I fell out of heaven
to be with you in hell
my sin's not quite seven
nothing much to tell
--"Lust" by The Raveonettes
Today's guest and book is a very special treat for a certain subsection of my readers--the hardcore, die-hard Jeri Smith-Ready fans who've read my first novel, urban fantasy Requiem for the Devil. If you liked that book, I've got something even better for you.
Jackie Kessler's Hell on Earth series began with Hell's Belles (Kensington Books, January 2007, coming in mass market paperback this September 2) and continued with Road to Hell. These first two novels focused on Jezebel, a succubus who goes on the lam from Hell after a universe-shattering announcement from the Big Boss. She finds work as a stripper, falls in love, and, well, you have to read the rest to find out what happens. Suffice to say her diabolical superiors and comrades are not happy about her decision to go post-evil.
One of these malcontents is the incubus Daunaun (pronounced like Don Juan, because he is the original inspiration for the Don Juan/Don Giovanni character), and he takes over the stage in Kessler's brand-new release, Hotter Than Hell, which, in my opinion, stands alone very well as its own story and could be read first before the rest of the series.
In HTH, Daun is given a challenge: seduce a good woman marked for Heaven, with her full knowledge of who he is and what will happen to her. If he succeeds, he'll be promoted to second-in-command in charge of Lust (each of the Seven Deadly Sins has its own department in Hell and an accompanying bureaucracy--demons rarely kill the wrong person because it involves eons of paperwork).
If he fails, he dies. Painfully. Hey, it's Hell.
As he sets out to accomplish his near-impossible goal, he's a) haunted by his unrequited love (though he'd never call it that) for ex-succubus Jezebel, and b) plagued with attempts on his life by minions of four of the other Deadly Sins. Moreover, the good woman, Virginia Reed, is immune to his charms.
So that's the story. Here's the squee:
I greatly enjoyed Jezebel's tales. They were funny and raw and poignant, with just the right amount of thought-provocation. But Hotter Than Hell was simply amazing. Beautiful is the word I kept coming back to. Not just the story, but the writing itself, especially the voice. The descriptions were achingly precise, and Daun's cadence was hypnotic. I was in awe, and completely sucked in from the first page. I found myself stuck in really uncomfortable positions because I didn't want to put it down long enough to get comfy. (My back is still a bit miffed with me.)
So I would highly recommend it to fans of Requiem, although the level of profanity and sexual content is much higher. But it fits because of who Daun is. Sex infuses his brain because of what he does, the same way a book from a chef's point-of-view would focus on food. The sex scenes are neither gratuitous/pornographic or flowery/romancey, so if you're not normally a fan of romance, don't worry. This is an urban fantasy, regardless of what it says on the spine.
More important, it's a phenomenal book that transcends genres. Here's Jackie to tell us a little more about it:
Q. Was this your first time writing from a male POV, and if so (or even if not), did/do you find it easier or harder than a female POV?
Jackie: Yep, first time. And boy, did it take me a while to lose Jezebel's voice and make way for Daun. Once I found the voice, though, it came through easily. Tougher was when I had to go back to Jezzie's voice for another story --then it took me a while to lose Daun's voice. And let's not even get into how I wrote a novella that's in both Jezzie's AND Daun's first-person POVs...
You started this series with the delightful succubus-turned-stripper Jezebel and the story of her escape from Hell. Did you always plan to give Daunaun his own story, or did he sneak his hot little tush into your heart and insist on it?
I had a feeling he'd get his own story when I was writing the first book. But it was when I was writing the second that I knew Daun's story would be next. (And yeah, he's definitely a favorite. Shhh. Don't tell him. It'll go to his horny head.)
I love the way you address the topic of sin in a way that is neither preachy nor fluffy--there's philosophical meat there, but such tasty meat indeed! Did you find it a challenge to reach that balance--was it something you had to hone over the course of your drafts?
Thanks! When I started writing Daun's book, I knew that the idea of Sin would be important. So I started doing some reading about the Seven Deadly Sins. One of the online sites that really resonated with me was Faust.com, which mentions the idea of the one central transgression--that is, the sin from which all others stem--can change. I thought that was utterly brilliant. And that got me thinking about the nature of sin. And that led to a subplot in HOTTER THAN HELL.
The chapter that really tackles the idea of malleable sin originally came out a little too infodumpish (thanks, oh trusty critique partner!), so I revised it to make the information flow better. And to make Daun scoff more.
Your bio says that one of your childhood dreams was to be a comic artist. Do you still draw these days or have aspirations to get involved in comics as a writer or artist?
Ooh, I would **love** to write comics! Yes, I'm still in love with superheroes overall, even though I don't do any more drawing (well, other than in crayon, with the kids). And it would be utterly thrilling if one of my books were turned into a graphic novel, a la Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. (Dreamy sigh...)
If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?
Um, the problem here is that I **know** all the crap that the characters will be going through. With that in mind, I sorta don't want to be any of them. (Please, they'd kill me if they had the chance...)
But being one of the seven most powerful entities in the Universe would be sorta cool...
Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world (as a friend or a little bit more ;-) ?
Oh man. I'd love for Jesse to be real and just hang out with her. As for Daun? Eek. The thing is about Daun, he's evil. Seriously. Maybe he's a good guy, but he's also evil. That being said...yeah, I'd love for him to be real.
Same two questions, but use examples from another author's work (including television/movies/theatre)?
I'd love to be part of the Buffyverse. Seriously. Okay, maybe not a vampire, or Evil Willow. But I'm willing to learn.
And it would be awesome if Harry Dresden were in the real world. Except that would probably mean all the big bad nasties that he fights would be here too. That part, not so much.
Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?
Three guys top my list here: Neil Gaiman, Chris Moore, Jim Butcher.
What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?
Er, um, the difference between a ball spreader and a ball stretcher. (No, I'm not telling.)
What's your earliest memory?
Sitting in the backseat of my parents' car, watching our building go away as we turned a corner.
Do you have any phobias?
Storms. Specifically, thunderstorms. I have no idea when this started, but now when it's a dark and stormy night, I jump and shake like I'm in a twister contest. Of course, Loving Husband **loves** lightning. Sigh.
My husband hates when people use the word 'barometer' to mean 'measure.' Which word usage faux pas drives you berserkest?
When people say "between you and I." No, no, a thousand times no. It's "between you and me." Seriously. It is. Runner up: when people say "tin foil" instead of "aluminum foil." Argh!
If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Eat chocolate, drink wine, read a terrific book, go watch a movie, and take a nap. Ah, bliss! (I'm such a wild and crazy gal...)
If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?
Have you ever written a subplot to cover a previous mistake or inconsistency? If so, what was it?
If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?
I'd love to do a juicy horror novel. With tasteful comedy, of course. Nookie optional.
What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?
Currently working on the fourth book in the HELL ON EARTH series, called HELL BOUND, which will answer a lot of questions that have been raised in the first three books.
Next, I'll be working on the second book of the dystopian superhero series, THE ICARUS PROJECT, co-written with Caitlin Kittredge. (Think JUSTICE LEAGUE meets 1984, with a splash of BLADERUNNER.) The first book, BLACK & WHITE, will come out in summer 2009 by Bantam Spectra. (Caitlin writes in the POV of the villain; I write in the POV of the heroine. She's the evil genius; I'm the tortured hero. We have to work together to stop the Big Bad Evil. Bwhahahahahaha!)
If you could tell a stranger just one thing about HOTTER THAN HELL (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?
First person male point-of-view starring a demon who has sex on the brain all the time--and he's the GOOD guy.
Leave a comment or question for Jackie, or tell us which Deadly Sin you'd most like to be in charge of (take this quiz if you're unsure--I don't need no stinkin' quiz to know I'm a slave to Wrath), down there in the comments. One name will be drawn at random at 11:59pm eastern time on Monday, August 4 and announced here on Tuesday. International entries welcome!
***I recommend against putting your e-mail in the comments, since that brings on spam (not from me, from the Bad Guys). HOWEVER, if you don't leave a way for me to find you, you must stay subscribed to the comments or come back to the blog to see if you won.***Also, coming next month, stripper/talk radio host Jezebel will be in the interview-ee's seat for a change as I resurrect our old friend Beelzebub from Requiem to, uh, drill her about Hell's Belles.