Which secret ability/being would you like to be?
If you could choose one spirit guide, who would you choose?
Have you ever worked at a fast food place? If so, was it like Plumpy's at all?
Who was your fave scooby gang member?
Do you think Douglas is truly dead?
Thoughts on realistic fantasy? Thoughts on urban fantasy?
How did you feel about his mother/uncle’s decision to bind his power? Was it more or less dangerous that way?
Ramon, Sam, Frank, and later Brooke create a sort of urban family unit...did this feel authentic?
What do you think about the age of the characters?
Which character can you not wait to see in the next book?
Listen to the chat we had with Lish. She discusses the transformations her characters make from first sketch to final book, the weirdest things she's had to research, the challenge of writing 'sort of likeable' villians, and whether it's 'hair elastics' or 'rubber bands' in books, and so much more.
What was the inspiration behind this book?
I guess the inspiration was two fold. First, Sam. I had a brief stint in alternative school...before I managed to drop out of that, high school, and community college in one month (I can fail spectacularly when I put my mind to it.). Anyway, I was saying--alternative school. I was bored. Way ahead of my homework and nothing to do, so I wrote a truly awful short story set in a burger joint--much like the one I was working in at the time.
The story featured Sam (or the character who would become Sam), a hapless employee who gets repeatedly attached by monsters-werewolves, vampires, zombies, for really no reason. Like I said, it was a really bad story. And I forgot about it. Well, sort of. I kept playing around with the idea--making changes and what not...until I was back in college (I did go back) and I needed to write a short story. The story was called Zombie Burger, and it was only slightly less awful than the first one. But it now had Ramon, Frank and Brooke, though they had different names (except Frank) and Plumpy's blew up at the end. My teacher said it could be a novel and I told him that I didn't think there was much there. And there really wasn't with the way I had written it. But it helped get me into graduate school where I was able to figure out how to make it better.
The second part came from reading a lot of fantasy/horror books about necromancer-type characters--to raise the dead, something had to die. I've been a vegetarian for a long time and I always wondered what I would do if I were in their place--Sam was kind of my way of answering that question.
And where did you come up with your characters?
Ah, this old chestnut. I wish I could say something amazing and illuminating on this subject, but honestly, I don't know. Writers are magpies. We steal bits of things and tuck them away into our nests. Our characters are like that--we build them out of bits and bobs lying about. After a while, they take on a life of their own. And most of it happens when the writer isn't really paying attention.
Now, it's easy for me to see where most of Sam came from. My best friends--the people who got me through my short-lived high school career (and still get me through the week to be honest) were a pack of very sweet boys. And I love 'em, but they are beta males to the core. Skateboarders. Readers. Cartoon-watchers. Comic book enthusiasts. Extremely clever underachievers every one of 'em. In short: nice guys. They are really nice guys. And nice guys don't get enough appreciation. Sam is somewhat of an amalgamation I suppose. I wanted to see a nice guy kick some ass. So I created Sam.
And sometimes characters can just pop up. Like Ashley. I was, again, trying to think of a short story for class. I had a dead line. And I had this image very firmly in my mind of death sitting in a diner--but death being a little girl in saddle shoes and I couldn't get it out. So I wrote a short story called Death and Waffles...and from that, Ashley bullied her way into the novel. Characters, like people, come from everywhere. (You can find this short story on the Macmillan website if you want to read it.)
What authors do you read?
So many. Here are a few (and I'm sure they aren't that surprising): Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde, Kelley Armstrong, Terry Pratchett, David Eddings, Kim Harrison, Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, Jim Butcher, Tamora Pierce, Holly Black, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Patricia Briggs, Lloyd Alexander, and probably about a hundred more that I'll think of once I send this email off.
Does Sam have witch powers from his mother?
Maaaaaybe. Maybe you'll just have to wait and see, huh?
Why did you write the characters into that gray "college-ish age" area? (I, for one, love that you did. So few books are set that way!)
Actually, they were originally a few years older. Not much older, maybe two - three years. After a few revisions they got a bit younger. But again, not a big shift. I don't know why I set them at that age. That's just the age they were when they appeared on the page. Maybe it's because that's such an odd span of time in most people's lives? I wasn't really thinking too deeply about it when I wrote the book--it was my thesis to graduate from grad school. I just wrote the story I wanted to write with characters that made me laugh. Anything else that happened was a bonus.
Why all the Irish/Celtic names?
All the Irish/Celtic names stem from the fact that Brannoc's family lineage is, well, Irish. Brannoc is a pure blooded fey hound (which is pulled from Celtic mythos) and his family immigrated over. A lot of Americans like to represent their heritage by keeping that going--Brannoc's more so because of their fey status and due to the fact that his family hasn't actually been in the country too long in the grand scheme of things. I picked from a lot of Irish mythology for two reasons: one, I'm a big nerd for mythology, and Irish is one of my favorites. Two--well, my last name is McBride you know.
Was the crow supposed to be just an omen, or was it some sort of magical creature or shape shifter? I kept thinking maybe it was a long lost relative looking out for Sam, but I’m not sure if I was reading too much into it.
Ah, the crow. I can say that he is not a shape shifter. He is both an omen in a sense...and a creature you will see again. He is not a normal crow, but he is also not a relative of Sam. The crow is not a huge element of the book, but you will see him pop up again in book two.
Any more information about that strange creature that Sam was able to summon (I think the name was Ed?)
Ed! Ed is one of my favorites. Like Ashley, Ed first emerged in a short story. Unlike Ashley's, that short story isn't published yet. Ed is a wepwawet. If you've ever looked into egyptian mythology, you've seen them. They're the jackal headed guys. He was an old god that sort of got absorbed later (much like the Greek gods when Rome came in and changed things.) You can learn more about them here: http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/wepwawet.html And just like the crow, you will see Ed again in book two.
Are Brit and Sam able to have kids – if so, will they be necromancers, wolves, or something else?
They can have kids, yes. But I'm not telling what they would be. That would be cheating.
And I want to know how much pressure/resistance did you feel about creating a new mythology for the book? How much did you want to pull from classic mythology and how much of the rules did you want to establish for yourself?
I didn't feel much pressure at all to be honest. This book was my thesis project and I didn't think anyone would see it--there's a sense of freedom in that. That being said, I still don't feel too much pressure. When it comes to picking mythology it depends a lot on what I need for the story--what works with the world I'm building. Sometimes--especially if the mythology is obscure--I leave it as is. Most readers won't know what it is so it's unnecessary to dress it up. Other times, like with the pukis (James) the mythology is vague. So I get to make up the things that I need/want about it. And still other times I don't find a creature I need so I make something up to fit the story or an element of the story. Writer's are like magpies and we build our nests out of whatever is handy at times.
What's with the song titles/lyrics as chapter titles? What's the significance?
The song titles: That was a convergence of things. First, the original short story (Zombie Burger) was a play off of the song "Anarchy Burger" by the Vandals. When it came time for me to write the next chapter, which was a Douglas chapter originally (things moved around in editing) Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings popped up. And I liked them for several reasons. 1) I like music. A lot. 2) Seattle is a town that loves its music as well. All kinds-old, new, pop, punk, rockabilly, blues, grunge, we take all kinds. When I was a teenager, most social events involved bands in either basements, living rooms, coffee shops, or teen centers. I associate being young with going to shows. 3) It only made sense that Sam should have the same experience. And he does-Sam loves music. So it just made sense that the chapters should reflect that love. Plus it was fun coming up with songs titles/lyrics that went with the chapters. My agent (he's very hands on and we usually do a few rounds of editing before my editor sees is) asked me if I was planning on doing the same thing for the new book I'm working on, and it just didn't make sense for that character. So I guess ultimately it's a Sam thing. :)
Thanks again! It's tough to interact with authors face-to-face outside the metro areas in the Midwest, especially without some funding on your side. You have just made me the coolest librarian/book club leader on campus by far.
You are most welcome. Most of the librarians I hear from are actually either out in the boonies or don't have funding, so a lot of them contact me either for things like this or skype visits. Generally, authors don't mind :). We're all aware that libraries are having funding problems and since most of us spent/spend a lot of our time in them, we're happy to give back. Let me know if the group has more questions or if they need follow up to these. Thanks!