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Hanging out with author @Susan_Illene – a Cabin Goddess #Interview

Urban Fantasy in Fairbanks, AK? Hell ya! 

What do Beef stew, dragons, urban fantasy and Fairbanks Alaska have to do with each other? Keep reading and find out!


Darkness Haunts and Taunts Button 300 x 225Susan, thank you for taking the time to hang out in the woods at my cabin! I am really glad I was able to lure you with I hope you enjoy answering these, as they can be quite fun if you want them to be! I tried to create something that fit with my blog and readers and also allowing you to express yourself and your book in a non-traditional way, if you choose to go that route. In other words, my blog is fun, so have fun yourself!

CG -Tweet the book: You are challenged to tweet a synopsis of the book to include your tweet handle, GO!


Susan – Melena faced insurgents while in the Army, but now she’ll have to fight supernaturals to save a friend. Darkness Haunts by @susan_illene

CG – Introduce yourself to the captive audience that you now have before you. (As in tell us something NOT in your bio, give us a dirty little secret not having or having to do with your writing)

Susan – I’m an Army veteran (which is in my bio), but what is not in there is that I’ve been married to an Iraqi for over six years now.  When asked how we met, my husband tells people I kidnapped him, threw him in the back of a humvee, and drove him straight to the U.S.  As if a humvee could make it that far, but you’d be amazed how many people believe him.  The truth is a much longer and more complicated story that would probably make for a good book if I was willing to tell it 🙂

CG – Since this is an Alaskan blog, and I live in Fairbanks share with me and my Alaskan readers, plus the readers who so think I live in this magical land of snow and ice! Have you ever lived here? If so what is your favorite thing about Fairbanks (I have never been in Juneau, it is to far south! Heck I never make it to Anchorage but maybe once every two years!!)

Susan – Unfortunately, I have not lived in Fairbanks.  Many years ago I suggested to my husband we should move to Alaska and we could stay in an igloo to save money.  I showed him a picture of one as if that was the greatest idea ever and he was horrified.  Being from Iraq, the extreme cold scared him to death.  Plus he totally believed me when I said that’s how people lived up there, lol.  Since then, no amount of showing him pictures of the summertime in Fairbanks and introducing him to people from Alaska has convinced him that the igloo thing isn’t true.  I’m rather relentless, though.  I’ve been pressing him to take a trip up there and I think (with some threats of physical violence) he is finally  coming around to my way of thinking so we can take a trip up there soon.

As for how I get my information for my books, I have Army buddies who were stationed up there and was put into contact with a woman who has lived in Fairbanks for many years.  They’ve all been a huge help in getting my details right.  This is on top of countless hours of internet research, reading books on the area, and watching YouTube videos (it’s amazing how many people record themselves up there).

CG – We don’t really have a life up here *snickering* it doesn’t take much to amuse us…

CG – What was your inspiration for writing a supernatural book in Alaska? Yep, back to the Alaskan factor!

Susan – I loved the uniqueness of the location.  There aren’t a lot of books based in Fairbanks and the possibilities really intrigued me.  Things like the odd daylight hours and extreme weather being part of that.  I do branch out to other parts of Alaska and there will even be trips to other places like northern Canada, but the base of the story will always be in Fairbanks.

CG  – We have mermaids here.. maybe you can sneak one into the next book *waggling eyebrows*

Chena Hot Springs is a fun place to go when it gets to those extreme negative temperatures in Fairbanks, AK. (source SCA)

Chena Hot Springs is a fun place to go when it gets to those extreme negative temperatures in Fairbanks, AK. (source SCA)

CG – If you could cast one of your works, who would you choose to play your main characters? (I have a stock account no worries there) Write one line you would love for him/her/them to say from your book.

Susan – If I absolutely had to pick an actress to play my main character, Melena, it would be Jennifer Lawrence.  She doesn’t look exactly the same, but she has close to the same personality.  I’ve yet to see a current actor who could play Lucas, but if we could transport back in time and grab Val Kilmer for the way he looked in Top Gun it would be great.  He has that same arrogance and cockiness as Lucas and close to the same features.


As for lines, here is one from each character in Darkness Haunts between Melena and Lucas:

Melena:  “Why do you care what I do?”

Lucas:  “I don’t.  Except I consider you mine to kill…or allow to live.”

CG – Do you have any vices that you turn to while you are writing (as in what candy / snack food / drink / 80’s hair band you break out in song too when you just cannot figure out the next line to write and your muse seems to have wandered off with the mail man?)

Susan – I keep a running playlist of songs for each book I write with one particular song I tend to play a lot for each book and/or scene.  With Darkness Taunts, the second novel in the Sensor Series, I played “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink countless time while writing the last half of the book.  It didn’t fit the story exactly, but the emotion behind the song really inspired me.  For Chained by Darkness (the next book I’m writing), I’ve been listening to “Savin’ Me” by Nickelback.  That song actually fits the story pretty close.

CG – During the zombie apocalypse, what fictional character would you want watching your back?

I think I’d want one of Katie MacAlister’s fire breathing dragons for that.  Probably the character Baltic.

CG – What do you do when you’re not writing? (ie: What festive things do you do for fun? What things do you do when you make yourself have fun, and what is on the top of your list to do when you actually take two days for you (and family)

Susan – Honestly, I’ve becme rather boring since leaving the military.  I read a lot, go out to the movies occasionally, and visit Bricktown (a hot spot in downtown Oklahoma City) sometimes.  My husband and I are hoping to do more traveling in the future since I think he’s starting to get as restless as I am.  We just both had to move around so much prior to settling in Oklahoma a few years ago that we needed the downtime to relax and recuperate.

CG – Let’s step it up a notch, how about create a drink (with or without booze) representing your book in name and ingredients (this could be a renamed established drink – here is a good example of one, scroll down to this PA book’s ONE IN THE CHAMBER where the author recreates an Old-Fashioned )

Susan – Okay, I am absolutely no good at this.  A very long time ago I used to drink alcohol, but even then I never knew what was in most of the mixed drinks.  My main character, Melena, likes to drink Long Island Iced Tea with grenadine, but I totally stole that off of a friend who always orders them.  With non-alcoholic beverages I don’t like them mixed and wouldn’t know where to begin.  Sorry!

CG – Hey that is OK! I think you have more to give yet… so how about a meal?? How about if your book was a meal what would it be? Meat and potatoes? Vegetarian? A light nouveau cuisine? 

Susan – Okay, keep in mind that I like being in the kitchen about as much as I like being in a house that’s on fire.  But my husband becomes extremely grouchy if he doesn’t get a home-cooked meal occasionally so I do have a handful of recipes I can cook and people seem to enjoy them (and don’t get sick eating them!).

If I had to choose one of those recipes, it would probably be my beef stew.  I start it by putting at least a pound of beef (cut into bit size pieces) into a pot of water with a few spices (salt, pepper, and seasoning salt) and letting it simmer for a couple of hours.  My main character, Melena, is a lot like that beef.  Pretty much alone at the beginning of the series and not really wanting to get close to anyone.  Later, I add a can of diced tomatoes and some cut up potatoes to the mix and let them cook with the meat for another hour.  Those two ingredients would be a lot like Mel’s friends, Aniya and Lisette.  She’s let them get close, but only so much. 

Beef not Squirrel Stew

After the potatoes have cooked well enough, I add almost every frozen vegetable I have in the freezer.  Usually, there is corn, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and carrots.  I let those cook in the stew for another fifteen to twenty minutes.  You could say these ingredients represent all the different supernaturals that come into Melena’s life as the series progresses.  She might be stuck in the same pot with them, but it’s going to take some time for them to all warm up to each other. 

Finally, I add a tablespoon of butter and let it melt in.  That would be like Lucas, a nephilim and Mel’s nemisis.  She does her best to stay away from him, but of all the characters (ingredients) in the series he adds that flavor to the book that raises the story (stew) up a notch.  After that, I serve it up to my family (or readers in the case of the books).

CG – *mouth hanging open* ummm *scribbling down my shopping list* wait, can you wave a magic wand over the pot and make as tasty as that description! Bravo! *looking at Herbert* Hey, don’t worry I like my evil on the outside of me, not the inside.. plus you keep the dogs and mutated stripper zombies away!

CG – FAST and FURIOUS – Don’t pause just answer what comes first to mind


On the Rocks, Blended or Bottle and a Shot Glass? Ummm…
2Coke or Pepsi? Coke
3Handgun gun or Crossbow? Handgun
4Planes, Trains or Dog sled?  Planes
5Angels, Demons or Medicine Man? Demons, lol
6Moose, Wolf or Evil Alaskan Ground squirrel?  Definitely the Evil Alaskan Ground Squirrel!


CG – AWESOME… Squirrels, especially Alaskan ones *eyeing Herbert* they are so evil!!! (But they make a good diversion while you take the other guys bacon sandwich.. wait.. umm I deny it!)


Learn battle techniques from the Army, Marines or Ninjas (yes this is a trick question LOL)?  I already have battle techniques from the Army, so can I go for the Ninjas next?

8book or Paperback? eBook


Chainsaw arm, shotgun leg?  Uh, chainsaw arm, I suppose

CG – Anything you would like to add… appearances, upcoming releases, where I can find someone to adjust the algorithms for my time machine?

Susan – My next book that I mentioned earlier in the interview should be out at the end of October.  It is a Sensor World novella told from another character’s point of view, Lucas.  We just did the photo shoot with a model I found who closely resembles him last weekend and my design team is working to get the cover finished up now.  I can say it’s looking HOT so far.  My hope is to reveal it around mid-September, along with the official synopsis, but I’ll be posting an update on my blog soon for anyone interested.

Thanks so much to Cabin Goddess for having me here today.  You had some thought provoking questions and I really enjoyed it!

CG – Herbert and I enjoyed it… the little guy is growing on me, sigh.. but he is still evil and we had a blast having you here! Thank you SO much!



About the author Susan Illene

Susan IlleneInstead of making the traditional post high school move and attending college, Susan joined the U.S. Army. She spent her eighteenth birthday in the gas chamber…an experience she is sure is best left for criminals. For eleven years she served first as a human resources specialist and later as an Arabic linguist (mostly in Airborne units). Though all her duty assignments were stateside, she did make two deployments to Iraq where her language skills were put to regular use.

After leaving the service in 2009, Susan returned to school to study history with a focus on the Middle East. She no longer finds many opportunities to test her fighting abilities in real life, unless her husband is demanding she cook him a real meal, but she’s found a new outlet in writing urban fantasy heroines who can.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter



Darkness Haunts

The Sensor Series 
Book One
Susan Illene
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Melena Sanders faced her fair share of danger with insurgents and terrorists when she served in the U.S. Army, but now she is about to go up against a new threat. Her best friend, Aniya, has disappeared while on a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska—a supernatural haven. Most humans have no idea darker races lurk amongst them. Mel knows better. If she wants to get her friend back, she’s going to have to go in alone—but not unarmed.

Melena has a few special skills the Army didn’t provide, but the odds are still against her. She’s got to come up with a plan fast that doesn’t involve her, or her friend, dying. But danger likes to play it rough. A war for power is about to rise in Fairbanks and if she wants to get Aniya back, she’s going to have to step right into the middle of it.

Amazon  |   BN  |  Kobo


Darkness Taunts

The Sensor Series
Book Two
Susan Illene
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Melena Sanders has managed to avoid all things inhuman for most of her life, but after coming to Fairbanks, Alaska to rescue her best friend from supernaturals she hasn’t been allowed to leave.  That is, until her long-time nemesis comes to collect a favor she owes him.  Lucas might be half angel, but he’s all bad as far as she’s concerned.

Paying him back might get her out of town for a while, but her new destination will be anything but enjoyable.  Mel’s got to help the nephilim take care of a demon possession outbreak in Juneau.  Although something like this hasn’t happened for thousands of years, Lucas is certain Melena’s rare abilities are the key to solving the problem.

With violence in the capital city growing, she’s going to have to figure out how to stop it fast before the trouble spreads to other places.  Not only that, but working closely with Lucas is changing the dynamics of their hate-hate relationship—worrying her even more than the demons.  Getting back to her captivity in Fairbanks never looked so good.

Amazon |   BN |  Kobo

Click to find out the complete tour schedule for guest posts, interviews, reviews and more at Bewitching Blog Tours!

Darkness Haunts and Taunts Banner 450 x 169


  1. Ha ha, that squirrel is awesome. I have actually seen the video with the coffee and made the mistake of showing it to my husband. It set me back quite a bit on my bid to go to Alaska, lol. Not to worry, though, I’m bringing out the plyers to threaten him with next. I’m quite certain I’m more stubborn than him. Plus he likes his nose the way it is.

    Oh, and about Chena Hot Springs. I’ve been dying to figure out a way to get that place in one of my books. The detour down to Juneau in Darkness Taunts made it too difficult to squeeze in the few scenes there were in Fairbanks, but there’s always hope for future installments 🙂

    Thanks again for the interview. I really enjoyed it!
    Show me some love!

    • AWESOME! Ya Chena Hot Springs is AWESOME!! We go there all the time, and that photo is BLOWN way up in exposure because it is pitch black! My friend is such a goober! We have seasons passes each year and love it!

  2. Is there something in the air in Alaska that makes you so goofy? I haven’t seen you do a serious interview yet ( thank heavens). At least the interviewees never seem to mind and we readers certainly don’t.
    xxx Hugs xxx
    Show me some love!

  3. Everyone does serious interviews! Why do a serious interview, bahhhhhhh boring! *GRIN* Plus you have to admit it is FUN to find out “IF YOUR BOOK WAS A MEAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE?” I LOVE that question!!! I ask a FEW serious questions… a FEW!

  4. Oh, nice. I wish I had a hot springs that close to me!

    • you could do some really cool stuff in a novel with that. It is magical up there. The Northern Lights, when they dance, it is right across the edge of the slope looking like some goddess is waving a magic paintbrush!

  5. I love this one, the book, the way the author answers your questions, the lot of it. And the beef stew? Well, that might just end up on our table.
    But I’d go for the axe hand instead of the chainsaw arm. 🙂


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