Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Sunday, September 05, 2010
  The return of Annie Kincaid and Hailey Lind

Mario here:


Last week, Jeanne had the inaugural signing for her newest book, Chosen. In her usual classy style, Jeanne gives a silent retort to my many witty comments.



PJ Brown of Heroes Only Comics and Games in Cheyenne, Wyoming, graciously invited me to his store for a signing.


I was asked what books I was reading. An interesting question because I'm currently reading this...

And coincidentally, we at Biting-Edge are proud that we scored this exclusive interview with one of the authors of Arsenic and Old Paint, the Julie half of the writer-sister team known as Hailey Lind. Carolyn (L) and Julie (R).



CONTEST! Post a comment by Saturday, Sept 11, midnight, Pacific Time, and you could win signed copies of Brush with Death, Shooting Gallery, and Arsenic and Old Paint.

Q The last book in the Art Lover’s series, Brush with Death, left us with Annie Kincaid partnering with the art thief Michael X Johnson to start an art retrieval business.  What can we expect with Arsenic and Old Paint?

As Arsenic and Old Paint opens, Annie and Michael-the-thief have opened an art assessment business – an endeavor that has the blessing of the FBI art squad, since Annie and Michael are passing on information about suspicious types naïve enough to contact them for information regarding stolen art.  Since Michael is still on probation for an earlier, he’s supposed to be making up for his earlier wicked ways.  Unfortunately, he’s gone AWOL when the book begins, leaving Annie to wonder whether he’s gone back to thieving -- and more importantly, whether she should turn him in to the FBI.

Annie has been a fun character to write, because she’s evolved so much over the course of the Art Lover’s series.  In the first book, Feint of Art, Annie was trying to keep a low profile as a faux finisher in San Francisco, fearful that her past indiscretions -–she was arrested for forgery as a teenager-- would be made public.  By the time Arsenic begins, Annie is using her rare knowledge and underworld contacts to succeed in the art world – and ultimately to solve the mysteries she’s entangled in.


Q The Annie Kincaid series was first published by Penguin.  The fourth book, Arsenic, comes from Perseverance Press.  How did that happen?  Did you pitch to them or did they come looking for you?

As you know the publishing industry is hard to predict.  Though Feint of Art was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel and developed a strong reader fan base, there simply weren’t enough bulk sales for Penguin to continue the series after the third, Brush with Death.  By the time I found out they wouldn’t be continuing the series, though, I had already written a good chunk of the fourth manuscript. 

I was disappointed that the series was canceled, of course, but turned my attention to other writing projects…until a reader suggested I talk to Perseverance Press, which specializes in continuing series books.  I realized I knew some other of PP’s authors, all of whom loved their experiences with the press.  They’ve been very professional and put out a great product – my editor, Meredith Phillips, was especially wonderful.  I was so happy to be able to finish the book and re-visit with Annie Kincaid and her gang. 

 Q Will Annie Kincaid disappear after Arsenic?  Will she make a cameo appearance in one of your paranormal stories?  If this is the last book in the series, what about love interests: Michael X Johnson, landlord Frank DeBenton, and Josh the contractor?  Are these love triangles (or is it a love square) going to keep developing or will you tie up the loose ends of her romantic life? 

It’s not yet decided whether there will be more in the series – I’d love to write more (I have plot outlines for two more) but it depends on time and, I’m sorry to say, money.  Right now my paranormal books are selling really well, so I’m writing furiously in both of those series. 

After all, we all have to make a living ;-)  Besides, I love writing the paranormal mysteries – what could be more fun than spending one’s days investigating and writing about witchcraft and ghosts?  Still…returning to Annie and her gang was like visiting with old friends, with all their quirks and charm. And I adore the weirdness of the art world…I guess it’s obvious that I’m undecided! There’s just not enough time in the day.

 In Arsenic and Old Paint, Annie does make a lot of progress with the men in her life. I created a romantic triangle entirely by accident – originally Michael, the art thief, was an obvious romantic lead; but Frank, Annie’s rather formal landlord, was not.  When he and Annie started sending up sparks, however, Frank became a more three-dimensional character.  At the same time Michael was proving himself to be less and less reliable – a quality that might be sexy at first, but gets wearisome over time.  I’ve enjoyed having readers weigh in on who they think Annie should end up with – most people are distinctly “team Frank” or “team Michael” ;-)  In Arsenic, Annie does make a decision… but then she finds that not all is at what it seems to be.

 Q That you’re a very observant writer shows in the wonderful job you do weaving small details into the story that add life and texture to the scenes and characters.  Do you keep a journal or a diary?  Make notes on the fly?  Or do these details simply stick in your mind?

I was trained as an anthropologist, so I usually attribute my skills of observation – some might call them my inability to mind my own business – to that profession.  But then there’s a “chicken and the egg” argument – did I become an anthropologist because human behavior fascinates me, or the other way around?  In any case, I think anthropologists and writers have a lot in common – we are constant, compulsive, observers of the world around us.  I don’t keep a journal per se, but I do write down descriptions all the time – while I’m on the subway (public transportation of any kind is great for this sort of thing) or standing in line at the grocery store, hanging out at the local café…. People are quirky, odd, and idiosyncratic.  I could never sit at my computer and dream up the weirdness that people display every day.  In fact, most of the strangest bits in my books are real, lifted directly from the world around me, or from news stories.

Also, I worked as an artist for many years—basically, I had Annie’s day job painting faux finishes and murals in rich people’s houses. So I use a lot of those specific details in my books, to increase the authenticity of the story. Everyone’s daily life – the stuff that might seem mundane and dull to us-- is usually fascinating when viewed from the outside.



Q You are known for completing your manuscript right at deadline, maybe even fudging a few days.  Do you workshop any part of your manuscript?  If so, with whom?  Do you participate in a critique group? 

 I love the idea that I’m “known” for something!  Unfortunately, I do tend to work up to the very last minute.  I think I do well under pressure and often need it in order to buckle down and commit to the words on paper. Sadly, that sort of schedule leaves very little time to ask for other people’s opinions -- though when I’m working with my sister I do get her feedback often.  Also I have a couple of good writer friends that I bounce plot ideas off of, and I will occasionally ask for feedback on scenes that are particularly difficult.  But I don’t belong to a critique group, so at this point most of the nitty-gritty back and forth is between me and my editor at the publishing house.

Q While authors labor hard at turning in a perfect manuscript, in truth, they all cringe at the thought of the infamous “revision letter” from their editor.  What are your “revision letters” like?  Are they short or do they require a significant rewriting of your original manuscript?  Do you and your editor go back-and-forth several times during the revision process or is it a one-shot deal?

 Maybe it’s because of the above, but I’m one of those writers who *loves* being edited! No matter how careful a writer is, we all need help with issues of continuity and those unconscious writing quirks – using the same words or patterns in our writing—that only fresh eyes can see.  By the time I turn over a manuscript, I always dislike it and lose the ability to even “see” it anymore.  That’s where those fresh eyes come in. All that said, I think I get off pretty easy since I’ve worked with some great editors, and I’ve never been asked to do any really drastic changes – like transforming a character’s motivation or background. 

In my last manuscript, the first in the new Haunted Home Renovation series, the editor did ask me to change a trip out of town in order to keep the character closer to the renovation job she was working on.  So I had to think of a way to accomplish the character development and serve the plot’s forward motion while keeping her closer to home. By then, though, I was excited to be back working on that novel –I’m fickle that way—so I actually enjoyed revisiting it.  The hardest part, in that case, was shifting gears from the book I was then working on –one in the Witchcraft series-- and back again.

Q What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far as an author?

 To always have a sense of humor and roll with the punches.  The publishing industry is quirky, readers are fickle, trends are unreliable…you just never know what will happen next. Moving between series has taught me to be flexible and responsive to my publisher’s interests.  At this point, for instance, since my witchcraft books are doing so well it’s possible my original publisher will re-issue my backlist, and perhaps publish more of the Art Lover’s books.  So you just never know what will happen.


Plus, rely on the support of other authors to help maintain a sense of perspective.  And when all else fails, martinis go a long way toward easing the pain ;-)


You’ve got another two series written under your other pen name of Juliet Blackwell: the Lily Ivory witch mysteries, and the haunted home renovation mysteries.  And there’s a woman fiction novel in the works.  The writing, revision, and promotion for your books must overlap and create a lot of tension (a good thing in a narrative, not so good in real life).  How do you handle those competing deadlines and obligations?

I really am fickle –whenever I’m working on one project I start thinking about the next, so to some extent shifting from one to the other keeps me excited and on my toes.  The hardest thing for me, by far, is the time and energy spent promoting the books.  I hate sales in general, and trying to sell myself can be excruciating. I do love meeting people, and traveling, and talking (as anyone who knows me can attest!) but setting up events and cold calling and going from one couch or hotel to another can be exhausting.  There are periods of time when I pretty much forgo having “a life”, and have to limit time with loved ones.  As a matter of fact, even as I write this I’m with a group of friends at a river cabin –they did all the food shopping and meal prep and all I had to do was show up – so we ate, drank, slept, swam, and now they’re all in the hot tub while I’m working on my book.  I’m extremely fortunate to have such understanding friends!

Q The proposed women’s fiction story is a departure for you.  What is your interest in such a project?

It’s exciting to ponder writing a novel that’s not explicitly a mystery.  I say explicitly because I think most stories are mysteries in the deepest sense:  will she or won’t she?  How will he live without an income?  How long can a person stay angry at family members?  Etc.  But genre mystery readers have certain expectations about how a story is presented and resolved, and while I love writing genre mystery and urban fantasy, I’m excited to see whether I can rise to the challenge of an entirely different kind of fiction writing. 

Also, I have a great idea for a story told from multiple perspectives, one that deals with love and betrayal and personal connections. And while I call it “women’s fiction” – because that is what publishers have called it – I have to point out that “women’s fiction” is a strange title for this kind of book.  Why don’t we call books written by and about men “men’s fiction”, for instance?  Especially considering the fact that women buy the most books, I think it’s funny that the industry still insists on labeling novels as “women’s” stories.

Q You’re on Twitter and Facebook; any thoughts as to their utility to you as an author?

 Unlike some people I know, I’m not particularly pithy and clever so keeping up with Twitter and Facebook isn’t easy.  I welcome any and all cyber “friends”, but I’m not connected every day, or all day.  I try to check in at least every couple of days, but there are periods when I disappear for weeks at a time. For me the greatest utility lay in the immediate connection I can have with readers and other writers and reviewers. 

Twitter has been called a virtual “water cooler” -- great for those of us who work at home and don’t have a lot of interaction with others during our working hours.  It’s fun to check in with Twitter and “chat” with friends for a few minutes before returning to work.  It can be a distraction, though – recently I had to move my computer into a writing nook that is not wired, so I can keep myself from checking in obsessively. 

Facebook fan pages are great because not only can I communicate directly with people who enjoy my books, but they can interact with each other.  As one fun example, my neighbor’s cat Oscar (who serves as partial inspiration for my witch’s familiar in my witchcraft books) has his own fan page on Facebook, and a bunch of my readers have migrated over to join his fan page.  That sort of thing cracks me up.


Q If you had one wish for your life as an author (other than a monsoon of money), what would it be?

 Someone to do promotions for me!  I also wouldn’t mind some kind of job security – knowing you’d have contracts for five or ten years down the line, for instance.  I think all artists live in unsure circumstances, which might keep us on our toes, but it’s tough.

Q In Arsenic, Annie visits a sex club. You have mentioned that you visited a local sex club. What was the experience like? What surprised you? What did you learn that you couldn't from the internet, books, or an interview?

Yes, I wanted to get an eyewitness account of a particular sex club in San Francisco.  I had read accounts of it on-line, but as we all know there’s no substitute for real hands-on research…so to speak.  And I am nothing if not dedicated to my craft ;-)  Seriously, though, I decided that if I was going to include the scene it needed an air of authenticity, and how often does one have an excuse to research a place like that?  I asked a friend, who is very tall and buff –and the sweetest guy in the world-- to take me.  He agreed, and my friend Mary (tall, blonde, lovely, ex-goth—she’s in the books) insisted on accompanying us.  When we showed up, Chris was dressed in a black leather jacket, jeans, and a scowl.  He looped one arm around each of us women, and glowered at everyone who dared come near us.  It was an interesting evening; much like I wrote it in the book, though, it was fascinating but not particularly sexy in any way.  At least not for me.  Then again, if I hadn’t been with an overprotective gay man and a girlfriend, maybe my experiences would have been different ;-)  You never know .  Guess I’ll have to keep that for my next book.

Q Now about the cover art for Arsenic. Was that a painting you had already done or did you paint it especially for the cover?

I painted the picture specifically for Arsenic and Old Paint.  A lot of people might recognize it as a take-off of The Death of Marat, by David, a painting that figures prominently in the book. I wanted to give readers a mental image of the painting that is discussed in the story.  Ever since I began writing these art mystery novels I wanted to paint my own covers, since I –like Annie Kincaid--  like to paint in a classical style and make things look “old”. When the series moved to Perseverance Press, I mentioned this to my editor, and she was enthusiastic about the idea.  Her only caveat was that she was concerned the painting would look too much like the original, possibly courting copywriting issues. So I changed the scene to look more like the one discussed in the story, but still made it recognizable.

It was a special pleasure for me to be able to combine two great loves-painting and writing this book! 

Thanks Hailey!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog!  I know from experience that you’ve got a great readership, so I appreciate the chance to guest on the Biting Edge.  I hope folks will stop by my websites, www.haileylind.com and www.julietblackwell.net, and come visit on Facebook (as Hailey Lind and Juliet Blackwell) and on Twitter (@julietblackwell). 

If you're curious what Julie (as Juliet Blackwell) sounds like, enjoy this video. 



Don't forget to enter the contest!

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Comments:
What a great interview! I have read your Juliet Blackwell stories and had no idea about these. That's me, clueless. It's probably why I love mysteries, I rarely figure out "who done it!" LOL!
 
I really enjoyed this interview. I'm in total awe of prolific people who not only have countless great ideas, but are also able to bring them to completion.

The interview did a swinging job of showing us that sometimes you just have to make sacrifices in the name of research. B^)
 
Hi Zita -- it's all my fault, for insisting on so many personas! And BTW, I never figure out mysteries either ;-)
And RCM -- yes, sometimes you just have to sacrifice for your art. If that means going to a sex club, by heavens, I go ;-)
 
What an enjoyable and informative interview. I have the Juliet Blackwell Witchcraft Mysteries books but also had no idea about the Hailey Lind books. The Haunted Home Renovation Series is on my TBB list for December. I love a good mystery!
 
Hi Julie. I enjoyed this interview; you do have a way with words! :) "Sacrificing for your art" - hysterical! My friend Jeri and I met you in Westwood (LA). We are your groupies. I enjoyed the Annie Kincaid series and finished "Cast-Off Coven" last night (with the lights on). I'm looking forward to the Haunted Home series but can't wait for the next Ivory.
Qwill: Is your name really spelled "Qw"? Are you related to Jim Qwilleran? (From the 'Cat Who' series....) (Mary)
 
What a terrific interview! Thank you, Mario and Julie.

Loved learning that you painted the cover of Arsenic and Old Paint. Was very interested, too, in how another press picked up the series after Penguin. And must add that I'm a martini-lover, too (the perfect consolation/reward after a day of writing).

Looking forward to reading one of your books soon, Colleen Collins
 
I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with Julie. Wow, sound like one busy lady, with a variety of talents. I think it's awesome that your painting was used for the cover of the new book. Good luck with Arsenic and Old Paint, it sounds like a wonderful story.
 
Thanks for the great interview. I look forward to picking up a copy of Arsenic and Old Paint soon.
 
hi Qwill! Nice to see you here! And I'm always glad to let readers of Juliet Blackwell know about Hailey Lind -- it's a very different series but there are a lot of crossover readers.

And hello Sherlock's Girl -- I have the best stalkers ever! I remember meeting you and Jeri, of course ;-)

Hello Colleen -- yes, we martini drinkers have to stick together ;-) Especially after a long day of writing.

And hi Barbara and Julie -- yes, I do keep busy! I hope you both check out Arsenic and enjoy it -- heck you just might win it from this interview!
 
I would love to win this contest! I love these cozy mysteries and I haven't read any of these (although I do have "A cast-off coven" in my TBR pile).
 
I was so pleased that I could visit with Annie Kincaid and the gang again. I was thoroughly bummed when I thought it ended with three, especially after turning my buds onto the series.

I am really look forward to the Haunted Home Renovation series. Off to add it to the Wanton Wantin' Book List.

Really love the Witchcraft Mystery series. The locale and premise and the scariness of it is a great combo. Lily's background adds such an intriguing spice to the mix. I can't wait to read more of this series.
 
Great interview - on another note, victorian porn really works! Party on girls.
 
Nice interview... and (potential) free stuff is great too!
 
Free stuff rules! As does Victorian porn, of course.

Jessica -- I hope you enjoy the series! And Vickie, so glad you've checked out all three of my series. I take that as a great compliment!

thanks all for leaving comments so Mario has lots of names to choose from for, ya know, free stuff ;-)
 
I have loved Hailey Lind since I first read "Feint of Art" a couple years ago - so excited to see this series continued!

Sarah M.
 
I enjoyed the interview and would love to win the books. It looks like an interesting series.

andrea.infinger@gmail.com
 
I was just over at Pens Fatales this morning where we were discussing our desire to become Goths. I personally think Juliet should wear all black with a pink tutu:)

I learned much during this interview. Wow, I have never had a martini OR been to a sex club. I'm thinking I need to expand my horizons:) Thanks for the cool interview!
 
Sarah -- thanks for finding me and following the series!
Andrea -- I hope you check out the books and let me know what you think. good luck in the drawing!
Moonsanity -- I recognize you from the Pens! Hey, we need to remedy that martini situation soon. And once we dress as Goths, we can enter any sex club with impunity ;-)
 
Hi Juliet,

I read the Hailey Lind books & loved them & I was kind of bummed when I saw on your website that there wasn't going to be anymore Annie books. So glad you found another publisher-I will have to look for the new one. I also like the 2 mystery series under the Juliet Blackwell name. Can't wait for the next books in those series. Keep up the good work!
 
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