Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Interview With Author Colleen Gleason

As promised, here is an exclusive interview with Colleen Gleason, whose debut novel THE REST FALLS AWAY released January 2nd.

One lucky blog poster will win an autographed copy of THE REST FALLS AWAY, so check out the interview and post your comments!

Tell us a little about yourself – where do you live, do you have a family, do you like cats – whatever you feel comfortable with.

I live with my husband, three children, and a dog in the Midwest US. No cats, but not because I don’t like them…only because my stepdad is uber allergic to them and if we had one he wouldn’t ever come and visit.

My children seem to think that we’ll be able to get a cat this year (2007) because they read in school (in 2004) that “they” (whoever “they” is) are making genetically engineered cats that won’t cause allergic reactions. Yeah.

Tell us about your writing career – how long have you been writing, how many novels did you complete before selling, what genres do you write in?

I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school—seriously. But I didn’t finish my first novel until I was out of college. Then, over the course of the following nearly fifteen years, I got started in a sales and marketing career, finished my master’s degree, got married and had three children, and continued to write when I could. I finished nine novels before I sold my first book, The Rest Falls Away, along with a follow up.

I’m currently writing paranormal historicals (the Gardella books), and I’m also writing erotic historicals under a pseudonym.

Now that the bio is out of the way, let’s talk about your debut release, The Rest Falls Away. Your story is hailed as being Buffy meets Jane Austin. Where did you get the idea to set a vampire slayer story in Regency England?

A few years ago, I got hooked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, thanks to my friend Brian. And my favorite fairy tale was Cinderella—I love the Disney movie, the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, and was actually in the R&H show when I was in high school. I was going through a phase of listening to the soundtrack and watching the movies (I have two daughters…need I say more?) In fact, I’d even started to write my own Cinderella story set in Regency England a few years before…

And then I started thinking about what Buffy’s predecessors would have been like—and what if Cinderella had had to carry a stake? And poof! there was my story idea. And it just blossomed from there into something so much more.

Your heroine, Victoria, is on the eve of her debut into society when she has to choose to accept the call of her family legacy as a vampire hunter, or Venator. The combination of her family’s social status and the era present unique difficulties for a female Venator. Did it present unique challenges to you as the writer?

It made writing the book fun! I had a blast figuring out how she could sneak out of the house without her mother knowing, and deciding where she was going to hide her stake in those filmy, diaphanous gowns they wore back then. And then I got to think about putting her in situations that would be funny and painful at the same time—for example, in one place in the book, a suitor is declaring his love for her and she is distracted by the fact that a vampire is near and she has to excuse herself to go stake it!

It was the juxtaposition of Victoria’s place in Society with her special calling that made the book so much fun to write.

As soon as readers get their hands on this first book, they are going to fall in love with Victoria and cry for more stories. How many Gardella books do you have under contract and how many are planned for this series?

Thanks for saying so, Jana! The second Gardella book, Rises the Night, will be released in June.

I’m currently writing the third, titled The Bleeding Dusk, which will be published in early 2008. And I’m contracted to write a fourth book, which will be released in late 2008.

I’m hoping to write at least a fifth book about Victoria as well, so we’ll see what happens!

Most writers are particular about what they read while writing a rough draft. What about you? Do you read “out of genre” while writing the rough draft?

I don’t read too much at all when I’m writing, but when I do, I often read either my “comfort reads”—such as books I’ve read over and over, or some of my favorite authors.

I rarely read vampire books myself, partly because I don’t want anything to distract me from my own mythology and world-building, although if I do read them, it’s usually between books. Or when I’m writing something else.

Tell us a little about a typical (if there is such a thing) writing day.

Heh! Nothing’s typical in my life…but, I’d say most of my days begin with me doing email and blogging, and then perhaps some errands and/or research. I don’t usually write until after lunch—I’ve become accustomed to writing later in the day (probably because of those years of writing after the kids were in bed, when I was working a day job).

So I write after lunch until the kids come home, visit with them briefly, and then try and get another hour in before dinner. Then after they go to bed, I usually get online and write a bit more and/or do email.

You were a Golden Heart finalist in 2003, but didn’t make your first sale until 2005. Obviously perseverance is a characteristic that all writers need to succeed. What other characteristics do you think writers need to inherently possess or acquire along the way? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

That’s correct. In fact, I actually signed with my agent shortly after my Golden Heart final and we worked together for two years before we sold the Gardella books—so that’s a case in point that perseverance is key in succeeding in this business.

I wrote four books during that time, and my agent pitched each one to major NY publishers. It either wasn’t the right time for them or they weren’t right for the house or line. But I kept on writing new things, and suddenly, I had two very different manuscripts that were marketable and sold. I sold a total of six books in less than a year, after trying for years to get published!

So, perseverance is key. There is no secret handshake, no golden password to getting published. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep writing, and keep submitting—until you sell or you give up.

But also keep your eye on the market. It’s very hard to write “to” the market, because by the time you do, either that market is dying or overcrowded…but you can have an eye to it. That was why I chose to set my historical vampire series in the Regency period—it’s the most popular setting for historical romance. So that made the sale a little easier.

Would it have sold if I’d set the book in Renaissance Italy? Or Marie Antoinette’s France? I don’t know. But since I had an eye to the market, it made it easier for the publisher to make the decision to buy it, knowing that the time period was already popular with readers.

And my last bit of advice is to stay true to the book and yourself. Ultimately, you have to like and enjoy what you write, or it won’t be fun, or fresh, or exciting. You have to write something you’d want to read, something you find intriguing or interesting. You write for yourself first. And then once you’re published, you write for yourself, and then for your editor.

Thanks so much Jana for having me! I really enjoy your blog and I loved Rumble on the Bayou. Can’t wait for Unlucky!

Thank you, Colleen! THE REST FALLS AWAY is an absolutely fabulous read and I think readers are going to love it and come begging for more. I know I am. :)


Tori Lennox said...

The more I hear about this series, the more I want to read it! :)

Sassy Sistah said...

That was a terrific interview, Jana. Colleen sounds like a neat woman! I'm more and more interested in the book(s) and the author. Thank you!

(And I HOPE I WIN!!! But even if I don't, I'll buy the book!)

AnnieColleen said...

Very inspiring story there for a wannabe (but impatient) novelist! I love the juxtaposition of opposites. :)

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