I discovered Owl and the Japanese Circus when Jenn Bennett raved about it on Twitter. As soon as I was able to request an ARC, I jumped at the chance. It's got some really original world building and the story is so much fun! (Just like Jenn said it would be.) So I'm really excited to be part of the blog tour. We got the chance to ask Kristi Charish some questions about herself and her debut novel.
G3W: Happy New Year Kristi! We’re so excited to have on the blog today!
KC: Are you kidding? Thanks for having me!
G3W: Your background is in science. What made you decide to start writing Urban Fantasy?
KC: Honestly? I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and games. I used to play Never Winter Nights and Balders Gate on my laptop while I was in between experiments or running samples on the automated microscopes.
I finally decided to try my hand at writing while finishing up my thesis (1 hour thesis- 1-2 hours fiction). I actually started with both fantasy and sci-fi, but was drawn to UF because there’s a real subtle trick in layering the fantasy parts over the real world. It’s a fun challenge to try and make it convincing without ruining the fun, and it’s not as far off from my science training as you might think :)
G3W:Tell us a little about Owl and what inspired you to tell her story.
KC: Owl and the Japanese Circus is my debut urban fantasy and my first completed novel. It’s about ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl— who has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.
As to what inspired Owl: It’s heavily inspired by all the 80’s adventure movies I used to watch over and over: Indiana Jones, Jewel of the Nile, Big Trouble Little China- even The Mummy is a big influence for me.
BUT, when I first sat down to write Owl I’d been struggling for a bit with third person narrative and really wanted to try something in first person. I had just finished a writing prompt exercise (where the prompt was ‘When death’s clowns came for me’) and had also just finished reading a mystery novel called ‘The Water Rat of Wanchai’ by Ian Hamilton (Ava Lee series). It was the first mystery I’d read in a while and I thought wouldn’t it be great to write something like that! Prompt and mystery novel idea in hand, I started writing about an antiquities thief...with absolutely no monsters, it was going to be a normal book, a break from fantasy...
That lasted all of twenty pages when I realized I’d accidentally written a dragon into the novel.
G3W: The vampires in Owl’s world are unlike any I’ve ever seen. How did you develop their mythos? What made you decide to make them smell?
KC: I’m glad you liked them! It’s not the first time pheromones have been used for vampires- Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher all use a similar mechanism in their books- the vampires all have a chemical that subdues their prey and over time is addictive. In my case, I didn’t want my vampires to be omniscient supernaturals...more like cockroaches of the supernatural underworld. I decided to go with something that was less bite dependent, chemically volatile and aromatic (easily identifiable by scent), and incredibly addictive. That way my vampires didn’t have to be super strong or powerful to subdue prey- they just have to get close enough so their prey can smell them.
G3W: I know that the Ancient Egyptians really liked their cats. Is that what inspired Captain? Have you ever had a cat like him? (Well, probably not the vampire hunting part.)
KC: So, shameful admission here. I may have written my twenty lb house cat into my novel. There are a lot of similarities between Captain and Captain Flash- particularly the obsession with food and his propensity for “talking” at me. Though the real version hunts socks, not vampires. Seriously, he destroys my socks and he’s a ninja at stealing them when I’m not looking.
Captain in the series is also heavily inspired by the Egyptian Mau’s of legends, but instead of being mythical guardians of the underworld, they were actually bred to attack vampires. I thought it was a fun and more practical twist on the legends.
G3W: If you could have Owl meet any character from another book or series, who would it be and what would they do?
KC: Though it would likely have the same result as tossing cats into a small box, I’d have to go with the characters out of The Mummy or Big Trouble in Little China. Who throws the first punch? That depends, who grabs the artifact first?
G3W: If you could be BFF’s for a day with any of your characters, who would it be and why?
KC: Can we count Captain in there? I think it’s an even toss up between Nadya and Owl. Nadya is a lot more cautious than Owl and is the kind of person who goes out of her way to show her friends a good time. But all bets are off if I get to tomb raid with Owl... I’d just cross my fingers she brought the Corona and hope real hard I didn’t end up dead in the process:)
G3W: Do you have any books to recommend that have a similar feel to yours? or Do you have any book recommendations for us in general?
KC: Comparing your work to someone else’s is a hard one for writers. It elicits extreme feelings of unworthiness. What I can say is that the inspiration for Owl came more from favorite movies of mine: Indiana Jones (Temple of Doom and Raiders) and The Mummy. I’m also a fan of Kim Harrison (The Hollows) and Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) and love their procedural feel. For anyone wanting to dip into urban fantasy, I’d strongly recommend them along with Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series. For non-fantasy, Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series is one of my favorites.
G3W: Can you tell us about Kincaid Strange and what else you’re working on this year?
KC: Kincaid Strange isn’t your average Voodoo practitioner.
For starters, she lives in Seattle.
With the new restrictions and regulations in place for raising the dead- and the fact that the Seattle PD have dropped her paranormal consulting contract- Kincaid and her roommate, the ghost of deceased 90's grunge rocker, Nathan Cade, resign themselves to running semi legal séances up at the University for students with more money than sense and desperate for guitar lessons. That is until the dead bodies start piling up and Kincaid has to find a serial killer before the blame finds it’s way to her.
Besides Kincaid #2 and 3 this year (Owl 2 is already handed in) I also try to post parts to my Canadian Blood Diamonds serialized story over on Wattpad. It’s free for anyone who wants to read.
G3W: What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?
KC: I like readingJ I’m also a fan of RPG video games and have been clocking a lot of hours on the new Dragon Age and South Park.
I also try to keep active. Yoga is my current torture exercise of choice. Besides that, I love to travel- the more deserted the tropical beach the better.
3W: What are you currently reading or what book have you just finished?
KC: Like always I’ve got a few books on my plate at the moment: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and on audible I’m listening to The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, Death Masks by Jim Butcher, and The Monuments Men are up next.
Recently finished: The King of Shanghai, by Ian Hamilton (Amazing), reread the Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffrey, and Patricia Briggs Alpha & Omega series.
Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.
Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.
Read the first chapter of Owl and the Japanese Circus here.
Scroll down or click here to read our review.
Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.
Also check out Kristi Charish's Wattpad site for some of her short stories.
Enter to win your very own copy of Owl and the Japanese Circus. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL. Residents of the U.S. and Canada can choose either a signed paperback or a digital copy of the book. Everyone else will receive a digital copy. You must be at least 13 years old to enter.