Monday, August 4, 2008

Return of the Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom

Interview by Nancy

Today we welcome award-winning author Julie Kenner to the lair. In addition to having been a RITA finalist, Julie has won the Romantic Times' Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Contemporary Paranormal of 2001, the Reviewers International Organization's award for best romantic suspense of 2004 and best paranormal of 2005, and the National Readers' Choice Award for best mainstream book of 2005. In July, the fourth book in her Kate Connor, Demon Hunter, series, Deja Demon, was released. Welcome to the lair, Julie!

Thanks so much for inviting me here!

For those who may not be familiar with Kate Connor, can you give us a little background on the series?

Absolutely. Kate is a demon hunter. A formerly retired demon hunter, who was living a perfectly happy life in suburban California. Until a demon she sees in Walmart comes crashing through her window and she’s thrust back into her old job … all while having to juggle Gymboree, playdates, and a hormonal 14 year old daughter. And keeping her secret life a secret, of course.

In other words, your basic metaphor about stay-at-home-moms returning to the workplace ☺

Actually, Kate introduces herself best at the beginning of CARPE DEMON, the first book in the series:

My name is Kate Connor and I used to be a demon hunter.

I've often thought that would be a great pick-up line at parties, but with a teenager, a toddler and a husband, I'm hardly burning up the party circuit. And, of course, the whole demon hunting thing is one great big gargantuan secret. No one knows. Not my kids, not my husband, and certainly not folks at these imaginary parties where I'm regaling sumptuous hunks with tales from my demon-slaying, vampire-hunting, zombie-killing days.

Back in the day, I was pretty cool. Now I'm a glorified chauffeur for pep squad practice and Gymboree play dates. Less sex appeal, maybe, but I gotta admit I love it. I wouldn't trade my family for anything. And after fourteen years of doing the mommy thing, my demon hunting skills aren't exactly sharp.

All of which explains why I didn't immediately locate and terminate the demon wandering the pet food aisle of the San Diablo Wal-Mart. Instead, when I caught a whiff of that tell-tale stench, I naturally assumed it emanated exclusively from the bottom of a particularly cranky two-year-old. My two-year-old, to be exact.

You can see why the original, working title was Demons & Dirty Diapers. You can also see why my agent begged me to change that!!

You’ve given Kate numerous complications in this latest book. Aside from the demons, zombies, and so forth.

Oh yes! There’s a writerly (is that a word?) adage about putting your characters in a tree and then throwing rocks at them. Kate got a lot of rocks thrown at her in this story. Everything from good friends in mortal danger, nasty demons, teenage and toddler problems, and all those pesky issues that come from having your dead first husband come back to life when you’re happily married to your second. You know, regular life stuff.

Kate also faces some unusual parenting issues. Would you like to elaborate on those?

I don’t want to get into too much detail, since that could raise spoilers for folks who haven’t yet started the series … but lets just say that a determined 14 year old is an even tougher challenge for a mom than demons. Especially when that teen’s father happens to be alive and well … but hanging out in the body of another man.

What inspired this series?

It was one of those brainstorming moments that make you believe in the power of brainstorming! I was up for contract with the publisher of some of my romances, and so far I had written two stand-alone books (though they have a loose connection). I really wanted to write a series, and paranormal was starting to get really hot again. I had this image of five alpha males appearing over a hill, dressed all in black, dusters blowing in the breeze behind them. And these guys are demon hunters. That’s all I knew, but I liked the image. So I was pondering what to do next (other than toss in the women, of course).

At the same time, chick lit was on the rise, and while I thoroughly enjoy that genre, there really wasn’t any mommy-lit, and as a new mom, that’s what I wanted to read, and I was also itching to write it.

I was chatting with my critique partner, Kathleen O’Reilly, about both ideas, and somewhere in the conversation, demon hunting alpha males smacked up against soccer moms, and poof, Kate was born. I literally sat down and wrote the first scene in Carpe, and other than the very beginning (My name is …), that chapter changed very little from inception to publication. Kate has a strong voice, and it’s great fun to “channel” her.

You make greater use of the Catholic Church than most romance authors do. How does this fit into the series?

Well, I wanted Kate to be officially retired from demon-hunting, which means it needed to be an actual job. But I also wanted her to be a regular mom in a regular world, which means it had to be a super-secret job. And I figured that the job has been around forever, so I needed an old organization. And we’re talking demons, so a religious organization fit the bill. Plus, I wanted Kate’s faith to be very important to her. This is a woman who has really and truly seen hell. She understands what she’s fighting.

All in all, everything pointed to the Catholic church. It’s ancient, it has a central base in the Vatican, the religion itself has a wonderfully rich history to pull from, and many of the actual details of the Catholic faith embellish the stories (like the import of relics). Of course, I take tons of literary license, but that’s the fun of being the author.

Kate Connor’s very sympathetic for those of us whose nightmare is to be in charge of food or decorations for the PTA. Was that a conscious choice, or did that aspect of her personality just happen?

You know, it was a conscious choice in that I wrote it, but a lot of Kate’s character is discover-as-you-go. I don’t do character sketches before I start writing, but instead discover the character in the story. And considering who Kate is, that discovery was pretty expected! I think the real surprise would be if it turned out she absolutely loved chairing PTA committees!

Kate Connor has been so popular that she's headed for the big screen. Could you update us on that project?

I should probably clarify that the popularity of Kate’s stories didn’t have anything to do with the interest from 1492 and Warner Brothers. At the time of the original deal, I had written a grand total of three chapters and a synopsis and didn’t even have a publication date. But they saw the potential in Kate, and so far, I’ve been really pleased with the vision of the folks at 1492 and WB.

The truth is that the movie project is moving along on its own trajectory. I get updates from time to time, but I’m not involved day to day. I know that a script has been completed and is being tweaked, and I can tell you that Warner Brothers re-optioned the material last year (the original option had been renewed once, then expired by its own terms). So it’s still actively in development.

Your website mentions dark fantasy to come. Can you give us some hints about that?

Here’s a little teaser:

When Lily Carlyle set out to kill a child molester, she never expected to die and be resurrected as an assassin. Especially not as an assassin charged with fighting the forces of darkness in the ultimate battle of good against evil. It's the key into heaven, she's told. And in light of her sins, without that key, she's doomed to an eternity of suffering.

But what Lily doesn't know is that she's fighting for the wrong side. She's been duped by the underworld, tricked into killing those who would stand in the way of her demonic handlers.

And when Lily finds out the truth ... well, there really will be hell to pay.

The first three books: TAINTED, TORN, and TURNED will be published back to back in Nov/Dec 2009 and January 2010 by Ace.

You’ve also written super-heroes, which you know I love. What drew you to that sub-genre, and do you plan to revisit it at some point?

What drew me to it … hmm, that is a really good question. I think I like writing about larger than life characters, but who have to exist in this world. I also like the theme of finding out “who you are,” and then pursuing that for all it’s worth, a theme that fits well in the superhero genre. And, you know, I like characters that kick a little butt.

As for the subgenre, I’m working on a superhero story right now, but I’m writing it as a screenplay since I’ve conceived it more visually than narratively. But I love the character, and I may try to write it as a novel a some point (or a graphic novel, but I’m honestly clueless about that venue.) I also would love to revisit the world of the Aphrodite series, and I have a couple of ideas percolating that I may try to pursue at some point. (I recently did have the chance to revisit that world with a novella that came out in April in the These Boots Were Made For Stomping anthology).

Thanks again for inviting me to be a guest. This was great fun!

Have you ever felt you were juggling too many family commitments? What's your favorite of Julie's books? What do you like about stories featuring moms and children? What kinds of children do you most like to see in your books?

Julie's giving away a copy of Deja Demon to one commenter. !For more about Julie and her books visit her website.

Julie's traveling and signing today, so don't worry if she doesn't respond right away. She'll be with us in between commitments.

A special note to those in Houston--Julie's signing at Murder by the Book at 6:30 today. Pop in and say hi if you're in the area.


Gannon Carr said...

Did I nab that naughty GR?!

Gannon Carr said...

Welcome to the lair, Julie! I confess that I haven't read any of your books, but I will definitely remedy that. Kate sounds like a fun character. And your new dark fantasy book sounds very intriguing.

As a mom of three, I know all about juggling, and at times it can be overwhelming. But I've been at it for almost 16 years, so I've forgotten what it's like NOT to be a mother! A kick-butt, take -charge mom like Kate sounds like the kind of mom I should be...minus the demons, of course! ;)

Helen said...

Well done Gannon have fun with him he has been in Australia for a while and may need a 4xxxx beer here and there!!

Great interview Nancy and Julie I must confess that I have not read one of your books YET but they sound amazing I will remedy that very soon.

Juggling life with children can be really hard I had 4 children in 6 years but the eldest is 28 now and the youngest 21 so the juggling between soccer, netball cricket and softball cubs and guides karate and physical culture has finally stopped or I thought it had but there are now beautiful grandchildren to play with have sleep over and soon it will start trying to get around to watch them and their activities, but you know what I wouldn't have it any other way.

Have Fun

limecello said...

Welcome, Julie - thanks for visiting with us! You're an new to me author, but I'm definitely interested in your books. Love the story line - it's so normal yet... not.
Haha - I don't have kids [yet?] - but I will have to say this post and the previous comments make me grateful for that :P. My life is busy and crazy enough as is.

Annie West said...

Julie, what a hoot. I'm hooked on Kate and I haven't even read more than the excerpt. Soccer mum demon fighter! Tres cool.

You know, I think you've probably tapped into a particularly rich vein of feminine interest here. I don't know a woman of any age who isn't a juggler. I think it's in the hormones or something. And the idea of juggling the forces of evil along with the family has that added extra oomph.

Hm, trying to think of a memorable day of juggling. How about two little school kids, one husband, one sick babysitter, pets, a fledgling writing career, negotiations on a possible house purchase and move, a 12 hour day working on an urgent Senate report (like your Congress in the US) and organising 2 dissenting reports, all the while with your arm in a sling from tendonitis?

Ah, such vivid memories!


Ann M. said...

I love the series. I'm curious will we ever get a resolution with Kate and her men issues?

Dina said...

Hi Julie,

You're new to me, but I love how your books sounds.

Julie Kenner said...

Hey folks!! Thanks so much for the warm welcome. I hope you guys do check out the series. As you can tell, I love Kate :) And sounds like you can all relate to the juggling act, LOL!

Ann, no spoilers, but ... yup. (Shhhh, can't say more!)

Gillian Layne said...

Congrats on the GR, Gannon!

Keep the great author interviews coming, Banditas! They pretty much drive my TBR list at this point.

I haven't read these books yet but they are definitely on my list. You had me at "hormonal 14 year old daughter." I'm living that right now--we're calling this the "summer of the boy" even though she doesn't get to date yet. But they've certainly discovered her! Very stressful!

Welcome home, Banditas!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Julie - Welcome to the lair. My daughter bought a copy of Carpe Demon some time ago (LOVE that title BTW)now I'm going to have to snag it to read. Sounds like a hoot.

Great GR nab, Gannon!

tetewa said...

Your a new author for me so I'm glad to see you here today. As an avid reder of all genres I'm always looking for new authors to read! Sounds like I need to add your Demon series to my TBR pile.

jo robertson said...

Welcome to the Lair, Julie! Your Kate Connor series sounds hilarious. Personally, I love the original title of Demons and Dirty Diapers -- that's soooo a mom's life. Even if the demons are symbolic, the diapers are nitty-gritty real!

Absolutely, Gannon, you nabbed him. But I imagine the Golden Rooster's a bit light-headed from all the wild parties at National. Or was that his doppleganger? Hmmm, maybe we'll never know.

jo robertson said...

Superb interview, Nancy and Julie! Julie, your career is so prolific and multi-genred. How long have you been writing? Can you share a little about your writing process with us?

Joan said...

Welcome, Julie from another Bandita crawling back into the lair after National (Where are my bacon and eggs? Where are all my Bandita buds? Why are their rooster feathers in my luggage?)

Your series sounds fabulous and is already on my TBR list. And a movie? Wow, how exciting is that? Will you play a guest spot like Nora did in hers? And if so, who would you be?

flchen1 said...

Hi, Julie! I've heard such good things about Kate's books--I've got Carpe Demon on the TBR :) I like stories featuring moms and kids interacting in relatively normal ways--I don't really like the perfectly well-behaved kids because honestly, who has kids like that?? And I prefer those that aren't over-the-top horrible, because that's just too depressing to read about :) Congrats on all your successes--looking forward to hearing more about you and your writing!

Congrats on the GR, Gannon!

Julie Kenner said...

Wow, lots of potential new Kate readers here. That's so cool!

Jo, my process has changed over the years. When I first started writing, I had no kids, and my dh was in grad school. I was working as an attorney, so I wrote at night when DH was studying. Then I had my daughter. Then I quit to write full time. Then we adopted our second daughter. Then I decided to homeschool. So I've come full circle and am back to writing at night after the "day job," and early mornings when I manage to get up that early.

That's the when-do-you-write part. The how-do-you-write changes with each book. With some (including Kate's books) I tend to do a really detailed synopsis (usually if it's a book with a mystery component). But with others, I'll just have a basic idea and jump right in.

I almost always start by writing a chapter before I do the synopsis, though, and I almost always start with concept before character. Kate is an exception, primarily because the concept IS the character.

I tend to write fast, though lately not as fast as I used to (I blame the children, LOL!).

As for how long I've been writing, all my life, but I didn't actually try seriously to write a novel until 1997, and I sold in 1999. Before that, I'd written poetry, short stories, news articles (primarily in school), screenplays, and lots and lots of legal briefs!

Not sure if I've answered you question, so feel free to ask more!

Julie Kenner said...

Hey, Joan! A guest spot would be cool, but I'm just hoping it gets made. Hollywood is such a funny business. I do think Kate would translate well to the screen, so fingers crossed. And I'd rather my kids have the cameo. Maybe a daycare scene? (Though in 8 more years, my oldest could play Allie. Hmmmmm.)

Nancy said...

Gannon, congratulations! (For those of you who're new visitors, the Golden Rooster, or GR, goes to the first commenter of the day.) Running one child around sometimes makes my head spin. Some days, I don't know how those of you who have more manage.

Helen, I hear grandchildren are fabulous. I'm hoping to have some I can spoil someday. :-) Glad you liked the interview.

Tetewa, Ann M., and Dina, thanks for stopping by!

Limecello, "normal, yet . . . not" sounds to me like a great description. Sometimes, it's even my life. Though not because of anything paranormal. *g*

Annie, you juggled all that with one arm? Wow!

Gillian, I remember the hormonal teenage years. Why is it that hormones and angst always go together? Being discovered by boys beats being ignored by them, but it surely is a big set of issues. Thanks for the welcome back. We missed our buddies, but Christie seems to have kept the cabana boys and gladiators hopping.

Jo, that danged bird was everywhere at National. I think we need to start working now on a containment field for next year.

Joan--rooster feathers in your luggage? A very bad sign. I'm kind of brain-fried still.

Flchen1, I gave up a mystery series I had very much enjoyed because the h/h had a kid who was a wiseacre I could not stand. Sort of Wesley Crusher on steroids (with apologies to Wil Wheaton). I don't like well behaved kids either because I also don't believe them, BTW.

Sarah said...

I love this series! And if I could make it to Houston tonight I would!

If only it was a saturday!

Nancy said...

Susan, don't you have some news you'd like to share with our buddies? Something about jewelry?

Congrats to KJ for winning the contemporary series category of the Daphne and to our buddy Louisa Cornell for winning not only the historical category Daphne but the Beau Monde! Woo-hoo!

Sorry I was late arriving today, everyone. I got home last night after 11 p.m. and am still sort of spaced. The trip was smooth but long.

Nancy said...

Sarah, thanks for stopping by. I wasn't even a Buffy fan (though I was already a Julie Kenner fan) when Kate Connor first appeared, and the books snagged me right away.

Nancy said...

BTW, everyone, in case you're wondering, the banditas clean up well. We looked pretty darned hot Saturday night, if I do say so.

Julie Kenner said...

I'm off to Houston! Chances are I won't be back on line until late, late, late.

Thank you all for the wonderful comments!

Cassondra said...

Nancy said:

the banditas clean up well. We looked pretty darned hot Saturday night, if I do say so.

Hot...and TIRED. I have that "under water sort of out of body" feeling going on....walking around the house like a zombie.

Julie, welcome to the lair. If we're a bit scattered today, you'll have to forgive us. Your books sound fabulous. One of the things I've worried about is that I'll probably never write a book with a mom as a heroine, because I'm not one, and I'm not sure I could pull it off. In a way that's very limiting I think--because MOST women become moms. Congrats to you on mixing these genres so well! That's a gutsy thing to do. I'm going to have to nab one of Kate's stories when I get to the bookstore.

gannon, congrats on the rooster. He's been a busy bird this past week.

Nancy said...

Fo--Booksellers Best! How could I forget? Woo-hoo! I'm just a big spaced today. I hope you and Christine have smooth journeys home.

Cassondra--see references to spaciness above. Glad you made it home okay, and thanks for supervising my airport transit. :-)

Cassondra said...


For you who don't know, I gave Nancy a coupon for the Super Shuttle from the hotel to the airport.

Nancy said...

Cassondra wrote: Supervising...SNORK!

Yeah, you gave me a coupon. As well as standing over me while I made the reservation, making sure we were on the same shuttle, and informing Super Shuttle, after the driver failed to do so even though we TOLD him we had reservations on a later shuttle, that we were already on one of their shuttles and at the airport.


Pat Cochran said...

Thanks, Julie, for visiting with us today! Though I'm in Houston, I'm
babysitting today which will keep me in the house until 7 pm tonight. I do plan to pick up this series
my next visit to the bookstore.
Demons and soccer moms, love the mix!!

Congratulations, Gannon! WTG!

Welcome Home, Banditas! It's good to have you back in the Lair!

Pat Cochran

Helen said...

Welcome back everyone so glad that you all had such a good time in SF I am really looking forward to seeing more photos and hearing more about it. I am sure we will hear more from the cloned GR you had in SF with you!!

Congrats and hugs to all the winners and the Bandits you all deserve lots of accolades.

Nancy grandchildren are such fun and a real joy.

Julie these books sound fantastic I will be looking for them and look forward to reading them.

Have Fun

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Gannon! Great grab on that naughty bird. Although with all the partying and sightseeing he did in SF, he might be a little easier to handle today!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Julie! Great to have you back in the lair. Your dark fantasy books sound really, really good! I'd best get on with whittling down my TBR pile so I'll have room for them when they're released!

Nancy said...

Pat, thanlks for stopping by. Maybe the store will have signed copies on hand when you go in!

Thanks, Helen. We're glad to be back--those of us who are, anyway. Some of us are still in transit. As for the rooster, I'm very much afraid his adventures in SF may have been extensive. You may well hear more about his trip.

Suz, love your avatar! How cool!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Sorry to be so late to the party! I'm still recouperating from SF...

Welcome back to the Lair Julie and thank you Nancy for another great interview! I'm with Jo, I think the title Demons & Dirty Diapers is GREAT!

Speaking of dirty... everyone please take note of how spiffy clean the Lair looks! Christie did a super job of getting the cabana boys and gladiators on clean up patrol. However, there are a suspiciously large number of liquor bottles and cookie crumbs in the rubbish bin...

P.S. Congrats on grabbing the GR, Gannon! Is he still humming "I Left My Heart In San Francisco"?

Caffey said...

Hi Julie! Yeah its out! I think I love this cover the best!! DEJA DEMON is going to be another great read! I have read the first two and need to get three and now this new fourth one. I for one wish they don't even end! Its like now that my kids are finished with HS, I'm still running around doing lots, but its different, but these stories bring so much memories back for me! The laughter is a wonderful feeling reading this series! Julie, whats 1492? That the jewelry? I remember something like that of jewelry and love it so I may be getting that mixed up. It would be great if this went to TV!

I will be looking out for the Dark Fantasy too! I had no idea about that and as I love to read a variety, I shall be patient til they are out!!

Great interview!

Julie Kenner said...

I'm back from Houston, and I'm exhausted, but I do love the folks at Murder By the Book! Great store (on Bissonet) if you're ever in the area.

Thanks for all the great comments while I was in transit. Let's see ... 1492: that's Chris Columbus's production company on the Warner Brothers lot (Harry Potter, Adventures in Babysitting, etc.).

And as for this cover, I like it too! Was a little nervous when they wanted to change the look, but I think it works well, and the yellow really pops!