Hi guys, I had the chance to talk to Genna Donaghy about her fresh and utterly entertaining “Second Skin”. I hope you will enjoy this interview as much as I did and will take advantage of the 30% sale at MUSA for the book (February 23) and the chance to win the book and a $10 MUSA voucher. Also check out my 4.25* review for the book, posted soon 🙂
Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you came to be an author in this genre?
Oh gosh, there’s not much to tell. I actually came into writing pretty late. I nearly failed out of high school as a kid, and it was only when I discovered fan fiction that I made myself learn where a comma goes. I wrote on and off as an escapist hobby for about ten years, but have worked seriously to get published for around two. I’ve learned a few tricks, though my editors will tell you I still sometimes misplace a comma. 🙂
I got into M/M not for the erotic aspect– though that helped, not gonna lie — but because of the variety in the genre. It seems like writers take plotty romance further with M/M and F/F. This is probably getting pretentious, but M/M and F/F authors seem unafraid to to take on a variety of other issues in their novels, not just gay rights, but racial as well. Both of which are important to me in my life. I dunno, I guess I’m a sucker for human drama? I like plot in my porn.
I really enjoyed your story “Second Skin”. How did you get this idea?
Why, thank you! It was a blast to write.
I’ve always loved shape-shifting stories, especially when the animal side is explored. For my first novel, I wanted to write something where the character somehow shifts into multiple creatures, not just a cat or a werewolf or whatever. And I wanted a strong crime element. It took awhile to come up with the full concept of the mind-switch technology for Second Skin — there was a draft version where it came from a magic source, but because everything else in the world is present day modern it didn’t fit. So! Secret government tech it is. It’s a little wacky, but overall I’m happy with the result.
Do you keep a file with story ideas and how do you determine which idea would work for a story?
I used to write plot ideas down as they came to me, but my day is usually packed from dawn to dusk, and I’d have to scribble shorthand. I’d end up with things that made absolute sense at the time, but not so much later on. Mostly non-contextual notes like, “All of them with human eyes” and “More blue, less gold”.
Now everything is locked in my head, where ideas either mature into full concepts or die on the vine.
There are a lot of shifter stories in the M/M genre, but I would rather call your story a romantic science-fiction mystery thriller. How would you characterize the story yourself and did you know from the beginning where it was headed?
Your description definitely fits. This book was such a problem-child to pin down in terms of genre. I’d classify it as a M/M sci-fi detective romance with shifter overtones. Some of my friends called it “The kitchen sink”, which also works.
Whenever I start out a project, I write four or five things — usually scenes or plot points — that I want to occur. Second Skin ended up hitting all of them, but the how the character get to the places I need them to be is always a surprise. The emotional direction changed a few times between drafts, too. In the first draft Shane’s brother, Adam, had recently died while on duty as a police officer. Then I wrote a flashback scene, and they were so good together I realized I couldn’t kill the guy off. It ended up lightening the tone of the novel, which was a plus.
I contrast to many shifter stories I have read, I felt like you really tried to show the reader how different sensory processing works for animals. Did you do a lot of research to be so knowledgeable about animals?
Thank you! I did do a fair amount of research to make the best guess on the different senses Shane, the main character, would experience while in each body. A lot of it is some creative imagining on my part, but I tried to have each experience backed with a real basis. For example, there’s a part where Shane is a cat, and he uses a cat’s flehman response by scenting the air with the Jacobson’s organ (if you ever catch your kitty sneering at you, chances are that’s what’s up). At the time, Shane doesn’t know why he’s doing it, because it’s a cat’s instinctual behavior, but I thought it would be interesting.
The ferret was the most difficult to research as there’s a lot out there on cat behavior, or an owl’s incredible hearing and sight. But ferrets? Not so much. I went to the pet store a few times to observe the baby ferrets for sale. Goodness, they were cute. It was a shame I couldn’t take any home, but those are the hazards of being a writer. 🙂
I must admit, I had no idea what to expect from this story! I think you did a great job expressing the disorientation and disbelief one would surely feel in a similar situation. I felt like what Shane experienced was shocking and unexpected. Did you consciously try to put the whole, much romanced notion of people being able to experience life in an animal form into a much more real and therefore more frightening context?
Oh for sure. Part of the reason I love shifter books is when the character is more or less stripped down to their bestial center. So when I wrote Second Skin I wanted to try to make it both as realistic and entertaining as possible. I’d imagine finding yourself in a different body would be as terrifying as it would be exciting, and probably make you really grateful for human hands and the ability to use tools afterward.
At the same time, I really wanted a sense of danger with Second Skin’s animal mind-switch technology because every time someone jumps into an animal brain, they run the very real risk of not getting all of themselves back on the return.
With all the cat/ dog rivalries, I have to ask: Are you a cat or a dog person? 😉
Ha, I knew this was coming. Although my main character switches minds with a cat, I’m definitely a dog person. I have a big slobbery English Mastiff named Petra who weighs more than I do. I’ve had dogs all my life, and I’d probably own a whole pack of them, except Petra likes to sit on anything smaller than herself. 🙂
What other genres and tropes would you like to try out in the future?
All of my projects lean towards speculative fiction and tropes you’d probably find in Star Trek episodes and terrible M. Night Shyamalan movies. I’ve already tackled body-swap and sexual-preference based magic systems (a different book I wrote called Touch Me Not). But if I can ever wrap my head around the paradoxes, I’d really like to try a time travel novella.
Who was your favorite character to write and what was the most difficult thing about getting your story on paper?
You’d think the animal parts would be hard, but no. Jamison, Shane’s love interest, was the bane of my existence. Turns out there’s a very thin line between ‘loveable bad boy with mysterious past’ and ‘skeevy con-artist you shouldn’t trust’. I think I got him right in the end (at least, I hope I did), but I really had to go through every scene of his with a fine-toothed comb.
Shane was much easier, and my favorite to write, partially because he knows who he is and what he wants. Sure, he’s going through some human vs. animal identity crisis, but he still has a very firm moral core.
What other WIP and future projects do you have lined up?
I’m always working on, like, five different projects at one time. I’ve almost completed a sequel to Touch Me Not, where everyone is either a dominate or a submissive and have their own magical powers. I’m also tackling a M/M dragon shifter book based in Yosemite, California, which should be pretty fun if I can get the whole ‘world building’ thing pinned down.
And of course I’m working on a sequel to Second Skin, tentatively called “Skin Deep”. It’ll be set about six months after Second Skin, and the animal research for it is going great. Did you know Harris Hawks hunt in packs, like wolves? So interesting. Anyway, I’m looking forward to exploring Shane and Jamison’s relationship and seeing how they hold up together when the plot hits the fan.
Thanks again Marc for the opportunity to talk about myself and my novel. 🙂
MUSA Publishing has graciously agreed to give 1 commenter an e book copy of “Second Skin”, put the book for sale on the day the interview is published and enter any commenter for a $10 MUSA gift certificate!
Contest ends 28 Feb 2014 at 11:59 pm, must be 18 or older to win, void where prohibited, etc.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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