An Interview with Shea Balik

4Shea Balik has always had a vivid imagination with stories running around in her head. Often her stories are taken from observations of other people with her own spin. Traveling is one of her favorite ways of fulfilling her passion of people watching. You never know, one day you may spark her imagination for her next book.

Q: At the foundation of the Paranormal Wars: Stone Haven series is the need for beings, created by the Gods, to save the Earth from human endeavor. Did the theme of rescuing the Earth from our own misguided action inspire the series and is it an important issue to you?

A: There is no doubt the Earth is going through a change of some sort. Whether it can be directly linked to humans or not is a topic of many debates. Either way, I believe Mother Earth will find a way to right the planet once more. We are constantly reminded that no matter how much we try to conquer our environment Mother Nature will always win. I created this series with that in mind. My focus for this series isn’t so much about what we as humans have done to the Earth but what the Gods will do to fix it. I am always amazed at the sheer power of nature and what it can do to remind us just how little control we have over it.

Q: Although progress has been made, the social stigma against homosexuality is still a serious problem—something akin, you might say, to the prejudices experienced by the paranormals when they first appear in the narrative’s history. Was the persecution of the paranormals meant to mirror the biases or persecutions of people today in our own time?

A: It wasn’t really a conscious effort on my part. It did happen that way, but when I started the series I hadn’t really thought about the human reaction to the paranormals. It was probably the fourth time through the first book, Mating the Enemy, that I realized what would happen to these paranormals if they were born today. As a species, humans are very destructive when it comes to what they don’t understand. We like to think we’ve changed over time, but the facts are not in our favor. Just take our history in America. First we treated the Native Americans as nothing more than savages, putting them on reservations like we were doing them a favor, when in fact we were basically imprisoning them. Then we treated African Americans as less than a person. They were actually counted as only three-fourths of a person and even then they weren’t allowed the same rights as their white counterparts. Now we are right back to our same bias-driven society by persecution based on sexual orientation. It never ceases to amaze me how we continually repeat history but act like we are making progress.

Q: Do you believe there is hope for us to change? If so, how would we make that happen?

A: Our biggest problem is that we tend to listen to whoever makes the most noise. Unfortunately that tends to be those who don’t like something and are willing to have it changed, at least at first. Eventually those who are being discriminated against get fed up and start making their own noise. That’s when change happens. It’s what is happening now in the LGBT community. So to answer the question on whether there is hope for us to change, I find it isn’t so much if we can change, it’s whether or not we are willing to change. I honestly feel there are more people who are tolerant of others and don’t have as many biases but until those people take a stand against those who are trying to oppress others, we are doomed to keep reliving history when it comes to discrimination.

Q: Arguably the most important character in the series—as implied by his Alpha Primus status and the fact that he plays a role in every story—is the frighteningly powerful but undeniably magnetic tiger-shifter, Aleksi Rykov. Has Alek been at the center of the series since its inception, or were you drawn to him more and more during his creation and development?

A: He was my first character, and I can’t deny I love a strong Alpha male. Who doesn’t? There are others I also love but he is and always will be my first love.

Q: A recurring motif in the series is that of intense familial rift, with parents often portrayed as greedy, villainous entities. We see this in Seth’s parents and Ian’s father particularly. What draws you to this motif?

A: I think I tend to make some of the parents portrayed as the villain in order to show the strength of the child. Most of the stories that I create show some sort of internal struggle to be a better person. In the case of Ian, his father was verbally abusive when he was around but usually just neglected Ian, yet Ian was always kind, trying his best to do things for others that were thoughtful. Throughout the entire book he reached out to others in friendship, even to the man who had changed him into a werecreature. It took a lot of courage to remain hopeful of humanity even when his own father didn’t show any kindness or humanity toward him.

Q:In the newest installment, Mating the Predator, we meet two characters whose shifter abilities would seem to make them mortal enemies: Rangi and Zeke, an eagle and a mouse respectively. Do opposites really attract, and does the ManLove context bring out any unique qualities in such an attraction?

A: I definitely think opposites attract, and they tend to make the most interesting characters. In Mating the Predator I bring two characters who are not only opposite in as far as their animals are concerned but in how they view the relationship between predator and prey. Rangi, who is an eagle shifter, doesn’t care that Zeke is a mouse shifter. All he knows is that Zeke is his mate and he loves him. Zeke, on the other hand, fears Rangi’s dominant predator will eventually abuse someone Rangi’s eagle sees as prey. Bringing these two opposing viewpoints into an already complicated mix made this couple exciting to write about. The fact that they are two men, determined to be independent and strong, gives them more depth, especially as they each have to learn to compromise to their mate’s needs.

Q: What do you find particularly alluring or beautiful about ManLove relationships?

A: The emotional strength of the men. So often in a heterosexual romance the woman is typecast as the emotional needy one and the man is the reserved, emotionally cut off one. With ManLove they are both men, so there is no typecast. Anything goes and usually both have to find a way to compromise by admitting, at least to themselves, the true depth of their feelings. It’s a beautiful thing when that happens.

Q: Which character do you like writing more: the protagonist or the villain? Why?

A: Protagonist, definitely. It’s actually hard for me to write about the villain. I like seeing good triumph over evil. Often times I find myself glossing over the villain. It is something I am working on as I continue the series.

Q: Who do you look up to in real life? What are some of his or her qualities that you strive to possess as well?

A: That is a hard one. Not because I don’t have anyone I look up to but because I have so many people I look up to. Even though I admire many people in my life I still strive to be myself. To me one of the most important qualities in any person is being true to yourself.

Q: Even in today’s world, men who are romantically involved with each other can face discrimination, violence, and bullying. To you, what is the meaning of courage, and how does it show up in the characters and stories you create?

A: One of my favorite quotes is “Courage isn’t the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” With all of my characters I have them facing something that to them is scary. Sometimes it’s against a situation, like in Mating the Predator Zeke faces being put in jail. Instead of giving into his fear and running he faced the situation head on. Other times the characters have to face their own demons, as in Mating His Nightmare, Wolfe has to face the demons within himself in order to accept that his mate is a scientist who experiments on others. At first it is more than he can deal with, but he eventually realizes his mate is worth facing those fears.

Q: What’s something fun you’ve wanted to write but haven’t been able to fit into the Paranormal Wars: Stone Haven series yet?

A: I have started a new series within Paranormal Wars called Juarez. In the second book of that series I am planning a character that is completely in love with music. He is Zeke’s best friend from Mating the Predator. His name is Gibson Martin (yes he’s named after two guitars). My son is a guitar player in a band, which gave me the idea. Believe it or not he can’t carry a tune to save his life but he loves to sing anyway. This is actually based on my life. I’m a horrible singer, but if there is music playing I’m singing along anyway, no matter who’s listening. For me this will be a lot of fun as I bring in various types of music into the book. I can’t wait to start it.