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From Barnes & NobleSometimes when a writer gets involved in writing a series, a minor character comes along that catches the writer's imagination and demands that their story be told. When I wrote Tempting Evil, I had no idea that the baby girl with violet eyes and who seemed to understand far too much for a child that young was going to be one of those characters. In fact, she wasn't even supposed to come back into the series.
But appear she did in Embraced by Darkness. By then, Risa was a toddler who not only loved going as fast as possible on her plastic train, but one who, even at such a young age, could see death.
And that was the first inkling I had that this little girl was to become a whole lot more important to both the Riley Jenson series, and to me.
Over the next few books we caught more glimpses of the little girl who'd developed a love of Coke, cake, and her aunt Riley. But it was in Bound to Shadows that we had a true indication of just how unusual she truly was. Because in Bound by Shadows, the still young Risa walked into the gray fields-- the fields that lay between life and death--and convinced a grieving Riley to live rather than die.
And that was when I knew that Risa was going to get her own series.
But what sort of world would someone who could see death and walk through the gray fields inhabit? It wouldn't be the world of vampires, werewolves, and the Directorate. Someone who saw the spectre of death as an everyday occurrence wouldn't willingly step into a life that was filled with those things--and Riley wasn't ever likely to let any child she loved get drawn into the Directorate when she knew just how dangerous it could be.
Of course, the key phrase there is, ‘wouldn't willingly'.
And that became my jumping off point for the series. That, and Risa's heritage.
Because Risa's parents could never be considered normal. Her mom--Dia--isn't only a powerful psychic, but a lab-created Helki werewolf capable of shapeshifting her appearance as easily as she took on wolf form. But Risa's ability to walk the grey fields and see death--or rather, the reapers--came from her father, who was an Aedh.
If reapers are the beings who guide souls to heaven or hell, then the Aedh are the gatekeepers. Like the reapers, they're not flesh and blood beings, although they can attain that form if they wish. In flesh form, the reapers appear human, but the Aedh are winged creatures of immense beauty and power. They're also cold and clinical, possessing little in the way of human emotion.
And I began to wonder, what would happen if the gatekeepers were either no longer able to guard the gates, or better yet, no longer wanted to?
What if they decided it would be simpler to permanently close the gates to heaven and hell, not only stopping demons from escaping, but souls from moving on?
What if keys that were created to permanently lock the gates went missing before they could be used, and the only person who could find them again was a blood relative of the man who had stolen them--Risa's father.
And what if it wasn't only the Aedh and the reapers who were now looking for the keys, but a high vampire council who'd suddenly decided hell might just make an ideal prison...