Interview With a Werewolf
I had the pleasure, twice even, to sign with Carrie Vaughn
the talented and hardworking author of the entertaining and compelling Kitty Norville werewolf novels from Warner Books. Since many of you haven't had the chance to meet Carrie yet, I thought I'd introduce you to her through this interview.
Mario: Why a werewolf story?
Carrie Vaughn: I'm more interested in werewolves, and I think I have more to say about them than vampires. Plenty of people are already writing vampire stories.
M: Given your background and education with a Masters in Literature, what attracted you to the fantasy genre?
CV: I've always read fantasy and science fiction--that isn't mutually exclusive from a Masters in Lit! My interest is figuring out how great writers do their thing, and great writing is found in all genres. I like fantasy because of the imagination, the symbolic power, and the "wow!" factor. I find that I say "Wow!" while reading fantasy more than any other kind of literature.
M: You use humor so well. It makes your world much more accessible. How hard is it for you to make the scenes funny and carry the plot narrative?
CV: Thanks! The humor has to grow out of the characters and situation. It can't be forced. I try to start with characters who are naturally witty, and simply let them comment on the situation. The plot never gets sacrificed for the sake of a cute joke. Also, I try not to take certain subjects too seriously.
M: How much do you rely on traditional horror elements for your fantasy creatures and how much do you invent?
CV: I rely quite a bit on traditional elements because it allows me to play with readers' expectations. I really want to be consistent with the "rules" I choose, though. I also like to be able to comment on those elements, maybe even satirize them a little.
M: What's your research process?
CV: I research two different ways: First, I'll research as a way to get the imagination going, to look for ideas that I think would make good stories. Second, as I'm writing, I figure out what I need to know, what information needs to be in the story to give it a solid basis in reality. In this regard I've researched locations, wolf behavior, southwest U.S. magical traditions, police work, radio stations--that sort of thing.
M: Your first novel, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, was 119 on the US Today bestseller list. Why do you think your story was so popular?
CV: Actually, the first one was 129. The second was 118. Both of them lasted only a week, but hey, I'm not complaining. The comment I get the most that gives some clue as to why the stories might be popular is how real Kitty seems. People seem to relate to her, and root for her. I tried to make her real, with real world problems like her job and her family, and I think that resonates with readers.
M: What are the big themes within your stories?
CV: The nature of humanity. Individual empowerment and responsibility.
M: You have a day job. And now that your series is doing well, you have to spend time and money promoting yourself. So when do you write?
CV: I write the same times I've always written--usually late afternoon and evening, after work and after supper. I make sure I write every day. I got some good advice a while back--the best thing I could do for my career is work on the next book/story, and make it better. The promotional aspects should never take priority over writing. If I want the series to continue to do well, the next books have to be just as strong.
M: Describe your writing process. Do you outline? Make character resumes?
CV: I outline a bit. I like to know the end of the book before I start
writing. Other than that, I prefer to plunge straight into the writing and see what the characters do. Though in the course of writing I'll make two or three more detailed outlines for the more complex parts of the story, to make sure all the characters end up in the right place at the right time. I tend to write my first drafts very quickly, then do a lot of revision. All the books have gone through 3-4 drafts.
M: What conferences do you attend and why?
CV: I attend Mile Hi Con, the Denver SF convention, every year because it's local and friendly, and a good way to connect with local SF writers. I attend Bubonicon, the Albuquerque convention, because I have a lot of friends there. I sometimes attend the World Fantasy Convention. It's great because it's very professional--it's mostly writers, editors, agents, and publishers, and is a great place to network. The World Science Fiction Convention is also a good place to network with people from all over the country, but it can be very chaotic and overwhelming. It's also a good place to connect with fans. And it has a dealer's room to die for.
M: What other stories would you like to write?
CV: Oh, I've got a million of 'em. They should keep me busy for a good long while.
M: Could you share two lessons that you have learned since you’ve been published?
CV: Getting published doesn't make everything easier. I think writers have this expectation that once they're published, everything gets better--they've finally "made it." Nothing could be further from the truth, and this can be a deadly psychological trap to fall into. If you assume things get easier, the usual problems (like rejection) actually start to seem more difficult. (And you will get rejections, even after you've been published.) You need to stay sharp and stay hungry. Along the same lines: always be working on something new. Rejection is easier to face when you have a new and better story waiting in the wings.