Here is a little Q&A meant to introduce you to Carrie Vaughn and her books. As you know, I really enjoyed both Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Canada, USA, Europe) and Kitty goes to Washington (Canada, USA, Europe). Hence, I hope that reading this interview will pique your curiosity and encourage you to give this author a shot.
- For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR andits sequel.
Here's my one-sentence tagline for the book: Kitty is a werewolf who starts a talk radio advice show about the supernatural. I get a lot of raised eyebrows with that description. The stories themselves are about Kitty coming to terms with being a werewolf, learning to stand up for herself, and dealing with social and political dynamics surrounding thevarious supernatural and non-supernatural elements in her life. In the second book, the stage gets bigger--she's the country's first werewolf celebrity and has to deal with that as well.
- Have you always had an interest in the paranormal?
Not really. With the exception of a few stand-outs (Steven Brust's Agyar, the films The Hunger, The Company of Wolves, and Ginger Snaps to name a few), I find a lot of vampire/werewolf/urban magic tales to be cliché, redundant, and therefore a bit dull. My real interest is in seeing how ordinary people handle extraordinary circumstances. The thing about Kitty is a lot of her concerns are normal ones: career, family, friendships. She just happens to be in this paranormal situation. Kitty also lets me shine a light on the usual paranormal elements, to comment on them and to try to make them new and interesting.
- A few years back, I'm not certain your novels would have been as well-received as they have been. With readers of all genres now more comfortable with fantasy elements, do you think that the timing was just about perfect for you and your novels?
I do think the timing was perfect. Kitty arrived just at the peak of this wave of hugely popular supernatural novels. Paranormal thriller, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, etc. are all their own categories now, and the crossover potential is huge. The audience seems to be starving for more of these stories, to tide them over until the next one by the next author comes out. I think the popularity of Laurell K. Hamilton and Buffy the Vampire Slayer opened the genre to a wide audience, and new authors have been able to expand the genre, play around with it, and try new things, right when the audience was ready for it. I could never have predicted that Kitty would be able to take part in the phenomenon.
- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
Characters. I get so many comments about the characters, and how real they feel. Not to give too much away, but I've gotten many emails expressing anger over what happens to one of the characters at the end of Kitty and the Midnight Hour. I'm actually pleased at that, because it means I did a good job making sure people really liked and cared for that character.
- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the book/series in the first place?
Paranormal stories always seem to get quickly wrapped up into personal angst of soap operatic proportions. I decided Dr. Laura would never be able to handle a call from a character in one of these stories, so this world needed its own call-in radio advice show. A werewolf named Kitty seemed the natural host for such a show. The story kind of exploded from there.
- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?
You've hit on the exact right pair of symbols to represent the age-old dilemma about choosing commercial success or artistic respect. I have to be really crass and simplistic and say as a thirty-something with a mortgage, I'd take a New York Times bestseller for the financial security. But those H.P. Lovecraft busts they give out for the World Fantasy Award are really cool. I indulge in high hopes of seeing both someday.
- Honestly, do you believe that speculative fiction will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.
There's been a saying going around the SF community for the last couple ofyears. Science fiction won. It's taken over the world. Most of the blockbuster movies and many of the bestselling books have science fiction an fantasy elements in them. But the long-time science fiction community is still really pissed off, because nobody in the mainstream is calling those things science fiction and fantasy. Recently, someone who I know loves Harry Potter, Narnia, Philip Pullman, Robin McKinley, etc. told me that she doesn't normally read fantasy and I had to point out to her that she does, in fact, read a lot of fantasy. People are reading and watching SF&F without realizing it. So the genre won, but it still isn't getting the respect that we all crave so much. We still have to put up with Margaret Atwood and Philip Roth insisting that they don't write science fiction. The real trick is going to be overcoming those labels. Because really, it's the cover and the marketing, not the content, that determines where the book ends up in the store. The key is word of mouth promotion: the more we talk up our favorite speculative works, the more we can convince people who don't think of themselves as speculative readers to read our favorite works, the more we can break down those labels.
- With a narrative written in the first person and which is at times very emotional, how much of yourself can we find in Kitty's character?
That's a tough one for me to answer because I don't always have a good handle on the kind of person I am in the first place! An interesting phenomenon I've noticed: people who are acquaintances, who don't know me well, say they see a lot of me in Kitty; while people who know me very well, close friends and family, say they don't see very much of me in her at all. What that tells me is on the surface we may be similar, but past that we're not much alike. If the emotion is there, it's because I want to be inside the character's head while I'm writing. I want to see everything through her eyes and capture that perspective. A couple of details: I gave Kitty an English major so I could drop in literary references, which I seem to do naturally (I have a Masters in English literature.) But I've also found myself reining in a lot of references that I would make, that I know she wouldn't. I decided she isn't a big science fiction fan and probably wouldn't think "Jedi mindtrick" when witnessing vampiric hypnotism like I would.
- Why do you think that Kitty appeals to so many fans/critics from disparate genres?
The comment I get the most is how real she is to people. People tell me that they relate to her, that they can see her as a friend. I think because she isn't totally wrapped up in being a werewolf, that isn't the be-all and end-all of her existence, she appeals to a much wider audience. It seems like most werewolf stories are all about the angst of being a werewolf, of trying to cure it, of losing control to it. That stereotypical Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy doesn't interest me at all. I made a conscious decision to say, "Okay, she's a werewolf, she's dealing with it, let's move onto to other things now."
- I know that the rights to two new Kitty novels have been sold. How many books are planned at this time, and what can you tell us about them?
It's really hard to say. I'm writing the fourth one now, so I have a really good idea of where that's going. A couple of questions I get asked a lot are whether Cormac returns and if Kitty ever goes back to Denver to face Carl and Meg. The answers: Cormac plays a big part of the third book, Kitty Takes a Holiday, and Kitty returns to Denver in the fourth one, Kitty and the Silver Bullet. I have a rough idea of how many books I'd like to write, and I do have a direction I'd like the series to go. I know what happens in the last book. It'll depend on if the publisher wants more books.
- With a playlist at the beginning of each novel, how important is the music when you write?
It's very important for a couple of reason. Mostly, it distracts the anxiety-ridden, obsessive compulsive part of my brain that's always worrying if I locked the door or left the stove on. I have to shut that part down or I can't write. I also find it very helpful to listen to music that suits the mood of what I'm writing. It was a happy accident that, as I was writing the first book, I found a number of songs that really reflected the mood and ideas of the story. Since Kitty starts out as a DJ,the playlist was a fun way to specifically tie the music to the book. I'm glad I was able to include it.