Friday, June 8, 2007

Colleen Gleason, creator of the "Regency Buffy"

We're thrilled to have Colleen Gleason, author of the wonderful Gardella Vampire Chronicles series here with us at Romance Bandits today.

Colleen's second book in the series, Rises the Night, hit bookstore shelves this week and I simply cannot wait to read it. I did a little Q& A with Colleen. Here's a little Q&A I did with Colleen. If you have other questions or comments, please post to the comments section. We'll be drawing a winner, who will receive one of Colleen's first two Gardella books -- winner's choice!

When people hear how your Gardella Vampire Chronicles are billed as "Buffy meets the Regency" or "Buffy meets Jane Austen", it immediately says highconcept. Was that your intent? And did the high concept come before or after you'd started writing the first in the series, The Rest Falls Away?

I think, yes, in a way, it started that way--as a high concept, and before I started writing it.

When the idea for the story came to me, it came as "a Regency vampire slayer." That was it. I knew if I was going to write about vampires, I was going to write about them as villains, not sympathetic creatures...but the vampire slayer bit had already been I figured I'd put it in the time period most "saleable"--meaning, the most popular/common setting for romance novels.

I remember walking around the RWA conference in Dallas, thinking "I'm going to write a story about a Regency-Buffy." But I didn't start for another six months because I was finishing a different project that, by the way, to date hasn't sold. :-)

What has been the easiest thing about writing the Gardella books? The most difficult?
The easiest thing was that it was a book I wanted to read--one I would have picked up off the shelf and read had someone written it before me. (And boy am I glad no one did.) I wanted to write about a smart, strong heroine who had more than one gorgeous, smart man to choose from, and so that's what happened. I wanted to write about a woman who tries to have it all, and do it all....and ultimately learns that it's not that easy.

The most difficult part is that, since I tend to write "organically"--meaning, I don't plot or plan out things--I have to be careful what "rules" I set in my world, and what histories and events I've given people and the world around them so that it doesn't mess up something I might want to do in the future. :-) I've gotten better at that, however, although I did give a certain vampiric character an age in The Bleeding Dusk (Gardella Three) that locks me in to a prior commitment so to speak. In other words, if I ever want to write about this character in another book, I have to work with his age and how long he has--or hasn't--been around.

You've said that the series will be five books long? How did you determine that? Did you plot all five before starting to write the first one?

I want to write five books about Victoria Gardella Grantworth, and that's because I want her to have a finite character arc, including getting her Mr. Right at the end of it. I don't want it to drag on for too long, because I don't want the characters and story line to get boring, or to "Jump the Shark." I don't want to have everything that can happen to a vampire slayer to happen to Victoria; I'd rather share the wealth and let some things happen to other characters.

And when I originally started to write, I didn't really think about how many books it would be. I just knew the story wouldn't be resolved in the first book. Then I thought about making it a trilogy--that's such a nice, neat package. But as I finished the second book and went on to the third, I realized there was no way I could resolve the story even then, in what would be the last book. So I thought that five (not four because four is an even number and one likes to have a sort of peak or pinnacle in the story line) books would be perfect.

So that's my plan at this point, and since I'm contracted through Book Four, as long as the books do well enough, I'm hoping NAL will give me another two-book contract. Then I'll finish up Victoria's story and start another character's story.

And, for the record, I didn't plot any book before I had to. I just finished plotting Book Four, and I have a vague idea of what will happen in Book Five....but I'm no JK Rowling!

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind? Are there CDs that, to you, put you in the mood to write, specifically, the Gardella books?

I often do listen to music when I write! I have a mix of "writing music" on my Rhapsody player that is a conglomerate of some good '80s music ("Something About You"--Level 42, "Rio"--Duran Duran, "Goody Two Shoes"--Adam Ant) mixed with some of my favorite '90s ("Little Miss Can't Be Wrong"--The Spin Doctors, "Girlfriend"--Matthew Sweet, "Keep Your Hands to Yourself"--Georgia Satellites) and current artists (Maroon 5, Coldplay, Nickelback, James Blunt, David Gray, Jamie Cullum)...

I just add a track whenever it comes to me, and the mix plays in a random order. Lots of the songs are mellow: "Take My Breath Away"--Queen, "Lover You Should Have Come Over"--Jeff Buckley, "Trouble"--Ray LaMontagne, etc). I have a few rocking songs ("Supernova"--Liz Phair, "Highway to Hell"--AC/DC) that I play specifically when I'm writing fight scenes.

One of the things that I don't like about writing historically set novels is that the characters can't share in that music with me! I know a lot of authors have "soundtracks" that go with their books, and it just doesn't work for me to have Victoria Gardella Grantworth's theme song to be "Extraordinary" by Liz Phair. Ya know?

I do have a few songs, though, that remind me of the characters and how they feel about a certain situation or character. For example, I do think of Victoria's theme song as "Extraordinary" by Liz Phair. Some day I may share some other songs that go with the books, but at this time, they'd be spoilerish. :-)

And since your book does have that bit of a Buffy connection, you know I have to ask the big Buffyverse question: Angel or Spike? :)

Easy-peasy. Angel for Buffy, Spike for me!

Angel and Buffy belong together. They've always been connected, their love was true and sweet and clear, and he's a good foil for her smart mouth and blazing into danger kind of personality. He was her first. And he loved her from the first.
Besides. Like I said, that leaves Spike for me!

Your books aren't what I'd call a traditional romance--there's no happy ever after at the end of The Rest Falls Away, nor, I suspect, at the end of Rises the Night. With this in mind, how do you feel about having your series marketed as a romance when it technically isn't? Do you feel that your books are currently in their proper niche, or should your stuff be alongside Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, et al? And how do you feel about taking a Janet Evanovich-type stance with having two possible heroes?

This is a good question, and definitely worth talking about.

The thing is, NAL had to make a decision about which market my books would mostly appeal to, and although they can be cross-marketed/shelved in different places in the stores, the general placement/positioning has to attract a particular market if it has any chance of success. They chose romance because there is a broad sense of romanticism in the books, even though there are elements of horror, action adventure, and historical settings.

I think NAL made the right decision in their positioning, because the series has a lot of romantic elements to it--it's really a romance novel spanned over five books. In fact, that romance arc is the only part I really know for the entire five books.

Why over five books? Because it's going to take Victoria that long, wearing her new "skin" as a Venator (vampire hunter) to realize who is the only man for her--the right one, her soulmate, the only man who really understands and deserves to love her.

I wanted to do it that way because, realistically, most of us women have had more than one love before we found (or rediscovered) our life-long partner. And there's no reason a heroine like Victoria--an "Extraordinary" one--wouldn't attract (or be attracted to) an array of men. It just makes sense. Beauty and brains...confidence and excitement. What man isn't going to want that?

And as for the Janet Evanovich connection...the difference between the Gardella books and the Stephanie Plum books are that there will only be five books about Victoria, and I know who her hero is. And it's my intent--my hope and intent--to bring the readers along with me and Victoria as that decision is made. Even if they tend to root for one of the characters over another, even if their choice for hero doesn't make it, they'll understand why he's ultimately the one she chooses. It'll make sense, and it will have been fed into the stories from the beginning.


Anna Campbell said...

Trish, great questions! Colleen, great answers! And welcome to the Banditas. I hope you'll come and visit us again. I've always thought your high concept for the Gardella books was brilliant. Still do. It really makes you sit up and pay attention and as you say, unites two seemingly opposite threads in popular culture in a way that works. Good luck with book two. I'm sure it will be a huge success. There was such a buzz about the first story. By the way, I think your titles are great!

Jill James said...

The covers are awesome too. You can't miss it in the store. Got my copy of Rises the Night today at BN. Can't wait to get started.

Keira Soleore said...

Colleen, honestly, I'm not stalking you, though I "talked" to you at Risky Regencies earlier today and now here.

AnnaC, aren't her covers just gorgeous like the eye-catching titles?

Colleen, I hope Dallas does the same trick for me as it did you: The high concept jumped out at you.

I'm in the process of assembling my music list for the project I recently started. Since this is the first time I'm doing this, it's great to read about what sort of music other writers listen to when they write. AC/DC for a fight scene... :)

Do you find that your chosen tracks work even though you're writing Regency-set historicals, not contemps? What would happen to your story if you were to play, say, Hayden or Bach? :)

Following up on Trish's excellent question about HEAs, what did you find your readers' reactions were to Victoria not getting her HEA at the end of TRFA? Did the readers go along with NAL's romance classification?

Anna Campbell said...

Keira, interesting you talking about music. I find I write best to stuff that has a definite rhythm but nothing too outlandish, if that makes sense. It needs to become part of the pulse of my brain rather than make me listen to it, if that makes sense. I actually find some Philip Glass is great to write to, as is something like the soundtrack to the Piano. That regular throbbing pulse of the music seems to get me into a creative state. Does that sound too new age to be bearable? I hope not!

Oh, the covers! That corset one for the first book was just SOOO sexy! Sort of modern and historical at the same time which really worked so well.

Colleen Gleason said...

Anna! Thanks so much for being part of the Banditas and having me here, and especially to Trish for coming up with some fun questions!

Jill, thanks so much for buying my books...and thanks for the compliments on the covers. I love them too. I think NAL did an outstanding job!

Keira! Thanks for coming by here too...and I hope we get to meet at Dallas! If you see me, hunt me down, I'd love to chat.

As for listening to Haydn or Bach or other music from the Regency's just not my thing, so I haven't really tried it (although I really love Vivaldi)...but maybe I should. *headdesk* Never really thought about trying period music for mood music when I'm writing, if you can believe it!

And as far as reader reactions to the not-so-HEA at the end of REST (and RISES)...I haven't really had any angry reactions, or disappointed ones. I've had some people comment that they were sad about what happened, but there wasn't the sense of them being angry or cheated out of the ending they expected.

The only place I've really heard or seen that kind of reaction is, funny enough, among romance-reader blogs!

And even then, it wasn't anger or disappointment with me, as much as confusion as to why the publisher positioned the book as a romance.

But I think people who aren't plugged in to the industry aren't as sensitive to it--after all, my book has a lot of romantic elements, and the readers know it's a series, so I think they expect their HEA eventually.

(my blog is at

Colleen Gleason said...

Oh...and for anyone who's interested, here's a link to a $1-off coupon for RISES THE NIGHT (and other books) at Borders:

CrystalG said...

Great interview. Loved your answers. I think the covers are great too.

Karen H in NC said...

Hi Colleen,

Great interview. Couple of questions:
1. Do you have a visual inspiration for your M/F characters in front of you when you write? If so, who?
2. Is there a central male lead appearing throughout the series who will eventually be the hero in Victoria's HEA?

I have the 1st book of this series on my huge TBR shelf and I promise I'll pull it out very soon and get it read. Normally I am not that into the vampire type books, but I love the idea of "Buffy, The Regency Vampire Slayer" so I look forward to reading this book and collecting the others in the series.

Colleen Gleason said...

Hi ChrystalG! Nice to see you over here!!

Karen...thanks for coming by and for your questions. When I was writing Victoria, I was thinking of Emmy Rossum, who played Christine in Webber's Phantom of the Opera film...but Victoria's not quite as sweet looking.

As for the male leads (and there are three of them, and one of them will turn out to be Mr. Right--but until that happens, they sort of share the stage. They all have different personalities and different agendas, and they want different things from Victoria)....I do have visuals for some of them.

I see Clive Owen or a young Sound of Music era Christopher Plummer as Max.

I see Nicholas Cage or Patrick Wilson as Phillip.

And I see a much more cleaned up Matthew McConaughey as Sebastian.

Yet...I don't have their pictures in front of me as I write. They're still sort of piecemeal images in my mind.

Thanks for coming by!

Anna Campbell said...

Colleen, hope you've had a good day with the Banditas. Had to pop in and say yum to a young Christopher Plummer. I still find him really sexy in the Sound of Music! Yes, tragic, I know. I think I'm like a duckling who was imprinted because he was the hero of the very first movie I ever saw and I think he's stayed with me ever since. Quack! If you like Vivaldi, try some of the Bach violin concertos. They were my way into the whole Bach universe - really rhythmic and melodic. Or the Brandenburg Concertos. I find them great to write to. Hmm, if anyone remembers my eight facts, I was the classical music nut!

Colleen Gleason said...

Anna, I knew were were soul sisters.

I think Chris Plummer in Sound of Music is just delicious (although I've heard he hated making that "sappy" movie and called it "The Sound of Mucus." LOL)

And you happened to name a few of my favorites--I love the Brandenburg Concerto (for Trumpet) and had it played at my wedding as a matter of fact...and also the Vivaldi trumpet concertos.

I really am going to have to dig those out...especially since in book four, which I'll be starting soon, Victoria goes back to London and will probably be at a musicale or two!

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Colleen, welcome! Thanks for taking the time to visit with the Banditas.

You've intrigued me!Love the concept and the descriptions - going to have to run out and buy your books!

I'm not a vampire as a romantic hero fan (loved Dark Shadows though!), in fact the only ones I've ever read which I enjoyed were Caridad Pineiro's vampires in her Calls series. Nor am I a Buffy fan (can I admit to never having seen it?)

But, I love the idea of a Regency vampire hunter and the way you've described your heroine and your stories has really got me excited about reading something different!

So glad you dropped by!

Beth said...

Colleen, welcome to the Banditas! And thank you and Trish for such a wonderful interview.

I agree, your covers are gorgeous and the high concept sounds wonderful! Will definitely be picking up copies of books one and two :-)

Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome Colleen! And BIG THANX to Trish for interviewing you!

Colleen, I was wondering if the Gardella books are your first. If not, what did you write before them? If so, did you have an agent before you submitted?

I LOVED the insight into your writing process. Thanx a bunch for sharing! And the Brandenburgs are my fave Bach pieces, too (though as I've mentioned before Beethoven is my preference).

And VA, you are NOT ALONE. I've never watched a single episode of Buffy either. I did watch the originally movie, but only because Rutger Hauer was in it as the Big Bad Vampire...yum!


Buffie said...

Gee I love to see my name in lights -- even if it is spelled wrong :) LOL!!!!!

Colleen -- you books sound wonderful and very intriguing. Guess I'll be checking them out at the bookstore very soon!!

Keira Soleore said...

AnnaC and Colleen, thanks for a great music discussion. I have the Brandenburgs in my list, and also Patrick Doyle's soundtracks. I adore the music to the new P&P Austen movie. Then I added Baby Bach to my list: happy tunes. I love the polyphony while writing.(I know I've said this here before.) Thanks for the suggestion to listen to the music of Piano--I put it in my Amazon list. I like quite a bit of Phillip Glass, great motoring music, but ostinatos can sometimes be a little trying when I'm trying to think.

Colleen, thanks also for the discussion about HEAs and readers' reactions. The 'Net has become a great spot for camaraderie, but sometimes it can morph into a lynching place, too. My sympathies. And brava to you for being brave.

Keira Soleore said...

And while I'm here, AnnaC, I re-read CtC while I was in the land of the sun. Loved it even more the second go around. Thank you!

Colleen Gleason said...

HI Anna, Aunty Cindy, and Beth...

Thanks for having me! So excited to be here. What a gorgeous blog and lots of fun and talented people!

As for whether these Gardella books were my first....they're my first published books, but THE REST FALLS AWAY was the ninth book I'd written and the first one I sold.

And I'd had an agent for two years before we sold the Gardellas, and she'd submitted three other manuscripts before the sale. Since then, we've also sold two more Gardellas (for a total of four) and two erotic historicals that I write under a different name.

Thanks so much for having me here today, and for your enthusiasm about my books!


Stacy S said...

Great interview. Your covers are awesome looking. I have to say I've never read your books before, but will picking them up now.

Anna Campbell said...

Keira, I definitely owe you a drink when I see you in Dallas! So glad you enjoyed CTC again. That's actually my test of a book, if I can read it again and get more out of it. I do that a lot with my favorites. Is anyone else a re-reader? Given my TBR pile, I always feel slightly guilty when I pick up an old favorite but sometimes only something I know I'm going to love will do!

I love the Patrick Doyle soundtracks too. The Henry V one is one of my all-time faves. So powerful. I find, though, when I'm writing, that sometimes the music can be too demanding (that soundtrack actually fits in that category - Gladiator is another one). Speaking of Philip Glass - I had exactly that experience you describe. I had one CD of ballet music which really worked as a writing tool and then I bought another one that was really loud and dramatic and no use at all!

Colleen, I think it's sad that CP despises TSOM (yes, I'd heard that too - apparently he winces when it's mentioned). That movie is so important to so many people and he played Captain Von Trapp so beautifully, so he's not a horrible arrogant tyrant, he's a man trapped in his grief, that he should be proud of it. Nothing he's done since has touched that many lives whatever artistic integrity his subsequent work may have had.

Oh, dear, I'm talkative this morning! Somebody shut me up!

I'm going to a meeting of the south-east England branch of the Romantic Novelists' Association today at the Lamb pub in Holborn. Doesn't that sound like fun? It's lovely to have friends all over the world through the romance writing gig!

Trish Milburn said...

Glad to see everyone commenting today. Sorry, I've been away from the computer since posting this interview last night. Spent the day at the Memphis zoo with my sister and nieces, drove for several hours, re-watched an old favorite tonight (Benny & Joon, starring a very young looking Johnny Depp), and trying to do a little online time tonight before falling into bed. We're off again tomorrow for more touristy excursions.

Colleen, I got Rises the Night at Barnes & Noble last night! Will start reading as soon as the sis and nieces head home. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next.

danetteb said...

Great interview. I got to say I love Spikes accent,but I'll take Angel anyday.*g*

Congrats on the new release Colleen!


Suzanne Welsh said...

Colleen, thank you for stopping by to chat with the Banditas! I haven't read the first book, but you make it sound so good I think I'll be making a trip to the bookstore this weekend just to pick up a copy.


Christine Wells said...

I love the idea of a romance that spans five books! And what a great concept, Colleen. One of those ideas every writer wants to come up with. Wow, wouldn't it be great as a movie? Thanks so much for talking with Trish, Colleen and thanks, Trish, for those great questions.

JaneB said...

I love the concept of this, Buffy and the Regency together! And five books - great!
Also fascinated about the plotting - or not! Sounds a bit like me, a seat of the pantz writer with a general idea, and then go for it. Thankfully it usually works out.
I've just submitted my first Regency - my others were contemporary and time travel romance.
Hope i can find your books in our stores down here in New Zealand.
Happy writing
Jane Beckenham