Archive for ‘Interviews’

October 18th, 2010

Lisa Desrochers; Author Interview + Gabe Stops By!

by Madeleine Rex

The fabulous Lisa Desrochers, author of Personal Demons (Review), has increased her Fabulous Status in agreeing to let me interview her! I was thrilled when she said yes and took my time compiling my questions. Five of them are for Lisa herself, and the remaining six are questions I asked Gabe. Without further ado (because I know you’re not here to listen to me jabber), Lisa and her angelic friend, Gabe:

Questions for Lisa:

ME: When you sat down to write Personal Demons, did you have a concrete idea of what you wanted to do with the book, or was it more conceptual and you decided to see where your whims took you?

Lisa: All I had when I started writing Personal Demons was a name, Lucifer Cain. He popped into my head and started telling me a story. The rest flowed from the characters.

ME: It’s inarguable that the Heaven, Hell, and Limbo in Personal Demons are incredibly well-formed and rather unique (I know I was wowed by the details). You seem to blend various bits of myths and legends to create your worlds. How much thought went into the world-building process, and are you still creating different facets of the ways the three operate?

Lisa: I did a lot of research into demon and angel lore. I decided from the beginning that I wanted to keep Personal Demons contemporary, so I took what I learned and put a modern spin on it. In Personal Demons, Hell is a bureaucracy. I looked at demon hierarchy and tried to figure out what departments there would be and who would be in charge of them. Then I did the same thing with Heaven. Once I had that sorted out, I had to figure out how, within this bureaucracy, it would be determined who went to Heaven and who went to Hell. It made sense that Hell would have an Acquisitions department. Heaven, on the other hand, would be in charge of sorting the souls who died before they were tagged because of the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing, so they wouldn’t need and Acquisitions department. They would be more like the police and judicial system, to keep Hell’s Acquisition team from running wild on the mortal coil. So, it’s really based in the bureaucracy of modern society. It’s continuing to evolve in the sequels.

ME: Did you always intend the book to have two POVs, and what made you choose to leave out Gabe’s? Did you have difficulties keeping Luc and Frannie’s voices distinct enough to avoid readers’ confusion?

Lisa: Well, only the reader (you) can tell me if the voices are distinct. In my head they are. As far as who got a POV, again, that flowed from the characters themselves. Luc was the initial POV character, but when Frannie showed up, she demanded to tell her side of the story. Though Gabe has a strong presence in the novel, I always heard him through Frannie or Luc. Not only did he not demand a POV, he didn’t want one. For you Team Gabe fans out there, you’ll be happy to know he is demanding a POV in Hellbent (bk #3) so we’ll be hearing from him soon.

ME: How many rewrites did you go through before querying? How was the dreaded querying experience for you?

Lisa: I wrote Personal Demons in about seven weeks and spent another six or so revising and polishing before I queried. It took me about a week to put together a killer query letter and another week to research agents and decide who were the best matches for what I’d written. I initially sent my query to five agents, holding back on 15 more until I heard from the first five. My thought was, if I didn’t get any requests, I could revise my query before sending it out to the others. Luckily, four of the first five agents I queried requested manuscripts. In the end, I had 12 manuscript requests and four offers of representation.

ME: What’s a day in the writing life of Lisa Desrochers like? Do you write every day? Wake up in the wee hours of the morning to spurt out a few thousand words before daily distractions take hold? Or do you write whenever you feel the urge?

Lisa: I only write when my characters have something to say. Unfortunately, that’s often when I’m in the shower, driving down the road or at three o’clock in the morning. I find that if I set a strict word count per day, I just end up writing drivel that gets cut anyway. When I’m drafting a novel, the story seems to come fast and furious, so I’m writing in every second I can sneak to my laptop or scribble a note on the back of a Taco Bell receipt. When I’m between novels, I can go for weeks without writing anything. It’s really up to my characters.

Questions for Gabe:

ME: If you were mortal and didn’t have the incredibly amazing job as a Dominion Angel, what do you believe you’d like to do for a living someday?

Gabe: Good question. I’m an angel, so I probably should say something profoundly angelic, yes? But, since I can’t lie…I’d want to teach skydiving.

ME: What looks like the most disgusting of human food? (Please don’t say mushrooms. It would break my heart.)

Gabe: Lasagna. It’s red and squishy with chunks of stuff. It seriously looks like it’s already been chewed.

ME: How many years did it take for you to reach the status you have (or have you lost track)? Being the left-hand of the Gabriel must have been difficult place to end up. Do you remember what your first calling was?

Gabe: I was created by the Almighty just after the War to replace some that Lucifer took with him. I’ve always been a Protector. Gabriel took me under his wing (literally) from the time of my creation. The understanding has always been, should something happen to him, I’d take his place. I suspect that’s the reason they named me Gabriel. Everyday of my existence has been training for that possibility, though, his is a job I’m not sure I’d want. There may come a time I have no choice.

ME: How many people have you tagged? Have any slipped out of your grasp before?

Gabe: We have teams of angels whose job it is to tag souls, so it’s not something I do often. When I’m sent, it’s usually a special case…someone special who needs extra protection. In those cases, if I can tag them I will. It’s the surest way to protect them from the other side. But the thing about that is, it’s really up to them. I can’t just tag whomever I choose. They have to earn the tag. There have been a few that weren’t able to find it in themselves to do what needed to be done to allow me to tag them. Others just flat out chose to go the other way.

ME: Have you and Lucifer found yourselves after the same target before, or do your shields usually work?

Gabe: Lucifer and I have a history. Other than Frannie, Lucifer has gotten past my Shield twice. Unfortunately, he seems to be particularly perceptive. I’m not naming names, but the two other times we’ve run up against each other are the two times the mortal has chosen to go the other way. Not only is Lucifer perceptive, but also persuasive.

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First of all, Lisa had the dream writing/querying experience. I think my jaw would have dropped when I read that if my jaw was actually in the habit of doing that.

Anyway, if you have not read Personal Demons, I seriously recommend it! Lisa’s a fabulous author and her book has a refreshing take of Heaven, Hell, and that little place in between.

April 20th, 2010

Awesome Interview with Matthew Quick!

by Madeleine Rex

Matthew Quick, author of the wonderful Sorta Like a Rockstar, graciously agreed to let me interview him! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to correspond with him and enjoyed reading his answers to my questions immensely. (Hopefully you will, too!)

ME:  What inspired you to write something as unique as Sorta Like a Rock Star? How was your writing experience? How long did it take to complete?

Matthew: Teaching high school English and working with teenagers like Amber definitely inspired me, as did my own teenage struggles.  Hope is a hard thing to come by in the adult world, and most people learn that for the first time as teenagers…or maybe that’s when many people start to give up on hope.

Once I figured out Amber’s voice, this book rushed out onto the page.  I wrote the rough draft in three months—which is super fast for me—and Little, Brown purchased it shortly after.  Then my editor and I worked on the manuscript for another few months, which was a great experience.

ME: You’ve masterfully blended humor and seriousness into one story without obliterating one or the other. As a reader, I continuously felt the underlying solemnity as a result of the problems Amber faced throughout, and yet I laughed incessantly. How did you manage to convey such differing emotions/feelings simultaneously?

Matthew: Thanks!

Laughter and tears are the products of strong and often unexpected emotional experiences.  I believe there is a line in an old Morrissey song that goes, “And I’m laughing to stop myself crying.”

I think I was able to simultaneously convey the sadness and hilarity of Amber’s world because I truly love Amber.  Fiction writers have to place their characters in conflict, and Amber goes through a lot, but we also need to give them the tools that we all have in real life—the tools to save themselves.  Laughter is a powerful tool.

ME: Your characters were both strikingly distinctive and familiar. What was your process for “creating” them?

Matthew: I sort of believe that my characters are a mixture of me and people I know.  That’s not to say that they are non-fiction, but they are definitely inspired by people in my life, and usually people I love and admire very much.  I’m kind of a quirky guy and I admire people who do their own thing without completely turning their backs on their communities.  So my characters are usually quirky people who very much want to be a part of things—people who have to work hard to be accepted as they are.

I’m not sure I have a process for creating my characters.  They grow out of my own personality and life experiences.  I think that’s all a fiction writer can do.  Hemingway used to talk about his work being true.  What I think he meant was authentic, or without pretense.  The people who know me best, know that THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR are me to the core.  True.

ME: Who is your favorite literary character of all time? What novel most affected you or the way you wrote?

Matthew: Wow.  A hard question.  There are too many to pick just one.  But I will say that reading SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE many many years ago made me want to be a novelist.  Reading Vonnegut was very freeing.  At the time I had never read anything so inventive, fun, important, and yet down-to-earth—well, nothing that people called ‘literature.’  Vonnegut is my hero.

ME: The book gave me hope regarding so many things and ultimately taught me that giving up said hope is practically synonymous with curling into a ball and shriveling up. Hope enlivens us. What one thing would you like readers to feel or learn from your book?

Matthew: Thanks!

Hope is a very powerful emotion.  Amber puts a lot of positive energy into the world, and that changes the lives of others for the best.  I really do think that positive thinking can change lives.  When I was teaching, one negative student could really poison the classroom—completely alter the attitude of thirty students and suck the life right out of the room.  So I would work hard on trying to win over those few negative people.  And when I was able to make them enjoy my class, they often became the most enthusiastic students.

I’ve found that there are some hurting people out there who will roll their eyes at the idea of championing kindness and positive thinking.  But most of these people would prefer that you be kind to them and offer them encouragement rather than scorn, and I think that is always telling.

I hope my readers learn that our actions and words have consequences, pretty much always.

ME: I know that you’ve been published before. What was your experience the first time around? How was it altered when you went through the publishing process for Sorta Like a Rock Star? Was there anything in particular that you were especially glad you knew coming into the second round?

Matthew: The leap from hopeful aspiring writer to professional novelist with a book contract is pretty wild.  I love writing and sharing my work with the world, but, with my first published novel, I don’t think I was prepared mentally or emotionally for the process.

We fiction writers tend to be a sensitive lot, and I’m no different.  When you publish a book, no matter how talented you are, you are going to get all sorts of responses.  (Check out the one-star Goodreads reviews of your absolute favorite books, or even the best novels of all time.)

When you publish, you take something very special and important to you and you offer it up to the world.  There are nice people in the world and there are people who are hurting.  And, of course, people have different tastes.  You can never write a book that will please everyone, including your friends and family.

When I published THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, I wasn’t prepared for some of the strange (and sometimes mean) responses I received.  To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for all of the fantastic and kind responses I received either.

The second time around, I know what to expect and have more experience dealing with all the different responses.  I think I’ve gained confidence too.

ME: What’s next? Are you simply fiddling with ideas, or are you already writing another book?

Matthew: My next YA novel has been purchased by Little, Brown & Company.  It’s called BOY21 and is about friendship, basketball, kindness, outer space, growing up, love, and so much more.  I’m really excited about BOY21.  I’m also working on a new novel about a fourteen-year-old boy who thinks he has a very unusual power, but I’m thinking that one might be an adult book, rather than a YA novel.   We shall see.

ME: What do you wish to accomplish as a writer, and what do you believe is the most rewarding aspect of a writer’s life?

Matthew: Back when I was teaching, front and center in my classroom was a picture of my hero, Kurt Vonnegut, holding a baby.  Underneath was a quote by Vonnegut that read, “Why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it’s been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with … humanity, and however you want to poison their minds, it’s presumably to encourage them to make a better world.”  I believe Vonnegut did this, and I’m trying.

The most rewarding aspect of the writing life is when a reader completely understands what I’m trying to do and celebrates it.  When this happens I feel less alone in the world.

ME: Do you have a book trailer, and, if so, may I post it on my blog?

Matthew:  I do have a book trailer!  Thanks for asking!  We had so much fun making it.  I worked with a film company called Emerald Productions.  They specialize in horror films, but they love and get my work, even though I don’t write horror.  They cast Amber.  I cast BBB (Amber’s dog).  And I think both our actress and doggie star were perfect!  Here is the trailer in HD:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdhw5YJ83Og]

Thanks for interviewing me!  Thanks for reading.  Please visit me @ www.matthewquickwriter.com

He’s pretty cool, huh?

And his book honestly is outstanding. Read my review and then enter the giveaway! Little, Brown has given me FIVE copies!

February 26th, 2010

An Interview with Pamela Aidan!

by Madeleine Rex

I recently (well, it was a while back, but it took forever to write the reviews) interviewed Pamela Aidan, author of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentlemen trilogy. (To read my reviews for all three books, click.) Aidan was wonderful and quickly answered all my questions. On to the interview!

ME: The back of my book says, “Pamela Aidan has been a librarian for thirty years and a fan of Jane Austen even longer.” How long would that be?

Aidan: I read Pride & Prejudice in high school so that would be about 40 years ago!

ME: How did you manage to juggle your own Austen world and the one already revealed in Pride and Prejudice without sacrificing either Austen’s view of her story, or your own?

Aidan: Actually, except for a few elements, I had no “view” of the story. I was writing it piece by piece and posting it on the web at the Republic of Pemberley and the Derbyshire Writer’s Guild at first, and later on my own website as well. The process was more like waiting for Darcy to reveal himself as the events in P&P unrolled. So, I wrote with P&P open next to me, and as Darcy’s true character became clearer and clearer to me, my story evolved. I call my method “traipsing after Jane.”

ME: When did you begin to seriously ponder the goings-on of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s mind? And when did your thoughts transform into An Assembly Such as This?

Aidan:The process began with my first viewing of the BBC/A&E 1995 production of P&P. Previous adaptations to film or stage had either re-interpreted the story to the point of making it unrecognizable or the Darcy character as stiff and unemotional as a poker. The 1995 version, however, gave us a Darcy via Colin Firth who communicated a man whose emotional control was imperfect and hinted at great feeling. The idea that there was more to this character than I’d ever thought before presented itself to me. Then, there is the sea-change of character or at least of understanding when we meet Darcy at the end of P&P after a ½ book or more of absence from the plot.  Why did he change? How did he change? I wanted to know!  So, as an experiment I wrote a short 5 page peek at what might have been going on in Darcy’s mind as he wrote and then prepared to deliver the explanatory letter after Elizabeth’s rejection and posted it to The Republic of Pemberley. It was so well received that I then decided I would try to write the entire story from his perspective and, in so doing, find out those answers. So, I started in 1998 and finished writing Assembly in late 1999.

ME: When writing Duty and Desire, you obviously found yourself in a predicament. The time during which the novel takes place is completely Darcy-free in Pride and Prejudice (the physical Darcy, anyway), and you were left to complete conjecture. Did you appreciate this chance to thoroughly create your own plot-line, or did you miss the guidance of P&P? How was the outline/writing process different when writing Duty and Desire than it was when you wrote the other two books in the trilogy?

When I began Duty and Desire I was both excited to step away from “traipsing after Jane” and very, very apprehensive.  Here, after all, was the second test of my writing ability. The first had been whether I could write well enough to capture Austen and her characters in familiar surroundings. The second was whether I could launch off on my own, take the characters elsewhere, and the readers would follow.
I found that the solid grounding in Darcy’s character that I’d developed in writing Assembly, my research and familiarity with the historical period, and the temptations and revelations I wished Darcy and the reader to experience gave me the framework. This freedom made D&D fun to write. I had no outline, but wrote as it “came” to me, listening to Darcy tell me the story as I placed him in the conflicts of Norwycke Castle.

ME: I personally adored the characters you took more creative liberties with. Georgiana was intriguing and lovable. Lord Dyfed Brougham was mysterious and amazing. Did you feel you had a different author/character connection with these characters due to the fact that you had a chance to create their personalities?

Aidan: My relationship to Darcy and the characters I created or greatly expanded is very personal and akin to feelings for real people! Darcy started as the flawed hero/lover. By the end of Assemby he’d become like one of my children, a beloved son who I desperately hoped would overcome his flaws and turn out well. Some, like Fletcher, appeared full blown. Even I didn’t know how he’d come to be so fluent in Shakespeare until near the end of book three! Brougham & Georgianna are the major catalysts in the series after Elizabeth Bennet starts Darcy’s transformational process and thus had to be carefully constructed and revealed.  Their love for and frustration with Darcy mirror my own as he flails about trying to understand who he wants to be.
But their concern is compounded by their own difficulties in that quest as well. Their quests compel me to write.

ME: How many times would you say you’ve read Jane Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice? Which novel, besides P&P, is your favorite?

I’ve probably read P&P around ten times just as a novel. When I was writing the series, it was always open next to me. So, I “studied” it almost daily. My second favorite Austen novel is Persuasion, and third is Mansfield Park, which I think has been largely misinterpreted, especially by modern readers, and therefore has never been dramatized correctly.

ME: Which is your favorite scene in your novels? If it is one of the scenes that is also in Pride and Prejudice, what would you say creates the different feel in your version, the one that entices you to love that scene so much?

My favorite scene takes place in book 3 at the Fox and Drake pub after Dy rescues Darcy from Sylvanie’s plot and coaxes a drunk and morose Darcy into finally confessing aloud the manner in which he has ruined his life. That scene explains the creation of the Brougham character. Who else could have called Darcy to account and force Darcy to listen; who else could Darcy bare his soul to but Dy?

ME: What response did you expect from readers when you packaged up your book and sent it out into the world? Were you worried your novel wouldn’t be appreciated or treated well because you’d based it on a novel so famous and beloved?

When my husband and I published our edition of Assembly we knew that it would do well enough to cover our expenses and make a little money. By that time I had developed my own website and was keeping track of the number of hits. There were thousands and from 101 different countries! I had a very loyal following on the internet and at the Republic of Pemberley and the Derbyshire Writers Guild, sites where fans will quickly tell writers if they are doing a good job or not. So, I knew it would be appreciated. What was stressful was when it appeared on Amazon and the non-fanfiction readers, janeites, and purists weighed in who had not read along during the years of posting bits and pieces online and seen the story develop. They did not tend to be amused by writers commandeering Austen. Although there were a few negative reviews, the response at Amazon was wonderfully positive. We sold around 10,000 copies of book one in a year! Duty and Desire did not fare as well in the reviews because of its divergence from Pride & Prejudice, but it sold quite well. These Three Remain is often referred to as the favorite of the three by readers. I believe that I’ve succeeded in extending Austen’s story and honoring her characters faithfully, which was always my intent, as presumptuous as it may sound—to me especially!

ME: Besides Darcy and Elizabeth, which character do you love most? Which do you think could use the most work?

Aidan: I love Dyfed Brougham the most. To be the friend that Darcy respects, the friend that can call Darcy out for foolishness or ill-behavior and be listened to is a man I want to know more about. The next book in the series will be as much his story as the Darcys’.  As for the others, having taken three books already to tell Darcy’s story, I think I’ve rounded out all the characters that need it.

ME: When writing, did you use certain objects or music to get you in the Austen/Darcy mind-set? How did you remain consistent with your voice, Austen’s, and Darcy’s?

Aidan: When I was writing the series, I often listened to Enya’s Paint the Sky with Stars album and Jerry Reed Smith’s albums of hammered dulcimer music (Strayaway Child is his first) to get me in the mind-set. A hot cup of Earl Grey tea and some buttered toast also helped! I’m a morning person, so the dark and solitude of early morning is very conducive.

As for consistency of voice, I couldn’t say. Mostly, I just waited to “hear” Darcy speak to me in the dark, quiet solitude of early morning.

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You can buy all of Aidan’s books at Borders.com (and a bunch of other places).

Thanks for taking a look!