PJ Sharon, here. Well, not really here, since I’m over visiting Sonya Weiss today. Be sure to stop by and check out my interview with her. She asked some great questions. And since I’ll be there, I thought I would leave you Scribes fans in the capable hands of a lovely new author friend of mine, Michele Drier. Enjoy her interview and an excerpt from her book,
Here’s a brief synopsis of the book:
SNAP, a multinational celeb TV show and magazine, is the holy grail for Maxie Gwenoch. When she snags the job as managing editor, she’s looking for fame, fortune and Jimmy Choos. What she finds is a media empire owned by Baron Kandesky and his family. A family of vampires. They’re European, urbane, wealthy and mesmerizing. And when she meets Jean-Louis, vampire and co-worker, she’s a goner.
The Kandesky vampire family rose in Hungary centuries ago. They gave up violence and killing to make a killing on the world’s commodities markets and with that beginning they built SNAP, an international celebrity multimedia empire. Now cultured…and having found food substitutes for killing…they’ve cornered the world market for celebrity and gossip journalism.
They haven’t fully left the past behind. Their Hungarian neighbors and rival vampire clan, the Huszars are starting to ramp up attacks, maybe looking to start a war to take over all the Kandeskys have built.
Maxie believes she’s found her ultimate career. She doesn’t realize that she’s found a family feud like none other, a centuries-old rivalry between vampire families, with her as the linchpin. Bells ring with Jean-Louis, but she doesn’t realize they’re alarm sirens until she learns that Jean-Louis is second in command of the Kandeskys…but by then it’s too late.
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz to a pioneer family and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state and has called both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at large and small daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series. She lives in the Central Valley with cats, skunks, opossums and wild turkeys.
Her most recent book is the traditional mystery “Edited for Death”, available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Visit her website at www.micheledrier.com
Take it away, Michele!
1. How do you battle the doubt monster? Doubt Monster: the nagging feeling while writing, that your prose is terrible, you plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no-one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it.
Hoo boy, me and the Doubt Monster have been going steady lately. This is a tough one to fight because it’s so personal. And as writers, we do what we do alone. This is not teamwork, it’s the “I”, and it’s absolutely subjective. Both the work and the feedback come from our own internal spaces.
First, I try and leave writing for a bit. Take a walk, go visit a friend, even clean the house. Something that I can complete easily and quickly and I can’t mess up. The only way to mess up cleaning the house is, I think, to NOT clean the house, so anything I do in that direction is a positive. And it’s satisfying to walk through a tidy, clean room or get into a bed with fresh linens.
Then I call a cousin. I’m blessed with a supportive family, but one of my cousins is an unflagging cheerleader for me. People like this—whether friend or family—can lift you out of that mud-hole you’re wallowing in.
Then I go back and read something that I wrote that got positive feedback. It could be a good review, a good comment from your critique group, a passage that you feel really sings! For me, there are a couple of, I guess fans, women whom I’ve never met but who’ve been touched by my words.
One of them wants to buy the Champagne when the film of my book premieres. The other says she’s waiting for the HBO series. These are my peers, women who are writing in the genres that I am, and women who review books on a regular basis. I asked them cold if they’d be willing to write me reviews, and reading and rereading these is priceless.
Even though the Doubt Monster keeps calling for a date, I have a few people who are nagging me to keep writing; they’re waiting to read it!
- 2. Have you thought about writing something that is completely different for you? Perhaps writing in a new genre or just taking a story someplace that you haven’t done before.
I did do that and it’s exciting! I always wanted to write mysteries. I love mysteries. The British women, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh, are peerless.
So I wrote a traditional mystery called Edited for Death. It was published last fall by a small press and has had several nominations for an Agatha (not a finalist), got included in the Memorable Books of 2011 on the Dorothy L list, and was called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review.
While I was waiting for that book to come out, I wrote a vampire romance. Not a genre that I usually read and certainly nothing that I ever thought I’d write, but my daughter and son-in-law kept nagging.
What fun! I discovered that writing SNAP: The World Unfolds, gave me a wholly different way to react to my writing.
- 3. What story haven’t you told yet that you want to tell? What is holding you back?
The story of my family. Particularly the women. I have a great-grandmother who divorced two husbands before she died in San Francisco in the 1890s. Her mother immigrated from England in the 1850s and at one point lived at the copper mining camp of Bisbee, Arizona long before it was a state.
I have a great-great-grandmother who came to California to be with her husband who’d come for the gold. She crossed the Isthmus of Panama by mule back in 1852.
I have a grandmother who went to a Catholic boarding school and took ferry boats up the Sacramento River from San Francisco to get to school. She wasn’t a Catholic, but her grandmother thought that the nuns gave her a better education. This same grandmother also went to a Catholic finishing school in the Hudson River Valley, was trained as a classical pianist, and went through the San Francisco earthquake.
I want to write this as a piece of fiction, but it will require a longer period of uninterrupted time than I have right now, as I’m trying to establish myself as an author.
- 4. Author Jane Haddam says that anyone who seriously annoys her gets bumped off in her next book. How do you incorporate your real-life experiences into your stories?
For the mysteries, it’s the fact that the protagonist, Amy Hobbes, is a newspaper editor, a career that I had for about two decades. I incorporate both the good AND the bad in these books and part of the bad is that Amy is fighting against the demise of newspapers while trying to rally the troops to put out an issue every day.
I don’t bump people off, but I do include character traits. Many of my characters are an amalgamation of people I’ve known and worked with in the business.
That’s not to say that I might not use a voodoo doll approach to someone in a future book. Hmmmm, an intriguing idea!
- 5. Do you have a word related pet peeve?
I’m going to sound like the language curmudgeon, but I have a couple. The first is what I call the “verbalization” of English. It comes from jargon used by professions. Law enforcement gave us “exited” as in “he got out of his vehicle”. Government (I think) gave us “tasked” as in “I was assigned this job”. And always and forever there’s the gratuity of using “utilized” for “use” and “fatigued” for “tired”.
My other peeve is homophones. “Peeked” for “peaked” or even “piqued”. ”Sight” for “site” or “cite”. We have better than 230,000 finite words in English according to the OED (actually, we have more words than any other language on earth. In May 2011 the Global Language Monitor estimated that there were 1,010,650 words, the one-millionth being “web 2.0”)
Homophones abound, so we need to be careful.
Read on for an EXCERPT From SNAP: The World Unfolds
It was blood. It looked like somebody dropped a cup or glass. It puddled in front of the sinks and filmed out on the bathroom floor.
I was startled; usually the bathrooms at SNAP Magazine were spotless.
It didn’t smell like fresh blood, that odd, kind of tangy, metal-y smell, but for sure I wasn’t going to touch it to see if it was warm.
I couldn’t scream, but I was suddenly queasy. My makeup didn’t need a touch-up that much. My knees shook as I spun back through the door and headed straight to my assistant’s desk to have her call maintenance or whoever and clean up the mess.
She looked up at me. “There’s what on the bathroom floor?”
“A big puddle of blood,” I whispered. “Come see for yourself.”
I didn’t want to run, didn’t want to incite concern in the rest of the staff and have it spread out through the cubicles, but we walked fast. When we got across the office and down the hall, I pushed open the door and said, “Look!” with a flourish.
“Look at what?” Jazz’ eyebrows disappeared up under her bangs.
I turned my head and saw…nothing. No blood, no remains, no pink sheen, not even water on the floor.
“Are you sure you saw it?”
“Of course I saw it,” I insisted. “It was right in front of the sinks. It covered a patch of the floor.”
Jazz shook her bangs out of her eyes and gave me a withering look that could have dried grapes into raisins. “I know you’ve only been here a few days, but I can’t think you found blood on the floor. SNAP has a reputation to keep up and they wouldn’t let something like that sit there for anyone to find.”
“I don’t think anyone would wander into a bathroom back here,” I said. “Isn’t this for employees only?”
“It’s supposed to be, but sometimes people who are here for a meeting or a shoot use these bathrooms instead of walking up front. These aren’t nearly as nice as the ones off the lobby and main conference rooms, but it’s quicker.”
I wasn’t happy. I saw the blood. I knew it had been there. I didn’t know why it was gone, but it wasn’t my imagination. There was nothing I could do about it now, but I was going to be on guard whenever I walked into a bathroom at SNAP.
When you get to the top savor it; it’s a long way down, my mother’s mantra, hummed through my head as the elevator rose. On the eighteenth floor, a muted sound chimed as the doors slid open, and there it was. The headquarters of SNAP, the newest, cutting-ist edge gathering-of-information machine covering people who matter in the world.
As I stepped into the lobby I was deafened by the silence. Two receptionists sat behind the black marble counter, showing only their heads with headsets. They were murmuring something, but so quietly I couldn’t hear words. The famous SNAP logo etched into the wall-to-wall, ceiling-high mirror reflected the backs of their heads.
The reflection only showed my head and shoulders, my body disappearing as I neared the black slab. The receptionists were both blonds, so fair their skin had a translucent pale blue tone sliced by mouths slathered in Russian Red lipstick. At least I hoped it was lipstick.
The one at the right glanced up, murmured something and clicked a button. Up close, I could see that the phones were set into the marble counter and had no sound, only buttons that were lighting up. The receptionist tapped an earbud, pulled it away from her head and asked, “May I help you?” Her red mouth formed to something not quite a smile and her eyes looked through me.
“Good morning.” I used my best professional voice. “I’m Maxmillia Gwenoch.”
She looked, she continued gazing through me, she didn’t speak and didn’t blink an eye. I was startled. I’d never before seen anyone who could go that long without a blink.
It was clear my name meant nothing and she wasn’t going to deign to ask me why I was there, so I added. “I’m the new managing editor. I’m starting this morning. Can someone show me to my office?”
She blinked. Then she sighed. “We didn’t expect you so early.”
Early? I knew that SNAP staffers worked all different shifts. A 24-hour news day means that the old nine-to-five grind doesn’t cut it anymore. But I never thought that 11 a.m. was early. I’d timed my arrival so that I could find my office, check in with the HR department for the forms packet and still have a leisurely lunch with some of the executives.
“Just a moment,” The blond stuck the earbud back in her ear, pushed a button and murmured some words. Apparently all was well, because she looked up at me and nodded before she punched another flashing button and started murmuring again.
Hands down, this was the oddest reception I’d ever gotten at any of the many jobs I’d had. I was so stumped that I hitched my bag higher on my shoulder and slowly turned around, looking for a chair or couch or door, something. But this was it. The polished steel elevator doors behind me, the high, long, black marble counter in front of me and endless reflections of blond heads.
Suddenly the reflections wavered and broke as a door opened at the far end of the mirror. A young woman with pixyish brown hair, dressed in a brown suede mini, a forest-green top and brown stiletto boots came over and held out her hand.
“Hi, I’m Jasmine Fall, but please, just call me Jazz,” she bubbled. “I’m your admin assistant. I came in early this morning because I knew this was your first day. I hope you’ll like it here. SNAP is just too fabulous to work for; I’ve gotten to meet SOOO many famous people already. Follow me.”
First impressions don’t always hold up, but I’ll never forget my SNAP introduction. I followed Just-Call-Me-Jazz through the mirror and into my new workplace.
This is what T.T. Thomas says about Michele’s book:
Without giving up the, may I say the word, delicious intrigues and plotlines, I have to say that Drier’s witty repartee is ripe with understatement, and then hyperbole and then, just to spice it up, drop dead cinema-speak, the kind that goes so well with those proverbial Hollywood air kisses. Among my favorites in this class of well-timed one-liners were the wonderful outtakes from her mother’s mantras–Example: Don’t get involved with someone prettier than you; they know it. (Did Drier’s mother know my mother?).
At first, I wondered why a writer of Drier’s abundant talent would pursue the vampire genre, but I have to say, she pulled me in, and I kept reading. Her vampires are sophisticated, urbane, worldly, clever and just bitchy enough to be interesting. I found some of the female vampires edgy and beautiful enough to be worthy of their own HBO show, and I look forward to the future roles of the characters called Demons, who are somewhere between babysitter and martial arts killers. All in a night’s work!
Drier has a second in this delightful series coming out in spring of 2012 called SNAP: New Talent. Watch for it, and pick up this hefty first one for many long nights of bloody good fun!
Thanks for being with us today, Michele.
If any of you have questions or comments for Michele, she’ll be happy to respond.