When I began reading Shelly Laurenston's paranormal Call of Crows series, it quickly became apparent that Laurenston is a comic genius who understands that absurdity often lies at the heart of adventure and romance...and that when opposites attract, mayhem isn't too far behind.
Laurenston does it again with her newest book, Hot and Badgered, which is easily the top contender for Best Book Title of the Year.
Hot and Badgered centers on Charlie MacKilligan and her two half-sisters, all of whom get into nearly fatal trouble on a regular basis. (Max, the middle sister, has her own rocket launcher. Stevie, the youngest, likes to check herself into fancy mental institutions for peace and quiet.) But when Charlie crosses paths with a grizzly shifter working as the bodyguard to a world-famous musician, things get even weirder. And more deadly.
We spoke with Laurenston by phone just before the book hit shelves and Kindles this week.
Adrian Liang: Hot and Badgered features three half-sisters, all of whom have a honey badger shape-shifter dad. What encouraged you to ditch the more common shifter species and focus on honey badgers?
Shelly Laurenston: It was actually the video that came out many years ago. I do a lot of research: I watch a lot of videos to watch animal interaction, to see how lions work, and wolves work, and bears. So when I saw it, I started researching honey badgers, and I just fell in love with them. They are so tiny, but they're so mean. [Laughs] And they never back down. They will take on an entire pride of lions, they will take on a pack of wild dogs, and they don't care that the lion is 300 pounds. They just don't care. The more I read about them, the more I was like, "This has to be a heroine." And then I just ran with it. I found them fascinating.
Charlie is the main character, and she's half wolf, half honey badger. Is your plan to give her half-sisters their own books too?
Absolutely. That's already planned. I'm working on the second one actually now, which is Stevie. She's the baby, she's the prodigy. She's fun, because she's part tiger and she's part badger. [The sisters] are an outlier even in the badger world of my books, because usually when a honey badger mates with another shifter, it doesn't matter who they mate with or what breed or species they mate with—they will only have honey badger offspring. But because of the messed-up genes of their father, somehow that's gone wrong for the three of them. Although Max [the middle sister] is all honey badger, even she is weird to other honey badgers. They find her off-putting, and they're concerned she's a serial killer because she smiles all the time and she seems very happy, and honey badgers are never happy. [Laughs] So that allows for a lot of fun and lets me push the limits for what I could do.
Is Hot and Badgered connected to any of your other books?
It is connected to my Pride series. That was one of my earlier series that I finished a few years ago. I wrote the ninth book, and I needed a break. So while on break, I came up with this idea. And when I was done with the [Call of] Crows series, I ran with this one.
You also write under the name G. A. Aiken. What was behind your decision to write under two names?
I've loved dragons since I was a little kid. I think I was the only person I knew of who watched an early dragon movie—I think Dragon Slayer—and I was the only one who whimpered when the hero came in and killed all the dragon's offspring. I was like, "No! Not the babies!" Because I thought they were just so cute. Cute, vicious animals. [Laughs] I've always loved dragons, so I decided to write a dragon series. And I'd written two and gotten them epubbed through my early company, and then I showed them to Kate Duffy, who was the editorial director at Kensington at the time, and she loved them. We decided to re-release them, but I already had several of the Pride books about to come out, and she didn't want a conflict of too many books from the same author coming out at the same time. So she suggested that I write it under G. A. Aiken. And that's how that came about.
The covers on your books can look pretty serious and grim, but they're hilarious inside too. How did you discover that you can writer great comedy, or was this a skill that you've worked at developing?
I have to say, I owe it to my big brother. He was older—he was nine years older than me—so when I was too young, probably, I watched Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, Basil Fawlty… all the British comedies. He loved that stuff, and I grew up on that stuff. So comedy just came to me. He was very picky about his comedy, and I've grown to be picky too. If it's not funny, it doesn't make the cut in the book. I've been lucky that I've been exposed to a lot of comedy. And the way my family deals with tragedy as well as good times is with humor. As long as you can find something to laugh at, at some point during the day, everything will be okay. That's my philosophy.
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