Death’s Servant (VV Inn #.05) Review and Author Interview with C.J. Ellisson

DeathsServantJonathan Winchester has clashed with his alpha one too many times. After another argument he leaves the Manitoba pack, his only home since the werewolf attack that changed his life. He returns to his home state of Virginia to start a new life free of pack politics. Jon finds work and meets a young waitress, Raine, who appears to be a lone werewolf, too.

As their relationship progresses, Jon’s embroiled in more intrigue than he bargained for and a danger bigger than he can handle. He’s running scared until his own alpha tendencies surface, making him unable to leave the pretty werewolf’s problems behind. The young man is desperate to save Raine—even if his efforts may lead him straight to death.

Journey along in this first prequel novel involving the favorite characters from the bestselling V V Inn series. Written at reader demand, this stand-alone story explains how the beloved Jonathan came to serve the deadly redheaded vampire, Dria.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I have to be honest here. I’m kind of behind on the VV Inn series. It’s one of those cases of too many books, too little time. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about, right? The other thing is, I just recently re-discovered C.J. Ellison. I was first introduced to her writing and Vampire Vacation on a writing workshop website. I knew then that she was in the process of publishing the series, but I eventually stopped frequenting the site and lost track of the people I was following. I was so excited to catch up with her again and was even more excited to see that some of my other blogging friends had discovered her as well. When I was asked if I wanted to review Death’s Servant I jumped at the chance. The great part about this novella is that you don’t have to be familiar with the series to jump right in. For those of us who have already been introduced to the characters, it’s a nice little bonus and a great back story for characters we already know.

So now that I’ve read Death’s Servant, what do I think? It’s the perfect addition to the VV Inn series. Seeing where Jon came from and some of the events that shaped him into the character we first meet in Vampire Vacation gives us a whole new perspective. For readers who haven’t met the characters yet, I can see how it would give you a taste of what is to come and who these characters are. There was also much more to Vivian (Dria) and Rafe’s presence in this novella than I expected and it was welcome.

For being a novella, this story is packed full of action and even a fair amount of heartbreak, and just the right amount of heat. I also liked seeing these characters out of their normal surroundings. What made it even better for me was that I was familiar with where this story took place. That’s always an added bonus when you read a story that you enjoyed. It also stayed true to the series in that the action pulled you in from the beginning and pretty much didn’t let go until the last page. It also made me want to go back and re-read Vampire Vacation (not that I need a lot of reasons.) Mainly because I think I’m going to have a whole new perspective on the relationship between Jon and Rafe. 😉

There are several more books planned in a series of prequels for the VV Inn series.  I can’t wait to find out who’s next on the list.

DragonFlyRating4

Meet C.J. Ellisson!

CJEllissonPicNow for the fun part! I’m happy to introduce you to C.J. Ellison. She’s not only the author of the VV Inn series, but her prior release, Vanilla on Top, is the first book in her Contemporary Erotic series, Walk on the Wild Side. I’ve been following C.J. for a while and I’m honored to have her featured on my blog, not to mention having the opportunity to get to know her just a little bit better. 😉

1. I love your V V Inn series (as you might have guessed.) I was kind of surprised when I saw Vanilla on Top simply because it’s contemporary instead of PNR. Now that you’ve published both, which genre do you like best?

Thank you, Shirley! I’m always honored to hear someone enjoys the series because it’s my favorite. I wrote Vanilla on Top to expand my reader base, but I really prefer the action, adventure, and intrigue in the vampire series. I’m thinking about doing a combo of sorts — like maybe a contemporary suspense series with the aspects I love to write (steamy sex and a twisting plot!).

2. Do you consider yourself a planner or a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ writer?

I’m definitely a planner, but I don’t go overboard with huge outlines. I map out the key points in three to six sentences per chapter and allow the story to flow when I’m writing. This approach leaves me open for subplots and creativity, while still giving me direction.

3. I love the whimsical covers that you chose for the V V Inn series. What made you decide to go that route instead of the more realistic covers that most PNR books usually have?

VV Full size3VampireVacationI had a very realistic and kind of creepy cover for the first book (see image on left.) I loved it and felt it really captured the feel of the story. But it didn’t sell. I took a look at what was selling at the time and decided to try the bright eye-poping colors in the computer graphic images. It worked. Right after changing the covers the first two books went to the top of the category charts and stayed there for months.

4. Those of us who have read any of the books in the V V Inn series know that it is set in Alaska. Aside from the obvious reasons, what made you chose that location?

It really was the obvious reasons that made me choose it — dark half the year so the vampires could party around the clock, isolated so the supernatural guests were safe, spooky and cold when you venture outside in the darkness. I wondered why no one had set a vampire series there before. It was only after I was halfway through the first MS that someone told me about the horror movie 30 Days of Night. That story was located in Barrow, Alaska, which was my first choice for locale. After learning about the movie I did some research and changed locations.

5. I mentioned in my review of Vampire Vacation that a lot of PNR books start their series out with the hero and heroine finding each other. When the series opens, Rafe and Vivian (Dria) are already in a strong relationship. What made you decide to skip the romantic tension and start the series with them already in an established relationship?

I was tired of reading the same formula over and over again in my favorite paranormal books. Before I started writing I read about 3-5 books a week. Buying books was my only true vice in life. After a while I noticed the strong heroines I loved all did the same things — save the day, solve the crime, battle against evil, AND manage to screw up their love life yet again. It was almost as if the publishers took these great urban fantasy books and told the authors they had to add romantic conflict in the book for it to sell. It really grated on me after a while. Why couldn’t the heroine save the day with a partner by her side? That’s what I wanted to read, so I wrote it.

6. I mentioned before that I was first introduced to your writing on a writing web site. Was the time you spent there helpful in establishing your career and would you suggest sites like that to other aspiring authors?

The site was helpful in learning craft, making connections, and maturing as a writer. As far as helping my career… well, probably not. But the excellent resources and support certainly helped to steer me in the right direction. I think any site that exposes a writer to readers is an excellent way to invest time. I found readers on Facebook by posting half my book for free on my author Page. My peers at the time told me I was stupid for doing so, but it turned out to be the best decision I ever made in building a reader base.

7. Who is your favorite character in the books you’ve written so far? Is there one that you relate to more than any of the others?

I would have thought that was obvious since I have long copper hair 😉 I wrote the first book never knowing if it would go anywhere, just hopeful. Writing it was an escape for me from my complicated health problems so I made Vivian into the vampire I dreamed I’d be — strong, passionate, ruthless, and loyal (among lots of other things. She’s a complicated broad). Sure, she’s a bitch sometimes, but that’s what I love about her. She gets to say and do all the things I dreamed of doing, and she’ll never be sick.

8. Who is your favorite author or is there one that has inspired you in some way?

I don’t have one favorite author above all others. It was always the story telling that drew me in and captivated me for hours. The early Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden Files, anything by Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books, and Kim Harrison’s Hollow series. Those authors created worlds I could slip into and lose the cares of the day while reading. Last fall I discovered Ilona Andrews and have read everything I could find written by the husband and wife writing team. Their complex characters and intricate story lines combined with the history woven into their world building is simple stunning. Their books are probably at the top of my favorites right now.

If you’d like to connect with C.J., here’s where you can find her:

TwitterFacebookC.J. Ellisson.com

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26 comments on “Death’s Servant (VV Inn #.05) Review and Author Interview with C.J. Ellisson

  1. What a wonderful interview,it gave me more insight for C.J. Ellisson as a person as well as an author,I am a big fan of her reads,and the V-V Inn series is my favorite,I was thrilled when she wrote Deaths Servant because it gave me more insight on Jon and how he ended up with Dria & Rafe,and I am looking forward to more.The books are well written,the characters really stand out and give depth to the storyline,they have suspense/mystery,humor,and romance– what more could I ask for in a book ! Thank you C.J. for what you do……….

    • Thanks Ruth… I tried to come up with unique questions. Hope I succeeded. 😉 I loved this little taste of Jon’s history and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the prequel novellas. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. HI Shirley! Happy to find another CJ fan! I loved your interview. I too had wondered about if Dria was based on anyone. I also found out another uber-bitch in the series is based in part on another person CJ knows in real life! It’s amazing at what you find out if you just ask the right questions! Thanks for the great review as well!

    • Thanks Sara! Like I said, I’ve been following C.J. for a while and I’m so glad I reconnected with her and the VV Inn. 😉 I could have asked so many more questions, and then her answers made me want to comment and ask even more. LOL! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Loved the interiew and the review of the book. I really love C.J.’s books. I just can’t seem to get enough.

  4. Thanks for having me on the blog, Shirley! I totally would have been up for a back and forth round of another questions, I’m sorry you didn’t email me. You’re welcome to ask them now and I’ll answer in the comments section.

    Great job and I really appreciate your time — thanks, again!

    • That’s okay C.J. I could have kept it going all afternoon and neither one of us have time for that 😉 Here’s just a couple of comments that came to mind:

      I’ve only read the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, but I’ve been meaning to read the rest. I also like the Ilona Andrews books. The series is smart and the world building is amazing.

      I wasn’t kidding when I said in my review that I was familiar with the area. I live on the other side of the CBBT on the Eastern Shore so I’m only an hour or so away from Williamsburg. Jon went to college at JMU and I went to Bridgewater which is only a couple of miles away. I also grew up in Carroll County MD, so I’m very familiar with DC. I always love it when book takes place in familiar surroundings. It draws me in even more.

      If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. Thanks for stopping by and trusting me with the interview. It was fun!

      • I really enjoyed writing about the area I live in. Maybe the romantic suspense (read here sex and adventure with no paranormal aspects) story I’m planning should be set in VA/MD/DC area. That would be a hoot.

    • You’re gonna love it Anna. I was surprised and excited about Rafe and Vivian (Dria) playing such a big role in this one too. It’s not so much what happens between Jon and Rafe as it is how the relationship between the three of them started and their feelings toward each other by the time we meet them again in Vampire Vacation. You’ll see what I mean. You’ll have to let me know when you read it. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Great review and interview! I love it when interviews go into a little more detail with the authors. Knowing those details helps me connect with the author a little more and while reading her books I can have those “Aha! moments” C.J. is an amazing author and I love her books! Shirley, you are an awesome interviewer and I will definitely be following your blog a little more closely 🙂

    • Thanks Cheryl… I was so nervous. This was my first interview and my main goal was to not ask ‘typical’ questions or ones that she may have already answered over and over again. I hope I succeeded. Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by 🙂

  6. I agree , great interview. I’m happy we found out about Jon’s past and his start of his career(lol) with Vivian and Rafe. I’m itching for more, so she better write fast! I have met CJ and she is an amazing person and I’m happy she is writing these great books!

  7. Great interview! I never would have known this was your first. You seemed so relaxed and knew just what to ask and how to ask it. Everything flowed so smoothly 🙂

    Awesome review as well! I love C.J.’s books! I have read everything from her except for More than Tolerable because it was no longer available before I found out about her 😦 I really look forward to reading her future works though!

    • Awww… thanks Kim. I’m sure that I’ll be doing it again. C.J. made it easy and it helped that I had been following her for a while. It gave me a little bit of ‘history’ to go on. I can’t wait to read the rest of the novellas and finally really get into the rest of the VV Inn series. Thanks for stopping by 😉

  8. That was a truthful and perfect review. I have the same (too many books not enough hours) problem too, but deaths servant had to push its way to the top. And those were great unique questions you asked, never new about the covers.

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