By Emma-Claire Wilson, 10th November 2020

Witches Bite Back! : Interview with Caedis Knight

Writing Duo, Caedis Knight, Holds a Mirror Up to the Paranormal Romance Genre...

Writing Duo, Caedis Knight, Holds a Mirror Up to the Paranormal Romance Genre…

…And what we see is unapologetically real!

What do you think when you hear the words Paranormal Romance? The movie Ghost? The Twilight series? Maybe some fluorescent werewolf book you saw on Amazon sporting a muscly guy and dramatic font?

Paranormal Romance has never been a genre that elicits much respect. Let’s face it – fantasy books aren’t deemed ‘literary’ by the high-brow book world (they don’t know what they’re missing), and the romance genre still fights to be taken more seriously, so combining the two was always going to encourage eye rolls and sniggers, but something tells me that this writing duo knew that and happily leaned in. They walked in with eyes wide open and expertly, slowly and with a cheeky wink, pulled the pin from a grenade.

Things are changing, attitudes are evolving, but these girls are not the kind to wait patiently.

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The new series Blood Web Chronicles, by established fantasy writers Jacqueline Silvester and N J Simmonds (writing together as Caedis Knight) is a series that is out to challenge all misconceptions of the genre.

With not just one book in the series, but two, hitting the Kindle stores at once on 15th October, Caedis Knight strode unapologetically into a tired genre and declared that things are changing.

About The Blood Web Chronicles

The first thing that makes these books unique is that their paranormal world lives seamlessly among our own, using technology as the string that binds them. As the series name implies, the Blood Web (a terrifying corner of our own dark web) plays a large role in the books, it is where the paranormal community communicates.

It’s also where The Blood Web Chronicle is based, the number one source of news for vampires, werewolves, shifters, fae, witches, and every other manner of powerful being that walks among us.

Saskia, a truth-seeing Verity Witch, is one of its undercover reporters – and it’s her we follow through each book as she travels Europe uncovering serious crimes in the paranormal world while trying to track down her missing sister.

With book one in the series, VAMPIRES OF MOSCOW, shooting straight to #27 on the romance charts, and collecting an array of glowing reviews in its first few weeks – what has got readers so intrigued? What has this writing duo created that has begun to shake the foundations of the Paranormal Romance scene?

“We wanted to push boundaries,” says N J Simmonds. “Readers of this genre have expectations which, of course, we wanted to meet – interesting paranormal characters, a protagonist you root for, plenty of action and plenty of romance. But as well as offering readers escapism, we also wanted to write an intelligent and diverse series where the settings are just as important as the characters. Books where paranormals aren’t all monsters, and the women don’t always need to be rescued. There’s nothing weak about this world.”

There’s nothing weak about this writing duo either. As daughters of immigrants, Silvester and Simmonds have travelled and lived all over the world from a young age. With nine countries and five languages between them, they are perfectly equipped to represent a vast array of characters and settings and aren’t scared to go where others can’t or won’t. It’s why they chose to set each of the six books in the series in a city in which they’ve lived.

‘..paranormals aren’t all monsters, and the women don’t always need to be rescued.’ – N J Simmonds

“I was tired of seeing places I grew up in represented so badly. So unoriginally,” Jacqueline Silvester explains. “We set our first book in Moscow not just because it made sense that sun-averse creatures like vampires would live in a cold, dark country where corruption is rife, but also because it’s where my family is from. I know Russia. I know Russian people. I was never going to write about the Red Square and the pretty Kremlin from a tourist’s romanticised viewpoint. I wanted to show the real Moscow, the raw, the hidden and the unexpected. Between us we’ve managed to do that with each setting of each book.”

That they certainly have. VAMPIRES OF MOSCOW is a fast-paced journey through a Russia rarely seen in books, let alone fantasy novels. A world full of sweet delights and splendour, poverty, and fear – the perfect backdrop for a ballet dancer turned vampire mafia boss and his unhinged brother, Lukka.

‘I wanted to show the real Moscow, the raw, the hidden and the unexpected.’ – Jacqueline Silvester

That’s right, a ballet dancing vampire. But there’s nothing farcical about Konstantin, or in fact any of the characters. Caedis Knight has a way of taking away the caricature of each paranormal creature and giving them layers of humanity that will have your chest aching. This may be attributed to the fact that the authors don’t write in absolutes.

As you would expect, there are bad guys and good guys, but as much as the ones you want to win are flawed, equally the ones you love to hate aren’t evil for the sake of it.

Is anyone?

It’s this level of depth that has surprised readers – a complete immersion in a carefully crafted world that has you feeling a lot more than you bargained for.

But the level of depth doesn’t stop there. Caedis Knight is just as brave with her sex scenes as she is with her settings and characters.

“How we wrote the sex was really important to us,” N J Simmonds says. “Our main character, Saskia, is 23 and a bisexual witch. She enjoys sex. She’s no ’50 Shades’ virgin having her lust awakened by a powerful man, she’s not damaged nor shameful of her sexual encounters. She’s a strong woman with impulses and needs. Everything we write is consensual, safe, and centred on female pleasure. We weren’t worried about pushing sexual boundaries either, because no young bi witch falling for powerful, paranormal creatures is going to stick to the missionary position with the lights out.”

However, as much as we talk about the depth of the series, and its unapologetic heat, these books are a delight to read and never stay too dark for too long thanks to the humour with which they are written.

Saskia is sassy and sardonic, wickedly witty and droll. A lot of it is a mask in which to hide her own insecurities (when you meet her mother later in the series you will understand), but she’s a woman we can all relate to. The one who jumps feet first even though she’s scared, who makes life harder for herself because she cares, and who laughs at her own jokes because she’s more than aware of how ridiculous her life gets sometimes.

“We have Jacqueline to thank for the humour,” N J Simmonds says.

Jacqueline shrugs, giving a smile, not unlike something Saskia would give. “What can I say? I laugh through the pain,” she says. “And Saskia does too. Her sass comes easy to me. After having written fantasy for a younger audience it was really freeing to get to be crass and inappropriate in places. We’ve made ourselves laugh so much writing this series, it’s been a lot of fun.”

Ultimately, that’s what the Blood Web Chronicles is…a lot of fun.

It is diverse, smart, sharp, funny, fast-paced and brave – yes – but so easy to read.

Whether you’re being shown around a Russian strip joint full of pole dancing animal shifters in VAMPIRES OF MOSCOW, or you’re questioning two hot LA surfers who may well be mermen in the supporting prequel novella SIRENS OF LOS ANGELES, you are constantly surprised by the twists Caedis Knight gives to each creature, and the worlds you are transported to.

Thankfully we don’t have long to wait until the next book in the series.

“We are revealing the cover of book two on the 15th November. This is one very fast-paced series.” Jacqueline Silvester laughs. “Perhaps we are being overly ambitious, but we plan to release three books a year. We don’t like to keep our readers waiting too long.”

“I’m so excited about the next book,” N J Simmonds adds. “It’s set in the city I grew up in and it’s so gritty, evocative and hot as hell. Get ready for some serious magic!”

Well, there’s certainly no shortage of magic in these books. Although the more I read, the more I’m convinced the real magic lies in the collaboration between these two writers.
Individually their work has always been great, but together they are a powerhouse that is about to hit the book world with a bang. And something tells me that’s exactly the kind of entrance they planned all along.

VAMPIRES OF MOSCOW and SIRENS OF LOS ANGELES is available on Kindle, paperback from 13 November and audio coming soon.

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