Next up in our line up of author profiles from the Dead of Winter anthology is Zoey Xolton, author of "Only in Death". This disturbing dark fantasy tells of a woman desperate to escape the cycle of abuse she's been subjected to at the hands of a handsome but cruel lord of the Fae.
We caught up with Zoey to ask her about her processes and inspirations. We've also got an excerpt from "Only in Death", just for you.
How did you get started with writing?
I’ve always loved books and reading, it was something fostered in me at a very early age. Fairy tales were my favourites. Not the Disney style ones - I’m talking about the original fairy tales, the ones that were dark and frightening and often left you with profound life truths and moral lessons. These resonated with me, because I think I realised at a young age that life is in fact not always happiness and rainbows; that there is an entire dark side to life, and though it’s often different and confronting, there is beauty to be found there.
As a result, I started dabbling in writing my own stories. By the time I’d finished school, I’d received a few awards for my prose and poetry as well as personal feedback from some very well-known Australian authors. When you attract that sort of a response, you know you’re on the right path! Creativity, dreams and the unknown have become my life and I love to explore these through the process of writing.
Do you tend to write in just one genre or do you like to write across multiple genres?
I definitely tend to blur the lines between genres because I think they work so seamlessly with one another, though I seem to dance with same three, regularly. I love most, and find my comfort zone in Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror. I simply write what I love to read. I think in general, you could describe what I write as being epic Dark Fantasy, with elements of horror and a strong vein of Paranormal Romance.
What made you decide to write "Only in Death"? Is there a particular backstory to it?
The story or message behind Only in Death, is a tragic and simple one: the desire to be free. Throughout my own life, and in general, I think we often find ourselves in situations that aren’t ideal, and we find ourselves wanting to escape. Maintaining a sense of identity, purpose and freedom, I believe, are important to self-growth and well-being; and it’s when these things are stolen from us, that we are potentially driven to go to any lengths to reclaim them. Amara in this sense, is a mirror of humanity in my eyes, and a very relatable character. She doesn’t do well, shackled and controlled, kept as nothing more than a trophy and breeder in an unfamiliar world. She knows there is more to life already, even at such a young age, and is willing to face insurmountable odds to even attempt to regain what she feels she has so desperately lost.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not writing, I of course love to read. I’m fond of anything written by Anne Rice, Terry Brooks, Anne Bishop, Jacqueline Carey and Mercedes Lackey. As an extension of my love of escapism, I enjoy binge watching shows such as The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and Vikings. I also pursue photography at an amateur level in my free time, as memories have always been sacred to me. I love to document my family’s adventures and my children’s milestones. My family means everything to me and spending time with them is where I find my truest sense of happiness.
Where is the best place for readers to find out more about your work?
The best place to start, would be my website. I maintain a regular blog at: www.zoeyxolton.com, as well as active presences on www.twitter.com/zoeyxolton & www.facebook.com/authorzoeyxolton. On these platforms I share my thoughts, my interests and passions, my writing progress as well as what I’m up to, for those interested in the writer beyond the writing!
Thanks, Zoey! And, now for an excerpt from her story in Dead of Winter.
Only in Death
Amara ran blindly through the dark, the fear of recapture giving speed to her frozen feet. Winter’s bitter cold frosted her every fevered breath no sooner than it had passed her lips. She cried out as another contraction ripped through her young body with inhuman strength, stealing her legs from under her. Her knees hit the snow-covered earth and she threw out her hands instinctively. Landing on all fours, she narrowly avoided crushing her swollen belly. Her scream rent the darkness, sending birds shrieking into the star-pricked sky.
Gasping for breath, her tears, sweat and blood mixed in fetid rivulets that etched their way down her form, staining her ivory gown scarlet. She shivered violently as she clutched at the pain in her middle with one shaking hand. Her body begged her to rest, but she could not. She had suffered too much, been tortured and used for far too long, to relinquish her fragile grasp on freedom now.
“Amara . . .” Her own name was whispered seductively in her mind. “You are bound to me. I can feel you in my veins and taste you on my tongue. Your fear is like a heady, dizzying perfume on the breeze.”
Amara gagged and retched, emptying her stomach of its saccharine contents. Even now, the sickly-sweet scent of the Lady's Tongue Lily was strong. Added to all her meals and beverages, its clear potent nectar dulled the senses and pacified the spirit; leaving her helpless and open to suggestion. Wiping her mouth with her cold, damp sleeve, she felt her legs could no longer support her; so, she crawled.
“Amara,” came her Lord Vyrixian's call again. He taunted her, his very voice compelled her, threatening to weaken what precious little resolve she had remaining. His beautiful, cruel, smiling face materialized in her mind. Her head spun and the darkling in her belly squirmed. In the distance, she heard the unmistakable howl of The Hunt, the hounds of the Otherworld and their armed fae entourage.