Please welcome YA contemporary fantasy author Teshelle Combs. Author of the novel, "Core," Teshelle is one of those crazies who majored in English in college at the University of Central Florida and she daringly works as a full-time writer. Teshelle grew up in the beautiful St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and currently lives with her composer/voice actor hubby, Nate Combs, and their soon-to-be born baby boy, Jaxter, in Cape Coral, FL.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
For me, writing the book was the easiest part. I can usually start the first chapter and get to “The End” in about a month. Editing takes the longest. First I rewrite, which includes a lot of hacking and slashing and burning, then I move on to fine edits and proofreading. I probably edited “Core” myself six or seven times before I was prepared to send it out.
The hardest part? Fighting through the doubts. Battling those notions that my work isn’t good enough, that it’ll never be ready, that my dreams are ridiculous. I think every good writer has these thoughts, but the most important part is getting past it. And yes, I got past it!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Both! I love researching, so for “Core,” I searched for information on dragons, sirens, and other mythological creatures. I also researched the towns that I set the novel in, especially Chimbote, Peru–from what the air smells like, to the type of animals you might see in the outskirts of the city, to how long it would take to hike from the coast to Santiago’s house. I probably still have about 30 pages of research on my computer somewhere.
But when I start writing my book, I just go for it. It all comes out in about a month, like my fingers are crazed and just can’t stop typing. I only come up for air when I’ve got it all down.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?
If I can do it, you can do it. I’m not a prodigy, not a genius or a mastermind. I’m just some kid who decided I wanted to write a story. So I put in the work: I studied, I wrote, I researched, I wrote some more. And because God is amazing, I did it. I’m an author. I’ve found my dream. So why can’t you?
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want my readers to remember that love is not always what we expect. Sometimes it comes suddenly and grows slowly. Sometimes it’s beautiful and tough and hard to hold on to. But it is always a choice, and, when it is true and honest, it is always worth it.
Where are you from?
I love my home. I grew up in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. It’s beautiful and the air is fresh and cool, even when the sun is hot. When it rains, the island is covered in clouds. Living in St. Thomas gave me the inspiration I needed to turn words into stories, to turn ordinary into fantasy. It will always be a part of who I am, and my home influences every single one of my stories.
Please share with us your future projects and upcoming releases.
I’ve just released my debut novel, “Core,” and am still working on the sequel. I hope to have it ready by June 2014.
Please share any links you would like listed in the Interview. Website, Myspace, blog, facebook, yahoo group etc.
Thank you so much for interviewing me, Bernadette Marie! I had so much fun.
My pleasure! And best of luck with your baby!
From the moment Cale sets his eyes on Ava Johnson, he catches fire to their fates, locking them both in a wild spiral, tied to a world of betrayal and chaos.
Cale Anders lives a normal life–as normal as any eighteen year old dragon could hope for. He has always managed to straddle two worlds, one of underground fight clubs and siren hunts, and one of family barbecues and backyard football. Still, for as long as Cale can remember, he’s been the middle man–the ambassador for his own family–bent on reconciling the stark differences between his fiercely intelligent blue dragon relatives and the boisterous, passionate red dragon nesters.
But when Cale picks the steely-eyed human, Ava, to be his rider, he must choose between the family he’s always loved, and the only girl who can unlock his potential and spark his core. Ava, her heart entrapped in a prison of callouses, is caught off guard by the rawness of the Anders’ life and the honesty of the boy who claims to belong only to her. But even more alarming than her immersion in a world she never knew existed, is the realization that love can grow slowly, steadily, and painfully, no matter how furious her resistance.
Together, Cale and Ava upturn the balance of the dragon world, leaving their very lives vulnerable to the wiles of forces neither of them truly understand.
Please enjoy an excerpt from Core.
The crowd pulsed, hands cupped over their mouths, screaming and stomping their feet against the filthy floors. The air reeked of sweat and popcorn. In the center of the small arena was a ring, blue and red ropes boxing in the fighters.
Cale cringed from his seat in the bleachers as the boxers exchanged blows, the fighter in the red corner stumbling back a few steps as face and glove connected. Cale had taken his first hit to the face when he was seven years old. He had been wrestling with Rory, his older brother, and, completely by accident, had wedged his elbow right into poor Rory’s eye socket. Instead of running off to tell on his younger brother, Rory, who was not known for his ability to best his temper, took retribution by ramming his fist into Cale’s mouth. It was Cale’s first taste of pain, his first glimpse at the reality of combat.
So, when Cale witnessed the interchange between the fighters in the center of the ring, he leaned forward in his seat. A blow to the face was not easily forgiven. He knew that it made the fighter’s nose throb and that it crippled her pride, because he’d felt the same.
Cale studied their techniques, not because he was preparing for a fight himself, and certainly not because he was a recruiter of any sort, but because he loved the sport of combat, because he loved the buzz in the air. And because he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
His brother, Rory had convinced him to tag along, and Cale had to admit that he hadn’t put up much of a fight. Amateur boxing was even more fun than the professional bouts. The fighters were more desperate, less cocky. It always made for a better match. Cale had been looking forward to a night of entertainment. The last thing he expected to find was the fighter in the red corner.
The announcer had shouted her name over the microphone before the match started, but Cale had barely taken notice, then. As time passed he found himself racking his memory, trying to recall it.
He hadn’t thought much of her at first. She didn’t seem familiar or even interesting. He could hardly see her at all beneath her head gear, and her red gloves hid most of her face. She’d been well prepared for the fight when they began, her brown skin already slick with perspiration, her muscles well-toned, her hair braided in cornrows down her back.
She started the match off well, landing some early midsection blows, knocking her opponent off her gait. But it wasn’t until she took her first hit to the face that Cale began to take notice. Most boxers would have shaken it off, pushed the pain away, pretended it wasn’t there so they could continue on. But not her. She absorbed it. She nodded her head and lowered her chin in determination. Ava had embraced the hit and planned to learn from it. The way she angled herself told Cale she had made a conscious decision never to let the opponent in that way again. She was clever.
She was good.
The girl was an artist. Cale forgot to breathe watching her. The way she moved around the ring reminded him of a flame, small at first, but spreading itself as it danced, leaving trails of heat behind it. She circled the other fighter, throwing a jab whenever she decided to change directions. The blonde-headed opponent caught on to the pattern and prepared for it, arms poised to strike at the next direction switch. But Ava Johnson didn’t change directions that time. Instead she kept moving, landing a clean, strong right into blondie’s jaw when she expected a quick left instead. The girl crumpled.
Cale could finally get a good look at Ava when she removed her head gear. He was confused by her expression as the ref hoisted her arm into the air, signaling a well-earned victory. She didn’t look pleased. She didn’t look injured, either. Her eyebrows weren’t pressed together in pain and her mouth didn’t curl in contempt. She looked…unaffected.
Cale was anything but. Rory shouted to his buddies, spilling the drink he’d smuggled in to the arena as he argued over the amounts they’d bet on the match. He stuck his sandy head in front of Cale’s face and smacked a rough hand against the back of his younger brother’s neck.
“What a waste of time,” he said. “Let’s get out of here before I lose everything I own.”
Cale ignored him, trying to get a better glimpse of Ava. He wanted to see her, wanted to know everything about her all at once. But Rory impeded his view again.
“Cale, let’s go. What are you staring at?” He slapped Cale’s cheek a couple of times, but it had little effect. “What’s wrong with you? Wake up.”
Cale swallowed, but refused to tear his eyes away from the ring. “That girl,” he said, barely able to force the words out. His throat tightened. The rush of blood pounded in his ears.
“What girl? I don’t see any girl?” As always, Rory was looking for a tight skirt and heels.
“The girl. That one.”
Rory sat down next to him with a thud, stuffing a handful of popcorn into his mouth, then spitting the kernels back out onto the floor, as if he’d forgotten he didn’t like the stuff. He followed Cale’s gaze and wrinkled his nose.
“The one who won the match? I know,” he said as he shook his head. “She just cost me a hundred bucks. Could have sworn Blondie had her after she flattened her nose.”
Cale said nothing. He fought the urge to run to the girl and wrap her up into a hug. He wanted her to like him, to hug him back, to be close to him. Rory studied his little brother’s face, then looked back at the girl. Finally, he stopped gorging on snacks and pointed at her, his face serious, his raised eyebrows hinting at disbelief.
“That girl? Really?”
Cale nodded his head. He hardly noticed that he had squeezed all of the drink out of his cup. The brown liquid pooled beneath his sneakers.
“Oh my god,” Rory said. “Just like that, huh?”
It took some effort for him to wrench the crushed paper cup from his little brother’s hand. He tossed it carelessly over his shoulder. “Go talk to her.”
Cale shook his head, though it was all he could do to keep from leaping over the bleachers to meet her. His stomach burned as anticipation boiled up inside him, so much so that he could have choked on it. It was her. Finally. Already. Her.
“I can’t,” he said.
Rory frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous. You have to go talk to her. Just go find out who she is, at least.”
“I know who she is.” Ava Johnson. The fighter. The one.
“Then go talk to her, Cale, before she leaves.”
“I don’t think I can. I physically can’t go over there.” Cale swallowed hard, his golden eyes wide, his dark hair stark against his skin. “What if she hates me? If she hates me, I think I’ll die, Rory. I’ll die.”
Rory grinned and pulled him up. At eighteen, Cale was already taller than his older brother, but Rory had plenty muscle to make up for it, enough to make it a wonder he even had room for organs. Rory shoved Cale, forcing him to stumble forward a few steps so that he nearly tripped over the seats in front of him.
“She won’t hate you, Cale. You’re impossible to hate. Just suck it up and go.”
Cale wasn’t entirely sure Rory was right as he took deliberate, slow steps toward Ava. I can think of several people that hate me intensely. He didn’t even have to struggle to picture their nameless faces. They were the kind of creatures that would give normal people nightmares. But Cale was far from normal.
It took ages for him to reach Ava, as though time was against him. He tried to turn back more than once, but Rory was right behind him, shoving him forward in her direction.
She was stuffing her gear into a backpack. Her wrists were still wrapped, her hair still in cornrows. No jewelry, no makeup. Just a bloodied nose and traces of sweat running down her temples. After a few seconds of Cale silently looming over her, she straightened up and glared at him.
Cale couldn’t find words that made sense. He was a jumble of energy and anxiety. All at once, he was sure he would throw up and sure he would break into song and dance. And neither of those things would Impress Ava.
“You did great tonight,” he said, almost in a whisper.
She all but scoffed, bending down to get her backpack. She swung it over her shoulder. “Sure, thanks.”
Rory was wrong. Cale licked his lips, aware of the panic that was setting in. The little courage he’d mustered left him with each quick breath he took. She hates me.
Ava didn’t smile or take his hand in hers. She didn’t invite him over or ask to meet his family. Instead, she made like she was going to leave. Cale reached out to stop her, almost touching her arm until she jerked it out of his reach, distrust flashing in her eyes.
She had amazing eyes. Jade green with flecks of amber red in them. They were focused, unflinching. Warrior eyes.
“Okay,” was all she said.
She looked him up and down, trying to pinpoint his motive for offering his name to her. Then she turned on her heel and walked right out of the arena. She didn’t even look back, as though Cale had made no Impression on her whatsoever. No Impression at all. Rory raced up to Cale with a smile and threw a burly arm over his shoulder.
“So, how’d it go? Did you ask her? Did she say yes?”
Not even close. He could barely open his mouth in front of her. But he had looked her in the eye. And for Cale, that was all it took. He could taste the fire in his core threatening to break free. He could feel the blood in his veins begging for just a spark, just a flicker. He opened his mouth to let out the smoke that was filling his lungs and ignored the white wisps as they disappeared into the air.
It was as good as done. He belonged to Ava Johnson. Know it or not, she had herself a dragon.