Please welcome Nancy Holzner today. We're kicking off her Bewitching Book Tour for the newest book in the Deadtown Series, Bloodstone.
Thanks, Roxanne, for inviting me to kick off my Bloodstone blog tour at Fang-tastic Books. It's fun to be back.
It's always a pleasure to have you here, Nancy. Can we start by telling readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?
I began my career as a medievalist, and I've always enjoyed reading old myths and legends. One of the things I like best about urban fantasy is the way many authors borrow from ancient mythologies and bring elements of those old stories into modern settings. When I decided to get serious about writing fiction, I first tried to write a literary novel (that didn't go anywhere). Next I wrote a mystery, which was published by a small press. But when I had an idea for an urban fantasy series that would draw from some of the medieval Welsh stories collected in the Mabingion, it felt like coming home.
Please tell us about your latest release.
Bloodstone is the third book in my Deadtown series. Deadtown is a section of Boston that's home, by law, to the city's paranormal population. It was created when a mysterious, fast-acting plague swept through downtown Boston, turning two thousand citizens into zombies (although Deadtown's zombies aren't the shambling brain-munchers you've seen in horror films). The quarantine zone eventually became Deadtown.
In the first two novels, my protagonist, Victory Vaughn (a shapeshifter who's a professional demon exterminator) saves Boston from an out-of-control Hellion and stops the demon plane from taking over the human world. In Bloodstone, a serial killer stalks Boston's South End, making tensions run high between the city's human and paranormal populations. As Vicky soon learns, the killer's ultimate goal is something far worse than mere murder.
Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?
Tina, Vicky's teenage zombie sidekick, is always fun to write. Tina was caught in the plague at the age of fifteen, when she and a friend skipped school to go shopping. As a zombie, Tina has gray-green, spongy skin, red eyes, superhuman strength, and a bigger-than-superhuman appetite. As a teenager, she's sarcastic and wears too much makeup. She was Vicky's demonslaying apprentice until she quit to pursue a career as a backup singer for a zombie pop star. She's fun to write because she's a zombie and kind of a brat, but she still has big dreams and a big heart. When Tina walks into a scene, I'm never sure what she'll say or do.
What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?
Right now, I'm writing Darklands, book #4 in the Deadtown series, which will be out next summer. There's a scene in that book that takes place in a Massachusetts state park called Purgatory Chasm. A couple of months ago I went hiking in the chasm to check the place out. I was picturing gently sloping trails in the woods; the actual chasm trail is more like jumping from one boulder to another down a steep slope. I was wearing sandals—totally the wrong footwear. I should've had hiking boots. I walked the whole trail, but I was lucky to get out of there without a sprained ankle.
With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones?
Deadtown (book 1) was written as a standalone, but with hopes that a publisher would want to turn the story into a series. I've had readers tell me that they read Hellforged (book 2) first and didn't feel lost at all. With Bloodstone, we're getting a little deeper into Vicky's overarching story. I've tried to make Bloodstone easy to follow for someone who hasn't read the previous books. On the other hand, the story gets more complex and the characters grow and change as a series continues, and there has to be room for that. When I start a series from the first book, I appreciate hints and reminders in later books to keep me up to speed, but I don't want to relive the previous books' story over and over. It's a balancing act.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
I get stuck when I'm trying to play God and move my characters around like pieces on a chess board. The characters dig in their heels and refuse to act like my puppets. My husband says I sound crazy when I say things like that, so let me put it another way: I get stuck when I'm thinking too hard about my story from the perspective of a writer. In other words, as the writer I know what I want to have happen in a scene, and I know what's coming up in the story. If I try to force the story down a certain path, I get stuck. The cure is to pull back and look at the story through the characters' eyes. They don't know what's coming yet. They're experiencing thoughts and feelings and assumptions that I'm not thinking about, because I'm already focused on the next scene. I can almost always get a scene moving again when I quit taking a God's-eye view and get down on the ground with my characters.
Do you write in different genres?
I mentioned earlier that a small press published my first completed novel, a mystery set in upstate New York titled Peace, Love, and Murder. For that novel, I set out to write the kind of mystery I most enjoy reading—one that has quirky characters, some humor, and lots of action. I recently made Peace, Love, and Murder available as an inexpensive ebook, and lots of readers have asked for a sequel. So that sequel will be my next project. I'll probably publish it straight to ebook format. It'll be fun to work on, because it's very different from the world of Deadtown. There's nothing paranormal, and the narrator is a man who grew up on a commune and rebelled against his hippie parents by joining the Army at age 18.
Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?
My “day job” is writing nonfiction, mostly how-to and reference books, so I've always been able to switch writing gears when necessary.
Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?
I'm an opera fanatic, especially Italian opera. The funny thing is that I love to travel, and I've never been to Italy—yet. It's my dream to go to the Verdi festival in Parma.
What was the last amazing book you read?
I think Erin Kellison's entire Shadow series is amazing. I loved books 1 and 2, Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall, and the third book, Shadowman (which just came out) is at the top of my TBR pile. The books are gorgeously written dark fantasy romance. They're full of danger and action, strong emotions and passion. Erin has built a complex, seductive world that really pulls me in, like the world of fairy tales made real. I love her writing.
Where can readers find you on the web?
Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?
I always have a lot of fun writing the scenes set in Creature Comforts, a monster bar located in the no-man's land between Deadtown and human-controlled Boston. Creature Comforts is run by Axel, a seven-foot-tall giant who's definitely not human—but no one's quite brave enough to ask him what he is. In this excerpt, Vicky goes to Creature Comforts to ask Axel to give refuge to an injured friend.
Any hope that Axel was having a slow night fled as soon as I opened the front door. Laughter and music blasted out. Creature Comforts was packed with women, dressed for a night of partying. They filled all the tables and spilled out of the booths. As I stepped inside, I was hit by the bar’s characteristic perfume of beer, tobacco, and a slight whiff of human blood—shot through tonight with a strong scent of musk. On tables at the back, two half-naked male dancers, humans, performed an athletic bump-and-grind routine.
Oh, great. I’d walked into a werewolf bachelorette party.
Massachusetts was one of a handful of states that recognized marriages between paranormals. Other states had passed laws restricting marriage to humans only. Although some norms in “Monsterchusetts” objected to paranormal marriage, no one seemed to mind the money it brought the state. It had become fashionable among werewolves to have a norm-style wedding in addition to whatever ritual they performed at the full moon. In Boston, a whole industry had sprung up offering destination weddings to werewolves.
I scanned the crowd, but didn’t see a face I recognized. I knew most of Deadtown’s werewolves through Kane. These were definitely tourists.
“Hey!” One of the women stood up and pointed at me. She wore a tight, super-short, low-cut black dress and a crooked tiara sparkling with pink and white rhinestones. She flipped her glossy blond hair back over her shoulder, managing to make it look like an act of aggression. “This is a private party. The bar’s closed.”
Damn territorial werewolves. When they traveled in a pack, even out-of-towners acted like they owned the place.
I ignored her and walked toward the bar.
She was in front of me before I got halfway across the room. Her nostrils flared as she sized me up in a few sniffs. She bared her teeth—not a very impressive gesture in her human form—and growled. “I said it’s a private party.”
“Do I look like I’m here to crash your party?” I gestured at my ruined dress.
She didn't look at my outfit. She stared the the sword in my hand, the one I'd taken from the Old Ones.
Oh, that. Well, yeah, I could see how that might be interpreted as a threat.
I didn't have a sheath for it, so I stuck it under my arm, where I hoped it seemed less dangerous. I stepped to the left, intent on getting around her. “I need to talk to Axel.”
She growled again and dropped into a fighting crouch. Jesus, the full moon was still three weeks away and she was going into feral overdrive.
“You want to challenge me? Fine.” I dropped my purse on the floor and shifted the sword to my right hand, ready to use it. I wouldn’t have minded two blades in a fight with a werewolf, but I wanted to teach her some manners, not kill her. Besides, it was bad form to rummage through your purse for a dagger at the start of a fight.
Book 3 Deadtown Series
Paperback: 336 pages
Release date: September 27, 2011
Boston’s diverse South End is known for its architecture and great restaurants, not its body count. So when mutilated human corpses begin turning up in the area, the entire city takes notice. The killer—dubbed the South End Reaper—uses a curved blade for his grisly work. And even though there’s no real evidence pointing to a paranormal culprit, the deaths are straining the already-tense relations between Boston’s human and inhuman residents.
As the bodies pile up, Vicky, her formidable aunt Mab, and her werewolf boyfriend Kane investigate, only to find that the creature behind the carnage is after something much more than blood…
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.
Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve, where they both work from home without getting on each other’s nerves. She enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera. There are still a lot of books she wants to read.