Monday, February 15, 2010

INTERVIEW: Karen Chance

Sorry about today's interview going up late - school had the nerve to impose upon my time. This week I got an interview with...cue the drum roll...Karen Chance. Yes, that's right, NYT best-selling author Karen Chance was nice enough to let me pester her with questions and now it's my pleasure to say....Oh! Look! Karen Chance has answered questions! Go. Read. Gush. Enjoy.

(1) So, I guess I may as well start with the basics: how exactly did Karen Chance break into the publishing world?

Basically, I was lucky. I couldn’t interest an agent in my work; everyone just told me it wasn’t marketable. But being the stubborn sort, I decided not to take their word for it and sent out a few copies of Touch the Dark to the few publishers I could find who would read unsolicited manuscripts (AKA, those without an agent.) And in two weeks I had a contract. I also had several offers after I’d already signed with Penguin, so apparently somebody disagreed with the agents. It’s why I tell unpublished authors not to always assume that the agents who are rejecting them know what they’re talking about. Some don’t know the market as well as you might think. If you believe in your story, make it as good as you possibly can and submit it on your own. You never know.

(2) Your original series dealt with Cassie Palmer, a ghost whisperer slash clairvoyant, who ends up dab smack in the middle of a magical war and suddenly in possession of power than she knows what to do with. Obviously my first question here is how you came up with this stuff?

People always ask me that and I always feel guilty because I don’t have an answer. At least, not a good one. I have spent years studying history and mythology, sometimes for my classes at university and other times for fun, and it just evolved. Part of what made it come together for me was my sister loaning me some urban fantasy books to read. I’d always read a lot of fantasy, but urban fantasy was a new genre for me. I loved it, but I also saw some areas/topics that weren’t being addressed and voila—a series was born.

(3) The character of Cassie is great: she’s got all of this power she doesn’t know how to use, all of these factions wanting either kill her or control her and yet still manages to have the heroic sense of right and wrong and the will to stick to it. Exactly how do you envision her evolution?
I try never to spoil my own books, so I can’t be too definite here. I can say, however, that the Tarot card motif in Cassie’s books is there for a reason. Cassie started out as the Fool—not stupid, but very na├»ve/ignorant about the way her world works. She is slowly progressing through the major arcana as the books progress, and is gaining more experience/confidence along the way.

I wanted to do something different with Cassie, to show a regular person thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Some people don’t like her because they find her “weak” in comparison with other kick-butt supernatural heroines. I can accept that, although that is changing somewhat as the story goes on. But I think her struggles are more realistic and, to me anyway, more interesting than someone who is super powerful to begin with and doesn’t have to put forth much effort to beat up the bad guys.

The Fool's Journey takes someone from the early stages of life to their ultimate best destiny, with lessons and dangers along the way. It's about growing up, gaining experience, exploring your abilities and learning to trust your own judgment. It's the quentissential coming of age story as told through the tarot.

(4) This series you’ve mentioned is meant to be nine books long, with four published and one more on contract. Have you any idea when you’ll learn the fate of the remaining four would-be books?
I assume sometime this year or next. I’m hopeful, and cautiously optimistic, about the life of the series. The first four books have done reasonably well, so here’s hoping I’ll be allowed to finish the story.

(5) Right, so, it has to be brought up: Here’s Cassie running about trying to do the right thing, stay alive, and not incite anyone else to add her to their hit-list. And then there’s Pritkin and Mircea. How would you define these guys and their relationship to Cassie?
In the major arcana motif, Pritkin is the Magician that Cassie encounters on her journey. In the books, he’s a mage who acts as a cross between her bodyguard and her teacher, trying to get her self-defense abilities up enough that she isn’t a sitting duck. He’s also one of her main links to the human part of the magical community. Mircea is the Emperor in the major arcana, a strong, powerful individual who can also be quite manipulative. In the books, he’s a master vampire who constitutes Cassie’s main link to the senate—the governing body of the vampires. He’s also her sort-of-kind-of-maybe love interest, although Cassie hasn’t had a lot of time to decide how she feels about that. The relationships of all the characters are evolving as the series does.

(6) There is a heavy historical element to your books, what with all the time jumping and “Oh, this character is actually so-and-so” – this being the case, exactly how much research goes into these books?
A good amount. I once spent the better part of two days trying to find out what color carpet a particular London theatre had in 1889. I tend to be a little obsessive about the details, because I think it makes the books read as more realistic if I get them correct.

(7) In the first Cassie book there is this one scene set in the parking lot out back of Dante’s – and then it seems everything keeps going back there in the following books. Was this intentional? How far ahead/detailed do you outline?
Yes, it was intentional. I knew that there were parts of Touch the Dark that wouldn’t make sense until later, and just had to hope that people would trust me to tie it all up. As for plotting, I have the whole series outlined, meaning that I know the basic things that need to be in each book. But I don’t have such a rigid, play-by-play concept that it isn’t malleable. If I come up with a really good idea, there’s enough give that I can usually slot it in. And if not, I can always do a short story about it!

(8) Now, spinning off from the Cassie series is the Dory series, starring the half-human, half-vamp daughter of Mircea. How long after creating Cassie did the idea for Dory emerge? Pretty soon. I do a lot of back story on my characters, and she was always part of Mircea’s. And her first book was actually written quite early on. It forms a diptych with Claimed by Shadow, the second Cassie book, finishing up a major plot point from that book. I intended it to come out after CBS, which is when I wrote it, but the powers that be at Penguin had other ideas.

(9) Dory is almost the complete opposite of Cassie – is it difficult to shift from one perspective to the other with the writing?
No, not really. Maybe because they are very different, they each exist as a complete, separate entity in my head. I think if they were more alike, it would be harder not to have things bleed over.

(10) And then you have Lia who has starred in three short stories by now – how exactly does she fit into the larger picture, or does she?
Everything fits together into the overall storyline, although Lia is not a main character in the events Cassie has to deal with. Basically, she was a way for me to do some very fun things with the Weres and war mages without overly complicating the Cassie books (any more than they already are!)

(11) All of your books and short stories to date have been set in the same world, however none of the characters have met or seem to even be aware of each other. Do you ever plan on having them crossover?
Actually, there’s plenty of characters who have met—Dory knows Mircea, Radu and Marlowe, for example, all of whom know each other and are known to Cassie. But I assume you are talking about the main protagonists (Dory and Cassie haven’t met yet, for example). But it’s pretty much a given that that’s only a matter of time. Cassie is dating Dory’s father, after all!

(12) Have you any plans to write anything outside of the Cassie/Dory/Lia world? What about future plans once these stories have concluded?
I have tons of other things I’d like to do, but first I’d like to finish what I’ve started! There’s five Cassie’s and at least three Dory books left to go, and as anyone who reads me will tell you, I don’t write as fast as some. So I have plenty to keep me busy for the time being.

(13) With over a year until your next publication, you’ve made mention of taking the opportunity to write free short stories to be posted on your site featuring Mircea, Pritkin and others to tell back-story that wouldn’t have a place in the main tales. Have you any details to share on these?
I’ve promised a Pritkin POV, a Mircea POV and a Francoise POV, and there’s also a good chance I’ll manage to squash in one more. They should be fun. The books are first-person from the heroine’s perspective, so it will be nice to change that up a bit.

(14) Finally, some random questions about you: a. What are your hobbies aside from writing?
Cooking (badly), travel, music (listening, I don’t play any instrument known to man) and small, useless dogs.
b. Could you please describe your dream day?
Right now? A day with nothing to do!
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes?
Three more of me. I could definitely use the extra hands—and brains!

And there you have it, boils and ghouls. Don't forget that the FREE online short featuring Pritkin front and centre is going to be released in just a few weeks - March 31! And be sure to check out Karen's site for news on upcoming books.


Cindy Dachuk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SciFiGuy said...

Calliope please email me. You won one of the books at my blog from the Jeaniene Frost interview. Didn't have a contact email for you.

Hi Karen read all the Cassandrta books and love your new series although I haven't had a chance (no pun intended)to read the second Dorina book yet.

Anonymous said...

I love Karen Chance. So excited to hear there are 3 more Dory books! What to do in the meantime!

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,
I love your books they are so funny, please more Pritkin!! I love that man.