Wednesday, July 21, 2010

INTERVIEW: Molly Harper

Right, so I think I've cleared the back-log of interviews from before I had my tech-malfunction, and that means new interviews! That's right, boils and ghouls, I've got brand-spanking new interviews hot off the inbox, so buckle your seat belts and get prepare yourselves to be wowed!

First up this week is author Molly Harper who wrote the terrific and original vampire series about the newly-turned Jane Jameson and only just released a contemporary romance entitled, And One Last Thing... Now, without further adieu, enjoy!

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

I wrote NICE GIRLS DON'T HAVE FANGS while working as a church secretary.

People seem to find that amusing.

I took the job at the church after leaving a reporting position with my hometown newspaper. For six years, I covered school board meetings, quilt shows, a man “losing” the fully grown bear he kept as a pet in his basement, and a guy who faked his death by shark attack in Florida and ended up tossing pies at a local pizzeria. I loved my job at the paper. I loved meeting new people every day and never knowing where I would end up. But somehow, the newsroom schedule and my husband’s police shifts did not equal "family friendly." One of us needed to take a normal job for the sake of our young daughter.

I took a secretarial position at the church, which left me with dependably free evenings for the first time in my adult life. We were living in "The Apartment of Lost Souls" while building our new home. This was the place where appliances and small electronics went to die. Every night, I would sit and wait for the washing machine to start smoking or the dishwasher to vomit soap on the floor. Then, there was the plague of frogs in the bathroom that put our daughter off potty-training for about six months. It was either write a book, or go slowly insane.

Being a huge fan of vampire movies and TV shows, I wondered, what would be the most humiliating way possible to be turned into a vampire- a story that a vampire would be embarrassed to share with their vampire buddies over a nice glass of Type O. Well, first, our poor heroine gets canned so her boss could replace her with someone who occasionally starts workplace fires. She drowns her sorrows at the local faux nostalgia-themed sports bar and during the commute home, she's mistaken for a deer and then shot by a drunk hunter. And then she wakes up as a vampire. And thus, Jane Jameson and the wacky denizens of Half-Moon Hollow were born.

It took me almost a year to complete and edit a draft of the book, which I planned as the first in a three-book series. I spent three months using to ruthlessly stalk potential literary agents. (There were a lot of lists involved, I don't want to re-live it.) I was gently rejected by at least half of them. I corresponded with some very nice, very patient people, but ultimately signed with the fabulous Stephany Evans of Fine Print Literary Management. Stephany was willing to take to the time to give me advice on how to improve my book before she even signed me. That meant a lot. And when she sold the series at auction to Pocket Books about a month later, it was obvious I'd made the right choice.

(2) Is writing a full-time job or have you got an alter-ego thing going on à la Clark Kent?
I am very much a Clark Kent. I work as an editorial assistant for a medical society. I write at night and on the weekends. Also, I wear glasses.

(3) Your first series deals with Jane Jameson – a fledgling vampire slash bibliophile – as she adjusts to her new life. What inspirations led you to develop your mythology?
I don’t know if I have a mythology per se. I tried to treat vampirism as a disease, a medical condition. And that sucked away a lot of superstitious rules like not being able to enter the home unless invited, fearing crosses and holy water. Other rules I needed to keep for plot purposes, i.e., being allergic to silver and sunlight. It was sort of a patchwork process.

(4) Jane is...a pretty unique take on the vampire heroine. I mean, with the exception of being locked into the nightlife and having a liquid-diet, her life is pretty normal. How did your take on vampires come to be?
I wanted my vampires to be regular Joes with everyday problems, who just happen to have fangs. I figured not every vampire is going to have a castle and a satin-lined cape to fall back on. I flatter myself in hoping that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an influence on the way I write vampires. What I loved about the show was that it explored all of these heavy, emotional topics, but through vampires and demons. Buffy finally sleeps with her boyfriend, only to have him lose his soul and go all evil. Buffy goes away to college and her roommate is a soul-sucking, annoying weirdo from another dimension. It showed that scifi/fantasy can be cool and scary, but still smart and emotionally relevant. I don’t know if my scope is quite that wide, but I’m working on it.

(5) Now, Gabriel. How would describe your hero Jane’s love interest?
Gabriel is an old-fashioned guy. He’s lived apart from the modern world for the most part, so it’s confusing for him to encounter a woman like Jane. She says exactly what she thinks, even if it would be better if she held her tongue. He finds that intriguing. But at the same time, she exasperates him with her stubbornness and her unwillingness to just let him step in and take care of her problems for her. He would do anything for Jane, which leads him into some fairly stupid decisions. Fortunately, he’s a good enough person to find a way to make up for them.

Oh, and did I mention he’s super-hot?

(6) The relationship between Jane and Gabriel has had its rocky moments but some how it all comes out seeming a lot more real because of it. Has it be hard setting the development of their relationship?
Yes, and no. I needed to maintain that conflict throughout several books, because who wants to read three books where the main character is in a happy, settled, schmoopy relationship? That would be annoying.

At the same time, I felt bad pitting Gabriel and Jane against each other. They are capable of hurting each other deeply, but they also work best when they’re together. Having Jane spend time away from Gabriel is like benching your best player. It all works out in the end, though.

(7) How exactly did you come up with your characters? Are any of them based on real people?
I’ve only based one character on a real person, and that’s my husband. He’s the inspiration for the yummy ex-cop neighbor in AND ONE LAST THING. Everybody else either came to me fully-formed, (Mr. Wainwright) or their personality traits are sort of a mishmash of what I needed for the plot.

(8) You’re now moving on to new projects, if your upcoming releases are anything to go by. Does this mean Jane’s story is over?
My agent has proposed a fourth Jane book to the publisher, but no decision has been made. I would be happy either way. As much as I love writing about Jane and the gang, I don’t want to push the series to the point where it loses its spark.

(9) Your most recent release, One Last Thing..., was lacking of vampires, werewolves, and all things that go bump. Why the change?
I was between books 2 and 3 in the Jane series. At that point, I’d been writing about vampires for a while and I wanted to do something a little different. My deadline for book 3 was a ways off and I was due to have our son at any moment. I had an idea for AND ONE LAST THING, and decided to spend my maternity leave working on it. It’s about a woman who finds out her husband is cheating, and uses his company mailing list to tell everyone they know what he’s been up to. She’s exiled from her little town and has to rebuild her life from there. She meets the aforementioned yummy ex-cop neighbor, wacky romance and half-naked hijinks ensue.

I finished the book in about two months. My son would sleep during the day. I would throw in a load of laundry and work on my manuscript, instead of, you know, sleeping, like a normal person. It’s the fastest I’ve ever written a book. I think because I didn’t have to be so careful about the vampire rules, and just write about interactions between characters.

(10) Do you plan on writing more contemporary romances?
I do have several more ideas for contemporaries, but I’ll always come back to paranormal romances. It’s where I’m most comfortable.

(11) Your next publication, How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf, won’t be coming out until February 22, 2011. This book is the start of a brand new series, obviously taking on werewolves instead of vamps. What can you tell us about this book?
Well, I think the cover blurb is safe to reveal, so here goes:

Even in Grundy, Alaska, it's unusual to find a naked guy with a bear-trap clamped to his ankle on your front porch. But when said guy turns into a wolf, recent southern transplant Mo Wenstein has no difficulty identifying the problem. Her surly neighbor Cooper Graham - who has been openly critical of Mo's ability to adapt to life up North - has trouble of his own. Werewolf trouble.

For Cooper, an Alpha in self-imposed exile from his dysfunctional pack, it's love at first sniff when it comes to Mo. But he has an even more pressing concern on his mind. Several people around Grundy have been the victims of wolf attacks, and since Cooper has no memory of what he gets up to while in werewolf form, he's worried that he might be the violent canine in question.

If a wolf cries wolf, it makes sense to listen. Mo is convinced that Cooper is not the culprit. But if he's not responsible, then who is? Life is complicated when a when you fall head over haunches in love.

(12) Is it set within the same world as Jane’s books? Are the werewolves the same sort as we saw in that series?

Let’s say the world is “adjacent” to Jane’s world. And yes, the werewolves are the same, with a more specific pack structure.

(13) The second book in that series, How to Talk to a Naked Werewolf, is due out just a month later on March 29, 2011. Have you any other releases scheduled for 2011?

I think the title has been changed to HOW TO FALL FOR A NAKED WEREWOLF. My title skills are weak, so they always seem to be in flux. At the moment, that is my last release for a while, but if you watch my web site and blog, I may be making an announcement soon.

(14) How many books do you envision the Naked Werewolf series to have? In a perfect world that is where the whims of the publisher wouldn’t matter.

Three. I’ve written about half of a third book, I’m just waiting for the publisher to decide whether they’re interested in expanding the series to a trilogy.

(15)What sort of research is done per book? Any particular texts you rely on? Could you break down your research process?
Most of my research consists of Googling to make sure my pop culture references are spelled correctly.

(16) Finally, some random questions about you: a. What are your hobbies aside from writing? Hmmm. I remember having hobbies… I used to cross-stitch and decorate cakes. But I don’t have time for either, anymore. I make my kids’ birthday cakes when they let me.
b. Could you please describe your dream day? I wake up and the kids have already dressed themselves and eaten a well-balanced breakfast. (Quite an accomplishment for a 2-year-old and 5-year-old.) I drop them off at pre-school, where they practically vault out of the car, because they are so happy to be there. I zip on over to the day spa to get rubbed, scrubbed and pampered. At some point, Alexander Skarsgaard drops by to administer my footrub.

I get home around lunchtime to find that some wonderful soul has done all the laundry, put away the dishes and picked up lunch for me from my favorite Chinese restaurant. Pot-stickers in hand, I retire to my office, where I write until it’s time to go pick up the kids.

I come home to find my loving husband waiting for me, with dinner prepared. (To be fair, he normally does this anyway.) We have a meal that does not involve screaming, crying, food being flung on the floor, or my food getting cold because someone needs to be taken to the potty.

The kids are practically chomping at the bit to go to bed. I get to spend the evening watching Castle re-runs with my husband.
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes? -That all of the calories in cheesecake magically evaporate.

-That I could live in a world where I’m a full-time writer.

-That the Jane Jameson books get adapted into a movie starring Jenna Fischer and James Marsden. (I used to want Gerard Butler to play Gabriel, but then he went and single-handedly murdered the romantic comedy with “The Ugly Truth.”)

Wait, should I have wished for world peace? DANG IT!

So, like it's mentioned above, Molly's next release, How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf, isn't until Feb, 2011, but in the mean time be sure to check out her backlist and pop on over to visit her website.


SylviaSybil said...

Did not know there was going to be a new series out. The blurb sounds interesting - because there's nothing that can't be made more awkward by stripping someone naked. :P

Allison said...

Great interview! Now I REALLY need to pick up these books.

aka Dingo Baby