Today I’m sitting down with my friend and fellow Arizonan Amber Polo to talk about her new book, Reprinted, Book 4 of the Shapeshifters’ Library, just released in late October. I read the first book in the series, Released, and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I haven’t had time to catch up on the two middle books. (I will!) Even without reading those two (Retrieved and Recovered), the fourth book was excellent and made a nice wrap-up of the entire series.
First off, Amber, can you give us a quick description of the Shapeshifters’ Library books, then tell us a bit about the latest one.
Amber: Dog-shifting librarians nose to nose with book-burning werewolves. In Reprinted, Chihuahua shifter Pacifico Lopez, a readers' favorite in Released, the first book in the series, now at last has his own book. And his own romance. Richer and smarter than Bill Gates, Pacifico and werewolf book editor Landy Romero track down ebook pirates on a Caribbean island where they discover an e-book thieving sailing vessel called The Cloud, a diabolical book distribution plant, enslaved dog-shifters who hold the secret to the true dog-shifter werewolf history, and an unlikely romance that will shock the dog-shifter werewolf world.
I, of course, would love to see an Airedale as the hero (or heroine) of one of your shifter books; maybe there will be a story for that down the road?
Amber: Sorry about the lack of Airedale characters. Maybe you should write some Airedales into your stories.
Now there's an idea! Okay, I have to ask, where did the idea for dog-shifters come from?
Amber: After I wrote two Arizona romances, I knew I wanted to write fantasy. Fantasy allows an author to tackle subjects and make fun of serious topics not possible in real world stories. I kept seeing werewolf stories, realized dogs and wolves were very close in DNA, so why so few dog-shifters? I’d been involved in the dog world during part of my life. And at the same time I worked as a librarian and always wanted to reveal what happens inside a library. So I decided to put it all together for book lovers and dog lovers.
Did you have it in mind to write a series when you started, or did the succeeding books come organically out of the first?
Amber: When I first built the world, I knew there were many stories. Book 1 Released featured a small town librarian who saves the town from book-burning werewolves, helps free dog-shifters beneath her library from a curse, and falls in love with an Old English Sheepdog. And on the last page shifts into a Golden Retriever. Who knew? Book 2 Retrieved also stayed within the original town but added the archaeological aspect of a mound in the Midwest and a contest between a gentle dog-shifter (a Chocolate Lab named Godiva) and the werewolf Alpha.
You have a huge cast of characters in your Shapeshifters books. One thing I’ve noticed is that, even though you continue the series with most of the characters, it seems like you split off just a few to concentrate on in each book. I would think that would provide a fresher approach to writing the series, rather than the sitcom-style of same characters. Did you find that shifting (pun intended) your focus like this helped to keep the story fresh and exciting?
Amber: In many ways I enjoyed writing book 3 and 4 more than the first two. I think I was able to give the main characters more depth by taking them out of their comfortable settings and putting them in new settings. I also like writing villains much more than I expected. Of course, they are also my comic characters.
In Book 3 Recovered my characters took over and led me across country to New Mexico, naturally chased by villains. I thought that was the end of the series, until my publisher wrote the back cover blurb hinting another book would bringing peace to the dog wolf feud. Then I had to figure out which of my characters could accomplish this. In Book 4 Reprinted I blamed ebook piracy on werewolves, threw in a hurricane, added an author publishing a book, and put a pyramid in the Caribbean. It all came together.
The cover designs on your books are wonderful. Do you have any input into those, or does your publisher take care of that?
Amber: Thanks for noticing my covers. This series is unusual because my publisher lets me work with my own cover designer, the cover goddess Connie Lee Fisher. Definitely not the ordinary case. I’m more used to getting covers that didn’t work. I’ll never forget the cover where the typeface was unreadable and a male stood in water so it appeared his legs had been cut off. I complained and was told the artist could read the title so I had to live with it.
When you are responsible for your own covers there’s the good – I got to select the dog cover models for Books 3 and 4 – and the not so good – Book 1 and 2 covers are beautiful, but I think the tone suggests dark fantasy, while I write with a lot of humor. There’s a time when a book marketing professional needs to slap some sense into you. The cover needs to show the genre so readers know what they’re getting.
You also write romance and have one non-fiction. What’s your favorite genre to write?
Amber: I love it all, but fantasy is most fun. I tried writing about my neighbors, but most didn’t appreciate it. Heads in the Clouds is a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards and only a few neighbors want to hear about it.
What’s next for Amber Polo?
Amber: I’m still working on the alternative history of dogs and wolves. Did you know Cleopatra was a dog-shifter, faked her death, and had a twin sister who was the Librarian of the Alexandrian library? I also want to bring out what I call my novel of coincidence, following two artists over a twenty year period as they stumble their way back to each other.
You know, I'm a bit rusty on my history, but somehow I don't remember covering that aspect of Cleopatra's life in class. I wonder why?
Upcoming for Amber Polo:
Amber will be having a Book Signing at the Crystal Lattice Gift Shop at 545 S. Main Street, Camp Verde, AZ 86322 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 8. If you’re in the Verde Valley area, please stop by and say hello. Then, she’s on to Albuquerque, NM for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards Banquet on November 21. Exciting stuff. We’ll look for a report on her blog.
Thanks Melissa for inviting me to be your guest. See you at Crystal Lattice.
It's been great fun, and I will definitely see you on the 8th. Where can readers go to find out more about you and your books?