Sunday, August 24, 2014

Luck be a Lady (or two)... an Interview with author Deborah Coonts

Ahh, Las Vegas... a place unlike any other. The inescapable, mega-watt glitz of colorful lights blinking 24/7,  against a crazy, ever-present backdrop of electronic slot machine "music"... glamour, both ersatz and genuine, in the showy hotel facades with their exotic themes and lavish decor, and the exclusive designer shoppes tucked within their cavernous interiors... feather-and-glitter-clad cigarette girls and hostesses, rubbing elbows on the casino floors with cargo-shorts-and-flip-flops-wearing visitors and suit-wearing conventioneers... and all of it found every day of the year in a little desert oasis. Love it or hate it, it's something you've got to experience at least once.

Me, I love spending time there, for the sensory overload and feeling of escape. It isn't always feasible to go on a little road trip (or long plane ride, as the case may be) to indulge in all that is Vegas, though... which is why I enjoy Deborah Coonts' ongoing series set in Sin City, the "Lucky O'Toole Vegas Adventure" books. A little mystery, a little romance--and always a little over-the-top--her books are a fun, frothy bit of escapism (with a dash of behind-the-scenes reality thrown in).

I got the chance to interview Ms. Coonts earlier this month, before the release of her latest Lucky adventure--Lucky Catch--and we discussed her writing process, characters, and, of course, Vegas, itself.

GlamKittyWhat are the best/worst (or easiest/hardest) parts about writing Lucky?

Deborah CoontsThe beginning of the story is always the hardest for me. Where is the exact right place to begin? It’s not always as easy as it sounds. And finding that sweet spot (or not) can make a huge difference. Also, since I write each book as a stand-alone, I must introduce the setting, the characters, and, in a way, the whole story line as it affects the characters up to that point, in each story. I strive to introduce all of this in a unique and interesting way, which can be a challenge the more times I do it.

GKIf you could take one character from the Lucky series and spin her/him off into a new series of books, whom would it be?

DCOh, that’s easy. In fact, I had a spin-off in mind from almost the beginning. I would take Fredericka (Flash) Gordon, Lucky’s best friend and investigative reporter, as a spin-off character. Flash is as strong a personality as Lucky with her own unique voice and perspective. And she is not a corporate executive like Lucky so she can be a bit naughtier, a bit edgier, and get into darker, tighter spots. She’s into kinkier sex and bad boys, and sees the boundaries as a bit blurry on accession, which would be soooo much fun to write.  Although, I have to have a glass of wine (or two) when writing sex scenes as it is, so this could be problematic☺

GKIs there a character you now regret killing off? A story arc you wish you'd taken another way?

DCMy biggest regret so far, and I don’t have many, is that I didn’t quite envision Lucky as a series when I wrote the first book. In that story, I divulged a secret about Lucky’s parentage that I would’ve stretched out a bit. And I made the romance a bit too tidy. But, once the cat was out of the bag, I couldn’t stuff it back in, so no use worrying about it. And the romance? As romances are wont to do, has its rough patches going forward. Thankfully, I was smart enough not to killer the bad guy, a former lover of Lucky’s. He’s coming back…

GKIf Lucky's stories were being made into, say, a Netflix series, whom would you cast in the main roles, if it were up to you (and everyone said yes, money were no object, etc.)?

DCCameron Diaz as Lucky. Ashley Judd as Mona. Meryl Streep at Miss P. De Niro as the Big Boss. Hugh Hackman as Teddie (or anyone he want’s to play). That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Pretty much blew the casting budget, right☺ Hey, if you’re gonna dream, dream BIG!!!

GKIf you had to describe Vegas to someone who had never heard of it, how would you do so, in a couple (or few) sentences?

DCVegas: a city where anything is possible. A fantasy where the real world retreats, and dreams loom large. Where fun, no matter how you define it, is a priority. But like a mirage, it lasts only for a little while…. dissipating under the glare of the sun, the harsh light of reality, only to reappear after a bit to be enjoyed anew.

Lucky Catch will be released on August 26, and looks to be another fun romp. (Expect a review once I've had time to finish reading it, as always.) In the meantime, be sure to check out my other reviews and discussions of earlier Lucky escapades, here
And many thanks to Ms. Coonts for the chance to pick her brain a little! :) 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Year the Zombies Invaded the Con

A long time ago in an itty-bitty town far, far away… there lived a bookish little girl, who’d been saddled by her peers with a (to her way of thinking) less-than-ideal nickname. No cutesy monikers flattering personality, energy, or looks for her; instead, what she got stuck with alluded to her undeniable geekiness (as though the oversized glasses and ever-present stack of books didn’t already make things clear enough).

Times have changed a lot since then, though (and hoo-boy, thank the Quantum field for that). Now, it’s actually cool to let your geek flag fly… to show off your knowledge of anything and everything, to sport nerdy (though rarely huge, thank you, fashion gods) spectacles, mismatched patterns, and thrift shop finds, and to revel in pursuits requiring brainpower instead of brawn.

Oh, and, to convene in unbelievably-ginormous numbers at yearly mega-conventions—aka “cons”—to celebrate things now part of pop culture which used to be seen as geeky or weird, from comic books and anime to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror (and quirky mashups of all the above). 

In other words, the geeks have inherited the earth; we’ve won.

Until something which trumps geek-chic comes along and spoils everything, that is…as just so happens in Mira Grant’s San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~

Among other things, summer is the peak of “con season” (as those in the know refer to the time of year when at least one con can be found somewhere pretty much every single week/weekend), and July 2014 boasted the grand poobah of them all: San Diego Comic Con, which drew an estimated 130,000 attendees from around the world. 

It was the first night of the con—“Preview Night”—when those with special passes could get into the seller halls the evening before anyone else could (all the better to score some incredible deals, especially of the limited-edition or one-of-a-kind variety). The vendors had been rushing about unloading and setting up their booths all day, but the time was finally nigh; the halls were officially open for business, and an excitable crowd was pouring through the various doors, after flashing their shiny new badges at the guards.

If only it had just been the regular motley assortment of fans more-or-less politely pushing their way into the halls… but this year, something new was coming to the party. Something deadly.

No one will ever know exactly how, or who, but someone brought the dreaded Kellis-Amberlee viral strain (the genetically-engineered cure for the common cold, which comes with a humongous, bonus side order of also-turns-you-into-a-zombie-once-it-has-amplified-in-your-body, if you’ve yet to read Mira Grant’s “Newsflesh” trilogy*—which, honestly, you should really do posthaste, after reading California Browncoats) into the convention center. Naturally, in the way of all crazy-bad things, the K-A virus is gonna do next what the K-A virus does best: go into amplification mode and turn everyone it comes into close contact (think bodily fluids, mucous membranes, etc.) with into human-flesh-craving monsters, contaminating the next person, and the next, and so on… (Um, no, really. Trust me on this; that’s how it happens.)

And once the doors are locked—trapping all those innocent con-goers inside with the already-infected—only one thing is guaranteed: that no one will get out alive.

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~

I’ve been to a lot of cons, but this year marked my first time attending (gulp) the San Diego Comic Con. (I purposefully waited until after the con to read this book, for what should hopefully be pretty obvious reasons, and yeah, good call.)  

Mira Grant (urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire’s sci-fi-writing alter-ego, by the way)—a long-time attendee at SDCC—clearly knows what’s what at a con, and her depictions of the setting, the atmosphere, and the people there, are spot-on. Read her words, and you’ll get a good idea of what a con is like (not that ANY words can fully prepare someone for a monster con like San Diego, though you’ll come away with the gist, at the least).   

The real power of The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, though, lies in its structure—we know from the very first pages that no one survived the tragedy—but then we meet the people who were there, and get to know them as friends, as fellow con-attendees that we might’ve chatted with in one of those interminably-long lines…before watching them fall prey to their inevitable, horrific fates. There’s an ineffable sort of sadness at being able to put yourself so firmly into their sneakers (cosplay boots, sandals, loafers, etc.), only to watch their/your dreams and fun dashed so tragically.

The Last of the California Browncoats is an homage to the geeks, the book-nerds, the cosplayers, the gamers, the role-players, and the just-plain-different, everywhere… and I, for one, am glad it wasn’t some happy-sappy-crappy ode, but a smart, thoughtful, bloody, and scary-good one. :)
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: 4.5 of 5 Scared-Smart Mousies

*See my reviews of Mira Grant's "Newsflesh" trilogy here. (Note that they appear from most-recent to earliest, so scroll to the bottom and start there...)