I’m so excited to welcome Nancy Holzner here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about her debut Urban Fantasy novel, Deadtown, which is scheduled to be released on December 29, 2009.
Nancy is giving one lucky commenter a chance to win an autographed copy of Deadtown. Details are listed at the end of the post.
You can read an excerpt here.
Synopsis (Product Description):
They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders — but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…
Vicky’s demanding job keeping the city safe from all manner of monsters is one reason her relationship with workaholic lawyer (and werewolf) Alexander Kane is in constant limbo. Throw in a foolhardy zombie apprentice, a mysterious demon-plagued client, and a suspicious research facility that’s taken an unwelcome interest in her family, and Vicky’s love life has as much of a pulse as Deadtown’s citizens.
But now Vicky’s got bigger things to worry about. The Hellion who murdered her father ten years ago has somehow broken through Boston’s magical protections. The Hellion is a ruthless force of destruction with a personal grudge against Vicky, and she’s the only one who can stop the demon before it destroys the city and everyone in it.
DFT: Could you start things off by telling us a little about the book?
Three years ago, a mysterious virus swept through Boston, turning two thousand of its citizens into zombies. Deadtown, the former quarantine zone, is now home by law to all paranormal Bostonians: zombies, werewolves, vampires, and the city’s only active shapeshifter, Victory Vaughn.
Vicky is one of the Cerddorion, a race of shapeshifters that trace their origins back to the Welsh goddess Ceridwen. She lives with a vampire roommate, dates (sort of) an activist werewolf lawyer, and gets annoyed by her teenage zombie apprentice. Vicky exterminates other people’s personal demons for a living. Although terrifying to their victims, most of these demons are relative small-fry: dream demons, guilt demons, and revenge demons. But when the Hellion who killed Vicky’s father ten years ago breaches the magical shield that protects Boston, Vicky has to face the demons of her own past to prevent the city’s destruction.
DFT: What motivated you to write Deadtown?
A few years ago, a friend recommended Kim Harrison to me, and her Hollows series was just so much fun that I became a voracious reader of urban fantasy. When I was looking for a new project, I decided to try writing in this genre. In Deadtown, I wanted to include some urban fantasy conventions—I love vampires and werewolves as characters—but I also wanted to focus on a main character who was a bit different from others I’d been reading about. So I played around with one of my favorite medieval shapeshifting stories (more on that below), and Vicky was born.
DFT: If you could describe your main characters with only 3 words, what would they be?
Brave, stubborn, resourceful.
DFT: Tell us something about your research process and the choices you make when creating the story.
I used to be an English professor, so I’m all about research When I was an academic, I studied and taught English literature of the Middle Ages. So I put on my medievalist hat (there’s no actual hat, but having one would be kinda cool), and I went back to the legends of that period. The mythology that provides the background for Deadtown comes from the Mabinogi, a collection of Welsh legends that were recorded in the 12th and 13th centuries. I spent some time rereading those stories and thinking about the qualities I wanted the Cerddorion, my book’s race of Welsh shapeshifters, to have. I also pored over maps of Boston (I used to live there, but it’s been a while) and learned some rudiments of Welsh grammar and pronunciation—it’s a cool language.
DFT: Do you have a long-term plan or goal for this story universe? What happens next?
The sequel to Deadtown will be out in a year. In it, Vicky has to deal with the consequences of her actions in the first book. She travels to Wales for some intensive training that will help her fight a kind of demon she’s never encountered before. And she learns about the darker side of her family’s history.
DFT: What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing Deadtown?
Well, the Mabinogi, as I mentioned. My favorite urban fantasies are a blend of humor and action tinged with scary darkness—Ilona Andrews and Charlaine Harris are both masters of this. I also like mysteries with humor and quirky characters, by authors such as Donald E. Westlake and Janet Evanovich. And this will sound weird, but . . . opera. I’m a huge opera fan, and one of the reasons I love that art form so much is the way it distills emotion. As I revised Deadtown, I’d look at the emotional impact of a scene and tell myself, “Make it bigger.” Thinking in terms of certain operatic moments and how they make me feel gave me something to aim for. Sometimes I’d play an operatic aria or ensemble that brought out the emotion I was working to convey, so I could feel it as I wrote.
DFT: Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
Vicky would have to be my favorite character because I enjoy seeing the world through her eyes. She’s smart and brave and willing to jump in and do what needs to be done, no matter the risk to herself. But Tina the teenage zombie is the most fun to write. She’s headstrong, self-centered, and a pain in the neck. But she’s entirely true to herself. When Tina caught the zombie plague, she lost everything—her looks, much of her freedom, her hopes and dreams. Even her family rejected her. But she’s irrepressible. She knows what she wants and she goes for it—without listening to a word anyone else says. While I was writing Deadtown, Tina was the character who always surprised me and made me laugh out loud.
DFT: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell us about?
I’m working on proposals for more books in Vicky’s series. I’ve also got ideas for some short stories set in Deadtown’s world, some of them exploring side characters and others set at the time of the zombie plague. Recently I’ve been excited about an idea for a series set in the Catskills (home of Rip van Winkle and the Headless Horseman), but that’s too nebulous to talk about at this stage.
DFT: What was the path to publication like for Deadtown? Was it difficult to find an agent and a publisher?
I had an agent for my fiction before I started writing Deadtown; she’d already sold a mystery I’d written to a small press. Ace/Roc was the first publisher to see the manuscript, and they bought it in a two-book deal. So for this novel, the path to publication was pretty direct.
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale, and why?
I really like Hansel and Gretel. It’s such a great story of courage and resourcefulness while facing the terrors of growing up. These two kids have no one they can depend on besides each other—their weak father can’t protect them, and their stepmother and the witch want them dead. But they stick together and overcome obstacles that would undo many adults. Being brave, loyal, and clever gets them through. Plus I’m a sucker for any story that takes place in a dark, endless, ominous, old-growth forest. I love that setting; it conveys a sense of how small and vulnerable people are in a world that’s indifferent at best (and hungry at worst).
DFT: What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?
To be honest, I can’t think of one off the top of my head. I haven’t been doing interviews long enough to have a good answer for this question. Instead, I’ve been really impressed by the variety of thoughtful and interesting questions people ask.
DFT: What books/genres do you read when you have the chance? Any must read authors or series?
I’m still hooked on urban fantasy; two auto-buy authors are Ilona Andrews and Devon Monk. And I’ve recently read the first books in a number of new series that have me impatient for the sequels—some authors that spring to mind immediately are Faith Hunter, Seanan McGuire, Gail Carriger, and Kelly Meding.
But I read widely. One of the hoops I had to jump through to earn my PhD was a two-hour oral exam where I was prepared to discuss the works of about 140 different authors, from Beowulf through last week, with a committee of three professors. If you don’t enjoy a reading list like that, you never get through it. Now, I might get a craving to spend some time in the nineteenth century, for example, and I’ll binge on Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, the Brontes, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens for a month or two. And even though I don’t teach any more, I still love to reread medieval texts. Some favorites are Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I miss teaching those works, but it’s always a pleasure to revisit them. I think it’s helpful for writers to read far outside the boundaries of their own genre. It stimulates ideas and keeps the writing fresh.
DFT: What is your definition of a “bad writing day”? How do you deal with bad writing days?
A bad writing day is one where I let myself get distracted by other things to the extent that I don’t write at all. Distraction—not writer’s block or lack of ideas—is my biggest enemy. If I’m patient and focus, I can always write something. But I’m no good at multitasking. Letting my attention zip off in a hundred different directions means I’ll fail to get words on the page. When the coffee shop where I write in the evenings installed free wi-fi, I was probably the only unhappy customer. I’d come to rely on that cafe as a place where I had to focus and get to work because I couldn’t get online.
I sometimes face enormous internal resistance to getting started. When I let that resistance take over, it’s a bad writing day. I deal with it by rereading part of the previous day’s work to get back into the story or by writing out a page-long conversation with myself about the novel. In such conversations, I ask myself questions about where the story stands, what issues I’m trying to work out, how the characters feel about what’s happening, and so on. It’s a helpful exercise because it turns my attention to the novel and gets my fingers moving on the keyboard. Usually, that’s all I need to turn resistance into a decent writing session.
DFT: Do you have a particular writing process or any writing rituals?
Besides writing fiction, I write for my day job—mostly how-to and reference books. So basically I’m writing all the time. Sit me down in front of a computer, and I’ll start writing something (if I can avoid giving in to distraction). I do like to take my laptop and work on fiction in somewhere other than my home office—a coffee shop, my living room, outside on the deck in warm weather. The office feels way too much like work work, and writing fiction is fun work.
DFT: Which urban fantasy world would you like to live in, and why? i.e. The Hollows, etc.
Although it’s been around for a while, I only recently discovered Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. I love the world he’s created in it—a hidden city within London, inhabited by monsters and magical creatures, where it’s always three o’clock in the morning. I’m a night person, and I love London, so it’s a natural fit. In fact, the Nightside kind of reminds me of my crazy student days during the year I studied abroad in that city. J
DFT: What creature are you afraid of most?
I get creeped out by small things. There are plenty of parasites, viruses, and flesh-eating bacteria I wouldn’t want to meet up with. *shudder*
DFT: If you could be any paranormal creature, which one would you be and why?
I’ve had so much fun shifting shapes with Vicky that I’d definitely pick shapeshifter. Hard to see how life could ever get boring if you could view it through the eyes of any sentient creature you choose. My first shift would be into a bird, maybe a seagull. Something that soars.
DFT: Thanks, Nancy. I really appreciate you stopping by Dark Faerie Tales.
One lucky commenter will have a chance to win an autographed copy of Deadtown .
To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question:
If you could shapeshift, what animal would you become first and why?
1. +1 entry for answering the question (required).
2. +2 entries for becoming a follower of this blog and Dark Faerie Tales on Twitter.
3. +3 entries for tweeting about this contest, blogging about it, linking via your sidebar etc…(please tell me where!).
4. Giveaway is open to everyone.
5. Please include your email address in your comment.
6. Giveaway ends Tuesday, January 5th at 11:59 PM EST.
7. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.
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