Maryland writer Jeri Smith-Ready author of Wicked Game (Pocket 2008) and several other fantasy novels also, somehow, finds time for gourmet cooking and fostering shelter dogs in conjunction with Tails of Hope Sanctuary. She is a very busy lady.
Following the interview look for contest rules to win a copy of Wicked Game.
PVN: Jeri, it's a pleasure to welcome you today. Thanks so much for joining us.
PVN: Tell us about WVMP radio as well as WVMPradio.com.
JSR: At WVMP The Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll, all of the DJs are vampires. The public thinks this is just a marketing gimmick, but no, they really are vampires! In the universe of Wicked Game, the vampires are stuck psychologically and culturally in the era they were turned. They still speak the slang and wear the fashions of their Life Time. It makes them weird conversationalists, but fabulous DJs. No one understands an era’s pop culture better than those who lived through it, right?
WVMPradio.com is a joint web project of my husband’s web design firm (Christian Ready Web Services) and Henderson Creative, Inc. . It’s a real website with real music (and real Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll merchandise). You can learn more about the DJs and listen to a sample of songs from their shows. Soon I’ll have a weekly vampire DJ blog, in which one of them will discuss a musical topic from their era.
Future plans for the website include featured “non-fictional” bands, reviews of vampire books and movies and interviews with their creators, and eventually DJ podcasts. I’d love for it to someday become a place where music fans could hang out and discuss their favorite bands.
PVN: What a unique idea - vampire DJs who only play music from their own era. Where did that idea come from?
JSR: It was total serendipity. I was driving to work flipping the dial and came to a classic rock station playing “Bad Company” by the band of the same name. I thought, Hmm, “Bad Company” would be a perfect title for a paranormal book with a shady main character. Ooh, and there could be a whole series with “Bad” songs as the title: “Bad to the Bone,” “Bad Medicine,” “Bad Moon Rising”…
By the time I got to the office, I had a fully formed idea for vampire DJs stuck in time and a heroine with a criminal past. If I hadn’t been listening to that station at that moment, the series would have never been born. (Cue Twilight Zone music…)
The punch line is that even though it all began with “Bad Company,” the publisher ultimately asked me to change the title.
PVN: How do you know Weasel (a DC area disc jockey)? Has he influenced your taste in music?
JSM: I don’t know him personally, but he’s been my favorite DJ since the 80s when I started listening to WHFS, which was an alternative/indie radio station here in the DC area. After WHFS died a slow death earlier this decade, he moved to 94.7 WTGB The Globe, which is also a great station—a mix of classic and contemporary rock that has a lot more variety than most stations. Weasel is the most amazingly knowledgeable DJ I’ve ever known.
So anyway, I figured as a long shot, I’ll write him an e-mail and see if he’ll give a cover quote for the book. He did it! Even better, he said it was true to life and based in reality, and that he could relate to the vampire DJ characters (I know, scary, huh?). I was thrilled beyond belief—to me, this was the ultimate validation that I had done my research and brought the characters to life.
PVN: Talk about the playlist at the beginning of the book.
JSR: Music is an integral part of the story, and when I wrote the book, I put music into most scenes. For instance, a song might be on in the background, or Shane might play Ciara a tune on the guitar. Or a song might change the heroine’s mood, as it does at the end of the first chapter.
So my publisher asked me to make a list of all the songs mentioned in the text, and that became the “playlist” that is literally a soundtrack to the novel (which can be heard on my website).
The fun part of forming the list was figuring out which songs to choose when they were mentioned only obliquely. For instance, the text in one of the creepiest scenes said that a Cure song was playing on this old 1940s radio. I chose “10:15 Saturday Night” because it’s a particularly haunting tune, providing great atmosphere.
PVN: Are your tastes in music similar to Ciara's?
JSR: Ciara’s a lot hipper than I am. If you go to our MySpace pages (http://www.myspace.com/ciarawvmp and (http://www.myspace.com/jerismithready) you can see that her favorite bands include more contemporary artists than mine does. I do like a lot of new bands, though—I’m not stuck in time like the vampires—just not as many as Ciara does. But she’s younger than I am, so that’s my excuse. ;-) My tastes in general are closer to Shane’s and Regina’s—indie, punk, Goth, etc. Hers are a little lighter, more funky, and pop-oriented.
PVN: Ciara's a con artist. Will her "expertise" in this field be useful in future adventures?
JSR: Absolutely! In the sequel, BAD TO THE BONE, she goes “undercover” to infiltrate a sinister organization called the Fortress, which is trying to shove WVMP off the air by pirating its signal (oh, and by tossing Molotov cocktails at it).
PVN: Why the location of Sherwood, MD?
JSR: It’s a fictional version of the smallish town I live near. Because there are so many vampire books already out there, I tried with each element of Wicked Game to do something different. I thought it would be interesting to put vampires in a non-traditional setting—not super spooky gothic, but not a city either. Then we could see how they interact with the kind of world most of us can relate to.
Also, Sherwood is accessible to a number of interesting cities (Baltimore, Gettysburg, Washington, DC) that could provide great locations. For instance, in Wicked Game, our gang visits a group of ancient vampires who live in a cult compound out near Camp David (hey, it’s secure from flyovers!).
PVN: What attracts you to vampires?
JSR: Wow, where to start?
First, they’ve conquered death. They’ve been resurrected, which is the most powerful mythological act imaginable. It would shake a person to the core of his soul to travel toward that light or whatever and be yanked back into a whole new life. I imagine most of them would have trouble adjusting, to say the least.
Second, they’re predators. Even my vampires, who are very human, possess the instincts and heightened senses of a hunting animal. That makes them dangerous and exquisitely sensitive.
Third, they’re nocturnal. There’s a poignancy to this restriction—if you could never see the sun again, it would feel like a punishment. It would also require a lot of caution, not to mention ingenuity, especially when traveling.
I firmly believe that in fantasy, magic and power should have a cost. Creatures who are immortal and strong and fast and mesmerizing should have serious vulnerabilities, to maintain balance in the universe. Otherwise it feels like cheating.
I could list a fourth, fifth, and sixth reason why vampires fascinate me, but my fingers would fall off, and I sort of need them.
PVN: What are you working on now?
JSR: I’m getting ready to rewrite the Wicked Game sequel (BAD TO THE BONE), which will be published May 12, 2009. My rewrites are usually pretty extensive—I often change the ending and eliminate subplots; often characters who once lived will die in the rewrite and vice versa.
To tide readers over until BAD TO THE BONE comes out next May, I’m writing a series of free tie-in short stories, to appear on my website roughly once every other month, that depict the “turning” of each vampire DJ. These are very secret tales they only share with people they trust with their lives (like me). Subscribers to my quarterly newsletter will get a week’s early access to each story. Sign up at my website!
Monroe’s story, “Crossroads”:
Spencer’s story, “Rave On”:
I’m also very excited about the final installment of my ASPECT OF CROW trilogy, THE REAWAKENED, which comes out November 1. This epic fantasy series takes place in a world where everyone has magical powers bestowed by the Guardian Spirit Animal (some might call it a “totem” or “power animal”). I sometimes describe it as X-Men meets Clan of the Cave Bear.
PVN: What type of literature do you like to read? Any favorite authors or titles?
JSR: My tastes are pretty eclectic. I read a fair amount of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, of course, because it’s part of my job, but for a break I return to mainstream fiction or contemporary romance—the funnier the better. I also enjoy YA fiction, both paranormal and mainstream, because it often deals with deep personal issues in a more unflinching way than adult fiction.
Some of my current favorites are Caprice Crane, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, and Charlaine Harris. When it comes to vampires, my favorites (in addition to Harris) are PC Cast/Kristin Cast (House of Night series), Jenna Black and newcomer Adrian Phoenix. My all-time favorite book is probably GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
PVN: What is your writing environment like?
JSR: Because I use a laptop, I can write anywhere. For actual creative writing I tend to find a place that’s sort of cavelike. The bedroom, the guest room/cat room, or the family room in the basement. When it’s raining (or nighttime), I can write anywhere, because the whole world becomes like a cave.
I generally do business stuff at the dining room table. Lots of pointing and clicking (for working on the website or whatever) requires a mouse instead of this horrid little touchpad. Then when I move into the Cave of the Day, I feel like I’m ‘going to the office’ to write.
That’s the theory, anyway. Most of my time is spent tricking myself into working.
I’ve finished the last several books in the guest room/cat room, which is technically my office. It has a desk (which is incredibly tidy as a result of its disuse), but the chair long ago moved out to the dining room, and now there’s a litter box under the desk.
So I’m not one of those authors who has pretty photos of her office on her website. To me the only space that matters is the one inside my head, and you really don’t want to see pictures of that.
I love to hear from readers, so I encourage anyone to contact me through my website, www.jerismithready.com. I also give away free bookmarks and signed bookplates for any of my books and frequently hold contests on my blog and in my newsletter.
For more about Wicked Game, check out http://www.jerismithready.com/books/wicked-game/. To visit the DJs and listen to a sample of their shows, go to www.wvmpradio.com. Ciara and Shane and I can also be found on MySpace, though mysteriously never at the same time. Ciara and Shane love to get fan mail and blog comments—it makes them feel all real and stuff. ☺
PVN: Jeri, once again thanks for being here!
Now for the contest information.
Jeri is offering a copy of Wicked Gameto one lucky reader.
For a chance to win do one (or more) of the following:
*Comment on any subject from the interview. Each comment on a different subject counts as an entry.
*Ask Jeri a question. Each question counts as an entry.
*Link to Patricia's Vampire Notes and send me the URL. Each link counts as an entry.
Be sure to include enough email information so that I will be able to contact you.
This contest ends at midnight September 11, 2008.
Winners will be announced on Saturday September 13, 2008.