My good friend, the fabulous writer Veronica Wolff, with whom I often share very productive writing dates, is an accomplished author of Scottish historical romance (that’s Veronica above her wonderful husband Adam and me at my holiday party). But this month she has a new venture. A young adult novel, The Isle of Night, the first book in The Watchers series.

When Annelise left for college, it meant good riddance to her abusive father and stepmother—until a bureaucratic screw-up left her without a diploma, flat broke, and facing an uncertain future Then she met Ronan—tall, dark, and way too seductive for her own good. He promised Annelise a new life, if she had the courage to chance the unknown. One look at him and she certainly had the desire. Sure enough, accepting rides from strangers does yield surprises.

Whisked away to a mysterious island in the North Sea, Annelise is pitted against other female recruits in tests of skill, smarts, and strength. To win is to become a member of the Watchers, an elite and unique partnership—with vampires—that dispatches its teams on the most dangerous missions imaginable. It’s not exactly what Annelise had in mind for a new beginning but it’s livelier than the alternative. Because on the Isle of Night, to lose the challenge doesn’t just mean dishonor. It means death.

Let the games begin.

In talking to Veronica, I was intrigued to learn that one of the inspirations for the Watchers was the television show Alias. It makes sense that Alias would inspire a story of a young woman thrust into a world of danger and adventure. With its intricate spy plots, multi-generational conspiracy, and couples frequently on opposite sides, Alias was also an inspiration for the Charles & Mélanie/Malcolm & Suzanne books. I love how the same inspiration can lead to very different sorts of books.

Isle of Night has been getting some fantastic advance praise:

“Isle of Awesome.” – Young Adult Books Central

“…one of the most dangerous, romantic, and exciting paranormal YA titles I’ve read all year.” – All Things Urban Fantasy

“Veronica Wolff’s world is a heady combo of terrifying and seductive… Annelise’s journey from brainy to fearsome is fantastic, and if you like your vampires old-school scary, fear not: Wolff’s have real bite.” – Rachel Caine, Internationally bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series

Here’s a brief taste of this fascinating story and world:

“My name is Claude Fournier, but you shall call me Headmaster Fournier.” He strolled along the length of the platform. “We use many formal terms of address. Tradition, you see, is the cornerstone on our isle, and though many of you might find our manners…passé”—he gave a little flourish with his hand—“if you embrace the old ways, you will soon find yourself a much improved young lady.”

Young lady? Something was wrong here.

“Our old ways, you see, are quite old.” He gave us a wicked pouting smile that made my instincts jangle in warning. “We live by a code. Only those who abide by our principles, succeed. Our standards are high, our expectations, higher. But a few will exceed expectations. They are the girls who shall flourish.”

What sort of school was this? All this talk of manners and traditions—something was definitely amiss.

“You see”—he paused dramatically—“we are Vampire.”

Some primal instinct in the back of my mind warned me to be very, very careful. I held still, expectantly, and I watched.

The chatter exploded again, but this time a broad laugh pealed above the din. It was Mimi.

Headmaster Fournier grew still as stone. His eyes swept the crowd—dancing over me for one chilling moment—and then rested on Mimi. “Do I amuse you?”

“Yeah,” she said, sounding bored.

“Then please”—he stretched out his hand—“come join me…” He raised his eyebrows, waiting for her name.

“Mimi.” She held her mouth open on the word as though too annoyed even to shut it.

“Girls, make way for your fellow student.” His indulgent tone of voice scared me more than the word vampire had. It was the sound of an adult ready to give someone a lesson.

Fournier took her hand, guiding her onto the stage. When he spoke again, it was gently, and only to her. It felt like we were spying on an intimate moment. “As I was saying, we are Vampire.”

She pulled her hand from his, shaking her head in disgust. “I seen some effed-up shit in Miami, pero esta casa de putas? Count me out, man.”

The next part happened so fast, at first my brain didn’t register what my eyes were seeing. And even when I got what I saw, it took me a few heartbeats to get it get it. I stared, frozen, from the inside out.

Mimi hung limply in Headmaster’s arms. Because he’d just shredded her belly up the middle.

He grinned at us with bloody lips, and I spotted one inhumanly long, razor-sharp tooth as it caught on the corner of his mouth.

A few heartbeats of silence, and then the girls began to scream.

Not me, though. I’d weathered casual cruelty before. It was random and merciless, and I knew not to court it. I forced my breath to draw in, then out. I imagined myself as inconspicuous as possible.

Eyja næturinnar. It was an island of darkness. I would fit in here.

Because if I didn’t, I’d die.


You can see a fabulous trailer for Isle of Night here.

Veronica will be giving away a copy of Isle of Night to one of the commenters on this week’s blog. Do you have a favorite vampire story? Did you watch Alias? Can you see how it could have inspired both Veronica’s and my series?

By the way, this week’s Fraser Correspondence letter is Lady Frances’s response to Geoffrey Blackwell’s letter last week about his betrothal to Aline.

As those of you who’ve seen my updates on Twitter and Facebook will know, I’m currently trying to name two new secondary characters. I got some great feedback, so I thought I would extend the discussion here. As I’ve blogged about before, I find naming characters both fun and at times frustrating, because the right name has so much to do with making the character come to life. And of course the same name conjures up different images for different readers, which is why I love getting different people’s reactions.

The characters in question are an estranged married couple. She’s aristocratic but a bit of a scandal now thanks to the public disaster of her marriage. Impetuous, clever, witty, a once heedless, romantic girl turned cynical. Sort of a combination of Ellen Olenska, Barbara Childe, and Kitty Fane with a bit of Caroline Lamb thrown in for good measure. He’s also very well born (wealthier than she was), a classical scholar turned soldier. A serious young man who fell desperately in love and had it all blow up in his face. A bit of Jack Bristow from Alias, a bit of Lord Damerel (though he hasn’t become a rake), a bit of William Lamb.

Possible names for her:


Possible names for him:


Possible surnames:


Any favorite names? Any names not on the list you think would be good for one or both characters? (I’m very open to new suggestions).

Do names have a lot to do with the image you form of a character when reading? Writers, how do you go about naming your characters?

Be sure to check out the new Fraser Correspondence letter I’ve just posted from Charles to David.

My friend and fellow writer Penny Williamson and I spent a wonderful afternoon today at a party of Dorothy Dunnett readers. Dunnett readers, as I’ve blogged about before, tend to be a fun, well-read, and extraordinarily nice group of people. Over tea and wine and a delicious array of food we talked about books by Dunnett and others as well as favorite television series.

There’s something about Dunnett’s books that particularly lends them to discussion and analysis. They’re so complex and multi-layered. The books aren’t mysteries, but there are mysteries running through both the Lymond Chronicle and the House of Niccoló which provide endless food for debate and speculation. Even now both series are finished, plenty of unresolved questions remain. Add to that vivid historical context, rich literary allusions, and a fascinating cast of characters, and it’s hard to read Dunnett and not want to talk about the books. As we discussed at the party today, in the dark ages before the internet, we all had long lists of questions we wanted to discuss with other Dunnett readers. For a long time, the only other Dunnett reader I knew was my mom. We would discuss and debate the books all the time. Penny and I first became friends because we both loved Dunnett books. We’d spend long lunches talking over the Lymond Chronicle and debating what might happen next in the House of Niccoló.

Through my Dunnett friends, I’m also involved in a discussion group of Dunnett readers who watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer (you’d be amazed at the parallels :-)). This evening, I’ve been pondering what it is about certain stories that seem to particularly lend themselves to discussion. Ongoing story arcs are a big part of it, so book and television series both lend themselves to reader and viewer discussions, online and in person. Dunnetts’ series and BVTS both have complicated, ongoing stories, with plenty of questions about who’s real agenda is what, who will end up with whom, how characters may have been related to other characters in the past, and a host of other mysteries. Not to mention books, episodes, and seasons that end with nerve-wracking cliff hangers.

Another important element is characters one comes to care about and root for. Sometimes, particularly when there are romantic triangles, the rival merits of the characters become a topic of discussion. I recall a number of debates over Gelis verus Kathi in the House of Niccoló or Angel versus Spike on BVTS.

The X-Files and Alias also lend themselves to discussion, as does Lost (I’m watching last week’s episode as I write this and will probably have to rewatch it to make sure I didn’t miss a vital clue). I think the more a series, television or book, has an going mytharc (to use an X-Files term), with story and character development that extends from episode to episode or book to book, the more it lends itself to discussion. The mystery series I talk about the most with fellow readers may wrap up the central mystery within a book but the continuing characters have plenty of ongoing issues that stretch from book to book. Elizabeth George’s Lynley/Havers series, Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, and C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr series all come to mind. When I finish one of the books, I inevitably want to talk about it (particularly the in the case of the recent George and Harris books which left lots of unresolved questions). They aren’t mysteries, but the same is true of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. There are always questions, whether it’s about the identity of villains, Colin and Eloise, or the Pink Carnation herself.

Another thing all these series have in common is vivid, richly-detailed world-building, whether it’s Dunnett’s 15th and the 16th century Europe and beyond, suburban Sunnydale, Mulder & Scully’s conspiracy-rife FBI, Sydney Bristow’s CIA and the Alliance, an island that moves back and forth in time (and goodness knows what else), Lynley & Havers’s Scotland Yard, Holmes & Russell’s 20s Britain and beyond filled with puzzles and adventures, Sebastian St. Cyr’s dark Regency London, or the Pink Carnation’s adventure-filled Napoleonic Europe. They’re all worlds I enjoy visiting, filled with characters I enjoy spending time with.

Do you have favorite series, whether literary or on television, that lend themselves particularly to discussion? Do you seek out friends to talk them over with? What elements in series do you find particularly good topics for analysis?

Be sure to check out this week’s addition to the Fraser Correspondence, a letter from Quen to Charles.