Interview with Stacia Kane plus Giveaway
I am super excited to have Stacia Kane here at Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks today. Yes, you read right. THE Stacia Kane. She has agreed to answer some of my many questions (because everyone knows I am always full of questions!)
You are the talented author of the ‘Downside Ghosts’ series. Now, for some of my readers who have apparently been hibernating over the past few months and who don’t know about your incredible series, tell them a little about it.
Oh, thank you! And ha, I don’t think hibernation is the only reason they wouldn’t have heard of me. The vast majority of people have no idea who I am.
My initial idea for the series was Ghostbusters meets Escape From New York. I wanted to create that sort of world, with a bit of Blade Runner thrown in there too. And who doesn’t love ghost stories? Mine are a bit different from traditional ghosts, in that their fury at being dead makes them try to steal the life from the living. Not every ghost is like that, but the vast majority of them are. In the world of the series, in 1997 there was a mass uprising of ghosts from the grave or the afterlife or wherever they were, and the only group that could defeat them was this small underground atheistic magic group—it had been around since Puritan times and started in response to the Salem witch trials, although I haven’t gotten that information into the books yet—called the Church of Real Truth. They managed to send all of the ghosts underground, into this vast cavern they now call the City of Eternity.
Because of the way religions and governments failed people, and because they essentially demanded it, the Church was put in charge of everything. Now the Church is all there is, and they’ll keep humanity safe. And if a ghost does end up in your house, they’ll pay you a settlement. Kind of like an insurance settlement.
Anyway, my heroine Chess Putnam works for the Church, debunking reported hauntings (a lot of people fake it to try to get money) and banishing the ghosts if the haunting is real. But Chess had a really hard, unpleasant childhood, and to dull the pain and memories she turned to drugs, and now she’s an addict with no intention of getting clean. She lives in an area called Downside, which is a punk-rock ghetto, basically, run by drug lords. And of course because of her addiction, those drug lords have some power over her, so she ends up involved with haunting cases outside the Church, and along the way becomes involved with two very different men, which is a big shock for her because she’s never been emotionally involved with anyone. It’s not really a love triangle—I don’t see it that way or think of it that way—but since one of them, Terrible, is her dealer’s enforcer, and the other, Lex, works for the rival drug lord, it does add a lot of complications and puts her in some very dangerous situations.
I originally heard about your series from Karen Marie Moning’s blog. Others heard about it from Charlaine Harris. Did you know that such well known authors were given your books to read? How did you feel when you saw their quotes on your book? (Other than *squeee*)
Ha, “squee” pretty much covers it! It was amazing, it really was. I knew Charlaine was reading—well, no, I knew she had it, because I gave it to her after meeting and getting to spend a bit of time with her—so I hoped she was reading, although I honestly didn’t expect her to at all. But it was definitely surprising that she liked it so much! I actually found out because someone sent me a link to an interview she’d done where she mentioned that Terrible was her favorite secondary character she’d read. Of course I was totally gobsmacked! I emailed my editor, and I emailed Charlaine to thank her, and then my editor emailed her and asked if she’d be willing to blurb it, and there you go.
With Karen, no, I had no idea she was reading! That was set up by my editor, and she told me about it after Karen had read—and I guess loved—all three books. So her blurb was for the entire series. That was really exciting, too, especially since she was so enthusiastic. I never expected a reaction like that from anyone, really, much less someone with her level of success—well, both her and Charlaine—and skill. I still can’t get my head around it sometimes.
It was (and is) impossible to go to a fantasy or romance book blog and not see something ‘Downside Ghosts’ mentioned somewhere. Were you aware of the buzz travelling across blogland when your series hit stores?
No, not at all! I’m still not sure there is all this buzz! I know there is a group of really awesome readers who’ve been just incredible, and very enthusiastic about the series, and I know I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers and that’s amazing, but I’m not sure it’s getting that much attention outside of that small—but fantastic—community, you know? There are elements to the series that can put people off, like the drug use, like the not-conventionally-handsome hero, the darkness of the world. It felt very under-the-radar when it was released, and several of the initial reviews were from people who had a real problem with Chess’s addiction and so didn’t like the book at all. It took a few weeks for them to really find their audience.
And really, I think Chess herself can possibly put people off, too; I’ve kind of developed a theory that there is a certain type of people, generally people who are very sure of themselves, and sort of definite about how life should be lived, and who have always been that way, who really just don’t understand or like her, because she’s their polar opposite. That’s certainly not to say there’s anything wrong with those people, at all, because of course there isn’t. And it’s not to say that’s the only reason someone might not like her, or that no people like that might like her; some people like some characters, some don’t like them, some like others, and that’s what’s great about books and reading! It’s just what I’ve noticed, from the emails I’ve gotten and the comments I’ve seen or heard. And for readers who have had that kind of insecurity or who’ve felt like outsiders or different, or who see themselves in a certain way, I hope they really identify with her and do understand her, and that seems to be the case. I tend to write for those people, you know? I’m one of them, so I write the kinds of characters and books I understand, and want to see in books.
Chess is a very complex and incredibly written character. You wanted to write a drug addict because it hasn’t really been done before. Was it easier to write her than you expected or was she a little reluctant to show herself to you on the page?
Thank you! It was actually pretty easy. Like I said above, Chess is a character I understand very well; she’s someone I just sort of instantly knew. There were a few things that surprised me a little—her reaction to the men, mostly, because while I’d planned for her and Terrible to become close friends I had no idea their chemistry would be so strong, and while I knew she’d be sleeping with Lex I didn’t really plan how much she would actually like him, and how she actually needed him to help her become comfortable with just the idea of being with someone romantically or physically for any real length of time. He really made a huge difference in her life; they both did.
Were you ever worried that readers would reject Chess because she is so flawed or were you ever concerned that she would be too controversial?
I was quite worried she’d be rejected! I wrote UNHOLY GHOSTS because I just had to, I was so excited about it and felt so passionate and put so much of myself into it. But I knew even as I was writing it that there would be some people uncomfortable with the drug use or the casual sex or the violence or whatever. And again, people have every right to like or not like anything they want. But I was really scared that editors would refuse to take it on because of the subject matter, or that the reason why I hadn’t seen any heroines in UF like Chess was because nobody wanted to read those kinds of characters.
Certainly I was worried about readers who knew me from my Demons series with Juno/Pocket. Those books were a lot lighter and funnier; I didn’t want them to see my name on the cover, buy the book, and then feel lied to or betrayed because of what the book actually was. It’s important to me to be honest with readers, to not make them feel taken for granted or like they’ve been misled. So I tried to let them know that this was different, and that if they were bothered they should maybe not buy the book(s). I just wanted people to be aware, so they could make an informed decision, you know? Because perhaps those books would be triggering for a recovered or recovering addict. Perhaps if I’d lived with an addict who beat me or something it would be upsetting or difficult for me. And had I written a book about an anorexic, for example, I would have said the same kind of thing. I think when you’re dealing with subjects like that it’s kind of your duty to let people know. Ha, my agent was amazed; he told me he’d never heard of an author telling readers not to buy her books!
But while I was scared and nervous, I admit I wasn’t prepared for the controversy it did cause or the vehemence of some of the reactions. I thought of her addiction in terms of just being something some people might not want to read; I never thought of it as something that would actually infuriate people.
So I was really shocked by how angry some people got, and how angry they were at me personally. I got a few emails right before the book’s official release from people who told me I was disgusting for advocating drug use and that I clearly had no morals and should burn in Hell and stuff. I didn’t expect that, and it was a bit upsetting. But the “she only wrote that to seem edgy/she only wrote that to get attention” comments were the really hurtful ones. I don’t write to be edgy or to get attention, I write what I understand and love, and what I need to express. If you don’t like my books, fine; you have every right not to like my books, to think my characters suck, to think I’m an awful amateurish writer who should never be allowed to write another word. But when you start maligning my artistic integrity, when you start claiming that I’m just exploiting people with a real problem just so I can look cool or make money, that’s personal about me, and that’s cruel. That makes assumptions about me that have no basis in anything I’ve ever said or done or felt, and that’s making the kind of assumption I would never make about another person, especially not one I don’t know. (Hear, hear!)
You’ve said that you love every character that you’ve written in ‘Downside’ and that you find Chess is one of the best characters you’ve ever created. You’ve also said that there is a supporting character that you love more and are especially proud of. It’s Terrible isn’t it?! Is it Terrible?
Of course! He was a challenge for me, and a really exciting one. There are so many heroes in UF who are handsome; they’re men you know immediately will be the love interest because he’s the best-looking guy in the room. And that’s great; who doesn’t love a handsome guy? I sure do.
But I wanted to see if I could create a character people would really like even though he wasn’t handsome, and wasn’t wealthy or an investment banker or a sexy paranormal creature or whatever. And I wanted to reveal him the way people are actually revealed to us in real life; slowly, by just getting to spend time with him, to see how he reacts to things and to come to understand him. I think when you start feeling that connection with a person you no longer see them the way you did before, and I really wanted to try to do that. Like, am I good enough to really show people the attractive side, the gentle and loving and intelligent side, of this big ugly thug? While at the same time not hiding or downplaying the bad side, the violent and cold side, the side that likes being violent and cold? So it was really great to try that, and to stretch myself.
Terrible is a fantastic character. You’ve really poured so much depth into him it’s impossible not to feel his draw. In fact, he has struck a chord with so many that he even has his own fan club on Goodreads! Did you think, while you were writing him, that he would be receiving so much love?
Not at all! Like I said above, I just hoped people would like him! I didn’t expect or even dream of him getting this kind of reaction, not in my wildest fantasies. I actually planned in the beginning to kill him at the end of the first book. But their chemistry totally stunned me, and about a third of the way through I started thinking maybe I could bring him back as a ghost. That’s when I realized there was no way I could kill him, because I loved him and loved writing him too much. (You wanted to what?!)
Terrible is not his real name. Does Chess know his name? Are we ever going to find out what it is? (Is it Wilbert? I bet it’s Wilbert.)
Hahahaha! No, it’s not Wilbert. He really doesn’t have another name, no. Because he was essentially abandoned as an infant, and was sort of taken in by random people for the first few years of his life, nobody ever bothered to name him, or they just called him whatever they felt like. And when it became apparent that he was a lot bigger than the other kids, and that he was willing to use that size and beat the hell out of people, people started calling him Terrible, and that just stayed. (Somehow that makes me love him even more)
Speaking of ‘not using real names’, Stacia Kane is a pen name. Why did you decide to use a pseudonym instead of just writing under your own name?
I started out writing erotic romance, and because I have two small children and because my real last name becomes a dirty word if you swap out a vowel, I decided it would be best to have a pen name. Then when I sold PERSONAL DEMONS, I knew I’d need a different name so the differences between the books would be clear, but because the two names were publicly connected, and because I’d gotten used to the idea and the advantages of having a pen name, I just chose another! I’ve never really liked my real name and my husband and I have been talking about/planning to change our last name for years, so that worked out well too, or it will.
You released ‘Unholy Ghosts’, ‘Unholy Magic’ and ‘City of Ghosts’ all within a month from each other (stressful much?!) Did you present three books to your publisher all at once, or did they ask for more after they read ‘Unholy Ghosts’?
My agent submitted UNHOLY GHOSTS and told me to start writing the second book. It had been on submission for about six weeks when the first offer came in, and at that point I was able to send my agent the first nine or ten chapters of UNHOLY MAGIC, and with those we got a three-book offer from two houses. But it’s possible they would have gone to that without the chapters; they often do. The chapters just sort of sweetened the pot. They made the publishers in question more confident in me, I think.
You’ve been given the green light for more books in North America (*high five’s Stacia*). After writing ‘City of Ghosts’, did you have a plan worked out for the next books, or are you just figuring it out as you go? Any tentative titles?
I have the whole series planned! Well, I have a story arc planned, but not necessarily the plots of all of the individual books. I do have them for the fourth, fifth, and sixth books though. When we were seeing if my publishers were interested in offering me another contract, I submitted a brief synopsis of each book. That’s standard, really. So I know what will happen in those, not just from writing the synopses but because I have some scenes an plot points etc. in my head already. They just kind of pop in there.
No titles yet, though. I did submit titles when we turned in the synopses, but I’m not really happy with any of them except the sixth (which won’t change, I don’t think). So my agent and I are trying to think of some new titles for them.
We are all obsessed with your ‘Downside Ghosts’ series, but this is not your only series out there. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘Megan Chase’ books?
Sure! As I mentioned above, the Megan Chase books—I usually refer to them as the Demons books—are a lot lighter and funnier, at least they were supposed to be and I think they basically are. I wrote the first one, PERSONAL DEMONS, in 2006, I believe, or early 2007. And it was fun; I wanted to write something fun. It was my first foray into UF from erotic romance, and the romance is still a very strong and important part of the plot. It’s about a psychiatrist (originally she was a therapist, but my editor wanted her to be a doctor) who is also psychic, which of course gives her a real advantage. She gets sort of wangled into doing this radio show with the tagline, “She’ll help get rid of your personal demons,” which of course is awful and she thinks it’s awful.
But the problem is that there really are personal demons—the Yezer Ha-Ra of ancient Hebrew myth, who sit on people’s shoulders and try to convince them to do evil. The Yezer hear about her show, and because she’s a psychic she has power in the demon world, so they think she’s threatening them. Hijinks ensue, basically. In that world demons live in mafia-like “families,” and a representative from one of them, Greyson Dante, wants to get her on his house’s side. So he starts hanging around and eventually becomes the love interest (and I do really like Greyson, I think he’s quite sexy!), and he assigns her three guard demons named Malleus, Maleficarum, and Spud.
There’s still some real darkness in the books, I think, and I enjoy them and enjoyed writing them and I’m proud of them. But they are overall lighter, more like romance, and written more for kind of cheerful, casual reading, just for fun, if you know what I mean. Not that the Downside books aren’t fun—I certainly hope they are!—but they’re not the same.
Okay, Flash Four time —
Flash four questions about books and writing ~
How long, from start to end, did it take you to write “City of Ghosts”(my fave in the series)?
Did you see yourself being a writer as you were growing up?
In what room of your house do you write from?
Do you tend to come up with the title for your book before you start writing it, while you’re writing it or when it’s all done?
Flash four questions about random things ~
Sweet or salty snacks?
What color is your toothbrush?
Your high school experience: good or bad?
What do you like on your pizza?
Pepperoni only. Thin crust.
Thank you so so much Stacia for visiting! I know I speak for everyone who has even just brushed their finger tips across the cover of one of your ‘Downside Ghosts’ books when I say we cannot wait for the release of book 4 in Fall of 2011 because we know it will kick ass! (No pressure 😉 )
Hahaha, sure, none at all!
Okay, giveaway time.
In my hands — well, not really since I can’t be holding two books and typing simultaneously, so let’s try that again….On the table in front of me, I see a brand spanking new copy of “Unholy Ghosts” and “Unholy Magic” and I am going to be mailing them to one lucky commenter! Now even if you already have these books, there is no harm in entering anyways. They would make a great Christmas gifts. Or birthday gift. Or “I screwed up and I am about to start grovelling and grovelling is always done better when there is a present involved” gift. Or even a “just because it’s Tuesday” gift!
Just leave a comment by September 17th – that’s when a winner will be chosen at random. I will post the name of the winner on Saturday, September 18th. Open to Canada and U.S. only.
And as per usual, you can always leave a comment even if you don’t want to be entered in the giveaway. Just tell me so in your comment
Here are some of the many places you can read about Stacia Kane’s books or Stacia herself:
Click on the title to read my review of Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic and City of Ghosts
Check out Stacia’s website here.
Check out Stacia’s fun blog here.
You can follow Stacia on Twitter here.
And if you are curious about Stacia’s ‘Downside Ghosts’ series but would prefer getting a taste for the first book in the series before you run to the bookstore to nab it, you can read the first five chapters of “Unholy Ghosts” here.