Monday, February 1, 2010

Spotlight On: Carrie Vaughn

Our Spotlight On this month visits with three terrific authors of several terrific books. First up to get the month started is author Carrie Vaughn. Anyone who reads the Daily Dose regularly knows that I am a huge Carrie fan, particularly her Kitty Norville series. The following interview evolved from a conversation that began with our Holiday Blog Giveaway before Christmas. Carrie's work is so much fun to read! If you haven't checked out her books before, you should! So without further ado, meet Carrie Vaughn, author, storyteller and all around entertainer.

You love to play with pop culture in the Kitty series (Ghost Hunters, Reality Television) – what challenges might we see for Kitty in the future?
Yes, pop culture is a great source of inspiration! What would tabloid newspapers look like with vampires and werewolves? I like to think I tackle some more serious cultural issues as well, like Senate hearings and such. In the book, I'm finishing up right now (Kitty 8: Kitty Goes to War), I have Kitty dealing with a group of werewolf soldiers returning from the war in Afghanistan. In a future book, I want to have Kitty attend the first international conference on paranatural biology. I've got lots of ideas like that.


You have a new book coming out soon, Voices of Dragons, tell us a little about the book and the inspiration behind it?
Voices of Dragons is a young adult novel, about an alternate history with dragons. The Cold War takes place between dragonkind and humankind. It's set in a contemporary Montana town, and my main character, Kay, gets caught between the two sides when she befriends a young dragon named Artegal. By the end of the book, they're faced with trying to stop the cold war from turning hot. And yes, the dragons breathe fire. . .

For me, the story started with an image of a modern girl flying on the back of a dragon, using her rock climbing gear as a harness. I loved that image, the idea that they weren't supposed to be flying at all, and I built up the world from there -- why are there dragons in the modern world, where did they come from, and what conflicts would result because of it?

What challenges did you experience writing for the young adult market?
Surprisingly, writing the book as a young adult novel solved many problems for me. I originally tried to write it as contemporary fantasy, but the story just wouldn't work. But when I made the character a teenager, everything clicked into place. It's a story about growing up, rebellion and standing up for what you believe in, and those themes seemed particularly suited to a teen audience.

From the business side of things, young adult publishing is quite a bit different than the urban fantasy genre where I've been writing. I had a lot of little things to get used to, like different attitudes about cover art and the fact that young adult seems a lot less focused on series than urban fantasy is. I wasn't expected to write a sequel in six months, for example, which was a nice change of pace.

Kitty's voice is unique. I love that she is a late night talk radio host, what spark of inspiration struck to produce her?
I decided that the soap operas and relationship problems in urban fantasy were so wild, Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil would never be able to handle them and those characters needed their own talk radio advice show. That's the seed of the books in a nutshell. As I was writing the first couple of stories, I realized that as a radio DJ, Kitty would have a big mouth and never be able to shut up. Where most first person characters would simply think their snarky comments as asides, Kitty just up and says them. She's a huge amount of fun to write because of that.

Fans are split on the Ben/Cormac front and I have to admit, I had hopes for Cormac and Kitty as well. Are you going to go down the triangle route or bypass that in future books?
To be honest, I'm not all that interested in writing about a triangle. It's one of the things that annoys me in other books, when the tortured romance is drawn out excessively. I have a lot of other things I'd rather write about. So I'll say that Cormac is definitely on stage from here out, and there will be some tension as the three of them have to work with each other. But it will become clear pretty quickly that Cormac had his own adventures while he was off stage and he's dealing with his own problems as a result. I'd rather write about that, tapping into new and different issues, rather than try to unnecessarily draw out romantic tension.

What do you enjoy reading?
Anything good is my snarky answer. I like really good stand-alone fantasy that's truly magical and heartfelt -- Beagle's The Last Unicorn, for example, and anything by Patricia McKillip and Robin McKinley. I also love really well done space opera that makes me feel like living and working in space could be a reality -- C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold. Iain M. Banks's Culture books are amazing -- really strange far-flung space opera. So the short answer is, I enjoy reading things that are completely different than what I write!

Would you describe a typical working/writing day? What routines or rituals do you observe to get your writing done?
No rituals, really. Just a pretty regular schedule. I usually spend mornings getting business out of the way -- answering emails, writing blog posts, bookkeeping, and so on. Then I walk the dog and have lunch, and afternoons are for writing. I try to get as much done as I can so I feel good about taking off at dinner and spending the rest of the evening relaxing. But if I'm closing in on the end of a project, I may write after dinner, too.

As a writer, what's the most difficult part of the process for you? The creating? The editing? The submitting?
The creating is the best part! Editing and revising are very difficult but very rewarding, because that's the stage where I can actually see the story getting better. Submitting is pretty easy, because I love having other people read my work -- I'm kind of a show-off that way. I don't always love the feedback, but I love getting my work out there.

The business side of it is actually the most difficult -- contract negotiation, dealing with promotion, waiting for cover art, trying to promote my work, juggling all of that while still trying to write the next book. If all I had to do was write, I'd be set. But I have to run a business as well, and that's tough.

What's next for you?
Onward and upward! I'm scheduled to write three more Kitty books, plus put together a collection of Kitty short stories. My young adult novel Voices of Dragons is due out soon, and a second one, Steel, is on the way. My first stand alone fantasy novel, Discord's Apple, is due out later this year. I'm writing for the Wild Cards series of shared world novels, which is a lot of fun. Basically, I'm really busy, but it's doing my dream job. I hope I can keep this all going for years to come.

Author to Author
How do you handle criticism (positive and negative) of your work?
Chocolate. Seriously, though, I always try to step away from criticism. I've avoided reading too many reviews lately. When you come right down to it, I can't let the criticism affect me. Some people love my work, some people hate it, and amazingly they'll love it and hate it for some of the same reasons. For example, the biggest complaint I get about Kitty and The Midnight Hour is that Kitty starts out so weak and submissive. At the same time, there are readers who love watching her overcome that and learn to stand up for herself. So, if I try to make everyone happy, I'll end up making no one happy, and them I'm sunk.

Negative criticism hurts, but I try to remind myself that it's not personal, and it's usually subjective. I usually have a positive piece of criticism I can turn to make myself feel better.
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Born in California, Carrie Vaughn is a tremendously entertaining author who grew up all over the country as a bona fide Air Force brat. Vaughn has a Masters in English Lit, loves to travel, loves movies, plays, music, just about anything, and is known to occasionally pick up a rapier.


Be sure to stop by tomorrow for Nancy Holzner, author of Deadtown.




1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed Carrie's interview very much. Ironically, I remember it took me a long time to actually pick up the first Kitty book. When I finally did get it, I almost put it down because of Kitty's submissiveness. But the book was good, the writing was good. I kept reading and by the end of the book I was a fan of Kitty. (and Carrie) I also love how Kitty has grown stronger with each book- not amazingly so, with huge advancements each episode, but slowly and gradually building personal strength. Great books.

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