Writing short stories, even mini-fiction, can’t always be worked into a writing schedule; so for those authors who may not be able to let their characters play in the sand, I’ve invited them to a nighttime beach bonfire to have a drink, listen to the crashing waves, and answer a few questions of my own.
Joining me in the sand is Nancy Holzner, author of the Deadtown series!
Can you tell us a little about yourself, something readers may not have heard before?
First the basics: I’m the author of the Deadtown urban fantasy series, set in Boston and featuring shapeshifting demon fighter Victory Vaughn. Besides writing, I’ve been in and out of academia my whole career—I used to teach medieval literature, and now I teach writing courses at Ithaca College. I’m an avid hiker, and in 2014 I walked the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route that stretches 500 miles across northern Spain.
Official Bio:Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts with her nose stuck in a book. This meant that she tended to walk into things, wore glasses before she was out of elementary school, and forced her parents to institute a “no reading at the dinner table” rule. It was probably inevitable that she majored in English in college and then, because there were still a lot of books she wanted to read, continued her studies long enough to earn a masters degree and a PhD.
She began her career as a medievalist, then jumped off the tenure track to try some other things. Besides teaching English and philosophy, she’s worked as a technical writer, freelance editor and instructional designer, college admissions counselor, and corporate trainer. Most of her nonfiction books are published under the name Nancy Conner.
Nancy lives in central New York, where she enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera. There are still a lot of books she wants to read.
Can you introduce us to the world(s) that you have created?
Deadtown is Boston’s paranormal district, where all nonhumans are compelled live. Vicky Vaughn is a shapeshifter who kills other people’s personal demons for a living but who must come to terms with the larger demons that haunt her. Her boyfriend is a workaholic werewolf lawyer, her roommate is a 600-year-old vampire who quotes Shakespeare, her sidekick is an annoying teenage zombie, her favorite bar is owned by a troll, and her suburban sister wants nothing to do with paranormals. Vicky’s Aunt Mab has trained her to stand between humans and the demons who want to overrun the boundaries of Hell, but Vicky isn’t so sure she wants the job…
Will this be your first Coastal Magic or are you a veteran? What was it about Coastal Magic that drew you to it? Why have you continued to return?
I’ve been to Coastal Magic a couple of times. Aside from the opportunity to escape an upstate New York winter right at the point when I’m starting to get a bit tired of it (I actually like winter, but by February it’s easy to want a break from the cold), I really enjoy the people I meet—writers, readers, book bloggers, and more. I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones every year.
If you’ve been before, what is your favorite CMC memory? If you’ve never been, what are you looking forward to?
I have so many great memories of CMC! If I had to choose just one, it would probably be when I somehow ended up on the Improv Flash Fiction panel. I can admit now that I was terrified at the start, but once we got going, I actually had fun. When it was my turn, the words just flew out of my mouth (I have no idea where they came from), and I managed to end a story in a way that made the audience laugh and applaud. That said, in subsequent years I’ve enjoyed this event as a member of the audience…
Is there any character that didn’t make as big of an impact on the story that you thought they would? Is there a character who stayed on the page longer than you thought they would?
Vicky’s apprentice Tina, the teenage zombie with Barbie fashion sense and the strength of ten humans, was a character who showed up for comic relief halfway through the first draft of Deadtown and immediately demanded a bigger role. She’s been lots of fun to write, and she’s essential to the entire series.
Is there any part of your series, any of your series, world(s) that you would like to expand on in the future?
I’m currently working on a Deadtown prequel that tells of the zombie plague and how Vicky got together with many of the characters who populate the series. I plan to release that as a free ebook, both for fans who want the backstory and for readers who are new to the series. I’ve also played around with ideas featuring Vicky’s aunt Mab (running a school for would-be demon fighters) and her niece, Maria (a young shapeshifter coming to terms with her powers).
Which do you find is more central in your writing: the characters or world creation? Why?
Always the characters—and that’s true whether I’m writing or reading. You can create the most astonishing and detailed fantasy world ever imagined, but if you don’t populate it with characters readers care about, there’s no point.
Does your mood ever affect the direction that your stories take? Has any of your stories began one way, but by the time you wrote The End, had the mood drastically changed and how did it affect the story?
I really struggled to write Firestorm (book 6 in the series). I started it at my husband’s bedside during his last illness, and after he died I sometimes wondered if I’d ever finish that book. It felt like the last thread that connected me to him, and part of me feared that finishing the book would snap that thread. I wrote my way through a very dark and difficult time, and what surprised me when I finished the book was how hopeful it was. That was a good thing, and it helped me move forward in my own life.
Design your own apocalypse – What constitutes an effective apocalypse and what mechanism would work best?
Deadtown shows life after a zombie plague that could have been apocalyptic but wasn’t—humans and monsters both found ways to go on. I think an apocalypse brings life as someone knows it to an irreversible halt. So it can be something that affects an entire society or just one person. I’m kind of fascinated by the idea of an individualized apocalypse—the world crashes down on one person, who can see everyone else living their normal lives but just can’t get back there. That relates to a project I have in mind, but I hadn’t thought of it in those terms. So thanks for the food for thought!
Don’t miss your chance to meet over 50 fabulous urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance authors at Coastal Magic next February! This super casual book-lover weekend happens on Daytona Beach, and gives everyone the chance to hang out with fellow readers and amazing storytellers.
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