My interview guest today is Shay West, the author of the Portals of Destiny series and the Adventures of Alexis Davenport series. She has also been published in several anthologies: Battlespace (military sci-fi), Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior (fundraiser), and Ancient New (steampunk/fantasy).
Shay stepped away from teaching her biology students about microbes to talk about her life, writing, and her new book, Organ Reapers.
- What was your first car? I had a little silver Honda Accord. I seriously loved that car! I had to get a job first so I could pay my parents back but it was worth it.
- Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly? Oh my goodness, I am not sure if there’s any way I can choose. But I do have three Star Trek tattoos so I guess that sort of settles it ;)
- As a child (or now!), what did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be an astronaut. I love the idea of exploring space, heading out into the great unknown, to feel the shaking of the ship as it exits our atmosphere. which is weird since I am actually a chicken and have a list of ways I don’t want to die (one of which is getting sucked out the airlock of a space ship).
- What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels? Making sure they are accurate. This is one of the reasons I like to use fictional settings, even in my urban fantasy novels. I describe a city without naming it so that it can be any city in any state. I think that makes the reader feel closer to the story if they can picture the setting as something they are familiar with. But even with fictional settings, it’s important to have a document on the computer or a folder where you have every detail written down so that you can convince the reader it’s real.
About Dr. Shay West
Shay West was born in Longmont, CO and earned a doctorate degree in Human Medical Genetics from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical. Dr. West currently lives in Grand Junction, CO with her two cats. When not writing novels, she plays with plushie microbes and teaches biology classes at Colorado Mesa University. You can contact her at the following links:
Detective Elliott “Eli” Robinson and his new partner, Ava Aguilar, are baffled by a series of brutal murders happening in their fair city. No evidence, no eyewitnesses…only mutilated corpses with missing internal organs. When Eli and Ava stumble on evidence of similar gruesome crimes around the globe, they realize there is more to the murders, but the answers continue to elude them. In a race against time, Eli and Ava must figure out who is behind the killings and stop them before more people die. But the answers will take them out of their comfort zone and into the realm of the fantastic: another world with a different set of rules, and a leader who has no qualms about killing.
- Book Title: Organ Reapers
- Author: Shay West
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
- Publisher: Booktrope Publishing, Release date: October 23, 2014
- Length: 264 Pages
- Buy link: Amazon (paperback)
My Review: 3 stars out of 5 for Organ Reapers
Once I wrote a book that started out by alternating between two different stories, which slowly converged until they merged. At least, that was the plan. I was lucky enough to have a brilliant editor who told me—repeatedly and forcefully—that the stories had to have the same tone, had to feel like they were part of the same book, even before they merged together. So when I read Shay West’s new release, Organ Reapers, I was torn between empathy for how hard the two-story merge is, and the wish that she’d had the same editor.
Organ Reapers is actually two separate books. The first is a soft, slightly dreamy YA/sci-fi about a young couple from a primitive society who are sent by their priests and their gods to “harvest” organs. As that consists of murdering people on other worlds, the couple are soon so conflicted and guilty that they decide to run away, even though that means dire consequences for their families. The other story is a fairly gritty police procedural involving a damaged detective and his beautiful partner who try to figure out why corpses keep turning up with organs missing.
Both stories have good descriptions and solid writing. But for me, there were two overwhelming problems. First, as I’ve said, the two parts are dissimilar in tone, pace, and feel. The second problem is that in order to fit them together, a LOT of stuff is left out. For example, Eli (the damaged detective) reveals in very short order that his wife was unfaithful, and his divorce has led to drinking and poor job performance. A nanosecond later, we’ve breezed through the obligatory “but I always work alone” scene, and he’s lusting after his gorgeous new partner, Ava. What we do not find out, is what Eli looks like. Or what his psychic ability to solve every case he’s ever had is all about. Or even what city he works for. Or why that city should be disproportionately targeted for organ harvesting.
In the case of the young otherworld couple, Keena and Tani, we find out that family is all-important, love is good (in a forbidden or at least platonic way), and you do your god-given duty even when it sucks because…well, gods gave it to you. But we don’t find out where the magic machine comes from that transports them to our world, or what technology allows primitive people to do complex organ transplants, or why murder seems to be the chosen approach as opposed to seeking donors.
I wavered between two and three stars for this book. But I decided to go with three stars because when the two mismatched couples do get together, the story picks up. At first it’s amusing to see Keena and Tani try to get by in our gritty urban world. Then it’s equally entertaining to see Eli and Ava attempt to understand their medieval world with priests who derive power because they speak directly for gods. As the action level increases, the stakes go up. Each couple has to choose whether to stop the killing or risk death for themselves or someone they love. All four face the very real possibility that they will not make it back to their own world. And everyone has to decide whether to act for the greater good, or in their own best interest.
Shay West has written several YA sci-fi tales, and her writing is clean, solid, and professional. While I think that Organ Reapers is not as successful a tale as a writer of her experience and caliber could have produced, it is an entertaining pair of (slightly-mismatched) stories.
For this week’s contest, I asked Shay how, based on something you’ve already done, might you make it into the Guinness Book of World Records? For a chance to win a copy of her new release, Organ Reapers, please guess which of the following is her answer and enter it in the comments below. Good luck!
- Biggest 80’s hair
- Largest collection of plush microbes
- Biggest tough guy movie collection