Katie MacAlister Author Interview
Paranormal romance author Katie MacAlister chats with RT's Whitney about her ever-evolving Dark Ones series, the upcoming ninth novel set in that world, Much Ado About Vampires, and her career over the last decade. Don't miss your chance to go behind the scenes of Katie MacAlister's work with one of her biggest fans — and find out what you can expect from the author next!
WHITNEY SULLIVAN: In Much Ado About Vampires your heroine Corazon discovers that not only is she a reincarnated soul — but in her last life she was a vampire’s mate. Oh, and she’s seen him kill someone. This is not an easy (or baggage-free) way to start a relationship — so how did you know that Cora and this sexy bloodsucker were meant for each other?
KATIE MACALISTER: Cora is horrified by the events of the past, particularly by the fact that she was somehow bound to a man who was clearly a murderous fiend. What she doesn’t realize—and what I knew ahead of time—is that she was only a distant witness, emotionally separated from reality, and clueless about what she really witnessed.
Once she realizes that, and feels the depth of emotion in Alec, she understands that her initial perception of him was seriously flawed. Being omnipotent about this sort of thing, I knew that as Cora spent time with Alec, she’d soon see that he was exactly the opposite of what she imagined he was.
WS: Readers meet Alec Darwin in the prologue of Much Ado About Vampires as he’s preparing for his final rest shortly after the death of his Beloved (his perfect mate). But if he had a chance to convey what he believes to be his last thoughts in a 140-character tweet, what would it be?
KM: What’s with all the rocks? Seriously, I can’t even die in comfort? Great, now I’ve got an itch on my foot, and I can't reach it. Life sucks!
WS: When Cora undergoes hypnosis with her two best girlfriends to find out about her past life, she sees her former self get killed in a gruesome accident. What incidents in Cora’s recent life have prepared her to not be extremely surprised when she witnesses her dismembered head bouncing down the road? (By the way, kudos for making that scene hilarious and not deeply depressing!)
KM: It’s really her sense of humor that gives her the ability to see the slapstick adventures of her disembodied head as something that is entertaining, if in a deeply dark sort of way, rather than appalling. She’s also fairly emotionally distant from the scene, which helps as well. But mostly, it’s her sense of humor. There she was expecting to be reincarnated from some exotic princess, consort, or at the very least, a noblewoman, and instead finds herself a barefoot peasant who is mowed down by a pair of oxen with an inept driver.
You can see a hint of that sense of humor in the "Unleashed" novella (featuring Cora's sister) when she goes off to a hardware store to purchase a garden hose and hand trowel with which to “take care” of the hero of that novella. She’s a little wacky, Cora is…
WS: So let’s talk Beloveds for a moment. These ladies are supposed to be the perfect match for your vamps. But over the past nine books you’ve kept readers on their toes as the meaning of Beloved evolved. Unlike many of the other vampire series out there, to be a Beloved in your world doesn’t mean instant Happily Ever After or even that things are guaranteed to work out. What are three keys for making a vampire/beloved relationship work? And how do those components differ when a vampire gets involved with someone who’s not his Beloved?
KM: If there’s one thing I took away from years of studying physics at the University of Washington, it was that nothing is every really absolute. When I sat down to write the first Dark Ones book, I deliberately wove that precept into the mythos of my vampires.
Because of that, some sort of chemistry has to be there to make the relationship between hero and heroine work. Sparks must fly, hearts have to beat faster, and pheromones will be splashed hither and yon with abandon. But in addition to that, there has to be a genuine connection between the two people, something that brings them together and keeps them together. There also has to be an ability to engage on a deeply emotional level, the kind of bone-deep emotions that drives them to overcome whatever obstacles I hurl at them (and I’m merciless when it comes to obstacles) so that they can be together.
On the occasions when a vampire runs into a Beloved who either isn’t his, or is his by mistake, but wasn’t the woman with which he should be spending his life, there is a definite lack in their relationship. In such a case, what passion and emotional connection that exists is either one-sided (and lacking in depth), or is non-existent.
One of my secondary characters, Noelle the Guardian, is also a vampire’s Beloved, but when she meets the man to whom she’s supposedly bound, there’s just no connection between them, no sense of bonding, no feeling that they were meant to be together. Far from being devastated by this fact, she’s more annoyed by the whole thing.
WS: You are now on book nine of your Dark Ones series, and as a long-time fan — I can remember when you moved from contemporary romances into paranormals — I’ve got to ask, what’s one way that this series grew that you never expected?
KM: In an odd sort of way, I think of the vamp books as a sprawling ground-covering vine, spreading out little tendrils here and there as each book is written, some tendrils twisting back on themselves to twine around others, and some just heading off on their own. I never imagined that the vampire books would be as intertwined as they were, with some characters having an impact on more than just their own stories, becoming, as well, involved in other books beyond the occasional cameo appearance.
Rather than seeing the books as individual cut-and-dried stories of the relationship of two people, it became apparent that they were all part of a grander vision of an entire society, one that has continued to evolve as each book is written. I always figured that I’d follow the path of writing a book with several male (or female) characters that could be parceled out to future books, but for the most part, my muse gives me stories about different characters, ones that fit into my picture of the Dark One society.
WS: Now there’s no way that I could chat with you without at least mentioning your dragons. After creating the complex world of your vampires, you took a pause and were one of the first authors of our knowledge to foray successfully into the world of dragons with your heroine Aisling Gray, and the two related series of the silver dragons and the light dragons. So we knew we needed to ask, what’s something readers will never see your dragons do?
KM: “Never” is a hard word to commit to, but it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever put dragons and Dark Ones in the same book. They’re both dominant sorts of characters, both have a strongly-knit society that while not excluding others, isn’t the most welcoming to other immortal beings, and my brain grinds to a screaming halt whenever I try to envision a book containing a dragon spending quality time with a vampire. So there will be no mixed-species romances for a dragon, I’m afraid. At least so far as Dark Ones are concerned.
WS: You are famous for your quirky heroines. (One of my very favorites is Plum, from The Trouble With Harry), but I’ve got to ask, if we promise not to tell any of your other leading ladies, who is the gal that you’d most want to spend the afternoon with?
KM: I have a bit of a girl-crush for Ysolde from the Light Dragon books. She’s maternal, has a huge capacity for love, as well as a wicked side (with matching sense of humor), and yet she’s not afraid to kick some ass when needed. She’s also not easily intimidated, and very loyal.
I would love to have a girls’ night out with Ysolde, and not just because Baltic would be sure to show up at some point (I may also have a wee little crush on him), but because I could see having great fun, and probably some wild adventures, with her.
WS: As a total aside, the new cover of The Trouble With Harry breaks my heart. It’s a great new cover but the letter in the front of the original novel about why there was a rubber ducky on the cover? Priceless.
KM: I loved that ducky too. I still have no idea why the art department at Dorchester put it on there, but I loved it even though I knew that die-hard historical readers would scream about it being there (hence the note explaining the anachronism). If I resell the rights to that book, I’ll have to insist on a ducky for the cover.
WS: Over the past six months you’ve gone from historical romance to your dragon series, and then back to vampires for October’s Much Ado About Vampires; and next you’re headed to contemporary romance for It’s All Greek to Me in December. That’s a lot of genre hopping so how do you keep it all straight?
KM: Luckily, my brain is warped in such a way that it quite happily hops genres with the demands of my schedule. Unfortunately, that elasticity doesn’t extend to my memory, so I’m forced to take copious notes when I’m writing books, so that I can later remember what it was I was planning for future books in each respective series.
And believe it or not, I end up re-reading my own books because inevitably, the notes I took at the time of writing one book turn out to be completely different than what I need to write the next book. Yes, my memory is as comprehensive as maple syrup in its ability to retain information. I go with the premise that this makes it easier to switch genres.
WS: In your previous contemporary romance novels, you’ve tackled reality shows, people being sucked into video games, Renaissance fairs and even the Scotland Yard’s branch of Internet sex crimes (with the hero of Improper English who put child molesters behind bars). I’ve got to ask, which of these novels took the most research?
KM: Boy, I can remember researching all of those, too…I spent some time trolling through the Scotland Yard pages on information for their sex crimes unit, and even contacted an officer for specific information on what they would or would not do. Corset Diaries had me pouring through my collection of Victorian etiquette books. Blow Me Down came of my love of an online multiplayer pirate game (I am still waiting for the day for virtual reality to catch up to my imagination), but I think it was probably Hard Day’s Knight that took the most research.
I spent some time with the Seattle Knights, a local steel combat (sword fighting) and jousting troupe, and peppered the leader of the group with endless questions. I saw them joust, watched them train, learned the difference between all the different styles of jousting, how the horses are trained, and what it feels like to fall off a galloping horse in full armor—the last one, I’m thankful to say, not firsthand (the answer is that falling off is a skill, and if you do it correctly, it doesn’t hurt much at all).
WS: And a follow-up, I was surprised to learn that It’s All Greek to Me contains a Greek billionaire, a stand-in band manager and sounds much more like the straight-up historicals of your early days, Noble Intentions and Noble Destiny (substituting out the historical details for contemporary ones, of course). So what got you intrigued by Eglantine “Harry” Knight and the Greek guy she can’t keep her hands off of?
KM: This book was one of two that I call “gift” books in that they absolutely demanded to be written right at the exact moment my muse thought of them (the first was Sex and the Single Vampire, which chose to be written while I was in the middle of another book).
In September of 2010 I was taking a few weeks off between books to give my brain a little down time, and suddenly, I had this idea for a story filled with romance stereotypes that just begged to be turned upside-down.
Self-confident heroine? Check. Rich hero who is so incredibly handsome, he makes a most eligible bachelor’s list? Yup, got that. Exotic, gorgeous locale? We’re talking Greece, so that’s definitely set. My brain took as many of the stereotypes as it could think of, and spun it around into a story that I absolutely loved.
I wrote it in six days (not at all something I wish to go through again, since I barely got any sleep, and was pretty dehydrated because I kept forgetting to drink anything), literally laughing out loud as I did so. My husband thought I was deranged. I thought I was deranged. But oh, I had so much fun writing that book. I can’t wait to share it with readers.
WHITNEY SULLIVAN: And finally, can you share a detail with us from the next project you are working on?
KATIE MACALISTER: I’m juggling three things at the moment: the first is a novella for a Pocket anthology that I believe will be out in the latter half of 2012. It’s a Dark Ones novella, and will finally deal with that pesky Noelle. She’s refused to let me give her a hero in the past, but at last I pinned her down and told her she was going to end up an old lady with fifteen cats if she didn’t cooperate. She agreed to work with me (although she also claimed she wouldn’t mind having fifteen cats). The tentative title for the novella is “Shades of Gray.”
I’m also writing a very short short story for a Novelists, Inc anthology. I’m using the opportunity as a way to write a happy ending for two of my young adult characters—Emily and Fang—by making the short story set at their wedding.
And finally, I’m beginning the work on the next Dark Ones book, which is titled A Tale of Two Vampires. That will be out September of 2012, and will bring back some familiar faces, but incorporated in the story via something a little different for me, so I’m very excited about writing it.
After that, I hope to tackle some books not on the official schedule—I’d dearly love to write another historical, another steampunk book, and another book involving the characters from my paranormal mystery. Hopefully I’ll be able to fit in one or two of those in the coming year.