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Queen Betsy Rides Again


By Stephanie Klose

After the release of Undead and Uneasy (Berkley Sensation, June 2007), the sixth book in her series about vampire queen Elizabeth "Betsy" Taylor, MaryJanice Davidson experienced a strange phenomenon: Everyone thought she was done.
"People kept telling me they were sorry the Betsy series was over, and I was like, 'What? It's not!'"

She had done such a good job tying up loose ends that readers thought the series was finished. But not only was Davidson willing and eager to continue shoe fanatic Betsy's story, she was legally bound to write more -- her contract was for nine books.

So she decided to write the next three books as a trilogy within the series. While Davidson plans to make them as funny as the earlier books, readers may be surprised by some tragic turns
of events.

"If you get to the end, you needn't fear," Davidson says, "there's more to come. Unless you're not a Betsy fan, in
which case ... be afraid. Be very afraid."

The first book in the mini-arc is Undead and Unworthy, (reviewed last month in RT). Newlywed vampire queen Betsy
has fiends out to get her, murders to solve and her stepmother's ghost to contend with.

Her publisher took the opportunity to move away from the cartoon covers used for the first six Betsy books and feature ones that are darker in both look and feel.

Davidson confesses to being taken aback the first time she saw the cover of Undead and Unworthy but says she's grown to love it. For one thing, it helps her books stand out in the exploding category of paranormal chick lit.

"There are so many cute cartoon covers with cute cartoon blondes. Mine weren't standing out anymore."

Though some fans are upset that the new books won't match the ones already in their collections, Davidson points out that her U.K. publisher, Piatkus Books, hired the same artist who illustrated the first six, so readers who want a matched set can order the latest from England.

Aside from the Undead series, Davidson has a number of other ongoing series featuring a variety of paranormal characters. Fred the mermaid was born when Davidson decided to write about a mermaid with some unexpected characteristics -- she's cranky and hates the water. The last book in the trilogy, Fish Out of Water, will be out in December 2008.

Davidson and her husband, Anthony Alongi, collaborate on the Jennifer Scales series, about a teenage girl who is "half-weredragon, half-beaststalker."

"Legally, I have to share my money with him," she says, pointing out that Minnesota is a community property state, so, "It's nice to be able to share the work."

The couple launched the series in 2005 with Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace, after she started getting fan letters from preteen girls who loved the Betsy books.

Davidson confesses to being a little shocked at how young some of her fans were, considering some of Queen Betsy's racy misadventures, so she decided to come up with an option better suited
for them.

"I didn't want to tell some 12-year-old girl who had spent her allowance on my book not to read it," Davidson says, "but I wanted to be able to say 'You know, if you liked that, try this,'" with the subtext being that it's more appropriate for you, she says, adding that "Jennifer will never get laid as long as we're writing her."

In a funny turn of events, the Berkley Jam series was such a hit with readers of all ages that the publisher is re-releasing them as straight fantasy under its Ace imprint, and the books will no longer be shelved in the young adult section of stores.

Davidson and Alongi have joint writing down to a science. He outlines the book, then they divide up the chapters, with her taking the more dialogue-heavy parts and anything set, say, in the girls' locker room, and him tackling the more descriptive sections. Then they edit each others' work.

Of course, they've had a lot of practice. The couple began writing together on their honeymoon, 15 years ago. Their trip involved long
drives, and they wrote a Star Trek novel as they went.

"When we got home, our parents were asking how the honeymoon was, and we opened up the trunk and all these books and pages fell out. They were like, 'We're never getting grandkids.'"

Though some people might have trouble keeping all of the characters and different worlds straight, Davidson claims that keeping so many balls in the air actually helps her work. In fact, she often writes two books at the same time. Being able to move back and forth between different worlds "keeps me from getting blocked," she says.

Her early secretarial training also comes in handy: Since she can type 120 words a minute, she can knock out 60 pages a day "with no trouble. I can actually type as fast as I think."

That fast typing should help as she adds another series to her stable, this one a romantic suspense called Me, Myself and Why, which St. Martin's will publish in 2009.

It's about three crack female FBI agents, a blond Pollyanna type who never swears; a cold, calculating Asian-American weapons expert; and a redhead who is, in the author's words, "just crazy."

The twist is that all of these women live in the same body -- a woman with multiple personality disorder.

The books will be full of Davidson's trademark humor. "They're definitely going to be funny, silly books," she says. They will not have any paranormal elements, however.

Having several wildly different characters in one body will give Davidson room to play with traditional notions of romantic literature.

"In a romance," she explains, "the heroine only has sex with the hero ... but [in this series] the redhead is a slut and the blonde is a
virgin." And since they share a body, things get complicated quickly.

But if there's anyone readers will trust to make the complications fun, it's MaryJanice Davidson.


"The Ant is here!" I yowled, as Sinclair assembled the rags of his suit, picked me up off the desk and shoved me behind him. I don't know why he bothered; Marc was gay and a doctor, and so couldn't care less if I were mostly naked. And Jessica had seen me naked about a million times. "Here, right now!"

"Your stepmother's in the room?" I still couldn't see her, but Jessica's tone managed to convey the sheer horror I felt at the prospect of being haunted by the Ant.

"Where else would I be?" the Ant, the late Antonia Taylor, said reasonably. She was tapping her Payless-clad foot and nibbling her lower lip. "What I'd like to know is, where's your father?"

"Yeah, that's all this scene is missing," I fumed. "If only my dead dad were here, too."

After Marc decided a Valium drip probably wouldn't work on a vampire, he brought me a stiff drink instead. Could he even tap a vein? I was over a year dead, after all. Would an IV take? Someday I was going to have to sit down and figure all this shit out. Someday when I wasn't plagued by ghosts, serial killers, wedding planning, rogue werewolves, mysterious vampires bursting in on me, and diaper changing.

It was sweet of Marc to bring me a gin and tonic (which I loathed, but he didn't know that), but I was so rattled I drank it off in one gulp, and it could have been paint thinner for all I knew.

"Is she still here?" he whispered.

"Of course I'm still here," my dead stepmother snapped. "I told you, I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm the only one who can hear you," I shrilled, "so just shut up."

"Bring her another drink," Sinclair muttered. We were still in his office, but Jessica had kindly brought robes to cover our shredded clothes. "Bring her three."

"I don't need booze, I need to get rid of you know what."

"Very funny," the Ant grumped.

She and my father had been killed in a gruesome, stupid car accident a couple of months ago. Where she had been since her death, and why she had shown up now, I didn't know. There were so many things about being the vampire queen I didn't know! And I didn't want to know.

But I was going to have to find out, because the ghosts never, ever went away, until I solved their little problems for them.

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