What’s happenin’, folks? We hope you’re having a fab day so far–and if you aren’t, we’ve got just the thing for that. Urban fantasy author (and registered nurse!) Cassie Alexander has stopped by today for an interview about…well, everything! Four of us teamed up to barrage Ms. Alexander with questions from her books and writing to her life past and present–and she was totally up to the challenge. ^_^ What results is a fascinating, revealing, epic interview. We hope you enjoy it, because she sure did! ^_^
Cassie Alexander’s debut novel, Nightshifted, was released this last May, and its followup, Moonshifted, is slated for release this November. (Don’t forget to check out the end of this post for some Nightshifted giveaway goodness!)
BLI: Hi Cassie, welcome to Book Lovers Inc! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Cassie: Hi! My name is Cassie, and my hobbies include wearing white cat hair on black clothing, listening to Pretty Lights, and going to Disneyland.
Stella: In the bio on your website it is said you are a registered nurse. Are you still working as a nurse now that the Edie Spence trilogy took off or have you taken some time off to write? Can you tell us a bit more about your typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser? How do you manage to coordinate your double life as a nurse and an urban fantasy author?
Cassie: I’m still working nights, part-time. (She says, while answering these questions on break at work.) Unfortunately, the life of a glamorous urban fantasy author doesn’t include pedestrian concerns like health insurance or retirement benefits, so I’ll be working for quite a while longer.
I’ve already turned in the next two books in the series, so last year I juggled working and writing two books in one year. It did nearly kill me. That’s not how I’d prefer to have done it all, but it is nice, now, to know that everything’s finished.
Because my schedule’s weird – it’s not set, I work every other weekend, and pick up random nights in between — I require a lot of stability in the rest of my life. A crazy life is great for stuff to write about, not so great when you’re doing the actual writing. I’m very lucky – and planned very well – that my job’s part time, I earn decent money at it, and that my husband is amazingly supportive of my writing career.
My typical day of writing is built around not being picky on where I write or how long I write for. I prefer to be at home or at a coffee shop with music playing during daylight hours…but I’ll write on break at work, I’ll write until late-late at night on my off nights if I need to stay up, and I’ve got a recorder app on my phone that I use in the car. I try not to be mad at myself if I don’t write, too, accepting what I can do and when I can do it is half the battle of getting stuff done. I’m pretty good at binge-writing when I can, when my schedule allows it.
I’m somewhere between a planner and a pantser. I’d like to be more coordinated, and I make strong efforts to outline, but I find that I write better if I listen to myself as I’m writing along and try not to force a book to go where I want it to go. I can corner myself for days, trying to do what I think needs to be done, only to realize that my gut or the book was right and I should just relax and do what feels right to write next.
BLI: What do you think is the difference between a reader and a real Book Lover?
Cassie: Wow. That is a tough question.
I don’t want to disparage any readers or reading in any way – I’m very willing to take any readers that are interested in my books! 😉 I would also say that anyone that self describes as a book lover deserves to be one, no matter the metric used. I would want that term to be very inclusive.
But I would say that book lovers are more willing to take risks and try out new authors and they probably enjoy talking books up more to their friends. They’re the people looking for new stories to enjoy, and when they find them, they’re really good about getting the word out. In a way, they’re like the editors/agents/gatekeepers of the reader world – they really do want to love what they read, for it to excite them, so that they in turn can get other people excited about it.
I would say (in increasingly frightening generalizations, aie!) that readers at large are more content to read what they already know that they’ll like. Maybe they have less time to search out new books, or they’re interested in having that comfort experience of reading the same type of book from the same type of author repeatedly. Which there is nothing at all wrong with – I’m prone to do that too. Sometimes it’s nice to know what ride you’re going on ahead of time.
I think as an author (who admits to overthinking things in general) you really hope both groups are eventually interested in your book. It’s the book lovers that’ll help to get the word out when you’re starting off, but it’s probably the readers who’ll keep buying book after book that keep you solidly employed after a while. It’s the whole indie versus commercial success conundrum. I hate to be gauche, but frankly, I want the one where I get to keep my real life job (being sneezed at, bled on, and occasionally punched or kicked at) part-time.
Stella: Your debut novel Nightsthifted, the 1st book in the Edie Spence trilogy was released in May and its sequel Moonshifted is planned to be released in November, congratulations! 😀 Can you tell our readers what they can expect of Nightshifted and the Edie Spence trilogy?
Cassie: Thanks! 😉
The entire trilogy is really about Edie finding her place in the world – only her world is being a nurse who takes care of supernatural creatures mostly against her will. It’s (hopefully) gritty and realistic and honest and strange. It’ll be like that all the way through.
Stella: The Edie Spence trilogy takes place in a unique universe where supernatural creatures exist, but the world (=mostly humans) is unaware of their existence due to the Shadows. Edie Spence the heroine works as a nurse in a supernatural hospital. How did the idea for the story, the trilogy come to you? Any specific moment/event that sparked the inspiration for it that you could share with us?
Cassie: I’d been pushing back on writing anything about the hospital for a while because I didn’t feel like I didn’t know enough as a new nurse…and then I needed more sedation on a patient, and a doctor wouldn’t believe me when they were crawling out of bed overnight. (It is one of life’s greatest ironies that patients wear themselves out trying to escape all night long, and then when they’ve exhausted themselves and finally sleep is when the doctors come by in the morning and think that you were a) an idiot or b) lying when you frantically called.)
It was after a night or two of that, I thought, “That’s it. You’re going in a book,” and the introduction to Nightshifted unfolded.
Stella: You are a nurse just like Edie. How much of your own life and experience did you include in her character and reactions?
Cassie: Argh. Certain parts of it are a lot (too much) like me. I don’t think most of the world realizes how scary and frightening being a nurse, especially a new nurse, is. It’s really not that far a stretch from getting patients in from the jails and gang shootings and talking to the walls while detoxing to dealing with vampires. I think a lot of her reactions are like mine. In real life I spend a fair amount of time each shift thinking, “Come on. Are you kidding me?”
Stella: When did you decide to make a trilogy of Edie’s story: did you know right at the beginning that telling Edie’s story necessitated 3 novels or the idea grew and took shape while you were writing the first book Nightshifted? When will we be able to read the next books in the series? And can you tell us what the 3rd novel will be titled?
Cassie: The third book is called Shapeshifted, and it’ll be out late next May.
I made sure to write Nightshifted as a standalone book, but I knew from the beginning that it would have series potential, so I made sure to leave myself wiggle room to write additional novels.
BLI: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read Nightshifted?
Cassie: People should read Nightshifted because they like urban fantasy novels or medical dramas, and because each book sold helps support my cat’s lavish lifestyle.
BLI: Could you please summarize Nightshifted/the trilogy for us Twitter-style (in 140 characters or less)?
Nightshifted is the story of Edie Spence, a nurse who works on a ward for supernatural creatures.
Anna: Edie’s love interest is a zombie, a choice not that common in novels (at least those I have read 🙂 ). How did you decide on a zombie and not another paranormal creature?
Cassie: It felt right at the time I was writing it. I write to entertain myself first, which is one of the reasons (for good or for bad) that Nightshifted covers a lot of ground, and I knew I wanted to get a zombie in it somehow. Then once I wrote Ti in, I realized who he’d be to Edie, and things went from there. I think subconsciously I was pushing back from the romantic norm, and I wanted an opportunity to take the road less travelled and to surprise readers, as I was surprising myself.
Anna: If you somehow found out that a secret ward for paranormal creatures in a hospital did exist, what would be your first reaction?
Cassie: “Oh God, don’t make me float there!” (Float shifts are when they send you from your home unit to some other place in the hospital. ;))
Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why?
Cassie: That’s a surprisingly hard question. Everyone everyone? That’s a lot of people!
I’m tempted to cop out and give you a non-fiction book (The Red Market ;)) but – I think everyone should read Alice in Wonderland. At least once in their life. It’s whimsical and absurd, but it’s also subversive. It’s funny how it’s safe for us to give to kids, but once we grow up we don’t read anything else as crazy or surreal, maybe for the entire rest of our life.
Cassie: Probably my mom. She’s the one who taught me how to read. Then I had this eye-thing where no one knew I couldn’t see much until the 3rd grade…so all I could do was read. (It’s sort of a miracle I didn’t get killed by a car or concussed by running into a tree at full tilt until then.)
After that, so many lovely wonderful librarians. Especially the ones in middle school that let me hide out and secretly eat lunch in the back. They didn’t foster what I read – I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on — but they provided a safe space for me to read it in when I really needed it.
Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?
Cassie: I think I always knew I wanted to write, which was closely related to the fact that books were the only things I could interact with during formative years of my life. I had some time off in my early 20s and I read an interview someone did with Sue Grafton, who said she wrote two pages a day. I thought, “Well, I can do that…” and proceeded to do until I’d finished a book. Not a great book, mind you, but it was a whole book! After that, I figured out that I could do it again, and again…
I’ve always been writing for myself though. No one encouraged me to write in particular, there weren’t any other authors in my day-to-day life. It’s just been that my whole life, everything that I am, that makes me me, I’ve pretty much learned from books. Who I wanted to be, how I should treat other people, how I wanted other people to treat me. And my books in turn reflect those decisions about my life and myself. They’re what I want to think about in my free time, the struggles and noble moments I want my characters to experience on my behalf, they’re how I show myself (and maybe other people) just what challenges can be met and overcome.
Alisha: I imagine that other nurses can identify with and have a special enjoyment of Nightshifted. ^_^ Have you gotten any fan reaction from readers in the medical profession? Do their comments differ at all from those not in the industry?
Cassie: I have gotten a lot of fan mail from nurses and respiratory therapists and home health professionals. Not that I don’t love fan mail at all times (‘cause I do!) but those notes are particularly special, I’ve got them all flagged in a folder in my inbox. It really makes my night when I’m at work and I covertly check my email, and I’ve gotten a note from another night shift nurse who’s reading my book at work at the facility she’s working at across the country. If I make someone else’s night at the hospital go by a little faster, I’ve done my job.
Alisha: I’d heard that the Nightshifted story ended up in a successful bidding session amongst publishers–but after about 50 agents had turned it down! Certainly, that uphill climb is something that many aspiring authors face…do you have any advice for writers who are trying to break into getting published?
Cassie: Keep writing, be patient, and send out your stuff.
The more you write, the better you’ll be at it, honestly. It’s going to take a while to get good, and then even longer to get anyone else to agree with you. Make sure you’re sending your stuff out to the right places, and then send it out there until there’s no place left for it to go – while working on a new project as fast as you can so you can keep improving in the meantime.
Alisha: So, Nightshifted is technically a debut novel, but it’s far from being the first novel you’ve written. Is there any chance some of your previous work will make its way to the reading public?
Cassie: Hmmmm. I have one book that I still love from my past, but it’s weird. Really really weird. (I showed it to my agent. She agrees that it’s weird.) It’s part of a duology. I don’t have time to write the second one right now, or I’d be tempted to just set it loose on the world. Maybe later on though.
BLI: What is next on your schedule? Any future plans you’d like to share with us?
Cassie: Mostly just seeing out Moonshifted and Shapeshifted over the course of the next year. I’m working on some other projects, but they’re mostly under wraps, except for when I complain about them on twitter ;).
Where to find Cassie:
Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine—from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…
Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying words—Save Anna—and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this …
Cassie Alexander has very generously offered a paperback copy of her novel Nightshifted, for one lucky commenter!
All you have to do is leave a meaningful comment or tell us: Do you know any nurses in real life?
(You can read our full giveaway policy here)
Please be sure to include a valid email address in the comment form (need not be in the actual body of the comment).
This giveaway is open to all!
Giveaway ends on Saturday, August 4, 2012; we will announce the winner on Sunday.