Identity Roulette – Mix It Up with Cecilia Dominic (and #Win)

Today, please join me in welcoming author Cecilia Dominic to Preternatura.  Cecilia is dropping by today to help celebrate the release of her latest book, Long Shadows.  Long Shadows is the second book in Cecilia’s The Lycanthropy Files series and is being published today, March 25 by Samhain Publishing. And you know how we all love shifters here at Preternatura!

Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name.  She lives in Atlanta, Ga. (virtually in Suzanne’s backyard), with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each.  You can learn more about Cecilia by visiting her website, on facebook, by following her on twitter or on pinterest.

dominicABOUT LONG SHADOWS:  By day, Lonna Marconi’s busy career keeps her mind off the fact she was turned werewolf against her will. By night, a dose of wolfsbane lets her inner wolf out to play while her physical body stays safe at home. When an overheard phone call at work warns her a trap is about to be sprung, she turns from hunter to hunted in the blink of an eye. She finds refuge with the Ozarks pack she never claimed as her own. Upon discovering a family secret that explains why she s unique among her own kind, Lonna finds heat in the arms of Max, who s the one thing she cannot trust a wizard. Another kidnapping attempt sends her navigating the treacherous metaphysical borders of a centuries-old war, pursued by rogue sorcerers, a band of ghostly wolves, and repressed memories that prevent her from reclaiming her heritage. All the while, trusting her back to a wizard who demands the price of her heart and who may not have the luxury of giving his in return. Warning: Some sexy scenes, adult language, and alcohol consumption. Also descriptions of Italian food that might offend carbophobes.

And now, let’s hear from Cecilia…

Why I write Speculative Fiction, Part 2:  Identity – It’s always Halloween in my head

In December, I wrote a blog post for Fresh Fiction on why I write and read urban fantasy. In it, I explored some general concepts. Today, on the release of my second novel Long Shadows, let’s focus in and talk identity.

My favorite holiday is Halloween. One year I even wore a Star Trek captain’s shirt to work under my lab coat. I don’t think anyone noticed, but I had fun. The reason for my love of Halloween and costuming:  stepping out of my identity. I’ve always loved dressing up and pretending to be someone or something else for an evening or a day.

This is actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot as my writing career has become a bigger part of my life. When I was an aspiring (unpublished) author, I found myself much less likely to talk about it because of the inevitable question, “Oh, are you published?” Now I talk about it as my “other career” or I refer to Cecilia Dominic, my pen name, as “my other self.” Occasionally when I’m going to a writing event, my husband will ask me, “Who are you today?” Poor guy.

[Suzanne and Susannah nod, commiserating.]

In psychology, there are two theories of identity:  identity theory and social identity theory. With creative names like those, you can see why I’m drawn to my writer identity as much as my psychologist one. I’ll just give you the basics, and we’ll go from there.*

Humans define their identity in the context of groups, either with regard to what roles we play or what categories we fit in. We get to our various identities – and yes, each of us has more than one – by asking questions like, “Where do I fit in? Where do I not? Who is like me?” We also get these messages from social context, especially from family. Speculative fiction allows us to stretch this idea because paranormal creatures have a different set of answers.

Because self-esteem, or how good one feels about oneself, and self-efficacy, or how much in control a person feels over his or her environment are dependent on group membership, paranormal creatures face extra hurdles. They often have to play dual roles, one in the human world and one in the paranormal one. It’s common for people to have difficulty negotiating and balancing roles, and bringing it to a supernatural level where one misstep can mean disaster, death, or discovery heightens the tension and fun for readers and writers. Sometimes being too good at one role endangers the other one, so that presents extra problems. For example, in Jocelynn Drake’s Angel’s Ink, her wizard tattoo artist main character runs into supernatural trouble when he’s too good at his job.

The world of the paranormal also gives us fascinating characters like the lone werewolf and the vampire who has been living in isolation for decades or centuries. Often it’s part of their character development that they do have to risk loving in order to fully live, but it seems, at least at first, that they were able to get away without that group membership for a long time. Without others like them to evaluate their behavior, how do they know if what they’re doing is right? This confusion or lack of “appraisal” can lead to good intentions with bad outcomes.

Then what happens when a paranormal creature falls for someone in another group who may not be able to fully understand their roles and expectations? Debra Harkness’ pairing of witch and vampire in A Discovery of Witches is tough for them – and fascinating for us – not only because it’s forbidden by the rules of their supernatural governing body, but also because their normal couple angst is enhanced because of what they are and the conflicting expectations they each hold of how the other one should behave.

In Long Shadows, my main character Lonna Marconi is struggling with her identity. Her self-concept – or all the identities she held – has had to change as the result of being turned werewolf against her will, and it’s unsettling for so many of the answers to be “I don’t know.” Even worse, her new identity seems to have a mind of its own, and as the book goes on, she finds out she’s different from other lycanthropes, which has made her a target for a rogue wizard. She doesn’t like wizards but has to turn to and falls for one, anyway, which of course brings about more problems for her.

It’s fun to try on different identities and play in worlds with different rules. As a writer, I hope I can bring that experience to my readers, and as I reader, I’m very happy when an author does that for me. Even though Halloween only happens once a year, it can be every day between the pages of a good book.

*There’s actually an article that explores the overlap between the two identity theories and distills them into concepts. Feel free to check it out if you’re suffering from insomnia and need something non-pharmacological to help you sleep.

If you’re interested in how advertisers use identity theory to hook you in, check out this interesting article from Psychology Today.

Thanks, Cecilia! I have a wizard who’s going through this type of issue with a certain undead French pirate. The fun part of paranormals is that we get to make up the rules.

What do you like to see in your paranormal characters? What’s your favorite “mixed-species” pair? Leave a  comment to be entered for your chance to win a digital copy of Long Shadows.


20 thoughts on “Identity Roulette – Mix It Up with Cecilia Dominic (and #Win)

  1. Thanks for stopping by, Sandy!

    Suzanne, thanks for having me, and I love the comments in the post! I’m getting dizzy switching between the dayjob and writing identities today. 🙂

  2. Don’t enter me in the contest as I already have Cecilia’s book – I guess that my favorite mixed species pair is either an elf/fae with a werewolf/vampire. They come from different expectations and I happen to like that all four are actually strong archtypes. I guess I’m drawn to the alpha characteristics of each type. Great post by Cecilia on identity and I do think sleeping disorders are definitely on the rise in the US so I suspect she’ll be kept busy in both “careers” and personalities….and’s best with 1 husband and the 2 cats …more than 1 husband could be a real headache!

    • Thanks, Maria! My two cats already don’t get along, so I don’t dare try two husbands. One is about all I can handle anyway. 😉 Yes, I’ve had an extremely busy day today. The nice thing is that when the practice is quiet, at least I have more time to write.

  3. This is a wonderful book and I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced review copy. Cecilia’s psychology training and background give it an added layer of dimension to her characterizations. Loved it!

  4. What an interesting article on identity! Some of my favorite mixed species pairs are Rachel and Trent from Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, Diana and Matthew from Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, and DJ and Jean from the Sentinels of New Orleans of course!

    • Oooh, I love Diana and Matthew, especially since she’s got the sassy academic witch thing going on and can stand up to his vampire issues. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Enjoy your post very much. I also enjoyed your first book in the Lycanthropy Files series. I loved Discovery of Witches for all the conflict between the witch and vampire communities. No matter what kind of creature, person, etc in a PNR or UF story, the challenges in everyday interactions can create a great venue for the story. What do they eat? Where do they live? Why do they hate each other? Etc. Congrats on the new release.

    • Thank you, Liz! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m super excited you enjoyed The Mountain’s Shadow. 😀 I agree with you about the everyday life challenges our paranormal characters face. Activities of daily living – not so easy in our human society.

  6. There are so many good pairings its hard to pick one. DJ and Jean are definitely a good one. I think mostly in the characters I like to see some kind of conflict with them or challenge that they have to overcome.

  7. congrats Cecilia on the new release and thanks for such a fun post! I’d have to say that I like to see couples complement each out but not necessarily be “stronger” or more “badass”. They should have their own strong points. So many couples are so uneven and it’s frustrating 🙂

    • Erin, wow, I had a similar conversation with someone last night. I also prefer book couples to be balanced. Thank you for stopping by, and I’m happy you liked the post!

    • I agree. The combinations are almost endless. Hmm, I might have to play with the wolf/witch combo sometime. In Long Shadows, it’s wolf/wizard, so close. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. Thanks for the fun post! In romance it’s always a story of overcoming obstacles to find that ‘right’ partner, so stories where opposites/natural enemies attract are often the most interesting. Like angels who love demons, or vamps who love were-beings. I agree with ErinF1 that I prefer to see matched pairs, so the dominance issue is more emotional than physical. And, it’s always fun to watch that battle of wills!

    Faves include: Charley Davidson and Reyes Farrow (Darynda Jones) and Remus Lupin and Tonks, but now I have a whole new group of couples to explore.

    • I’m definitely with you and Erin. Uneven physical or metaphysical power can be hard to get past to even deal with the emotional stuff. The natural enemies/opposites in love is such a fun story to play with. It’s like we can take Romeo and Juliet and give it a happy ending.

      Thanks so much for your comment and compliment! 🙂

  9. first book written at 2 years old?o_o that’s precoce
    i don’t have a specific mixed pair i love to see the originality of each couple

    • The story at age two was a short one about a bunny. As I recall, it didn’t have much in the way of plot and character development. Or conflict. Or much else, really. 🙂

      I like your looking for what’s different with each couple. Personality definitely brings a lot to the story regardless of species.

      Thanks for stopping by!