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SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT

WEREWOLVES TAKE OVER THE AIRWAVES IN CARRIE VAUGHN'S FIRST NOVEL

By Lauren Spielberg

Kitty Norville gives new meaning to the term "shock jock." The werewolf heroine of debut author Carrie Vaughn's new fantasy series hosts her own radio talk show, The Midnight Hour.

The supernatural equivalent to Dr. Ruth Westheimer, doling out sage advice to those things that go bump in the night, Kitty first appeared in a handful
of novellas printed in the esoteric sci-fi magazine Weird Tales. Buoyed by the positive reception, and spurred on by the character's unrelenting nudging, Vaughn turned the popular vignettes into the full-length Kitty and the Midnight Hour, released this month from Warner Aspect.

"When I first had the idea for a supernatural talk show, I didn't have a lot of faith in the concept," Vaughn says. "I thought it would be a one-off, gimmicky short story, and that's what I planned for."

But that's not what she got. Though the genre is full of kick-butt heroines -- Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake and TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name a few -- Vaughn felt something was missing. Soon the intrepid author decided to fill in those blanks herself.

"In a world where vampires and lycanthropes are real and running around, they would have their own talk-radio advice show," she insists. "And there would be people offering a cure for vampirism. They'd advertise on the back page of the weekly alternative newspaper right alongside the ads for breast-enhancement herbs, you know?"

In Kitty and the Midnight Hour, the eponymous heroine is in the closet when it comes to being a werewolf. That anonymity is threatened, however, when a caller phones the radio station, asking if she believes in vampires. After answering in the affirmative, Kitty's obscure talk show is revamped (pun intended) and she soon finds herself catering to a different sector of the population -- other creatures of the night.

Suddenly she's a household name with one of the most popular nighttime talk shows on the airwaves. But as ratings skyrocket, grumblings persist within Kitty's pack (namely from alpha males
Carl and TJ) and from a powerful vampire family who want
Kitty dead.

"The whole arc of the first novel grew out of Kitty learning to stand up for herself," Vaughn says, before laughing and relating how her mother, two chapters into the as-of-then unfinished tale, asked if the character ever grew a spine.

Vaughn continues, "I think I wanted to turn inside out some of the stereotypical, and maybe even cliched, traits often found in stories about the supernatural. She's one of the monsters and yet she lacks confidence. She isn't strong; she feels helpless. The werewolf metaphor is so powerful in that regard; it can mean so many different things."

The author could teach her hapless werewolf a thing or two about spunk. A self-described Air Force brat, Vaughn grew up all over the country, with a chunk of her formative years spent in Colorado. Not quite the accomplished athlete in her youth, she embraced her writing talents while filling her head with spaceships, faraway galaxies and formidable creatures.

"My parents are both science fiction readers, so I grew up with the genre," she says. "We all watched Star Trek, Buck Rogers, Star Wars and so on as a family. I think I love the genre because of that oft-discussed sense of wonder. I want to be awed, I want to be wowed and I want to be shown just how big and astonishing and cool the universe is."

So how does one dream up alternate realities in which to both shock and awe? If you're Vaughn, by crunching numbers. "I'm currently an administrative assistant in an accounting office, which amuses my mother to no end. It's a good job for me," she says with a smile. "Steady, not too strenuous, leaving me with plenty of energy and motivation when I come home at the end of the day."

Her publisher has already purchased Kitty's companion book, Kitty Goes to Washington, which hits shelves March 2006. And, as if she didn't have enough on her plate, Vaughn returns to Weird Tales with another novella, "Kitty and the Mosh Pit of the Damned," which is tentatively scheduled for a fall release date.

"I always seem to have about five writing projects going at once," says Vaughn. "There's always a short story or two -- several are being published this fall. A couple of novels are in the works. I'm finishing up a superhero novel right now. The main character is the daughter of the city's greatest superheroes, but she doesn't have any powers."

With a flair for writing unconventional supernatural characters, Vaughn is a force to be reckoned with. And although Kitty and the Midnight Hour is sharp on wit and bite, there's no furry creature to contend with after turning that last page.


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