Karen has graciously agreed to meet Kitt, Noa, Suz and I at a little Kosher Brazilian steak house down the street from PBD HQ for an interview. Luckily, we’ve been able to get our usual table in the back corner of the restaurant. Since we want to make Karen feel comfortable we’ve loaded up on the decorations with life size cut-outs of Cassie, Dorina, Mircea, Pritkin & Louis-Cesare arranged along the walls. A huge banner hangs from the ceiling proclaiming “HTM CH 15 & 26 Rock!” And of course, each of us is sporting swag in support of our favs.
Noa wearing a baby blue “French Vamps do it better!” t-shirt while munching on a heart of palm, “You don’t think we over did it do you?”
Kitt lifts an eyebrow and shrugs her shoulders, her black “Team Pritkin” t-shirt wrinkling under her mage belt.
Suz in her Read Team Mircea T-Shirt speaks up: “No of course not. We’re huge fans. I’m sure she’ll love it!”
Bells tinkle as the front door opens and Karen walks in. We start waving wildly to attract her attention as the hostess points in our direction.
KC: [I walk into the bar and realize almost immediately that I’ve been had. The “respectable journalists” that set up the interview are wearing—my God, what are they wearing? I can’t see too well in here–it’s dark and there’s a forest of plants in the way, because the restaurant’s theme appears to be Amazonian jungle. But it looks like they’ve hired guys to dress up like…no. Oh, no. Those are life-size cardboard cut outs pouting, glowering and simpering at me through the gloom, which means that this has just reached the Danger, Danger Will Robinson! level of weird and where’s the damn door?
I almost make it, but the freaking hostess is in the way. I think they bribed her. And then one of the gals wearing a Team Mircea shirt tackles me right before I manage to get back to the blessed sanity of the sidewalk. And before I can shake her off, the others are on me like a pack of piranhas. I’m dragged to a table and forced into a seat, right beside an effeminate-looking cut out of someone with a powdered face, satin pantaloons and a beauty mark, and dear lord. This was not going to go well, was it?]
BLVR: “Hi Karen! Please sit here next to me. Caipirinha?”
Noa : “Wine?”
Kitt: “Shot of Jack?”
Suz looks mortified.
KC: “Bourbon. Straight up.” [I was going to need it.]
BLVR: “Congratulations on the release of Hunt The Moon, the fifth book in your Cassie Palmer Series. How does it feel?”
KC: [And already we were in the minefield. Or considering the restaurant, the quicksand. I glance around the table, only to confirm what I’d seen earlier. Yes, that was a Team Mircea T-shirt. Sitting right beside a Team Pritkin. I didn’t count the Louis-Cesare lover as a problem, since anyone who chose that model for the character wasn’t likely to be a go-for-the-jugular type. But the first two…
They could be trouble.
If I’d learned anything from the reading community in the past few years, it was to be careful around people’s favorite character. Any perceived slight, however unintended, and you were a dead woman. And you weren’t going to die well. I eyed the knife Ms. Mircea was using to butter a roll. “Um, good?” I say nervously, hoping that was inoffensive enough.
She gave me an evil grin. She was toying with me. They all were.
God, where was that bourbon?]
BLVR: “One of the things that IMHO really make your books stand out is that they are filled with amazing action and fight scenes. They are incredibly detailed and exciting. Do you consider yourself to be an action scene writer? How do you get into the zone to write those chapters?”
KC: [Was this a trick question? She was still fiddling with that damn knife.] “Uh. I, uh, I think action scenes are a part of most urban fantasies. And they’re a good way to fit in plot points without making it boring. Or anything.”
[The fourth woman, who I had briefly considered possibly sane as she’d been wearing a cute leather jacket, shrugged out of it to reveal—oh, God. Another Mircea lover Tee. She smiled menacingly.]
Suz: “Those chapters are so engaging I feel like I’ve run a mental marathon after reading them. Has any one else ever mentioned that to you? ”
We all nod our heads in agreements. “Hardcore UF.” Kitt adds mildly.
KC: [Crap. It had been a set up. Like I didn’t know that the romance fans who read the books could do without quite so many action scenes. Like that hadn’t been mentioned, oh, I don’t know, a few thousand times? But I wasn’t writing a romance series, and action was as much a part of UF as sex scenes were to romance novels. Without it…well, you really didn’t have UF anymore, did you? I fiddled with the silverware, noticing that I hadn’t gotten any of the sharper implements, and wondered if I should bring the whole not-a-romance thing up.
Eyeing the tuxedo-wearing, full-on-pouting Mircea cut out over the questioner’s head, I thought…maybe not.]
“Uh, well. I hope they’re at least…original,” [I say lamely, as the waitress finally brings us our drinks. I chug bourbon as the others exchange glances. The wary prey has eluded the trap. Curses.]
BLVR: “Your heroines are always being attacked and viciously at that. The punches, the kicks, the slaps – they all actually connect! There is no rolling away at the final second. Yet – Cassie & Dorina never give up. What is it you want your readers to take away from your heroines and their trials?”
KC: [Hm. This was a new one. Maybe they’d decided to throw me a few softballs for a change. Or possibly, they really did want to know. I start to relax slightly.]
“I write for entertainment,” I say honestly. “There’s not a lot of moralizing in what I do. But I guess in a way the books are showcasing the strength of women, who until fairly recently, weren’t included in the ranks of bad ass fictional characters. But both Cassie and Dory fit that description, although in very different ways.”
[Mircea lover number 2 frowns. Obviously, that had hit a nerve.]
Suz: “Karen – I have to get this off my chest. Cassie puts up with so many attempts to harm or kill her when she could have dropped the culprits off with the dinosaurs. Why is Cassie so often reluctant to be a hard ass?”
KC: [I blink slightly, surprised as always when someone finds Cassie to be stupid or ineffectual or timid, just because some of the characters in the books occasionally say she is. But then, there’re supposed to underestimate her. It’s one of the ways she outsmarts them. But the idea is that the reader will see beyond that. I mean, the girl just killed two gods. What the hell criteria do you need for a bad ass card these days?
Posturing with a gun and threatening people doesn’t make one a bad ass, I almost say, but bite my tongue. I am a stranger in a strange land. And I want to leave here with all the body parts I came in with.]
“Because she isn’t one,” I say instead. “At least, not physically. Vampires can lose a head, stick it under their arm, and keep right on fighting. Weres can morph into something out of a nightmare and gain huge strength and resiliency. Demons can…well, you never know what a demon can do, but suffice it to say that they aren’t nearly as squishy as a human, which until this last book, was what Cassie assumed herself to be. She has power, but it has a fair amount of restrictions, one of which is that she has to be alive to use it.” And she chooses to outsmart her enemies rather than outfight them, because it tends to be healthier.
“And she couldn’t really drop people off with the dinosaurs.” I add. “She couldn’t go back that far—the strain would kill her. And even if she could, there’s the whole butterfly effect to worry about.”
BLVR: Patting Karen’s arm. “Sweetie, you are among friends here so I feel that I can ask you this question. Fetishes. Lots of fetishes in this last Cassie Palmer book.”
Noa: “Yup! Hair, nipples, toes…”
Kitt: “Not to mention Food Porn!”
BLVR: “You had me at Foie!”
BLVR: “Basically – your characters are sensualists! What say you to this?”
KC: [I hesitate, because this could get squidgy. I didn’t know their stand on the whole non-missionary-position debate, and some people can be pretty darn easy to offend. Like my editor, who always takes out the really good stuff.
But then I notice the Pritkin cut-out, which is shirtless, sweaty, wearing skin tight leather pants and—dear lord, was that a nipple ring? I bite my lip on a smile, thinking about what Pritkin would likely do to the gal who picked that model, and relax. Maybe they weren’t upset about the few—very mild—fetish-y mentions, after all.]
“Well, Mircea’s little hobby isn’t new,” I point out. “He’s had it through all the books, and you’ve seen signs of it before. And let’s face it, after 500 years, most people are probably going to experiment a bit.” And a foot fetish is about as mild as it gets, I didn’t say, because they were nodding and smiling and this was going okay, wasn’t it?
“And, uh, Pritkin is the son of the lord of the incubi. A certain amount of sensuality comes with the territory, so to speak. And before his wife died, he’d been…fond of women…himself. It would be a little weird given his background if he was entirely a novice, wouldn’t it?”
[More nods, more smiles. Yes, yes these were my people. These were not teenagers who expected a hundred-year-old vampire to be a virgin. Thank God.]
BLVR: “You know I have a Hall Pass with Mircea, right? Yup – DH approved that one right away. Of course in my mind Mircea looks like Goran Visnjic. But Tomas – oh – he is very intriguing!”
Noa: “Cassie is one luuuuucky girl!”
We all nod our heads in unison. Déjà vu?
BLVR: “Can we talk about Dante’s? Cause I love it!!! There is a surprise around every corner in that casino. And the whole Vegas back drop! Brilliant! So – how much fun is it to write about Dante’s”
KC: [Smiling, because Dante’s was easy. Dante’s wasn’t going to get me stabbed with the bread knife.]
“It’s a lot of fun, actually. I wanted a place where the supernatural wouldn’t stick out, and Vegas just seemed perfect. I mean, in a casino themed as a cross between Dante’s Inferno and a haunted house, just about anything goes, right? Plus there’s the advantage of having Area 51 just 75 miles away. What other place has so many ways to play off weird occurrences? Except maybe New York, but then the Dory series is partly set there…”
Kitt: “I’d like to know how you keep the story straight? I mean you have two series that intermingle or threaten to, and Cassie goes back in time – sometimes to the same scene once, twice, even three times. After you read each book, clues from the previous books always click into place. How do you manage to write those chapters without getting confused?”
KC: “By knowing ahead of time where the story is going. Not every detail or twist and turn, but the basics of where the series is headed. Otherwise, you lose your way and everything gets jumbled up. I want there to be some mystery in the series, but I also want it to all make sense in the end.”
BLVR: “At the end of the day, you’ve written several wonderful novels with amazing characters and arcs. What chapters, characters or story lines have been your favorites? “
Kitt: “Well obviously – she’s enjoyed the scenes with Pritkin the most. Especially Chapter 26 in HTM. Duh!”
KC: [She looked at me for confirmation, and I smiled slightly back. Yeah. After winding my way through a jungle filled with piranhas, quicksand and shirtless Pritkin cut outs, I was going to fall into that obvious of a trap.]
“It’s so hard to say. I like them all,” I reply blandly. “Although my favorite books are probably Curse the Dawn and Hunt the Moon.”
Noa: “I just have to say I love the beautiful dresses that Augustine makes. They are incredible! Dresses that have prints that move on the fabric?! Materials that seem to hang on with nothing! I would love to own one. I read a note on your web page that described a fiber optics dress like the one in HTM. But how did you get your original inspiration for Augustine & his designs?”
KC: [Finally, the sweet one pipes up, and it’s with a nice little question I can’t possibly screw up. I beam at her approvingly. I would write her a nice Louis-Cesare scene for that one.]
“A lot of books have characters who use magic like we would use a gun—as a weapon. But you don’t hear much about it otherwise. But I think, if you really had a power source that could be molded to your will, at least to a degree, it would pervade your life. I wanted to show magic, not as a dark, dangerous force, but as just another part of everyday existence. Augustine and his eccentric designs were part of that. And, of course, he is also useful plot-wise from time to time, like in HTM.”
Kitt: “Before we finish this interview, I’d like to know what you consider to be one of your guilty pleasures?”
KC: Lying to interviewers. “I love a good drink among friends,” I say, and we clink glasses, smiles all around.
Ha! Made it.
BLVR, Kitt, Noa, Suz and the rest of the Paperback Doll Team would love to thank Karen for hanging out with us today! If you would like to find our more about her or her series – Cassie Palmler or Dorina Basarab – please visit her website or Facebook fan page. Karen (along with her fabulous Facebook page) has left behind some goodies for our wonder followers in the US and over seas!!
This interview also appears on http://paperbackdolls.com/?p=6956