1. On a scale of one to ten, rank your current level of insanity–where ten is belongs-in-lunatic-asylum insane–and tell us why.
About a seven. I can function in the real world (mostly) as long as people don’t expect too much of me. As I often tell my friends, “you can have me organized, or you can have me writing. Pick one.” I’m terminally messy and have learned to try to leave the house an hour before I need to go anywhere, so I will eventually end up leaving on time. My friend Mel says that for someone who can’t wear a watch I’m amazingly prompt–but I have to schedule in time for me to wander around the house looking for things that are already in my purse to be so.
I do wander around muttering to my characters sometimes, and I have been known to black out fight scenes in my back yard or at random while speaking to people. One part of me is there and paying attention, but about sixty percent of me is always working on the book, turning over plot lines, blocking out scenes. I do get some strange looks. Some part opf me is always working on the current book. I suppose that qualifies as compulsive.
2. Working For The Devil is the first book in the Danny Valentine series. It’s unique in that you’ve planned for five books. That’s unusual given that such series tend to be open-ended. Is there a reason for it?
It’s just the way the story went. I realized very early (while I was writing Book 2, Dead Man Rising) that there was an arc and a natural place for the story to end, and that five books was going to be it, world without end, amen. There is another series planned for that world, having to do with the daughter of two of Danny’s friends and the Hell Wars, but that’s not for a couple years (once I finish this current slew of projects.)
I can’t see dragging out a series just-because. I’ve got to have the ending in sight. I function best when I can see the whole arc of the story stretching out under me.
3. I read on your blog that you are already part way through the last Danny Valentine novel. Are you just a very very fast writer, or had you already begun writing the next titles in the Danny Valentine series when you sold the first one?
I was pretty much done with book 2 by the time I signed the contract for books one and two. My editor knew that books 3-5 were planned, and we did have a conversation about them as soon as we got on the phone the first time. So I went into a creative frenzy, doing revisions on books 1 and 2, then going full-bore and writing 3 and 4. It was a case of Dante wanting her story told yesterday. She’s a very demanding character to have inside one’s head.
I am naturally a fast writer. I tend to have two or three books I’m working on, and when a project heats up I’m capable of knocking out six to seven thousand words a day. On a good day most of them are even usable, *grin*. I write fast and get the whole skeleton of a book out, then it goes to beta readers, who tell me where it needs more muscles and nerves.
I tend to see so clearly what’s happening in a certain scene that there are things I take for granted; luckily, I have wonderful beta readers who tell me, “You’ve got to put more here, and tell us what’s going on here.” I’ve gotten better at knowing how to give more than just the bare bones as a result.
4. Are you contracted through to the last Danny Valentine book? *fingers and everything else crossed*
I’m contracted through book 4, and my editor knows about book 5. Chances are very very good that book 5 will be spoken for sometime next year. I’m taking my time with it, partly because it is the last book and it needs time to flower and be what it should be. I also have revisions on books 3 and 4 that will materially affect book 5, so I’ve decided to just take it very easy and wait until revisions are done before I devote myself fully to the last book. It’s in my head, but I want to get it right on the page.
5. As an indie bookseller, is there any advice, as a bookseller, you have for authors? Especially with regards to author promotion?
Etiquette. Etiquette, etiquette, etiquette. Call the bookseller in advance to keep in contact and to make sure there are no last-minute snags. Arrange getting your books to the store if necessary, and always keep a case of your books in your trunk. Be polite to the bookstore people organizing this event. Chances are a: they love your work and b: are not doing their job for money. Be kind to them. If nobody shows up at an event, content yourself with the thought that the employees will hand-sell your book if they like it and like you. Also, don’t get drunk at readings, and use some common sense.
There’s a story I tell about a particular author who sent out a mass-mailing of postcards for her book. The postcards were ill-designed, making it look like our store had sent them, which was problem #1, since we feel very strongly about customer privacy and will never do direct mailings. (We do have an email list, though.) Then, to add insult to injury, the author put the wrong address for the store on the postcards. This was a perfect storm of things you should not do.
Someone else ended up handling this author’s event, because I was off at a convention that weekend. Left to my own devices, we would never have had the author in the store, and I was quite vocal about it among the employees, who agreed with me. That’s the sort of thing that will get you, quite frankly, not invited back. And it all could have been avoided with a little common sense–for example, if the author had asked us before doing the mailing, or even vetted the design with us.
6. The Watcher books you published with ImaJinn are romances, in the sense that there is a happy ever after for the couple in each one. Will you be writing more books like those any time soon?
There are two more Watcher books already finished and waiting to come out (Cloud Watcher and Mindhealer.) The Society series has another book or two in it that I haven’t gotten around to writing yet. Most of my books do have what I consider the right endings; I don’t try to shoehorn a “happy” ending onto them if it won’t fit. I’ve written two Watcher books that end “badly,” and for various reasons the publisher can’t use them.
Interestingly enough, even my “happy” endings come at a terrible price for the people involved. Go figure.
But yes. I plan at least two more Watcher books after Mindhealer, to finish out the second trilogy. I plan the other two Society books, once my schedule loosens a little. Last but not least, there are other paranormal romances I want to write. So there’s definitely more in that pipeline.
7. I’ve not read everything you’ve published, but it seems to me that all of them are dark. Do you think you could find it in you to write something lighter?
I don’t seem to have much control over it. Stephen King likens writing to getting stuff stuck in your mental filter–what sticks in my filter may pass right through someone else’s, and what sticks in someone else’s might pass right through mine. I suppose the darker types of fiction just stick in my mental filter, though it’s not at all the only thing I read or watch. I’m pretty wide in my tastes when it comes to books and films, but I seem to be stuck being a dark urban-fantasy pulp hack.
Most of my stuff is very dark, yes. But the flip side of that is, I am obsessed with the theme of redemption. Is redemption possible for someone whose job is dirty and awful? Is redemption possible for someone who has committed great crimes? Are there any situations in which violence is an appropriate response? What kind of person do you have to be, what crisis do you have to pass through, before you can be redeemed? What type of person can do terrible things and long for redemption? I strongly believe that the violence and darkness in my books has a purpose and a point. I don’t write gore just for the sake of gore.
I spent a lot of time when I was younger hanging out with what my friend Monk calls “petty thugs.” I also spent a lot of time hanging out on city streets at night, watching street kids and gangs and petty and major violence as well as drug use and prostitution and all sorts of other stuff. I saw tremendous self-sacrifice and families made on the strength of friendship ties. I also saw damaged people striking out and damaging other people. I saw horrific things and beautiful things. I suppose those experiences have never left me. I’m fascinated with marginal people, people on the outskirts, people who are different or who can’t submerge into the mainstream. (Plus I worked retail for years, which was an education in wierdness in and of itself.)
Even my light stuff has very dark subtexts. I’ve written stuff I think is very light and frothy, and a beta reader will point out very dark undercurrents. I just can’t seem to get away from staring into the abyss.