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By Patrick (2006-08-02)
Q: For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR andits sequel.
Carrie Vaughn: Here's my one-sentence tagline for the book: Kitty is a werewolf who starts a talk radio advice show about the supernatural. I get a lot of raised eyebrows with that description. The stories themselves are about Kitty coming to terms with being a werewolf, learning to stand up for herself, and dealing with social and political dynamics surrounding thevarious supernatural and non-supernatural elements in her life. In the second book, the stage gets bigger--she's the country's first werewolf celebrity and has to deal with that as well.
Q: Have you always had an interest in the paranormal?
Carrie Vaughn: Not really. With the exception of a few stand-outs (Steven Brust's Agyar, the films The Hunger, The Company of Wolves, and Ginger Snaps to name a few), I find a lot of vampire/werewolf/urban magic tales to be cliché, redundant, and therefore a bit dull. My real interest is in seeing how ordinary people handle extraordinary circumstances. The thing about Kitty is a lot of her concerns are normal ones: career, family, friendships. She just happens to be in this paranormal situation. Kitty also lets me shine a light on the usual paranormal elements, to comment on them and to try to make them new and interesting.
- A few years back, I'm not certain your novels would have been as well-received as they have been. With readers of all genres now more comfortable with fantasy elements, do you think that the timing was just about perfect for you and your novels?
Carrie Vaughn: I do think the timing was perfect. Kitty arrived just at the peak of this wave of hugely popular supernatural novels. Paranormal thriller, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, etc. are all their own categories now, and the crossover potential is huge. The audience seems to be starving for more of these stories, to tide them over until the next one by the next author comes out. I think the popularity of Laurell K. Hamilton and Buffy the Vampire Slayer opened the genre to a wide audience, and new authors have been able to expand the genre, play around with it, and try new things, right when the audience was ready for it. I could never have predicted that Kitty would be able to take part in the phenomenon.
Q: What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
Carrie Vaughn: Characters. I get so many comments about the characters, and how real they feel. Not to give too much away, but I've gotten many emails expressing anger over what happens to one of the characters at the end of Kitty and the Midnight Hour. I'm actually pleased at that, because it means I did a good job making sure people really liked and cared for that character.
Q: What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the book/series in the first place?
Carrie Vaughn: Paranormal stories always seem to get quickly wrapped up into personal angst of soap operatic proportions. I decided Dr. Laura would never be able to handle a call from a character in one of these stories, so this world needed its own call-in radio advice show. A werewolf named Kitty seemed the natural host for such a show. The story kind of exploded from there.
Q: Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?
Carrie Vaughn: You've hit on the exact right pair of symbols to represent the age-old dilemma about choosing commercial success or artistic respect. I have to be really crass and simplistic and say as a thirty-something with a mortgage, I'd take a New York Times bestseller for the financial security. But those H.P. Lovecraft busts they give out for the World Fantasy Award are really cool. I indulge in high hopes of seeing both someday.
Q: Honestly, do you believe that speculative fiction will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.
Carrie Vaughn: There's been a saying going around the SF community for the last couple ofyears. Science fiction won. It's taken over the world. Most of the blockbuster movies and many of the bestselling books have science fiction an fantasy elements in them. But the long-time science fiction community is still really pissed off, because nobody in the mainstream is calling those things science fiction and fantasy. Recently, someone who I know loves Harry Potter, Narnia, Philip Pullman, Robin McKinley, etc. told me that she doesn't normally read fantasy and I had to point out to her that she does, in fact, read a lot of fantasy. People are reading and watching SF&F without realizing it. So the genre won, but it still isn't getting the respect that we all crave so much. We still have to put up with Margaret Atwood and Philip Roth insisting that they don't write science fiction. The real trick is going to be overcoming those labels. Because really, it's the cover and the marketing, not the content, that determines where the book ends up in the store. The key is word of mouth promotion: the more we talk up our favorite speculative works, the more we can convince people who don't think of themselves as speculative readers to read our favorite works, the more we can break down those labels.