Michelle Rowen and I have never met. We’ve never read each other’s books. We’re basically two authors who don’t have much in common except that we both belong to the League of Reluctant Adults and our forthcoming August 25 vampire releases have remarkably similar covers.
My upcoming book, NICE GIRLS DON'T DATE DEAD MEN, is the second in the Jane Jameson series. It follows Jane as she helps her friend, Zeb, plan his Titanic-themed wedding to the werewolf Jolene. Zeb's mom seems intent on breaking up the wedding so Zeb can marry Jane. Her grandmother seems to be dating a geriatric Bluebeard. And her sire/boyfriend, Gabriel, is being deceptive and taking calls from a mysterious woman named Jeanine. With all these complications, Zeb’s nuptials seem as doomed as the gigantic ship.
TALL, DARK & FANGSOME is the fifth and final book in Michelle’s Immortality Bites series. Sarah deals with blackmail from the leader of the vampire hunters, a curse that turns her into a deadly nightwalker (aka: an evil sun-fearing vamp), and a masked vampire vigilante. Sarah has to fight hard if she wants that happily ever after with master vampire Thierry. Will she get it? Stay tuned.
So we sat down this week to chat about writing, characters, and Hugh Jackman. Enjoy!
MOLLY: You know, the last time I was in a chat room was in college.
MICHELLE: When I was in college, we didn't have chat rooms. In ancient times the chat rooms were actually rooms. In which we chatted.
MOLLY: Ahh, the innocent preChris Hansen days...
MICHELLE: I hesitate to admit I have no idea who Chris Hansen is.
MOLLY: Chris Hansen is the guy who's always busting sex predators on Dateline. … Well, there’s no graceful segway after that. Why don’t you tell me a little something about yourself. How did you get started in your vampire writing career?
MICHELLE: Sure. I always wanted to be a writer. But it took me a long time before I realized that in order to be a writer I needed to actually, uh, write. I played with a bunch of beginnings to books, but never had a real plan. It wasn't until I was in mourning for the cancellation of Buffy, my fave show of all time, that I felt the need to express this on paper. Which is why I originally picked vampires. You?
MOLLY: I was a newspaper reporter. My schedule was crazy and I needed a normal job so I could take care of our little girl. I took a job as a church secretary. I had nights off for the first time ever and all this energy to write! It wasn't being sucked out of me during my normal three-news story workday. We were living in this horrible apartment while we built our house. Something broke down every night and I was desperate for an outlet. I've always love vampire stories. I wanted to create the most embarrassing way to be turned into a vampire ever. Something a vampire would be embarrassed to tell another vampire. So my character is mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead. A handsome fanged fellow happens by and turns her.
MICHELLE: Was she shot by Dick Cheney??
MOLLY: Ha! No, but she meets a vampire named Dick Cheney. Somehow, I thought he would seem all the more evil. But he's my favorite character. He gets all the good lines.
MICHELLE: My fledgling was turned into a vamp by her blind date from hell. That line seems to best sum up the series quickly, even though it's only a small part of Sarah’s story.
MOLLY: Aw. That's so much worse than waking up with herpes.
MICHELLE: I would imagine it is.
MOLLY: So what is your writing schedule like? (Tell me of life writing full-time? Is it beautiful there?)
MICHELLE: It is lovely and temperate here. However, there's a lot more time for procrastination and internet surfing. When I'm in the midst of writing a first draft, I like to do 15 pages most days. I'm a binge writer. I finish my first draft in six weeks, take two weeks to recoup, then do the second draft in a month. Three months per book.
MOLLY: Whoa. No wonder you write 4 a year! I tip my hat to you, madam. I thought I was doing well writing 1,000 words a day.
MICHELLE: Every day?? I couldn't write every day. That kind of consistency is just not in me. I’m way too flaky for that.
MOLLY: That's where newspaper background has come in handy. I wrote every day, whether I was inspired or not. You can't wait for the muse to strike when an editor is yelling at you.
MICHELLE: But 1000 words a day is a book every three months. Just like me.
MOLLY: Not the way I rewrite. It's a long painful process. I think DEAD MEN is the most rewrites I've ever done on a manuscript. The changes were drastic. And the ending changed at least four or five times.
MICHELLE: My plots are fairly solid after first draft. I'm having a bit more trouble getting deep POV lately since I’ve been writing more third person POVs. I'm most natural in first.
MOLLY: So, how much of "you" is in your character?
MICHELLE: Good question. Originally I would have said a lot. But as the series progressed, Sarah became her own person. We share the same sense of humor, same speech patterns, mostly. In fact, a lot of people I know who read the series say she sounds just like me. Only Sarah's way hotter and she has gorgeous men after her a bit more than I do. Just a bit.
So, now in your writing, do you find your heroine’s starting to make the rules? Sarah started fighting me on lots of things, especially when it came to her choice in the love triangle I set up for her. She was very stubborn.
MOLLY: Not really, I always had a trajectory in mind for where Jane was headed. My problem is always my secondary characters. I have these wacky fun side characters, and while they're compelling, they ultimately distract for the story. So they are ruthlessly deleted. Which is why I am adding a character graveyard to my web site to honor all the characters deleted from my original drafts. There's always at least one that gets the axe.
MICHELLE: Funny. My secondary characters are fairly well behaved, but Sarah's been a regular PITA for me. Then again, if Sarah had chosen the guy I'd originally picked for her, it would likely have been only one book, not five. So I guess I can't complain too much. Do you picture any actors in the roles of your characters?
MOLLY: I always picture a "cast" before I start writing. To me, Jane is Jenna Fischer from the Office. Who is Sarah in your head?
MICHELLE: Sandra Bullock. No question. Who’s your hero?
MOLLY: Gabriel is based on Gerard Butler in Dracula 2000, at least appearance-wise. I have no shame.
MICHELLE: Mine's Hugh Jackman. Angsty, non-jazzy Hugh Jackman.
MOLLY: Nothing as off-putting as a supernatural creature with jazz hands.
MOLLY: It’s funny, though, because I used Hugh Jackman as a template for the hero in my non-paranormal romance coming out in summer 2010
MICHELLE: Oooh. New project. Do tell.
MOLLY: The untitled book- I absolutely stink at coming up with titles, it’s a curse- is about a woman who finds out her husband is cheating, so she announces their impending divorce in a DETAILED mass email to family, friends and clients. She's exiled to a little lakeside cabin, where she meets a crime writer with an unfortunate buttock-related nickname. And he happens to look just like Wolverine, sans the muttonchops, which stirs her closet comic-book movie geek soul.
MOLLY: No claws... hmmm
MICHELLE: I've got you thinking about the fabulous claw potential.
MOLLY: Yes, yes, I am.
MICHELLE: Will there be more Nice Girl books?
MOLLY: Right now, I'm contracted for three. Who knows what the future will bring? I think I'll always be wiling to come back to Jane. So how about you? Any non-vampire related projects forthcoming? (Werewolves? Humans? Mutants?)
MICHELLE: I have a bunch of stuff coming out that's non-vamp related. A YA series about demons, a paranormal series about demons, a Harlequin Blaze about paranormal investigators. Uh... and right now I'm starting to write an urban fantasy duology about, well, vampires. But it's dark, not comedic.
MOLLY: Is it difficult for you to turn off the humor? I just can't seem to do that.
MICHELLE: You know... the humor thing is strange for me. I don't try to write funny. In fact, I sent my most recent book to my agent thinking it might be a bit dark, and he emailed me commenting on how hilarious it was. I might be paraphrasing, of course. I like to think he said it was hilarious. It's subject matter, mostly. Lighter, less deadly situations have room for humor. Deadly and dangerous stuff...less so. I always say that the situations my characters are in aren't all that funny, but the characters themselves are funny. If that makes any sense.
MOLLY: I apparently have no gauge for dark/deadly situations. I just finished a werewolf-based romance set in Alaska. I was all excited when my agent read it, because I thought it was a new, darker territory for me. Not so much. I must have watched too much Brady Bunch growing up.
I feel myself pulling away from going too dark, though. I don’t want to scare people in my Sunday School class. I already feel weird enough that people have “seen inside my head” when it comes to love scenes. Does is it ever weird you out that people you know read your books?
MICHELLE: At least not yet. My books, at least the ones in my vampire series are kind of tame. One of my biggest reader complaints is that I close the door to the bedroom, but to me it suited the series to keep things more on the sweeter side. But I’m not afraid of spicing things up in the right place. I'm curious to see what the reaction will be to my Blaze in November, both from readers and from my family (no bedroom doors are shut in this one!). I always figure, I read mega steamy stuff written by my friends and I’m never shocked and apalled. I'm all "more please!" LOL. So hopefully, sexing things up in my future books won’t freak anyone out too badly.
MOLLY: How do you feel about our books being “cover twins?” And then, to ad insult to injury, they're both released on August 25. (That's right people, August 25.)
MICHELLE: I'm fine with it. I loved your first cover. I may have even been a bit jealous. And the simultaneous release date is not an insult in any way. That's a light vampiric bonanza for readers who want a DOUBLE DOSE OF FUN FUN FUN!
MOLLY: Speaking of which, shall we tell our dear readers what they could win if they leave a comment on our blogs...
MICHELLE: Absolutely. Leave a comment on either (or both) of our blogs. Molly and I are both giving away a copy of TALL, DARK & FANGSOME and NICE GIRLS DON’T DATE DEAD MEN to two randomly selected winners. That’s two sets of signed books to two winners, one chosen on each blog. Good luck and happy reading!