1. What was your inspiration for "The Grateful Undead?"
The women in my family. When I dragged myself into my senior years and realized that my mother had already been there for thirty years and my sister was right behind us, I began to think about immortality and how I could make us live forever.
I love fantasy, especially urban fantasy. And even more so if it's humorous. Anyway, I started to have this crazy dream every night: Sexy vamp waltzes through the French doors of my bedroom balcony, and after an erotically charged interlude (see chapter twenty-eight in book one, They're So Vein), he fangs me, which just happens to clock me back about 30 years. That's when the rest of the zany non-estrogen producing women in my family burst into my dream asking for a piece of the action. I laughed myself awake and then got out a pad and a pen.
After I cut the girls loose in my world there was no dragging them back out again! My dreams became filled with fanged fiascos and they mentally pushed me toward the computer every morning, fighting for top billing.
2. Can you describe your main character, Susan, and how her personality leads her into trouble? Susan has major control issues and she's very bossy. She's 5'11", has curly red hair, green eyes, and dresses in grubby jeans or cargo shorts, t-shirts and her Doc Martins, which drives her younger sister, JoAnn, nuts. But then again, JoAnn irons her underwear.
Susan hates relationships because they only lead to more laundry and sharing the television remote control. Am I ashamed of Susan? Nah, I'm very proud of her crude, sarcastic wit. I take full credit for each and every one of her unseemly qualities—taught her everything she knows. (Thanks Mom)
3. The Stechs have an interesting family dynamic. Can you tell us a little about how they interact? They interact like the women in my real family. The characters in my book are spontaneous, edgy, and verbally animated; nothing is sacred, no holds are barred. Unlike my real family, they all live under one roof which would be like being trapped in a hive with five slightly off kilter queens, and one tiptoeing through the poppy fields on the edge of town called Dementia. In the Stech household the outrageously candid conversations and animated debates never die.
4. There are rules to the vampire life style, but the ladies don't know anything about that at first. How did you decide on what the rules would be? I wanted the whole "Book of Rules" thing to be amusing, so while I go with the standard vampire rule of anonymity; no feeding on humans, no turning humans, no flaunting fangs, etc. I start things rolling with the girls trying to exist as immortals by reading a basketful of my favorite Urban fantasy novels which they purchase at Wal-Mart. Then I have the staunch and old vamps send out a brochure which offers assistance in getting to know "the family" and JoAnn promptly tosses it in the trash thinking it an advertisement for a time share.
5. Your book is filled with comedy. Do you plan for funny moments, or do they come naturally? I can never plan anything that spews from my character's mouths, or their actions and reactions to different situations. However, every family gathering was fodder filed away for the pages of a book. All I do is stick my characters in a situation and they write the outcome. I never know what's coming next. I start out with a plot which changes often, and I usually toss the first and only outline in the trash by chapter five, but I always have an ending. I just type and laugh along with them until we get there.
6. Can you tell us a little about the differences between the main Vampire men in this book? Marcus is patient, sexy, loveable, wise, and brainlessly in love with Susan. Although she is so totally attracted to him, Susan fights that attraction with every forward step they take. Marcus is the head of the council and the founder of BAMVC. He starts out a little proper in book one, a bit more down to earth in book two, and amusingly part of Susan's life by book three.
Dorius—the bastard—is in charge of the rogue hunters at BAMVC and is everything the women hate in a man; controlling, arrogant, borderline narcissistic, and so totally in control of all of them for the infractions they committed in book 1. But he does squirm when the women verbally gang up on him, not to mention when they refuse to be all that HE thinks they can be. For Dorius it's always about appearances and maintaining the stature expected of immortal beings that are highest on the food chain.
Christopher plays a key role in all three books and adds a lot of humor to the pages, especially in book two and three where he becomes a permanent fixture in the Stech household. He is a one hundred and five year old immortal in the body of a six year old with curly blond hair, blue eyes and a cherub face. He's intelligent, complex, a prankster, and vindictive when it comes to Dorius. Christopher's character surprises me constantly as I write, always challenging, always amusing. However, most of the time Susan's character would like to hold Christopher's head in the toilet until the bubbles stop.
7. Late in the book we find out that vampires often gain special talents. Without giving too much away how did you decide what those talents would be? I wanted my vamps to be as outrageously, over-the-edge different as my real family is. The women both sides of my family have some unusual gifts, talents, curses (ha!); and since the men in my family have been called demons on many an occasion (the control thing again) the characters in the series just expanded on some of those family gifts. I knew Susan would do a witch thing (a story for another time), and Mom would do her Italian, evil eye, curse thingy (I expanded her gift), and Resi has always been good at reading people. JoAnn's particular power was a total surprise. I absolutely had no idea that a raccoon was going to strut onto our back porch, sporting fangs. But somehow, it just all fell into place.
8. Who are your favorite authors? Stephen King (The Dark Tower series) and Anne Rice (The Witching hour) are by far my favorites. But I also enjoy: Carl Hiaasen, Janet Evanovich, Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, and H. P. Mallory. I'm always looking for new urban fantasy/paranormal humor, without heavy romance.
9. Do you have any interesting rituals or habits when you write? I have to listen to 70's-80's music while writing, mostly rock, the louder the better, and I have to start each chapter with a line from a song. I do remove them before publishing, though.
10. Can you tell us about the next book in this series, and any other projects you are working on? Book 3, Blood Sweat and Demon Tears, is on the editor's desk and I will be releasing it by the first of the year.
Without giving away the plot I can say that JoAnn is missing, and there will be an Earth to Abyss cell phone involved. Chick (Susan's mother) and Christopher take a road trip and the whole team ends up in Vegas. You know what they say about Vegas, right?
I also have two YA's I'm doing final edits on:
Dead Girls Never Shut Up: Necromancers, ghosts and lesbians; not your typical high school story.
The Other F Word: A fairy girl deals with friendships, coming of age, bullying, drugs, sex, and her race's expectations.
Mirror Mirror: A dark, adult thriller about a fifteen-years-old serial killer, a sadistic little girl who has an obsession with Erzsebet Bathory, the 'Blood Countess' from the 1500's. The tone and style is a stretch for me, out of my comfort zone, but a good challenge.
***You can connect with Susan on Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Weebly, and Google+.
The first two books in the series are: They're So Vein and Gator Batin'. Both are available now from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Or enter for a chance to win a signed copy by leaving a comment or entering below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
You can also enter to win a copy of Gator Baitin' on Goodreads through August 24th.