We are very happy to welcome author Nancy Holzner here at Book Lovers Inc today. Her new novel, Hellforged (book 2 in her Deadtown series) was released at the end of 2010 and today she is here to talk about herself, her books and zombies. Please give her a warm welcome. And keep an eye open for her question at the end of the interview and you might win her newest release.
Nancy: Thank you so much for inviting me to be here today. I’m a regular reader of your site, so I was thrilled to do an interview with the Book Lovers.
BLI: Nancy can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve been a book lover all my life. When I was a kid, my parents had to institute a no-reading-at-the-dinner-table rule because I never wanted to put my book down. I majored in English in college and kept on going through grad school until I’d earned all the degrees I could. I was an English professor for several years, and then I left academia to become a freelance editor and author. I started off writing how-to and reference books (that’s still my day job) and wrote fiction mostly for fun, but always in hope of getting published. I live in central New York state with my husband, who’s the author of more than 130 technical books. We both manage to work from home without getting on each other’s nerves.
BLI: Describe a typical day of writing. Are you a planner or pantser?
Nancy: I fall somewhere in between. I like to start with a loose outline that hits the major plot points, because that gives me goals to write toward. But the outline has to be loose enough that there’s plenty of room for surprises as I write. And the outline is always subject to change, of course. If my characters surprise me and head in a direction I wasn’t expecting, I want to follow them there, not try to force them down a predetermined path.
On my ideal writing day, I get up and take a walk first thing. When I get back home, I consume several tanks of coffee as I write for about three hours. Then I take a lunch break, scan the headlines, check into a few social networking sites, and answer emails. After lunch, I write for another three hours. If I’ve got both fiction and nonfiction projects going, I prefer to write fiction in the morning and nonfiction in the afternoon. But life doesn’t give me ideal writing days as often as I’d like. Usually I start with whatever feels most urgent and find my way forward from there.
BLI: What do you think is the difference between a reader and a real Book Lover?
Nancy: That’s a great question. I’d say a reader enjoys reading, but a Book Lover can’t live without it. A reader usually has a couple of books on her TBR pile, but a Book Lover has to stand on tiptoe to see over the top of hers. A reader picks up a book to relax; a Book Lover routinely loses sleep because she has to read just one more chapter. A reader might belongs to a monthly book club; a Book Lover is likely to belong to a couple of those and take half a dozen online reading challenges each year. A reader asks friends, “How are you?” A Book Lover asks friends, “So what are you reading?”
(I say “she,” but men are Book Lovers, too!)
BLI: Urban Fantasy is a steady growing genre at the moment but the zombie population in it is still the minority. Why did you decide to write a series about zombies?
Nancy: Zombies are an important part of the world of Deadtown, but they’re more the context in which the stories take place than they are central characters. But I put zombies in the series because I wanted to try doing a twist on traditional, horror-move zombies. The zombies of my books aren’t groaning, shambling brain-munchers. They retain the intelligence and personalities they had before they died and came back. They’re police officers, waiters, doormen–even pop stars. I wanted to create zombies who were characters, not just threats or targets.
I wrote about zombies because I wanted to explore how society might react if a large segment of the population suddenly turned into monsters, into “the other.” In a sense, zombies are Deadtown’s lepers. They’re seen as less than human, feared, shunned, and closed off from the mainstream. This conflict becomes both more problematic and more interesting when the zombies are still somewhat like the people they used to be. Plus it’s just plain fun to write about a zombie like Tina, who was zombified at fifteen and above all wants to be a normal teenager, right down to her Barbie-inspired sense of fashion.
BLI: Zombies are sometimes used to reflect the social and political issues of a time. Why do you think they make such a great parable to real life problems?
Nancy: Zombies represent the fear of what could be. This works in two ways, I think. Traditional zombies show what humans could become if all of the trappings of civilization were stripped away. What would we be without morals, speech, thought, social mores, culture, and so on? The answer to that question looks rather terrifyingly like a zombie. Because of this, zombies are the perfect medium to personify fears: fear of death and disease, fear of “the other,” fear of mindless mobs, fear of just about anything people can be or do that scares us. This gives authors and filmmakers a chance to explore how people respond to what they fear.
BLI: What makes your Deadtown special? What else can we find in your novels besides the zombies?
Nancy: Readers have told me that they enjoy how Deadtown, the place, works: the policies and politics involved in maintaining a cordoned-off section of the city for paranormals. I’ve also gotten a lot of positive feedback about how the books use Welsh mythology as a background and how I’ve developed the Cerddorion, Vicky’s race of shapeshifters. Vicky is a fun character, too. Whether she’s entering a client’s dream to exterminate a pod of dream demons, shifting into another creature, or fighting off Hellions with a flaming sword, her life is full of thrills and adventure. Many readers have told me that my books are one-sitting reads.
BLI: Your books have a strong mythological background. Why did you decide on a Welsh legend?
Nancy: I began my career as a medievalist, and I always loved the legends of King Arthur that are rooted in old Welsh stories and legends. Back in 2006, when I was developing the idea for Deadtown, I knew that I wanted my protagonist to be a shapeshifter. I remembered the story of a shapeshifting contest from the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh stories dating back as far as the 11th centuries. I reread parts of the Mabinogion and realized what a rich source it could be for contemporary fantasy: it’s got demons, prophets, witches and wizards, shapeshifters, a spooky realm of the dead. I continue to draw from it for later books in the series.
BLI: Your heroine Victory Vaughn is Boston’s only professional demon slayer but there is more to her than you can see at first glance. Can you tell us some of her secrets? What makes her special in your eyes?
I’m still discovering Vicky’s secrets, myself. One of the fun things about writing a series is how my knowledge of the characters deepens as the series continues. Vicky harbors a lot of guilt about her father’s death ten years ago, which she believes was her fault. She suffers from rages caused by the demon mark that binds her to a Hellion called the Destroyer. For years, Vicky has cursed the Destroyer for causing these rages. Secretly, though, she enjoys the release they allow her. Imagine if every time you lost your temper you could blame it on a demon.
In terms of what makes Vicky special, that’s a little like asking me what makes my daughter special, but I’ll do my best to answer.
In Vicky, I tried to write the kind of heroine I most enjoy reading about. She’s brave (in ways I’m not) and loyal. She’s smart and skilled at what she does. Beyond that, she’s a different kind of shapeshifter from others I’ve seen in urban fantasy. As one of the Cerddorion (descendants of the Welsh witch/goddess Ceridwen), Vicky can shift into any sentient creature, up to three times per lunar cycle. She can choose what she becomes, or sometimes strong emotion can force a shift. During a shift, the animal brain takes over (this effect is strongest at the full moon). I think this makes Vicky’s shifts interesting–and challenging to write!
BLI: Which 4 characteristics should a perfect heroine have in your opinion? And do you think Vicky fits this description?
Nancy: A perfect heroine is a boring heroine. Especially in a series, I think it’s important for a main character to make mistakes, learn, and grow through experience. So I guess that means a “perfect” heroine can’t be perfect; she needs to have flaws that make her believable and that she struggles to overcome. Coming at the question from that angle, my perfect heroine would be flawed, brave, smart (I don’t enjoy characters who are “too stupid to live”), and loyal. As I mentioned above, I do think Vicky has those qualities. She has problems with anger (thanks to her demon mark) and guilt that she carries from her past. Those flaws, at least as much as her good qualities, make me cheer for her, because she tries to overcome them.
BLI: What can we expect of Hellforged?
Nancy: In Hellforged, Deadtown’s zombies are dying mysterious deaths–for good this time. And the Hellion Vicky thought she’d banished to Hell is back, haunting her dreams. When Vicky realizes that she’s the only connection between the murdered zombies, she suspects that the Hellion is somehow working through her dreams to attack them, but why? To find out, Vicky must travel to Wales for further training with her aunt, a formidable demonslayer. There, she must read an ancient book determined to keep its secrets; battle her demi-demon “cousin,” who believes she’s fated to help him rule the demon kingdom; and hold back a force more terrifying—and deadly—than anything she’s fought before.
BLI: Will there be more books in this series? What is next on your schedule?
Nancy: There will be at least two more books in the series, and I’d like to see it continue for a total of seven. I’m currently working on Bloodstone, the third book, which is due out next fall. I’m also working on an idea for a dark historical fantasy that’s a standalone.
BLI: Now the mean questions. We apologize in advance.
Can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?
(1) They’re straight-up urban fantasy that’s pure escapist fun.
(2) They’re contemporary stories with roots that go deep into medieval Welsh legends.
(3) They’re fast-paced, with a cast of quirky characters. Ilona Andrews called Deadtown’s characters “so realistic they almost jump off the page.”
BLI: Can you summarize your book (and/or series) for us twitter style (140 characters or less)?
In Boston’s paranormal ghetto, shapeshifter Vicky Vaughn kills other people’s personal demons, battles Hellions, & tries to get a life.
If you’d like to learn more about Vicky and her world, you can read the first chapter of Deadtown here, and the first chapter of Hellforged here.
I’ve got a signed copy of Hellforged to give away to one book lover, open worldwide. To enter, just answer this question in the comments:
If you lived in Deadtown, the district where all Boston’s paranormal residents are required by law to live, what kind of paranormal creature would you be and why?
Nancy is generously offering one signed copy of Hellforged to one lucky commenter.
All you have to do is answer Nancy’s question at the end of the interview.
(you can read our full giveaway policy here)
Please leave us a way to contact you
(email in blogger profile or twitter name-
no way to contact you – no entry).
This giveaway is open worldwide!
Giveaway ends on Thursday, January 13th
and we will announce the winner on Friday.