Sunday, July 7, 2013

Interview with Sara H Hobson Author of Penny Dreadful

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?

Well, I’ve always been somewhat obsessed with vampires, ever since I read Interview With the Vampire back in High School (this was the year the movie came out, so it’s been quite a long time *laughs*), and one of the first things I ever wrote was a Lestat fan-fiction (sorry, Anne Rice!). I still have it. It was hand written and SO terrible, but it’s something I can look back on and say “Wow, look how far I’ve come!”. As far as the genre, writing a good romance always seemed to be the easiest part of the story for me. I love a good HEA, even if it takes a while to get to that point, and I love reading the story about how it happened. Nothing in life worth doing is easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be interesting.

What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much?

Vampires in general have such a rich history. There’s so many different takes on them in literature now, it’s interesting to see how far they’ve come from Nosferatu days. J.R. Ward’s vampires are completely different from Jeaniene Frost, and Charlaine Harris’ vamps are completely different from and Laurell K. Hamilton, etc... It’s interesting every time to see the different spin, but also challenging to come up with something that isn’t stepping into someone else’s territory. I hope I managed to do that with my vampires.
The paranormal has always been something I’ve held close to my heart. Life can be so boring without imagination, and that’s what it really represents to me. It’s where my imagination goes about 90% of the time.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was working on another series, actually, and was having terrible writer’s block. In the meantime, I was fleshing out other characters for that world; minor players that would encounter the heroine at some point, and I came up with Penny. She originally was imagined to be very cold, and was already together with Dimitrii at that point. Then, as I was sitting there, trying to work on the other story, she kind of jumped up and said “No, this isn’t me, and you’re writing about me first.” I couldn’t argue because her story flowed so much easier for me.

Please tell us about your latest release.

Penny Dreadful is the first in a series that introduces the reader to this just slightly parallel world I’ve created. Revolving primarily around a human/vampire relationship told from the human’s POV. Her meeting the vampire is just the beginning, and she also encounters some of the other creatures that inhabit the world that she was previously unaware of; at the same time someone is stalking her and threatening her life. And, there’s a lot of sex. I like writing sex scenes *laughs*. As far as future books are concerned, I have many plans to explore these other races in the future, especially the Mernoids, but the vampires so far have gotten the most effort because I love them so. I’ve written tons of backstory on them, including how they began. I don’t know if it will ever come up in the books because I don’t know if any existing vampire actually knows his or her origins, but it’s there for me to know, just in case.

Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

Often, the name of a character will just come to me, but occasionally I need to search lists of names for particular regions of the world for an appropriate name. Names like Amanda Beth Lee (Penny’s real name) just sort of came to me. It was a name I was kind of neutral to, to be honest. It wasn’t fancy or especially memorable, but not everyone has a special or memorable name. Dimitrii, well, he’s been in my head for years. His full name, Dimitrii Nikolai Dominic Maximov, came to me years ago in a dream. Funnily enough, it’s names of the “extras” in my works I seem to have the hardest time with. If I find something I really like, I always write it down to save for later. Most recently, I had a dream about a man named Corpian, and I really loved it, so I have it at the top of my list right now. I guess I get a lot of inspiration from dreams.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

Owen and Tyler both have a special place in my heart. Owen reminds me a little of my brother when he was younger – genuine and a bit shy - and I just kind of want to give him a huge hug (even though I know he’d be really uncomfortable). Tyler was another who was just supposed to be mentioned once and that’s it, but he became so much more. The dynamic between Tyler and Odette is so much fun for me to write, since it’s very brother-sister.

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?

Main characters always get fleshed out before I begin, so I know who they are on the surface, but they often surprise me with who they are underneath. With others, I tend to look for what the scene might need, and what would be the most interesting to the story. I do have an extensive library of persons I’ve come across who look like my characters the way I imagined them, or whom I use as inspiration. Dimitrii I had in mind for so long, but never found anyone who looked like him. After finishing the book, a friend of mine posted a picture of a guy who was the exact embodiment of him down to his hair and smile, and it kind of freaked me out. I won’t say who it is, though, as I like letting the readers use their own imagination.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

It’s really hard for me to choose. I have a couple that really stand out to me:

I still love when Penny discovers Dimitrii is a vampire. The way she discovers is something I think a lot of people might end up doing in the same situation, and his reaction is rather amusing. 

There’s a scene later where Penny and Dimitrii are out at dinner, and they run into a character that I have major plans for in the future. Dimitrii knows him, and the dialogue between the two still makes me laugh because they are these really old beings posturing and acting like children.

I also love when Penny is visiting Odette, and she wakes Tyler, telling him that Penny has stopped by. He sort of falls all over himself trying to act all cool seconds after waking up, not realizing he’s still in his cartoon-character boxers until it’s too late.

Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book?

I honestly did a lot of research into all sorts of lore before writing. I wanted to be as true to many of the ancient stories as possible, or at least take elements from them and incorporate that into my world. Like when Dimitrii explains about garlic having no effect on vampires, and that it goes back to people hanging the plant around their bedrooms to ward off the smell of the dead, because the stench was a huge problem in those times. I think the most interesting and random piece of information I came across was when I did a search for “Penny Lee” to make sure it wasn’t a name already in use. Apparently, there’s an actual “magical” artifact called “The Lee Penny”, and that really surprised me.

Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series? How does this world differ from our normal world?

It’s set in current time in Orlando, Florida, and the only real difference between it and our own is that all these other beings exist, like Changelings and Mernoids. All our modern technology still exists, though some of it may be a few years ahead of it’s time. I just chalk that up to being created by these other races. Magick also exists in this world, but I think it does to some degree in our own.

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?

I hope they will be able to be read as stand-alones, but certain storylines may be a bit vague to readers if they start at book 2 or 3. Explanations as to how my vampires “work”, for example, are clearly stated in the first book, and readers might not know their limitations or their hierarchy without reading Penny Dreadful first. If they aren’t bothered by those details, or want to know how one character knows another, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m just someone who loves to know all the intricacies of things.

Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?

Penny is blonde with blue eyes, and we have the same taste in music, but that’s about where the similarities end. I guess you could say we’re attracted to the same type of men, but that can’t be helped *laughs* Owen has a bit of my nerdy side in him, and his name and the way I hear his voice comes from one of my all-time favorite TV series, though it doesn’t have much bearing on who he is as a character.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

I actually did for quite a while after I’d gotten halfway through book 2. I was distracted by life, and my responsibilities changed, so when I tried going back, I had a different mindset and it was terribly hard for me. I still made notes about various things I wanted to see happen, or ideas I had about backstory, but I couldn’t get back into writing. It took a good friend to really push me to just do it, and now when I have a block, I try to write through it. If I can’t come up with something in the story I’m working on, I write something else – poems, blogs, random essays about anything that comes to mind, and even the beginnings of novellas for secondary characters if I have an idea – anything so I don’t get rusty again.

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?

I used to write everything (except the adult content, I blush a lot) at Denny’s. Most of Penny Dreadful was written there, actually. In the same booth, at the same time, nearly every night for however long it took me. The one I went to was usually empty after 10:00pm, and I was brought fresh cups of coffee all night long, so I could focus on writing. Now, I write at home, but I often have to turn the wireless off, just so I’m not distracted by social media or other websites.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

I don’t know if I do, actually. I mean, I know I love it, and I genuinely hope my readers will enjoy my work, but it still feels too new to me. Like, my other job is that of a seamstress, which I’ve been doing for 15+ years. Even when I was being hired by people to make clothing for their bands or for local theatre, I still had the thought in my head that this was just a hobby I happened to be pretty good at. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, I’m still expecting the Author Police to show up at the door and say “Um, no. We’ve got you down for a completely different career, so you can stop now.” Perhaps in another ten years I’ll feel comfortable in the role I’ve taken on.

What are your guilty pleasures in life?

*laughs* I’m an avid collector of Monster High dolls by Mattel. I could go on about them for hours, and love hunting for the latest releases. I have them all in glass cases in my dining room.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?

Besides the Monster High dolls? I cosplay, which for anyone new to the term is where you dress up as a character, usually from Japanese Animation or video games, and go to conventions. I’ve been doing it so long, it’s developed into my seamstress career, which is what pays the bills until my writing can sustain me.

What was the last amazing book you read?

I love the Mageri series by Dannika Dark. She’s a friend of mine, and even still, I’m always so impressed by her work. I also really love anything written by Shayla Black, especially the Doomsday Brethren series. There was one time I was at Disney World and it started to rain, so I found a dry spot and pulled out my Kindle. I couldn’t stop reading even after the sun came out and everything dried up.

Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?

I usually read sitting in the middle of my bed surrounded by pillows. It’s turned sideways so it’s more like a couch, and the mattress is kind of worn, so it’s almost like a nest *laughs*. Before I quit smoking, I had an antique couch in the garage I loved to sit on, so I could smoke without having to stop reading.

What can readers expect next from you?

Penny #2 is definitely in the works, but I’m also working on another series set in the same universe. That one focuses mostly on Mernoids, which is my universal term for Mermaids and Mermen. There’s also been another book or two floating around in my head for some time now, but I think will be part of it’s own universe.

Where can readers find you on the web?

Facebook –
Twitter - @authorshobson
Goodreads -
I’m also on a couple other sites, but I don’t use them as often.

Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

As hard as she’s trying to deny her feelings for him and keep the relationship professional, he isn’t making it easy on her. At this point, Penny and Dimitrii have been working very late into the night, and Penny has fallen asleep. Dimitrii wakes her and tells her he has to leave as the sun is coming up, and she walks him to the door.
“You’ll hear from me after dark, later tonight.” Dimitrii said. I nodded, trying to keep my eyes open. Dimitrii wrapped his arm around my back, and slowly pulled me up against him as he bent down and kissed me. It was soft at first, then turned rough and animalistic, and I felt a trace of his fangs on my lower lip as he coaxed them apart. My whole body was suddenly alert and awake, and I reached my hands up to his shoulders to hold onto him. Just as quickly, though, the vampire pulled his mouth away from me. He was just a few inches away, looking down at me with a raw hunger deep in his gorgeous green eyes. I felt my cheeks flush, and I was breathing heavily through my slightly parted lips. Dimitrii then released his hold on me and turned and opened the door to leave.
He paused and looked back when he was just outside.
“I’ll promise you this, Penny.” His eyes sparked with frustration and his accent came out thick.
“As of right now, I am done with this bullshit best behavior.”
*     *     *
The sun was peeking its way through the blinds ever so slightly by the time I managed to fall back asleep. Following that kiss, Dimitrii had left me with such a raw desire, that I simply could not relax. I even debated taking a cold shower before I finally took matters into my own hands; the image of his eyes looking into mine, and the feeling of his hard body pressed against me, kissing me, was more than enough to help me reach a conclusion very quickly.
I slept quite soundly after that.

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