Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nancy Northcott: From the Familiar to the Strange

Thanks for having me, Lee.  I’m excited about my first appearance on Totebags ‘n’ Blogs.

I’ve always loved reading about people who visit exotic places and can do really cool things. Superheroes, spacefarers, and mages (or wizards) are always on my list of favorite characters. Growing up in a small, sleepy town, I enjoyed losing myself in Gotham City and Metropolis with their hustle and bustle.

Yet my paranormal romantic suspense series, The Protectors, ended up being set in and near a small, sleepy town.  I didn’t set out with that plan, but the world sort of evolved that way.  The hero of the first book, Renegade, is Griffin Dare, a fugitive who tops the mage world’s Most Wanted list.  While I love lone wolf heroes, I didn’t want Griff to be totally isolated.  So I gave him a home in a small town, where he lived under an alias and concealed his powers, and some friends and allies.

After all, I know small towns.  I grew up in one, went to college there, and worked in a slightly larger one.  They may be quiet, even sleepy, but there’s a sense of community I truly love.  I drew on that when I created the town of Wayfarer, Georgia.

Wayfarer sits very near the Okefenokee Swamp.  Many of my friends wrinkled their noses and said, “A swamp?  In a romance?  Seriously?” 

I couldn’t really blame them.  Swamps are associated with images of mud, bugs, and stinky air.  The Okefenokee isn’t like that, though.  A blackwater peat bog, it has no stink and not much mud.  Most of the time, you’re either on land or on the water.

My mages’ powers are nature-based, so a rural setting works better for them than an urban one. I picked the swamp because I wanted to incorporate a setting that hadn’t been used a lot in paranormal romance, and I remembered the name Okefenokee from a trip there with my parents many years ago.  We didn’t have time then to go back, but I could do the research I needed online since the swamp plays only a minimal role in Renegade.

After the series sold, my husband and our son and I visited there again.  Most of the swamp lies inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (  As we drove into the refuge, I turned to my guys and said, “I hope this is as cool as I think it is because I’m stuck with it now.”

I am so Not Nature Girl, but I fell totally and absolutely in love with the Okefenokee.  My husband and I have been back twice, most recently a couple of weeks ago.   I’m even thinking of taking lessons in canoeing so we can visit parts of the swamp a motorboat can’t reach.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m drawn to this place. I think it’s maybe because it’s so very different, so other, from what I’m accustomed to.  It’s beautiful and wild, with a hint of danger from alligators, bears, and snakes.  Being there is kind of like visiting a fantasy world.   So even though I usually prefer my surroundings tidy and any wildlife safely distant, the Okefenokee calls to me.

Its fantasy world would evolve into a hardwood forest if not for wildfires that periodically burn chunks of it.  The Honey Prairie fire in 2011 burned almost three quarters of the 400,000 or so acres in the swamp.  It also provided the inspiration for my latest release and first novella, Protector.  Reading about the fire online, I learned a lot about wildland firefighting and have tremendous admiration for those who do it.  I’ve never been in a  helicopter or on a fire line, but a couple of firefighters and a forester helped me with the novella.

The mage hero of Protector, Josh Campbell, is a combat helicopter pilot for the southeastern mages.  He flies them into battle against their enemies, the ghouls, users of dark magic whose talons can suck magic or life energy and who kidnap mages and normal, or Mundane, humans for breeding purposes.

Before Josh flew for the mages, he served in the army.  After that, he made water drops via helicopter as part of a wildland firefighting crew.  There, he met firefighter Edie Lang, who’s also a mage.  They were attracted, but Josh backed away.   Now ghouls have caused a fire in the Okefenokee, and fighting it reunites Edie and Josh as ghoul magic threatens their lives.

Both of them can do really cool things I can’t, so I get to live vicariously through them.   That’s part of the joy of writing. I can sit in my familiar house and immerse myself in strange, new experiences through research.  Writing The Protectors gives me the best of both worlds, the familiarity of a small town and the strangeness of the swamp, with a bonus in the expanding horizons of research.  That makes me feel really lucky.

What about you?  Do you like small towns and rural settings, or do you prefer cities?  If you could have a paranormal or magical ability, what would you pick?

I’ll give one commenter today a choice of a signed Renegade or Protector ARC.

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy and YA romance.  A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the romance and high stakes she loves in The Protectors, her new contemporary mage series from Grand Central Forever Yours.

Her debut novel, Renegade, received a starred review from Library Journal.  The reviewer called it “genre writing at its best.”  Nancy is a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist and has won the Maggie, the Molly, the Emerald City Opener, and Put Your Heart in a Book.

Twitter: @NancyNorthcott

***Nancy's winner is Jeanne! Please email with your mailing address.  Thanks!***


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I love these books! I'll admit that when I heard about the swamp setting, I raised an eyebrow. Really, though, it provides the perfect setting for creepy, dark, mysterious things to happen.

I would love to see wildland firefighters in action. It reminds me of the movie "Always" with Holly Hunter (love her!). I saw a demonstration by wildland firefighters dumping water from a helicopter just last year at the 100th Anniversary Girl Scout camping celebration here in central NC. The grounds we were using were actually part of a horse park where they hold major equestrian events and they were surrounded by state forest land.

The wildlife firefighters are just part of the community down there, since there are LOTS of fires in the pine forest! The demo was a huge hit with all the girls, no matter if they were 5 or 18. I heard more than one girl say she wanted to be a wildlife firefighter someday. That was the coolest thing of all! I mean, if you can't be a superhero. :)

Anna Sugden said...

I love these books, Nancy and can't wait for the next one!

I like a variety of settings in my books - it really depends on the story. I enjoy small towns and big cities, as long as the author gives me a good feel for the setting. One of the amazing things I learned while research my hockey romances was the how different the sound is at center ice, from up in the stands.

I'd love to be able to fly or transport myself to places in the blink of an eye. And, of course, I'd love cool superhero boots!

Kylie Griffin said...


Your world-building for RENEGADE and Griff and Valeria's story sucked me right in - the Collegium, the small town setting & the swamp. I loved it.

I love small towns and villages, probably because I grew up in them as a child and I've worked in small, rural villages most of my adult life. What I like about the small town feel is the sense of community and the way people pull together and support one another, whether its in a crisis or when someone needs help.

As for magical abilities, I think I'd like to be able to manipulate the weather. It would be cool to bring rain or divert storms or use the sunny weather to help the local farmers and their crops. :-)

Nancy Northcott said...

Caren, thanks! I would love to have seen that demonstration. There are many wildland firefighting videos on YouTube, including one that follows the orange Bambi bucket from the time it was immersed and filled to the water dump. I watched that one and quite a few others, but it's not the same as beng there.

I agree that wildland firefighting is a great substitute for superpowers.

Nancy Northcott said...

Anna, thanks! The next book, Guardian, will be out July 2.

I like varied settings, too. I'm working on a project now that's partly set in New York.

What a cool detail about ice rinks and sound. I'm eager to see how you use it when A Perfect Distraction comes out in September!

Nancy Northcott said...

Kylie, I'm so glad you liked the setting. Coming from someone as great at worldbuilding as you are, that's high praise.

The mutual support is what I like best about small communities. Everyone knowing everyone else's business can be a pain, but it becones an advantage in a crisis.

Weather manipulation would be a lot if fun and, as you note, a huge boon. Just being able to dial back the force of a hurricane woukd be extremely handy.

Tawny said...

Nancy, those are gorgeous pictures! There is a mystique and allure of the swamp that you really capture. Nowhere in my mind are the words stink or bugs *g* You create such an evocative, strong world and do magic very awesomely :-)

I love the idea of a small community. Not necessarily rural, as that makes me think cows *g* but small. But for living, in real life? City, baby! There are more shoe stores here.

I would love to be able to teleport. I hate flying, airports give me the stress headaches, but I'd love to be able to pop over to see my mom, jump another state to see my dad, maybe a quick trip to England and Australia to see our Banditas. Now that'd rock. And I could get to the shoe store faster!!!

Nancy Northcott said...

Thanks, Tawny! I took about 300 photos on this last trip and am sorting through for the ones I like best. Digital photography, not having to get everything printed before I can evaluate the shots, is very liberating.

There were no cows in my hometown, though there'd been some a couple of generations back. No shoe stores either, alas.

Yes, teleportation would great fun!

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, I love it when you get sentimental about your swamp! LOL! Actually all jokes aside, those photos are brilliant. And it doesn't look particularly swamp-like. It's very beautiful! Almost as beautiful as those hunks on your covers! If I could have a super power, I'd love to be able to fly. Which is silly given how sick I get with heights. I get dizzy standing on the bottom rung of a ladder. So maybe I'd ask for the ability to fly and a liking for heights!

Pat Cochran said...

Much thought on your question has brought
this decision: I do like both! The small
town for those times I look for calm and
quiet and neighborly closeness. The city,
like my Houston hometown, for theatres,
museums, and shopping.(ESPECIALLY all the
shoe stores, Tawny!) Special ability: Hmm.
Teleportation is my choice. Especially for
times when I'm late for an appointment or
when snow storms close airports across the
country. LOL! Good job with the series,

Donna MacMeans said...

Nancy - I love your mage series. I think using the swamp and it's lush natural wildness is brilliant and plays well into the book.

I think I'm as comfortable in a city as I am in a small town. Don't think I'd be too happy in a rural setting as those people work hard and get up at the crack of dawn. Not my style. I could live in a castle in rural Ireland or Scotland, I think. At least I'm willing to give it a try (grin).

I'd like to be able to fly - not just teleport, but fly. I want to soar and dip and view the world from up high. I'd also like to be invisible - wouldn't that be a hoot? Think of the things you could see, places you could slip into, conversations you could hear. I'd also like to be able to eat anything I want and never gain a pound. That has to be a super power, right? I need it.

erin said...

Congrats to Nancy on the new release! I'm dying to read your series :) I love cities b/c that's all I've known so far and if I could have a supernatural ability, I'd like telepathy/teleportation.

Nancy Northcott said...

Thanks, Anna. The Okefenokee has a lot of variety in its landscape. Some of the pictures I've taken on cloudy days look a bit dreary, more like we might expect of a swamp. This last trip gave us an idea of how vast the place is, and our guide told us there are areas that haven't been reached by people. Naturally, I want to see those!

I share your fear of heights, but I'm thinking being able to fly might cure that. It would be a cool power!

Nancy Northcott said...

Thanks, Pat. I'm glad you're enjoying the series.

I also like both kinds of settings. I hugely enjoy visits to New York City. All the lights and the window displays, and the energy from the hustle and bustle are great. But I'm always ready come home, too.

Nancy Northcott said...

Donna, I'm glad you're enjoying the series! I also like cities as well as towns. I agree that actual farmers work very hard, and I think I'd get spooked living wy out in the country.

You know, one of my favorite rides at Disnet is Soarin'. Despite my fear of heights, I love flying over things and, as you say, swooping down. Sure, the eating thing woukd be a super power. I wouldn't mind that one myself!

Nancy Northcott said...

Erin, thanks! Telepathy and teleportation would be cool. One of my favorite characters in the Legion of Super-Heroes was Saturn Girl, a telepath.

I always enjoy visiting a city. There's so much to do. :-)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Nancy! LEt me try this again....

I love Renegade, as you well know, and I love, love, love Protector as well.

As to settings, I love them all. :>

Magical abilities are so cool, and I'd love to have the abiity to teletransport, and to levitate things and/or have telekenisis. :>

Nancy Northcott said...

Thanks, Jeanne! Glad you like the series.

Yes, telekinesis would be very handy, as would teletransporting.

Eli Yanti said...

every place has their earc surplus, so I think I can adapt wherever :)

I would love if I have a talent in read people mind or telepathy

Barbara E. said...

I do like the small town/rural setting in novels, but in real life I like a bit more city, or at least a city close enough to visit often. If I could have a magical ability I'd go for teleportation - I so hate sitting in traffic and it would be awesome to be able to get where I wanted to be instantly.

Nancy Northcott said...

Eli, it's great to be so flexible--gives you lots of options! I think telepathy would be cool?

Nancy Northcott said...

Barbara, I also like to have a city near enough to visit. We actually live in a city, and while I love having so many things available, I occasionally miss the quiet of the town where I grew up.

Teleportation would, as you say, be doubly fabulous during traffic jams.

Lory Lee said...

I live in a small town but works in a busy city. Both are very different and exciting. So it really doesn't matter. Anyway, I'd love the have the power of invincibility. Want to go inside a men's locker room :P. Seriously, I'd love to just disappear anytime of the day and not care about anything. I'm so stressed out already.

Nancy Northcott said...

Hi, Lory--you have the best if both worlds, don't you?

Sorry you're feeling stressed, but I agree invisibility would be cool.