Fantasy, Reality and Flawed Heroes with Jami Gray (and #Giveaway!)

First, thanks to Lori at Romancing the Dark Side for the Elysian Fields love today!

Now, please help me welcome author Jami Gray to Preternatura1 Jami is stopping by to talk about her Kyn Kronicles series, which includes Shadow’s Edge (Kyn Kronicles #1, published in 2011) and Shadow’s Soul (Kyn Kronicles #2, 2012).

Growing up on the Arizona-Mexico border, Jami was adopted at the age of 14 and suddenly became the fifth eldest of 37 children. She graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s in Journalism and minors in history, English, and theater. Shortly after marrying her techie-geek hubby (who moonlighted as her best friend in high school), she completed a master’s in organizational management. Now, she’s back in the Southwest, outnumbered in her own home by two Star Wars-obsessed boys, one Star Wars-obsessed husband, and an overly-friendly, 105-pound male lab.  Writing is what saves her sanity.  You can learn more about Jami by visiting her website, on Facebook or by following here on twitter. 

ABOUT SHADOW’S EDGE:  Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows…especially the monsters. It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts. When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community. 

ABOUT SHADOW’S SOUL:  All she had to do was keep one man safe… Raine McCord has no problem taking down the monsters of the world, it’s one of the reasons she’s so good at her job. So playing bodyguard to Cheveyo, head Magi of the Northwest, as he consults with the Southwest Kyn should be an easy assignment. Unfortunately, the simple task turns into a nightmare when Cheveyo is kidnapped and Raine is left for dead by one of the Kyn’s most feared beings, a Soul Stealer. The Stealer’s attack leaves lasting wounds, undermining Raine’s confidence as a warrior and damaging her unruly magic. Her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand. Compelled to face the emotions raging between them, they must embrace not only their stormy relationship but their evolving magic to escape the twisted threads of murder and betrayal to find Cheveyo. As Raine and Gavin come together and begin to unravel the complex web of secrets and hidden vendettas haunting the Southwest Kyn, they discover unsettling new truths that threaten their very existence.

And now, let’s hear from Jami…

Is it real or is it fantasy?
By Jami Gray

Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Erotic Fantasy…the list is endless.  Readers love stories that drag them away from reality and into a world where the most pressing question isn’t what’s for dinner, but how to banish that pesky demon or track down that hunky stud muffin in leather. As an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance writer I was recently presented with an intriguing question from a reader unfamiliar with the genre. How much reality is in your fantasy world?

My first love is Urban Fantasy, which has been defined as a modern (urban) setting with magical elements. Appears fairly self-explanatory, right?  Take a modern, every day setting in a familiar city, add some magic and violá—Urban Fantasy.  

Yet throughout the day, I kept picking over the question (Hello, I’m Jami and I have OCD), until an unexpected answer appeared. 

Reality plays a bigger part than just setting in my stories.

SHADOW’S EDGE is set in Portland, Oregon, a great city, where the weird seem commonplace and no one bats an eyelash at the unusual. The people run the range from your normal average citizen to that person you’ll cross the street to make sure they don’t feel the urge to share their alien abduction story with you. Add in the weather, unique downtown spots and the fact that you have tons of unpopulated wildernesses around you and it was my nirvana.

But reality didn’t stop with my location, oh no, it bled into my characters. Raine McCord, my heroine, is a kick-ass, lethal woman, with quite a few hidden flaws (and some not-so-hidden). Even though she’s part of the Kyn (a collection of mythical races) and magic is a normal part of her life, she’s been forged by some very real trauma. Trauma that left some very lasting scars on who she is and how she deals with what life sends her way. And she’s not the only character with a history. 

As I’ve continued to develop my series and my characters, I discovered for my characters to gain believable depth and become “real” to my readers, they must have characteristics readers can connect to. I’m not saying my readers are out there bedecked in leather and carrying sharp, pointy weapons with a commendable snarl on their faces (or maybe some of you do), but the concepts of self-doubt, trust, independence, finding your true strengths, accepting yourself, overcoming obstacles—those aspects have to ring true.

Writers write what they know so I’ve excavated my own experiences to ensure my characters become “real.” I must understand what drives my characters, what’s behind each of their decisions, and how will they handle the consequences of those decisions.  If I don’t do that, I’ll end up with a very one-dimensional cast of characters.  

Much like life, everything that happens to a person, every action, every reaction causes a chain reaction that echoes down the line. It may not be immediately, but it will come back and bring with it new and more demanding challenges. That’s what creating a believable world is about. You want your readers to keep reading, to find out what happens when… 

The only way to do that is to be true to who your characters are and how they react to others and with others.

I’m a huge reader, and I find that I tend to grab books like I’m popping chocolate when stress decides to strut on to my life’s stage. Using other writers’ worlds to escape my own, even for a little while, gives me a chance to take a breath, pull up my leather pants, tighten that dagger, and reapply a little scarlet red to my lips as I practice snarling in a mirror, before I head back out to battle reality.
So how much reality is in Fantasy? More than you think. Those little secret desires, decisions we’ve thought of making but have held back from, choices we’ve made or not made, it’s all there…just spiced up with a little magic.
Thanks, Jami!
Who’s one of your favorite paranormal or fantasy characters, and what’s his or her human flaw? If I pick my own DJ, she has abandonment issues (just to pick one reality-based weakness). She’s lost everyone in her life, either to death or betrayal, and it’s made her slow to trust and reluctant to ask for help. 

One commenter will will their choice of Shadow’s Edge or Shadow’s Soul!

35 thoughts on “Fantasy, Reality and Flawed Heroes with Jami Gray (and #Giveaway!)

  1. i love when the character i read are well built with a deep reflexion behind it it makes them more human ^^ but there are so many with flaws that i can’t really think of one right now ^^;

  2. You make a good point, Jami – it’s the humanity in characters that readers relate to. Good UF characters like Rayne & DJ might have extraordinary talents, but they’re dealing with the same kinds of issues the rest of us are.

    • Love, love Gin, that woman is just so full of surprises, not just the lethal ones either. And the things she worries about in her relationships, I think a great many readers can relate to.

  3. There are just so many good ones out there that its hard to pick! Maybe Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs series. But I know that there are alot more. Oh and I will definitely be grabbing this series! It sounds awesome! 🙂

    • Thanks, Amber. Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews are two of my favorite authors. (Okay, honestly, I have a HUGE list of favs, but still…). One of my favorite things about Mercy is she stands out from those around her because she finds very creative work arounds in her dealings with Adam, Sam and Bran.

  4. Written in Red by Anne Bishop has a great character who has to learn just about everything in the world around her and herself. Because of that, the surrounding characters have to rethink their perceptions of the world too! Your books sound great I will have to add to my TBR mountain.

    • I agree with you, Liz. I picked up Anne’s book earlier this year (her second should be coming soon) and just fell right into her world. I’ve read her Black Jewels Trilogy and the levels of her characters were mind blowing. Just when you thought you knew the why’s and how come’s behind their decisions, you were totally blindsided.

  5. Thanks for the guestpost Jami, you are a new author to me and I will add your books to my wishlist.
    Most of my favourite urban fantasy heroines are stubborn, which I like.

    • JR Ward’s worlds have so many layers, it’s like a really complex and compelling soap opera (in a good way!). I really enjoyed Zsadist’s story as a reader, because Ms. Ward found that key balance on retaining your humanity under some truly horrendous circumstances. Even if it did take some seriously applied TNT to get through his emotional barriers. I really enjoyed John’s story too, that one hit on a couple different levels.

  6. LOL! I would have mentioned DJ and her abandonment issues… but you beat me to it when you started this discussion. I just finished (and loved) Unclaimed by Sara Humphries (Amoveo Legend # 5) and both the hero and the heroine had serious trust issues they had to work thru. Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. One of my favorite paranormal characters is Rachel Morgan from Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. Even though she has amazing powers, she still has some insecurities that make her seem so human.

    • See? Even kick ass heroines have bad days! Think how boring things would be if every day was–dress to kill, kick much antagonistic butt, look good, use awesome weapons, date the gorgeous broody male…oh wait, I think I’m turning a little green…

  8. I completely agree with you that part of what makes a great character is the realistic issues in their lives. The ones we have all faced or known someone whose faced. It brings you lser to the characters and the story.
    One of my favorite flawed characters is October Daye. She has trust issues, relationship issues and is always being knocked down emotionally but yet she picks herself backup and gets stronger.

    • Oh yes, Kate and Curran….they are so much fun! *spoiler alert* My heart broke during the last book though, yet what happened had to happen and the reasons behind it were totally believable, yet that’s why it was so hard to read.

    • There are so many great characters (just see this list alone!) and Christina Dodd has quite the cast, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read her stuff. However I remember a gypsy type family that I really enjoyed.

  9. I like feisty, intelligent heroines but not those who are stupidly stubborn. Being all too human is fine but there are just some characteristics which I can’t stand in a heroine.

    • I have to agree, Linda. It’s all well and good to be stubborn, but be stubborn about the things that matter, when it matters. I find characters who tend to mirror more realistic behaviors and reactions easier to connect to, than a smart character who does silly things for silly reasons!

  10. I absolutely love Mira from Jocelynn Drake’s Dark Days series! She’s tough and not afraid to get her hands dirty but also has a soft spot that we don’t get to see from her very often, but when it shows up it’s amazing to see her vulnerable side. She has a tragic past, but takes no prisoners and is loyal to a fault! She’s my top fav. character

    • Those are some of the more fun ones to hang around, Bobbye. Considering all the trouble they get in and out of, how they figure out what works and doesn’t, or where their personal lines are, it all make for a great, compelling read!

  11. Thank you everyone for stopping by and sharing your favorite flawed characters. We have a randomly chosen winner *drum roll*

    Steph F.!

    Congratulations, Steph! Drop me a line at and please let me know which title you’d like–Shadow’s Edge or Shadow’s Soul, and I will make sure the tech gremlins get it out to you!

    Thanks again to everyone! You guys made this a fun post!

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