Frequently Asked Questions

Books

Demon PossedDemon InsidePersonal DemonsAre any of your books interrelated and do I have to read them in order?
Yes. Well, yes, they’re related, and I suppose you don’t have to read them in order but it’s best if you do.

Currently I have the Megan Chase series (the Demons books), which is:

City of GhostsUnholy MagicUnholy GhostsAnd the Chess Putnam series (the Downside books), which is:

  • UNHOLY GHOSTS (May 25, 2010)
  • UNHOLY MAGIC (June 22, 2010)
  • CITY OF GHOSTS (July 27 2010)
  • SACRIFICIAL MAGIC (Release date TBA)
  • UNTITLED DOWNSIDE #5 (Release date TBA)
  • UNTITLED DOWNSIDE #6 (Release date TBA)

What should readers know about your books before they buy them?

That the two series are very different. The Megan Chase books are fairly light-hearted, whereas the Chess Putnam books are pretty dark and gritty. I hope readers enjoy both, but I’d hate for them to think they’re getting one thing when they’re actually getting another.

Is DEMON POSSESSED the last Megan Chase novel?

At the moment it is, yes. I don’t currently have any plans to write more. But you never know. I’m certainly still very fond of all of those characters, and wouldn’t at all mind revisiting them one day.

Are the Megan Chase novels available in any other languages/countries?

They are currently available in Poland, translated by Amber Publishing. I’m not sure why they think the books are set in San Francisco (I actually had Minneapolis in mind as terms of layout etc.), but hey, San Francisco is a cool place, right?

Anyway. They’ve done beautiful covers for the Demons books, and it’s really exciting to see them translated!

What drew you to urban fantasy?

I’ve always been a fan of it, all my life, back before it was called “urban fantasy.” I like the moral ambiguity. I like the endless possibilities. I like the darkness.

Would you ever write YA?

I am actually working on a couple of YA (= Young Adult) projects, and am very excited about them, so I will keep you posted.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your books?

Well, really I just hope they’ll have had a good time. I hope they’ve been entertained. I hope they feel they’ve gotten value for their money, and most importantly that they want to stay in that world and want to know what happens next.

How much research do you do and how do you do it?

Hmm. Depends on the book, really. I read a lot, is the best way I can describe my research. I have a lot of books on a lot of subjects. I’ve studied witchcraft for years and used a lot of that in the Downside books; the magic in those is based on British Traditional Witchcraft. For the Demons books I read a lot on demonology; while my demons have a different cosmology, a lot of that information came in handy. The Accuser, for example, is a “real” demon; so are yaksas and leyaks and of course, the Yezer Ha-Ra.

Who is December Quinn?

December Quinn was my erotic-romance-writing pen name. Since my UF (= Urban Fantasy) schedule is so full I’ve basically retired her.

When will December have a new book out?

I don’t have any plans to do any more December books, but never say never.

Why did you go with two names for your work?

Well. I started out writing romance and erotic romance as December Quinn. When I shifted into UF (= Urban Fantasy) and especially when PERSONAL DEMONS sold, I wanted to differentiate those books from the very graphic genre romances. So I came up with another name, which is actually very close to my real name.

How do I get autographed copies of your books?

Well, you can check my Appearances schedule, or you can send me a book with a pre-paid postage envelope to send it back to you.

The Downside Books (Chess Putnam Books)

Will there be more Downside books?

Right now I don’t know, but I will let everyone know as soon as I do.

How do you pronounce “Cesaria?”

It’s Chez-air-ee-uh.

Did Chess’s parents die during Haunted Week? Is that why she was a foster child?

No. Well, they probably did die during Haunted Week, yes, but Chess was abandoned at birth, before Haunted Week happened. She was not in the system because of Haunted Week.

Does Terrible have a “real name,” and if so what is it?

He was probably given a name at birth, but he doesn’t know what it was and neither does anyone else (and he too was essentially abandoned before Haunted Week, not because of it). The story Chess tells Elder Griffin in CHASING MAGIC about where Terrible’s name came from is true. He doesn’t recall ever being called anything else and feels uncomfortable with the idea.

The origins of the Church of Real Truth are mentioned briefly in SACRIFICIAL MAGIC as having something to do with the Salem Witch Trials. What is that about?

The Church started in response to the Trials; some of the colonists at that time were disgusted by them, and by the whole “Devil/Satan” thing being added to what was to them a very simple process of energy manipulation. Of course they were afraid to speak up lest they be killed, so they went underground. Their clothes and speech patterns are in part a way to honor those who died, and nameless children are often given surnames from Trial participants (i.e. Chess Putnam from Ann Putnam, Merritt Hale from John Hale).

Is the Downside part of London or totally a fictional city? It reminds me of Europe.

Nope! Triumph City is in America, but as I was living in England when I came up with the place it does have that influence, I think. But it is based on a real American city, and there’s a big clue as to which one it is in the second book UNHOLY MAGIC.

What kind of music did you listen to while writing the Downside books?

All the songs mentioned in the book and then some. They’re all on Radio Downside (or they will be, once it’s up and running).

Who are all the bands you mention in the Downside books?

The bands who play shows in Downside are fictional, because I don’t want to presume which real bands might be touring and where they may be or how many of them are still together or even alive. But any band any of the characters listen to is a real band, one I’m a fan of and listen to myself.

Can you put my band in the books?

Because Haunted Week happened in 1997, I don’t generally mention real bands after that year.

Will you play my band on Radio Downside?

Send me a CD. If I like it I’ll play it. However, due to copyright/royalty laws, if your songs aren’t registered with one of the royalty agencies (i.e. ASCAP) please include a letter giving me permission to play the songs royalty-free. I don’t handle the royalties for Downside Radio, the service I use does; I don’t have time to calculate them and frankly my math skills are terrible. But I don’t steal music either.

What is the Downside Market?

The Downside Market (http://www.downsidemarket.spreadshirt.com) is the web store where you can get t-shirts and other items relating to the books. For example, there’s a “Churchwitch” shirt, and one with Terrible’s tattoo. In addition there are quite a few general urban fantasy t-shirts, so if you’re a fan of the genre you should check it out!

New designs are being added regularly, too.

How can I get one of my designs on a Downside shirt?

Send it to me! If it works as a shirt (not all cool designs do) and if there’s room in the store I’ll get it up there. Just keep in mind, though, that by sending me your design and agreeing to have it on a shirt in the Market you are waiving rights to be paid for that design; I barely make a profit on the shirts and merchandise, and while I don’t want to be mercenary, just as with Radio Downside, it’s way too complex for me to figure out royalties etc. You will be credited as the designer of the shirt, though.

Is the Downside Market a Zazzle or CafePress store, or one of those other places?

It’s a Spreadshirt store. Spreadshirt has the lowest prices of all of those places, and I was pleased with the quality of the stuff I ordered. So hopefully you will be too.

Do you have plans to do a jewelry line for the Downside books? How about a Book of Truth? Maybe a calender?

Not at this time, no. I don’t really feel the series lends itself well to that–at least not without a lot of special metalwork and things like that–so as such haven’t created or authorized any Downside jewelry, nor do I have plans to.

I’d love to eventually put together a Book of Truth, but it would be an enormous amount of work, and contractually I’d have to offer it to Del Rey first; the same holds for a calender or any other type of paper merchandising items. I’m perfectly happy to do that, it’s not a problem for me at all, but it does mean that’s something we’d need some considerable time to get it all put together.

Writing Career

When did you decide to write professionally?

I decided I wanted to in my late teens, but I was too busy playing with punk boys and working crappy jobs to actually do it. I decided to get serious about trying about seven years ago, I guess, and finally got around to trying about five years ago. But the decision to write professionally wasn’t mine; the editors who acquired me made me a professional writer.

What kind of reaction do you get from people when they learn for the first time what you’re writing about?

When I tell them I write about drug addicts, ghosts, witches, and punk rock? Usually a nervous smile and a quick subject change.

Were there any stories from your childhood or adulthood that lead to something you’ve written?

Everything from my childhood led to things I’ve written.

Stories? I really loved ghost stories as a kid. My best friend and I were obsessed with a book called “Stranger Than Science,” which terrified us. I think a lot of the stories from it made it into my work in some form or another.

How many books did you write before you sold one?

Um…hmm. I’m not sure how many I actually wrote, as I’ve been writing all my life. But once I finally got serious about writing, I sold the third book I wrote; eventually I sold the second as well, after some extensive editing and revising (that wasDecember Quinn’s BLACK DRAGON, btw.)

How long did it take you to get an agent? Please don’t tell me a week. Lie to me.

Well. It’s a lie and not a lie. I started querying UNHOLY GHOSTS seriously in January or February 2008. I had a few friends refer me to their agents, and those queries went out first. Then I sent one or two more a week while I waited, picking agents randomly from my (carefully researched) list. I signed with my agent in March. So it took a couple of months. Or you could look at it as taking a couple of years from the time I started writing.

Having said that, I queried my agent on a Monday. He requested the full three hours later, and called me on Wednesday to offer representation.

So it either took several years, several months, or three days. Take your pick.

What has been the best perk of being a published author?

Uhmm…there are perks? I mean, perks are something movie stars get.

Writing

Where do you get your ideas?

I made a deal with the devil.

What makes your protagonist(s) tick?

Generally? My protagonists tend to be driven by loneliness and self-hatred, by self-destructiveness. There’s also usually an element of responsibility in there; they keep going not because they want to, but because they have to. Or because they’re afraid not to, which makes their bravery more like cowardice and fuels their self-hatred further.

Do you ever talk to your characters… and have them talk back?

Nope. That makes me feel kind of like a failure, but they don’t talk to me and I don’t really talk to them. I just watch them.

Do you ever write on the shower walls like some other writers I’ve heard about?

No. I’ve never heard of that!

Are you a plotter or seat of your pants writer?

Pantser. I generally have a loose plot idea and a few scenes in my head, but I don’t know how the story ends or how we get to that ending.

How many projects do you work on at the same time?

Usually only one. I start it and I keep going until it’s done. I can switch back and forth but I prefer not to.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

It depends. I wrote UNHOLY GHOSTS in seven weeks. Usually I average about nine weeks, but it can take as long as twelve. That’s the longest it’s ever taken me, though.

Do you write short stories?

The Mammoth Book of Vampire RomanceLove Bites: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2Not generally. I have written a few; I wrote one for the MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE ROMANCE 2 (in the UK titled LOVE BITES) about vampires and Jack the Ripper; just a fun little idea that I knew didn’t have the depth to be a novel. I have a few more and a few ideas for them. But I have a hard time writing shorts. My mind just doesn’t work that way.

When you are editing one project do you focus only on that, or do you also work on writing other projects at the same time?

I prefer to focus on editing, but I don’t have that luxury anymore and am usually editing one project while writing another.

I’d love to ask “what’s your revision process” but I think that might be too broad a question, so…how many drafts do you end up writing?

It depends. UNHOLY GHOSTS was pretty much complete in first draft; I did a few editing passes and some tweaking and that was it. My agent had some revisions after I signed with him, so I added about another 10,000 words in that process. Generally I do a first draft and then three editing passes, the first for content-things I need to strengthen or things I forgot, immediately after finishing the book. Then I let it sit at least a couple of weeks, longer if possible, and re-read it. That’s where I tone and tighten and fix any other glaring issues.
Then I do one more, to catch anything else I might have missed.

I’d love to know what your writing day is like. Do you have a schedule (write daily from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)?

I usually write from about 11 p.m. until 2 or 3 in the morning, but it depends. When I’m on a deadline or the story is really flowing I work pretty much around the clock, as much as I can.

Do you need something to write (a cup of coffee sitting next to you, Fairy’s picture taped to the monitor)?

I have a cigarette before I sit down to work. I work better when I have candy. Or alcohol. That’s not very pc, but it’s true.

Do you need peace and quiet when you write or do you listen to music?

I don’t need peace and quiet, no. Which is good, since I have two children. I have the TV on, or I listen to music, or whatever. Once I’m really working I’m not hearing anything anyway.

How has your writing process changed over the time you’ve been writing, and what changes were necessary, concientious things you MADE yourself make, as opposed to natural, evolutionary changes?

Wow. The process has changed in that I’m much faster; practice does that. I think that was a natural, evolutionary change. I also think my subject matter changed naturally, as I became less afraid of the process and of revealing things through it. Changes I had to make, conscious changes, were to my schedule and output. I can’t write just when I feel like it anymore, and I especially can’t write just WHAT I feel like anymore; no matter how excited I might be about a new project, a deadline is a deadline.

Do you ever have days you would rather clean the bathroom than face the keyboard?

All the time. I have days where I would rather pull out my toenails with pliers than face the keyboard. I just can’t allow myself to give in to that feeling. Facing the keyboard is my job.

How do you handle Writer’s Block? Do you even get Writer’s Block?

Well… I do, but I don’t allow myself to. Writing is difficult. Sometimes it’s harder than others. You just have to push through it and keep getting words on paper. There’s no other way to do it, not for me.

What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about publishing?

Oh, wow. My favorite thing is the enthusiasm about books and reading, and the enormous number of awesome people I’ve met, from other writers to editors to agents to, especially, readers. And the work. I love the work.

My least favorite thing? The waiting.

Does reader’s feedback help you with your writing? Is feedback something that is very important to you?

Feedback does help, absolutely, and it is important. I have several beta readers/critique partners whose comments are invaluable, and of course any reader emails are hugely important. I wouldn’t say at all that I change things to suit readers, but I do try to keep them in mind.

Any advice to aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Write a lot. Develop a thick skin and remember you are not your work; it’s not personal, it’s business. Keep trying. Learn about the business; websites like Absolute Write are invaluable for that.

You can learn more on the blog; click the “writing” tag.

What is the one question you wish someone would ask you about your writing?

Hmm. Coming up pretty blank there. I guess, “Will you accept a million-dollar advance?” would be nice to hear. :smile: Really, all of the things I think interest me the most as far as my own work are pretty personal, so I’d rather not talk about them.

Personal

If you could be any kind of undead creature, what would you be?

A vampire. No contest.

If you could date any famous character from a book, who would you date?

Oh, geez. Rhett Butler, of course.

Stacia KaneDo you really look as much of a punk chick in real life as that icon photo with blonde hair makes you? Also, have you ever streaked it?

Um… I’m probably not the best person to answer that. :smile: But I do look in real life just like my picture. And yes, I’ve streaked it, bleached it, dyed it black, pink, green, and purple, spiked it…

What was the most interesting place you ever lived? Do you ever use the places you live as settings for your stories?

I think everyplace I’ve lived as been interesting for different reasons. But yes, I have. I used Miami/Ft. Lauderdale in December’s vampire books for Ellora’s Cave (=> writing as December Quinn), and I lived there for a dozen years.

What would be your dream job?

I’m doing it.

What’s your biggest influence as a creative person?

Um…it always weirds me out when people refer to me as “a creative person.” My agent does it too. I don’t really know what influences me, or rather, I don’t know how to say what influences me without sounding really pretentious. I guess “self-hatred” is the best answer I can come up with, really.

Are you really three feet tall?

No. I’m just over five feet two. So I am quite small.

What’s your favorite song?

“One Track Mind” by Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve written?

UNHOLY GHOSTS. But I’m hoping that answer will change as time goes on.

What’s your favorite book?

THE CAINE MUTINY by Herman Wouk. I have a lot of them, actually, but that’s my big all-time one. And since it’s non-genre I’m not stepping on any toes by naming it.

What’s the best recent book you’ve read?

I just finished re-reading Caitlin Kittredge’s STREET MAGIC. I absolutely love that book.

Do you read fan fiction? What is your policy on it?

I don’t read it, no. Not for my work or anyone else’s. It doesn’t bother me to have it exist, but please do not send it to me or tell me about it. For legal reasons I can’t and won’t read it.

Name a few of your guilty pleasures (i.e. Hannah Montana, Fun Dip, professional wrestling, etc.)

Funny you mention Hannah Montana. My daughter watches the show and I watch it with her. I’m also a huge fan of Beverly Hills 90210 (the original series). I love chewy candies, especially fruity ones. I love French fries.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I’m always writing. At least in my head, if not actually physically typing. So…sleep?

What is the one question you wish people would stop asking you?

What do you want for dinner? I never care. If I had my way I’d eat popcorn or French fries or crackers for dinner, and get back to work.

Oh, you mean about writing? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me a question I didn’t want to answer, or that bothered me, or whatever.