Because I want to share the fun, I have a copy of Deadtown to giveaway to one lucky commenter. Details at the end of the post. Nancy will drop by to answer your questions, so say hello or take the opportunity to ask an urban fantasy pro about their secrets. Careful though, because I suspect Nancy has some gear similar to what Vicky is wearing on the book cover. Just before we ease into the interview here is the synopsis of the book to set the stage.
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.
SFG: The cover blurb does an excellent job of describing the book. Are there additional details or highlights you would like to add to it for new readers?
I agree with you that the back cover copy does a great job—better than I could—of succinctly conveying the action and complexity Deadtown’s plot. The only thing I might bring out more is the political context in which the story takes place: the attempts of human society to control paranormals through law and the hodgepodge of those laws throughout the country. A lot of readers have responded to that aspect of the story.
SFG: Hopefully you won’t consider it spoilerish - could you tell us about the meaning behind the title Deadtown?
Three years before Deadtown’s events take place, a fast-acting plague struck downtown Boston, killing about two thousand humans. The area where the plague struck became a quarantine zone—and when the plague victims came back to life, the quarantine zone became the enforced home of all of Boston’s paranormal creatures. The “Deadtown” nickname came about when there were a couple thousand corpses littering the plague zone.
SFG: You use Welsh legends for the shapeshifters in Deadtown. What led you in that direction?
I’ve always enjoyed reading medieval literature, and I started my career as a medievalist. I used to teach a popular course on Arthurian Literature, and in that class we’d look at some Welsh stories of King Arthur and his knights, such as “Culhwch and Olwen” from the Mabinogi. Although it’s not Arthurian, the story of Ceridwen and Gwion Bach, which is really the origin story of the great Welsh bard Taliesin, was one of my favorites. It’s got a magic potion, a burst cauldron, and a shapeshifting contest. (You can read a 19th-century translation here.) I thought the story would be a fun basis for a race of shapeshifters.
SFG: Deadtown has only been out a few weeks and is generating a lot of positive buzz. What do you think of the reaction and how does it compare to your hopes for the book?
I honestly didn’t know what to expect. My day job is writing how-to and reference books, and I’ve been through numerous releases for those books. But they were always very low key; the nonfiction books I write tend to become available without a lot of fanfare. I might get a request for an interview or two, but usually one day a box of books thunks down on the front porch and I think, “Oh, is that one out?”
In contrast, Deadtown has gotten a good amount of attention. It makes me very happy to hear that people have enjoyed the book. My publicist and Ace and I both worked hard to get the book in the hands of reviewers, plus I’m making the effort to get out and talk about the book—on blogs and on social networking sites. That could be a full-time job all by itself. Some readers have let me know they enjoyed the book and recommended it to friends, so I think there’s been good word of mouth, too. Of course, I hope the book does well. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope that the interest will be there to extend the series for more books.
SFG: You have said elsewhere that you read a lot of urban fantasy. How were you introduced to the genre and what is it that you like best about it?
A friend recommended Kim Harrison at about the same time another friend discovered Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and blasted through the first three or four books in a week. Both were raving about how much fun the books were. I had to check them out myself and got similarly hooked. What I enjoy most about urban fantasy is the sheer imagination of the genre. I love stories that keep me on the edge of my seat because anything can happen. Urban fantasy authors excel at creating worlds that have their own rules but stretch the boundaries of ordinary reality. I like the way that urban fantasy worlds are simultaneously very familiar and utterly strange.
SFG: Because inquiring minds want to know, what are the long term plans for the series and what other projects do you have percolating for when time permits?
Deadtown’s sequel (which doesn’t yet have a final title) is with my editor now and will be out in a year. I’m currently working on proposals for three more books in the series beyond that. As I mentioned earlier, I love these characters and want to see how their stories unfold. The story arc brings in more elements of Welsh mythology, the stakes get higher, and the relationships get both deeper and more complex as the series proceeds.
Lately I’ve been toying with an idea for a contemporary fantasy set in the Catskill Mountains. The Catskills are home to Rip van Winkle and the Headless Horseman, Native American legends, and ghost stories brought over from the Netherlands and England. Plus the landscape is both beautiful and dangerous. I think the area would be an awesome setting for a fantasy.
SFG: There seems to be a trend for urban fantasy authors to eventually write young adult novels as well. Is this something you would consider? Do you read YA in the genre and if so do you have any personal favourites?
I do read some YA, although my tastes run more to adult novels. That said, I’m a big fan of YA literature in another sense. I taught high school English for a few years, and I’m very much in favor of novels that engage teenage readers and generate enthusiasm for reading. Sometimes I think that school curricula push the classics on young readers before many of them are ready to engage with those texts—and some students find the books boring as a result. When I taught at universities, time and again I’d add a text to my syllabus—Beowulf is an example—and students would object, “But we already read that in high school!” And I’d have to say, “Not like you’re going to read it with me.” But it was an uphill battle. Students had slogged through Beowulf once and hadn’t liked it. They felt like they should be able to check it off their list, and there was tremendous resistance to reading it again. Sometimes I managed to open up new understandings of the text, sometimes not. But if some of those students had been given more choice in what they could read in high school, I think they would have been more open to reading Beowulf and other classic texts in college.
So I’ve been happy to see so much really high-quality YA fantasy being published lately. I’m thinking of books like The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Hunger Games, Graceling—well written, exciting books. I don’t have plans to write YA myself in the immediate future, but it’s exciting to see what’s out there.
SFG: By now you must have been asked a lot of the same questions. What is the one new question you wished you had been asked and what would your answer be?
Nobody ever asks me about my playlist—which might have something to do with the fact that I’m a fanatical opera lover. But the truth is that I prefer a quiet environment for writing. Silence is ideal. I often write in coffee shops, though, so I’ve gotten good at tuning out background conversations and whatever’s playing over the PA system. But I can’t listen to music I like as I write—the music grabs my attention and makes it hard to immerse myself in the world of my story.
SFG: If you could be any supernatural character what would you be and why?
Um, let’s see. I’d make a lousy vampire, because I’m one of those people who gets queasy at the sight of blood. I think I’d like to be a shapeshifter along the same lines as Vicky—I like the way her race, the Cerddorion, can change into any creature and can shift at will up to three times per lunar cycle. However, if I were Cerddorion, my shapeshifting days would be over because females lose their ability to shift when they give birth. And I wouldn’t trade my daughter for anything.
SFG: If you could have lunch and conversation with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think it would be fascinating to sit down and have a conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien. Apart from being the author of the most influential fantasy novels of the 20th century, he was a medievalist who specialized in Old English language and literature. I’d love to have a conversation that ranged from Anglo-Saxon poetry to modern fantasy. Plus I understand Tolkien liked good beer, so we could have lunch in the pub he used to frequent in Oxford.
SFG: Being the SciFiGuy I have to ask, what is your favourite science fiction book and movie?
I like a lot of classic science fiction: Asimov’s I, Robot; Delany’s Dahlgren; Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. (I’m a sucker for a good dystopian story.) For movies, some of my favorites have been Blade Runner, The Matrix (just the first one—I didn’t like the second and never saw the third). Last year I really enjoyed J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek film.
Thank you Nancy for spending time with us and best wishes for the success of Deadtown. You can find Nancy in these places Nancy Holzner's Blog | Twitter | Facebook
I have one copy of Deadtown to send to someone in anytown.
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- Giveaway open until Midnight, January 18, 2010 EST. Winner will be selected by the Randomizer.