Date Published: 11/11/2013
The Sanctum, an all-powerful governing body founded by ten families, entrusted to maintain the peace amongst Magicals and ensure the ignorance of humans, has been corrupted by greed and savagery for generations, but is all Wyatt Clayworth has ever known.
A descendant of one of the Founding Families and Class A Warrior, Wyatt has always believed in the ways of The Sanctum, having grown up in the system and thrived under their leadership. A golden boy, renowned for his prowess and skill in battle, Wyatt has never questioned a mission or kill order until the night he crosses paths with a brutally injured and mysterious girl.
Scouring Central Park with his best friend and fellow Class A Warrior, Ryker Morrison, for the hybrid demon prophesied to bring an end to The Sanctum and destroy the world for Magicals and humans alike, Wyatt instead finds Dev and his whole life turns upside down. Told he was hunting a killing machine, hellbent on wreaking havoc and destruction upon all it encounters, Wyatt instead sees nothing more than a broken girl with haunted eyes and a bit of a death wish.
All Dev wants is for Wyatt to either kill her or leave her alone. When he refuses to do either, she finds herself being pulled into his life while being hunted by warriors everywhere she turns. Drawn to one another for reasons they cannot begin to explain to themselves, much less anyone else, Wyatt is determined to protect Dev and help her realize her mission to avenge the deaths of her family at the hands of The Sanctum. His abdication of his duties and his outright rejection of his responsibilities to The Sanctum create a maelstrom of events beyond anyone’s imagination.
Without making a sound, Wyatt quickly found the exact place he was seeking. Ducking under some low-hanging tree branches, he ventured into the dark, partially-hidden lair only to be met with a less-than-welcoming blade at his throat. Dev had moved slightly from the hiding place Wyatt left her and although the lower half of her body remained immobile, her arms were functioning just fine, as evidenced by the blade drawing a thin trickle of blood from Wyatt’s neck. One wrong move and she would certainly kill him.
Wyatt slowly brought his hands up to Dev’s, wrapped his fingers around hers and painstakingly maneuvered the blade away from his neck. Only then did he dare make eye contact with her.
“You didn’t really think I was just going to leave you here, did you?” Wyatt asked as he moved to retrieve his blade from Dev.
She wasn’t quite ready to give it up and slashed at Wyatt’s outstretched hand, managing to nick his wrist.
“Crap!” Wyatt sat back on his heels, holding his wrist, and laughed, “fair enough. I deserved that. I should have told you I was coming back, but I couldn’t risk Ryker overhearing or suspecting anything. Trust me, if he thought I was coming back for you he would have spent all night watching me like a hawk. So I left you and walked away and it worked. Now get over it and give me back my blade.”
Despite the laughter in his voice, Wyatt wasn’t playing. He wanted his blade. Her name was Odara and she had been handed down the Clayworth line since the witnessing of The Code of Ten. She was sharper than any Raven blade and fit his hand like a glove. Many had fought and died at his hand thanks to Odara. She was his protector and he wanted her back where she belonged, safely strapped to his hip.
"Kill me," Dev offered the blade at a price.
Wyatt stood up tall and glared down at Dev, clenching his jaw in irritation.
"Kill me," Dev challenged him again, taunting him with her smug stare and grim request.
With blinding speed, Wyatt landed on Dev, knocking her to the ground. Before she even realized what was happening, he locked down her arms and liberated his blade from her grasp. Wyatt hovered above Dev, inches from her face, momentarily tempted to slice her throat and end all of this drama. She couldn’t move a muscle.
"You are in no position to bargain with me," Wyatt angrily whispered, never taking his eyes off of hers. "I am faster and stronger than you. So don’t even think about toying with me like that again.”
Wyatt pushed himself off of her, replaced Odara at his hip and grinned mischievously. “For the record, my blade isn’t worth your life. I just want it back. And I asked nicely the first time.”
Dev remained in her prone position, staring up at Wyatt, uncertain of her next move. She didn’t have the strength necessary to pull herself into a seated position and she definitely was not going to ask for help.
“What?” Wyatt stared down at Dev, knowing she needed help to get up but determined to make her ask for it.
Even in the darkness, Dev could see Wyatt’s eyes sparkling with amusement. He was thoroughly enjoying this little moment between the two of them. His pleasure made her wish she had slit his throat when she had the chance. Rather than requesting his assistance, Dev focused every ounce of her energy on rolling over onto her stomach. If she could do that, she could easily pull herself into a sitting position, Wyatt be damned. She closed her eyes and focused every fiber of her being on the task at hand but nothing happened. Her body failed to react. It didn't even twitch. The body that had so beautifully saved her from certain death at the hands of those Sanctum fools just hours earlier now couldn't even roll over. She shook with frustration, wanting to scream to the heavens in rage, knowing such action was futile and beneath her. So she took a calming breath, opened her eyes and glared at Wyatt.
"Ahhhh, you're back. I was starting to miss your charming scowl," Wyatt bent low and absentmindedly pushed some of Dev’s hair out of her eyes, “was getting worried there for a second."
Dev grabbed his hand in her vice-like grip. She hated him and his snarky comments.
"I realize you don’t like me," Wyatt pulled his hand out of her grasp and gently placed his arms around Dev, helping her to sit, unable to look at her lying helplessly on the ground for another second, "but I'm all you've got so by all means, continue simmering in your hatred for me but do so with the understanding that I'm on your side.
"All this stabbing and cutting nonsense has got to end. If you want to hurt me, just imagine it, okay? Pretend. Don't actually do it. I heal quickly but it still hurts like hell."
"Now we've got to get out of here fast," Wyatt checked his watch, alarmed at how much time had passed since he jumped out of his window, "and you still can’t walk, which means I’m going to have to pick you up again. Whether you’re okay with it or not.”
He leaned back on his heels and waited, for some reason hoping Dev would respond, all the while knowing she would not. Dev listened with keen interest to every word coming out of Wyatt’s mouth. She most certainly didn’t like him, but she had to respect his determination. He fully intended to get her out of this park and to somewhere safe and against her better judgment, a tiny part of her was relieved. It was the same, small part of her that was fiercely drawn to him, like a sickness almost. And it was the part of her she most wanted to destroy.
Dev hardened her resolve, focused on her intense hatred for all things Sanctum and shut down.
For an instant, Wyatt thought he saw a spark in Dev’s eyes and just as quickly, it was gone. At that moment, for reasons unknown to himself, Wyatt resigned himself to a one-sided relationship with her, one completely based upon his will to help her. He stood up and reached for her, praying she didn’t have a blade hidden somewhere, knowing that if she did, this time she would definitely kill him. To his surprise, Dev wrapped her arms around his neck and allowed Wyatt to scoop her up and into his arms, but he thought nothing more of it, knowing full well she was merely using him to further her agenda.
And that was all right.
Madhuri Blaylock is a lawyer by day, writer and avid shoe and dress buyer at all other times. She lives in Jersey City, but her heart remains firmly planted in Brooklyn via Snellville, Georgia. Her husband, Henry, is also a lawyer, and only a lawyer because he actually likes being a lawyer (go figure), probably always wanted to be a lawyer and is really, really good at all things lawyerly. He's also pretty hot.
She’s got a big kid, Miss Sydney, and a little kid, the one and only Dash. They're awesome and fierce and supremely cool and able to make her laugh at the strangest things. She would love to add a dog, some chickens, a goat and a burro to this crew. Everyone needs a burro.
Some of her favorites, in no particular order: ice cream, Kill Bill, four-inch heels, Matt Damon, tattoos, Laini Taylor, scotch on the rocks, The Sanctum trilogy, random office supplies, Martha's Vineyard, "The Girl" aka my Mini, Rihanna, Doc Martens, tulips, photo booths and dancing like a fool.
One day she plans to grow up. Right now, she’s enjoying the adventure.
I love when Wyatt comes to Dev’s suite, after a long day and night of hashing out old secrets, discovering new truths and stirring up much bitterness, knocks on her door and offers her his hand. It’s so simple, but he says so much with that one gesture.
And then, instead of talking about the varied and numerous maddening things going on around and involving them, he just wants to take her out and make her forget about it all for a bit. Nothing more, nothing less. He never pushes, he just offers her exactly what she needs most at that very lonely moment of her life: a friend.
How long did it take you to write The Girl (The Sanctum)?
I spent maybe two years jotting down ideas, creating The Sanctum and my characters. Basically, lots of notes, very little organization. Then I finally told myself early last year to just start writing. I could take notes for the next ten years, but there’s nothing quite like writing it down, getting it out of you and on paper. So I took about two weeks, organized all the chaos and finally started writing in May of last year.
I wrote the first four or five chapters and sent them to my sister-in-law, who loves reading as much as I do, and a girlfriend who was an editor at the Daily Beast. They both felt like I was on to something really good, but by that point I already knew it. As soon as I started writing, I was hooked and then it just poured out of me. I had the draft completed by the end of October, early November.
Interestingly, the end took some time. I had written one ending but my colleague told me to write a new one. Being a lawyer, she came with a very convincing argument and I set about reworking the ending. I was very resistent to the idea of changing my ending, but by the time I completed the re-write, I loved it and knew it was the proper way to close out Book I.
If you were stranded on a desert island which of your characters do you want by your side?
WIthout a doubt, Ryker. He’s smart so would know exactly what you need to do to survive and could and would engage in hours of entertaining conversation, he’s a brilliant fighter so could teach you how to wield any manner of weapons and then the two of you together could fight off any strange beings you might come into contact with on that supposed deserted island, and he’s hot so you’ll never be too bored.
If you could be best friends with one of your characters, who would it be?
Darby, hands down. She’s southern, she’s funny, smart as a tack, crazy strong, super sexy, knows all the cool spots, owns a gorgeous townhouse in the East Village and has an endlessly amazing closet full of Chanel and Louboutins. And when you get sick of aging, she could turn you.
What books have most influenced your life?
Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret - as we all know, Judy Blume simply rocks. The voice she uses to speak to her young adult audience is perfect, not patronizing or didactic, but simple, respectful and true. No one does it better than Judy.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles - this book stuck with me. I read it in high school and loved the use of Greek mythology, the many layers of the story peeling away as Tess moves through the seasons of her life.
Their Eyes Were Watching God - my introduction to the fabulous Ms. Zora Neale Hurston, and Janie, the woman who did things her way and didn’t let the men in her life supress her own voice.
One Hundred Years of Solitude - one of my favorite books ever. I cannot count how many times I have read the beautiful, magical saga of the Buendia family.
Lord of the Rings - pure brilliance. A fantasy like no other.
Harry Potter - JK Rowling and her fabulous books proved what I had been saying for years: if you write something good, kids will devour it. And Hermione freaking rocks.
What is your typical day like?
These days, rather crazy. I work for a large Manhattan law firm so the workday is hectic and full and often lasts well into my evening, sometimes even seeping into my weekend. It’s the nature of the beast as a New York City lawyer and you just kind of suck it up and deal. I think I’ve become rather numb to it after all these years.
When I get home, I spend time with my five year old son, usually playing soccer or basketball or baseball or any other sports-like activity he can invent. At some point my husband and step daughter come home from work and we all hang out for a bit. Until my son goes to bed, it’s kind of non-stop madness, organized chaos so to speak. Once he’s down, I scarf down dinner and then sit down to write. Some nights I stay up really late writing, others only until midnight or so. It really just depends on my energy and how the story is moving along. The last three days, I’ve been stuck on closing out chapter twenty two of Book II and it’s been a real energy-drain. I finally figured out how to end it late last night, which was such a relief. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m currently working on Book Two: The Boy and it’s hard for me to pick something to share that doesn’t give away plot points, but I think this excerpt works. It’s rather short, so please accept my apologies but it’s pretty interesting as it’s the first time readers meet any of Ryker’s family members.
...Ryker decided to disappear for a bit and spend some time back home with his family in Brooklyn. He didn’t tell a soul, just left a short note for Jools on his desk in case she came looking for him and took off.
Now, standing outside, waiting for someone to answer the door, Ryker looked around and smiled. Brooklyn was as beautiful as ever and his block was especially stunning, with the extra-wide, meticulously maintained brownstones and enormous, street-canopying birch trees. He knew when his time at The Academy was up, he was heading right back here to live. You could take the boy out of Brooklyn, but only for so long.
“Ryker!” his mom, Dot, exclaimed as she opened the door, clad in yoga pants and a tank top, “what on earth?”
Ryker checked his watch.
“Sorry, ma. Forgot your morning yoga.”
“Don’t worry,” she smiled, “come on back and join me.”
Dot Morrison didn’t make requests, she just expected things, so Ryker did as she commanded, dropped his weapons in the kitchen, took off his boots and joined his mom in her yoga studio. Seated face to face, Dot studied her son for a moment before moving into a pose.
“You look horrible, Ryker.”
“Thanks,” he smiled tiredly, “and you look as stunning as ever.”
“Of course, I do,” she winked mischievously, looking rather Ryker-like as she sat cross legged on the floor.
“I like your hair,” Ryker rubbed her almost bald head, “very hardcore.”
“I did it before the battle, or at least what we thought would be a battle out here in these parts. Didn’t want to deal with those locks anymore.”
“Years of memories, just chopped,” Ryker commented thoughtfully.
“We’re Sanctum, Ryker,” Dot replied as she began a sun salutation, “we do not become emotionally tied. To anything or anyone.”
Ryker remained silent.
Moving into a warrior pose, Dot continued.
“But I suppose you and Wyatt did not get that memo.”
Rather than engage Dot in conversation, Ryker joined her in a warrior II pose.
“Sam and Josiah should have never allowed you boys to become so dependent upon one another. Very few Sanctum have been so intertwined and when they have, the results have been disastrous. Now that he’s gone, you’re incapable of functioning and fulfilling your duties as a warrior.”
“He’s not gone,” Ryker insisted.
Dot heard the pain in her son’s voice and relented a bit.
“I don’t mean it like that, Ryker. I know you know Wyatt is still alive. What troubles me is how you’re handling his absence.”
Ryker broke his pose and sat on the floor, watching his mom go through her routine. He knew Dot was tough, but sometimes that toughness came across as plain, old cold-heartedness. She didn’t mean it that way; she loved him and was just worried, Ryker simply wished her mode of conveying that concern was a bit warmer. He couldn’t remember the last time she hugged him, touched him affectionately.
“I’m handling his absence by helping Jools stave off a Sanctum-wide revolution, ma,” Ryker explained quietly, “I’m investigating the actions of the Breslins, looking into the murder of Jasper and Kalinda Edwards and speaking to other members of the Circle of Ten. So I think I am handling Wyatt’s temporary absence just fine.”
Dot looked down on her elder son and softened, despite the voice inside her head telling her to beware. That was The Sanctum speaking to her, always reaching out and cutting off the ties to her children. First taking them at such a young age and now, telling her to shut them out. But she had always been stronger than The Sanctum, and today was no different.
She reached down and caressed Ryker’s face, a gesture she couldn’t remember indulging in since he was small. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, as if ashamed by his need for her affection. Dot’s heart broke as she watched him, wondering over the years how many times he had craved her touch, needed her arms around him. He was a grown man now but Ryker would always be her baby, so she bent down and did what she hadn’t done in almost a decade: pulled her son into her arms and held him as he cried.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
First and foremost, thank you so, so much for reading The Girl. Many of you have either emailed me or messaged me or written a review on Amazon or Goodreads that is so full of excitement and enthusiasm for the trilogy and Book One that I’m rather speechless. It’s been quite a ride. Of course, there will always be folks who don’t like something I’ve done or don’t like the story or my writing, but for the most part, the feedback has been incredibly positive and encouraging and for that I am so thankful. It makes me excited to keep working at this and I look forward to meeting more of you as this journey continues.
Please feel free to reach out to me about The Sanctum trilogy or writing or our shared love of all things Matt Damon or lyric suggestions for me to use on a blog post or your favorite four inch heels or how hot Coach is (if you have to ask “who is Coach?”, I am so sad for you). Seriously, hit me up; I’m always down for a good chat.
You can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thesanctumtrilogy or on Twiiter at @madhuriblaylock or my blog at http://madhuriblaylock.wordpress.com.