I reviewed the debut novel, Blood Bath and Beyond, in the new Immortality Bites Mysteries (click here). Although Immortality Bites and its characters started as a paranormal romance, it is making the transition over to the mystery side. I am tickled that author Michelle Rowen graciously gave us an interview. The blog hop is below.
The heart of my mystery series is my main character, Sarah Dearly, fledgling vampire. Everything that happens plot-wise in the books stems from her, so she’s where I start. What hasn’t she experienced? What does she need to learn? What “creature” do I want to focus on? In BLOOD BATH & BEYOND I stuck with vampires to establish the series. In book 2, BLED & BREAKFAST, I shift over to ghosts and witches. The mystery – and I suppose I’m lucky this way (so far!) – seems to evolve organically from there.
Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?
I do outline before I write, and I usually gravitate to the three act structure. I like to know generally what’s going to happen and especially how everything is going to end (key in writing a mystery), so I spend a lot of time brainstorming and working on essential plot points before I even think about starting to write.
Sarah Dearly is a unique anti-hero character, and the rest of the crew is great as well. What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?
I’ve been working with Sarah for ten years now and she was the star of my original non-mystery paranormal romance series Immortality Bites so I know her pretty well by now. She is unique to any character I’ve ever written since she developed herself without much input from me. My original notes on her wanted her to be a bookworm who hadn’t experienced much from life until her transition to vampire. As soon as I started writing her, however, she turned into a sarcastic trouble-magnet who’s led by her heart and gut (sometimes, unfortunately for her, more so than her brain).
This is a bit more Urban Fantasy-ish than the typical paranormal cozy. What attracted you to this middle ground for a mystery series?
I like to think that Sarah defies category. She’s everything but the kitchen sink. She’s a bit mystery, a bit paranormal romance, a bit chick lit, a smidge of horror, and a whole lot of urban fantasy. Cozy, to me, essentially means that it’s an amateur sleuth who’s doing the mystery-solving. She definitely fits that bill. A cozy mystery, to me, will also have a dead body early in the story. Everything else is up to my imagination and I sometimes do like to paint outside the lines and let my characters do whatever they like without being overly defined by genre.
You had to do some world building for your paranormal setting with the Ring organization etc, what was the good, bad, and ugly in the process?
I created the Ring a few years ago when I needed to reference a vampire council in my original series starring Sarah. It was just your typical shadowy organization then and I didn’t go into much detail. Now that Thierry works for them, I’m fleshing them out a bit and finding out lots of interesting things. It’s not a difficult process – I have seen plenty of other vampire councils to be inspired from in TV and movies – but I do want mine to be just a little different from what’s expected as we start to learn more about them on the page.
Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
All I really need is silence. I usually make up an iTunes soundtrack to inspire my writing of any given book, but when I’m actually writing I like things to be quiet. I’m easily distracted by shiny things. ;)
What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
When I’m writing first drafts, I like to immerse myself in the book and characters. They are constantly in my thoughts as I work out scenes and pesky plot points. I would describe myself as a binge writer, since when I write first drafts I like to do between 10-20 pages a day consistently until I’m done. If I have time, I let the first draft sit for a few days, then I’ll read it over and start my second draft, which usually takes me longer to write than the first one since I’m going slower and looking closely at detail. On my current schedule, I can finish a book (not including the initial brainstorming or the editorial revisions/copy edits, etc.) in 3-4 months.
What in your background prepared you to write not just mysteries but an edgier paranormal mystery?
Prior to selling a book in paranormal mystery (which I absolutely love to write), I had written a whole bunch of books in paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and young adult. Other than my writing history, I’m just drawn to stories that have a mystery in them – and I really love a story that has a satisfying resolution at the end.
In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character and who is your favorite paranormal character?
Tough question… so many I love – Victoria Laurie’s Abby and M.J. J.D. Robb’s Eve. LKH’s Anita. Evanovich’s Stephanie, Jim Butcher’s Harry. They’re all so much fun to read… I can’t pick a favorite!
Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
In the very beginning, I’d say that Laurell K. Hamilton inspired me to write urban fantasy/vampire fiction with a mystery twist. Her early Anita Blake books were great fantasy sleuth novels at their heart.
How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?
My first break would definitely be getting my agent back in late 2004. I got him through a slush pile query letter – so, the old fashioned way!
What are you currently reading?
Currently, I’m not reading any mystery, alas! I’m reading a bunch of YA, including Lili Peloquin’s THE INNOCENTS, Fiona Paul’s VENOM, and I’m rereading Karen Marie Moning’s urban fantasy Fever series.
If your Immortality Bites mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?
I’ve had these two actors in mind since I first got the idea for Sarah and Thierry –Sandra Bullock for Sarah Dearly, and Hugh Jackman for Thierry de Bennicoeur are seared into the theater of my mind as I’m writing these books!
Tell us your thoughts on the growing genre of paranormal mysteries and its popularity (i.e. is it here to stay or a fad, is it pushing the mystery genre envelope etc?)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in six-plus years of being a published author, it’s that I have absolutely no idea what’s the future of publishing. For me, I absolutely LOVE paranormal mystery and the freedom it gives authors to write whatever their imaginations offer up. I love the fun, the romance, the whimsy that’s accepted in this sub-genre. And I hope very much that it’s something that’s here to stay because I want to keep writing it!
THANK YOU Michelle for that great interview!!
I love the visuals of Sandra Bullock and Hugh Jackman. The first author interview where somebody actually got discovered through a query letter, nice to know it does work. I am looking forward to many more mysteries from you!