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Carrie Vaughn – KITTY STEALS THE SHOW – interview
Carrie Vaughn is the author of more than a dozen books, many of them in the Kitty Norville series. If you’re not familiar with Kitty, she is something of an anomoly in the urban fantasy genre–a “werewolf psychologist” who runs a call-in talk show for confused paranormals rather than hunting them.
The tenth novel in the Kitty Norville series comes out on Tuesday…and in a happy dovetail for those of you with Olympic Fever, the book is set in London!
Carrie stopped by to talk with me a bit about the new book, her BSC Book Tournament hit After the Golden Age, and more. So tune in, kick back, and enjoy!
Elena Nola: This summer the Kitty Norville series hits double-digits (if one discounts the Greatest Hits anthology). Congratulations! That’s a milestone, with more to come I’ve heard. So what is your favorite thing about this new book…the thing you can’t wait for Kitty fans to read?
Carrie Vaughn: Thanks! I can hardly believe the series is up to ten books myself! The thing about this one: it’s in London. One of my favorite cities in the world. Kitty gets to be a tourist, and I get to play with the history of the city, and introduce some of the quirks of the European supernatural community. I think my favorite part that I hope readers enjoy as well is the Master vampire of London. I had a great time writing him, and he may not be entirely what people expect. To say any more would be a spoiler.
How do you keep a series going for so many books and keep both your own interest and your fans’? Do you try to vary up the types of stories, or use mini-arcs (comics style), or is your writing style more organic? Basically…do you have a master plan at this point or are you still writing book to book?
Since about the fifth book I have had an arc that’s served as something of a framework for the story. But it’s been more of a backdrop, and I still have lots of other stories to tell and ideas to explore. I try to give myself a challenge with each book, and part of that challenge is to tell a different kind of story: the fifth book, Dead Man’s Hand, I was playing with screwball comedy. House of Horrors was my take on the slasher flick. Goes to War I wanted to tell the story of werewolf war veterans who served in Afghanistan, and that definitely gave me a challenge. Big Trouble was all about including a non-western folklore tradition. I figure if I can challenge myself, if I can keep bringing in new ideas, and looking at the world around me for new ideas, then the series stays relevant, I stay interested, and my readers will stay interested. So far so good.
Do you think having a heroine who isn’t some kind of monster-slayer or another has helped the series stay fresh?
I think it has — that’s a good way of putting it. It means I can’t rely on “monster of the week” type stories to base the series on. I can do that if I want to, and I have, but I really try to vary the kind of stories I’m telling from one book to the next. Because Kitty is something of a pop culture figure in the series, I can tell political stories, social, personal, or all of the above. I’ve also purposefully made her someone who has to depend on other tools besides weaponry to get the job done. I can’t end with a big battle/gunfight every time, because Kitty isn’t really a warrior type and it wouldn’t feel right.
Let’s change tracks and talk about the book BSC readers who aren’t not be fans still know you from, After the Golden Age, which got you as far as the quarter- (or was it semi-?)-finals in our best of 2011 tournament. First, what drew you to write a book about superheroes?
Superheroes are a little like vampires in that I think every writer has at least one superhero story in them. (Even Salman Rushdie wrote one, in Midnight’s Children). I didn’t really come to superheroes through comics, but through the golden age of TV superheroes — I grew up watching Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Greatest American Hero, Misfits of Science, and so on. Then came the Wild Cards series of novels, which I’m a long time fan of. So I’ve always had superheroes on the brain, I just needed the right story to come along, and that was Celia’s story, about the powerless daughter of two superpowered heroes, and what she can do to save the city. (I suppose she’s a bit like Kitty, in that I purposefully made a main character who doesn’t have access to the typical tools of characters in the genre. The stories then have to come from elsewhere.)
So was the contrarian streak that made you write a non-ass-kicking urban fantasy heroine (at least in terms of her starting place!) more or less the same thing that led you to write about the superheroes’ accountant?
To continue the thought…yes, though not quite in that way. For me, it was wanting to extrapolate a real-world-type situation. I was recently asked if some of Celia’s experience came out of my own experience of being a military brat and having a parent with what seemed like a larger than life job (my father was a B-52 pilot in Vietnam), and I realized that some of that went into the character as well. The child who doesn’t live up to her parent’s expectation is a common story. The child of superheroes who doesn’t have powers is also a common story — but mine is different in that Celia never acquires powers over the course of the story. She just has to cope with being an accountant.
She’s an accountant for a few reasons — first, having an accountant hero seems so counterintuitive and unlikely to people, I just had to do it. Second, I worked as the administrative assistant in an accounting office for many years, and my mother is a CPA, so the setting was very familiar. My mother uncovered an embezzling ring at one of her jobs, and that’s the first time I heard about forensic accounting. Forensic accountants have been kicking ass, taking names, and putting bad guys in jail for decades, so it turns out accountant heroes aren’t so counterintuitive after all.
What’s the superhero movie of the summer you are most excited about or have enjoyed the most? Or the least, if you need to let a rant fly?
The Avengers. Definitely the one I looked forward to the most, and for the most part it met expectations. Though as an avowed Agent Coulson fan, I have some issues I’d like to discuss. . . (The Life Model Decoy theory is my favorite so far.)
Which other writer’s UF universe would you most want to visit? (Me, I’m going for Kate Griffin’s London….)
I will confess a romantic fondness for the world of Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. Elves and rock ‘n’ roll, what’s not to love?
What is up next for you–any sequels to Steel or After the Golden Age in the works? And what’s in store for Kitty?
As a matter of fact, my current work in progress is the sequel to After the Golden Age. The next generation of heroes is coming of age, and we get to see how Celia does as a parent herself, after all her angst with her own parents.
As for Kitty: The next two books are written. One of them is a personal story, dealing with her pack and other angst among friends and family. The one after that is something of a psychological thriller. I’m also planning a book with Cormac as the viewpoint character.
Great to hear! Congratulations again on all your success, and thank you so much for taking the time to stop in at BookSpot Central for a chat!
You can find out more about Carrie and her books on her website. Be sure to check out Kitty Steals the Show, available July 31!
Kitty has been tapped as the keynote speaker for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies, taking place in London. The conference brings together scientists, activists, protestors, and supernatural beings from all over the world—and Kitty, Ben, and Cormac are right in the middle of it.
Master vampires from dozens of cities have also gathered in London for a conference of their own. With the help of the Master of London, Kitty gets more of a glimpse into the Long Game—a power struggle among vampires that has been going on for centuries—than she ever has before. In her search for answers, Kitty has the help of some old allies, and meets some new ones, such as Caleb, the alpha werewolf of the British Isles. The conference has also attracted some old enemies, who’ve set their sights on her and her friends.
All the world’s a stage, and Kitty’s just stepped into the spotlight.