Today we feature Amber Polo and her fantasy/paranormal novel Released. Amber has had a lifelong love affair with books, libraries and dogs. A fascination with lost ancient libraries and curiosity about why werewolves outnumbered dog-shifters in literature inspired her new cozy urban fantasy series The Shapeshifters' Library, filled with librarian dog-shifters. Released is the first volume, Retrieved is the second and Recovered will be coming soon.
To help writers and stressed readers reduce stress, her book Relaxing the Writer: Guidebook to the Writers' High offers suggestions and simple exercises.
She is also proud to be included in speculative fiction publisher Dagan Books’ anthology Bibliotheca Fantastica. “Egyptian Holiday” is a prequel to The Shapeshifters’ Library series and proves Cleopatra was a dog-shifter.
What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
Fantasy allows us all to dream. Speculative fiction gives writers the opportunity to say anything they choose in a genre that entertains while it makes readers think.
Why do you write in this genre?
Speculative fiction is the most freeing of all genres. It you don’t fit you make up your own sub-genre. It’s an area that is able to change faster than any other.
Noticing how popular werewolf stories had become, I wondered why dogs, who are so admirable, seem to be ignored. At the same time I was looking for a way to write about libraries in a way that would make them as much fun as they are. And Tah Dah!
What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
Now that I’ve said this genre is freeing, I’ll talk about the problems my genre-bending caused. When I first finished the book, I called it urban fantasy. Sure it had enough romance and a HEA to be called a paranormal romance, but it was urban fantasy set in a small town in Ohio. But the more I tried to interest publishers in the book, the more I realized many defined urban fantasy as having a kick-ass heroine. My book was not dark, violent, and lacked kinky sex. Not that my characters don’t have their big problems, or sexual tension, but the tone is light with comic relief to lighten it even more.
Next I started calling it “light urban fantasy” but that didn’t seem right either. So then a reader tired of page after page of violence and leather, called it a “cozy fantasy”.
According to Wikipedia, “cozy mysteries,” also called simply "cozies," are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously. Strangely, there are many cat lover cozies.
My book has a lot of dogs and (WARNING TO CAT LOVERS) some humorous comments at the expense of cat lovers. As for profanity, my characters use oaths such as “What in Dewey’s name is going on?” and "Thank Melville!” The word “bitch” is used because there are a lot of dogs and werewolves in in the story.
What are you working on now?
Book 3 of The Shapeshifters’ Library series, Recovered. My librarian dog-shifters race across the country to the Southwest in search of the lost books of ancient libraries. I’m having so much fun finding the fantasy along the way.
Love dogs? Love books? Love libraries? Hate book-burning werewolves?
Welcome to the Shipsfeather, Ohio, where an ancient race of dog-shifters struggle, under an ordinary public library, to save the knowledge of the world from book-burning werewolves.
For years a curse has imprisoned the dog-shifters in the basement of the Shipsfeather Library—where they have made the best of things with a gym, a spa, a Starbarks, and, of course, their wildly successful internet company, Zoogle—but now, thanks to librarian Liberty Cutter and her zany staff, they may actually have a chance to break free. If only they can convince Liberty to believe in magic…
“…an enthralling story full of mysteries, magic, and shifters. No stone is left unturned, as all will be revealed on the journey through this mind tingling, heartfelt, and soul warming story! Easy flowing, and well written “Released” has the reader anxiously turning every page in anticipation of the next. This is such a wonderful read, it will be a great series to follow!” Melody Prat, InD’Tale Magazine.