by Hadena James
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
He skins his victims alive, taking pleasure from their pain.
In the cold, dark nights of Alaska, a hunter is stalking his prey. Once found, he takes them into the woods and skins them alive, prolonging the experience as much as he can, but the satisfaction always wanes.
Aislinn Cain and the Serial Crimes Tracking Unit have just finished up another case when they get the call. Now they are packing their bags and heading for Alaska in March. The team must overcome the hostile locals and harsh climate to catch a killer before he strikes again.
Barren trees covered in icicles and a crunchy snow covered landscape gave the impression of being in a winter wonderland. Hard to believe a dead body had been found here the day before, unless you looked at the ground.
The hard, crunchy snow was covered in footprints. Some of them were dirty, some clean, some buried under others, it looked like hundreds of people had come and gone down this path. My own snow-boots were leaving impressions as we continued forward, my footsteps falling in the impressions being left by Lucas’s shoes. There were already enough prints without adding mine. So I carefully walked in Lucas’s. His feet were almost twice the size of mine, making it easy.
Finally, the men stopped. I came up even with them and stared at the scene. There was a rope hanging from the tree with a hook on it. The rope looped over a branch and came down to where it was staked into the hardened ground.
There wasn’t nearly as much blood on the ground as I had expected. A few drops here and a medium sized puddle there were all that showed. There was another area though. It was distinctly different from the other. It looked as if the snow had partially melted and refroze.
“What’s that?” I pointed to the altered snow.
“His signature,” a trooper said to me. He walked over to it, I followed him.
“It doesn’t look like much,” I squinted to see if I could find any discernible features.
“We found skin here, laid out on the ground in the shape of a drawn back bow and arrow ready to be released. We removed the skin, but the salt melted the snow anyway.”
Q&A with the Author
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. I have a couple of bachelor’s degrees, none of them in English or writing. I’ve been offered publishing contracts in the past, but have chosen to be an indie author instead. I like having control of what my characters are doing.
Where and when did your writing journey begin?
When I was eight, we were assigned a creative writing activity in school. We were learning about fables and were supposed to write one. I got an A on the assignment and found my passion. I’ve been writing since then.
Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
HP Lovecraft is the only author to ever cause me nightmares.
Clive Barker is just a magician with words.
Jim Butcher is an odd one for me, I can’t actually read a Jim Butcher book, but I love the Dresden Files audiobooks.
A. Poe wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time called Never Bet the Devil Your Head. It isn’t one of his better known stories, but proves horror can be hilarious.
What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
My writing routine does not fit into my life. I wish it did. I spend the daytime hours creating blog posts, working on marketing and social media, playing with my dog, etc. I write at night, always have. My brain just kicks on about 9:00 pm and writing is all I can think about. I usually work until 2 am, then I go to bed, sleep a couple of hours and get up to do it all over again. However, ideally, I’d work from 9 pm until dawn and sleep during the day. My dog and life partner are opposed to this though. Thankfully, I am a full time writer, so there are moments when I can just put everything aside, tell my life partner he’s on his own for dinner and stowaway behind my computer without too much grumbling.
How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
Elysium Dreams has odd origins. I knew I needed a good serial killer novel, I was tired of the ones I was reading. So, one night, I sat down to write and thought; I should add killer chapters! My main character is a sociopath, why not juxtapose her high functioning sociopathic tendencies with a low functioning psychopath and killer chapters would allow that to happen. Add to it that my favorite movies are the Predator series and well, a serial killer who skinned his victims alive was born. It is actually the sequel to Tortured Dreams, but I think Elysium Dreams turned out so much better than the first.
What do you think sets your novel apart from others current on the shelves?
My main character is a female sociopath who is also asexual. The asexual part is huge. Aislinn Cain is more at home going into hand to hand combat with a serial killer than going on a date. In a time when sex sells, the Dreams & Reality books have no sex in them. Blood, gore, and some graphic violence, but no sex. Also, I try to limit my graphic content to what is necessary, nothing gratuitous. I have been surprised by the number of readers who have actually sent me notes thanking me for not having any sex in the books or even romantic interests.
Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
There’s a little of me in every character, even the serial killers. As for a favorite, well, I don’t have one. Even ones I didn’t realize I loved, turned out to be favorites (I only realized it when I killed them and found myself crying as I wrote out the scenes that followed). There are three characters that have none of me in them, their deaths would be the hardest for me to write, so maybe they are my favorites (Nyleena Clachan, Malachi Blake, and Aislinn Cain’s mother)…
Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?
The killer chapters were great. However, my favorite was the ending. I had plotted out a different ending for Elysium Dreams, but as the end grew nearer, I found it changing. Aislinn learns a lot about herself in those final chapters and the readers learn a lot about the forces behind the Serial Crimes Tracking Unit.
What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
A little self doubt; how can they love a sociopath like Aislinn Cain? A little disturbed; the killer was so normal, he could have been their neighbor! And a little shock; they didn’t see the ending coming.
What are your hopes for this novel?
That people will like it and read the next one. And since I’m getting ready to release book 10 in the series, I’m always hoping Elysium Dreams wasn’t the apex Dreams & Reality book.
What do you have in store next for your readers?
More serial killers, a mass murderer or two, a non-serial killer, and books that contain almost no murder and that’s just the Dreams & Reality books! I have one other series that I’m still writing and one that has finished, but is getting a spin-off. So, there’s no telling what’s next. It might be a wedding or it might be someone chopping off heads with a hatchet.
About the Author
Hadena James began writing at the age of eight. By the time she graduated high school, she had published a couple of short stories in literary magazines. She completed writing her first novel at seventeen. Hadena began college as an English major, but quickly changed to a history major. However, she continued to write and took several extra classes in creative writing.
College showed her that while she could write short stories, novel writing was truly where her heart lay. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in European History with minors in German and Russian Studies. During this time, she received a couple of contract offers from publishing houses, but ultimately turned them all down.
In August 2012, she self-published her first novel. In retrospect, she is appreciative of the contracts offers she received when she was younger, but believes she made the right decision with self-publishing.
When she isn’t busy writing, Hadena enjoys playing in a steel-tip dart league. She loves to travel throughout North America and Europe. Her favorite cities to visit are Chicago, Illinois and Berlin, Germany. She is an avid reader, with her favorites being classic literature; Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft, Gaston LeRoux, and Jane Austen; modern favorites include Clive Barker, James Patterson, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Her favorite book is “Good Omens” by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. She writes all of her books while listening to music and the bands tend to get “honorable mentions” within the pages. Some of her favorite bands are Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Rammstein, U2, Marilyn Manson, Oomph!, and Rob Zombie.
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