Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 3 - Jana Denardo

Now here's an extra treat - today we've got Jana Denardo, author of recently-released Kept Tears.  I happened to pick this up while gearing up for the relaunch (there's a special place in my heart for 'Burgh stories!), and I really enjoyed it.  I don't often go for urban fantasy (or much fantasy other than the original classics of the genre) but this one was so relatable I never really felt like an "outsider" to the story.  It was really very sensible, real fantasy - which makes sense for a Pittsburgh setting, we do sensible pretty well... with a nice undercurrent of mystery - and left me wanting more, in quite a good way.

Ok, enough of my gushing.  Let's hear from Jana.

When I started Kept Tears I knew from the earliest moments where it would be set, even before I knew Rhys would be fae (I always knew Aaron would be a disabled veteran). For me, setting is pretty important. I travel a lot and I’ve lived all over. I like to put my travels into my stories. My short story Haunted in the Two Tickets to Paradise anthology was based on my travels in Victoria on Vancouver Island and Crisis in Faith, my Vampires in Vegas story is set in a city I find fascinating and over the top. For Kept Tears, I decided on Pittsburgh, PA, and it’s a natural for me. Not only is it an iconic city in its own right, but, like Aaron, I grew up within twenty-five miles from down town.

Pittsburgh is a fun city and I go there often both in person and in fiction. Kept Tears isn’t the only work I set there. My 1930’s demon hunters in the novella The Darkest Midnight in December is also set in Pittsburgh.  In Aaron and Rhys’s story, I wanted to help support some ‘hometown’ businesses, like the Church Brew Works, that Aaron and Rhys go to on their first date. In fact almost all of the restaurants mentioned are real as are most of the places they go to on their dates. Primanti Brothers is one of favorite sandwich places and it’s one of those places a lot of non-Pittsburghers have heard of.

Much of Kept Tears is set on Pitt’s sprawling urban campus, and there is a lot of character there, especially if you consider the art deco beauty of the Cathedral of Learning and its nationality rooms. The medieval-looking Commons appeals to Aaron’s geeky sense of history and Renn fair cosplay. Aaron’s life is dominated by being a grad student at Pitt, so its campus plays a real role in Aaron’s life.

In polar opposites, there is Rhys’s homeland, the fae realms. This allowed my imagination to run free. It’s a magical place, so I could do nearly anything with it. I borrowed from existing lore and went from there. It was also interesting to contrast Rhys’s perception of his home and Aaron’s when he first gets to lay eyes on a world he could never have imagined existed.

Excerpt - “I had no idea the nationality rooms in the Cathedral of Learning were so beautiful,” Rhys said as Aaron led him back to what he called the Commons. It looked more Gothic and medieval than castles Rhys had been in. Last week, he had been afraid that Aaron might bolt when Rhys suggested the young man come to his house. That adventure had gone better than Rhys expected, and he was content to let Aaron chose more neutral grounds, like the Cathedral, until he was ready for a more intimate setting. “I’m glad you suggested having a look around.”

“Pitt has some really unique things. The Cathedral is one of them, and so many people don’t even know the rooms exist. What was your favorite part?” Aaron’s eyes gleamed as they headed into the Commons. Their footfalls echoed in the vaulted room. Most of the wooden tables and chairs were empty.

“Other than this, where I feel like I should be running around in armor, the Chinese Room. The ceiling is incredible.” Rhys took Aaron’s hand, thrilled he let him. What he wanted to do was lead the young man out of the building to somewhere more secluded. He wondered if there was a chance he could talk Aaron into letting his hair grow a little longer. The dark-walnut hue was alluring but, while it wasn’t the Marine high-and-tight style, it was short, which didn’t allow for the natural wave—what little Rhys could see of it—to do much. He considered the possibility the hairstyle had less to do with previous military affiliations and more to do with being difficult for Aaron to deal with if he let it get a little longer and more stylish.

“Yes, it is. I have to admit, I like that better than the room my cultural ancestors made, not that the Italian Room is ugly by any means.”

“Not at all,” Rhys replied as Aaron looked back over his shoulder intently. Rhys glanced in that direction but didn’t see anything other than a few students meandering through. “Something wrong?”

Aaron shook his head. “Thought I saw someone I knew, a photographer friend, but I must have been mistaken.

“Ah. Want to go get some dinner?” Rhys caught Aaron’s good arm, pulling him to a halt behind the thick stone column. Resting against the column, Rhys scoped out the main hall. From here, it was as if they were alone in the king’s castle, and Rhys knew something about king’s castles.

“Yes, but why do I think you have something else in mind?” Aaron asked as Rhys tugged him closer.

“Because you are an intelligent man.”

Author Bio - Jana Denardo's career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and gives college students nightmares. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet.

Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. It is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds, or a roguish starship captain to run off to the stars with her.

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