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 done...so 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.
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.