Cari Z. on Writing, Characters and her latest novel ‘Off The Beaten Path’ (author interview and tour)


Off the Beaten Path by Cari Z.
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Available for Purchase at Dreamspinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Cari Z. here today on her Off the Beaten Path tour. Welcome, Cari.


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Cari Z

How much of yourself goes into a character?

I can always tell the characters I personally resonate with most, because they’re not big and bold. They’re usually fairly quiet and tend to get things done without a lot of fuss, and they’re also complete badasses with at least one odd and unique skillset. *ahem*

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

I think it’s important for a character to be relatable, which often means not using a really personal anecdote or interesting incident from my own life, because really, how many people have been alligator wrestling? On the other hand, people read to experience new things, and so a judicious amount of my own life and personality needs to make it in there, especially if I’m relating something odd.

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I love research and making up my own worlds and cultures! This is probably why I write so few novels in the contemporary genre—I mean, yeah, I could Google Map Philadelphia and ask for beta readers to make sure I get it right, or I could research rainforests and jungles and then stick my main characters on an alien planet with, you guessed it, rainforests and jungles!

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

I loved historical fiction as a teen. Really, desperately loved it. Only later, when I actually went to write it for myself, did I realize how damn complicated that genre is. That hasn’t stopped me, persay, but it does make other stories more attractive sometimes.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

I’ve had to put “in progress” stories aside due to complete and utter bafflement at what happens next, but only once have I put one away for emotional reasons. I wrote 70k in three weeks, the fastest I’ve ever gotten any story down, then got to a huge shift in the plot and realized I was depressing myself so much I couldn’t continue.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

I write stories with romance, so those conventions are not only anticipated, they’re demanded. That being said, I tend to go more HFN, because I don’t draw out endings and tend to stuff my romances full of adventure and thrills too.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

Oh yeah. Classics. Fanfic. Contemporary authors who aren’t me. I read it all. GIVE IT TO ME!

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

Huh. Well, as a teenager I wanted to write my own Horatio Hornblower books, so I’d have to say CS Forester was a huge influence. As an adult, I read very scattershot all over the place, everything from high fantasy to weird science, so if anything, eclectisism is my guide now.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

Usually I don’t have a lot to do with my own covers. I tell the art department what I want and they provide something glorious and I’m very happy. With the cover for Off The Beaten Path, though, I didn’t like any of the models they sent me. I felt awful for complaining, but they were incredibly cool about it, and eventually I got to pick my own model. Hence the delightful man gracing the cover now 😊

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

It changes! I like all of my work, even the early stuff because darn it, I learned from it and it helped me grow, but I’ve got to confess I’m especially fond of my science fiction romance Changing Worlds, which is also with Dreamspinner. I wrote it after doing the Peace Corps, and it encapsulates better than any of my other books the emotional dissociation I felt at the time. It’s one of my most true-to-my-life novels, despite being set on an alien planet.

What’s next for you as an author?

After Off The Beaten Path comes out, I have a break before the third and fourth books in the Bad Behavior series I’m writing with L.A. Witt come out in January. Which gives me time (maybe, what with a new baby due to arrive tomorrow, literally) to write a possible sequel for Off The Beaten Path!


When Ward Johannsen’s little girl Ava shifted into a werewolf, she was taken into custody by the feds and shipped off to the nearest pack, all ties between father and daughter severed. Ward burned every bridge he had discovering her location, and then almost froze to death in the Colorado mountains tracking her new pack down. And that’s just the beginning of his struggle.

Henry Dormer is an alpha werewolf and an elite black ops soldier who failed his last mission. He returns home, hoping for some time to recuperate and help settle the pack’s newest member, a little pup named Ava who can’t shift back to her human form. Instead he meets Ward, who refuses to leave his daughter without a fight. The two men are as different as night and day, but their respect for each other strikes a spark of mutual interest that quickly grows into a flame. They might find something special together—love, passion, and even a family—if they can survive trigger-happy pack guardians, violent werewolf politics, and meddling government agencies that are just as likely to get their alpha soldiers killed as bring them home safely.


About the Author

Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing then because what else are you going to do for entertainment with no electricity? She writes award-winning LGBTQ fiction featuring aliens, supervillains, soothsayers, and even normal people sometimes. You can contact Cari at In fact, please do. She’d love to hear from you.


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