Karen Kincy as she talks about the new cover for Other, out in 2010. (Click on the picture of the cover for all its full glory. Check out that tiny werewolf in the corner!)
What was your first reaction upon seeing the cover?
Karen Kincy: It involved me opening an email from my editor, scrolling past all the text (which he said to read first), seeing the attached image, and going, "EeEeEeEe!" I jumped out of my chair and did a little jig on the carpet, which attracted the attention of my roommate and my boyfriend, who prowled over to investigate. I then spent the rest of the day telling them, "Isn't it pretty? Isn't MY COVER so pretty?" and making Vanna White poses around the computer screen. Sorry, Editor B, for skipping to the image and accidentally leaking the cover to two people.
What did you first notice about it?
Oh, wow. It's Gwen! The model really looks like her.
How long have you known?
For a month or so now. Waiting until I could share the cover was nail-biting!
Was it how you envisioned your cover to be?
Yes! They got everything right: Gwen, her shapeshifting into an owl, the spooky-rainy forest, the werewolf silhouette... plus I requested no curly, too-romance-y font for the title. And it isn't curly. Overall, the cover really looks like an illustration of the first scene in the book.
How did the process of the cover come along? Did you make notes for them to refer to?
Flux was great about including me in the process. My editor asked me for a list of covers that I liked, as well as what elements I would/wouldn't like to see in my cover. We talked for a bit, and then he presented our ideas to the designer, who went to town with them.
Did it exceed your expectations?
I didn't have too many concrete expectations, other than knowing Flux usually does amazing covers for their books and hoping mine would also be amazing.
Finally, a teaser! The first five pages in Other:
I can’t last much longer. It’s been one week, three days, and I forget how many hours.
My belly cramps, and I curl on my bed, staring out at the stars. A delicious breeze glides through my window and cools my sweaty forehead. The air smells of summer—mowed grass, recent rain, lingering barbecue—and tempts me more than I want to admit. Shards of moonlight and shadow shift on the wall. I clench my teeth and toes and try to ride out the pain. My bedroom drifts counterclockwise, and I shut my eyes.
It can’t be good for me, not shapeshifting.
All the don’ts I’ve heard circle through my mind like vultures preying on my doubts. Don’t worry about what people think of Others, Gwen, they don’t understand. Don’t worry, Gwen, we love you just the way you are, but don’t tell anyone outside the family. If they don’t know you’re Other, it won’t hurt anyone. And don’t ever let anyone see you shapeshift, especially not the neighbors. Don’t.
I shouldn’t. It’s stupid, dangerous, unnecessary—no, it’s very necessary. Just taboo.
I kick off my blankets, slide out of bed, and lock my door. My heartbeat quickens. My breathing sounds too loud. I glimpse a pair of golden lights reflected in the mirror above my bookcase: my eyes, betraying their true nature. Most of the time I pass them off as pale hazel. Maybe my body’s telling me I should be human only 50% of the time, because that’s what I am. Half-human. The rest: a guilty pleasure, a shameful secret.
Screw it. I’m going to. I have to, it’s as urgent as breathing.
I don’t look at my reflection as I peel off my T-shirt, pants, underwear. Embarrassing sometimes, but I have to be naked. A shudder both painful and pleasurable ripples down my spine. Tingles build in the pit of my stomach. I tighten my abs, trying to hold it back. Can I get outside before it happens? I don’t think so.
My skin prickles as if I ran naked through a field of nettles. It becomes almost unbearable. I hug myself tight, then gasp as magic floods my veins. My mind blanks, and it happens between heartbeats.
When I open my eyes, I’m on all fours, carpet beneath my hooves. The floor groans, and I wince. Hopefully it won’t come crashing down under my half-ton weight. I see myself in the mirror. A pure black horse. I arch my neck and toss my mane, then sidestep from my reflection. My hoof clunks on a bedpost. I didn’t choose this big awkward animal, trust me—it’s what comes most naturally to me. My nostrils flare at the sweet scent of grass, and I stick my head out the window to ogle the lawn.
Whoa there, Gwen, I tell myself.
My legs itch with unspent energy. I want to go outside, even as guilt wriggles in my gut. I hate having to sneak around like a pervert. Well, if the neighbors saw me, what would they do? Probably they’d freak and break out the pitchforks. In a backwoods town like Klikamuks, Washington, laws can be conveniently forgotten, and nice politically correct terms like “person with paranormal identity” disappear.
Whatever. I’ve earned this. I’ll be careful. I’ve been a good little girl for long enough. It’s easy to transform again, giddy with lingering magic. Back to girl I go. I climb through the window and onto the roof. Naked, I curl my bare toes around shingles and grin nervously in the moonlight. I hope nobody’s awake.
Wind tosses my curls. I clench my hands and stir the magic inside me. Power boils through my veins, dizzying me. Concentrate. The night snaps into sharper focus. I jump. My arms, my wings, strain upward. Feathers unfurl from my skin. My plummet curves into a swoop, and I tuck my talons beneath my body.
From girl to great horned owl in about a second. Pretty good, huh?
Flapping hard, I climb skyward in a tight spiral, then fan my wings and coast on the wind. My moldy old white farmhouse of a home almost looks quaint so far below. With my fantastic eyesight, I can count the morning glories clambering over the rusty swing set in our yard. Rodents scritch and nibble in the tall grass, and my stomach aches. No. Bad owl. Shapeshifting always makes me hungry.
Unfortunately, I know what mice taste like. To avoid temptation, I gain altitude. A somber amethyst glow colors the clouds to the west—the lights of Klikamuks. To the east, toward the Cascades, lies truly dark sky. I fly into the darkness. A sea of trees sighs beneath me. Nearly 50,000 acres of old-growth forest lies beyond our backyard. The Boulder River Wilderness Area, part of the much larger Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. A perfect hideout for Others like me.
I stretch my wings, a sweet ache in my muscles, and ride a breeze. I always forget how boring my normal life is until I fly. A weight in my stomach tells me this is wrong, I shouldn’t be sneaking out and unleashing my Otherness. I focus so hard on enjoying the sensation of soaring that the pleasure fades.
Howls chorus in the distance. Adrenaline spikes my blood. Please don’t it let it be what I’m thinking. Coyotes sound a lot more yippy, dogs don’t run in packs around here, and there are no real wolves left in Washington.
Werewolves. Great. Just what I need.
The moon glows like a Cheshire cat’s grin. It’s a myth that werewolves can change only on the full moon. That time of month forces them to, but if they’re strong enough, they can transform whenever they want. Apparently I’m not the only Other sneaking out for a midnight shapeshifting snack. Did these werewolves come down from Canada? I heard about a pack up there, bane of farmers and ranchers.
Hooves drum a panicked beat on the dirt. I swivel my head to pinpoint the sound and dive. A stag bounds over a log and crashes through bushes. I swoop so low I can see the fearful gleaming whites of his eyes.
The stag disappears in the darkness. I want to go to bed.
Flying home feels like a chore. I swoop through my open window, bang my wing on the frame, and curse silently. I have to stop doing this. Starving myself, then binge transformations. But I can’t keep my Otherness bridled 24/7, even if my parents and the whole wide world think I should. I return to my girl body and exhale.
My stomach grumbles loudly enough to resemble seismic activity. I sigh, tug on my clothes, and sneak downstairs to refuel on food. After eating a bagel sandwich, I climb back into my bed, my cocoon.
My stomach is full, but I still feel hungry. Sleep refuses to come.
Only werewolves would be stupid enough to hunt so close to a town and risk terrifying humans. You know, werewolves, vampires, and the rest of the bloodborn Others really piss me off sometimes. They just can’t resist biting a lot of people and making new Others who don’t play by the rules. There are laws for a reason. People won’t give a damn about the rights of Others if rogue werewolves insist it’s their birthright to hunt without permits and claim territory already owned by the government.
I wasn’t bitten. I was born this way. My dad—my real dad—was a pooka, a shapeshifting spirit from Wales. You probably haven’t heard of them. No, they’re not something cute and cuddly, and please don’t ever call me pookie. A few surviving pookas hide in scraps of British wilderness. I don’t know about any other halfbreeds like me. Maybe they’re also under the bed, as they say. Monsters that haven’t come out yet.
Everybody’s read the stories, but nobody should believe them. Not even that stuff in Paranormal Studies textbooks. They say pookas show up as a dark horse with glowing golden eyes, stalking travelers on murky nights, inviting them on wild rides, throwing them into bogs, over cliffs, trampling them…
Human propaganda against Others. I’ve never done that. They also accuse pookas of destroying crops and breaking down fences. Blame livestock, I say. Okay, so I did try making crop circles with a friend. Once.
But why do I want to shapeshift so often? Is it normal? Ha, as if I can call myself normal. Is something wrong with me? This isn’t the first night I’ve laid awake in bed, the urge to shapeshift boiling over. It seems to be getting worse as I’m getting older. I can’t remember this ever happening when I was a kid.
Maybe it’s natural, nothing to worry about. I wish I could ask my pooka dad, but I’ve never met him. I’d ask my parents if they ever might possibly be able to help me, but the likelihood of that is a big fat no. They’re humans—I’m not.
What did you think of that? Thanks so much for that interview and excerpt, Karen!
Cross-posted at: LiyanaLand! on 17 November 2009.
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