Interview with Susan Stec author of 'The Grateful Undead: They're So Vein."
(Our questions are in green and her delightful answers are in gray.)
First of all, a belated congrats to one of my favorite authors and good friend Susan Stec on the publication of her novel through--. We know how hard you worked on the "Grateful Undead." Can you tell us a little about the process of being accepted and what trials you endeavored through the publishing process?
I don't have an agent, queried a few, but that didn't pan out. Tons of rejections and a few with very helpful suggestions, but no one put a pen in my hand. Couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong so I started following agents on twitter and their personal blogs. At the time, all I heard in my genre were agents, editors and publishers saying, "If I have to read one more query with vampires or werewolves I'm gonna puke. Come on people! Can you say, 'original'?" It seems I'd started querying during the Twilight craze, when the market was flooded with vampire books. So, instead of using the 89,000 word manuscript for kindling or toilet paper, I bucked up, put the book aside, waited a year, and wrote two more in the series. Then I began to query again. Only this time I bypassed the agents and hit small press publishers. Black Matrix offered me a contract about three months later.
Can you tell us some of the things you're doing to self-promote your novel and what results you have achieved? Anything you would do differently?
I set up a website, twitter account, Goodreads and Facebook accounts, and a Grateful Undead blog. Made three trailers (that was a blast), and yes that is me on the toilet at Walmart, The before pictures are my mother, sister and daughters, and (I have no shame, hell none of us does) that's me in the True Blood Parody trailer too. I did a Skype and Talk Radio interview with Candy O'Donnell and a blog interview with the author of Invisible, Jeanne Bannon, on her website. Had a ball at a book signing recently and have another set up in December.
Persistence is the key word. I believe to achieve results and generate book sales we as authors need to be proactive, Brian. I hand out business cards, send flyers, make phone and personal sales calls to local bookstores in my state, and write my name and book title on the stall of every public restroom I visit… with colorful indelible markers. I may start doing graffiti in the spring. LOLOLOL
So far, the only thing I would have done differently would have been to start writing earlier. I'm having too much fun to quit now.
Obviously supernatural romance is hot and just seems to burn hotter every day instead of fading. Could you give us some of the titles that should be considered the 'trail blazers' of this genre as well as some must reads?
I don't think I read much heavy supernatural romance; my taste is more Urban Fantasy-humor. That's what I write. Think Sookie Stackhouse vamps fanging up Stephenie Plum's cousins. Yep, that'd be my family, with fangs.
Ok—let's get to 'The Grateful Undead: They're So Vein." Give us a brief synopsis for our readers and then tell us how you came with the idea for this wonderful series?
Nosey senior citizen annoys foul fanged tyke in a public restroom—gets fanged—(I won't tell you who becomes her first meal, no spoilers) goes home with newly acquired fangs and a body to die for. Her family of non estrogen producing women takes one look at her and a domino effect quickly ensues, leaving only one member, who doesn't want to die for a tight butt and perky boobs, the sole voice of reason. The women soon find out feedin' ain't easy, and turn to Walmart literature for answers.
One of them turns a raccoon into a vampoon—oops there goes the ecosystem—shit happens. However, the vampire council was not amused and sent a wolf with a message. He looked real hot after he shifted, naked and all, that's probably why no one listened to the werewolf's warning.
I came up with the idea after a dream I had where the my crazy family of women were turned into vampires. After I stopped laughing, I sat at the computer and figured if I could write the book, they really would be immortal. It was just supposed to be a Christmas gift for them. It turned out to be more.
If you're Susan and this is your family (art imitating life) how do you compare how your family reacts to crisis situations in real life as compared to their reactions in the novel?
Brian, I can slap this family in any situation and, with or without fangs, they would react the same. We do crass, controlling, and so entertainingly bitchy—we even do stupid—but none us does submissive.
Your characters spend most of the time in self-imposed mass hysteria in your novel. Does writing this wear you out emotionally?
Trying NOT to write this way would be much more stressful. We consider the self-imposed mass hysteria and quickened pulse rates our way of keeping aerobically fit. Just slap us all in one room together and we get a really good verbal and cardiac workout every time.
How do you come up with this wonderful dialogue?
From many years of sitting in my mother's living room during any family event. We all have a very open relationship. Nothing is sacred among the women in my family and the dialogue is honest and always amusing.
What is up with Susan and Marcus? They are deeply attracted to each other but Susan is determined to resist mating with him. Why?
You know, I think Susan would give it up more if Marcus wasn't so bossy. He keeps saying shit like,"Stop shoving JoAnn in a casket and burying it under the garage, Susan. Be more respectful, Susan. It's not nice to suggest you might bitch-slap your mother if she opens her mouth again. Don't shove Christopher's head in the toilet until the bubbles go away, Susan." It's a real buzz-kill, ya know? Anyway, I think a high priority total commitment kind of relationship is a stretch with Susan's control issues.
Spoiler: Marcus and Susan do mate in the first book—going down (ahem) the Interstate at 75 miles an hour with five cars of vamps vying for a better view—but sexual tension remains high in all three books.
What are reader's reactions to Christopher, the kid vamp? And who dresses him?
Christopher dresses himself because everything Christopher does has a reason behind it. In the first book we begin to delve into the complex personality of the man living inside of the boy's body. I love writing scenes with Christopher in them—the readers love him—and he's always good for a laugh. While writing the second book I had a fifty-fifty split with followers over whether the boy should be allowed a physical relationship. It was a hard decision, but in the third book you'll see who won that argument.
What's your favorite and least favorite thing about writing?
My favorite thing would be typing away, laughing out loud while my characters go all wonky on me. They crack me up with their outbursts and constant surprises. Like who would have thought my bible toting sister would have a child with a demon? Ooops, another spoiler - third book. Dang, maybe you'll want to edit that out? LOL
My least favorite thing—writing a damn query! I'm a wordy bitch. One or two paragraphs? Come on!
What is the most surprising thing you've learned while writing?
That I have five women, a fairy, troll, werewolf, demon, shape shifter dragon, and several sexy immortals living in my brain. And they won't go home!
What do think of twilight?
Actually, I liked Twilight, read all three books.
What advice would you give indie writers?
Market your book, don't sit back and wish it a success.
What advice would you give newbie writers?
Write for you, not for what you think the market wants. It changes to often. Have patience when it comes to querying, grow some tough skin, and never give up. If you have a good story to tell, someone out there wants to sell it. Start now and research marketing your book because later it will be the key to your success.
Where can readers find you?
Amazon and Barnes and Noble, paperback, kindle and nook
Thank you Susan!
And here is another interview with Susan on Jeanne Bannon's Blog:
And here is another interview with Susan on Jeanne Bannon's Blog: