I was dubious when I initially heard about Blood on the Ice by Katriena Knights. Sure, it had the attraction of having some gay hockey players in it, but one of the key aspects to the story was that the players were vampires. That worried me. I love a good vampire story, I enjoy the Blood Ties series form Tanya Huff and various Anne Rice novels. But vampires done poorly just frustrates me.
Blood on the Ice is a great book. It’s not a typical gay romance by any means. It’s got some amazing hockey sequences. As a vampire novel it met all my needs because these vampires are bound by the usual rules (they don’t, for example, sparkle in the sunlight). It was a book I had a hard time putting down because I needed to know what was going to happen. Overall, it’s one of the best books I’ve reviewed for PuckBuddys.
It all starts innocently enough. Travis Payne, a Chicago Blackhawks forward, is at a bar with his teammates celebrating the win that got them into the Stanley Cup finals. Unfortunately it’s the last regular night of Travis’ life. As he’s leaving the bar, he tries to help a woman being attacked and, while he breaks up the attack, he ends up turned by a vampire.
In this reality, vampires are “out” in society and have been for a few decades. Travis doesn’t die, but ends up in a six-month program to transition him into being a socially acceptable vampire. This includes him leaving the Blackhawks and going into the LVH’s Chicago Cobras if he plans to keep playing hockey.
Travis’ world is shattered. In the transition program he has virtually no contact with the outside world, so he has no idea what happens with the Cup finals. The visitors he gets are few, mostly his agent and reps from the LVH. His family disowns him. But he eventually finds a friend in Marcus Antonius, captain of the Cobras and a vampire since gladiator times. Actually he feels more than just friendship for Marc, he feels an attraction that he’s usually reserved for women.
Katriena excellently maneuvers her way through all the various plot lines perfectly. She deals with Travis’ transition into vampire without bogging the reader down in too much exposition, while also making sure we know everything we need to. His transition runs from funny to sad to hot and back again many times in the book.
She also establishes the LVH in great detail, again without slowing things down. It’s modeled after the original six, but the play is much more brutal and bloody because the players are already dead. To help make sure they don’t “die” again, no one plays in the LVH with a stick that has wood in it. Among my favorite scenes in the book is the game between Chicago and the Detroit Damnation, especially Travis’ third period goal.
The relationship built between Travis and Marc is great. As I mentioned this isn’t a typical romance. While Marc falls for Travis the first time he see his new teammate, he doesn’t want to impose himself on the new vampire. Watching these two grow from mentor/mentee to friends and teammates and on to a more romantic relationship made for good reading—and some hot reading occasionally, too. Is it a monogamous love that lasts forever (truly forever in their case)? Probably not in any traditional sense but they do make a pretty cool couple.
If you’ve been at all into the books I’ve reviewed on PuckBuddys, definitely take the plunge on this one for something fun, cool and different.
Interview with Katriena Knights
Within minutes of finishing Blood on the Ice, I sent Katriena an email to see if she’d do an interview. Happily she said yes, and it turns out she’s a fan of the site too.
KK: I’d like to start by saying thank you so much for contacting me about this book. I’m really excited that you read it. I’ve been following PuckBuddys for quite some time now—I think it was one of the first hockey blogs I started reading—so this is super cool for me. I actually squeed out loud when I got the email.
Now—on with the interrogation:
JA: First, Katriena, you were a new author to me when I picked up Blood on the Ice so please tell us about yourself and your writing.
KK: I’ve been writing for a while—my first book was published in 1999 and I’ve been publishing pretty regularly since then. Most of my work is paranormal and contemporary romance. I started writing m/m erotic romance in about 2004 under the name Elizabeth Jewell. Some of my books include the Dark Callings series and the Weary Memories series from Changeling Press, which are both m/m vampire stories. I’ve also written futuristic romance for Samhain (Starchild and Earthchild), and I have some self-published novels as well, which are mostly backlist titles and short pieces. I’ve also published a few things as Faith Talbot (ménage romance) and KC Myers (science fiction and fantasy). I’m kind of out there and all over the place at this point. I write a lot, and I end up writing in a variety of genres because I have the attention span of a ferret on crack.
JA: What was the inspiration for Blood on the Ice?
KK: My best friend is a devoted Blackhawks fan. She decided I needed to be a hockey fan, too, and launched a campaign to convert me. I never thought she’d succeed because I’ve never been into sports, but she worked on this project for five years and wore me down a little bit at a time. She knows me too well, so she was able to hit all my weak spots. This included pitching hockey-based story ideas and sending me pictures of half-naked, broad-shouldered, wonky-nosed men on a regular basis. (I’m kind of ashamed to admit that a lot of this campaign involved pictures of Ryan Kesler, but in retrospect, the dude’s naked a lot, so he makes a good weapon for this kind of attack.)
After she’d gotten me interested enough to watch the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup run, I was pretty much hooked. Then she sent me a picture of Paul Bissonnette with blood running down his chin and ordered me to write vampire hockey. So I did.
So, basically, my best friend made me do it.
JA: You have a lot to set up here between establishing that vampires are common in society, the vampire hockey league, the transition program, and what being a vampire is like in 2014 for Travis, Marc and the rest of the vamps. What did you want to accomplish and were there any major challenges in bringing it all together?
KK: The worldbuilding was brought over from my previous book from Samhain, Necromancing Nim. I decided to set Blood on the Ice in that same world because I thought it was cool. I’d written several other vampire books where vampires were still “in the closet,” as it were, and I wanted to try something different. After reading the Sookie Stackhouse books, I found I liked that approach, where everybody knows about vampires. But I wanted to bump it back a few decades to look at what kind of infrastructure might develop in forty or fifty years of vampires being part of the general population. Of course, I had to address a very different set of questions for Blood on the Ice because of the setting. So I spun off the additional details from what I’d already established. A simpler way of saying that is that I made stuff up as I went along. And I should probably write it all down so I can keep track of it in future books.
I think the most challenging part is trying to get it to make sense and feel really organic to the story. I don’t like to stop and do a lot of explanation (and when I do my editor makes me cut it out because it’s boring), so it can be challenging to weave the details in in a way that ensures the reader feels grounded but isn’t being beaten over the head with explanations. So you try to come up with scenes that are integral to the story but that will also introduce elements the audience needs to hear about to make the world feel real and immediate.
JA: What parts of the book were the most fun to write? The most challenging?
KK: I had a ton of fun writing this book across the board, but some of the most entertaining scenes for me were the scenes with Karasov and Boucher. They’re minor characters, so most of what they do isn’t integral to the plot, so I never knew exactly what they were going to do or say when I threw them into a scene. I was just along for the ride, especially in some of the places where they got particularly crazy.
The hockey scenes were definitely challenging. I wanted to make them feel fairly real, and I wanted hockey fans to feel like maybe I had half a clue what I was talking about, but I also wanted people unfamiliar with the sport to be able to follow what was going on. There were also some details about scheduling and constructing the league that were challenging. At one point my best friend, who also served as beta reader on this book (and several others of mine) informed me my game schedule made no sense at all. She sent me a link to a 1936 Blackhawks schedule, and I cut/pasted the LVH team names into it and tweaked some events in the story to fit around that schedule. Of course I also tweaked the schedule just a bit when the story didn’t quite conform, but overall I think it made the read a bit more cohesive, even though it’s a fairly small background detail.
JA: Travis’ fluid sexuality was, frankly, fun to read as he dealt with his attraction to Marc and figuring out that he still liked girls. Why did you decide to take him down that path?
KK: The idea that vampires are omnisexual has been one I’ve used in almost everything vampire-related I’ve written. It just seems to make sense. So it was kind of a given that Travis would go down that path from page one. I also knew I wanted it to be a m/m story, because I wanted to play these two guys’ personalities and alpha-ness off each other, and I wanted them to be teammates, and I just like writing m/m. So Travis’s formerly flaming heterosexuality was doomed from the beginning. It was also a way to play his modern views of sexuality off Marc’s views, which are molded by ancient Roman mores and two thousand years of just puttering around among humans and seeing how things shift and change over time.
I also think sexuality in general is much more complicated and interesting and rich than our current views allow for, and I wanted to explore that to some extent. Also it was fun to write him that way, and keeping me entertained is very important to me.
JA: What’s your favorite part of the book?
KK: Hmmm… Tough question. I think my favorite part is a big climactic scene that I was writing toward through most of the book. I tend to picture stories in terms of big scenes that I really want to write, then build the outlines to lead the plot to those scenes. Sadly, sometimes my big scenes disappear as the story works itself out. This one had to be in the book, though. I can’t really say what it is without spoiling part of the ending, but let’s just say it’s near the end and it’s in a hotel room and there’s lots of vampirey blood and sex involved…
JA: Of course, I know exactly what you’re talking about, and in the spirit of no spoilers I’ll agree that it was a great scene.
So, if you were casting a movie, who plays Travis, Marc and Ms. Pressman, the team’s coach and GM?
KK: This is a really hard question to answer. I always “cast” my novels because I like to have a real face in my head, at least at first before the characters start to take on their own personalities. But in this case, I cast hockey people rather than actors. Since Paul Bissonnette started the whole thing, I had him in my head for Marc. Since he and Taylor Pyatt had that bromance going on while they were both playing for the Coyotes, Pyatt was the basis for Travis. Also Pyatt has big sad eyes. As for Ms. Pressman—I had a specific picture in my head of her before I went looking for a “model.” I ended up using Jana Hossa, but only one specific picture of her, because it’s the only one where she actually looks like Ms. Pressman. In other pictures, the similarity isn’t there. Casting is hard.
As far as actors, I really have no idea. Although I might suggest Chris Pratt for Travis, because Chris Pratt is awesome and should be in everything. Or maybe I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy a few too many times.
On second thought I should just let a casting director find a bunch of unknowns who can skate.
JA: Will we get to see more stories with Travis and/or the LVH?
KK: There will be a sequel. The tentative title is The Blood Leagues. That’s all I know so far—I don’t have a release date at the moment. It’ll involve hijinks in Eastern Europe and rescuing Karasov from himself.
JA: You’re clearly a hockey fan based on the vivid hockey scenes in the book and your bio mentions your love for the Blackhawks and your crush on Marian Hossa. Care to share some thoughts on the upcoming NHL season and what your expectations are?
KK: First, a very sad story about hockey crushes. My very first hockey crush was Troy Brouwer. I even bought myself a Brouwer practice sweater. About five minutes before he got traded to the Capitals. I was broken-hearted. But my best friend kept sending me pictures, cause that’s what she does, and during my mourning period I realized Marian Hossa has the profile of a Roman god. But I still haven’t bought a Hossa jersey because of the horrible fear it would doom him to be traded.
As far as the upcoming season—I’m really looking forward to this year’s Winter Classic (Capitals vs. Blackhawks). I’m not going to make any predictions about where the Hawks will land, but I’m sure we’ll do well again, barring injuries. (I don’t make predictions. I’m superstitious about them.) I’m also interested to see how the second-line center question plays out—if Richards ends up in that role and if Teravainen makes his way into a regular slot at some point.
Okay, I’ll make a prediction. I predict we end up in the playoffs somewhere. That’s as far as I’ll go. I also really, really hope the Penguins do better this season, because I like them except when they’re playing the Blackhawks.
JA: What’s coming up next for you the PuckBuddys readers might find interesting?
KK: The Blood Leagues will be coming, probably next year, and Blood on the Ice will be out in paperback next June. Next summer I have Summoning Sebastian coming out from Samhain, which is a followup to Necromancing Nim. Not hockey-related, but set in the same world. There’s even a shared character between Nim and Blood on the Ice, although it might not be immediately obvious.
I also have a series of hockey-based m/m erotica at Changeling Press. There are five stories in the Puck You series. They’re all short and are basically unadulterated smut, so you have been warned.
If you’d like to keep track of my releases, you can find me on Twitter at @crazywritinfool, and on Facebook as Katriena Knights. I’m also on G+ and Pinterest, and my blog is at katrienaknights.blogspot.com. Or you can join my new releases mailing list. Oh, and I have a website that I’m crap at updating: katrienaknights.com.
Thanks again for having me!
Jeff’s regular PuckBuddys beat includes the Red Wings and reviewing fiction that features gay hockey players. In addition, he’s the author of the Hat Trick series, which chronicles the romance of Simon & Alex, two hockey players who fall in love during high school. Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound was published in July and he’s at work on the third installment. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.