Sep 10, 2008

Interview with Jeri Smith-Ready

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.

36 comments:

Jeri said...

Hi everyone!

Patricia, thanks so much for having me. I had a ton of fun doing this interview, and I look forward to answering more questions from readers today. Ask me anything!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeri!

Since you already know how much I love your books (and yourself LOL!), I thought I would ask a totally different question.

I know you like reading Charlaine Harris....I was wondering if you saw True Blood on HBO and if you did...what you thought about it?

Well, I also do want to know if "things" are gonna heat up between Shane and Ciara in BAD TO THE BONE? Or will there be more cat and mouse romance?

Debi Murray

brian_ohio said...

Hi Jeri,

Great Interview. I learned a lot about you.

I can't believe WHFS is dead. Ugh! I loved that station. Such sad news.

I was wondering, Jeri, at what age you started writing and how many books are in your trunk.

Wicked Game is nearing the top of my TBR pile. Looking forward to reading it soon. By the time I'm finished, the sequel will be coming out shortly. Perfect timing.

Jeri said...

Debi: Hi! Aww, you're so sweet, thank you.

Unfortunately we don't get HBO. But I look forward to renting the TRUE BLOOD DVDs as soon as they're out! What did you think of it?

Shane and Ciara's relationship will progress to the next level in BAD TO THE BONE. My plan is to keep them a solid couple (no soap opera) throughout the series, but show them facing and overcoming the challenges that life and undeath (and their own differences) present. Things will never get boring with these two! ;-)

Brian: I know, it's sad. WHFS is still around in some form on certain nights of the week on another frequency, and I think you can listen to it on CBS Radio's website. But it's just not the same.

I confess, I mostly listen to satellite radio these days. I freaking hate commercials, and I like finding new bands and actually being told who they are and what song I'm listening to.

I was 25 when I started writing fiction. In my trunk are two full adult novels, one full YA novel, one novella, and one half-finished novel. I have no plans to try to publish any. I learned a lot writing them, and they each have their strengths, but I can do better.

Hope you enjoy WICKED GAME!

stevenagy said...

Jeri,

I'm curious about what makes writing, in general, fun for you?

Ruby (Mouth) said...

Hey there,

No need to enter me. I have this book and mine is signed. LOL! Just came over to support you both.

I love your books as you well know and would encourage anyone to pickd up a copy of any of them. So I guess I will ask a question so that I am on board with this. Jeri, what is it like to write two completely different series?!

Jeri said...

Steve: Great question! I guess it would be watching the fantasies in my head come to life. I've been making up stories since I was a kid, but I was 25 before I ever started writing them down. Now I can see them through to their logical conclusion (and then on the rewrite, find even better conclusions ;-).

Ruby: Thanks so much for your support! There are pros and cons to writing more than one series. The biggest pro for me is the chance to express different sides of myself. The Aspect of Crow trilogy is very serious, while the WVMP series is tons of fun.

AOC is finished now (the last book, THE REAWAKENED, comes out Nov 1), but the new series I'm developing (not sold yet, so don't get excited) is darker than the vampire books, so that'll give me a chance to write in a more emotional manner.

The cons: the time crunch can be crazy. Also, because they're so different, it can be tough to switch from one frame of mind to the other.

Overall, I love it. I'm naturally dualistic, and I think I'd get bored if I were only working on one thing for years at a time.

Thanks for your questions!

Tarot By Arwen said...

Jeri, great interview.

My question for you is have you ever been a DJ yourself? Or a con artist? hee

RUNNING!

Daelith said...

Love WVMP Radio site. I think it's great that Spencer is originally from Memphis, my home town. I'm intrigued by him now.

I've not read Wicked Games, but it sounds like it's right up my reading ally!

Good luck on the rewrites for the next book.

Amy C said...

Hi Jeri!

I am so excited now for The Reawakened since I read Voice of Crow yesterday!

Do you think you will write more in this world in the future? I absolutely love it :).

I posted a review on my blog this morning for Voice of Crow and just added a link here to the interview.
And a great interview!

Jeri said...

Arwen: No, I'm way too bad a speaker to be a DJ, and way too bad a liar to be a con artist.

Though I suppose, in a way, writing fiction is a little like con artistry. We tell things that aren't true but do it with enough flair to make people believe in them. ;-)

Daelith: Thanks for the good luck! I love Memphis--I visited there about five years ago. I really want to go back to see the things I missed the first time. Spencer's online short story, BTW, takes place in Memphis in 1959.

Amy: Thank you so much for the link, and for your wonderful review of VOICE OF CROW! That totally made my day. :-) I have no more books planned right now in that world, but you never know what the future may bring.

Daelith said...

Glad you enjoyed our city.

I've already read it. :) Finished just before I went to lunch. Now...will Spencer being getting an updated story as in his own book?

Vivi Anna said...

Hey Jeri,

Wicked Game is the bomb! I absolutely loved it. I adored all the vamps, especially Noah.

Jeri said...

Daelith: Hmm, I don't know. The books are all planned to be from Ciara's point-of-view. But hey, never say never, right? Maybe there could be some spinoffs one day. :-)

Vivi!!! Thank you so much--I'm glad you liked it. Noah gets a bigger part in BAD TO THE BONE, and his short story should be going up in December (Jim's is next, in October or November, depending on my other deadlines).

bbricke said...

That was a great interview.
I saw that you like Christopher Moore, what is you favorite book of his?

Is it easier to base your books in towns you are familiar with or to make up your own town?

Is there a genre that you would like to do that you haven't done, if so what is it?

Do you plan to write more about different characters set in this world or stick with Ciara and Shane?

I look forward to reading this book, I have heard wonderful things about your book.

Jeri said...

Bbricke: Thanks! Patricia asked some fascinating questions. It took me forever to figure out how to answer the "what attracts you to vampires" one. Where in the world to start? :-)

BLOODSUCKING FIENDS is definitely my favorite, probably because it was the first one of his I read. It also opened my mind to the possibility that vampires could be human-ish and funny, that they didn't have to be total downers.

Hmm, I don't know which is easier. It's like choosing point-of-view--the decision makes itself known to me based on the story and characters.

I would love to do mainstream humorous novels, with or without romance. Nothing against paranormal, but humans are by far the weirdest creature imaginable.

Right now I plan to keep the series centered on Ciara (and Shane, by extension), but a spinoff would be fun! There are the 'turning' short stories that I mentioned in the interview, plus the possibility of short stories/novellas in anthologies (that's a major HINT HINT to any anthology editors reading this!).

Enjoy the book, and good luck in the drawing!

P.S.: it's 5Pm here, and I'm shutting down the internet (just on my computer, not the whole world--don't worry!) so I can write the rest of the evening. But I'll be back in the morning to answer more of your awesome questions. Feel free to ask followups or whatever!

Pamk said...

okay you got me with the xmen meets clan of the cave bear. Loved the xmen and clan books too lol I am going to have to do search to get the first stories in this series.

Margay said...

I think it is absolutely fascinating the way authors come up with ideas for their stories. It's one of my favorite part of the interviews because then I can read their work with fresh eyes and feel that "aha" moment with them. Maybe it's because my ideas evolve from strange places.

Margay1122 (at) gmail (dot) com

Patricia said...

Hello everyone

In case you missed Jeri's recent comment I'm posting it below:

P.S.: it's 5Pm here, and I'm shutting down the internet (just on my computer, not the whole world--don't worry!) so I can write the rest of the evening. But I'll be back in the morning to answer more of your awesome questions. Feel free to ask followups or whatever!

Jules said...

I love this book. I am drawn to the paranormal fiction myself but will read almost anything. I didn't know how you came up with the idea for this book but it is as good as I imagined. How do you come up with your characters? Do they come to you as you are writing or do are they already there and your story forms around them?

Jules said...

Your Crow series is very different from Wicked Game but just as enjoyable. Is one easier to write than the other? Do you have a favorite? (I know I wouldn't be able to pick).

bbricke said...

My favorite Christopher Moore book is Dirty Job, its also what got my hubby hooked.

If you weren't writing about Vampires what type supernatural would you most like to write about?

sidhevicious said...

Hi Jeri & Patricia!
Please don't enter me. I'm just popping in to say I LOVED this book!! Great interview, it was fun to read and find out more about one of my new favorite authors. :)

Amy C said...

I don't know that much about Wicked Games, since I don't venture into Urban Fantasy or first person books. I noticed that you also write in present tense. Is it difficult to maintain that tense without slipping and going to past tense when that is the most common to write in?

Again, I love the Aspect of Crow books but I am really thinking about giving Wicked Games a read. So, if I don't win, I'll be buying it!

Jeri said...

PamK: LOL, thanks! I always say it jokingly about X-MEN meets CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, but it truly is--superpowers plus animal spirits. Just to clarify--that's the Aspect of Crow trilogy, not the vampire books.

Margay: It's funny how clearly I can remember the "light-bulb moment" for some books, and for others the idea sort of creeps up on me, as if it were there all along. :-)

Jules: With Ciara, I knew she would have some sort of shady past, but it took a couple weeks to decide she was a con artist. Her personality evolved a lot over the course of the story and even into the final version. My original concept of her was as this airhead slacker, but she "took over" and became someone really clever and likable and who made things happen. The last element is what makes someone a true hero(ine), regardless of how morally upstanding they are.

As to your second question, I definitely found the vampire series easier to write, because it's set in contemporary times, with the same basic vocabulary and sensibility as myself. I can't really say which is my favorite, since each series brings out a different side of me. But WICKED GAME was the most fun book to write--it just made me happy. I love music and humor and exploring the gray areas of good and evil.

I'll answer more in the next comment!

Daelith said...

If you do a spin-off, you gotta have his daughter, Donna, in there some how or another. Lots of possibilities with that story.

Hoping I get a chance to read another short story on your site today...if they'll quit bugging me at work to do work stuff. :P

Jeri said...

bbricke: I have Dirty Job, but I haven't read it yet. I'm incredibly masochistic, in that the books I want to read most, I put off the longest. Like I'm waiting until I really *deserve* to read them. *eyeroll*

Besides vampires, I find superheroes fascinating. Also demons, but I have a hard time separating them from their religious connotations (my first book, REQUIEM FOR THE DEVIL, is an urban fantasy about Lucifer falling in love and how that changes, well, everything). Ghosts are cool, too.

sidhevicious: Hi there! And thank you so much!

amyC: Oddly enough, no, I never found myself slipping into past tense when writing WICKED GAME. It felt so right for that character and that story that it just flowed naturally. The purpose behind it was to make readers believe in her account of the story--since she's a con artist, if she told it in past tense, the reader might subconsciously think she's lying. But if they're experiencing the story along with her, then they accept it as the truth (which it is).

Also, most people tell me they don't even notice it's in present tense until they're most of the way through it, if at all, so I guess it works. :-)

Jeri said...

Daelith: You're right--as far as I know, Spencer is the only one of the DJs who had a kid before he was turned. She'd be turning fifty next year, so she could always show up and be part of a book, even a non-spinoff. :-)

deety said...

I love the way that writers each seem to put a twist on the supernatural creatures of their world, it helps keep things interesting. How would you say that your vampires are different from other types?

Jeri said...

Deety: Well, to start with, my vampires are all "stuck in time" in the era in which they died. So they speak the slang and wear the fashions of their time. If they don't maintain a connection to both the present and their original "Life Time," they start to "fade" and become less human--more robotic and more dangerous/animalistic. So the radio station gives these vampires a unique way to stay, um, fresh. ;-)

Also, they're each obsessive-compulsive in a different way. That comes from an Eastern European legend that says to scatter rice grains across your doorstop to prevent vampires, because the vamp will be compelled to stop and count them all. (I don't know if this is where Jim Henson got the idea for the Count from Sesame Street, but wouldn't that be cool??)

Shane, for example, is a sorter/alphabetizer. Regina is a counter. Jim is obsessed with trivia. And so on.

At first I thought this would be just a schtick, but then I realized it was actually connected to the 'stuck in time' phenomenon. The vampires sometimes have a hard time dealing with the present, and these OCD behaviors give them some semblance of control. As Shane says, "It's the only way to feel sane."

Yeah, they're pretty different. ;-)

Jeri said...

Ooh! I have another answer for Amy C, who asked if I would ever be writing more in the Aspect of Crow universe. I just got the green light to announce it:

Starting November 17, my publisher will be posting eight weekly installments of "Storm Reaper" (tentative title), a short story in the same universe. It takes place maybe a before The Reawakened and features several characters from VOICE OF CROW (Alanka, Kiril, Filip) who didn't make it into THE REAWAKENED, due to my publisher not wanting the novel to be 800 pages. :-)

You heard it here first, folks!

Amy C said...

No Alanka or Filip in The Reawakened :(? That's okay, It'll be wonderful anyway!

That sounds really cool. I'll be sure to be on the look-out for those installments. Are you going to post more info on your website about it? Such as how long each will be? I love the idea. I'm actually doing something like that now on my blog with the full length novel I wrote. I post a chapter a week and all odd chapter weeks are prize weeks! I just want to share what I've done in a fun way and it has been fun. I'm on the third week now.

Which reminds me I still have not read the short "The Wild's Call". I need to do that.

Jeri said...

Amy: Believe me, I wanted to include them in TR, but the book was getting huuuuuuuge....

This will be on my publisher's site (Just like "The Wild's Call"), but it'll be in eight weekly medium-sized installments (about 1500 words each) instead of twenty short daily installments like that one was.

Bobbi said...

Great interview! I like the fact Jeri has eclectic tastes in reading material, just like me! Fantasy and paranormal romance, mainstream fiction or contemporary romance and YA fiction.

I'd like to know how Jeri gets her inspiration for the novels she writes.

I have just discovered her books, blog and website and I'm fascinated!

Jeri said...

Bobbi, my inspiration has two main sources:

1. music
2. caffeine

Seriously.

Anonymous said...

love the interview
please eneter me
and
please pick me !
tasha t
gypsywitch36@yahoo..com