Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author & Giveaway: Jackie Kessler on Inspirations and Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.”

Today’s guest is awesome author Jackie Kessler, writer of Urban Fantasy, Comics (she is part of the Buffyverse CANON) and Young Adult books (her YA debut Hunger will be coming out in a few months). She also pens the Icarus Project Series, a superhero series written in collaboration with Caitlin Kittredge. The new book in the series Shades of Gray (Shades of Night in the UK), comes out tomorrow in the US. Ana is a huge fan of the series and has reviewed both books.

To celebrate the release of Shades of Gray we invited Jackie to talk about some of her Inspirations and Influences:

I Blame Neil Gaiman
By Jackie Kessler

Back in the early 1990s, I thought I was done with comic books. Seriously. Firstly, they were expensive, and without my dad to bankroll my sequential-art habit, all of my cash had to go to textbooks and Ramen noodles. Secondly, I was getting a little fed up with many of the storylines and some of the art. I thought I’d had enough of Good versus Evil in illustrated form. If I really wanted, I could watch Michael Keaton as the Batman again and call it a day.

And then, something happened that changed my life. Multiple choice time! What was the event that changed my life?

A) Lightning hit a row of chemicals in beakers, and all those electrified chemicals spilled on me, giving me super speed and the uncanny ability to wear a skintight red outfit and manage to look slender.
B) I was bitten by a radioactive spider, giving me the proportional strength, etc., of a spider (yuck).
C) I discovered, when I took off my glasses, that I had super strength, was able to fly, and had a weird allergic reaction to kryptonite.
D) My roommate plunked down a copy of SANDMAN #23 on my bed and told me I had to read it.

If you guessed A, B, or C, bless your geeky heart. Sadly, no, I still have no super powers (unless you count selective hearing, but I consider that an art form more than a super power).

When my roommate gave me SANDMAN #23, he* insisted that I stop everything and read it. I told him, rather wistfully, that I didn’t read comic books anymore. And he said, “This isn’t just a comic book. It’s amazing. You have to read it.” So partially to shut him up, I read it.

And then I went out and immediately bought A DOLL’S HOUSE graphic novel collection.

And then I got my hands on every back copy of SANDMAN that I could find. (And afford.)

That one story — from its dynamic writing to the incredible art to the way Morpheus spoke in dialogue balloons made of awesomesauce**— was enough to rekindle my love of all things comic book. I still limited myself in terms of what to buy (see the above about me being insanely poor), but man, there was nothing like looking forward to hitting the comic book shop and seeing what the new week would bring in terms of spandex, capes, and anthropomorphic personifications.

It also paved the way for my professional crush*** on Neil Gaiman. I devoured his work. I read GOOD OMENS (coauthored with Terry Pratchett, and still one of my favorite books of all time, right up there with Christopher Moore’s LAMB), eagerly sought out rare chapbooks, found the occasional HELLBLAZER, and so on. When I was in the hospital with my first child, I had AMERICAN GODS to read during those rare minutes when I wasn’t nursing or sleeping. I waited on a looooooooooong line to have Neil sign my ENDLESS poster (framed, hanging in my home office). I registered for the Fantasy Matters convention when I heard he was one of the keynote speakers and was second on line for autographing (I actually gave him signed copies of HELL’S BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL. He gave me a kiss on the cheek.**** I definitely got the better end of the deal.)

Why am I a writer? I blame Neil Gaiman. On that framed ENDLESS poster, he’d written: To Jackie: Dream On! And my dream was to be a novelist. He gave me permission, you see. He made the dream not some ephemeral thing, not this fleeting notion, but rather an actual goal. There’s a reason why Neil is one of the people I acknowledge in BLACK AND WHITE: he got me to stop thinking about writing as something lofty. Thanks to Neil, writing for me became a passion…one that I’ve been fortunate enough to also make one of my professions.

So even though Morpheus doesn’t wear spandex (thank God) and the notions of Good versus Evil in SANDMAN are like nothing I’d previously read about in the Justice League or the Avengers (and didn’t see with superheroes until Moore and Gibbons’ WATCHMEN and Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS), Neil Gaiman got me to love comic books again. And I’m forever grateful.

* Yes, my roommate was a guy. Okay, technically, he was a suitemate. There were five of us. But really, “suitemate” doesn’t flow as well as “roommate,” and if this is the part of the story that’s concerning you, then you’re missing the point.

** Yes, awesomesauce. Vertigo has the recipe.

*** Not to be confused with the sort of crushes I had on, say, John Taylor from Duran Duran back in the 1980s. I don’t wallpaper my room with pictures of Neil. (What? That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it!)

**** I still haven’t washed that cheek.

From Gaiman-fangirls to another: thank you, Jackie!

And now, for the giveaway:


Courtesy of the author, we are giving away 1 signed copy of Shades of Gray.The contest is open to ALL and will run until Saturday June 26 at 11:59 PM (PST). To enter, leave a comment here answering who is your favourite Superheroine or Supervillainess. Only one entry per person please! Good luck!


  • April (Books&Wine)
    June 21, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Yay Neil Gaiman is SO awesome!

    My favorite superhero is Sailor Moon. For realz.

  • Nadia Lee
    June 21, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I’ve heard so many nice things about Gaiman’s SANDMAN, but never had a chance to read it yet. I may have to do that… 🙂

  • Amanda Isabel
    June 21, 2010 at 8:20 am

    I can totally relate to this story! I was done with comics until I picked up “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” by Alan Moore – with Mia as the head honcho (the movie does not do it justice, at all). And the Sandman series is just aces! I adore Neil Gaiman too – though I started with his Books of Magic series.

    My favourite Superheroine is probably XMen’s Dark Pheonix. Yes, I see her as a Heroine and I was very disappointed by her portrayal in the movie as this cold, defeated thing. In the comics she was much more complex and such a great read – I miss that. Anyways, Dark Pheonix has my vote!

    Thanks for this! 😀

  • Jenna
    June 21, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Who doesn’t love Neil? 🙂

    My favorite supervillainess is the Wicked Witch of the West. In the Wizard of Oz, she’s simply wicked to the core. And with the new(ish) book and musical, she’s been expanded to a fully rounded character… though still wicked 🙂

  • GSM
    June 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    I like Storm, from the XMen series.

  • Lisa
    June 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    I’m a huge superhero fan! I read comics all the time and this series looks awesome!

    My favorite superhero would have to be Kitty Pryde of the X-Men!

  • Natasha
    June 21, 2010 at 8:42 am

    NG is super awesome. What a great story!

    Oooh! So hard to pick baddies and goodies(?!). I guess I will have to go with Buffy for superheroine (even though I think Lois Lane from Smallville if freaking cool, but she isn’t super!).

  • SG
    June 21, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Favourite superheroine…Buffy all the way. She’s not a tights-and-cape kinda hero (imagine if she was!), but I reckon it still counts.

  • Jamie
    June 21, 2010 at 8:46 am

    My favourite superhero is Phoenix from X-Men. The best powers, and she was also pretty bad-ass at one point. And having red hair makes her instantly amazing.

  • Angela Messer
    June 21, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Poison Ivy 🙂

    Thanks for the post and giveaway!

  • CrystalGB
    June 21, 2010 at 8:48 am

    My favorite would be Elecktra. 🙂

  • Marie
    June 21, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I love Kitty Pryde too! She (Kitty), Rogue, Mystique, and Emma Frost top the list (old school X-men storylines)!

  • Matthew Dow Smith
    June 21, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Neil and his excellent Sandman series got me back into comic books as well, and while I intended to write comics, somehow I ended up drawing them instead, and have been for the last 17 years.

    Congrats on the new book, Jackie! Can’t wait to read it.


  • L.J. McDonald
    June 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Now that I stop to think about it, Neil Gaiman inspires me in my writing as well. My only problem with the man is that he doesn’t write enough! Gah.

    As for favourite superheroes, I have a long standing liking for X-Men’s Gambit. Not that I’ve been able to read comics for a long time.

    I do, however, own Sandman. 😀

  • Celia
    June 21, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Probably she doesn’t count, but my favorite villainess is Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Actually, she’s my favorite character in that entire film.

  • Jeff
    June 21, 2010 at 9:08 am

    My favorite supervillainess? Moonstone from the Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers/Thunderbolts.

    Black and White is still sitting on my TBR pile (which keeps growing and not shrinking!). Hey, if I win, I’ll have a good excuse to dive into both of them back-to-back.

  • Matthew
    June 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

    My favorite superheroine is Promethea by Alan Moore — a deep, incredible series!

  • Tina
    June 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Awesome 😀

    My favorite super hero is…Sailor Venus. Someone said Sailor Moon up there, but Sailor Venus is her protector. 😀

  • Leslee
    June 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Bad guys: Heath Ledger’s Joker, Syndrome from The Incredibles, Spike from Buffy, Angelus from Buffy, Catwoman,
    Good guys: Rogue, Wolverine, Jack-Jack from the Incredibles, Buffy, Nightcrawler,

    I know there are more but that is all I can think of right now. I also discovered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman after I had given up on the confusing timelines and redos of the XMen. 🙂 I just love a good badguy!

  • Kobato
    June 21, 2010 at 9:52 am

    My favourite heroine is Sakura Kinomoto from Card Captor Sakura, she’s extremely cute.

  • Hillary
    June 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

    You couldn’t have a better role model than Neil Gaiman.

    Favorite superheroine? Phoenix from X-Man (Rachel, not Jean) when she first shows up on the scene. All that power and such a rotten past.

  • Thuy
    June 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I have always wanted to be Sailor Moon!

  • Sara M
    June 21, 2010 at 10:31 am

    My favorite superheroine is the Bowler from Mystery Men. I also enjoy Invisible Boy, who can only use his powers if no one is watching.

  • csaket
    June 21, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I think that my favorite is Buffy.
    Nice review

  • RedButterfly
    June 21, 2010 at 11:00 am

    OMG My favorite superhero from all time is for sure Sailor Moon. God I really loved her, her powers and all the poses she did to transform in a sailor were so damn cool. When I was young I wanted to be her (hell I still want to be). Imagining having cool powers that come from the Moon and that you can use to protect people, a speaking cat and a long amazing long (well cared) hair. Really COOL :mrgreen:

  • Ryan
    June 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Absolutely Maleficent.
    A bunch of the great Disney Supervillainess were willing to change themselves into nightmares just to defeat their arch enemies.

    But Maleficent turned herself into a freakin’ dragon! Excellent.

    I love that kind of dedication. 😀

  • Brian
    June 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    For the longest time, I would have had to answer with Mystique or Rogue as my favorite supervillainess and superheroine.

    But that all changed with Mark Millar and Mathew Vaugn. Hit-Girl is the most amazing superheroine ever (and she’s not even super-powered).

  • Donna S
    June 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I love Neil’s work. And my favorite Superhero is Batman. He has that dark side always waiting to come out.

  • Ashley
    June 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I can’t pick a favorite- it’s a tossup between Sailor Pluto and Lina Inverse!

  • Paul Carroll
    June 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Storm is pretty fantastic, but so was Sakura from Card Captors… and Jet and Iridium from Black and White! They. Are. Awesome!

  • Jo
    June 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    What a great post!!! I have been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s for many years — whatever he writes, I’ll read. 🙂

    I don’t know if I’d consider David Mack’s Kabuki a hero or a villain — it seems like sometimes, she walks a fine line. And I like that. 🙂

    And, um…. Jackie Kessler rocks!!!!! 🙂

  • Jocelyn Z.
    June 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I met my husband on the Neil Gaiman message board. We knew from the start that we were bibilographically compatible. Neil is my Cupid.

    My favorite DC universe character is Poison Ivy. I always totally understood her motivation – and agreed with it. Environmentally speaking, she’s the hero.

    Marvel – Emma Frost, but I’m not a fan of her current incarnation. I loved the 90’s version from the Chris Claremont years. She was so deliciously evil.

  • Kate
    June 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Getting a kiss from Neil Gaiman is better than almost accidentally killing him, which is the best I’ve managed.

    My favourite superheroine is Fatale, from Soon I Will Be Invincible. I identify a little too much sometimes.

  • Sarah
    June 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I am going to have to go with Selene from the Underworld movies. I don’t know if you would classify her as a villain or a heroine, but there is no denying she is a great character.

  • Barbara Elness
    June 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I hope this doesn’t make me sound like too much of a geek, but my favorite superheroine is the Scarlet Witch, who has been a member of the Avengers. She’s also the daughter of Magneto, and she’s been a supervillianess as well.

  • Tran
    June 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    My favorite hero is probably Gambit! Gotta love his tricks with those cards and his appearance in the Wolverine: Xmen Origins movie X3 squeals!

  • Melissa
    June 21, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    My favorite super-heroine is Empowered (from the comic entitled, funnily enough – ‘Empowered’).

  • sarac
    June 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm


  • cories
    June 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I found Neil Gaiman through Terry Pratchett.

    I don’t read comic books much although my boyfriend adores Sandman. I do read manga now and then so my favorite would be Sesshomaru, the full-demon half-brother of Inuyasha. Although Inuyasha is the hero of the series, Sesshomaru is way cooler even if the boys tried to kill each other in the beginning (and Inuyasha did manage to lop off Sesshomaru’s arm) – a bit of “Dad always liked you best” attempted fratricide.

  • Christa
    June 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Psylocke in the Marvelverse & Karma Girl in Big Time. : ) I know, I know, they’re very different, but Psylocke’s British & has awesome powers. And Karma Girl makes me laugh. :mrgreen:

    Thanks for the contest.

    PS Who doesn’t love Neil Gaiman? lol. + Terry Pratchett is hilarity!

  • Robin K
    June 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Oh wow… I must say the Evangeline Stone from Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding is my current favorite. Also any character Angelina Jolie has played 😉

    robin [at] intensewhisper [dot] com

  • Maya M.
    June 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Hey, I love your selective hearing superpower! I think most moms develop that one magically.

    The Smugglers have been campaigning for people to read Sandman as well, but so far, I’ve resisted. I think it’s a subliminal reaction to all the time my son spends reading manga graphic novels. And I gave the ‘Watchmen’ movie a try but clicked away before it was halfway.

    Yet the smugglerlove for this series, it is large. I’ll trust their judgement and put this on my TBR.

  • Sue R
    June 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I love Storm. I think her power to manipulate nature is fantastic.

  • Caitlin George
    June 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I love Buffy!! She is the classical kick-ass heroine! 😀

  • NLMars
    June 21, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Oh, awesome!
    My fave superheroine/supervillainess is Catwoman, because she’s both. In the batman series, she’s seen as a villain, but she recieved her own movie where she’s the heroine. Which makes her awesome.
    Plus, she makes leather look sexy. 😉

  • Sara (The Hiding Spot)
    June 21, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Cruella from 101 Dalmatians! Not sure she’s a ‘super’villain per se, but she sure is villainous!

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    June 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    My favorite super hero would have to be Buffy also. Please enter me in contest. Thank you.

  • Bethie
    June 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    My favorite superhero is Wolverine. Gotta love Hugh Jackman! I haven’t read any of Neil’s books yet. I have beem meaning to, but haven’t got around to it.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Amber S
    June 21, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I loved reading this post! I never would’ve washed the cheek either. Favorite superheroine? Does Buffy count? 🙂

  • ritu
    June 21, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Favorite superheroe(s) – GetBackers!! (Ginji and Ben) (Manga and Anime) I just love love love them. Though the manga is totally spoiled by Tokyopop. Wish I knew japanese just so I could read them! *Sigh*

  • Teresa W.
    June 21, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Mine is Peter petrelli from Heroes!

  • Robyn
    June 21, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    I’m going to have to say Rogue from X-Men.

  • Stephanie K.
    June 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    My favorite superhero is Jean Grey from X-men.

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  • Laura
    June 21, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I’m a Wonder Woman fan. That was who I wanted to be like when I was a kid. Well, her and Zorro. 😀

  • draconismoi
    June 22, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Mystique…..definitely the best.

  • catie james
    June 22, 2010 at 12:40 am

    It’s cliché but I grew up with Wonder Woman so she’s tops, but I’ve also become a fan of Jean Gray, Rogue, and Sandman‘s Delirium.

  • Giada M
    June 22, 2010 at 2:28 am

    I’ve always wanted to read Sandman! I hope I can read it soon!*_*
    Favourite Superheroine? Maybe Catwoman. It’s so hard to decide!

    Thank you for the interesting post and great giveaway! 🙂

    Giada M.

    fabgiada (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Jennifer
    June 22, 2010 at 3:35 am

    You have selective hearing… awesome! I have selective reasoning—I only explain what I want to explain. And I’m also very impatient. 🙂
    Heh I have to say my favorite superheroine is Buffy.
    Now if you just asked who my favorite heroine is, that would change. 😀

  • Kimberly B.
    June 22, 2010 at 3:50 am

    Elsewhere I answered this question with “Wonder Woman.” But in the interest of not repeating myself, and of possibly finding or making other fans, this time I’m going to say The Middleman. He’s the stay of a short-lived TV series and a few graphic novels which send up the superhero genre and SF in general hilariously. He’s more the ultra-competent, gadgety kind of superhero (like Batman) than the super-powered type.
    Thanks for the terrific giveaway!

  • Megan
    June 22, 2010 at 4:33 am

    My favourite superhero is easily Thom from Perry Moore’s fantastic “Hero.”

  • Carol Thompson
    June 22, 2010 at 4:33 am

    My favourite Supervillainess is Cruella Da Ville from 101 Dalmations.

    Sorry I am just weird. Hope she counts !

  • Mervi
    June 22, 2010 at 5:47 am

    I’m also a huge fan of Sandman and Gaiman!

    It’s very hard to choose just one superheroine but I’m going to have to go with Storm.

  • Stella (Ex Libris)
    June 22, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Thanks for the great post and for making the giveaway international! 🙂

    My favourite superheroine is Buffy! :mrgreen:

  • Sandy G
    June 22, 2010 at 7:05 am

    My favorite hero is Superman

  • Lisa B.
    June 22, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Jackie (and Caitlin),

    Congrats on the release of Shades of Gray!

    I really love Rogue, from X-Men fame (the comics not the movies). She’s strong outside and in but has so many inner demons and hurdles to cross before she reaches true happiness. Her character really speaks to me.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win Shades of Gray. After Black and White I can’t wait to read what happens next.

  • Andrea I
    June 22, 2010 at 9:31 am

    My favorite is Karma Girl from Jennifer Estep’s Big Time series. 8)

  • Marlene Breakfield
    June 22, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I’m going to stay old-school and say Wonder Woman.

  • Nicole
    June 22, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Quite tricky! I would have to say Catwoman is my favorite superheroine. My fav supervilliness would have to be Poison Ivy.

  • Ellaanabeth
    June 22, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    my fave superhero is Batman, and my fave supervillan is Joker. They’re the awesomest combo ever. Batman shows that you don’t have to have superpowers to be a hero and Joker… well, I love crazy people, I love clowns, and I love a good evil plan…so Joker’s just the bomb-diggity all around!

  • heatwave16
    June 22, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    How can you not love WOnder Woman!!! She rocks. 🙂 Plus, as villianess go, I’m a big fan of Catwoman…the real Catwoman…not the Halle Berry version.

  • Emily
    June 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Buffy Summers. Definitely Buffy.

    (honorable mentions: Storm, Kitty Pryde, and Animal Man)

  • Megan
    June 23, 2010 at 5:35 am

    Ahhh, I’m getting inspired by all the enties about me! I’m having a hard time deciding between Buffy (season 1-3), Kitty Pryde and Sailor Moon.

  • Francesca Ivy
    June 23, 2010 at 8:20 am

    I was never a Gaiman fan but I have his 2 books in my TBR. maybe I should start reading it, eh? 🙂

    Anyway, I would have Lara Croft & Electra as my superheroines. I just love them for their abilities and power. 🙂

  • Spav
    June 23, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    My favourite superheroine is Storm.

  • Michelle White
    June 24, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Favorite superhero is Batman.

  • Lexi
    June 24, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I like Angel and Gambit from X-men. Not really super hero, but I adore Sandman.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Batman, I am completely in love with the Dark Knight. He’s is dark and moody, brilliant and relentless. From my first Batman comic over almost 20 years ago to watching Christian Bale’s shirtless push ups, I have enjoyed as much Batman as I can get my hot little hands on.

  • Jessica S.
    June 25, 2010 at 5:26 am

    I loved The Huntress. A show from 2002-2003 with Ashley Scott, I believe that was on the WB. Basically she was Batman and Catwoman’s daughter fighting crime in New Gotham! It was a pretty cool show, so naturally it was canceled. 🙁

  • Llehn
    June 25, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Lex Luther 😀

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