Kept involves a sorcerer and a werecat. Greta (the werecat) discovers her tribe intends to sacrifice her on the full moon, and runs to Dayne (the sorcerer) for help. He's got quite an evil reputation and once killed most of her tribe, but he's her only hope, and it's that whole "enemy of my enemy" thing.
And I'll just give the back of the book blurb for Claimed and Mated because I don't think I could explain it better.
For a vampire, Anthony isn’t a picky eater, but he’s drawn to Charlee’s blood more than any other. Like a fine wine saved for a special occasion, he’s denied himself this pleasure. But one night, high from the potent magical blood of another, he claims his prize and loses control. Ashamed of almost killing the one woman who means anything to him, he wipes her memory of the event. When Charlee awakens with complete amnesia, Anthony is the only one who can clean up the mess he’s made.
Because of the vampiric blood that has run through her veins since birth, Jane has been a target for vampires who resent a human being “kindred.” She’s forced to disguise herself as a vampire groupie to appease them and safeguard her life. When she’s abruptly given to Cole, the leader of the werewolf pack, to satisfy a gambling debt, she discovers the blood running through her veins has a far greater impact on her destiny than she ever imagined.
SDA: What would you tell someone who was interested in the genre or reading fiction at all about why they should read your book?
ZW: I think if they are curious they should go to my blog page and read Kept free. Or read the first two pages. If it doesn't grab them, okay. But I really think if they aren't sold on it already, there really isn't anything I can say to sway them. But I think it can't hurt anything to click on the link to the free ebook and read the first page or two. That's five minutes lost, tops, if it's not for you.
SDA: How did the characters and/or story come to you?
ZW: Kept came about because Samhain Publishing was running a novella contest. I wrote Kept for that contest but missed the deadline. So really that one came about entirely based on the parameters Samhain had set for the contest. The idea that started it was basically... what if witches' familiars weren't standard housecats but werecats and they had magical blood? I know, not the most stunning place to start from, but idea generation is rarely as sexy as it seems like it's going to be.
Well, except for Save My Soul (the next book after Blood Lust), I was driving by this old house and the whole plot practically fell into my head. It was kind of creepy actually. I probably shouldn't tell that story if I don't want people to think I'm crazy.
Claimed came about because Anthony (who had a minor role in Kept) wouldn't shut up about how he wanted his own story. And since he'd asked about Charlee in Kept, she seemed like the ideal person to pair him with.
Jane, the heroine of Mated, snuck her way into Claimed. She was supposed to just be some goth chick that Charlee bumped into on the street. Her entire purpose in Claimed was supposed to be to give the amnesiac Charlee directions to the bookstore to go talk to Greta. But Charlee never made it to the bookstore. She wanted to follow Jane back into her building. So Jane ended up becoming a secondary friend-type character in Claimed and then got her own story in Mated.
SDA: Why this genre?
ZW: I used to be such a snob about romance. They weren't "real books." I spent years trying to write in every genre under the sun: fantasy, mystery, thriller, action/adventure. You name it; I tried it. Kids books, books for adults. Could never find what clicked.
Then I discovered the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I was totally a snob about that too, but I couldn't find the remote to change it.) I fell in love with it. It was SO funny and quirky. And I LOVED Spike. (Ultimately I think it's a toss up between Joss Whedon and James Marsters for how I ended up writing paranormal romance.) When the show was over, I read Buffy/Spike fanfic. I didn't really like Buffy on the show, but I wanted her with Spike cause he wanted her. And in fanfic people usually "fixed" Buffy so she wasn't such a big moron.
Then when I was burnt out on that, I wanted something "the same but different." So that was how I discovered the paranormal romance genre. It was through Buffy that I discovered that what I *really* care about in a story is the romance. (I used to be a snob about ebooks and self-publishing too... but we see I've gotten over that too.)
SDA: Do you have images of the characters in your head based off of people you know or do they just randomly come to you?
ZW: The characters just randomly come to me. And I'm not a super visual person anyway. This is probably reflected in the rather sparse details of my writing style. Though I think a lot of men that are considered "hot" are a little too pretty for me. I like that rugged sort of "scary" look. Not scary-ugly, but just... dark and sinister. Man, a therapist could have so much fun analyzing me.
SDA: Do your characters personalities tend to resemble people you know or parts of yourself?
ZW: I think writers pull from their life and experiences and people they know. My characters are a big mix of things. There is a lot of my husband in a lot of the heroes, and some of the villains. LOL. There is a lot of my best friends in some characters. There's some of me in some characters. But not "actual me" more like "me, if this were my history, and I was confronted with this situation."
I think what a writer is doing, is they're trying to pull an illusion. In reality, it all is coming from the writer's brain. So there is no way for it NOT to be infused in some way with who they are. But the illusion is to create these characters that have lives of their own and brains and thoughts of their own, while realizing that it all is having to come out of your own brain. If that makes any sense and doesn't just sound like woo woo rambling.
SDA: Did you have a defining moment that made you want to be a writer or was it multiple things that led you to be one?
ZW: Writing has been so much a part of my life for so long that it's hard to remember a time when I wasn't doing it. I know I was writing "seriously" (with an eye toward eventual publication) in junior high. I just know that stories have always been in my head and when I'm not writing I'm anxious and depressed.
SDA: Do you have a process you follow when writing such as must haves or do's and don't's?
ZW: I'm a crazy outliner. But I follow the story first, so if my story strays from my outline (which it always does), I rewrite my outline every time it strays to make sure I can still get to my ending. But other than that I don't really have much of a process. I just sit down and write. I wish I had a mysterious routine I could tell you about, but I just don't. I think too much of a formula creates "Dumbo's Magic Feather Syndrome" where you start thinking you "can't" write unless you have your special incense or whatever.
SDA: What advice would you give writers who wish to get published?
ZW: I'm an indie author. I have no desire for a traditional publisher so if trad publication is what somebody wants, I'm not the person to ask. I wish I could be more helpful, but even the concept of "seeking a NY publisher" has become fairly foreign to my worldview. I just don't "get it" as a goal anymore. Which isn't to say I'm badmouthing that way of doing things. If someone really wants that, that's what they want and I think they should go after it. But I don't, so I don't really waste time anymore looking at "how to get published." I'm happy publishing myself.
SDA: What's been the hardest lesson you've had to learn when it comes to writing a book?
ZW: I can't write without an outline. I tried it once. That book never got untangled.
SDA: Who is your biggest influence creatively?
ZW: Joss Whedon. I like the way he creates tension in a story. He may write television instead of books, but the rules of storytelling are the same no matter the format you choose.
SDA: If you could collaborate with any writer who would it be and why?
ZW: I don't think I could collaborate with a writer. I mean this is "me" we're talking about, Miss-I-Have-To-Do-It-All-Myself. But... in imaginary world, where I could give up some level of control and actually work with another human being on a creative endeavor, I would say Larissa Ione, Kresley Cole, or Joss Whedon. The first two are romance authors that I really love their writing styles. The latter, I think it would be cool to collaborate with him on anything.
Zoe Winters can be reached at the below links:
Blood Lust will be available in ebook, print, and podcast sometime in July or August at the latest.
Kept can be read free here: http://zoewinters.wordpress.com/kept/
The novellas are all also available individually in ebook. Claimed is available for 99 cents in the Kindle store and Smashwords, and will be available in B&N, ibookstore, Sony, and Kobo in the coming weeks.
Mated is set to be released Memorial Day Weekend