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Katiebird interviews: Shay Savage and Evan Arden from Otherwise Occupied

Checking myself in the door reflection one more time, I step inside the lobby, and make my way to the 676 restaurant and bar in the Omni Hotel. It’s right on Michigan Ave., so it was easy for me to take 147 bus from my home. I am so grateful that Shay agreed to come back to Chicago, and was able to pull some strings to get Evan Arden to meet us here.


God, why am I so nervous? Well, let’s see, Shay Savage is one of my favorite fan fiction authors ever. Probably because she wrote Hide and Drink, I mean I’ve been reading her work for over 4 years now. I dedicated a post to her fan fic work here. But then she got published, and I read Surviving Raine and Otherwise Alone. Again amazing story and character development, check out that review here. *gulp*


This is my first time here at 676, and the view of the street is pretty cool. I see Shay across the room, sitting by the front window and notice the back of a man’s head. That must be Evan. My knees start shaking. O.K. ** deep cleansing breath** My first author and character interview. I can do this.


Thank God we decided to meet for a late lunch. That means I can order the martini that Shay has been raving about. I approach the table, and Shay looks up from her menu to smile at me. She probably assumes it’s me, since I know what she looks like, but she doesn’t. Evan goes to stand, as I shake her outstretched hand. Umm. Wow. He’s even more gorgeous in person. Since we don’t actually get much of a description of him in the books because it’s all told from his point of view, I will try to describe him to you.


He has a short trimmed dark blonde hair with piercing dark blue eyes and he’s clean shaven. You can tell that he works out regularly, because he doesn’t look like he has an ounce of fat on him, tall and lean. He just slightly smiles at me, but doesn’t seem all that comfortable, and takes his seat. At least he didn’t dress up too much. White button down shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, and dark jeans. Just. Wow.


Katiebird interviews: Shay Savage and Evan Arden from Otherwise Occupied

I really need to sit down now, so I take the seat facing the window directly. The bar manager stops by the table, and asks if I want a drink. I just order what Shay is drinking. He asks if we want to order food now. Evan looks at me and says, “You’ve not been here before, right?” I just nod, nervously. “Perfect. Then I think you should try the PB & J waffle panini. Shay here, is going to order that too. Right?”Shay laughs, “I guess so.” The bar manager nods in approval and leaves us.


Shay then introduces us formally. He shakes my hand firmly but quickly, and apologizes for ordering for me, before actually meeting me. I just giggle like an idiot, and wave my hand at him. “No worries”, I say. I then ask Shay about her family and if the weather affected her traveling here that much. She responds, and asks if I found the place OK. I tell her about the bus, and take a breath, before turning to Evan


I ask Evan if it would be OK to ask Shay questions first, then if he’s comfortable, I’ll ask him some questions. He’s already looking out the window, checking the street and buildings in the area. “That’s fine. But I am not much for sharing.”


I take a sip of water, and smile at Shay. She winks at me assuredly, because we’ve already discussed Evan’s questions beforehand. She didn’t promise me anything other than she could get him here. I know this. Talking to Shay first, buys me time to wait for my drink. I want it in my hand, when I have to talk to Evan directly.


“First, thank you Shay and Evan, for meeting me here. This place is exactly as you described it, Evan, in Otherwise Occupied.” I look to Evan to see if he is looking back at us. He nods. Shay says, “I am glad to be back in Chicago. This place seemed to make sense, and Evan didn’t agree to come, until I told him we were meeting here. Right, Evan?” He shakes his head and laughs, to confirm. Cool. He seems more comfortable.


I turn back to Shay to begin. “You have this amazing talent of writing in the male’s point of view. What inspired you to write this way?”, I ask. “I seem to identify with men a little more than women, and it just comes very naturally to me. I also think as women, we like to believe we know how men think. I’m sure I’m totally wrong, though apparently my descriptions of male orgasm (according to some men) are dead-on.” Shay says.


I look to Evan to see his reaction, because she’s looking at Evan across from her. His eyes are wide, but he’s smiling. He nods slightly, and looks out at the window again, sipping his drink.

Next question. “Who is your favorite male fictional character?”


“Drizzt Do’Urden from Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms books. Dark, tormented, and wonderful character. If they were smut books, I would consider them fiction utopia. Unfortunately, they are not and Drizzt never seems to get any.” Shay laughs.


“Do you have a favorite character from your own writing?” I wonder if she feels compelled to stroke Evan’s ego with her response. Shay looks again over to Evan, “He’s definitely grown on me, and I love him to death, but I think Bastian is my favorite.”

Evan’s been looking around the bar during our conversation. He smirks, but doesn’t respond to Shay’s answer regarding Bastian. I move on.


“I personally like the Edward in Hide and Drink, and the human Edward in Win Some, Lose Some, the most. Although the Edward inNot What She Seems, is definitely growing on me.” Shay nods, “My favorite Edward is either the one from Judging Books or the one from Win Some, Lose Some.”


I have not read Judging Books yet. It’s short story at 5 chapters long. I’ll be reading that soon. I didn’t even know it existed, until she mentioned it. Bad fan fic fan.


Now I’m wondering, “How is writing original work different from writing fan fiction for you?” Shay responds, “Not at all, really, with the exception of the more “vampire” stories like Hide and Drink andTempt My Tongue. The characters are who they are – it just gives the reader someone to think about and makes it easy for me to skimp on the physical descriptions, which aren’t my strong point.” 


I then ask, “Who are your favorite authors? And what about favorite books?” She says, “There are so many, it’s hard to pin them down.Salvatore (the Drizzt books), Stephen King, Anne Rice, Edger Rice Burroughs – I like a lot of different styles, and much will depend on my mood. I love a dark story with a twist.”


I mention that I loved Anne Rice and vampires, well before the sparkly ones showed up. I read Twilight because I thought it was a vampire story. Of course, we laugh together at that. Evan is looking down at his drink now, trying to hide his laughter. Since we notice him, we both smirk at each other.


I want to know about her writing process, so I ask, “What kind of research do you do for your stories, specifically Otherwise Alone/Occupied? Do you know people in the military or someone that Evan is based on?” Shay responds, “Quite a lot, really. Surviving Raine obviously had a lot on survival. Otherwise Alone not as much, but Otherwise Occupied had extensive research involved, including a trip to Chicago to figure out where Evan lives and hangs out. There was also a lot of research on Barrett sniper rifles, Chicago landmarks, and the Chicago public transportation system. I also spent a decent amount of time taking pictures in the area under the Chicago Avenue Bridge where Evan dumps the bodies. I wonder what people who saw me thought I was doing. Ha!”


I shake my head, and wonder what Evan is thinking, when he hears Shay talk so freely about what he does for a living. I guess, maybe he will share later. I can only hope. Finally, my drink arrives, and it’s as good as Shay said it would be. Yum.

Another question. “Where is your favorite place to write and read?” Shay says, “I write pretty much at my desktop computer, though I do have a netbook that travels with me and gets plenty of use. I read in bed.”


I share with her my reading habits as well. “Being a writer/published author must be so cool. What’s the best and worst thing about being an author?” Shay smiles this time and says, “The best is seeing the reactions of people reading my stories. Sometimes they’re happy, sometimes sad, sometimes pissed off at me from what I have done to their favorite character – whatever it is, it means I’ve touched them in some way, which is my goal. The worst part is not being able to do it full-time.”


I’m feeling good now with my martini, and think I’ve pestered her enough. “Can I ask you some ‘Rapid-Fire questions’ now, Shay?”


She sighs, takes a sip of her drink as says, “Go for it.”


“Mac or PC?” PC


“Music or silence when you read or write?” Silence.


“Dream vacation destination?” Fuji


“Chocolate or Vanilla?” Chocolate


“Coffee or Tea?” Coffee


A chocolate girl like me! Yay. Our food finally arrives, and smells divine. Even Evan looks like he’s happy. I stare at my waffle concoction with wonder. Can I eat and talk with Evan at the same time? I feel like it’s now or never. I look to him and see he’s already eating. “Um, Evan. Do you mind if we eat and talk?” He chews, hums with his eyes closed, like this is the best meal ever, and swallows.“Sure. I guess.”


I pick up my fork, and dive in. OMG. This is so amazing. I, in turn close my eyes and chew, while hearing Shay laugh at both of us.


“Oh Evan. You were so spot on with this.” I swallow and open my eyes. I can do this. I look to Evan and ask, “So you were a marine in the military. What made you decide to join? Have you had an education outside of the convent you were raised in?” Evan looks across to Shay, and says, “I got my GED after I went out on my own. I originally enlisted to get money for school, but it never happened. I don’t see the point now – it’s not like I need the money.”


I nod my head in agreement. Next question. “You have this amazing ability for detail. You notice everything. It’s like being in Sherlock Holmes’ head. Where did you get this ability?” Evan shrugs while chewing and says, “I don’t know. I guess it started when I was pretty young. I remember going to the zoo with the nuns and other kids from the convent. When I looked around at all the moms and dads showing their kids the different animals, I realized for the first time that the way I lived wasn’t like the other kids around me. That led to questions, which the nuns wouldn’t answer. I knew there was an answer somewhere, so I started to watch for it. Most of it is just a matter of observation and understanding patterns.”


His childhood, what little we know about as readers, makes me kind of sad, but I try to hide that emotion in my face, so he doesn’t get uncomfortable. Doubt I’m doing a good job. I look to Shay, and she’s looking out the window in thought. I look back at Evan and ask, “The first time that you see Lia, you debate on killing her on sight. Why?” He is now looking at me with an intense feeling in his eyes. “Like I just said – there shouldn’t have been anyone there.

That cabin is in the middle of fucking nowhere. There’s just a dirt road, and there aren’t any towns for miles. I was in hiding – when you’re in hiding, you watch for the people who are looking for you. I knew it was possible she was from Chicago, maybe even one of Greco’s group, and had tracked me down. After watching her for a minute…He laughs. “Well, it was obvious she wasn’t.”


Though we don’t get to see much of Lia in Otherwise Occupied, she does come at the best and worst time, depending on how you look at it. I feel compelled to ask him, “You seem to be able to read her fairly quickly. Why is that?” Evan is now smiling at his food. “Women are easy to read – they usually don’t even try to hide anything. When they do, they fail at it. Guys are a little harder, but most of them are easy enough to read once you get to know them. Lia was especially easy…ah, I mean to read. She was just out there, waiting for someone to give her what she needed. He is now smirking at me. “I didn’t mind being the guy to do that.”


I smirk back, thinking we are on the same page. “I would say the same thing about Bridgette. You take to her right away. She is just a substitute for Lia right or something more?” Uh. Oh. Evan is now glaring at me and Shay.


“I’m not talking about her.”


O.K. So much for being on the same page. I look to Shay to apologize with my eyes. I think, I’m a dog owner and lover. I’ll ask about someone he loves unconditionally. “How is Odin doing?”

Nothing. He’s now staring out the window, looking like he wants to leave. Crap. I move on to the next question, without taking a breath. “Besides spending time with Odin, what is your favorite way to relax? What’s your favorite food? And by the way, why Pizza Hut, when there are so many better pizza places. Seriously, it’s Chicago dude.” I shake my head at him, even though he’s not looking at me. He finally looks back to the table. “I like hanging out by the lake and going to the shooting range. It’s good practice. Pizza is the ultimate, and yeah – Pizza Hut may not be the best around, but they deliver late and my schedule is usually screwy.”


I want to ask more about the story, so I say, “I do have some questions about your time in Atlanta. I was confused by the all of the hotel rooms. You booked a room at the Hyatt Regency, room 555, but then end up getting a room at the Westin instead. What made you change your mind like that? How were you able to get into the connecting room to Ashton’s?” He looks at me now, but with questioning eyes, “Room 555 was the connecting room. I knew he needed a way out without the bodyguard at the door seeing him. The Westin is just down the block from the Hyatt, and the most convenient place to…well, for me to kill him. He had other ideas.”


Guess I missed an important detail there. I still want to know more. “I love reading how your mind works. You are one of the most interesting and intelligent men I’ve read about in a long time. I think you’re amazing. You just need to find a better way, less violent way to use that talent.” Evan looks away again, and quietly responds. “If I don’t do it, someone else will. It changes nothing. Death doesn’t even matter.”


I sigh and look to Shay, then I see my untouched food, and decide that the more intense questions are behind us. I say to my plate,


“Can I ask you some rapid-fire questions? Just say the first thing that comes to mind, please.” Evan clears his throat to get my attention, and says, “Shot”, with a half smile, because he’s trying to lighten the mood with a joke. Ha Ha. Here goes nothing.


“Best time of the day?” Morning-If I’ve slept.


“Cubs or White Sox?” Chicago Fire. Hmmm. I see he’s not going to pick sides when it comes to baseball. I like soccer though.


“Blondes, Brunettes, or Redheads?” Brunettes. Bummer. I have auburn hair.


I smile at him, and say, “I do hope that you get your happy ending, Evan. You and Odin deserve it.” I looked directly in his eyes when I said that, because I really mean it. I turn to Shay to say, “I look forward to reading this rest of your story soon.”


I see a server walk by, and ask to have my meal wrapped up for me. I know that Evan has a limited amount of time, and I’m sure he wants to be done with this. I thank them both, while finishing my drink. The sun is starting to go down outside, but the lake is blocked by the other buildings across the street. I look at the time, and realize I’m taking the bus back during rush hour. Great. Guess I’ll take in some shopping before heading home to kill some time.


Evan and Shay both stand when I get up to leave, and shake hands with me. Before I walk away though, Shay grabs my arm, and gestures for a hug. Cool. I would love to hug her. She’s been so patient with me; it being my first interview, like ever. I adore her even more for setting this up for Bookish Temptations and me.


Evan is standing with his hands in his pockets, looking towards the window again. Like he’s trying to give us privacy. He really is quite a sight. I sigh, smile and leave.


Check out my review of Shay Savage’s Otherwise Occupied later today.

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