Stray and Rogue form the first two books in Vincent's Werecat series, which will be at least six books long, the very thought of which makes us fans purr and knead our claws into the closest fuzzy blanket we can find. Or maybe that's too much information.
Q. In STRAY, your werecats belong to family-based organizations called Prides, each of which has its own territory that is strictly (and violently) enforced against outsiders. Was there an intentional allusion to organized crime syndicates?
Rachel: No, there were no intentional allusions to organized crime syndicates. In fact, I hadn't thought of it along those lines until you mentioned it. I've actually never seen any of the Godfather movies (and I assume that's what you mean by crime syndicates).
Do the animalistic/fantasy aspects make it easier for readers (and you as a writer) to sympathize with guys who are occasionally called upon to be cold-blooded killers?
For the readers? I certainly hope so. And the fantasy aspect definitely makes it easier for me to sympathize with the enforcers. That, and the fact that they're truly doing what they feel is right, even if the violence element of it feels drastic to some of us. They act in defense of each other and of their territory. Loyalty is very highly prized in the werecat world.
What strategies did/do you use in writing your follow-up novels, where you build upon an existing world and continue existing storylines? How do you decide how much backstory to include so that each subsequent book can stand alone? Did you find it easier or harder to write ROGUE (and others beyond) than STRAY?
In some ways, writing sequels is easier than writing the first book in a series, because a lot of the world building and character establishment is already done. But in other ways, it's harder. It's very difficult to remind the readers of what they read in the previous book without giving away the entire story to readers who may not have read that first book yet. I tend to err on the side of caution, putting in little backstory initially. Fortunately, my editor will always tell me if we need a bit more of a reminder.
ROGUE was much harder to write than STRAY, and required more intensive revisions. But I think that as a result, it's a much better book. Compared to writing ROGUE, writing PRIDE (March '09) was easy. It was completely plotted out before I wrote it and seemed to just fly onto the screen. But now I'm almost done with the fourth installment and it's been the most difficult of all so far, because we see a lot of plotlines colliding in this book. Everything Faythe has come to trust and rely on is sort of crumbling out from under her feet, leaving her nothing to count on but herself. People she used to depend on are now depending on her. It's been a very emotionally draining novel to write, but so far the result is worth all the stress. I love this book. ;-)
You've said that Faythe (your main character) undergoes significant character growth in ROGUE. How are her choices and challenges in this volume different from those in STRAY? What issues will she struggle with most in this book and in the future?
In STRAY, Faythe had no idea who she was, or who she wanted to be. She didn't start to really grow up until she got a peek at what real independence means, and that freedom isn't really free. It comes with a lot of responsibility. At the end of STRAY, she accepted that responsibility. In ROGUE, she's growing into it.
In STRAY, Faythe's choices revolved around herself. What was best for her. But in ROGUE, she makes decisions based on what's good for the Pride, even if that decision isn't very good for her. And in fact, in this second volume, we see even more clearly that what's good for the group and what's good for her as an individual seldom go hand in hand.
As for future struggles? Her personal life is never easy. She and Marc love each other, but there are many other factors that affect a relationship, and theirs is pretty stressful anyway. Still, she's not one to give up on something just because it isn't easy. ;-)
Faythe will also have an opportunity in the near future (books 3 & 4) to see things from a new-to-her perspective, and I think it'll be interesting to see how that changes her outlook.
If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which would you choose?Ooh, that’s tough. None of my characters live very peaceful lives, because peaceful is boring. But of all the werecats (because my werecat world is the only one currently on the shelf), I guess I’d like to be Faythe. On one of those days where she gets to enjoy the high metabolism and hang out with Marc all day. Not one of those kill-or-be-killed days, where she gets blood all over her clothes and under her fingernails. Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world (maybe as a best friend or much, much more)?
Jace. I’d love to have Jace hanging around. And judging from some of the mail I’m getting, I’m not the only one. ;-)
Same two questions, but use examples from another author's work (including television/movies/theatre)?
I’d love to be Jeaniene Frost’s Cat Crawford, and not just because she’s named Cat. ;-) She has the advantages of a vampire, without that pesky daylight allergy. And I’d love to bring Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan to life, and not just because we share a first name. I’d like to meet her in real life because she’s fiercely loyal to her friends, and who couldn’t use a friend like that?
Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?
Stephen King. I love King’s writing, and I think he’s brilliant. And even though working with him would no doubt give me a huge inferiority complex, I’d never pass up that chance.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?
The waiting. No doubt. Everything takes forever in the publishing industry, and even though I know there are many, many steps between writing the book and seeing it on the shelf, I’d love to speed that process up a bit. You know, if I had that magic wand… ;-)
What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?
Well, I don’t know how weird this is, but during my research for Stray, I discovered that there’s really no such cat species as a black panther (though cougars are sometimes called panthers). Big cats that appear to be black are actually jaguars or leopards with melanism, an increased amount of black or nearly black pigmentation. It’s the opposite of albinism. If you look closely at a melanistic cat, you can see the rosettes in its fur.
What's your earliest memory?
Watching out the window as my two younger sisters played in the season’s first (and probably only) snow. I was maybe four years old. I couldn’t go out because I had chickenpox. I had the last laugh, though. My mom said I couldn’t scratch. But she never said I couldn’t get my sisters to scratch for me. Soon they had it, and I was all better. ;-)
Do you have any phobias?
Like Faythe I can’t eat chicken skin. Can’t do it. That’s where her aversion comes from.
My husband hates when people use the word 'barometer' to mean 'measure.' Which word usage faux pas drives you berserkest?
I hate it when people say “added bonus.” If it’s a bonus, it’s been added by definition. No need to say it twice. I also hate “kneel down.” Has anyone ever knelt up?
Name a literary cliche that makes you throw a book across the room.
I hate it when a girl is so overwhelmed by a man’s beauty/magnetism/whatever that she can’t maintain consciousness. What’s up with passing out over one kiss? Excuse me, but no one’s that hot.
Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?
Okay, don’t tell anyone, but I’m totally obsessed with “So You Think You Can Dance.” Because I know I can’t dance. I love it. I rearrange my schedule around it in the summer.
If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
I would go see a movie with some friends I hardly ever see. Then we’d go out for ice cream. Marble Slab Creamery. Then, when I got home, I’d read until I fell asleep with the book still in my hand.
If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?
“If you could start your career all over again, would you do anything differently?” Because experience teaches people a lot, so surely nearly everyone has one thing they’d change. And I’m really nosy. ;-)
If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?
Mysteries. I’ve always wanted to write mysteries. I love mysteries (both books and movies) and love trying to guess who-done-it.What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?
Right now I’m working on the fourth werecat book, which I can’t mention by name until the title has been officially approved. But it’s the most emotionally wrenching book I’ve ever written, and also the most difficult to work on, for that reason. Pride, the third werecat book, will be out in March ’09, to be followed by the fourth, fifth, and sixth in the next couple of years. And like most writers, I have a couple more things up my sleeves… ;-)
If you could tell a stranger just one thing about the Werecat series or Rogue in particular (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?
My werecat series is about Faythe Sanders, a tabbycat facing a big responsibility and an even bigger opportunity. She’s in the unique position to change her world for the better, but like all great changes, this one will come at an immense personal cost. A revolution is on the horizon, and Faythe will be leading the charge--if she lives long enough to see it.
Give Rachel a comment or a question, or tell us why your own cat would make a good enforcer, down there in the comments before 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 31. I'll draw a name and announce the winner next Tuesday morning. -----
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P.S.: You have through Thursday to comment for a chance to win Justin Gustainis's Black Magic Woman. So stop on by!