Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guest Interview: Sherri Erwin!

Be careful when you make funny comments in front of Sherri Erwin, because she can turn it into a well-reviewed, highly-anticipated potential blockbuster of a book.

I first heard about her through our shared agent, Stephany Evans, who told me about Sherri’s latest book, Jane Slayre, a “things that go bump in the night” remix of the classic Bronte tale. Stephany was sure I would love it because it involves my two favorite things, classic literature and vampires. Imagine my surprise when I found that we also shared the same editor at Pocket Books! In the literary world, this is sort of the equivalent of being second cousins. So I had to contact this woman, if nothing else to try to grovel for an advanced review copy for what I’m sure will be one of my favorite scary romance books ever.

So, please welcome Sherri to the blog and stay tuned for details on how to win a $25 Borders gift card!

MH: Hi Sherri! As you know, in any blog interview there's the obligatory, "Tell us a little bit about yourself," portion, so hit us with the details.

SE: Hi Molly. For me, it all started in second grade. Over an exercise of turning our spelling words into story form, I came to the realization that I wanted to grow up to be a writer. Thank you, Miss DeWitt! I've always been very driven and focused. I knew that I wanted to finish my education before embarking on my dream career. I studied hard and bided my time until I could apply to Mount Holyoke College, the school I'd chosen for myself at the age of three. I got in (fortunately, I don't do well with back-up plans), majored in English, fell in love, graduated, married, started a family and quit my banking job, all in fairly short order, so that I could stay home with my children and start writing.

For a few years there, with two active little ones, I barely managed to write my name.

MH: As an author and mother of two kids under six, let me share my proven strategy with you. Devote the hours you would have wasted sleeping toward writing. The exhaustion-related psychosis episodes are entertaining and the colors are pretty.

SE: I wish I'd thought of that. It would have saved me some years. Once both kids (Nick, now 18, and Elissa, now 16) went off to school, I finally found time to write. My first book, a historical romance, was released by Dell Books the year I turned 30. (The Scoundrel's Vow, 1999). Several historical and paranormal romances followed. I queried Stephany Evans, our superlative agent, in 2006, with my paranormal romance, To Hell with Love.

MH: Same here. We were probably querying her around the same time! Funny! (And Stephany really is superlative.)

SE: Yes, I love working with her. I was with Kensington for a few paranormal romances. I came up with the idea for Jane Slayre, which sold at auction to Jennifer Heddle at Pocket/Gallery in 2009, and here we are. All caught up.

MH: Thanks, and from now on, if I can’t get a hold of Stephany or Jen, I’m probably going to check with you.

OK, so I love Jane Eyre, it's one my favorite books. And, obviously, I love vampires. But never in a million years would it occur to me to blend the two. (Frankly, I'm a little jealous it occurred to you first!) How did you hit upon the idea of a vampire-slaying version of our favorite elfin-faced English governess?

SE: My daughter is supposed to read Jane Eyre for school this year, and imagine my shock when she wasn't thrilled with the prospect.

MH: Blasphemy!

SE: I know! It has always been one of my favorites. I was joking around with my friends about how to make a classic more interesting to kids today. All of Elissa's friends are crazy for the Twilight books. So I said, "ha, maybe I could add vampires. That might get some attention." And of course, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was all the rage at the time. At the Whine Sisters, the blog I share with my author friends, I wrote a post about Jane Slayre, the vampire-slaying governess. Kathleen Givens, one of my Whine Sisters and dearest friends, insisted I delete it from the blog and write the book. She said I would be crazy not to go for it. She was right, of course. I'm so glad I listened. Sadly, Kathleen passed away unexpectedly on January 1. Jane Slayre is dedicated to Kathleen. I miss her every day.

MH: Thank goodness for Kathleen. She was absolutely right.

How is your Jane different from the "canon" Jane Eyre?

SE: Jane Eyre is maybe a little too willing to accept what she cannot change. She perseveres, of course, but one gets the sense that at times, she is merely doing what she has to do to survive. Jane Slayre will not accept that she can't change her circumstances. She becomes an active, take charge sort of girl, even though she's falling over her own feet and complaining about her steady diet of bloody meat at the beginning of the book. Her cousins are vampires!

MH: Even when I read the original, I suspected something like that…

SE: It was almost too perfect a fit. Everything changes for Jane Slayre once her uncle's ghost pays a visit and reveals that her destiny is to slay vampires. She gets tough. She learns to fight back. And she knows she has to get out of her aunt's house before she tests her skills by killing her own blood (no pun intended) relatives.

MH: Mixing old classics with supernatural twists is very popular right now. Did you ever get intimidated by messing around with a book people esteem so highly?

SE: Of course it was intimidating! I love the book. I knew how I felt about the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies version-- I refused to read it at first, finally did and laughed a lot, but missed the sensual tension between Darcy and Elizabeth.

MH: I didn’t have the chance to miss it, I got about four chapters in, put the book down for the night and had terrible zombie nightmares, which continued every night for a few weeks. I’m a complete zombie wuss.

SE: Oh, well, then, you might want to skip through Jane's Lowood years. When writing, I didn't want to just drop scenes in to Jane Eyre at random intervals to be funny. I approached the original with great respect and read it until I knew it by heart and could hear Charlotte's voice in my head. Finally, I started writing with the idea that my voice should blend seamlessly with Charlotte's so that the new scenes would feel as natural to readers as if they'd been there all along. Probably because I have been a romance writer, it was important to me that the romance between Jane and Rochester remain such a strong focus and didn't get lost with the addition of comedic or horrific elements.

MH: One of the things that inspires me about the original is how passionate Edward and Jane are toward each other- and the way that resonates with the reader- yet they barely touch each other. You can get away with a lot more than Bronte. How "close" did you allow your Edward and Jane to get?

SE: LOL. Honestly, I tried to let them get a lot closer, but good sense (and a savvy editor) prevailed. Jane Austen's books have been hogging the spotlight for a long time and I think people who haven't read Bronte's Jane Eyre in awhile might be surprised at how passionate Jane and Rochester naturally are to each other. They get much closer, more intimate and familiar, than any of Austen's leading couples, even before the wedding. Rochester is very naturally affectionate toward his "Janet". I didn't really need to add to it. Charlotte brought them together very well.

MH: Dang it, I was sort of hoping for some wild “Wide Sargasso Sea” action for poor Jane.

Speaking of Edward’s wife, were you tempted to treat Bertha more sympathetically? Personally, I always felt a little sorry for her.

SE: Yes, I used to feel sorry for her, too. But re-reading Jane Eyre, I lost some of my natural sympathy for her. Before she even lost her mind, she was boozing it up, sleeping around, giving poor Rochester a hard time. Perhaps the new perspective gave me the edge I needed to introduce some new elements and questions that come between Jane and Rochester. What is true mercy? Both Jane and Rochester have different perceptions of mercy that they might not be able to reconcile.

MH: Please tell me something very bad happens to Blanche. I always wanted Jane to leap up and smack her with a pool cue Roadhouse-style when she openly mocks Jane’s position as a governess in front of Edward’s friends.

SE: Bad things happen to bad people in Jane Slayre. Worse things happen to vampires, zombies, and werewolves. Blanche doesn't come out unscathed. Or at least... well, you'll have to read.

MH: (Steeples her fingers together and laughs evilly) Exxxxcellent.

Which movie adaptation of the book is your favorite? While the Orson Welles version was one of the first black-and-white movies I ever watched, I'm partial to Timothy Dalton as Edward. But I thought he was a good James Bond, too. Obviously, I have Dalton issues.

SE: I haven't seen any of the more recent movie adaptations for Jane Eyre.

MH: (gasps in horror)

SE: I did see a very old one, and I didn't think it did the book justice. Perhaps that's why I never tried again. Maybe I'll give Dalton a shot. I picture Gerard Butler, Clive Owen, or Joaquin Phoenix in the role of Rochester. Carey Mulligan might make a nice Jane Slayre. Charlotte has already chosen Bradley Cooper for St. John Rivers.

MH: My husband will get a kick out of that. He always refers to Bradley Cooper as “the guy who always plays smug jerks.” We watched He's Just Not That Into You and David exclaimed, "Seriously, does he ever get cast as a decent guy I wouldn't want to punch in the face?" I said no.

SE: Don't tell Charlotte. She's enamored. I blog "with" her at Sherri and Charlotte ( and it has come to light that Charlotte has a bit of a thing for Mr. Cooper (though she denies it vehemently).

MH: How have people responded when you tell them you rewrote a classic?

SE: I'm getting lots of mail from people (especially college students and teenagers) eagerly anticipating the release, which is always wonderful. I've been in USA Today, and mentioned in my college's student and alumnae networks. There are a few detractors, and I understand their fears completely. How could I mess with a classic? It's a classic! What could I possibly add? It was surprisingly not as easy to do as some people might assume. I have my own ideas. I've written books. Writing with Charlotte, giving her all due attention and respect while adding new elements, took time and care, perhaps more care than I need to take when I'm writing on my own.

In the end, I don't take anything away from Charlotte. Her version will always stand as the classic, the one we all adore. Mine gives people something new to read, another reason to go back to their favorite characters, and maybe to laugh along and see things in a new way. I was very surprised at some of the new things I picked up on in reading Charlotte's words over, and the added emphasis Jane Slayre brings to some of Charlotte's own themes and ideas. When the news of Jane Slayre's release started circulating, the Library Journal had tweeted "Yawn, another tired literary mash-up." Then they read it and apparently changed opinion. Their review says "Erwin raises the bar for monster classics. Enthusiastically recommended for all." I'm very proud of that review!

MH: You should be! And how does it feel to be one of Pocket Gallery's first titles?

SE: It's quite thrilling. A little daunting. Charlotte Bronte's name is on the book. I feel that I owe it to her to make sure it's well-received.

MH: What's next for you?

SE: I'm working on a few things. One idea has really taken hold, an alternative history of Victorian England.

MH: I’m intrigued, but if you tell me a zombie Queen Victoria is on the throne, I’m out.

SE: No zombie royalty involved. So far. I'm also working on a story for the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, which is due any day now. I'd better step it up. :) Thank you for talking with me, Molly. It has been fun.

MH: Thanks, Sherri. OK, my reading darlings, to win the $25 Borders gift card, go to your favorite book blog, your Facebook page, Twitter account or other favorite online networking venue and link to this post. Come back to the comment section here and tell us what you did to share Sherri’s brilliance with the world. Sherri and I will select a random respondent for the winner on April 1.

ETA: Sherri has added that she will tailor the gift card to your favorite store. If you're our winner, just let her know where you like to buy books!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Upcoming Signings/Events

Hey All,

I have a few events coming up. I thought I'd let you know:

"Meet the Authors" Day
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
March 27
Crittenden County Public Library
Marion, KY.

April 10
University Book and Bean
Murray, KY.

SOKY Book Fest
April 17
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Carroll Knicely Conference Center
Bowling Green, KY.

Romance Writers of America National Conference
"Readers for Life" Signing
5:30–7:30 p.m.
July 28, 2010
Gaylord Opryland Hotel
Nashville, TN.