Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

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  • Bree Despain interviews Colleen Houck about ‘Reawakened’

    August 17, 2015

    Bree Despain interviews Colleen Houck about ‘Reawakened’
    Special for USA TODAY12:08 a.m. EDT August 12, 2015

    Today, HEA hosts Bree Despain, whose latest release is The Eternity Key (book two in the Into the Dark series), chatting with fellow author Colleen Houck about her new YA fantasy, Reawakened, the first book in a new series.

    Bree: I love that Amon is a noble prince but also a fish out of water in the modern world — who doesn’t know things like to watch out for taxis on the streets of Manhattan, or that hot dogs aren’t really made out of dogs. And then on the other hand, Lily is a highly organized, Ivy-League-bound, savvy New Yorker. Will you tell us more about these two characters and their inspirations? What parts of you are reflected in your characters?

    Colleen: With Amon I tried to imagine what the modern world would look like to a man who hadn’t been alive for a millennium. I’m sure it would be fascinating and frightening, especially when he rose from the dead in New York City! At the same time, he has vast powers that mortals couldn’t comprehend so I would think he’d be more curious about the things he saw than he would fear them.

    Then there’s Lily. My heroine lives a sort of self-imposed very strict lifestyle. She’s smart, in control, and wound up tighter than a ballerina’s hairdo. She’s inspired partly by my crazy organized side. The other half is an ambitious NYC girl — the type who can exercise on her way to work wearing tennis shoes and a skirt, while putting on makeup and conducting a business meeting. She has my sarcastic sense of humor, a version of which I also loaned to my other heroine, Kelsey, but these two girls couldn’t be more different. I’d like to think the three of us would come to appreciate each other … eventually.

    Bree: Being a total mythology buff, one of my favorite things about your books is your use of mythological elements from all over the world. What made you decide to write about Egyptian mythology in Reawakened? Where else did you pull mythological inspiration from?

    Colleen: I credit my middle-school English teacher for my love of mythology. She had huge posters of the Greek gods plastered all over her walls, and I spent an entire year staring at them and making up stories about their adventures. Egypt has always fascinated me. There’s something very romantic and mysterious about the mythology of that region, and I’ll admit that it was a bit difficult to wrap my head around it at times. But isn’t it awesome as an author to fashion these long-written-about characters into people we can not only understand but admire? Any time I’m researching a series, I reread all my mythology books and jot down themes and ideas that I think might be applicable. Since death is an obvious element when writing about mummies, I kept notes on all types of death rituals and my villain ended up being a necromancer of sorts. It’s so exciting to take all these stories and try to wrap them into one big epic adventure.

    Bree: When I read your books, I can really tell that you do your research. You take us to exotic locations all over the world — and then beyond to fantasy realms — and everything feels so detailed and real. Tell us about your research process. Are you a world traveler? If not, how do you go about finding such wonderful details to share with your readers?

    Colleen: Sadly, I have not traveled as much as I would like to. I’ve always been interested in seeing other places, trying new foods and learning new languages. Every time I head out of state, I try to take a city tour and book a reservation at a new restaurant. There are so many things to see in this beautiful world, I’d hate to miss out when opportunities like that come along. When I can’t get to a place I’m writing about, I do the next best thing. I seek out local restaurants and shops that reflect that culture and read as many books as I can to get a feel for a place. I watch YouTube videos and take virtual tours, too, keeping copious notes on the things that inspire me. Once I spent an hour just watching traffic videos in Mumbai so I could study patterns, cars, animals, shops, etc. Sometimes that’s the best an author can do. I think it’s much easier to create my own fantasy world than it is to truly grasp and give the proper credit to a culture that already exists. There’s a responsibility to get it right that sits on my shoulders, and even though I know it will never be perfect, I want to do the best I can to be respectful to the cultures and communities I write about.
    Bree: On that note, what is the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of book research?

    Colleen: I think the craziest thing I ever looked up was how a body decomposes. I researched a place called The Body Farm. Bodies that are donated to science are brought to this huge “farm” and are left in various types of environments so forensic scientists can study the differences in how a body will decompose. Police and medical students go out there to do training. It’s such a fascinating and disgusting thing to expose yourself to and, yet, there are some careers, including that of an author on occasion, where that knowledge is not only useful but necessary.

    Bree: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of your Tiger’s Curse fans — they are a devoted and passionate group of readers. However, many authors find that even dedicated readers may be reluctant to follow their favorite author to a new series and a new set of characters. Will you give us what you think are the best reasons that Tiger’s Curse fans will also love Reawakened?

    Colleen: That is an excellent observation. It’s funny because the biggest reaction I got from fans when I announced the Egyptian series was, “What about the tigers?” Our goal as authors is to build a career and hope that readers will follow us from book to book, from series to series, and yet I know as a reader myself that there is usually a series that ends up being my favorite. I would not be surprised at all for my most avid fans to feel a little betrayed that I am writing about something new. It was hard for me to move on, too! It’s a bit like breaking up with someone you still love but you know you can’t really be together any longer. It’s sad! On the other hand, I have really, really grown to love these new characters and if there is one thing these two series have in common, it’s the fast-paced adventure. My hope is that my readers will trust me to always keep it romantic, always keep it exciting, and always keep them guessing.

    Bree: Thank you so much for answering my questions, Colleen! As a Tiger’s Curse fan myself, I can personally say that your readers (new and old) will loveReawakened. It has magic, intrigue, exotic lands, three hot princes and, of course, a great romance. (I totally have a crush on Amon!) Do you have any parting thoughts on the new book for us?

    Colleen: Yes! There is more to come, readers. Much more. Nothing is exactly what it appears to be. You know how I like to leave you hanging by your fingertips while torturing you until you cry? Well, expect that and more. You won’t see the end coming. That’s a promise. =)

    Did someone mention lions?

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    Author Bio
    Colleen Houck

    New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she's not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.