Guest Post: Interview with Janine Ashbless – The Prison of the Angels
Today I welcome back Janine Ashbless to my blog with her conclusion of the Watchers Trilogy. She has most generously answered my questions about The Prison of the Angels and I’m delighted to be hosting her!
- Janine, welcome back and congratulations on Book 3 of the Watchers series! How does it feel to be at this stage of the story?
It feels good – because I’ve told the story that’s been clawing away inside me for years and given my characters the ending they deserve, I hope – and at the same time, it feels like a bereavement. Because it’s over and I can’t travel with them anymore.
- Once again you’ve set the novel in several interesting locations and write evocatively about them. Did you visit any of these places for research?
I’ve not been able to go abroad this year because we have a frail old dog, so I’ve not been able to indulge my wanderlust in research this time round! I have been to Rome in the past, so I’ve called on old memories and photos, and I have been to Norway in winter – though not the Jotunheimen National Park, sadly! Thank goodness for the Internet, eh?
- You have always raised fascinating questions about religion and doctrine and religious mythology in this series. In The Prison of the Angels you explore the nature of who Jesus really was – a controversial step for some. What drew you to write about this idea in particular?
I think that given the Judeo-Christian mythos I was drawing on so heavily – Heaven and Hell and angels and demons and the wildly different lores of the Christian Churches – it would have been cowardly to dodge the question of the nature of Jesus and the role God was playing in the plan for the world, and weird to pretend that none of my characters had even wondered. Jesus fits in with my fictional universe extremely well, and I drew on various apocryphal gospels written about his childhood. My “solution” to the whole thing might be considered controversial, but I can’t imagine that anyone that worried by heresy will have got as far as the third book, to be honest!
- Christianity and Christian mythology have been the main focus throughout the books, but here you also explore Norse myths. What inspired you to introduce it at this stage?
Christianity came to Scandinavia really quite late in European history so we have something like a genuine pagan mythos extant there in a way we don’t in, say, England; and it’s one well known to general readers these days in a way that, say, Finnish legends wouldn’t be. I wanted to place Samyaza somewhere I could intertwine my story with ‘real’ mythology with some confidence. And he just fits – the Tempter in the Garden of Eden who wrecks the heavenly plan is also the Trickster-figure who betrays the gods. Both are associated with serpents, red hair, the death of the Divine Son, an eternal imprisonment, and a return at the End of the World for the last great battle between good and evil.
- What kind of a role does Penemuel play in The Prison of Angels?
It rankled me from the start that angels should only manifest as men, as if that were some sort of sign of their superiority to humans. So I wanted a female angel who still showed all the angelic traits of open sexuality, generosity, dominance and slightly unhinged delight in life. Penemuel’s smarter than Azazel and necessary to his plan to free all their fellows. She’s also capable of cunning and manipulation in a way that Azazel’s not inclined to, and is more imaginative when it comes to solutions – which turns out to be vital.
- Who or what was the inspiration for Egan? What in the main drives his conflicted soul? (He is so very conflicted!)
I fell so much in love with Egan. I adore his complications and his flaws! He started off as the White Knight opposed to Azazel’s Bad Boy, and then the good guy turned out to have a heart of darkness even as the demon lover turns out to be a beacon of light. I can’t talk about Egan’s big secret here because it’s a real shocker when it’s finally revealed in the book (I hope), but it totally defines his relationship with his faith and with Milja.
I didn’t plan him that way, you know – he just got deeper and murkier as he went on! I just think as I get older that I’m not very interested in or convinced by people who are perfect.
- Milja started to develop her own powers in In the Bonds of Earth but they are starting to come into their own in this one. How has that development affected the direction of the book?
Milja gets powers because that’s in the Biblical mythos – the fact that fallen angels “teach” their lovers magic is one of the main reason God condemns them to punishment. It also means that Milja is much less dependent on being rescued by her two guys in this third book, and she can really affect the direction of events because she’s no longer simply outclassed by all the other players. She has to learn to deal with power and responsibility, and the fact that she isn’t always going to be innocent in every situation.
- You been venturing into self-publishing this year. Tell us a little about your experiences with that.
I had THREE publishers up and die on me this year – two of them (Ellora’s Cave and Samhain) were really big American publishing houses, one (Sweetmeats) was a small British press that had published some of my best work. I was nearly crushed by this, I admit. Luckily Sinful Press (publishers of The Prison of the Angels) have taken on some of my reverted titles. But I also want to reprint some stuff – especially the more romantic novellas – on my own. I use Draft 2 Digital and for anyone out there worrying about the process, as I did, let me tell you it is REALLY EASY.
- Will we see more of the Watchers series?
It was written as a fast-paced trilogy, not a soap opera. So, though it breaks my heart, I don’t think I can write more. Besides, how do I top Armageddon?
- What is your next project?
I’ve a quartet of erotic novellas called The Lovers’ Wheel that I started with Ellora’s Cave. Now that they’ve reverted to me I want to get the first two republished and write the last two.
Thanks for having me over on your blog, Jacqui!
Excerpt from The Prison of the Angels:
The cold water flashed like white fire over every inch of my skin. It burnt my eyeballs and my lips and the inside of my throat, and beyond the white fire was a darkness so immense that it swallowed me whole.
I fell forever.
Something grabbed my wrist. Something so hot that it boiled away the darkness, so that there was suddenly light flashing in my eyes. I felt myself grabbed up bodily and lifted. I felt heat against my lips, blowing fire into my frozen lungs. I saw the wooden posts of a flight of steps, and then I pitched forward onto hands and knees in the shallow snow, choking up pond-water. In front of my blurred vision an inchoate swirl of darkness poured up the steps onto the lit porch and then disappeared. Unseen, something slammed against the door, a knock that made the house shake.
I was on the ground beneath the back porch of John’s house, I realized, shuddering.
Oh Mama. The thought seemed to come from nowhere.
Three times the knock sounded, and on the third the door burst open—outward, onto the porch—to reveal Egan in the lit room within; shaven, shirtless, and frozen mid-lunge for what I could only assume was a weapon of some sort.
I tried to cry out.
Grabbing his pistol he ran out barefoot onto the porch and looked around for enemies that were not there. Then he clattered down and pulled me up into his arms. I pressed my face to his neck and he carried me up the steps and over the threshold—not like a bride, but like a child he could hold tight against his torso, his wrists locked under my thighs. His skin blazed against mine. He hefted me into the kitchen and propped my ass on the table in front of the range.
“What the hell?” he demanded in a low fierce voice, sweeping locks of sodden hair back from my face. My hat seemed to have disappeared. “What happened, Milja? What were you doing out there?”
“Ice. I fell in the lake.” My jaw chattered. It was obvious I was telling the truth—I was soaked from head to toe, and after clasping me so close he wasn’t much drier himself.
“Feckssake, woman!” he growled. “What the hell were you thinking of?” He shucked off my coat, which lifted a sodden ton from my shoulders, then stooped to pull my boots off; ice-water spilt all over the floor.
I tried to strip off my gloves but my fingers weren’t capable of gripping anything.
“Come here, come here,” he said softly from where he knelt at my feet, grabbing my wrists and peeling away the useless gloves. He pressed my hands on either side of his warm neck, holding them there. They must have felt like ice-blocks to him, but he didn’t wince.
He looked like a knight kneeling before his queen, I thought. I could feel his pulse.
“I’ll go get towels, Milja. Are you going to be okay a sec?”
I nodded, though he probably couldn’t see it through the shuddering. He rose and hurried off, leaving me with the radiant warmth of the stove. I thought I should probably get the rest of my clothes off, but even after I struggled with my fly zipper my jeans seemed determined to cling to my bum-cheeks.
I heard the back door bang shut and I flinched.
Had he been gathering himself to come get Egan? Was he the one who had saved me from the black waters? Where was he now?
Egan came back in carrying armfuls of towels. “Alright?”
“I’m okay,” I told him, smiling through my shudders. He was still shirtless, and I could see the faint Ethiopian scars on his arm and chest.
He wrapped my hands one at a time in a towel, chaffed them dry, and then set them deliberately against the hard, hot wall of his torso.
Then he slipped all the buttons on my thick flannel shirt—the one I’d chosen this morning precisely because it wasn’t provocative or distracting—and he only slowed when he realized I was wearing just a bra-top underneath. My nipples stood in shamefully hard points under the stretch cotton. I tried to wriggle out of the long tartan sleeves of my shirt on my own, to spare his blushes, but everything clung like a freezing cold second skin and he had to help.
The shallow slash on my forearm wasn’t bleeding anymore, but each brush of his fingers felt like hot coals.
My wet garment made a slap as it struck the floor.
He draped a towel around my shoulders and another over my head. He started rubbing the water from my face and hair and scalp, his movements precise and gentle. For long moments I was buried in a soft darkness. I reached out, blind, to put my hands back on his bare ribs. I could feel his heart pounding beneath them, like a beast pacing a cage.
I have no idea when it all changed for him. When his grueling self-denial simply fell apart, like a garment worn and washed until the fabric was weakened beyond all use. All I knew was that he dropped the towel off my damp head, cupped my face in both his hands and—absolutely without warning—kissed me.
Milja Petak’s world has fallen apart.
Her lover, the fallen angel Azazel, has cast her aside in rage and disgust. The other contender for her heart, the Catholic priest Egan Kansky, was surrendered back into the hands of the shadowy Vatican organization, Vidimus, after sustaining life-threatening injuries.
She has killed and she has betrayed. She is alone, homeless, and at the end of her tether – torn apart by guilt and the love she has lost.< But neither Heaven nor its terrifying representatives on Earth have finished with Milja. Both her lovers need her in order to further their very different plans, and both passionately need her, though they may try to deny it.
Milja is once again forced into a series of choices as she uncovers the secrets Heaven has been guarding for centuries. But this time it is not just her heart at stake, or even the fate of a fallen angel.
This time, the choices she makes will change everything.
This time it’s the End of the World.
The Prison of the Angels is the third in the acclaimed Book of the Watchers trilogy, following on from Cover Him with Darkness, and In Bonds of the Earth.
Janine Ashbless is a writer of fantasy erotica and steamy romantic adventure. She likes to write about magic and myth and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human.
Buyer beware! If you like dark romance and a hard-won Happily Ever After, try “Cover Him with Darkness,” “Heart of Flame,” or “The King’s Viper.” If you prefer challenging erotica, go for “Red Grow the Roses” or “Named and Shamed” instead. All her other books lie somewhere on the spectrum between.
Janine has been seeing her books in print ever since 2000. She’s also had numerous short stories published by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, and Ellora’s Cave among others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology ‘Geek Love’.
Born in Wales, Janine now lives in the North of England with her husband and two rescued greyhounds. She has worked as a cleaner, library assistant, computer programmer, local government tree officer, and – for five years of muddy feet and shouting – as a full-time costumed Viking. Janine loves goatee beards, ancient ruins, minotaurs, trees, mummies, having her cake and eating it, and holidaying in countries with really bad public sewerage.
Her work has been described as:
“Hardcore and literate” (Madeline Moore) and “Vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death, and love.” (Portia Da Costa)
- Janine Ashbless on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janineashbless
- Sinful Press website: https://www.sinfulpress.co.uk
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