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.