Brought to you by OBS reviewer Vicki

I first encountered Karen Marie Moning’s books a few years ago. I was in the middle of researching my dissertation and teetering on the edge of insanity. It was 4 o’clock in the morning; because time means so little when you have a mammoth paper to write. I was trawling Goodreads (it is far too easy to procrastinate on Goodreads) and happened upon a review of one of the Fever books, I forget which one. I decided to download the audiobooks because I was making the trek to and from the library every day and needed something to make the journey a little less daunting. I have been a Moning Maniac since that first commute. To date, I have lost count of how many times I have re-read or re-listened to Karen’s books. I have not felt such a strong connection to any other author, which is a blessing and a curse; a blessing because I am never over-saturated with awesome and therefore I can appreciate when the written word is truly great and a curse because I am in a constant book hangover state.

Now, I live in Scotland so conventions and fandom meet-ups are not something we Brits get to participate in very much – at least not to the scale of what happens over the pond. So when Karen announced that she was going to be launching her first instalment of the Fever spin-off series, ICED: A Dani O’Malley Novel, in New Orleans, I thought to myself: “Oh, that’s nice, but it is a shame I won’t get to go.” Yet, it was still on my mind a week after Karen made the announcement. I’ve never really been a spontaneous person but after some cajoling from a very dear friend of mine and fellow book lover; I realised that I actually did not have a valid excuse to miss out on this opportunity. And so the planning began.

I had almost 8 months to wait before the actual book launch and as I counted down the excitement mounted. This was due in large part to the Maniac Meet-Ups group on Facebook, where I was able to interact with other attendees and organise trips and tours with them around the official KMM events.

I had been in New Orleans for three days when the first official ICED event took place. It was a beautiful Sunday morning; well it was to someone who is used to dealing with Scottish weather! And 300+ Moning Maniacs descended upon Jackson Square in the French Quarter to begin the Scavenger Hunt. We were divided into teams, which was great because we were able to meet people we may not have met otherwise and were then given our instructions. The Scavenger Hunt entailed visiting various different areas in the French Quarter and performing tasks – we had to catalogue each task by taking a picture. For bonus points we were also required to answer questions about the Fever Series. The prize for the first team to complete each task and return to the hotel meeting point within two hours was, the very much coveted, Queue Jump at Karen’s book signing the following day (and bragging rights!) Random House also offered a selection of their bestsellers to the first and second teams. Thanks Random House!

To quote Dani O’Malley, ‘holy feck’ was that Scavenger Hunt good fun! I’ve never seen a group of men and women so cut-throat, even though it was all in jest – winning was everything!

After the Scavenger Hunt the teams retreated to their rooms to begin getting ready for the Official ICED BASH Book Launch Party held at Generations Hall. We were given prior knowledge that there was going to be a costume competition with the categories being: Best MacKayla Lane Costume, Best Seelie Costume, Best Unseelie Costume and Most Creative Costume. Generations Hall was decorated in such a way that it emulated Ryodan’s Chester’s Club from the Fever Series. It was quite simply; amazing. Words cannot do it justice. The bartenders were pouring the ICED cocktail through an ice sculpture. The fans had gone ALL OUT with their costumes. One costume that stood out in particular was a fan who had dressed a 9 ft Unseelie Fae.

Then the woman of the hour arrived, alongside Phil Gigante; the audiobook artist, aptly dubbed The Voice by fans and Eric Etebari; the man who inspired Jericho Barrons. The costume competition saw the aforementioned 9 ft Unseelie Fae take the prize for Most Creative Costume, a woman with the most beautiful and intricate headdress take the prize for Best Seelie Costume, The Fear Dorcha for Best Unseelie Costume and a pregnant Fever Moon Mac with a JZB tattoo painted on her stomach for Best MacKayla Lane Costume.

We were then treated to a surprise skit performed by Eric Etebari as Jericho Barrons and Whitney Boyer as MacKayla Lane; as it was coming up to Barrons’ birthday on Halloween they re-enacted the infamous cake scene from Faefever.  We then spent the next five hours dancing, visiting the tarot card reader and palm readers and raiding the incredible dessert table. I have never experienced anything else like it!

The following morning we were invited to attend an event called ‘Playtime with Phil and Eric’ in the Denechaud Room at Le Pavillon Hotel. Luckily this was the luxurious hotel where most of us were staying so we were able to roll out of bed (a little worse for wear due to the night before) and make our way down stairs. Phil and Eric answered fan questions and re-enacted a scene from Shadowfever with one lucky, lucky fan. They were quite the double-act and extremely entertaining.

At 4 o’clock in the afternoon the book signing was due to begin and was also taking place in the Denechaud Room at Le Pavillon Hotel – there were some fans that left the Q&A with Phil and Eric at 11am and immediately sat in line for Karen’s signing. When I joined the line at 3pm there was only approximately 100 people in front of me so it wasn’t a super long wait. The signing was supposed to take place between 4pm and 9pm but I believe that Karen was still signing right up to 11pm. When I popped down for some Hot Chocolate at 10pm she was still laughing and smiling and engaging with her fans. She was so gracious and humbled by all of the people who had turned up for the launch. The evening consisted of a book reading slumber party, where we gathered to read ICED together.

On the final event day Karen held a Q&A session, which had to be split into two groups due to the amount of people wanting to attend. There was no recording of any kind allowed during these sessions due to making the experience exclusive to those in attendance. I think it also allowed Karen to be a bit more conversational rather than feeling under pressure to provide media approved sound bites. However, we were allowed to take notes. Please scroll to the end of this post to read a summary of the Q&A session.

My time in New Orleans extended beyond the weekend of events organised by Karen and her team, however it is those days that will stick out in my memory. I was a little apprehensive over what to expect beforehand, as I had never attended anything of this nature. It is difficult to explain the difference between getting and reading a book that you have been super excited about and getting and reading a book that you have been super excited about alongside hundreds of people who feel the exact same way as you do. The atmosphere in Le Pavillon Hotel was incredibly thrilling; there is definitely something to be said about being surrounded by so many like-minded people. I love my Book Blogger and Goodreads friends but getting a chance to meet real-life people who actually want to talk about books, wow, I might have gotten a little emotional after a few the famous New Orleans Hurricane cocktails!

If you ever have the opportunity to attend an event like this I urge you to jump at it head, heart and feet first! I will forever treasure this experience and the smart, funny and amazing people I met along the way. I had the chance to meet my favourite author and tell her how much her work means to me – to be honest it hasn’t really sunk in yet!

Many thanks to Karen Marie Moning, her incredibly friendly and efficient team and Random House for giving me the opportunity to cross something off my bucket list in style!

Please be aware that the answers below are summarized quotes from Karen, they are not direct quotes and there is a distinct possibility that I might misquote her! Please also note that there were some questions asked where Karen had to be intentionally vague to avoid ICED spoiler territory (if you have not read the Fever or Highlander Series this is your spoiler warning!)

Q: Will we ever learn more about Isla and Kayleigh?

A: Yes – most likely when I return to Mac and Barrons point of view.

Q: Why did you choose to use multiple points of view in ICED?

A: Some people will never like multiple points of view. The choice here was for pacing. I like to bring the reader in, entertain them, bring them to a certain point and then cut them off by switching points of view.

Q: Is Daegus [MacKeltar] Dani’s father? [Fan mentioned a woman with the last name O’Malley that Daegus slept with in The Dark Highlander.]

A: That’s an interesting theory.

Q: Do you have anything planned for Fade?

A: Wouldn’t you like to know?

Q: Do you have a publishing date for Burned? [Book two in the Dani O’Malley series.]

A: No. I’ll be sure to let you know when I have a projected completion date and release date.

Q: Will you have another release party?

A: Are you planning your next costume?

Q: Is Christian going to die? Are you going to fix him?

A: What neuter him?

Q: Have any of your characters done something that completely surprised you?

A: Barrons! Come on! You think I can keep him on a leash? I have to follow his emotion. I had no idea that he was going to throw the cake.

Q: How did you come about the series? How do you keep track of all the detail?

A: I dreamt it. I dreamt that I was reading a book that was ripping me apart and I woke up and it was almost fully formed in my head, I even knew the cliffhangers. I wrote all five Fever book titles on my wall in Sharpie that morning. FYI, don’t write on your walls in Sharpie. And I didn’t want to write it because I was writing romance at the time. But I suddenly had no more writers block. The muse talks and I listen.

Q: Did your dream extend this new Dani series?

A: Apparently, yes! Dani’s book was so easy to write, which was a surprise. Dani is another character that I can’t control.

Q: Was the Barrons POV sex scene [The Alpha Alternative available through Karen’s website] real or not?

A: I like not knowing. It leaves room for imagination. It is edgier that way.

Q: Are Mac and Barrons long term?

A: What do you think?

Fan: I think they have rocky times ahead.

A: Probably.

Q: Are we going to find out what exactly happened to Christian?

A: It was a number of things. What happened in the circle, the eating Unseelie and time in the silvers. But most importantly Dani killed an Unseelie Prince and Fae always seek to replicate.

Q: Is pregnant Mac a possibility?

A: She’d be way too whiny.

Q: Dani’s voice is a little different in ICED from the Fever books, why did you decide to change it?

A: She was maturing, it was a stylistic decision. I was free to beef Dani up and make her dialect smoother. When we read from her point of view in the Fever series she needed to pack a punch but you get more of her here.

Q: I love Mac but sometimes I didn’t like her. I got really frustrated with her pushing Barrons away.

A: It wasn’t time for Mac to be with Barrons – she wasn’t ready and I don’t think Barrons was ready for her either. They happened when they happened.

Q: Did you ever worry that you were going to take Dani’s character too far?

A: Never and if I get to that point then I am going to push passed it. I want to take risks. Dani will end this trilogy at 17. Because of her upbringing Dani was never a child and I’ll think you’ll understand that more after reading ICED. Dani is actually more mature than Mac was. She’s a survivor. A lot of people are looking for a role model in Dani and I promise she will be eventually.

Q: How do you keep track of all the details?

A: I don’t make notes. I have a timeline with key dates on it. Outlines bore me. I get up in the morning and write a scene, it doesn’t matter how long it is and every night I know the next scene I am going to write and I am able to think on it subconsciously while I am sleeping. I usually know two or three scenes in advance.

Q: Is Ryodan as hard to write as Barrons?

A: Barrons is an animal – you see it coming. Ryodan is a machine – you don’t see it coming.

Q: Are you going to change Barrons?

A: What makes you think I can change Barrons? No. Never.

Q: Do you have plans for any more graphic novels?

A: Not at the moment. They are so labor intensive. Fever Moon took two years to complete.

Q: Are you going to keep Cruce locked down?

A: Why would I lock him down if I wasn’t going to let him out?

Q: Are you excited about the possibility of a movie?

A: Yes and no. I’m secretly hoping it gets picked up for a TV series by HBO or something.

Q: Do you think you’ll stop writing in the Fever world after the next five books are finished?

A: Never say never. There are so many other characters that I would love to write about.

Q: How much of yourself do you leave in your books?

A: Writers bleed through their work. I am what I write. I think that brings the reader and author closer together.