing it to a lesser degree since I was a kid, though. I’ve just got really good intuition, I guess.” Alex wasn’t sure whether she tacked on the last sentence to sound less insane to them or to herself. Because if she were going to be honest with herself, she had always wondered if it was more than that. In fact, until tonight, she had worried a bit about her sanity. After all, in thereal world extra senses and mind reading didn’t exist. But, tonight, in this alternate reality she found herself in, she was almost able to accept she was something more than just freakishly over- sensitive. Maybe there was another explanation. She was beginning to think she wanted answers as much as they did.
    “And your brothers, are either of them also . . . intuitive, as you call it?” Darian asked Alex, but his eyes flickered to Sage. She tried to feel what Sage’s reaction to this was, but her own emotions about this topic were too intense.
    “My brothers are both dead.” Alex’s voice hung heavy in the air.
    “How did they die?” Darian asked sitting erect. She watched him and Sage exchange another glance and began to wonder why they were asking these questions.
    “A car crash. Dave was nineteen, Levi was seventeen, and I was fifteen. Why does it matter?”
    “Were you with them?” Darian asked leaning forward again. He ignored her question.
    “No, they were alone. Well, the cops think they may have been drag racing another car, but no one ever came forward.” Alex knew her voice had the mechanical sound of someone who had told this tragic story enough times to be able to maintain a limited amount of control over her emotions.
    “How old are you now, Alex?” Darian asked.
    “Is that important?” Alex wasn’t going to relay her life story without a reason.
    “I’m sorry,” Darian said misjudging her tone, “I know it’s rude to ask a lady her age,
    “It’s not that. I just get the sense there’s a reason you’re asking me. Actually, I’m wondering why you brought me here to begin with?”
     When she began to think about it, Alex had an infinite number of questions. Why did they attack her? Clearly, they didn’t want to mug her; from the looks of this office, they didn’t need the money—not that a jogger without a purse would have any on her anyway. If they had wanted to hurt her or rape her, they wouldn’t have bothered to bring her back here and treat her wounds, never mind waste time inundating her with all these questions. And then there was the third attacker. Was he one of them? Were they angry he hurt her or jealous he found her first? She got a shiver down her spine as she remembered Sage slitting his throat from ear to ear, the blood spilling out in a rush.

Character interview with Alex Crocker:

Background: Alexandra (Alex) Crocker is the twenty-five year old heroine in Unforeseen and the upcoming books in the series. She was born and raised in Bristol, Massachusetts, where after graduating from a local college she obtained a job teaching middle school English. It was on the way home from her school last June when she was attacked.
Regaining consciousness, Alex finds herself in the home of the Rectinatti Regan, the leader of one of two covens of vampires living in Bristol.  If that wasn't enough to make her think she'd gone nuts, she realizes she's sensing the emotions of another of the other vampires as strongly as she feels her own.  Discovering these creatures have the answers to what she's able to do, who she is, and why she was attacked, she decides she wants to stay, despite knowing it is a dangerous, possibly deadly desire.

What one word best describes you?

These days…freak? Sorry, this whole walking emotion detector thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I guess I ought to answer ‘gifted,’ since that’s what my power is supposed to be, a gift.  Honestly, though, it doesn’t feel like it. Sure, being able to stun a full-grown vampire just with my emotions comes in handy, but I wouldn’t need it if I weren’t being hunted for my so-called ‘gift’ to begin with. Hunted. That would be another appropriate response, but that sounds as dramatic as freak. Let’s keep it simple and stick with Seer. That describes both what I am and what’s driving my oh-so-pleasant personality these days.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Relaxing has been tricky since discovering I’m living in a city with two covens of vampires, one of which wants me captured or dead.  That said, I’m dating now and just recently discovered that my ability to sense others’ emotions makes certain activities even more pleasant than normal. I think we should probably leave it at that.

Do you play any sports?

Oh, that was probably the type of thing you were looking for in the last question. I guess we know where my mind’s been since meeting Markus. Yes, I love physical activity, especially running. I’ve always used exercise to quiet my thoughts, drown my sense, even before I knew what I was and why I felt emotions so intensely. When I’m running I can focus on just that, running.

As a kid I also took karate. At the time I just thought my dad wanted me to know how to defend myself against ordinary creeps. I was tiny even then. Of course, now I know he had other enemies in mind. At five-one, I’m not sure my years of training will do me much good against a species with the speed, size, and strength vampires have, but I’m glad I know what I do. Even male vampires react when you get in a good kick to the groin.
What are your favorite TV shows?

I’m almost embarrassed to answer this one. I was never much of a TV watcher before, but since I came to live with Darian, the Rectinatti Regan, I haven’t really had the freedom to come and go as I please–this, I’m assured, is for my own safety, we’ll see. Anyway, I’ve taking to killing time with Rocky on his nights off. We spend late nights watching marathons of bad reality TV shows on cable. Not because we liked them, we’ve convinced ourselves, but because “somebody has to make fun of those losers,” as Rocky explains it. Ironically, it’s a nice escape from reality, although I do worry I’m giving Rocky and the other vampires a very bad impression of humans. The other night Rocky actually asked if my mother ever entered me in a pageant. After leaving an imprint of my fist on his right arm, I informed him that I never have and never will don a tiara.
What group did you hang out with in high school?

High school. Ugh. That was when my sense first began to develop. I was hypersensitive to others’ feelings, and not just guys crushing on me. Being in a high school with so many emos and drama queens was torture. A school counselor once labeled me extremely empathetic, though when others’ moods distracted or upset me, I just felt pathetic. Needless to say, I wasn’t Miss Popularity. I mostly kept to myself. Teenage girls are teeming with emotion, and as my sense first developed, it was hard to be around too many of them at once. I spent my free time at the karate dojo. Being around guys was easier. Their emotions are more muted. Besides, that was just after the ‘car accident’ that killed my brothers. Hanging out with their friends in a place they spent so much of their time was comforting.

Tell us about your family.

Gee, I opened myself up for that one didn’t I? Do you have all day? Do you have one of those couches shrinks use? Sorry, but this one’s a little raw right now. A few months ago I would have supplied some snarky remark along the lines of “we bring dysfunctional to a new height” and left it at that. Since then I’ve learned that everything I thought I knew about my father and most of what I knew about my brothers was wrong. I had mistakenly judged and blamed my parents, particularly my father, for what I had perceived as weakness after my brothers’ apparent deaths. I had thought this weakness was what destroyed my family. Now I know differently. The Vengatti destroyed my family. My two older brothers are dead. My father over-extended what little power he had in order to try to save them. Now he’s little more than a shell of a man. My mother looks way too old for someone her age, but who can blame her after all she’s gone through. I’m all she really has left, and I’ve done everything possible not to be a part of her life since I graduated college four years ago. I could rectify that of course, get close again. But that seems a little cruel considering my odds of surviving all this.

Got a happier question?

What makes you happy?

That one’s easy–anything that makes the people I’m with happy. I sense everyone’s emotions, so if my company is in a good mood, it’s often contagious. Sage is happy when he’s making one of us squirm, usually by sharing some embarrassing thought he just plucked from our heads. Rocky is happy when one of the older males overlooks the not-so-honorable reason he’s serving with the warriors and recognizes his talent. Darian is happy when I’m not questioning his authority. And Markus is happy so long as I’m safe. His love and concern make me pretty happy, too. There are perks to being a Seer. 

Lauren Grimley lives in central Massachusetts where she grew up, but her heart is on the beaches of Cape Cod where she spends as much of her time as possible.  After graduating from Boston University she became a middle school English teacher.  She has her seventh graders to thank for starting her on this path; it was they who convinced a rather skeptical new teacher vampire stories were worth reading.  She now spends her time writing them when she should be correcting papers. If she finds free time beyond these activities, she’s likely to spend it on a beach with a book and bottle of wine close by.

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