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Category: Interview

Interview: When 'L.A. Noir' meets 'The Walking Dead'

FrankdarabontmickeycohenWhat do zombies have in common with the toughest Los Angeles gangster of the 1950s? Director Frank Darabont.

Darabont was executive producer and visionary behind AMC's zombie series "The Walking Dead." After the first season, he was mysteriously dismissed (and the show took a turn for the worse), and apparently, he was looking for something else to do. He's been drawn to literary properties in the past -- Stephen King's "The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank Redemption," and "The Walking Dead" was a comic book series by Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. Last week, it was announced that Darabont is developing a pilot for TNT based on the true tale of Los Angeles cops and gangsters in the 1950s, John Buntin's "L.A. Noir."

"L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City," Buntin's first book, was published by Crown in 2009. He answered Carolyn Kellogg's questions via email.

Jacket Copy: So, wait. Are there any zombies in your book "L.A. Noir"?

John Buntin: "L.A. Noir" is full of dead men walking. Mob kingpin Mickey Cohen was eerily unkillable -- so much so that his competitors (the local Italian mob) became quite spooked. Sniper attacks, shot gun assaults, bombings -- nothing worked. To superstitious Sicilians, it was deeply unnerving.

JC: What do you think drew Frank Darabont to the material?

JB: The era "L.A. Noir" describes -- Los Angeles in the '30s, '40s, and '50s -- was ground zero for so much of what defines our culture today. Hard-boiled detective fiction's big bang may have occurred in San Francisco -- I'd never slight Dashiell Hammett -- but it took root in L.A. Raymond Chandler, James Cain, and the great writers that followed all start then and there. Mid-century Los Angeles also gave us film noir and the first police procedural ("Dragnet"), not to mention stars, celebrity sex, and the scandal sheets, strippers, serial killers, and a lot of great jazz. So the possibilities of writing a show in this era are incredibly diverse. And the places they happened are in many cases still there!

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Not just for kids: Andrea Cremer discusses 'Bloodrose'

BloodroseAndrea Cremer spent years studying -- and teaching about -- slavery and sexuality before spinning her expertise into the fantastical, feminist saga of witches and werewolves known as the "Nightshade" trilogy. Her bestselling series for young adult readers concludes with "Bloodrose," to be released Jan. 3. I recently caught up with the Minnesota-based author to talk about the books and an ending that shocked even her editor.

Jacket Copy: One of the things readers relate to with "Nightshade" is the double standard applied to Calla and Ren. Ren's allowed to be a playboy, but Calla, whom he's supposed to marry, has to remain chaste. That's a double bind that doesn't only exist in fantasy but continues to thrive in the real world as we kick off 2012. Why is that idea alluring to you?

Andrea Cremer: I'm very much a feminist, and as a girl I was so needing strong young women to be heroines to me in the books I read. Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, I lived for the moment when she ripped off her helmet and said, "No living man am I!" I wanted a character with all those qualities, but the parameters of society were constantly around her telling her she couldn't do that. You're allowed to be a warrior but only to a certain extent before she would have to submit to someone else, and that someone else was always going to be a man.

JC: That brings up another idea you tackle -- society's fear of the powerful female and its desire to suppress her. Calla needs to prove she's the pack's alpha, but there are forces working against that.

AndreacremerAC: Sexuality and sexual awakening were key for me to explore in this book because so often the "boys will be boys" attitude is still so dominant in contemporary society. It is not considered to be the norm or even healthy for girls to be aware of their sexuality unless it's coquettish. If you're not using your sexuality to get a life mate, then you're a whore. That's really what I wanted to work against. Women who are sexually self-actualized are dangerous, but only to those people who want to control them.

JC: It makes sense that you'd explore these ideas in the context of witchcraft and warfare, which you also teach at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. Why are you attracted to those subjects?

AC: The war that was waged on witches is so much about subverting female power. In the early modern period, 1500 to 1800, witchcraft was redefined from being something where magic was tied into folk medicine and could be helpful to being malicious and aligned with the devil. Warfare for me, I love weapons, so that's the geeky part of it, but it's really how multilayered warfare is. You have so many class and social components. The infantry comes from the lower and working classes and the generals and kings are elite, but they're all brought together for this machine that is war for really diverse reasons that are all tied into social, religious and cultural belief. War for me is simply a space where all the dynamics of history I'm interested in tend to converge in a really amplified and intense way.

More from the interview with Andrea Cremer -- including possible spoilers -- after the jump.

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Not Just for Kids: Author Tahereh Mafi discusses 'Shatter Me'

Shatter MeIn Tahereh Mafi's young-adult debut, "Shatter Me," a young woman is jailed for something she has no ability to control. Whomever she touches, she kills. Whether that's a gift or a curse she discovers over time -- and with the help of an attractive cellmate. We caught up with the Orange County author to talk about the kickoff to her much-talked-about trilogy.

Jacket Copy: One of the more intriguing aspects about your book is your decision to strike out sections of text and let the reader see the words the main character is contemplating but ultimately rejects. Why did you use this technique?

Tahereh Mafi: I never made a conscious decision to use strikethroughs in the novel; they just became an organic way to express the chaos and turmoil in Juliette's mind. When we first meet her, she's been in isolation for 264 days; she hasn't spoken a single word in just as long. She's struggling with reality, too petrified to speak, not even trusting the things she writes down in her journal. But as her character develops -- and the story progresses -- the strikethroughs lessen as well.

JC: Some readers consider "Shatter Me" a dystopian fantasy because it takes place in an environmentally degraded landscape with an oppressive government, while others view it as a paranormal romance due to Juliette's "gift" and romantic liaisons. Do you think one is more accurate than the other?

TM: It’s more of a dystopian novel with paranormal elements even though the romance is a central theme in the story. Juliette has this lethal touch, so it’s considered paranormal in our world, but in her world it isn't.

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What to expect from Mark Z. Danielewski's serial novel

Mark Z. Danielewski, the author of the mind-bending novel "House of Leaves" and "Only Revolutions," a National Book Award finalist, is going where Charles Dickens went before: he's writing a serial novel. "The Familiar" is planned to be released in 27 volumes; the first 10 will be published by Pantheon, in 3- to 4-month increments, beginning in 2014.

"They're not like 'House of Leaves,' or 'Only Revolutions,' each volume. 'Volume' speaks to it being a little different from a standard trade paperback book," Danielewski said by phone Monday. "I can't write something that takes months and months to read if we're releasing one every three or four months. It's possible that [our publishing] schedule could be accelerated. We're constantly open to new ideas -- where will we be in 2014? Maybe digital releases every week, every few months a trade paperback or hardcover. The novel is designed to accommodate, anticipate various platforms."

Danielewski was paid a reported $1 million for the first 10 volumes; he's thinking of them as two 5-volume seasons, like a television series. How much the form should solidify over time, versus what he might do to be flexible to the way the story starts to form as it gets out in the world, is the "Lord-of-the-Rings"-versus-"Harry-Potter" dilemma. "'Lord of the Rings' was a set of books in which the world had been conceived before the characters were placed within that context," he explains. "There are other books that feel more performative -- 'Harry Potter' -- and there is this wonderful intrigue, a co-creating, a sensation of that with the audience as they wonder what is going to happen next." He's been discussing those ideas with fellow Los Angeles writers Aimee Bender and Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum.

"Aimee was in favor of not eliminating that performative element entirely," Danielewski says. "My intention is to write 15 volumes -- three seasons -- and then I will have a good sketch of the fourth and fifth. It is up to me to provide the books that make such a structure feasible and intriguing enough to gather readers for that voyage."

"The Familiar" is built on the idea of a solid architecture, but it's not set in stone. "One of the things that's happening is as I'm writing -- I'm in the middle of Volume 8 -- I'm actually rewriting 1, and all the other volumes, as certain stylistic elements solidify."

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Interview: Jeffrey Eugenides on writing in C major

Jeffrey Eugenides' new novel, "The Marriage Plot," tops our bestseller list Sunday. Eugenides won a Pulitzer Prize for his previous novel, "Middlesex," which was also an Oprah pick; his first novel, "The Virgin Suicides," was made into a film by Sophia Coppolla. Delightful and smart, "The Marriage Plot" follows three Brown University graduates trying to figure out literature and love, with varying degrees of success. Carolyn Kellogg spoke to Eugenides at Skylight Books before his full-house reading.

Jacket Copy: Tell me about your experience at Rhode Island and Brown.

Jeffrey Eugenides: I studied English literature in the honors program, which means that you had to take courses in various centuries. You had to start with Old English, Middle English, and work your way toward the modern. I figured if I did that it would force me to read some of the things I might not read on my own. I thought that would be a good preparation for being a writer.

JC: I grew up in Rhode Island. There was a moment during the opening scene when Madeleine is waking up and it’s really sunny, and I was thinking, this can't stay sunny and be true to Rhode Island.

JE: The interesting thing about that is I wrote that scene about bright sunshine and then I was talking to my friend about his graduation in 1982. I should have graduated in 1982, but I took a year off so I graduated in 1983. So when I asked my friend about what happened in 1982, he said that weekend was incredibly stormy and rainy. I wanted it to accord with the reality of that year, so I put in the proper weather. It was following the historical record.

JC: You have such tremendous skill for really evocative detail – I was wondering how you access those memories. In one scene, I don’t even know whose point of view it is, somebody looks and the pull on a shade is like a life preserver -- 

JE: It’s Mitchell, when he’s seeing the priest for the catechism. I have a good memory for early life. My visual memory is good about childhood and adolescence, and less good in the last 10 years. I could probably tell you less what happened in the last 10 years. I remember what houses looked like, sometimes they just pop into my head.

JC: You’ve said in interviews that writing autobiographically, you put too much in.

JE: I put too much in in the one section about Mitchell in India. Because that’s the part that I actually lived. My memories were competing with the fictional story of Mitchell -- it made it difficult to write, because I had many more episodes that I remembered that seemed significant to me. When I looked at it as a novel, I realized those things didn’t need to be there; they were just there because they happened to me. Whereas when I was writing the Leonard or Madeleine section, even though some of the things that happened to them would come from my life as well, I knew what to put in and what not to put in.

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Interview: Art Spiegelman taps the source

In Sunday's Arts & Books, book critic David L. Ulin talks to Art Spiegelman about his new book "MetaMaus." In it, Spiegelman continues what has been a 20-year effort to come to terms with his graphic memoir, "Maus," the story of both his father's experience in the Holocaust and Spiegelman's trouble grappling with it -- and, by extension, with his heritage. Originally serialized in Spiegelman's "commix" magazine RAW, "Maus" has become a contemporary classic, a work of surpassing complexity and empathy that asks difficult questions about complicity and authority, recognizing that, as Spiegelman has said elsewhere, "As soon as you try to tell the truth, you’re always lying." Here is more of the conversation.

Jacket Copy: Given the digital component of "MetaMaus" -- a DVD featuring the complete "Maus," as well as numerous annotations, or enhancements -- it's interesting that it is so beautifully, and consciously, designed as a book.

Art Spiegelman: I think that, as we move into the new planet of post-Gutenberg whatever, what's required is that everything be thought through. There are some things that are far better on an iPad or a Kindle than they are as a book. There are some things that can't make the transition easily, and there are some things that can barely make the transition at all. Form justifies the various decisions that get made in certain books -- like page dimensions, like those fantastic, cool "Little Nemo" comics printed full scale, on a full broadsheet page. That's not going to fit on an iPad, and it shouldn't fit on an iPad; it's a wonderful thing as it is. It's not a gimmick, it's the only way to get what you really want from Winsor McCay.

In making "MetaMaus," I was as engaged in the design as I was in the text and choice of pictures. So it was a totally graphic work. Not commix, but a co-mix of words and pictures. The idea was to match up the words to the pictures precisely. If there's a picture that I'm referring to in the text, I wanted you to be able to see it on the same spread. That's intrinsic to this particular thing. But also, with the kinds of color separations and printing that are available now, it's possible to make the most beautiful books since the Middle Ages, even though the technology that makes it possible is also kicking the book off into some kind of limbo.

JC: That's the responsibility of any writer or book artist in the current moment: Be conscious. You can't take form for granted anymore.

AS: It's that old McLuhan thing yet again -- which I came across when I was first making comics, the Faustian deal made in the 1970s, which was: OK, if comics are going to survive into another century, they have to become art or die. Because they're not part of the mass mass media anymore. And now the book itself is moving into that territory. So if we're going to go through the incredible labor, the intensive production work, that, for instance, was involved in getting "MetaMaus" to be right, then it has to need to be that thing. Otherwise, why bother?

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Russell Banks talks archetypes and underdogs

In Sunday's Arts & Books, book critic David L. Ulin talks to Russell Banks about his new novel, "Lost Memory of Skin." Banks is the author of "The Sweet Hereafter," "Affliction," "Continental Drift," "Cloudsplitter" and "Rule of the Bone." Here is more of the conversation.

Jacket Copy: "Lost Memory of Skin" is a realistic novel, but it also plays with archetypes. None of the characters are named but rather go by more general designations: the Kid, the Professor. In some sense, even they don't know who they really are.

Russell Banks: I was trying to use the conventions of realism to tell the story but also to lift it off the page and make it a bit more universal and archetypal. Once I got going with the Kid and the Professor, I just felt this was going to work, that I could do this all the way through. It's the same reason I didn't call the city Miami, even though it clearly is Miami -- if I call it Miami, then I'm stuck in a level of social realism that I don't want to get held down by. Even though I love the conventions of realism and the tradition of it, I don't want to be limited by that. But on the other hand, I don't want to write something hyper-real or surreal or meta-real, or anything of that sort, which takes off from the page and never gets grounded in reality again. So I wanted it to hover somewhere in between the two, and tell a story that would have the flavor of a fable and the feel of a fable, and yet be rooted in our everyday, mundane reality. That was one reason why I never gave him a name. Once I had gotten 50, 100 pages in, and he still was called the Kid, I was quite comfortable with it, and that meant everybody else was going to be treated more or less the same way. It's funny the way names do that. Pretty soon, the person becomes the name. And by the time you get very far into it, it would be shocking any other way. So he is the Kid.

JC:It also allows you to play with the fabric of reality a little bit. There's that scene late in the novel when the Professor is driving in the eye of the hurricane for hours and hours.

RB: And the babes on blades early on who float up into the sky. Stuff like that you couldn't do if you didn't have this kind of slightly bent reality. You can't get away with it unless you establish ground rules that permit it. It's a way of being aesthetically coherent throughout, of trying to find the zone of realism where those things are possible but it's still grounded in reality. What we call realistic fiction, it's not a rigid formula. There's this tremendous expanse between Zola and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Where do you want to land on that? What band, of all the bands that exist between Zola and Garcia Marquez, do you want to work? Then you find that zone and you try to make the whole thing consistent. My zone was somewhere in the middle, where I thought: This is where I want the novel to exist.

JC: There are echoes between "Lost Memory of Skin" and novels such as "Continental Drift" or "Rule of the Bone." Most unexpected, perhaps, is the reappearance of Dolores Driscoll, whom we last saw in "The Sweet Hereafter."

RB: There are some characters you just don't want to let go of. You keep wondering, what the hell ever happened to them? Dolores is one. I always liked her and I always wondered what had happened to her. But it wasn't really a return to "The Sweet Hereafter" or to "Continental Drift" or "Rule of the Bone." It was just ... in a way, I think of it as an extension, a continuation of those books and those stories and those characters. And I suppose some of the archetypes too, which do exist in those books. Here we have the adolescent male who's on a quest for meaning in what otherwise seems like a meaningless life and he has an older guide, who's not quite trustworthy ...

JC: Yes, and because of this we never quite know what's truth and what's illusion, even when the characters speak for themselves.

RB: Exactly. So how do you find meaning, how do you find the truth? That's one of the Kid's quests. He had to think in ways he's never thought before. And the fate of the Professor presents him with an epistemological problem: How do I know what I'm supposed to know about reality? At the beginning of the book, the meaning of his life doesn't extend beyond today. By the end, you hope, anyhow, that he can think ahead nine years.

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The Reading Life: Geoff Dyer on 'The Missing of the Somme'

Geoffdyer_2011 This is part of the occasional series "The Reading Life" by book critic David L. Ulin.

It's been 17 years since Geoff Dyer published his fifth book in the United Kingdom: "The Missing of the Somme," an impressionistic look not just at World War I -- the Great War -- but also at the cult of memory that arose in its wake. Here, Dyer moves from poetry to photography to the art of the memorial, framing the war as cultural and historical artifact. "Memorials to the Missing are not about people," he writes, "they are about names: the nameless names." This observation evokes almost perfectly the tension between war and recollection, between individual tragedy and collective memory.

Two years after "The Missing of the Somme," Dyer's collection of jazz portraits "But Beautiful" introduced him to American readers; since then, he's published half a dozen titles in the United States. "The Missing of the Somme," however, has not been among them -- until now. This month, Vintage released it for the first time in America, and Dyer discussed, via email, his thoughts about the book, the war and the elusive art of loss.

Jacket Copy: "The Missing of the Somme" was published in England in 1994 but is only now coming out in the United States. Why?

Geoff Dyer: When it first came out in the U.K., no one in the U.S. wanted to publish it -- partly because I had not published anything in the U.S. at that point and it would have been a rather strange little book to have started out with. And partly because the First World War didn't have a presence in American culture and history so that in bookstores the stock would just leap from the American Civil War to the Spanish. That changed, I think, with John Keegan and Niall Ferguson's books on the First World War. Vintage first wanted to publish it in 2002 but at that time the U.K. publisher owned U.S. rights. Fast forward to last year: Same situation but Vintage U.S. negotiated rights from the U.K. publisher. So a simple observation: Back when no one in U.S. wanted to publish it, letting the U.K. publisher have U.S. rights seemed better than nothing since I was giving them something no one wanted. A major mistake and a bitterly simple lesson!

JC: Despite that lack of cultural presence, there has been some essential American writing on the war. In "The Missing of the Somme," you discuss Paul Fussell and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and, of course, there's also Hemingway and John Dos Passos.

GD: Yes, the irony is that it's an American writer, Fitzgerald, who came up with the most evocative description of the effect and legacy of the Western Front, and Fussell's is the benchmark book of literary criticism. With Hemingway and Fitzgerald, it's the aftermath that is the principal concern, a vacancy symbolized, I suppose, by the way the narrator of "The Sun Also Rises" has [been emasculated] -- or whatever it is that's happened to him.

JC: Early in the book, you describe your grandfather enlisting underage, a story his death certificate refutes. Yet you make a case for the emotional truth of the anecdote, portraying your grandfather as an archetype: "everyone’s grandfather."

GD: This is the wager, isn't it: that the chances of one's being able to articulate a general truth or an emotion shared by other people are increased by remaining absolutely faithful to the contingencies of one's own experience and the vagaries of one's own character. In the case of the war this was a pretty low-risk wager because the Great War is such a key part of the collective consciousness of Britain.

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Dana Spiotta on living the creative life

Dana Spiotta spent some formative years in Los Angeles -- formative enough that the city keeps playing a significant role in her novels. Yet she had never come to the city on book tour -- 9/11 tripped up plans for "Lightning Field" -- and she seemed pleased to be in Los Feliz to read from "Stone Arabia" at Skylight Books last week.

Spiotta sat down with Carolyn Kellogg -- this feature about her appears in Wednesday's paper. In this extended Q&A from their conversation, Spiotta discusses obsessive artists, being creative in 2011 versus 1968, sustained engagement and -- you're looking at it -- the annihilating Internet.

Jacket Copy: When you were working on "Stone Arabia," did you ever feel like the cultural movement was going too fast for you to capture it within the boundaries of a novel?

Dana Spiotta: Because I had the idea that it would be 2004, that was my self-imposed boundary. So I don't have Facebook, but there's still MySpace. Wikipedia's there, but not YouTube. I like having that, I like getting the details right. Writing "Eat the Document," I liked having the challenge of writing about 1972. That's fun for me.

JC: When you talked to The Believer about "Eat the Document," you said you liked to do immersive research. What could you research for the parts of "Stone Arabia" set in 2004?

DS: I mostly did a lot of research on different kinds of people who do art -- extended, elaborate, private art -- for themselves. I was thinking about outsider artists, about various musicians who do this. Someone like Ray Johnson, who staged his own suicide. People who make their own home recordings, pre-1990, like R. Stevie Moore from New Jersey, Robert Pollard, people who have that homemade feel. Combining all those, knowing those were all the elements I wanted to put together. And my stepfather is the inspiration for Nik Worth.

JC: I saw that at the back of the book, and I found his MySpace page, but I wasn't sure if I believed it.

DS: It's true! What's funny is it seemed appropriate to me that he was a willing participant in this. Richard has long chronicles of his secret rock star life, and he has the actual music to go with it, and he was in a band called Village in the '70s. He's different [from Nik] -- the music sounds very different, and the personality is different, but the concept is Richard's.... He seems content, and that was the thing that inspired me.

One of the reasons I relate to Nik Worth is because being a novelist is sort of like being a private artist.(laughs)

JC: Nik chooses writing -- on top of recording music, he creates the Chronicles to document his (imagined) life in print.

DS: Which is a novelistic impulse. I'm not a musician, so the actual making of the records to me is not as interesting as the making of the Chronicles, which feels like a book. [Writing one,] you're immersed in your world and you're in total control -- except that then you do put it out there into the world, and you get a response, which is wonderful. [Nik] just has his sister as his response. Part of what the book is about is this idea of response. I relate also to the sister because my whole life I've had response -- movies, books and music were always things that kept me going. That was my consolation; I had these things that saved me and made me feel OK. So [Denise], as a responder to his work, their relationship is deep and reciprocal, as artist and audience but also as sister and brother.

I've discovered, since I've published the book, that there are a lot of people that do not just the basement recordings, which you can imagine is very common, but also keeping fake liner notes and doing a journal and creating a sort of alternative reality. That seems to be less unusual than you would imagine.

JC:  It seemed very unusual.

DS: It seemed very eccentric!

JC: This question of artist and audience response -- do you think a character like Nik could survive without his sister's gaze?

DS: I think there are some people who produce things in complete isolation, but most people have somebody who will listen to the CD they've made, or watch the movie they've made, or look at the painting they've made. Because in a way it's self-preservation. Maybe there's some narcissism to it; maybe there's some perversity to it, but [Nik] has found a way to be whole, have his integrity, in the face of what are not great conditions. I think it's harder than ever to be an artist. I think that you end up, especially as a middle-aged person, you pay such big consequences for saying, I'm just going to devote my life to making art, or I'm going to devote my life to writing novels. You end up with no resources.

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Q&A with Kelley Armstrong, bestselling fantasy writer

Kelley Armstrong and "Spell Bound"

When Kelley Armstrong published her first volume of fantasy fiction in 2001, one reviewer wrote: "The plot is that of a thriller, and it's a little shaky: there are too many villains and they are cartoonishly sinister." Nonetheless, Viking and Plume sold more than 100,000 copies of  "Bitten," whose protagonist is a female werewolf with superhuman strength and a very active sex life. The book turned out to be the first of what is to be a 13-volume "Women of the Otherworld" series. Books five through 11 of the series made various bestseller lists (as did each of Armstrong's "Darkest Powers" YA trilogy)  and the 12th entry, "Spell Bound," publishes this week. Her books (there are 19 in total) have sold more than 1 million copies.

The name "Kelley Armstrong" doesn't trip off the tongue like, say, Anne Rice or Stephenie Meyer, who propelled vampires into the pop-culture pantheon. Armstrong does write about vampires -- and necromancers and witches and demons -- but her heart seems to belong to the lycanthrope.

Her werewolves are a fairly sophisticated lot, working as journalists, anthropologists and artists. They drink scotch, drive hot cars and many of them seem to live in fabulous homes in New York state. Occasionally they venture into Canada -- a territory Armstrong knows well. She was born in Ontario and currently lives there with her family (which includes three children, ages 19, 11 and 10). Alice Short talked to Armstrong by phone.

Jacket Copy: How do you make time to write?  Do you have to rise at 4 a.m. and hope for three hours of quiet?

Kelley Armstrong: When I sold the first book, my daughter was 7 and I pregnant with my second [child]. I had to make do with very little time. Now it's much easier because they're all in school full time ... [although] I'm still up at 6 or 6:30 and getting in an hour of writing before they get up. ... Now I have a corner office in the basement, so unless it's important, they are not going to bother me in there.

JC: Many of your novels number 400-plus pages. How long do they take to write?

KA: I've developed a process over the years. I write a very fast first draft, 10,000 words a week. For an adult novel, I'll be done in three months. The actual editing process takes longer than the writing. That first draft I'd never want anybody to see.

JC: Talk about your fans. Surely, most of them are women?

KA: For the adult books, the target age range for women is 18 to 35. ... I also get male readers, thankfully. Sometimes I get younger readers ... too young for the adult [books].

JC: Has a fan ever inspired you in terms of plot or characters?

KA: I definitely listen to what they say. And they have a LOT to say. It might not always follow the path I want to go.

Some fans do not like who I've paired Jeremy [the Alpha wolf] up with, and they will give me detailed descriptions of whom he should be paired with. ... I'm pretty sure it's someone just like them.

JC: Your work is classified as fantasy fiction. What would you say to readers who don't relate to its rise in popularity, who don't understand the attraction of werewolves or vampires?

KA: When I started this, I was coming at it from a horror background. Then I read Anne Rice and got the idea of doing it from the point of view of the monster. What would it be like to be able to change into a wolf ... to experience life as a wolf? It's just so much fun. It can be a thriller, but you can throw in so many genres. The only one I haven't thrown in is the western, and I swear I'm going to write a werewolf western.

It is fantasy from a woman's point of view. Of course there is a romance. But that's not all of it. We put in action, [and] women are treated equally. You don't tone down the male characters, but you are making women their equal.

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