Today, I have an interview with two authors, Marjorie Liu and Kelley Armstrong, and as a twist, they asked me some questions, too. Kelley and Marjorie both have books out today, so happy book release day to them both!
Armstrong’s new book, Waking the Witch, is the 11th book in her Women of the Otherworld series, about a witch, Savannah, who pairs up with a private investigator to figure out a pattern of murders that seem more than merely humans-gone-killing-each-other. Liu’s new book is part of her Maxine Kiss series, and is very chilling: in A Wild Light, Maxine wakes up hours after a family dinner alongside the bloody body of her grandfather with no memory of what happened, and a lot of fear of what she might have done.
On with the nosy questions!
SARAH: What’s the absolute most awesome thing about your upcoming books that you want to share with your readers, the thing you’re most excited about?
KELLEY: Most awesome thing about Waking the Witch? The foil used for the title on the US cover. It’s oddly iridescent and transfixing. It’ll jump off the shelf at people. Hopefully they’ll like what’s between those covers as well, but this close to a release, I’m a lot more confident about the remarkable attention-getting qualities of the foil.
MARJORIE: The one thing I’m most excited about I can’t even mention. So I’ll mention the second most exciting thing, which is that readers will get to see a werewolf priest. Woof.
SARAH: What do you admire about each other’s writing?
KELLEY: Marjorie’s prose has a depth and richness that I admire, particularly because it’s very different from my own. Usually I console myself by saying that kind of writing comes at the expense of pacing and action. She manages to excel at all of them, which kind of ruins my excuse—damn you, Marjorie!
MARJORIE: So much. Kelley is not only a tremendous writer, she’s a fantastic plotter. When you read her books, it’s a fully immersive experience—you’re there, you’re feeling it in your gut, your blood pressure is rising and falling along with the main characters —and she does all this at a breakneck pace with crisp, flawless language. She makes it look easy, too!
SARAH: What was your point of access for your latest books, the story point or moment or idea that dropped you into the story?
KELLEY: I knew I wanted to give Savannah a book. She started the series in Stolen, at the age of 12. Nine books later means she’s 21. My plan was to give her a case while her former guardians (and owners of the investigative agency where she works as an admin assistant) were abroad. That was easy. Finding the right case was tougher. It had to be something that would speak to her past, particularly the little girl in her who’s never gotten over her mother’s death. I found my case in the Canadian news. That really was only the jumping off point, though—I doubt anyone who reads the book and knows the case will realize that was the basis for it.
MARJORIE: The idea of Maxine finding her dead grandfather, not entirely certain whether or not she murdered him.
SARAH TO KELLEY: You’ve written a slowly building world where the stories connect to one another and add on to the world you’ve built as you feature new characters. Which are among your faves, and is there a heroine/hero/both you miss writing about? (Don’t pretend you don’t have favorites, because I know you do!!)
KELLEY: I honestly don’t have true favourites. Otherwise, I think I’d find it very hard to change narrators—it would feel like denying myself candy and forcing myself to eat celery instead. Some narrators are easier to write than others, but the more challenging ones are just as much fun because of that challenge. I’ve learned, however, that just because I like a character doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy writing in his/her POV. I did a novella with Nick (from my werewolf books) as a narrator, and I openly admit it’s not my best work. Love him as a secondary character, but he wasn’t ready to go solo.
SARAH to MARJORIE: You are writing across sixteen million different forms of media at this point. What’s next, billboard serial stories? And do you find yourself writing Maxine Kiss and thinking graphic novel representations, or adding spontaneous Wolverine to your romances?
MARJORIE: I love the work. And you know what? I’ve actually seen serial stories written onto traffic construction signs (not the kind that use spray paint, either), and they are funny.
But yes, I’m writing Dark Wolverine, finishing up my run on Black Widow, and will be launching X-23 in the fall—so comic books are definitely on my mind. Except for when I write my novels. My brain switches into an entirely different mode. It has to, because the styles are so different. Comics are twenty-two pages of script-style storytelling, relying on art to tell the tale—while with a novel, you’re solely responsible for every aspect of reader immersion.
When I write my novels—in this case, A WILD LIGHT—I do not think of the story in terms of graphic novel representations. I don’t give any consideration to the possibility that the book might one day end up as a comic. If I did that, I think it would cheapen the storytelling, because I would be focused on outside considerations that have nothing to do with the book at hand. Of course, having said that, every now and then I’ll think—wow, this scene would be great if so-and-so illustrated it—but again, that doesn’t mean I change my writing style.
Mmmm…Wolverine. Wolverine and romance novels. Romance novels and Wolverine. Works for me (especially because I just saw some really sexy art of him that’ll be in an upcoming issue of Dark Wolverine).
Kelley asked Sarah:
I love your cover snark posts. I think every author has been the victim of cringe-worthy covers (for me, it’s my Industrial Magic cover, or as I call it, my “naked 80s chick with man-hands” cover) But what’s worse, in your opinion? A really bad cover? Or a really bland cover?
There is NO question in my mind: a bland cover is worse. Even a bad cover is a memorable cover – and an author can take that and make it work. My avatar, the graphic that represents me in the comments, is Christina Dodd’s three-armed lady from her “Castile in the Sky” cover. For one thing, do you have ANY IDEA how much I could accomplish if I had an extra arm?! For another, that cover was a complete crazy pants success because it was a goof, and because Dodd worked it. Same with Suzanne Brockmann’s cover for “Get Lucky,” where she disliked the cover model so much she sent free smiley face stickers to anyone who wanted to cover up the male model’s head.
No one wants a bad cover, obviously. But a bad cover is still memorable, and it will stay in the mind of the reader, particularly if the reader is browsing at the store and thinks, “Wait, isn’t this cover supposed to be really…wow. That is some FUGLY right there.” But then the reader has the book in her hand… and might read the back… and then she and that book might take a walk to the checkout. Memorable is always better for potential sales than bland and forgettable!
Man-hands, for example, are always good for a few extra thousand sales. Trust me on this. I make up my own math.
With the internet, authors have stepped out of their writing caves and into the wide world where they can—and are encouraged to—interact with readers. The results are not always favourable, as you’ve occasionally highlighted in your blog. Attacks on online reviewers, attacks on mainstream critics, attacks on…well, anyone who doesn’t like our books and, sometimes, even bad behaviour toward our fans. Ideally, we wouldn’t screw up in the first place, but if we do, how can we recover? Is there a transgression so bad we can’t recover from it?
You mean other than my telling a large portion of Australia that I’m a homophobe? (Kidding. Sort of. Kelley asked this question long before I stuck my leg down my throat.)
I think there are very few online transgressions so bad that you can’t recover from them. The internet archive may be forever, but the memory of people online is short. Some might look up the Google cache, but more likely people will forget. And time moves fast on the internet: a week is a long time, let alone months.
Everyone has bad moments. Especially on the internet. Always on the internet, really. That’s why it exists, right after porn and pictures of people’s cats. In the great scheme of things, not everyone is online, not everyone will remember, except you. And you can always learn to do it differently next time.
Marjorie asked Sarah:
I’ve been reading your website for such a long time. It’s one of my daily visits. In your wildest dreams, did you ever think it would turn into what it has? And at what point did you start thinking of it as a business or career, instead of just a side gig showing your love of romance novels?
I had absolutely no idea that it would turn into what it is. I remember back when we started it, we had five readers: me, Candy, her friend in Singapore, my husband, and this guy who Googled “Dominican Bitches” all the time and kept coming back to our site every day. I’m amazed and sort of awed by the number of intelligent readers who stop by to talk with me and each other every day. It’s freaking awesome.
I started thinking of it as a business when we had a number of authors asking if we would run advertisements, and I take that portion of the website very seriously. I don’t take myself seriously, and the content is still about my love of romance novels and related topics, but when it comes to the business element of the site, that’s the un-funny part. There are remarkably few options for romance authors in terms of unique and targeted advertising for books and backlists, and since I not only run our adserver but design a good number of the ads, I pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, what people mention to me that they saw on the site, and whether advertisers are happy. That part is Serious Business.
The part where I comment on covers where the couple has no freaking legs and I talk about books I love, that’s all fun and laughing gas.
Special treat! I have two sets of Kelley Armstrong and Marjorie Liu’s new books to give away. Who wants one? Leave a comment with your favorite moment from either a Kelley Armstrong or Marjorie Liu novel – or both! – and I’ll pick two winners.
You’ve got 48 hours for this one – there’s a lot going on this week. International winners are welcome, and standard disclaimers apply. I’m not being compensated for this giveaway. Offer valid where permitted by state law. Slippery when wet. Your love is like bad medicine. Pour some sugar on me. In the name of love.