Today I am very excited to welcome author Rhi Etzweiler to Joyfully Jay. Rhi, welcome and thanks so much for being here!

Thanks for having me, Jay. It’s such a pleasure to come visit and discuss my books with you and your readers!

Your book Blacker Than Black is being released on December 24th from Riptide Publishing. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

It’s the story of a pair of orphans—twins—who have been surviving on the streets by selling their chi to energy vampires ever since humans became the lower-ranking species on the food chain. Black is the POV character, and the story is written in first person, present tense. It follows their adventure through a john-gone-bad, a murder investigation, and the skeletons that fall out of the closet as a result.

It was inspired by a submission call I stumbled upon years ago. The open call was for an anthology tentatively titled “Red Light District” and was supposed to be a collection about whores and prostitution and life on the streets, I think. I submitted the first chapter of what is now Blacker Than Black for inclusion in the anthology, but the editor felt it didn’t fit. And then Black decided the story needed to be a great deal larger. I certainly wasn’t one to argue with the muse.

This book is your first solo release. How is it different writing alone versus with a partner? Do you find it easier or harder?

It’s both. It’s easier, because I’m a bit of a control freak. It’s harder for the same reason – a single work will take me longer because I will slave over every last detail, no matter how minor, until it is flawless. I slog over details that don’t even end up in the story itself, fleshing out what would be simple “research” under different circumstances. Blacker Than Black was actually four years in the writing, and in contrast, Dark Edge of Honor was churned out in full in something like six weeks.

The difficulty comes because I struggle with intrinsic motivation. When I write alone, I have nobody driving me, pushing me. Granted, there are times when “pushing” creates lesser quality – at least that’s always been my perception. There’s merit to forcing yourself (as a writer) to sit down and get the words out onto the paper or screen. Polishing/editing is a completely different process. The big problem lies in the fact that I am a writer who tends to polish in my mind before I write. Usually, when I put it down into words… it’s already polished and been through a few iterations in the back of my head. For the most part, I don’t draft on the screen or the paper, but in my mind.

I see that a lot of your writing includes military themes. What draws you to those themes and how do you best like to incorporate them into your stories?

Well, it’s not always obvious or blatant. In Blacker Than Black, in fact, it’s rather subliminal. Personally, I think there’s a bit of soldier mentality in each of us. That primal side, that facet which civility and society tend to suppress and frown upon for the most part. But each of us can, I’m sure, point to a part of ourselves, or our lives, and say, “I did what I had to, to survive.”

When you throw them into the heat of battle, that’s all a soldier truly does. What they must, to survive, and to protect those they care about. The soldier at their side, the one who’s covering their back. As a writer, I am fascinated by that primal aspect. The core of the being, the internal, hidden depths of the individual. And I get a great amount of satisfaction from tossing my characters into situations and circumstances that functionally back them into a corner – whether psychologically, physically, ethically, whatever – and pushing until they come out screaming and fighting, in a rage. Call it warrior spirit, or a crazy-stupid writer, but it makes for damn good stories.

What is your favorite genre to write? How about favorite things to read?

I’ll always stand by my belief that quality writing is genreless. The best I can do in labeling my own writing is “speculative fiction” – which encompasses urban fantasy, science fiction, and everything that blurs the lines in between. I think that each of my stories could be functionally rationalized into any number of subcategories, so using the label “spec-fic” is simply me covering all my bases.

My preference for reading material is just as varied. It depends on my mood. For many years, I was a die-hard fan of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Somewhere along the way (I blame JR Ward’s secondary cast of suggestively gay males) the constraints of het romance began to chafe. And the same seems to have occurred with gay romance as well. Neither seems to suit my reading tastes anymore.

As of late, I’ve been reading military nonfiction. Nicholai Linin’s “Free Fall” and Grossman’s “On Killing” are just a sampling of what I’ve been thumbing through.

Can you tell us a little more about your background and how you got started writing?

I was raised a military brat. My father was a career officer in the US Army, Corps of Engineers. I was fascinated by the ethos and culture that saturated my life through those formative decades, and it certainly hasn’t gone away. I recall sitting on my first horse as a toddler. At age six. And not so oddly, it was a Lipizzaner mare. The only breed who have the lauded reputation of a solid military history. Needless to say, my fascination for equines, and cavalry mounts specifically, has endured through the years as well. The idea of a living, breathing tank is definitely a writing trigger.

I have been writing as long as I can remember. All the way back into middle school, when I wrote my first story and made it into a book. Complete with cover art. It was an assignment for English class, I swear it on the grave of my first pet. I guess you could say I just never stopped, after that. Yes, I still have the literal “trunk” for my first writing efforts. I promise not to torture anyone with them. The thought of even letting anyone see them horrifies me.

When you are not writing, what other things do you like to do with your time?

It depends on the time of year and the cost of gasoline, really. I love driving. The open interstate and a full tank of gas is usually all I need to find my zen and ground myself when I’m stressed. When I can’t do that, I take Mike and go for a long walk, usually a couple miles. Mike is my dog, half Queensland Blue Heeler, half Australian Shepherd. I’ve had him since he was a pup, and he harangues me into getting out of the house when I need it.

I also go out and watch the helicopters on their training exercises and flights a great deal. There’s nothing as exhilarating as having a Black Hawk hover in the air so close the rotorwash plasters your clothes to your body and drowns out the ambient sounds of the world around you.

What are you working on now? Do you have anything upcoming you can tell us about?

I recently contracted a military science fiction story titled Frailtyto Riptide. I’m in the process of editing it right now; it’s an amalgam of aliensmut and gunporn and a journey into intercultural relations as well as an exploration of what triggers combat PTSD.

Once that’s done, I’ll be going back to working on Blood Red, which is the sequel/companion to Blacker Than Black. I’m also working on a fully overhauled rendition of an old story idea that’s been with me for two decades now—a military fantasy titled Dancing Circles.

If readers want to learn more about you or your books, how can they find you?

You can find more information about me and my books on the following pages:

Or feel free to contact me directly, my email address is:

Thanks again for coming today!

And thanks again for hosting me, Jay. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you, and I hope everyone’s enjoyed the insight. I’m looking forward to writing more stories!

We are extra lucky today because Rhi has brought a giveaway! Leave a comment below for a chance to win a Riptide First Wave Winner’s Choice book: Pick any one backlist book from Rachel Haimowitz, Aleksandr Voinov, L.A. Witt, Brita Addams, or Cat Grant (“Frontlist” books, i.e. Riptide releases and newest non-Riptide release, are excluded, as are the Courtland Chronicles).  The contest will close on Friday, December 16 at 11:59 EST.

  • By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay and leave your email address if it is not in your profile.