Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Interview: Charming by Elliott James

UFI welcomes Elliott James  Author of Charming. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview?

Well, if you want me to peel open my fragile psyche and write a searing expose of my personal demons, I can only say that I fell on to that stuffed animal when I was eleven years old. I can't help the way I got, you know, wedged. And if you're reading this, mom, STOP IT! STOP LOOKING AT ME! Wait, what was the question?
No, seriously, I’m very new at this and not sure how to answer that.  I could say that I like accordion music and scrabble (though not at the same time – that would be incredibly annoying) and I would be telling the truth, but it seems kind of random. On the other hand, I’m a somewhat private person; readers are welcome to whatever part of myself I put in my stories, but if I’m going to reveal something really personal to a bunch of people I don’t know, I kind of feel like you should do this properly and get me drunk first. 
I suppose it might surprise people to know that I love reading Jane Austen.  Charming isn’t exactly Of Charm and Chivalry.
What do you enjoy doing on your down time?
Wasting a lot of my down time grumbling about how I don't have enough of it is a popular choice.  If it’s sunny I like to be outside. If it's rainy, I like to find a heat source and a coffee provider.  Yoga and running are two things I do to relax and exercise at the same time though it’s been hard to squeeze in the yoga lately, no pun intended. If I watch TV, I wait a year and then watch the entire season of a show in one marathon session.  I don’t know if that means I don’t watch a lot of TV or do watch a lot of TV.  
What is your Favorite part of writing? 
The beginning of a chapter or scene. I like that warm glow I get when an idea I have is actually taking form. It always feels like what I'm writing is the literary equivalent of words being etched in stone tablets by lightning or something, and every idea seems to vibrate with possibility. This sort of acts as a counterbalance to the times where I'm rewriting a scene for the ninth or tenth time and it still doesn't feel quite right and I’m kind of sick of it. I compare the latter to being a golfer stuck in a sand trap though I’m sure I’m not the first one to do so. What's really frustrating is that all of these cool ideas about other things I'd rather be writing come rushing in when I’m stuck, but I try to make myself keep on swinging. 
Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write?
I get up at five every weekday morning and write for two hours because the odds are pretty good that I'm going to be too brain dead to write after work. I also drink a lot of coffee while a cat plays with my keyboard. I should probably give the cat editing credit; instead, I had him spayed. I guess that's life in the cruel world of high stakes publishing. 
What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres? 
Right now I'm reading Kate Griffin, and she's original, intense, and surprisingly funny considering how scary her work is. I like to read Simon Green just for the endless stream of ideas that rush across his pages from the beginning of his novels to their ends. It's like some kind of prose rap except that it doesn't rhyme. I love Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels. They're creepy and intense and engaging though I don't think he's writing them anymore. The last one I read wrapped up a lot of loose ends, and it's been a while since I saw a new one. 
How would you pitch Charming to someone who has never heard of it before??

Underhand? Actually, I've already done this quite a bit as you can imagine, so I'm going to have to repeat myself a little or get a migraine trying to avoid it. Here's the thing about Prince Charming – he's simultaneously one of the most over-exposed and under developed characters around. He hardly ever gets to be the star of his own story (I read a lot and I've never read one anyway). and he's often associated with some stereotype of a suave pretty boy who's noble to the point of being mildly nauseating, or else parodied or undermined. Charming posits that there wasn't just one crazed bigamist named Prince Charming running around, that in fact the reason there are so many stories about him is that Prince Charming is actually an entire family line of witch finders, dragon slayers, and all around monster hunters stretching across generations. John Charming is the latest in this long line, and he's continued the proud (if not particularly bright) family tradition of messing with things that are probably better left alone to the point where he's come down with a mild case of werewolf. Now the same people who trained him are trying to hunt him down. I had a lot of fun playing my protagonist against type, but I never mock him. John Charming is sarcastic, conflicted, tough, pragmatic, shrewd, blunt, and prone to stomping down on anything that looks like a romantic impulse as if he were playing a game of emotional Whack-a-Mole. Figuring out how he deals with modern day fairy tales come to life is part of the fun for me.

What can you tell me about the world that Charming is set in?
I don't think it will take an astute reader very long to realize that the world of Charming is the real main character of the novel. I don’t know if I succeed or not, but I want my world to be big and feel big.  There are all of these amazing mythologies and fables and literary traditions, and we tend to concentrate on maybe two percent of them. If you read any of the John Charming short stories that take place before the novel, I think you'll see that I have a real love of exotic, lesser known but kick ass creatures. 
That said, I do have vampires and werewolves in my first novel because I do love them, and frankly, I wanted to sell it. These monsters are classics for a reason, and familiarity has strengths as well as drawbacks. For example, my editor Devi Pillai took one of my chapter titles and came up with this marketing copy about a blonde and a vampire walking into a bar. And I think that line is effective because it takes something familiar - the blonde walking into a bar joke - and puts a bit of a dark twist on it. If you took that same line but made it about a blonde and a yukshee walking into a bar, instead of making an instant connection, most people would be going “What the @#$% is a @#$%shee?”
But yukshee exist in my world right along with vampires even if there isn't one in my first novel, and I bring different mythologies and fable elements into the book almost immediately. I also reintroduce a lot of forgotten lore about vampires and weres and put a new spin on some of the well-known chestnuts. I guess what I'm saying is, I try to make the vampires in my own world my own vampires.

Do you have a favorite scene in Charming?
Well, the one I had the most fun writing involves the first time John really talks to this woman, Sig, who he doesn't want to admit that he finds fascinating. Both characters are survivors with a lot of built-in defense mechanisms, and there are all these obstacles and a lot of intense and crazy stuff going on; it's a bit like two porcupines trying to figure out how to mate on the Hindenburg.   

Which character was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about? 
There's a character named Molly Newman who is a lot of fun to write about because she's embraced the fact that she's a little unhinged. Crazy (or at least mildly eccentric) characters are wide open. The character who was the hardest to write about was the main villain of the book. 
Anne Marie Padgett is young highly intelligent sociopath, and she was savvy to the ins and outs of social media long before she ever became a vampire.  One of the conceits of the book is that the internet is kind of a like a magic mirror in the old Fairy Tales, and Anne Marie is a new kind of evil queen. The thing is, she's twisted and unpredictable, and I know all of these things about Anne Marie that I never get to say because I stick to John's perspective, and for a large part of the book Anne Marie is a cipher that he's trying to track down and figure out while following her trail. That's like trying to piece together the personality of a tornado by following its wreckage. In a way, I would love to rewrite the story from Anne Marie's point of view. I would also dread it.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?
The sequel to Charming is coming out some time next year, and then I’m going to write at least one more book in the series (hopefully more). Then I have a mystery novel that I think is about two months away from being re-read, finished, and edited for submission.  It’s a story that I’ve been working on for a long time. 
I also have this odd little craft where I make little people out of twist-tie wire. I'm going to try to attach a photo of one to this interview as my bio picture, or maybe try to talk Michelle Johnson, my literary agent, into doing it for me. Again, this is all still very new to me, and I don't really fully believe that it’s real yet, so I'm trying to be a real writer and abuse my agent more. By the way, hi Michelle. Anyway, I'm going to try to put together a how-to book on how to make my twist-tie people too. I think they're pretty cool. I don't want to brag or anything, but I'm pretty sure that if any of my twist-tie people met any dolls made out of crab apples and clothespins, my twist-tie people could beat them up and take their lunch money.

Find Elliott and his books

Pax Arcana #1
 John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings -- an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is-- until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?