We continue with The Book Pushers’ official Ellen Connor Day. Has and MinnChica already shared their super gushy joint review this morning. Now, we have the chance talk with the creators behind Ellen Connor.
Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty are the masterminds behind the Dark Age Dawning trilogy, a new post-apocalyptic series that is guaranteed to take readers on a thrill ride. Nightfall, the first book of the trilogy recently released on June 6th, 2011. The remainder of the trilogy, Midnight and Daybreak will be out later this year: September and December respectively.
Book Pushers: How did the two of you team up and decide to write together? What’s the story behind your kick ass pen name?
Ann: We met online five years ago. I had recently moved to Mexico. Carrie was writing a historical romance novel. I was writing all kinds of things. Since then, she’s sold historical romance novels. I’ve sold all kinds of things.
Carrie: How did we become Ellen Connor? Well, we discussed just using our names, but we wanted these books to be ours. Together. A pen name is the best way to communicate that joint commitment. Plus, on a more technical note, it’s easier for the art department to utilize one name. The amazing art by Gene Mollica certainly validates this decision! We were totally blown away by his gorgeous, perfect depiction of our world and characters.
Once we settled on the idea of a new name, we needed to pick the perfect one. What a nice surprise that it wasn’t too difficult! Ellen Ripley of Aliens and Sarah Connor of The Terminator are our favorite kick-ass heroines of all time, so it was a simple matter of combining their names. (We did toy with the idea of Sarah Ripley, but we liked Ellen Connor better and hope you agree.)
Book Pushers: What sparked the idea for the Dark Age Dawning series?
Ann: Fast forward two years into our friendship to when I had an epic dream. It was insanely vivid, post-apocalyptic, full of dangerous magic, excitement, a compelling hero and heroine, the end of the world, and evil demon dogs. I posted a blog about it, where a ton of readers commented: I would so totally read that! You should write it. But by that point, I didn’t have time to finish a book on spec. Yet the idea haunted me. Eventually, between deadlines, I hammered out the first chapter and I emailed it to Carrie.
Carrie: I was curious about Ann’s idea. Frankly, as a historical romance author, I’d never given much thought to writing outside of my comfort zone. But the idea of plunging into something crazy and unformed was really tempting. It was unlike anything I’d tried before. I took a chance. After all, what do I know about writing a male soldier’s point of view during an apocalypse?! I think Ann was nervous about working with me because, at the time, I was quite a plotter. Neither of us knew if I could free style in the way a partnership needs.We needn’t have worried. The work was so much fun! Writing for the hell of it. No goal. No net. Just tag, you’re it!
Book Pushers: What is your writing process like? Do you write characters, chapters, lines?
Ann: This is where you find out that we do, in fact, split the books by point of view. The strategy worked for us because any minute differences in our individual voices as authors could be attributed to character differences. Thus during the summer of 2008, we wrote Nightfall by pinging the chapters back and forth. Suddenly we had a book.
Book Pushers: What can you tell us about these books, and what can we expect from Nightfall?
Carrie: Fast forward another year, and we sold the whole trilogy to Berkley Sensation. Which is insanely thrilling. It was incredible exciting to start with nothing but a dream, fall into a partnership for the fun, and—against the odds—wind up going pro with a cross-genre project. The “Dark Age Dawning” trilogy fits firmly in the romance genre because without the couples at the center of each book, the center would not hold.
And happy endings all around! But we provide elements of fantasy and horror too. We hope to have created something new and exciting. We think of Nightfall as groundbreaking, fresh, hot, gritty, edgy, violent, and dark. It’s a new brand of romance.
Book Pushers: The “Dark Age Dawning” series has some intense world building. What do you do to keep all your details consistent? Is there a super secret series bible out there somewhere?
Ann: I’m amazingly good at keeping track of that sort of thing. Which is ironic, given that I can’t remember people’s faces or certain details about day-to-day life. But I know my fictional worlds like the back of my hand. We don’t have a series bible, but we do have a secret timeline.
Carrie: The timeline is so key! Ann was my guide through the process of worldbuilding, because my experience has been writing historical romance. There, I have historical fact as my guideline, with only my characters and events to keep track of. With this series, we needed to work out the logistics in a way that stayed consistent across all three books. Ann’s expertise in that aspect of craft was a fantastic asset.
Book Pushers: Was it difficult to hop back and forth between the intense writing of thehorrors in the world, and the sweet romance between Jenna and Mason?
Ann: It made for nice breaks in the action, so that made it easier. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to write a fight scene. And sometimes you don’t feel like writing the sexytimes, so all the various elements make for a fantastic, diverse workday.
Carrie: I liked writing the fine-edged contrast between violence for the sake of survival and the violence inherent in fresh passion. All of their frustrations boil over at key moments that were so much fun to write. I cannot imagine people being in a life-or-death, end-of-the-world scenario and not be subject to those intense emotions.
Book Pushers: What is you’re favourite dark setting from either a book or movie?
Ann: I love Larissa Ione’s Demonica world. Karina Cooper’s world in the Dark Mission series is very intriguing as well. As for films, I’d say my favorite worlds are Resident Evil, The Terminator, and Blade Runner — in no particular order.
Carrie: I’m a sucker for monster movies–not horror movies where psychos are the badguys, but where zombies or sharks or aliens are there for the explicit purpose of dying in grim ways. My favorites are Aliens, 28 Days Later, and Pitch Black, as well as apocalyptic classics like The Terminator. There’s a reason why Ann and I work so well together!
Book Pushers: What is your dark favourite hero or heroine (Has’ is Riddick and Minn’s is those Boondock Saints brothers *faint*) and why do they appeal to you?
Ann: Riddick, obviously. I’ve seen Pitch Black a hundred times. He appeals to me because he’s the ultimate anti-hero. He’s dark, dangerous, mysterious, bad-ass and unknowable, but he’s not one-dimsensional. He has the capacity to learn and grow. By the end, he cares about Caroline and he’s wounded by her fate. He cares about Jack and tries to protect her by keeping his distance. Oh, Riddick. But I also love the Boondock Saints, too. They have Batman-style of cool, don’t they? There’s just something about a vigilante.
Carrie: I’m gonna have to go with Jim and Selena from 28 Days Later. They adapt mad-crazy fast, protect one another, and manage to find a small corner of the world to be together. I love how, by the big fight scene climax, the viewer can hardly tell Jim apart from the zombies. He went from a vulnerable, naked (totally!), thin, recovering hospital patient to a hardass! But yes, Riddick is incredible too. Pitch Black was an amazing surprise, now a near-classic in sci-fi. So good.
Book Pushers: If tomorrow was the apocalypse, what would you do to go out in style?
Ann: I’d hire a bodyguard who knew what he was doing.
Carrie: Well, I’d certainly ditch this diet and find a box of godiva. And gin. Lots of gin.
Book Pushers: Can you give a hint to what you are cooking up next after this series?
Ann: *smiles mysteriously*
Carrie: Oh, no. Not a word. Keeping secrets is too much fun!
Thank you so much, Ann and Carrie for taking the time to answer our questions!!! Ann and Carrie will also be giving away two copies of Nightfall, and will be open to all. To enter, what is your favorite post apocaylyptic movie/book or character?
The giveaway will end next Friday, July the 1st – Midnight GMT!