Author Q&A: Arianne "Tex" Thompson talks ONE NIGHT IN SIXES and her superhero alter ego. Plus, a GIVEAWAY!

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Today on the blog, I'm welcoming one of my Workshop peeps and debut author of the rural fantasy ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, Arianne "Tex" Thompson. During the day, Tex is a master teacher for an academic and tutoring prep services company. In her free time - which you'll see she doesn't have much of - she's a regular at libraries, writers' conferences and conventions, as well as being the editor for the DFW Writers' Conference website. And, she writes, natch!  Somehow, with everything she has going on, she found time to answer a few questions about her alter-ego, time management skills, and the future of her hero, Appolosa Elim.

Okay, when I Googled your name to get to your website, I discovered a DC Comics superhero named Tex Thompson. I know I'm totally showing my comic book, superhero ignorance here, but I had no idea your nickname came from a superhero. I mean, it makes sense, of course. As Truvy from Steel Magnolias would say, "There's a story there." Spill. How did you get your nickname, and what made you decide to use it in your pen name as well as your given name?

Would you believe that I didn't actually know about Tex Thompson the DC character?  Thompson is my maiden name, and "Tex" was the pronounceable part of the AOL screennames and message-board handles that I used to play online games, lo these many years ago.  As for how that particular virus mutated and spread offline - well, you know that feeling you get when you walk into the DFW Writers Workshop to read for the very first time?  That kind of sweaty, queasy, five-out-of-six-on-the-Pepto-Bismol checklist terror?  That was pretty much it.  I decided that I could handle getting my life's work eviscerated by a roomful of strangers - but not without a secret identity.  So Bruce Wayne became Batman, and I became Tex - and you know, I think it's worked out pretty well!  (Except for that third-string superhero guy.  Mark my words, Google - I WILL UNSEAT HIM.)

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I wish I'd thought of the secret identity before reading at workshop. Maybe it wouldn't have taken me six months! Have you ever gone to a con dressed up as superhero Tex Thompson? And, if there was a Tex Thompson superhero movie, who would play your doppelganger?

You know, I am actually a really terrible cosplayer!  If I don't look pretty much exactly like the character, I'm usually too nervous to even try (which is why my one and only cosplay alter ego so far has been the exquisite Pam Poovey, who is not only my body double, but everything I aspire to be.)  I tell you what, though: if I ever get to be in the movies, I'm going to ask Robin Weigert to channel her Deadwood-edition Calamity Jane and get in there for me.  She can drink, fart, cry, cuss, nurse the sick, bury the dead, kill a man, and love a woman - and if those aren't superpowers, I don't know what is.

Rumor has it you started writing ONE NIGHT IN SIXES in high school. Tell me about the genesis of Appaloosa Elim's story and it's journey to publication.

It is truly a long and sordid tale!  And anyone who really wants to is welcome to hear

the whole thing, visual aids included

.  But here's maybe a shorter, neater, cleaner way of saying it: I did indeed start writing a book when I was in high school, starring a guy named Elim.  He was a horny, goofy, sword-wielding idiot, because the anime I watched was full of horny, goofy idiots, and the fantasy I read said that fantasy heroes were kickass sword-guys.  And that didn't really change until I grew up, got an education, got to see some of the world, and decided that what I really wanted to write about were people we don't get to see as often - the ones who might be relegated to villains or sidekicks or victims, or who are just plain not included.  So even though all that's left from that original 11th-grade novel are a few character names and traits, this does in many ways feel like the same book - because for me, the process of writing (and rewriting, and rewriting!) this one single thing over the past 15 years was also the process of figuring out what I really cared about, and what I wanted to contribute to the world's bookshelf.

Where does Appaloose Elim go from here? Tell me everything you can about the sequel! You're website very slyly slipped in a "s" at the end of the word "sequel," I noticed. Is SIXES going to be an epic on par of Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Narnia?

Oh my cheese, no!  Don't get me wrong - I have nothing but love and respect for the folks who can pull off a ten-book saga, but I don't have those chops (yet!) 

One Night in Sixes

is the first third of a 300,000-word megastory I wrote from 2007 to 2010. 

Medicine for the Dead

is the second part, tentatively scheduled for March 2015 - and Lord willing and the creek don't rise, we'll have a name and a publishing date for Part 3 soon afterward, which will finish the story.  I tell you what, though: as much love and sweat has gone into building this particular fantasyland sandbox, I *definitely* mean to revisit this world and some of these characters.

Full disclosure: I read your

Appearances page

on your website then promptly took a nap from exhaustion. When do you find time to a) write, b) read. More importantly, what are you reading now?

Well, here is a shameful secret: I am TERRIBLE at time management.  I feel like I'm always doing everything badly and at the last minute.  So my TBR pile looks like a giant, dusty game of bar Jenga, and my book revisions are two months behind schedule, and I have so many emails rotting in my inbox, it's like a digital zombie apocalypse.

And speaking of zombies and what I'm reading now, LET ME TELL YOU:  Daniel Bensen's New Frontiers has completely eaten my brain.  It's a story about near-future Earth, where aliens have come in and done to us pretty much what Europeans did to indigenous Americans - and here to try and save our species is Harry Downs, an "exo-erotic diplomat" (aka interspecies gigolo), who's convinced that one good orgasm is all it's going to take to get humanity an equal seat at the table - or, you know, at least keep us from being enslaved and/or eradicated by the alien gangsters currently strip-mining the Amazon.  It's basically Men in Black with a Debbie Does Dallas twist, and you are going to SCREAM in frustration when I tell you that not only is it not available in bookstores, it still needs a publisher!  (He's got the agent part handled, fortunately.)

But as schlocky as it is for me to take up page-space here with an unpublished work, whose author is a friend of mine, the point that I really want to make is this: as a reader, every time I get bored and cynical and start to feel like I'm drifting on a sea of been-there-done-that books, I find something that totally pushes every one of my buttons, feels dazzlingly smart and fresh and relevant, and fires me up all over again.  I LOVE that feeling.

I don't know about you, but I have books I re-read on a regular basis. I call them comfort reads. Do you have a book(s) like that or are you one of those weirdos who only read a book once and think, "That's that! On to the next book!"?

Ha!  Would it redeem me at all if I told you that I didn't actually *mean* to be a one-time-only weirdo?  To tell you the truth, what I've noticed happening is that I actually have TWO piles these days: Books I Want To Read, and Books I Want To Have Read.  The former is pretty much the same as it's always been.  The latter is made up of important new releases in my genre, "touchstone" books (things like

The Hunger Games

and

Game of Thrones

that are too big to ignore), and books that are assigned reading for my tutoring students.  As long as those lists are, going back to a book I've ALREADY read feels like an unfathomable indulgence.  I tell you what, though: whenever the nightmare-clowns find me or I'm up at 3 AM with a bad case of the pork sweats, the

Calvin and Hobbes

books always come out again.  I definitely hear you on the importance of having comfort reads close to hand.

For a chance to win a signed copy of ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, leave a comment below.

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sixes

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient earthly gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner before they do. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth that lives in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.

My Writing Process Blog Tour - Dark Fantasy writer Brent Kelly

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Continuing with the My Writing Process Blog Tour, today we hear from Brent Kelly, a dark fantasy writer from the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

What are you working on?

These days I’m trying to wrap up my third novel, CHUGGIE AND THE PRISONER GODS. It’s about my pal Chuggie and some trouble he’s gotten into. It’s the third book of his ongoing series, the first being CHUGGIE AND THE DESECRATION OF STAGWATER. The second was CHUGGIE AND THE BLEEDING GATEWAYS. There should be many more to come. In this book, Chuggie’s stuck on a world called Glughu, and he needs to get home to try and stop a war. We also get to see through the eyes of Chuggie’s friend Fey Voletta, as well as young lady named Squip who was born into poverty. I’m even more excited about this next book than the first two for several reasons. The story is amped up, the monsters are more monstrous, and there are going to be pictures. I’ve got an artist named David Starr creating illustrations, and the ones I’ve seen so far are just glorious. The man knows what he’s doing, and his illustrations are going to be a great addition to the story.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Chuggie’s stories are in the genre of Dark Fantasy. What you won’t find are dragons, werewolves, vampires, fairies, elves, trolls, centaurs, or zombies. A lot of Dark Fantasy tales are set right here on Earth. There’s nothing wrong with that, but with Chuggie I created a new world. It’s called Mag Mell, and I have a pretty wild time exploring there. On Mag Mell, there is a race of beings called Steel Jacks – basically creatures of living energy who live in 8-foot-tall metal suits. They arrived through the Tetracardi Rift, and they’re not to be trifled with. They also lend a touch of sci-fi to the story. The Steel Jacks want Chuggie to join their team, but he does his best to avoid them. He spends his days trying  in vain to stay out of trouble and his nights telling crazy, boozy tales that may not have happened exactly how he says.

Why do you write what you do?

It’s what I’m best at writing. I dabble in horror, sci-fi, children’s stories, and so on. With Dark Fantasy – particualarly Chuggie’s stories – I feel like I’m home. His adventures are light-hearted, silly, whimsical, profanity-filled, gory, gruesome, creepy, and sexy. I can really let my imagination off its chain when I’m writing about him.

How does your writing process work?

There’s a long period of writing notes. Then I’ll write down every conflict in the book that I can think of. That becomes a basic outline. I don’t spend too much time working on a huge outline initially because it’ll be useless by chapter 4. I’ll outline a chapter at a time, write the chapter, then a quick outline, then write a chapter, and so on. Once I have a completed manuscript, I’ll send it to my editor Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum. She’ll read it and send back her editorial suggestions. We’ll edit for two months. Then, if Odin wills it, we’ll publish the book exactly on schedule. CHUGGIE AND THE PRISONER GODS is slated for release this September. Want my opinion? Everyone should get the most excited they’ve ever been and then maintain that level of excitement until the book comes out, star

tiiiiiiing… NOW!

brent kelley
brent kelley

Brent Michael Kelley lives and writes in the Wisconsin Northwoods.

He is the author of CHUGGIE AND THE DESECRATI

ON OF STAGWATER

(Mischief Mayhem Want and Woe)

and 

CHUGGIE AND THE BLEEDING GATEWAYS

(Mischief Mayhem Want and Woe Book 2)

.

He shares a home with such things as hairless dogs, a snake named Darth Batman, and the woman he married on Halloween. In addition to writing about his pal Chuggie, he likes writing story-poems, painting monsters, and making wine. Some say late at night, if you’re alone by a campfire, you can summon Brent by closing your eyes and saying his name eleven times. He insists this is not true and there’s no way it will work… yet. He can be found on the web at brentmichaelkelley.com.

My Writing Process Blog Tour - Fantasy writer Anna Hess

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Today on My Writing Process Blog Tour, we hear from genre busting, but mostly fantasy, writer Anna Hess.

Why do you write what you do?

I write because there is a steady stream of characters in my head that I’ve become good friends with. They’ve helped me through hard times and embellished good times, but mostly they have helped me learn about myself. I’d like to share these characters and their stories with others, and if only one other person has as much fun with them as I have, then that was worth it. And if not, well, I still had fun with them. I also write because I’d like to contribute to the children’s/young adult age when I was inhaling any book I could get my hands on.

How does your writing process work?

I’m not sure if my writing process has a pattern, but if it did it would work something like this - I picture something ridiculous happening, build a scenario around it, feather it into a basic storyline, and immediately jot down a series of notes that I spend an inflated amount of time, and many pots of coffee, trying to interpret later. Then, after many months of yelling ‘Just do it already!!’ at myself, I sit down and put a solid string of scenarios on paper. I carry a notepad and a small pencil around with me almost all of the time. Though, it never fails that ideas come to me when I’m in a pitch black theater or have hands full of gooey bread dough and am utterly incapable of writing. More than once I’ve found a shredded and dried piece of a napkin in the dryer and have spent long moments trying to understand what “cave tree orgooo bler” means. I write very quickly (tpyos are common) and with a steady flow, so it’s very difficult to me to go back and change small portions of a story, I mostly have to change a huge chunk of it. Also, you can throw in the usual amount of the author self-loathing cycle, following “This is amazing! This is horrible! I hate myself! *pour coffee*”.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My writing probably differs from similar genres because it is fairly advanced in humor, cynicism and relationships and spans across the border of children’s and young adult. I try to write for advanced young readers. When I was growing up there weren’t many books for children 9-15, and after reading everything on the shelves at the local library I read Jurassic Park (I was 9, and the librarian was worried it was too violent) and then started the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (admittedly that took awhile). I’m so happy that there are authors adding to the young adult genres, and that I can always see my younger cousins tucked into a corner with a book. If I could contribute to this, I’d consider that a great accomplishment.

What are you working on?

I’m working on at least a dozen different projects ranging from beginning readers to advanced adult. Most of these are fantasy, though I also delve into the horror genre sometimes, but moreso with ghost stories and psychological thrillers. Currently my favorite project is a young adult fantasy series in which my characters are animals and mythical creatures trying to strategize in a non-classic battle of good against evil. I’m also reworking some short stories that were published in newspapers, including a mini-series about a multi-universe bond between two teenagers, and another about a ghost wolverine (which, frankly, is terrifying to me). I am currently publishing a study on butterflies and bison, and at the moment I am editing my answers to Melissa’s blog (thanks so much for including me!)while I wait for a satellite image to process.

anna hess
anna hess

Anna Hess is a chronic daydreamer and musician that finally settled on an enigmatic career in cartography so that she could mix science and art. She fell into a series of job opportunities including saving prairies, surveying powerlines, finding patterns in how floods occur, saving butterflies, and preparing chemistry laboratories. Through her 11 years of college (she did get a doctorate) she worked with theater companies doing everything from acting to props to stage management to substituting for mannequins. However, she enjoys writing fantasy more than anything else. You can find her on Twitter

@AnnaNHess

.

My Writing Process Blog Tour - YA Author A.M. Bostwick

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When I asked A.M. Bostwick to participate in the My Writing Process Blog tour she agreed, with a caveat: she doesn't have a blog. No worries, I said. We'll post it on mine! Then she tagged three more people who don't have blogs. I'm happy to host their answers to the blog tour for the next few days.  First up, Abigail. What are you working on?

I’m on a break from a NA/YA I’ve spent nearly a year on. It was unexpected, but I decided to delve into a sequel to my debut MG novel, THE GREAT CAT NAP, a mystery adventure.  For the longest time, I didn’t know where time would find my feline narrator. All of a sudden, I just knew. I’ve had a lot of fun writing this – I knew all the characters, found plenty of new seedy ones for Ace to encounter and an entirely new mystery for Ace to solve that I hope will appeal to young readers.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I flip between YA and MG and sometimes NA! So it depends. As for Ace, it’s different because it’s from the first person viewpoint of a cat, I suppose. He’s sophisticated, smart and sassy – and in a world that’s perhaps a bit more noir and dark than many MG. I think my YA differs in that I face some common dilemmas of that age group, but also some larger-than-life issues that are unique to the character. It’s not so unique, however, that someone couldn’t empathize with the situation and want to know how the character pulls through.

Why do you write what you do?

In MG, I like to write what amuses me. As a kid, I related strongly to books about animals. I grew up isolated, in the country, with a lot of cats, dogs and rescued wildlife. I loved books with animals as the heroes. As I got older, I really found myself in real-life, contemporary stories, however, which are what my YA focus on. So many of my friends found themselves in fantasy, and it took me a long time to get into that genre. Maybe that’s why I write contemporary. It’s still what I gravitate toward.

How does your writing process work?

As much as I try to “think” of ideas, that never works for me. It usually starts with a character speaking to me and suddenly everything catches fire and I write like crazy – scenes, parts of chapters, dialogue. Just to get the feel. Then I like an outline. I always know the end. Maybe not literally, but I know where the character arcs will end. I like to leave enough room to be surprised. Not everything is plotted. Just the main points.

abigail
abigail

A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. An early draft of her young adult novel, “Break the Spell,” was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. Abigail lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat. The Great Cat Nap, winner of the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, is her debut novel.

Thanks, Abigail! For more information about Abigail and her writing as well as a sample chapter of THE GREAT CAT NAP, check out her website or follow her on Twitter @bostwickAM

Q&A with Agatha Award Nominated Author Kendel Lynn & a Giveaway!

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Kendel-About-2

Kendel Lynn is a little bit like Superman. The bug-adverse, hand sanitizer obsessed, cupcake loving editor of Henery Press by day, the author of the Elliot Lisbon mystery series by night. Or at least during vacation (as you'll see below). Since starting Henery Press, Kendel's authors have been nominated for three Agatha Awards, winning one, and her press has gained a loyal following of readers who want witty cozies with strong female protagonists. Her eye for winners is no doubt due to her own writing skills, as any reader of the first Elliot Lisbon mystery, Board Stiff, will attest. In celebration of the release of her second Elliot Lisbon novel, Whack Job, Kendel graciously agreed to put on her writer hat and answer some questions and promised to do the same with her editor alter ego very soon.

Have you always been a writer or was it something you came to later in life?

I’ve always been a reader, mysteries especially. I think I fell into writing the way a lot of writers do: I kept reading books and thinking: I could do better than this! So one day I tried. May I say it’s much more difficult to be on the writerly side of the book.

You're from California and live in Texas. What made you choose the coast of South Carolina as the setting for your Elliot Lisbon series?

I lived on Hilton Head Island for three years and it was lovely! It’s an interesting amalgamation of residents. There’s old money, new money and no money. Half of the residents are part-timers, either they vacation there or retired there from the northern states, and the other half are longtime South Carolina families. Plenty of spots to plan a murder.

You're the managing editor of a full-service publisher, Henery Press. When in the world do you find time to write?

Vacations! I love to come to the office when we’re closed. There’s something serene and invigorating about being the only person around. It’s quiet – no people, no phones, no email. I can get a ton done.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the outline for the third in the series, SWAN DIVE, which comes out next April. I’ll grow the outline for about two months, until it’s about fifty pages, then start the draft. Which I hate! I much prefer the outline and revisions.

Writers are typically masters of procrastination. I know I've elevated it to an art form. What are your favorite procrastination activities or are you one of those always on the go, productive people?

Oh procrastination! I’m a sucker for the boob tube. I love everything Forensic Files to Once Upon A Time (what a finale!) to the Blacklist to Kitchen Nightmares. I actually love all kinds of cooking competition shows and hate to cook. As in, if it’s up to me to make dinner, we’re having cereal.

Is there a particular author who has influenced your writing style?

Stephen King inspired me to write well, to do my best and then be better. His style is quite unique and free and I love it. THE STAND is probably my all-time favorite book, but I’m a wimp these days and skim the scarier parts. Sue Grafton and the late Lawrence Sanders definitely played a role in style. I love influencing a traditional mystery with a dash of flair!

I have what I call comfort reads, novels I return to year after year, some that I read when I'm going through difficult times in my life. Do you have a novel like that? If so, what is it?

When I feel like I need to connect with mysteries, I’ll grab A IS FOR ALIBI by Sue Grafton. If I feel like I need a dose of imagination, I’ll grab the entire Harry Potter series and read them through. They are magical and endearing and I can get lost in minutes.

I know it might be difficult to separate your inner editor from your inner writer, but as a writer, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to unpublished writers?

Two pieces (because I’m like that):

Firstly, have great beta readers. The ones who will tell you how it is, not just how much they enjoy your work. They are hard to find, but hang on when you get them. Even after you’re under contract, always use betas before you send to your agent and/or editor.

Secondly, keep writing. After you’ve polished your novel and started submitting to agents/editors, write the next book. If an agent or editor loves your work, their first question will be: where’s the next one? Publishers want to invest in your career, and if you’ve got more books behind the first one, it’ll give you an edge.

whack job
whack job

When Elliott Lisbon blends her directorship of the Ballantyne Foundation with her PI-in-Training status by planning parties and performing discreet inquiries for charitable patrons. But when the annual Wonderland Tea Party makes everyone go mad as a hatter, Elli gets pulled into a shooting, a swindle, and the hung for a Faberge egg.

From seedy pawn parlors to creepy antique shops, Sea Pine Island’s other half prove to be as wacky as the wealthy. As Elli falls farther down the rabbit hole, she finds a scheming salesman, a possessive paramour, a dead donor–in fact, the only thing missing is a bottle labeled “Drink Me.” As events evolve from curious to crazy, Elli gets lost in the maze and finds herself trapped in a house of cards with a killer.

In honor of Elliot Lisbon's endearing quirks, reply below with what you consider your own endearing quirks, or what our family members might call annoying habits, to win a SIGNED copy of Kendel's new book, Whack Job. The contest will run through Tuesday, May 20. Winner announced Wednesday, May 21.

We have a winner!

jasmine
jasmine

Thanks for all the entries for the autographed copy of Deanna Raybourn's newest release, CITY OF JASMINE. I wish I could give everyone a copy, it's that good! But, I cannot. The winner is - or should I say, "the authographed copy of CITY OF JASMINE goes to..." Lindsey Carlson!

Her answer to the question: Do you re-read and if so, which book do you re-read the most was:

YES!  My boyfriend makes fun of me for re-reading books and re-watching movies, but if it's something you love....  It's hard to pick just one book that I have re-read the most since I have so many favs.  Probably, it would be Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede because I read it when I was little...and have kept reading it ever since.  So for longevity sake, it wins by default.  :)

Congrats, Lindsey!

Again, thanks to all who entered. I hope to be able to do more  author Q&As and book giveaways in the future. Be sure to follow my site so you'll be in the know!

Q&A with NYT Bestselling Author Deanna Raybourn

deanna
deanna

A month ago, I won an Advance Reader Copy of Deanna Raybourn's new release, CITY OF JASMINE, through a contest on her website. When I sent her my address, I asked if she would do an e-mail Q&A with me and she graciously agreed, which was no surprise. She is one of the most approachable and engaging authors on Twitter (as you'll see in a question below). If you don't follow her, you really should.

How did you get into this writing gig? Was writing something you've always wanted to do or a talent you were surprised to discover you had? 

I have always been a writer. I made up stories as a child, and I remember being absolutely thrilled when I learned how to print so I could get them out of my head and onto paper! I double-majored in English and history since I wanted to write historical fiction, and I wrote my first novel when I was 23. It took me fourteen years to get published, but I wrote the whole time. I have a tidy collection of very bad unpublished novels in my attic.

When I picked up SILENT IN THE GRAVE at the bookstore and read the first line I absolutely fell in love with your authorial voice. Did that line come to you in a flash of inspiration or was it something you labored over for months to get exactly right? 

The first line was in its finished form almost from the first draft—but it took ages for me to find that voice! I had been writing for years and going nowhere. My collection of rejection letters was truly impressive, and my agent finally told me she thought the problem was that I didn’t have a fully developed voice. So she advised me to take an entire year off from writing and just read. I asked her what I was supposed to do after that, and she said, “You’ll know!” She was right. I read for an entire year and at the end of that year I realized the books all had things in common. They were all historical with a British sensibility, a mystery structure, and a bit of romance. That’s when I knew exactly the sort of book I needed to write. About that same time, I ran across a single line in a book of poisons about a fascinating case in France. I took the crime and twisted it up a bit and that’s how I came up with SILENT IN THE GRAVE. That first line is very true to Julia Grey as a narrator, but it’s also very true to me.

Your Julia Gray novels have been very successful. With the publication of A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS last year, and with CITY OF JASMINE this week, you've switched heroines and eras. What inspired you to branch out from your Julia Gray series? Was it a book you read about the 20s, a movie you saw, or a vacation you took? Was your publisher resistant to you moving away from a series that had been so successful? 

My publisher actually requested it. They’ve never wanted me to do more than three books in a row in the Julia series, and when it was time to take a second break—we’d already published THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST between books three and four—they told me I had carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted. That was almost too much freedom! I finally had to narrow things down by making out a list of all the topics I read about for pleasure. I circled a few of them I was most interested in to see if I could fit them together somehow. I also had the barest idea of a girl who comes from a privileged background going to Africa. That snippet of a plot had been floating around in my files for awhile, and this was the perfect chance to dust it off and take it for a walk.

jasmine
jasmine

During the denouement of CITY OF JASMINE (no spoilers, don't worry!) you revealed Gabriel Starke had a connection to characters from your Julia Gray novels, even mentioning Nicholas Brisbane, though not by name. I absolutely loved that. Are all of your novels going to be connected like this in some way? Can we expect you to go back and forth in time with your novels and novellas, fleshing out events you've alluded to? 

Absolutely—and I’m so happy I can finally talk about it! The prequel novella to CITY OF JASMINE is WHISPER OF JASMINE, and in that story, where the heroine of A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS introduces the main characters of CITY OF JASMINE, there are a few minor characters from the Julia Grey series who make appearances. It’s the first chance I’ve had to hint at how everything is tied together. Each fictional world I have created is linked to the others, and readers will get to see more and more of those links as the novels and novellas continue.

Since I finished CITY OF JASMINE, I've been trying to figure out how old Julia and Nicholas would be in 1920 and wondering if they're alive. Can you share that information or would it spoil a future story? 

If they were alive—and I’m not saying one way or another!—they would be sixty and seventy, respectively. I can tell you that the novel I have coming out in the fall of 2014 will give you a definitive answer on what has become of them…

It seems most of the popular historical fiction on the market is set in Europe. Do you think American writers are drawn to the European setting because, like you, that is what they read, or is it because European history is much broader and deeper than American history? Have you ever considered writing a novel set in America, with American characters?

I have! I wrote a contemporary magical realism novel set in the US. It was a sort of palate cleanser after I wrote SILENT IN THE GRAVE and had moved across country. My historical source books were all packed away in storage for a year, so I decided to try something completely different. It was an interesting experiment, but it just didn’t feel as natural to me as a European setting. I think that’s because I read European—and a little Asian and African—history for pleasure, so I have much more exposure to those cultures. And that’s embarrassing to admit since I live in one of the hotspots of colonial history now! I do have a couple of ideas floating around for books set in the US, one about a Texas outlaw ancestor of mine, and another set in my current hometown. European history has a gloss of glamour to it, and you’re quite right about the depth and breadth. It’s just a luxury to have so many different cultures and stories colliding in one place for such a long span of time. You can pick any year, any spot, and there will be a story just waiting to be told.

For me, creating character names and book titles is the hardest part of writing. How do you come up with character names? Do your titles come to you easily or do you leave the title up to your editor?

Titles can be mine, theirs, or ours—it just depends on whether the working title is strong enough to carry the finished book. If I have a character quoting a poem or play, sometimes that will lend a phrase that will work. Other times the publisher and I will bat titles back and forth to find something that fits. Character names are MUCH easier! I keep a running list of interesting names, and if a character stumps me I can usually find inspiration there. Very occasionally, I will name a character in homage to someone else—Nicholas Brisbane’s first name is in honor of Nick Charles, and every novel of mine has at least one name taken from an Agatha Christie book. It’s a subtle way of paying tribute to an author I love

You are one of my favorite authors to follow on Twitter because you maintain a perfect balance between promoting your work, personal observations and anecdotes as well as interaction with your followers. Is the social media aspect of writing something you enjoy or is it something you do because it's part of the job?

Oh, thanks! I do try hard to get it right, and for me that means tweeting as I’d like to be tweeted unto. It can’t all be promotional or people feel used, and frankly that’s not much fun. I love the interaction on Twitter. I’ve connected with lots of readers and writers there, and it’s a huge relief sometimes to be able to get out of the ivory tower and interact with other people. Facebook I loathe, but I do post there since it’s still a place where a lot of people like to get their updates. I also blog and send out monthly newsletters, but Twitter will always be my favorite, I suspect. I love that it moves so fast and you can just jump into a conversation and disappear as quickly as you came.

For the unpublished authors reading this, do you have a road to publication war story or was your path easy? 

After I took a year off to read and then two years to write SILENT IN THE GRAVE, it took another two to place the book with a publisher. All told, it was fourteen years for me from first novel to book deal, and it was not easy. It was grueling. But I was lucky enough to have the support of my family and a wonderful agent—all of whom believed it was going to happen for me. I’m so glad they were right!

We writers are famous for our ability to procrastinate. What's your favorite procrastination activity? 

Reading and researching. I love falling down the rabbit hole and wandering around, learning everything I can about a really obscure topic. I also hang out on Twitter and watch TCM for inspiration. I’m working on not feeling guilty when I do those things because I’ve come to realize that every time I procrastinate, I actually uncover something I end up using! Procrastination is actually one of my very best creative tools.

TCM! I love TCM! It's one of my dreams to sit across from Robert Osborne and guest program a night of classic movies. If you were a guest programmer, what four movies would you choose, and why?

Oh, this is a tough one…there would have to be some Hitchcock, and I think I’d start with SUSPICION. Cary Grant was just perfection in that one, and Joan Fontaine is always fabulous when she’s in peril. I have to have some Peter O’Toole, so next would be THE LION IN WINTER. That’s the first film I saw him in, and I fell irrevocably in love. Besides that, there is nothing more glorious than Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine. That would be followed by THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. I prefer the Anthony Andrews version, but the Leslie Howard/Merle Oberon version is the only one to air on TCM and it’s sublime. Percy Blakeney is my most beloved fictional crush, so he had to be on the list somehow! I’d finish up with THE THIN MAN because I adore the Charleses—and Asta. The runner-up would be THE WOMEN for sheer delectable bitchery. This means I had to leave off: ROPE, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE AWFUL TRUTH, EVIL UNDER THE SUN, DEATH ON THE NILE, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII, NIGHT MUST FALL, TOPPER, BERKELEY SQUARE, REBECCA, HOLIDAY, ROMAN HOLIDAY, HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, TO CATCH A THIEF, ABOVE SUSPICION…I should stop now.

Some people love to re-read books. Others can't imagine it. Are you a re-reader? If so, what book have you re-read the most times?

That one’s easy—REBECCA. I read it for the first time when I was fourteen, and it’s still a favorite. For a long time it was my go-to travel book, the extra book I took on trips in case the book I was reading turned out to be a dud. I was thrilled when it finally came out in a digital format so I can always have a copy on hand! Obvious favorite rereads are Christie and Conan Doyle, but I will also reach for Elizabeth Peters, Mary Stewart, Jane Austen, Anya Seton. If a book is good enough to own, it will stand up to rereading, and I love finding new things in an old favorite.

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medeanna
medeanna

A week after completing this Q&A, I had the privilege to meet Deanna at a CITY OF JASMINE book signing at Murder by the Book in Houston. She was just as lovely, friendly and witty in person as she is online. Lucky you, I have a signed copy of CITY OF JASMINE (read my review here) to give away. The contest will run until Friday. Leave a comment below and tell me if you re-read books and if you do, what book have you read the most?

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