Beauty in Ruins chats with Kristi Charish (Owl and the City of Angels)

February 29th only comes around once every four years, so I figure let's celebrate in style by having the one-and-only Kristi Charish stop by for a chat!

Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Kristi. Hard to believe that you’ve been our guest three times, but have yet to do an interview! For those who haven't yet had a chance to meet Owl or Kincaid Strange yet, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi Bob (And readers). Hmmm, about me. Well, I’m a cell biologist and a geneticist. I have my Masters in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology. I worked on fruit flies for years looking at cell division and the genes involved in making barriers between cells- basically the things that prevent fluids from passing between a sheet of cells like your skin. Think of fruit flies as the high performance Ferrari’s of the genetic engineering world…the genes we can run in those little guys. :)

Any who, while I was writing up my PhD I started writing fiction. It started off as a hobby to get through my thesis writing. Thesis writing isn’t nearly as fun as doing the experiments so I bribed myself with an hour of fun, fiction writing for every hour spent on my thesis. The hour of fiction quickly turned into two…and by the time I was ready to defend I had a novel. Owl was the first novel I finished and I figured why not see if I could get it published? I sent it out to agents who repped authors I liked, heard back the next day from Carolyn who liked the book, and now I’m a full time writer. A strange career path for someone who spent a long time in the sciences, but there you have it.

Let’s start with Owl for a moment, who enjoyed her second outing last year in Owl and the City of Angels. Following in the footsteps of Lara Croft and Sydney Fox (Relic Hunter), Owl is a kick-ass Indiana Jane. How did her story come about?

I’m so happy you know who Sydney Fox is- I used to watch Relic Hunter on weekends. Basically I was working on a straight forward fantasy novel and needed a break. I decided to try something else, and had been reading Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee crime series about a forensic accountant. I loved the book and decided I wanted to write a first person narrative novel about a thief – maybe a bit more Indiana Jones adventure than crime, but that was one of my big inspirations. Totally normal, no monsters, just a good old thief who stole artifacts…that lasted all of about 20 pages when I realized I’d written a dragon into the novel. I gave up on the whole straight fiction and went with an adventure urban fantasy. I’ve mentioned before that I love 80s action adventure movies and once the first chapter was done, that’s when the adventure genre influences came in. I basically wrote what I wanted to watch- more Indiana Jones and The Mummy (the first one - only ever the first one) style adventures.

Actually, I quite enjoyed first two Mummy adventures, but it wasn't the same when Rachel Weisz left. Anyway, you have your BSc and MSc in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, along with a PhD in Zoology, so I have to ask – where does the archaeology come in?

My first year of university I was actually in the Archaeology/Anthropology program. It only lasted a year but I enjoyed my time. Like most first year archaeology undergrads, I dreamed of being Indiana Jones…they get rid of that dream pretty quickly and I found myself drifting towards the biology side. A couple years later I’d switched into Molecular biology. I figure writing about Archaeology is the way to live out my undergrad fantasies.

You definitely have a flair for odd or eccentric supporting characters, but the ghost of a dead grunge rocker in Kincaid Strange take things to a whole other level. What can you tell us about Nathan Cade?

Nathan Cade is a ghost- and that means he’s got all the issues that go along with being dead in Kincaid’s world- little to no impulse control, an inability to learn from his mistakes, occasionally drinking too much and forgetting to pay his bar tab…the grunge scene was actually a pretty good training ground for him.

Nathan is Kincaid’s on and off roommate and the two of them run séances up at the University for students who have more money than sense and are desperate for guitar lessons. He plays heavily into the novel – he’s really Kincaid’s best friend – which says something since he isn’t alive anymore.

Naturally, I have to ask – will we ever get to see Owl and Kincaid meet?

Ha! Great question but no. The novels are set in different worlds, which becomes apparent quite fast- where Owl is in the adventure genre vein of UF, Kincaid Strange is over in the mystery/crime vein. Kincaid is a bit darker as well, more serious. But I won’t lie - while writing Kincaid and designing that world it did occur to me.

You’ve listed Ernest Cline, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs among your favorite authors. Who do you turn to when you need a break from writing?

They’re always changing because I’m always finding great authors to try. Often I’ll go for a Sci-Fi or an urban fantasy – two that I’ve read recently are Peter Clines The Fold (HIGHLY recommend- about a man with pedantic memory and a door that folds through time and space) and Faith Hunter’s Urban Fantasy series Jane Yellowrock, which I have been loving. I also read every Ian Hamilton Ava Lee book that comes out – it’s like a 24 hour binge for me- new book downloads on kindle and I must finish – and those are crime novels about a forensic accountant who chases bad debts in Asia. I also have been reading Patrick Weekes Rogues of the Republic which reminds me a lot of Terry Pratchett’s Disc World novels as far as the humor is concerned (for gaming buffs, you’ll recognize Patrick as one of the Bioware writers for Dragon Age).

Weekes has been on my must-read list for too long - I'll have to make time for a read soon. In the year a half since Owl’s been on the shelves, what are some of the strangest or weirdest reactions you’ve had from readers?

The oddest reaction from readers has been way less about the book and more around a general trend in genre fiction concerning what’s acceptable behavior for a female protagonist. When I wrote Owl, I just wanted to write an adventurer who was a bit rough around the edges and drank beer. I didn’t really think about the fact that she was a woman and whether there was a behavior expectation. I wouldn’t say that any one reaction has stood out, it’s been the conversation that’s happened where people bring up the fact that they didn’t think Owl was ‘likeable’ (totally valid response from readers btw!).

The conversation that occurs around whether a character is ‘likeable’ is a requirement that is almost exclusively thrown around female characters. Rarely do we critique Han Solo or James Bond for being ‘unlikable’ and not nice – we might critique the amount of violence, the characters specific actions, and the plot, but we don’t demand that the male protagonists be ‘likeable’ or ‘nice’. I think there is a ton of discussion happening around what we expect from a female character in genre and there is a question being asked of whether we’ve replaced one unattainable and unrealistic checklist (the Mary Sue or damsel in distress) with an equally unattainable and unrealistic one when demanding a ‘strong female protagonist with agency’ (There is a fantastic article up on Tor that asks that question- When Mary Sue Failed the Bechdel by Erin Lindsey). Owl certainly didn’t start the conversations by any stretch, but as more and more authors are writing women that don’t have ‘nice and likeable’ as priority traits, the conversation will keep going and though it’s strange (I just wanted to write a female adventurer!) I’m happy to be part of it.

Looking forward, I know you have 2 more Owl books coming. When will we see Owl’s third adventure?

The ebook is slated for this summer but in publishing that can always change depending on lots of things. I have learned from experience to use it as a guideline, not a rule… It is on the way! I’m hoping it will be worth the wait.

Awesome - looking forward to it. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by!


About the Author

Kristi is a scientist and science fiction/urban fantasy author who resides in Vancouver, Canada. Kristi writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists with the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. She is also a co-host on the popular Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast.

The first installment in her debut urban fantasy series, OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Simon & Schuster) is out and available in bookstores and through online ebook retailers. The second in series, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is out Jan 2016. Her second series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practioner living in Seattle, is out May 2016.

She received her BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and her PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.


About the Book

Owl and the City of Angels (The Adventures of Owl #2)
by Kristi Charish

The wild second adventure for unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world—from the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish. For fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and the like. The series also includes Owl and the Japanese Circus and Owl and the Electric Samurai.

Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, international antiquities thief for hire, is settling into her new contract job for Vegas mogul Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon with a penchant for ancient, supernatural artifacts. And now he has his sights set on some treasures of the mysterious Syrian City of the Dead that are sitting in a recluse’s private collection.

There’s just one wrinkle. To stop the resurrection of an undead army that could wreak havoc on Los Angeles, Owl must break into a heavily guarded archaeological sight in one of the most volatile regions in the world. A detour through Libya and a run-in with Somali pirates sends the clock ticking hastily toward total paranormal disaster.

Meanwhile, Alexander and the Paris vampires have stopped stalking Owl’s apartment, but they have by no means forgotten their death grudge against her. To top everything off, Owl finds out the hard way that there is nothing heavenly about the City of Angels...


  1. That is, wow you are so smart, I got my masters in an easier thing ;)

    Ohh relic Hunter, I loved that show

    1. Hey Blodeuedd! Yeah, I hope Relic Hunter goes on Netflix one of these days- I need to re-watch!

  2. Bob- you totally need to read Patrick Weekes Rogues of the Republic. Lady Amalthea from the Last Unicorn gone so, so, so, is awesome. The audiobook is really well done- I'd actually recommend that over the book, just because the humour and dialogue lend themselves really well to audio format...
    I'm getting my list together for Authors for Indies coming up at the end of April (where I go to a bookstore and try to sell other people's books...I'm sure there's a business plan fault in there somewhere but it just sounds like way too much fun!;-)) Think I have to stick Rogues on that list...


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