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Five frightening stars for Demon In Me
This was my first book by Jennifer Soucy and it won’t be my last.
Demon In Me was rife with haunting realism and nostalgia. It was beautifully written, sad, eerie, and funny...and spoke to my inner “demons.”
Layla is a former heroin addict who’s making it big in a rock band as a drummer in Las Vegas. Life isn’t all glitz and glamour, but it’s better than it's been and she has her lead and BFF, a Tokyo god himself, Raij to thank for most of it.
That is, until she gets the call all daughters dread: her mom is fading fast and wants her home. Only Layla hasn’t been home in ten long years and, with vivid flashbacks of a past she’d rather wipe off the face of the earth, the reader soon learns why. Layla’s tragic and sordid childhood is a whirlwind of heartache, tragedy and loss. Blackpool is where her life almost ended, and she’s avoided the town and her family for more reasons than what she originally thought. Layla is holding a dark secret - something she’s pushed to the recesses of her mind - within that is about to come to the surface once more. Can she go back and face what happened to her father? Will the truth about his death be more than she can handle? Can she come to terms with her family and let go of her demons?
You’ll just have to read it and find out because I’m not giving away any spoilers. Let me just say that you’re gonna love Layla, Cole, Raij, the munchkins and Ma - to name a few.
Layla was very relatable and I felt her emotions through Jen’s words. Cole was the truest knight in shining armor I’ve ever met, talk about the patience of Job… Ma and the munchkins were uber lovable and Raij was larger than life in more ways than one. I loved the symbolism of darkness within, the unbreakable bond between sisters, and the power to be stronger than your “demons”.
Jen has an eloquence with words and I found myself loving how she described characters, situations and places. If you’re looking for a horror book that does more than scare you, check this one out. You won’t be disappointed!
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series and PERSONAL FOUL
Shanna enjoys a good book that thrills, chills, and warms her heart...and one that goes bump in the night, like this one did! ;-)
I met the amazing writer and avid reader, Jennifer Soucy on Twitter last year when our buddy Marc formed a group that would later be known as my Twitt fam. These wonderfully talented people have been my sounding board, my ventilation shaft, and my shoulder to cry on. They’ve shared my accomplishments, trials, and tribulations. Jen has read and fallen in love with many of my characters over the last year and a half. She’s one of my most treasured betas and she truly has a heart of gold. She’s been a great friend and valued fellow writer.
She’s an author of several works including horror, so naturally when she was set to publish a book, I wanted to read it! I recently finished an ARC of her debut novel, Demon in Me. This baby premieres this Saturday, March 21st by the way and I was awed by her creative mind and eloquent words. I knew I had to ask her what inspired this work and her characters.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Jennifer, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Jen: Hey, Shanna! I’m 41 now--a Connecticut Yankee living in Georgia. My parents are down here too, as well as my younger twin sisters. I’ve worked most of my life in the service industry (25yrs now), but I absolutely love bartending the most. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly twenty years and, while we don’t have kids, we adore our baby kitty Guinness (a 20lb siamese, so hardly a baby but you feel me!).
I always loved reading. My mom still talks about how I was 3 or 4, sitting alone in my room with my Golden Books and reading out loud. She was never sure if I had memorized the words from her reading them to me, or if I just caught on by myself, but it impressed her.
Ever since then, both her and my grandmother showered me with books and frequent trips to the library. I always excelled at writing--at least, in school--winning awards at a young age. When I was 12, my parents bought me one of those old-fashioned typewriters--you know, big metal beasts that require ribbon and ink. I was on it every day, writing what I was sure would be the next in a line of fantastic spooky stories (a very odd mashup of Stephen King and V.C. Andrews which I mostly wiped from my mind, but I was a kid)!
Life got in the way of my dreams, as it does for so many. I stopped writing, focusing on work and survival. When I was nearing 40, I had an epiphany while bartending: What in the hell am I doing with my life? And boom, that was it. I cut my hours and got to work, and I haven’t looked back since.
Me: Awesome! I love both those authors! Now, what inspired you to write Demon In Me?
Jen: Demon In Me was actually the third book I wrote after beginning my mid-life writing binge (3 novels from June to December 2018). It took me about 2 months to knock out the first draft because it flooded out. My family has suffered from addiction, something I toyed with in my youth as well. Also, I spent several years as a teenager in and out of hospitals for suicide attempts (one of which was nearly successful).
I wanted to create a character with similar struggles; although, Layla had it worse than me in almost every instance. I remember sitting in front of my computer, daydreaming as the story shaped up. I thought something like, “Everybody has inner demons. But they’re not real...are they?” That was all it took. And it ended up being my hook!
As I stated, I’m from Connecticut. While it wasn’t always bad growing up there, I fled as quick as I could--more because of me than the area or people. I fled to Georgia to start a new life, but I also lived for a time in Las Vegas with the same goal--a fresh start, trying something new. Las Vegas is definitely a city who welcomes and nurtures refugees, and I absolutely loved my time there. I wanted to convey that love in a story, too, even if we only see it briefly in the story.
Me: Isn’t it amazing how our works can be so personal. Even when we don’t intend to, we write facets of ourselves into our characters? You lived in Vegas? How cool! So, which character in this book is your favorite? Why?
Jen: Layla is my favorite, simply because we bonded through our similar experiences. Her struggles, insecurities, and doubts resonated with me so much. Plus, as a writer, first-person is a hugely intimate PoV. Which is why I can’t write a villain in 1st person--it would scare the crap out of me, for real.
If I had a second-favorite character, it would absolutely be Raij. I honestly think he birthed himself--one minute, he just popped on the page and I was like “Who are you?” He’s the best friend we all dream of and some of us are lucky enough to have. He’s funny, irreverent, gets into wild situations, but he’s got a heart of pure gold (you should see some of my deleted scenes, or the ones that never made it to the page!).
Me: LOL! It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Layla? Cole? Raij?
Jen: I’ve seen other authors attempt to tackle this question, so I’ll say my version of it. None of my characters was inspired by any one person in particular. However, for the people who are closest to me, they’ll definitely see familiar slivers here and there.
As far as Jake and Alice, the adorable nephew and niece, I was absolutely inspired by my 30+ nieces and nephews. I never had children, but I love these kids as if they were my own. I definitely channeled those emotions when building Layla’s relationship with the kids--how even when they’re not your own, nieces and nephews can absolutely melt your heart with their open and generous love.
Me: Ha ha, yes! Agreed! What are you working on now?
Jen: That’s a complicated question, lol. I have a contract with RhetAskew publishing for the first book I wrote in the summer of 2018. It’s a YA/NA dark fantasy/horror (due early 2021) about a teen from Boston who gets the shock of her life close to her 18th birthday. Someone breaks into her room, a girl who looks like a younger version of her dead mother...and, supernatural hijinks and Celtic folklore abound!
I have several queries out for 2 other finished novels. I also wrote nearly 10 short stories I’m shopping for various anthologies.
As for “in-progress” projects, I have a sequel nearly done for the YA/NA book above. And, I’m working on the next draft for a modern re-telling of the Persephone and Hades myth but with witches and satanists. Also, there’s a new novel shaping up but I can’t talk about it yet til I uncover more so...to be continued!
Me: How fun! I can’t wait to read more of your work!! So, tell us a little about your writing process?
Jen: For the most part, I prefer writing as soon as I wake up. I find the words and images flow best when I’m still half-asleep. However, when the story really kicks in, I’ve been known to go on binges for up to 10k words from sunrise to sunset. You know how it is, when it’s coming you have to get it down right then and there!
Another thing I do when starting any project is creating a playlist. Music is a huge part of my life, something I love as much as books. I find that having the songs play in the background distracts my conscious mind so my subconscious can run wild. Each playlist is specifically crafted to reflect certain characters or specific scenes/themes. It drives my boyfriend crazy cause he’ll look one over and be like, “Why do you have this song but not that one. How could you leave such a classic off?” But, I remind him every time, even if I love a song/artist they don’t make the playlist unless they fit the criteria!
As you know, I included an excerpt of the playlist for Demon In Me at the back of the book. With Layla as a musician, it just seemed appropriate. Plus, I’ve recently seen some authors doing it so I was inspired to add it as well.
Me: Same here, I get the best ideas when I’m still sleepy too! You got to go with the flow, literally LOL! And I agree, music is life!! Now, horror is one of my favorite genres? What drew you to it?
Jen: I blame fairy tales. And not the cute Disney versions, I’m talking the dark and bloody classics whispered over hearths for hundreds of years before being eventually written down for posterity. I do love Disney, of course, and those were some of my first and favorite movies. But, my grandmother encouraged my love of fairy tales by reading the old versions to me every time I slept over (which was a lot). Mutilation, abuse, cannibalism, trauma--you name it, she read it. And my little ears soaked it all up.
As I grew older, my reading diversified, of course. But I always gravitated towards fantastic tales, anything different from the world I knew--the darker, the better.
My first pure horror read was from Stephen King, naturally. My best friend at the time (we were 9) started reading It. I saw the size of that book and opted for something less intimidating, choosing The Shining. I honestly think I got the better end of the deal (even though It is amazing). The story of the Torrances and The Overlook blew my mind, and nearly scared the life out of me. But, I understood Danny Torrance and really connected with him. To this day, it’s one of my favorite books ever. Without Mr. King, I never would’ve dived into a genre that has become one of the cornerstones of my life. I cannot emphasize enough how much of a horror nerd/fangirl I am...to my mother’s constant dismay, lol.
Me: LOL! My mom and dad were fans too. My favorite movie at the age of eight was Silver Bullet, so I get it. So, who are your favorite authors/books?
Jen: There are so many, it’s ridiculous! And I’m sure I’ll forget a few, so I’ll try to keep it simple.
Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Anne Rice, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Daphne Du Maurier, Laura Esquivel, Anne Rivers Siddons, Frank Herbert, Neil Gaiman...ok, I should totally stop.
As far as modern horror authors (who are rocking the genre, btw), I love Paul Tremblay, Grady Hendrix, Stephen Graham Jones, Victor LaValle, Adam Nevill, Ania Ahlborn, Gabino Iglesias, Kealan Patrick Burke, Gwendolyn Kiste, Chad Lutzke, Gemma Amor, Jonathan Janz, Scott Thomas, Zoje Stage, and so many more. This is really a Golden Age for horror!
Me: Wow that’s quite a list. I’ll have to check some of these out! Now, what do you personally love about writing?
For me, writing has been a natural extension of reading--an escape to a different world. Not always a better world, especially with my love of dark fiction. But, sometimes that helps--a catharsis that increases when the characters have way worse lives than you.
One of my favorite parts about writing is the “a-ha!” moment. I tend more towards pantsing (a silly term, I know), although I create general outlines to start myself off. I always know certain key scenes will happen, and most times I start with an ending in mind. The fun is taking the characters I built and seeing how they arrive at those destinations, because sometimes they take me on some crazy detours. It’s sort of spooky, until I remind myself that no matter how real my characters feel they’re still me! But for a second, it’s an amazing sensation...connecting myself with something Other.
Me: Ha ha, I understand completely! I’m a "pantser" myself and it's always fun to see where these characters will take us.
Final question: What are you looking forward to this year?
Jen: I’m so looking forward to finishing the editing rounds on my YA/NA book for RA. I cannot wait to share Evie Bonaventura with the world. She’s my first baby, and one I’ll be working on in sequels because I love her so much (even though, she’d probably smack me for the shit I put her through lol).
I have some travel goals, if I can fit them in with work. I’d really love to go outside of the country, as I’ve never been (another bonus of reading, the travel!). I also would like to go to at least one horror convention sometime this year and try my hand at face-to-face networking.
As for the rest, I hope to continue working on my stories so I can share more with the world. There’s plenty of weirdness still up in my brain, dying for a chance to shine.
Me: Nice, well I know I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for you! And as always, my friend, I wish you the best of luck in all your adventures!
Jennifer Soucy is a quintessential New England girl, born and raised in Connecticut. A wanderer by nature, she moved to the Atlanta area with her family when she was nineteen and delights in being called a “Damn Yankee”. She also lived nearly two years in Las Vegas, her home away from home. Back in Georgia now, she started writing again to fulfill her childhood dreams. This writer, assistant editor, and professional bartender is also a proud nerd who enjoys anything involving horror and fantasy. She hopes to continue publishing books that occasionally make people sleep with the light on.
Check out my website at jenniferlsoucy.com for updates, blogs, and more!
Demon in Me premiers Saturday, be sure to pre-order your copy now!
Shanna Swenson, author of Abundance and PERSONAL FOUL
I write what the characters in my head tell me to ;-)
I met the sweet and beautiful--inside AND out--Kali Brixton on Instagram last year and reached out to her to review my debut romance series, of which, she kindly indulged me and wrote some of the most amazing reviews on my books to date. You can find them HERE
I recently read her debut novel and if you’re a fan of broken, alpha heroes and second chance romances then you’ll need to grab your copy HERE
After reading this touching and endearing book, I knew I wanted to know more about Kali and what inspired her to write these lovable characters.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Kali, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
KB: Hey Shanna! Thank you so much for having me over for this interview 😉 I’m a KY living in a WV world 💖 I may live across the border, but my heart is tattooed with #bluegrassorbust on it. 😁 I am a high school freshman English teacher (and yes, I’m crazy). I’ve been married to my amazing husband for 11 years. I’m an avid romance reader and adore the crap outta HEAs!
In addition to being head HEA cheerleader, my body loves to be an overachiever at collecting ailments: breast cancer at 29, infertility, Hashimoto’s, depression, PCOS, and a few other weird things. Although these have enormously impacted my life, by sharing my story with others, it has also brought some of the most amazing people into my world that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Ever since I was a young girl, I loved to read and write. My love of reading waned in high school, but writing remained a favorite pastime into adulthood. I always geeked out a bit when we were presented with the opportunity to do some sort of creative writing project. It’s been a dream of mine to publish a book for years (and years and years), but going through breast cancer was a stark reminder that my time on Earth is limited and I needed to spend those moments doing the things I love.
Me: Aww, I understand medical illness all too well, my friend. Now, what inspired you to write To Have?
KB: The idea came to me. I know that's crazy, but it's the truth 😂. I had went on a reading bender and was thinking about how some stories fail to touch on real world issues. Then, I started thinking about a little boy whose only crime was being born to the wrong set of parents. A little boy who saw salvation in his kitchen window and eternal love in a little blonde-haired girl. I thought about the things that little boy had experienced, which were probably very similar to what some of my own students experience every day due to a horrible home life. And I thought: what if I gave them a name and a voice? What if I showed that hope is not lost and for every awful person in the world, there is a person who wants to love and accept them?
One of my favorite and most painful scenes to write dealt with the abuse Deacon suffered at his father's hands. I had had a time with D+C going silent on me for a while, so I asked Deacon, "If you won't give me your story, then give me your pain." He did, and it changed everything. 💖
Me: How many books will be in the Vows series?
KB: There will be 4 books in the original series. I am planning for 5ish for the spin-off and, if the inspiration continues to crank out, another 10 in the continuation series. 😯 That's a LOT of storyline to be written, but when I think I have it all figured out, another character comes out of the woodwork and the creative juices start flowing again. 😂
Me: Right! I know!! So, which character in your collection is your favorite? Why?
KB: Gosh… I legit don't know 😂. There are pieces of each character I adore so much (Charlotte's devotion to family, Nikki's creativity, Staci's sass, Grey's comic relief, Elsie's grandmotherly advice), it's hard to narrow it down. 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔. I'd probably have to go with Mason and Deacon because broken characters are my favorites. They awaken the maternal instinct within me to protect them from all the hurt.
Me: Yes, broken ones are the best. Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Deacon? Charlotte? Mason? Grey?
KB: Deacon came to me as-is, with his raven locks and haunted ice blue eyes. His imposing 6'4" figure hid the scared little boy within and I immediately fell in love with him. 💖. Charlotte was always a buxom blonde, but originally had curly, ash blonde hair. After spending some time with her and writing her dad's dream about his little girl, I made some changes to fit the much clearer picture of Charlotte.
Grey and Mason… Now, that's an interesting one 😁. When I was creating the twins, I knew they were very similar to Charlotte, with their blonde locks, grayish-green eyes and charming looks. I knew they'd have a bright smile (well, Grey at least because Mason mostly snarls 😂), and they'd have the typical all-American, boy-next-door good looks. What I didn't bank on was that my Grey and Mason already existed in a living, breathing Adonis: the handsome Anders Schnell. 🤗 Follow him on IG! http://instagram.com/andersschnell
Me: I’m gonna have to search him. Ha ha! So, what are you working on now?
KB: Currently, I have multiple irons in the fire. I am slated to release Books 2 & 3 of the Vows Series (Early Summer 2020 + Late Fall 2020). I am also collaborating with multiple authors on a variety of projects: a contemporary romance collection (tentatively June 2020), a novella for a dark romance series (tentatively Fall 2020), and a sweets-inspired rom-com collection (Late Fall/Early Winter 2020).
So much writing, so little time...but I couldn’t be happier to be a part of these worlds! ;)
Me: Super exciting ;-) Tell us a little about your writing process?
KB: I’m a total pantser who’s trying to morph into a plotser. :D In the past, I was satisfied to have a general idea of the story, then write scenes as I feel inspired. This makes for a much more chaotic WP, which is why I’m trying to corral the craziness in my brain and find my sweet spot of writing.
To Have was patchworked together because I wrote almost solely based on emotion and inspiration, but to create more works in a smaller time frame, I’ve learned that I have to have a better game plan.
I teach writing every day in class, but novel-writing is vastly different from anything I teach and have ever written in the past. There was a steep learning curve (mostly because I’m stubborn… LOL!); however, I had numerous authors who I now call friends to advise me to plan more, then write to save time and heartache.
All that being said, two of my favorite scenes were written solely from inspiration and emotion, so there’s a balance somewhere. Like many, I’m just trying to find mine ;)
Me: LOL! It’s a subjective process for sure! What drew you to the romance genre?
KB: Cinderella 😁 I watched it and The Wizard of Oz somewhere around a bajillion times growing up, so cheering for a couple’s or a character’s HEA became deeply ingrained into my DNA early on.
After I went through breast cancer, I suffered from severe depression. Writing had always been cathartic for me, so I decided to write about my BC journey in addition to a situation that my husband’s family went through when he was young. While taking notes and researching for both, I wondered how I would go about publishing those two books. I stumbled upon Wattpad when I found an article about self-publishing and was shocked at how many different stories were on there!
I found some amazing romances there and fell so in love with the characters and their struggles to rise above all the mess. One of my favorite Wattpad writers, Kimber Lee (@kanyeinyerruptedme), released two stories on Radish, so I followed her there to support her and the stories. This led me to Tess Oliver and Ella Sheridan, which then led me to Amazon to purchase their books because I was a woman obsessed. 😂 I came upon a book that was labeled as Kindle Unlimited and started researching what KU was. Needless to say, a few years later, I’m still a devoted KU reader and chose to put my book baby To Have there as well!
Me: So, who are your favorite authors/books?
KB: I have many authors I adore (the grand majority being indies), but to narrow it down: Ella Sheridan and Tess Oliver. These ladies have created several worlds and several book boyfriends that I’ll never forget and always want to revisit. Meghan March ranks high on my list as well, especially with her recent Legend trilogy. All these ladies are experts in romantic suspense and always keep me on the edge of my seat with their heart-stopping/wrenching/melting stories.
Me: I just got Ella Sheridan’s Assassin’s Mark and I’m eager to dig in. Now, what do you personally love about writing?
KB: I love the catharsis writing offers. It's amazing to take these wild ideas in my head and make them come alive. Pouring your heart onto page after page is a terrifying thing when you think about others reading your work, but what an amazing feeling it is to have others tell you they fell in love with the same characters who made you weep and scream and feel on so many levels.
Back when I went through BC, facing my mortality and the possibility that I might not be in the world anymore lit a fire under me to leave a piece of myself behind. Since I'm unable to have children myself, what better thing to leave of myself in the world than stories where people overcome the odds and find their own happy endings? 😉
Me: Amen to that! I always say, “I write for me. To be able to read what I want to.” Last question, Kali: What are you looking forward to in 2020?
KB: I'm looking most forward to connecting with more people in the romance community, doing a signing or two (hopefully 😁), releasing more book babies into the world, and working on exciting projects that are piling into 2021. 🤘 It's a full docket, but the excitement is intoxicating and addicting!
Me: Haha, yes it is! I am stoked to meet you face to face in Gatlinburg at the signing. I know you, me and Nic are gonna have a blast! I wish you all the best in your endeavors, my friend! Here’s to touching even more hearts in 2020!
Kali Brixton is the alter ego of a mild-mannered English teacher who adores the written word and a good ol'-fashioned love story (or song). Cinderella will forever be her bread, butter, and jelly, and glitter runs in her veins.
She believes in the healing power of hugs, humor, and HEAs. All things sparkly, cheesy, and Wizard of Oz-zy are guaranteed attention-grabbers.
Although rooted deep within the Appalachian Mountains, she has a heart full of wanderlust. Kali dreams of one day becoming a full-time author and traveling to faraway lands. Until then, she will continue to teach high school students the indisputable importance of Poe and puns.
Kali resides with her own Prince Charming/partner-in-crime/husband of more than a decade and the dreams that are now too big to stay within her wild imagination.
Shanna Swenson, author of the Abundance series
Where swoony cowboys await to take your breath away...