Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing
Date of Publication: 10/03/2013
Word Count: ~60,000
Charlie Kale knows life isn't easy. But for the first time, this truck driver might have finally found her little piece of happiness. She's got it all—her big rig, friends, a great mentor, and a man about to join her on the road.
That is, until the good things in Charlie's life all fall apart, and she finds herself at the mercy of a sexy but mysterious gunman who claims to be a member of a secret order dedicated to fighting the supernatural monsters that filter over into our world.
She's given a choice—join up or die, and while the gunman might be insane, Charlie’s hell-bent on not dying.
Too bad it looks like that might not be an option.
By three in the morning, I’d already been on the road for hours. My eyes were starting to droop, the lights of passing cars playing hypnotist in the dark.
Now I remember why I don’t run nights. Running nights was like childbirth—or so I’ve heard—you suffered through, and then a few trips later, you’d already forgotten how tired you felt, how each mile was a struggle of will to keep your eyes open.
In driving school, they always told you to never drive tired. They didn’t mention that everybody did it, or it was impossible not to.
Just one more hour. If I can just get another hour—maybe hour and half—the sun will come up, and I’ll get a nice boost, and then it’s not too far after that.
I yawned and took another swig of my coffee, trying to suck the lukewarm mixture down in a single gulp. I grimaced at the candy-bar mixture. I preferred it black, but there were only so many cups of mud a person could drink before it started to feel like your stomach lining was about to peel off. In my case, that number was six.
Jeff was the one who had shown me how vital it was to load the mixture with enough cream and sugar to turn it into slurry. And he still hasn’t answered my text. It wasn’t like him. Maybe he didn’t get it? Should I send it again?
I made a note to call him when I got the chance, and then I rounded a bend and went blind. The driver coming from the opposite direction—a jeep, or maybe a lifted truck, I couldn’t tell—had his high beams misaimed, and they were blasting me straight in the face. Grateful for the low traffic, I stared down at the white line and tried to keep my truck straight.
And then, the lights started flickering and dancing in the lane. The glow alternately brightened and dimmed as the car moved, and I realized the driver was swerving. He or she was either drunk or having a heart attack, and neither one of those was very good.
Like so many other times in my short career, I did the only thing I could do. I eased off the fuel and prayed to whoever might be up there. Please keep this truck safe.
Finally, the headlights whizzed past me. I had enough time for a quick second of relief as the sudden darkness made spots dance across my vision—and then I heard it, an awful, thumping groan, and I felt the truck shudder. I glanced in my mirror and saw the trailer swing. I whipped the steering wheel to correct the motion, but it had already gone too far. Fifty-three feet of aluminum bucked like a sidewinder crossing the desert. I steered right, trying to take myself off of the road, but by then, the trailer had started to tip.
If a trailer rolls, the truck goes with it. Jeff had told me that a thousand times. Now I’d get the chance to find out if it was true.
The trailer turned in slow motion, with a groan I could feel all the way to my bones. Gravity shifted, and the world swiveled through my dash as the entire cab filled with the sounds of every item I owned falling at once.
Over the crashes, I heard Diesel’s whine, and there was just enough time for a ping of regret.
I’m sorry, boy. I didn’t know it was going to be this way.
And then the side of my head exploded into a cascade of pain and fire, and everything went dark.
. Where did you get the idea for the novel?
. I was actually living on a semi-truck at the time. We would do a lot of runs at night, and for long stretches of the highway, the only vehicles you’d see were semis. Most of them are marked with the names of different companies, but some of them would have blank trucks and trailers, and I’d just think--I wonder what’s in there? They’re so much inspiration for the brain--truckers are mobile, isolated, discreet, and mostly travel at night--and it helps that they’ve long been called “knights of the road”. A secret order of monster-fighters could totally blend into that culture and not even be noticed.
I knew I wanted to write about a female protagonist, and one that was human, that I could actually relate to--and I really love Charlie for that reason. She’s normal--a little chubby, she’s had her share of man problems, and she doesn’t have her life all figured out yet, even though she’s in her late twenties. It’s a story about finding herself and her spine in the middle of an environment that is just choking with rigid rules and testosterone.
BirthMarked is also a homage to Jeff Malone, a real guy that went out of his way to make me feel welcome as soon as we met at a truckstop in Ontario. Right after I got off the truck and returned to “normal” life, I tried working on a few manuscripts that just weren’t working and just getting really frustrated. I was broke and had just gotten this job waitressing for this boss that was just really rude--and then I found out that my friend Jeff had had a heart attack and died behind the wheel, and I wasn’t going to able to go to his funeral. I just went into the kitchen, and I was trying to fill these peanut butter cups with this ice cream scoop, only I started crying--and they fired me on the spot.
I went home, and the book just stopped swirling around in thinky-space and settled into my fingers, and I knew I was ready. There are parts when I was writing it where I cried so hard--and then after it was done, I had to contact his widow for permission to use his name, and I was just petrified, but she was really touched and gave me her blessing and we cried for a while together. I think that’s why there’s so much feeling in the manuscript--tears and love and all sort of things that just seep out of the page, because they were real while I was writing them.
. Your title. Who came up with it? Did you ever change your title?
. I did. I’m sure I changed it a hundred times--I always do. And when I don’t, I look back and wish I hadn’t been so lazy. The title seemed to just fit--but the series title, that changed like four times with the publisher, because the original, Order of Brothers, was just too generic.
. Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
. Hmm--I had a Kickstarter for an audiobook that earned out. Your first professional sale is always a biggie--although at the time, I was on a truck, so I couldn’t really celebrate. New covers are always great. I think the biggest thing, day in and day out, is just getting those little letters and tweets that say, “hey, I love your stuff.” That always makes my day. There are a few times where I was close to giving up, only to get a letter saying, “I need the next one!” and that really kept me going. I remember that after my Kickstarter, one of my fans took a picture of himself with a signed poster and posted it up on twitter. I just about died.
. What book are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?
. Last thing I read for pleasure was “A Flight of Thieves” by David Bridger. My current publisher gives out copies of books for free to authors and editors so we get a “feel” for the company standards and culture. I had it lying around and was bored and I really didn’t expect to like it--instead I loved it--steampunk with robots and airships and ah! It was just so great.
. What was your first book that you ever wrote (very first one you wrote, not published)?
. Ha ha ha--Um, to be honest, it was an incredibly meandering unreliable narrator experiment about a mechaniphile--a woman that falls in love with her car. She gets into an accident, and she’s not sure if the car is a murderer or jealous or what, and goes on the lam. Somehow, it becomes a love story between her roommate and her ex-boyfriend that go to find her, with a bumbling good-hearted cop and an Amish guy that saves everybody in the end.
Yeah, that will never see the light of day again.
. What is your writing process?
. When I first started out, I pantsed stuff completely. I didn’t even know if it was going to become a book. I had just been in this horrible car accident and that combined with some other crappy things in my life led to me having this panic disorder that got me fired from my job. It was horribly debilitating, and then I had a friend that owned a house and said, “hey, why don’t you come sleep on my couch.” It was kind of out in the country, and both her and her husband worked a lot, and they didn’t have cable or internet. So I’d wake up with the sun streaming in and make some coffee and think--what will I do today? And I guess that car accident kind of wound around in my mind and I said, hey, I’ll do this short story, just to kind of pass the time--only it got longer and longer, and one day I woke up and I had finished a novel--and my anxiety disorder was mostly under control. It was like I had my life back. And I guess I didn’t stop.
After that, I plotted for a while, but it started to feel like work and I got to hate it. So I went back to pantsing. The most important thing is to wake up first thing in the morning and make my coffee. I sit down and bang out a thousand words. If I can do that part, then it will be a good day.
. Who are your favorite authors of all time?
. I love Philip Pullman, just love him to pieces. If I could write that way, my life would be complete. But honestly, as a kid, I read voraciously, like every genre--I’d just go through entire sections of the library, row by row, and clean them out--a lot of stuff that I probably was too young to read and gave me nightmares but I did. I’m still that way, too--if I had a choice, I’d just stay home and read every day.
. At a book signing, do you just sign your name or do you write a note? How do you come up with stuff to say?
. I’ll let you know when I do my first signing.
. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
. Wow, this is a really hard question. Um . . . let me think. I am obsessed with Bones and Buffy. I love sleep and decent beer. I’ve lived in Argentina and Korea. I’m an Army brat that loves her dog.
. How do you react to a bad review?
. I haven’t had that many yet. :) I really don’t, though, because you know, you can’t please everybody. A lot of times, though, bad reviews have some great points in them--and they’ve made me a better writer, so I’m grateful.
. How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
I was on a semi-truck, and I actually sold two manuscripts at the same time, so while it was awesome, they kind of stole each other’s thunder. I’ll celebrate the tenth one. Or maybe the hundredth.
About the Author:
Well-traveled and uncoordinated, Maria Violante is the best-selling author of several books in the realm of speculative fiction--all of them crossovers that require hyphens in the genre description (see:
gladiator-dystopia-rom-sci-fi, shifter-western-historical, or gunslinger-mercenary-urban fantasy.)
She enjoys a well-roasted coffee, Bell's Winter White Ale, and lives in Michigan with her Chihuahua, Beau, also known as “Piggy Wiggy”.