Liz Jasper is my guest to-day. The cover on the left is the cover for her print version of UNDERDEAD. Scary stuff!
Questions for Liz Jasper
I chose to interview Liz hoping she would convince me to love reading about vampires who live for hundreds of years in a strange underworld before emerging into the present time. I mean what is attractive about male and female vampires who suck blood, hide from the sun and have dreadful teeth.
Over to Liz Jasper
Your prize winning mystery, UNDERDEAD, made me sit up and take notice about vampires. You followed that success with UNDERDEAD IN DENIAL. Vampire myths have been around in various forms for centuries. What is their enduring appeal?
Well certainly not the looks. The Dracula in Bram Stoker's classic novel was a shriveled hairy thing. Thankfully, liberties have been taken with that aspect of the story over time. These days we like our vampires hot and sexy. I should be clear here that I don't write erotic novels. Or dark ones. Though my main vampire character, Will, IS very attractive, as are all the other members we meet of his Undead clan. It makes sense, doesn't it, that current vampires looking to add a new vampire to the group, would pick someone they liked looking at, since they're going to be looking at them a long, long time.
Which sort of answers your question (finally). I think part of the appeal is that a vampire who chooses to turn you undead, is essentially choosing to be with you forever. There's also a hurdle to overcome for the person who is becoming undead. Assuming it's their choice to become a vampire (which in today's vampire books it often is, especially in romances), they are in effect choosing to give up their life to be with vampire. It's a pretty big step and can be very heady stuff.
Having said that, while that issue is implicit in the romantic subplot of my mysteries (or my heroine would have been with him by chapter three of the first book, I mean who's kidding whom? He's hot.), what I find interesting about vampires is that we know they're not real. I mean, if someone bit you on the neck, you wouldn't think, "Oh no! Vampire!" You'd think "Freak taking the Goth thing a leeettle too seriously."
In most vampire books, the second the vampire comes on scene, we shift into the vampire world. In the Underdead books, my protagonist Jo Gartner stays in her world, as a (new and struggling) middle school science teacher, and has to deal with the fact she's turning into a vampire in that context. How does she explain to people what's going on? When she can't tell them and she's not sure she believes it herself? If she wasn't a strong person and didn't have a sense of humor, she'd go nuts.
Before writing UNDERDEAD, did you do extensive research?
No. Unless you count watching lots of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Yes, I admit it here.) I wanted to be able to have Jo respond in the way anyone would, which meant I didn't want to bog down with too much vampire lore. Having said that, I have done some research or I wouldn't have Will's back story in the back of my mind to draw from.
What about the myth appealed to you sufficiently to write two books featuring a wickedly handsome vampire and a delightful human heroine? Do you plan to continue the series?
I find it fascinating to throw a myth shrouded in darkness and romance into the bright light of daily life. That's where the humor comes in. I mean, how do you explain to your mother why you have a garlic necklace on? And what do you do when she tells you to take the darned thing off, when you know what might be lurking around the next corner? I have books three and four plotted out, so yes, I'll continue the series. Jo's dilemma between the two men in her life (Will, the vampire who is her perfect match if only he weren't undead, and Gavin, the hunky vampire-slaying detective who represents the normalcy which is all she really wanted but now can't have either) gets more complicated and more fraught with tension.
Your writing style, Liz. Are you a plotter or a "pantser?" Plotters are organized. Pantsers are disorganized. Plots are like straitjackets to them. Where do you fit?
I vascillate between the two extremes. I don't know how anyone can write a mystery with out plotting out a lot of stuff, though I know some do, and do it very well. But I can't write without knowing where I'm going.
Blurb for Underdead
Science teacher Jo Gartner thinks teaching geology to hormonal pre-teens is deadly... until she is bitten by an inept vampire and becomes UNDERDEAD--all the problems of being a vampire, none of the perks.
When she finds a body on her classroom floor with teeth marks in his neck, she must figure out "whodunit" before her Underdead secret gets out. But she's running out of time. The detective in charge of the case is dogging her every move, her vampire traits are evolving in new and embarrassing ways, and someone wants Jo dead...the traditional way!
Blurb for Underdead in Denial
Gorgeous, enigmatic vampire Will is back and almost undead Jo Gartner is more determined than ever to avoid all things vampire and maintain a normal life. And what's more normal than doing community service to help a lovesick friend? But getting dressed up in a Halloween costume for a haunted house fundraiser is not what Jo had in mind. Especially when one of the extras turns up dead
You have convinced me to have a second look at vampires and their stories. Thanks for joining me on Hallowe'en when the witches, goblins and vampires are abroad. And for readers interested in something completely different, check my web site, www.anitabirt.com to learn more about me and what I write. Not vampires!