Jeri Smith-Ready – Interview & Contest
Photo of Jeri is courtesy of – Photo © 2006 Szemere Photography
Sidhe Vicious welcomes Urban Fantasy author Jeri Smith-Ready! We’re looking forward to getting to know you and all about your novel WICKED GAME.
Thanks so much for having me. I love your site!
S.V. Thank you! J Your Urban Fantasy novel, WICKED GAME, was released on May 13th, 2008 by Pocket Books. Can you tell us about it and a bit about the main characters Ciara and Shane?
J.S.R. WICKED GAME is a fun, sexy, dark urban fantasy about a recovering con artist who tries to redeem herself by saving a vampire radio station from corporate takeover. It’s a matter of life and un-death, since without the tie to their original lifetimes that the music provides, her strange new friends will ‘fade,’ becoming walking fossils of the past. When she boosts ratings by turning their vampiric natures into a marketing gimmick, hot-and-cool grunge DJ Shane McAllister is the first to object—but far from the last. The publicity from the new “Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll” campaign turns out to have unintended—and deadly—consequences.
Ciara is your typical con artist in many ways—clever, confident, and morally flexible. She’s a bad girl trying her best to be good, but her own impulses get in the way. Ciara’s a little different than most urban fantasy heroines. She kicks ass, but with her brains and charm, not with muscles or magic.
Shane is the dude who proves to her that vampires exist, during what could non-skankily be referred to as an ‘intimate encounter.’ He’s a stubborn idealist who wants the radio station to be only about the music, not the ‘vampire schtick,’ as he calls it. He plays guitar and is obsessed with the alphabet. You can learn more about him and his favorite tunes at his page on the WVMP website (http://www.wvmpradio.com/page.cfm/dj-s/shane).
S.V. What about vampires inspired you to write about them?
J.S.R. When I had the idea for characters who were psychologically ‘stuck in time,’ vampires seemed like the logical choice. They’re the only paranormal creatures who die but go on living (except zombies, and I wasn’t forward-thinking enough to consider them).
Plus, vampires and rock ‘n’ roll are perfect for each other. They’re both about immortality, or more precisely, eternal youth.
S.V. Will we be seeing more of Ciara and Shane in the future?
J.S.R. Oh yes! The sequel, BAD TO THE BONE, will be out next May. To tide readers over until then, I’m going to post free tie-in short stories on my website every other month, the stories of how each vampire DJ was ‘turned.’ The first one came out in June with Monroe. http://www.jerismithready.com/books/wicked-game/monroe.htm
Beginning with the second story in August, my newsletter subscribers will get to read them a week before the rest of the world. To sign up, just go to my website and look for the signup box on the right side of the page.
S.V. How did you get your start in writing? What, if anything, lit the “spark” to get you started and keep you motivated?
J.S.R. Not surprisingly, it was caffeine and music. I was at a coffee shop watching a live performance of a two-man blues band. It was too loud for conversation, and I had a double espresso coursing through my blood and brain, so I came up with a scene about a guy sitting in a coffee shop when a mysterious, mouth-watering woman walks in. It was kind of detective noir with a comic twist. That was my ‘practice novel,’ because it will never be published and doesn’t deserve to be. But I’d been bitten by the writing bug. After that, all I ever wanted to do was tell stories.
S.V. Who or what was your inspiration for the characters of Ciara and Shane, if any? Any inspirations for the rest of the characters?
J.S.R. For the first week or two, Ciara was a cross between MaryJanice Davidson’s Betsy Taylor and George from DEAD LIKE ME. She was an airhead and a slacker. But she evolved away from that pretty quickly once I figured out she was a con artist.
Shane was definitely inspired by his hero, Kurt Cobain. One of my readers says she felt like Shane is what Cobain would’ve been if he’d been given another chance at life (or unlife, as the case may be). Maybe creating Shane was my feeble attempt to bring Kurt Cobain back to life, or at least honor his memory.
But like Ciara, Shane soon became his own person and grew away from my original concept of him. As he developed (and as he fell in love with Ciara), he became a lot less self-involved and learned to occasionally look on the bright side. There’s still a lot of Cobain in him, but some of that is his conscious emulation of his hero.
Regina is a tiny bit inspired by my best friend from college, who first turned me on to punk and Goth music. She also helped me find my inner bitch, something I’m eternally grateful for.
S.V. Did you find it hard or easy to write the first novel in this series with having to create this world?
J.S.R. Actually, creating the world and writing the first novel was the easy part. It gets harder as the series continues and I have to ask (and answer) a lot of questions. Like, why are the vampires sensitive to religious symbols? Are there other paranormal creatures? Most important, what’s up with Ciara? You’d think I’d have this all figured out before I wrote Word One, but if I worked that way, I’d never get Word One written at all.
S.V. Do you have any funny writing quirks or habits that you do when you’re in the “zone” writing?
J.S.R. Being in the “zone” is one of those few times I’m not self-conscious, so I have no idea about quirks. But there’s something kinda cool: I used to play the piano when I was a teenager (not very well—I was given a piano but no lessons ***not that I’m bitter or anything***), and I loved the feeling of making music with my hands. Sometimes when I’m typing and really in the zone, it feels like making music. Even hitting the backspace key—that’s just another note.
S.V. Have you ever met a vampire, werewolf, demon, fae?
J.S.R. I am fairly certain that my next-door neighbor’s Yorkie is harboring a demon.
S.V. What supernatural power or creature would you most like to have or be?
J.S.R. Sometimes I think I’d like to be invisible, because I’m a really nosy person and I like to learn secrets (which I’m very good at keeping). But then I go into a department store and try to get someone to help me, and I realize I already am invisible.
If I could have any paranormal creature around, it would be brownies, to help with the housework.
S.V. Who is your favorite paranormal or urban fantasy fictional character and why?
J.S.R. I’m almost afraid to say, because my favorite characters always end up getting killed off. If you’re a character, you don’t want me to love you. I am the kiss of death.
S.V. Who’s your favorite author? TV show? Movie?
J.S.R. If I could only name one favorite author, like if I were on a lifeboat and there was only room for me and one other writer, it would be—argh, you’re killing me—probably Neil Gaiman. Not only is his work amazing on so many levels, he’s an incredibly nice and funny person, and so generous with his time and self.
Favorite TV show: ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, or maybe NORTHERN EXPOSURE.
Favorite movie: PLEASANTVILLE. It’s so underrated and overlooked, but it’s freaking brilliant and deep and funny and sweet and romantic. I love any stories where fiction and real life collide (STRANGER THAN FICTION, THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO), and anything with existentialist themes, like what it means to be human and free and how do we create reality. GROUNDHOG DAY would be a close second.
S.V. If you could choose one fictional character to bring into real life, who would you choose?
J.S.R. Of my own? Shane, though he’d be pretty lonely as the world’s only vampire. I could help him with the solitude, but that would lead to conflicts here at home.
Of another author’s? I’d love for Neil Gaiman’s Death (from the SANDMAN comics) to be real. To know that someone that cute and friendly waited for me at the end of my life.
S.V. What do you do when you’re having writer’s block to “shake” it off?
J.S.R. If a scene isn’t working or I don’t know where it’s going, I’ll write a different one. By the time I get back to the tough scene, sometimes the solution has presented itself. Sometimes the whole thing just needs to be chucked.
Walking the dog also helps. Getting outside, moving the blood through my veins and brain, can jumpstart the process. Plus it makes her wag her tail, and that always brightens my day.
S.V. What can a new reader expect from your book/series?
J.S.R. In a word: FUN! At least, that’s what I’m told. They will also get characters that they enjoy spending time with and can relate to, even the “bad guys.”
S.V. You write about supernatural creatures. Do you do a lot of research or do you prefer to take what you already know and use your imagination for the rest?
J.S.R. Research can provide the imagination with a jumping-off point. For instance, I learned that in Eastern Europe vampires were considered what we would call Obsessive-Compulsive. One legend instructed people to keep vampires away by scattering rice on their doorsteps. The vampire would stop and count every grain and maybe wouldn’t finish before the sun came up (is this where Jim Henson got the idea for the Count on SESAME STREET?).
I was really struck by this, because I’d never seen obsessive-compulsive vampires in literature. So each of my vamps has a different OCD behavior. At first this was just a source of comedy, but then I realized it was tied in to their feeling out of place in this world. These behaviors are a way for them to feel in control, to feel sane. So it makes sense for their characters and for their world. Plus, the funny.
But sometimes knowing what’s come before can hamper our creativity. I think the fact that I didn’t set out to write about vampires per se (and that I haven’t read a million vampire novels) gave me the freedom to come up with a really new take.
S.V. Are any of your characters particularly fun or easy for you to write? Any that are more difficult?
J.S.R. All of the characters in WICKED GAME were fun, and most were easy. They each have distinctive ways of thinking and speaking, so their dialogue just rolls onto the page.
The most challenging character in WICKED GAME was probably David. He has a lot of contradictory impulses, so I worked hard to make sure his motivations were clear. Also, I wanted him to be appealing, but not so much that readers wanted Ciara to end up with him instead of Shane. 😉
Regarding my other books, Lucifer from REQUIEM FOR THE DEVIL was my favorite, once I got used to hanging out inside the mind of the Devil. He’s just so cool, even when he’s not. It was fun to imagine what it would be like to be the second most powerful being in the universe, but at the same time be so incredibly, humanly vulnerable when it comes to the people he loves.
Rhia from the ASPECT OF CROW trilogy was probably the most challenging, partly because she was my first female protagonist, but also because her culture is so different from ours. They’re much more socially oriented, with a strong instinct to serve the community, even at the expense of the individual’s desires. Her people don’t get a choice of Guardian Spirit or magic—the Spirits call them based on what their society needs for the challenges of the future. Rhia is as individualistic and “modern” as anyone can be in her circumstances, but she still has to be a realistic part of that world.
Also, she’s a very good person, and I seem to have an easier time relating to characters who are ‘bad’ in some way. I hate to think about what that says about me. 😉
S.V. Do you have any tips for aspiring speculative fiction writers?
J.S.R. As stockbrokers say, diversify! After you finish the first book in your series and start submitting it, don’t write the sequel. Write something else. Chances are, that first book won’t sell (first books rarely do), but if editors and agents see that you have potential, they’ll ask, “What else do you have?” If you tell them, “Uh, I have three more books in that series you don’t like,” well, that’s kind of a dead end. And if they do want that series, they’ll give you time to write the sequels (and probably suggestions on how to do it). Publishing moves very slowly.
More important, when you turn your mind to a new idea and world, you’ll probably find that your storytelling ability jumps to an entirely new level.
Also, and this applies to all writers: Get plenty of sleep. Seriously. It’s not just a health concern (after all, I support lots of unhealthy activities). It’s about the writing. I read a study that said the part of our brains that governs creativity is the first part to deteriorate under sleep deprivation. Also, I find that when I’m tired, I lose all ability to evaluate my own work. It all turns into a load of crap. Which makes for tough edits.
S.V. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us at Raves & Rants and with your readers?
J.S.R. I love to hear from readers, so I encourage anyone to contact me through my website, www.jerismithready.com. I also give away free bookmarks and signed bookplates for any of my books and frequently hold contests on my blog and in my newsletter.
For more about WICKED GAME, check out www.jerismithready.com/wicked-game. To visit the DJs and listen to a sample of their shows, go to www.wvmpradio.com. Ciara and I can also be found on MySpace, though mysteriously never at the same time (www.myspace.com/jerismithready and www.myspace.com/ciarawvmp). Ciara loves to get fan mail, not that her ego really needs it.
Also, soon Ciara will be going head-to-head with Dante Baptiste from Adrian Phoenix’s A RUSH OF WINGS, to be simulcast right here on Sidhe Vicious’s Raves & Rants.
Thanks so much for having me! I really enjoyed your questions, and I’ll be happy to take more in the comments. J
Thank you for spending some time here with us at Sidhe Vicious Reviews Jeri! It was a pleasure getting to know a bit about you and your novel WICKED GAME. We’re really looking forward to BAD TO THE BONE and wishing you every success in the future.
Jeri Smith-Ready has graciously agreed to hang out with us throughout the day to answer any reader questions, so ask away readers. J One lucky commenter will also receive a signed copy of WICKED GAME!!
I’ll draw a winner on July 30th at midnight, and post the winner on July 31st. If you’d
like extra entries to win, you can subscribe to my blog, or post about this contest somewhere and send me the link. Make sure to let me know if you’ve subscribed or blogged about the contest. Good Luck Everybody! J