Our interview today is with Brooklyn James the author of Vigilare (4.8 stars, 15 reviews). Before we get to the interview a brief book description: Detectives Gina DeLuca and Tony Gronkowski investigate a string of murders among Vanguard’s most loathsome population, rapists and pedophiles. With fed up citizens, the city is on the verge of a vigilante uprising in support of their seemingly superhuman Vigilare with the sparkling emerald green eyes. Friend or foe, Vanguard Police Department has a job to do in bringing the vigilant one to justice, causing their own internal battle with right and wrong, immoral and just. Following their leads, Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski find themselves pulled into a mysterious world of super blood and super powers, and closer to the Vigilare than ever expected. It’s a race to the finish between Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski and the Vigilare to figure out who she is and why. The first series in a Trilogy. Vigilare–the one who watches over–comes to light. Where one system fails, another never gives up.
Interview with Brookly James
1. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
My newest novel is Vigilare: Hell Hound. It is the second in the Thriller trilogy, Vigilare. This particular series has a digestible paranormal spin, grounded in a scientific discourse around blood, allowing the mind to wander with thoughts of what if?
“Vigilare walks the line between a thriller and a supernatural adventure while safely anchored in a scientific discourse around blood that James put together so well that it’s reminiscent of a Douglas Preston or Michael Crichton novel. With action, romance, a strong female hero and a likable group of characters, Vigilare reads like a good action movie.” -Gabino Iglesias, Austin Post.
For me, the uniqueness of this series is in its conception and the mixing of science and the supernatural. The title alone is a conversation starter. Upon release of the first book in this series, Vigilare, I had questions from readers and book clubs. “What is a Vigilare?” With the release of the newest book in the series, Vigilare: Hell Hound, now I’m questioned with, “What is a Hell Hound?”
Please allow me to defer, Vigilare in the Italian derivative of Latin, means: to watch out, to guard, to protect, to keep an eye on. As far as its pronunciation, technically, it is pronounced vi- gi-la-re. In its conception, I wanted a word that was similar to vigilante, yet unique. I keep it simple, pronouncing it vigil-are (like vigil-air).
To me, in the context of my novels, my Vigilare is a vigilant guardian, with intent to serve retribution style–an eye for an eye. Vigilare is forced into her position, a divine assignment, so to speak. She does not willingly choose her role, which allows me to play with the notion of good and evil, and how good can be and commit evil, even when it may seem justified. There’s a fine line between right and wrong. It all depends on perspective. I love toying with that idea, and propelling readers to do the same, hopefully invoking internal questions. You know, what would YOU do and how would YOU feel if bestowed such a power? Would you consider it a blessing or a curse? In using this moral discourse, I found it helped enhance the storyline, ultimately guiding me in my own direction, attempting to find my internal ethics compass as well.
Hell Hound – is actually a character in book #2 of the series, a rival Vigilare, so to speak. I capitalize it, as it is the title of the character. However, it’s derived from Hellhound–a supernatural dog, most commonly associated with folklore, specifically Greek Mythology. The most popular, or dangerous, if you will, being Cerberus.
In the words of my manic Hematologist from the novels, Dr. Godfrey, “In Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the underworld. The devil, one may conclude. A Hell Hound is a hound of Hades, or a dog of Hell in the literal translation. They are the guards to the underworld, relegating who is sucked in and who is declined access. As described in legends, Hell Hounds have glowing red eyes and supernatural abilities. They’re rarely seen, very phantom-like. They may appear as if out of nowhere and vanish with the blink of an eye. An elusive creature. Hell Hounds are associated with fire and often have fire or heat-based abilities.”
So, you see, Vigilare: Hell Hound is a play on Greek Mythology’s Cerberus…the three-headed Hellhound. I found the premise fascinating, and it plays so well into the plot, I had no other choice but to make it the title of book #2. And it made for a menacingly delicious cover. Besides, who doesn’t like a good fireball slinging?
The concepts alone created my setting in the Vigilare series, the town of Vanguard, which is dark and intense. One reviewer likened it to Gotham, saying, “CSI meets Batman. Gotham has Batman. Vanguard has Vigilare!”
“I’m not well versed in Greek Myth, but I enjoyed the spin. And the paranormal aspect was vibrant and colorful. Very well crafted by the author, yet not too flamboyant to turn me off. As usual, James plays with contrasts. You have the Hell Hound with fire capabilities, whose favorite weapons are fire balls. And then, you have newcomer, Maxim Kiesel. He has “steel blue eyes” and an icy touch. Fire and ice! It’s fascinating really, the whole Rh-negative blood factor James weaves into the story. It is this factor that makes the Vigilare super human. It makes so much sense, it leaves me wondering just exactly how unique is Rh-negative blood? Again, Brooklyn James has done a fine job of tightly knitting together a storyline and a cast of characters to peek and keep any reader’s interest. With the combination of action, suspense, intrigue, romance (this is a very SEXY series), science and heart–Vigilare: Hell Hound is a fast, entertaining read.” -Amazon Review
2. What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader?
The series features a detective team in Gina DeLuca and Tony Gronkowski. They investigate a string of murders among Vanguard’s most loathsome population, rapists and pedophiles. With fed up citizens, the city is on the verge of a vigilante uprising in support of their seemingly superhuman Vigilare with the sparkling emerald green eyes. Friend or foe, Vanguard Police Department has a job to do in bringing the vigilant one to justice, causing their own internal battle with right and wrong. Following their leads, Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski find themselves pulled into a mysterious world of super blood and super powers, and closer to the Vigilare than ever expected. It’s a race to the finish between Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski, and the Vigilare, to figure out who she is and why she exists.
The general themes in this series are good versus evil (What constitutes good? What constitutes evil?), vigilantism (Is it ever okay to take the law into one’s own hands?), and the notion of super blood (I found some fascinating theories on Rh-negative blood factor and its link to the ‘ancient astronauts,’ be it considered viable or otherwise). It is this blood factor that is responsible for equipping an ordinary woman with extraordinary superhuman powers, such as the ability to see into the soul of another. That’s where the sparkling emerald green eyes come into play. When her blood is exposed to external oxygen, her super powers are engaged. I loved the idea of giving her something where by virtue of being assaulted, she morphs providing the ultimate defense.
I have a background in news writing, therefore, I attempted to be unbiased in my delivery, hoping to avoid ‘getting MY point across.’ Although, as with all things, I am certain my biases weaved their way into the dialogue. My goal was to throw certain themes out to invoke questions and prod readers to come to their own conclusions. I love books that are more than just the words on the page. Books that make me think and reflect on life as I know it, and life outside of my box. You know, books that take over the imagination, allowing it to explore and expand beyond the every day. I hope my novels connect with other readers who enjoy the same.
3. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
Yes. There were a few scenes in Vigilare, particularly scenes dealing with attempted rape and physical violence that made me quite uncomfortable. Such daunting topics would and should make most anyone uncomfortable. However, tragic events as such do happen. And as a writer, I feel it is my job to be candid. If I skirt around these issues, then what impact will they have? I like to be affected and moved when I delve off into a book, whereby leading me to a deeper understanding of the content and the motivation behind characters. I enjoy characters and situations that are honest. I have had a few comments from readers about certain scenes that were “difficult” or “disturbing” to read. As a writer, I feel it is my job to represent characters and scenes appropriately. Not everybody is good, and terrible deeds are certainly not pleasant. If I don’t commit to my characters and their actions, then I have failed my readers. In the same breath, my discourse was certainly not geared toward shock value.
“If there is something in which James excelled, it has to be the way she treated her subject matter. Scenes of attempted rape and physical violence abound, but they’re always carefully and tactfully done. Instead of going for the cheap thrills and shock value, the author gently deconstructs a sad reality and unflinchingly exposes the psychological devastation that such an experience can bring. Likewise, James managed to write a very sexy novel without having to rely on pornographic writing or the ‘ardor in her loins.’” -Gabino Iglesias, Austin Post
4. Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
This series began as a student short film for me as part of my Communications studies in obtaining my Master’s with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Film. I was inspired by comic books, and films such as The Punisher and Boondock Saints. Films toying with the notion of vigilantism. Couple that with several disturbing statistics I found regarding rape and pedophilia rates, and the concept emerged. I thought, “There should be a Batman for these victims.” Then I was immediately scolding myself for thinking such, knowing most rapists and pedophiles do not become so by virtue of a fair chance at life. With those two varying innate thoughts I figured I may not be the only one conflicted, so the idea of adapting the short film into a novel series grew. Again, I like a read that makes me think.
5. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
I did quite a bit of research for this series, but the most intriguing, eye-opening research came with the rh-negative blood factor. I’ve been a Registered Nurse for the past four-years, with an Intensive Care specialty. I knew a bit about blood, and I knew I wanted Vigilare’s super power to stem from that. I assumed I would simply have to make up that entire scenario. However, after researching, I found numerous fascinating theories about rh-negative blood. Although unproven, these particular theories link rh-negative blood factor to the ‘ancient astronauts,’ link it to the blood found on the Shroud of Turin (belonging to one Jesus Christ), the obscurity and rarity of its very presence…the idea that scientists cannot explain its origin, nor has it been identified any other place in nature. Rh-positive blood factor is linked to primates (the Rhesus Monkey), hence the theory of evolution. Rh-negative factor has yet to be scientifically determined. Some say there is no one single reason for its existence, other than to speculate it is a mutation that occurred tens of thousands of years ago.
Granted, I am not a scientist, and would never propose to lead anyone astray by claiming such. I am a fiction writer. Through researching the known and the unknown, the theories I found, be they grounded or far-out-there led me to an intriguing premise. By digging for something, anything…what I found increased my storyline ten-fold. As a result, I have gained a deeper respect for the unknown, and find myself less inclined to dismiss theories simply because they may not be proven…yet. Everything was unproven at some point and time. I can attest that my ears now perk when viewing the History Channel’s Ancient Alien..lol.
6. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
I’m a bit of an extremist in most everything. Why run only two-miles when you could five? If you’re going to do something, then really go for it. That’s my M.O. When inspired by an idea, I dive in, plugging away until its finished. I like to write organically. I’m not very good at forcing much of anything. I do not have a set writing schedule. But when in writing mode, I like to stay in that mindset, hopefully allowing the characters and direction of the story to play out over a month or two. That’s the usual pace of my writing. If I step away from it for too long, then I feel it’s almost a chore to get back into it. I like to immerse myself into the story and the characters, hopefully allowing them to come to light. I can say that most of what I call my productive writing does occur in the wee hours. There’s something about writing in the dark, while others are asleep, that allows me to feel calm and in tune with my train of thought. Maybe it’s simply because there are no distractions at that hour. No incoming emails, texts, etc. It’s just me and the page.
I don’t necessarily outline, not on paper anyway. I let the idea marinate in the ‘think-tank,’ you know, my mind. I find physical activity pivotal in my mental stimulation for writing. That’s when I come up with most of my story lines…while on the running trail. I like to think it’s all the good circulation and oxygen flow to the brain that aerobic activity provides. If I’ve just finished a scene and I’m not sure where to go next, I let my feet hit the dirt until I come up with something. In the Vigilare series there are martial arts references, so I found practicing martial arts while writing these manuscripts to be innately inspiring as well. I learn best by doing.
7. Favorite book from childhood.
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. It was the first truly powerful novel I ever read. I found it dark, intriguing, raw, strange, provocative and highly effective. Emily Bronte was before her time. I remember thinking I had never read a book as such. My first thought was, “What did I just read?” Then I had to read it again! I mean who but an artist can articulate such despicable characters, yet still evoke empathy for those characters from the reader. It was the first book that challenged my ideations of human nature. The first book that challenged my perception of what constitutes a good story. The first book that really made me think.
The Boots My Mother Gave Me
Vigilare: A Trilogy