A big welcome to Liz Jasper author of the vampire mysteries Underdead
and Underdead In Denial! Thanks, Liz for sharing your thoughts with us.
PVN: How unique, an 8th grade science teacher as an almost vampire - where did this come from?
LJ: The teacher part is based loosely on my years in the trenches teaching middle school science after college. I could make the argument that teaching is all about dealing with bloodsucking monsters (one need only think back to their own middle school experience to know this is true). But quite honestly I got the idea for Underdead after a punchline from a comedian's stand up routine got stuck in my head one afternoon, the way annoying songs do. I don't remember the joke, of course, just the punchline, about something being underdone-done-done. It twisted around and around in my head and somehow became "Underdead" and the idea for an almost undead science teacher was born.
PVN: Female friendships are important in this story, why (or do you) consider that significant?
LJ: I'm going to answer this one in context of your next question below.
PVN: There are several great supporting characters. I find Roger and Natasha to name only two quite fascinating. Would you tell us a bit about them.
LJ: Roger is Jo's officious windbag of a department chair. He's been at the Bayshore Academy for decades so he feels he knows all there is to know about teaching. And now that he finally has a position of power (such as it is) he believes everyone should just do as he says. Jo is a great disappointment to him as she isn't the moldable doormat he wanted--and she even questions him at times. (Bad Jo!) From her perspective, he is dog-minded and arbitrary. Worse, when he sees her flailing in the classroom, instead of stepping in to help, he distances himself from her to make sure he isn't associated with her mistakes.
I'm sure everyone has experienced the great joy of having a boss or co-worker like him. Fortunately, Jo is smart enough to seek help from other master teachers in her department, who happen to be female, and from these relationships, strong friendships have grown.
Natasha is a gorgeous vampiress who, for the life of her, can't understand what anyone sees in a floundering science teacher who wears Dockers. Natasha is every woman's nightmare—perfect body, excellent hair, beautiful face—so I have fun making more tomboy-ish pretty Jo the object of the head vampire's attention.
PVN: What attracts you to vampires?
LJ: I don't know, really. I watched a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in graduate school. (Don't tell anyone. I think mainstream television was banned in my erudite department.) I loved how they managed to play up the campy side of the premise (Vampires in Sunnydale? Really?) without dismissing the genuine scariness of what it would be like to have vampires around.
PVN: Without any spoilers can you talk about Underdead in Denial?
LJ: Underdead In Denial is the second book in the series (I plan on at least two more). Here's a quick blurb: Gorgeous, enigmatic vampire Will is back and almost undead Jo Gartner is more determined than ever to avoid all things vampire and maintain a normal life. And what's more normal than doing community service to help a lovesick friend? But getting dressed up in a Halloween costume for a haunted house fundraiser is not what Jo had in mind. Especially when one of the extras turns up dead…
PVN: What are the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers?
LJ: A group of writers, all female (go figure) who blog together.
PVN: What's behind that name?
LJ: We like to entertain the fiction that writing is all about sitting around in pink fuzzy slippers eating bonbons and occasionally tapping out a brilliant chapter or two on another best-selling book. Unfortunately, the reality is that writing a book and getting it published is ridiculously hard work. Which is probably why we actually do eat a lot of chocolate. Some of us (ahem) more than others.
PVN: Were there writers who inspired you in your growing up years?
LJ: Yes, but it's hard to pinpoint any as being particularly significant. I read a lot of books growing up and loved so many of them. There's something about curling up on a couch and getting lost in another world for a few hours that I adore.
PVN: Will there be more in the series?
LJ: Yes. At least two more books. The love triangle heats up between Jo and the vampire, Will (who is gorgeous and smart and funny and really quite perfect for Jo, except for that small part about wanting her dead) and Jo and Gavin, the guy-next-door sort of vampire-hating detective (who fights hard against his attraction and genuine liking of her). We get to learn more about what drives both men. And of course, there's murder mysteries for Jo to solve and her mother to placate and hormonal middle schoolers to teach…
PVN: What is your writing day and writing environment like?
LJ: I write better at night (must be all those years of putting homework off to the last minutes before bedtime) and have a superbly messy desk. Every so often I organize my papers and clean every inch of my desk and it slowly turns back into a trash heap.
PVN: Would you like to address any remarks to your readers?
LJ: The Underdead books are appropriate for all ages, from YA on up. I have as many teen readers as I have baby boomers, partly because the teens keep stealing the book from their parents (and grandparents) and vice verse. It may suck for my royalties, but hearing my mother laugh over a novel is what got me to crack the spine of many a book I read and loved, so I'm all for inter-family book stealing. And if you get a craving for Jo's chocolate chip cookies while reading the Underdead books, the way I get odd cravings for bread and butter when I read British mysteries where, I swear, characters have tea every ten pages, there's a great recipe on my website. And yes, vampires and chocolate go together just fine.
PVN: What do you like to do in your spare time assuming you have any?
LJ: I still read a lot. Like Jo, I like to bake things and eat them. And thankfully, I also like hiking!
PVN: Many thanks, Liz!
Visit Liz's website with reviews and excerpts and occasional contests: www.lizjasper.com
Underdead In Denial, currently released in ebook.
Underdead is available as an ebook www.cerridwenpress.com and www.allromancebooks.com and in print at major book retailers including Amazon
Read a review of Underdead.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions! Liz will be coming by over the next two days in order to answer readers. Three selected commenters will receive a bookmark from Liz.