June 21, 2013

Interview with Tonya Hurley (and a prize pack giveaway!)


Photo by Kevin Mazur
Tonya Hurley is the author of PRECIOUS BLOOD, the first book in The Blessed series.  It was originally published as THE BLESSED in September 2012.  I called it, "a fever dream of a book, jumbling rock and roll, celebrity, and religious iconography together with abandon.  But I know I'll be back for the second book.  Hurley's created an intoxicating version of Brooklyn, one populated by saints and prophets, and I can't wait to see where she's taking this crazed thrill ride of faith and violence next."  She also wrote the ghostgirl series and writes and directs independent films.

The second book, PASSIONARIES, will be published January 7, 2014.
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1.  On this tour, you've written about the main characters of The Blessed series as well as their Saint namesakes. I found the religious aspects of the novel intriguing, even though I'm not familiar with Catholicism. How much research did you have to do?

I’ve always been fascinated with Catholic iconography and art. I remember sitting in church as a little girl and literally staring at statues of the Blessed Mother stepping on the head of a serpent. It terrified me, it was the stuff of nightmares, but also, in a strange way, it comforted me. She was strong. Heroic. Fearless. Literally stamping out evil in one fell swoop.

Being raised Catholic, I was vaguely familiar with most of the saints but I was surprised at how little I knew about their legends. The thing about these stories that struck me the most, particularly about the female saints like Lucy, Cecilia and Agnes, was how young they were when they were executed and how bravely they faced their deaths. We tend to think of these figures as being very peaceful and passive but the more you read about them, the more their sense of defiance and empowerment comes through. And this sense of undying love they had. As I read, I realized that these were pretty much the first Young Adult superstars on record and the their influence on Western Civilization has been felt for nearly two thousand years since.

As a young adult writer, these sorts of characters and circumstances felt familiar to me. I thought it would make for an exciting and original series to reimagine these people and their legends in a modern context. I couldn’t wait to put all the gruesomeness and the glory onto paper.

2. PRECIOUS BLOOD is not very similar to the ghostgirl series, although both share a morbid sensibility and an interest in life after death. What themes do you feel you're most drawn to?


I think I’m both drawn to and frightened by the unknown, particularly death and the afterlife. Most people have a strong belief regarding what happens to us when we die, but no one really knows for sure. One thing that is for sure – none of us are getting out of here alive. Spoiler alert – we all die. So, it’s really fertile ground from a creative standpoint. I love exploring these themes in unconventional ways. For example, in ghostgirl I approached it as a “life sucks and then you die and then it sucks again,” kind of way. In The Blessed, it’s more of the idea of becoming infamous in death. You become more powerful, your love is stronger. It’s the whole “mythologizing” someone after they’re gone. You tend to remember the good stuff. In a more worldly vein, I like writing about characters who are trying to be accepted and fit in with the people and world around and the lengths they are willing to go to in that effort. Finally, I’d say fame fascinates me. It is a sort of immortality that plays a role in both the ghostgirl and The Blessed series.

3. The UK, US hardcover, and US paperback covers of THE BLESSED/PRECIOUS BLOOD are all very different. Which do you feel represents the story best and why?

The BlessedI love them both. The Blessed UK was actually an interpretation of art I had done for the original book proposal and it really brings out the gritty and street aspects of the book. The Blessed US hardcover sleeve with the image of the Lucy character by artist Natalie Shau was so evocative. The whole journey of the characters is summed up in that image of the crying girl with the praying hands. ‘Why is this girl crying’ sort of vibe. It is creepy, but the color palette is not dark but bright – gold, white and light blue. Which, I think, makes it even more eerie. Likewise, the paperback cover of PRECIOUS BLOOD with the Abbey Watkins art with all the iconography captures perfectly the kind obtuse, trippy mystery that I tried write into the narrative. This book is not a religious book – it is a gritty, dark thriller and I think Abbey conveyed that beautifully.

4. One of my favorite aspects of PRECIOUS BLOOD was that it didn't stick to one interpretation of events, but allowed each of the girls to perceive things in their own ways. As the author, do you have one true perspective? Is it challenging to switch between several points of view?

It is challenging but that was the whole point of the book. Each of these characters was experiencing events through their own filter, from their own point of view, particularly their individual relationships with Sebastian and the unbelievable message he has for them. I like that it is disorienting and it was meant to be that way. I understand that it’s unusual, but its what I felt the story called for. I want the reader to feel each girl’s struggle on a personal level. Feel the way they feel. Relate to each of them. See through their eyes, which is a recurring metaphor, particularly regarding Lucy.

5.  Can you share a little about what is coming next in the Blessed trilogy?  (Warning: some spoilers follow.)





PASSIONARIES is the second book in the trilogy. “Passionaries” were actually medieval saint stories collected by monks and other clerics throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The second novel pretty much follows Lucy, Cecilia and Agnes as they try to work out what they are meant to do with what has been revealed to them. It is much more action-packed and plot heavy, whereas the first book was mostly set up and origin story to use a standard comic book term -- which I felt was needed if you’re going to be willing to go on this particular journey. We see the girls trying to live their lives, trying to survive. Trying to find their way, to make it, and to find themselves. We see their saintly powers, how their lives are threatened, and how they are changing the world by their missions. Also, and most importantly, we see how their relationship with Sebastian grows stronger after his death.

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Check out the other eight tour stops:

Meet Agnes the girl at Confessions of a Bookaholic and Agnes the Saint at Candace’s Book Blog.
Meet Cecilia the girl at Bewitched Bookworms and Cecilia the Saint at A Life Bound by Books.
Meet Lucy the girl at The Reading Date and Lucy the Saint at All Things Urban Fantasy.
Meet Sebastian the boy at Vampire Book Club and Sebastian the Saint at The Book Cellar.

And find out more about The Blessed through these links:

Learn more at http://theblessed.com
Like The Blessed on Facebook
Follow The Blessed and Tonya Hurley on Twitter and join the conversation using #PreciousBlood
Follow The Blessed on Pinterest 

One winner will receive a prize pack, courtesy of Simon & Schuster, containing earbuds, sunglasses, nail polish, PRECIOUS BLOOD, and an Agnes, Cecilia, or Lucy t-shirt.  More details on the rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

26 comments:

  1. I haven't read this yet and this interview is very insightful for readers.

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

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  2. First time I've entered via rafflecopter so hopefully I've done it right...

    I admit to hearing a lot of average opinions about Blessed and not really reading any further. I love the questions you asked, and I feel silly now because this is a series I would really be interested in reading for the theme, compelling for just how much possibility there would be for discussion (thinking the Catholic influence as well as the different perspectives).

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    1. You did it right! Rafflecopter is pretty straightforward, which is why I like using it to run contests.

      Opinions about The Blessed are mixed. But it's definitely different, and I admire that. And there is a lot there to discuss.

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  3. I like the explaination on the cover art. I steered away from the US cover simply because it looked far too creepy; But now I'm coming back around.

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    1. I liked the creepy cover, but I think the paperback cover does have broader appeal.

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  4. Loved the interview! I prefer the US cover, and I am also interested in the afterlife. =)

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    1. The afterlife is endlessly fascinating, isn't it?

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  5. Great interview! I think books that deal with the afterlife can be quite interesting. It leaves a lot to interpret or imagine so it's easy to be a bit more unique about things.

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  6. Lucy would be a favorite and Sebastian.

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  7. LOVE it!! I cant wait to read this! I think im more like Lucy! :D
    Mary G Loki

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    1. I hope you love it when you read it!

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  8. I thought the interview was great.

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  9. I thought the interview was good. Hoping to read these books later

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  10. I love how much research Tonya seems to have put into these books. I can't wait to learn more about these saints (and sinners) and to see how she melds fact with fiction. Thanks for the giveaway!

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    1. Yep, it's always nice when an author puts in the work.

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  11. Awesome interview! I love the ideas in this series, and I have a copy of book one, so I need to give it a read in time for Passionaries. I love the new look for the covers! Thanks so much for sharing :-)

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    1. Thanks! It's a quick, if strange, read.

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  12. Great interview! Looking forward to the next book in the series.

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  13. I adored the first book, and have been eagerly awaiting the next. If anything the indepth questions and answers in this interview has made me extremly excitedx10. It is my kinda thing to be reading this, internet gold!

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