God I loved the Star Wars movies when I was a kid. I carried out an intense and passionate affair with them over many years. At Bella Stander’s Book Promotion 101 seminar she held in LA last week, one of the guest speaker publicists was asking me about BLOODANGEL. Why did I write the book? Why should other people care about the book? I stumbled and stammered and she was able to guide me towards a heartfelt answer. At bottom, I wrote the novel because when I was a little girl I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Or rather, I wanted to be a sexy female version of Luke (kind of like Angelina Jolie would be if she learned to use the Force). The first impulse for the book spun out of that — I wanted to write about a young woman who goes on a fantastic quest and comes into serious supernatural power. And I wanted this woman to be a real relatable character — not a big-breasted caricature in a leather bikini like you see in so many video games — not a cartoon — not a spunky girlfriend or fiesty sister or whatever. Jess Shepard is intelligent, talented, troubled, serious, attractive, determined. She is also small-breasted. No heaving cleavage for Jess.
My editor and agent each sent me extra cover flats, which was very nice of both of them. Cover flats are your novel’s cover with nothing inside it, so that the front and back and spine is one long strip. I’m happy with my cover flats; Chris McGrath did the artwork and did a great job, and the back cover copy also came off well. I was even happier with my cover when my editor Liz called to tell me that it will carry a blurb from Poppy Z. Brite — if I could only get one blurb (and I did) I would want it to be her, no question — okay, or maybe Neil Gaiman — so I got off the phone alight with schoolgirl glee.
Actually I’d been thinking about Ms Brite a little earlier that same day, when I read BLOODANGEL’s little marketing bullet points and saw that I was being put forth as “a fresh new voice in horror” that “will appeal to the fans of Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlin R. Kiernan”. (What a coincidence: in the last six months I bought ARCs — advance reading copies — off of Ebay from both of them, eager as I was to read MURDER OF ANGELS and PRIME). Anyone who follows Poppy knows that her recent novels don’t exactly fall into the ‘horror’ category by any means, and so I thought Well, look at that, just goes to show that she can’t escape the reputation of her younger self, partly because marketing people will keep using it to make a point about writers like, well, me, or what they’re trying to make me out to be. I mentioned something like this to Liz, who said, “Poppy was very clear about how she wants to be represented — as the author of PRIME and LIQUOR.” Well, of course. What I found interesting — newcomer that I am — was that she felt she had to stress that point, like if she wasn’t careful they would tag her as the author of LOST SOULS as if she’s never written anything in the fifteen years since. (Wow, has it really been fifteen years?)
I’m not sure I’m a horror writer per se (assuming any writer actually is, rather than just being, you know, a ‘writer’); I like the dark psychological stuff, sure, I like it very much, but I’m not after the gore and splatter; I want to be thrilled, moved, intrigued, and riveted. Favorite movies include EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, SEVEN, HEAT, LA CONFIDENTIAL. Liz and I were talking about favorite movies the one time we had lunch in New York (she took me to a place that has the most amazing chocolate chip bread pudding I’ve ever tasted). I rattled off those titles and she said something along the lines of, “So you like these structured, multi-layered narratives” which struck me as one of the most obvious things that I’d never quite realized about myself. I love language and character but I also love a plot built around mystery and revelation, where several different threads and competing viewpoints come together in the end: there’s an enormous intellectual satisfaction in that.
I am, I think, a kind of literary thrillseeker. I hope to have a long career and write books that can’t, in the end, be easily classified as any particular genre — merging as they will elements of crime, literary, thriller, women’s fiction, fantasy/supernatural — but I suspect that one of the things that will mark my work from book to book will be that fascination with mystery and deep emotional thrill, that little-girl part of me that wanted to be a jedi knight and wrestle with the darkness both outside and in.