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S.J. Rozan talks BLOOD OF THE LAMB by Sam Cabot

Co-authors S.J. Rozan and Carlos Dews launched a paranormal thriller series in 2013 under the pseudonym Sam Cabot. Featuring the unlikely team of Jesuit Fr. Thomas Kelly and vampire historians Livia Pietro and Spencer George, the books are Blood of the Lamb (2013), Skin of the Wolf (2014), and Brush of the Ghost (TBA). S.J. returned to Chatterrific to talk about the series' origin.

Gerald So: Your Thomas Kelly & Livia Pietro series as Sam Cabot is very different from your Lydia Chin & Bill Smith P.I. series as S.J. Rozan. Describe how the concept for the Kelly & Pietro series came about. How long have you been interested in writing a series with supernatural elements?

S.J. Rozan: Sam Cabot's other half, Carlos Dews, came to me with the concept. He'd been mulling it over for a couple of years but was pretty sure he couldn't write a thriller on his own. I'd been interested in the paranormal, and had done a couple of stories, but a series? Never crossed my mind.

Gerald: Describe your collaborating relationship with Dews.

S.J.: We hammer out the plot together.​ After that, he does the research, and I write. We Skype every couple of weeks, more often if I've run into unexpected trouble of the "Wait! If X is true, what about Y?" variety. These books are more heavily outlined than what I usually do, but you can't account for all potential situations once your characters come alive and start moving.

Gerald: The Noantri from Blood of the Lamb differ in some ways from other fictional vampires. How did you go about deciding what they could and couldn't do? I found them fairly realistic, which was important for what I thought was the key transformation in the novel, Kelly's coming to see the Noantri as people, not monsters.​​

S.J.: The point for us was to use the paranormal to talk about issues of inclusion and exclusion, alienation, fear -- a number of things that become clearer when you deal with them in this context. In order for that to work, we created the Noantri (for your readers who haven't read the books yet: "Noantri" is the vampires' name for themselves) not as magical beings, but as humans whose bodies had undergone a scientifically explicable alteration. They're feared and thought of as Other, but in fact they're not Other. They're Us. It seemed to me and Carlos that that might be a situation worth discussing, these days.​

Gerald: The second book in the series, Skin of the Wolf, was published in July 2014. Talk a little about the plot.

S.J.: ​Livia Pietro, Father Thomas Kelly, and Spencer George all find themselves in New York City, where Spencer has fallen in love. Sotheby's is about to auction off a Native American mask around which swirls a good deal of controversy, but before the auction a gallery assistant is brutally murdered. From there on, Native American history and story, the mask itself, and the power it represents become central, as the Noantri discover for the first time there are other humans as different as themselves.

Gerald: What's next for you?

S.J.: ​In the Sam Cabot series, Brush of the Ghost. Timing uncertain. Alone, I'm working on a thriller, The Mongol Key. Timing also uncertain. And there'll be more Lydia Chin/Bill Smith books, timing -- you guessed it -- uncertain. It's an uncertain world.

Gerald: Thank you very much, S.J., and continued success.

S.J. Rozan, a native New Yorker, is the author of twelve novels. Her work has won the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity awards for Best Novel and the Edgar for Best Short Story. She's also the recipient of the Japanese Maltese Falcon Award. S.J. has served on the National Boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and is ex-President of the Private Eye Writers of America. She speaks, lectures and teaches, and she runs a summer writing workshop in Assisi, Italy. A former architect in a practice that focused on police stations, firehouses, and zoos, she lives in lower Manhattan.

Carlos Dews is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature at John Cabot University where he directs the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. He lives in Rome, Italy.


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