Note from Tez: This interview was conducted a while ago. In the spirit of weekend reading, enjoy it now.
Meet Jeanne Stein, author of the vampire novels The Becoming, Blood Drive and The Watcher (Penguin: November 28th 2006, June 26th 2007 and November 27th 2007 respectively). A story of hers also features in Many Bloody Returns (Penguin: September 4th 2007). Let’s learn…
Thirty-year-old Anna Strong is a bounty hunter–tough, confident, at the top of her game. But when she is attacked one night in a parking lot, her life is inexorably changed. She awakens in the hospital to find she has become Vampire and her destiny is no longer with the living, but among the undead. With her mentor, the vampire doctor who treated her in the hospital, she strives to make sense of it all. But then her home is burned to the ground, and her business partner and best friend is kidnapped. Anna suddenly finds herself alone on a quest to save more than her missing friend, but herself as well.
Anna Strong is a vampire caught between two worlds. She clings to what makes her human, her family, her job, her lover. But the pull of the undead is a siren song becoming impossible to resist. She discovers she has a niece, Trish, a child caught up in the worst kind of human nightmare. To save Trish, Anna may have to surrender to the animal side of her nature. Concepts of good and evil are no longer clearly defined as Anna must determine who is the real monster—a human who preys on children or the vampire who tries to save them.
Many Bloody Returns
This patchwork anthology of 13 new vampire stories proves that heavyweight contributors can give some substance to a relatively slight theme. Writers with serious vamp credentials craft stories around the concept of birthdays for bloodsuckers.
For a newly made vampire, Anna is a hard case. That’s why she’s become a Watcher–one of the enforcers who keep supernatural criminals in check and deliver just punishment when necessary. But Anna is still fighting to control the raging fury of the vampire within her… Her self-control is tested when her lover–a DEA agent–disappears. In The Watcher, Anna is forced to battle a witch with ulterior motives, a vengeful Mexican drug lord, a psychotic hit man nursing a grudge and her own demons. But if there’s one thing Anna has learned to handle, it’s trouble.
Tez Miller: Word on the street is that your work started off with small publisher ImaJinn (former home of Keri Arthur and Lilith Saintcrow). How did it end up at Penguin? Did an agent organise that, did you do the pitching yourself, or were you head-hunted?
Jeanne Stein: I’d been writing a long time before getting that first contract and that was with the same Colorado publisher as Keri and Lilith–ImaJinn Books. The Becoming was released in 2004 and I used that book to query an agent. My thinking was that if an agent liked what he read, he might be able to sell subsequent books to a New York house. Imagine my surprise when that agent (Scott Miller of Trident Media Group) called and said he wanted to resell The Becoming to Ace Books. To make a complicated story simple, that involved coming to terms with ImaJinn’s editor. I share royalties with her for The Becoming and Blood Drive and bought out the option for the third Anna Strong book.
Sounds complicated. Good thing you’ve got that great agent :-) Your books are published under the name Jeanne C Stein. Why the middle initial?
Good question. One I’m going to answer very cryptically–the “C” stands for my middle name which I never give out. Can’t tell you why I use it. Habit, I guess.
Your protag’s name is Anna Strong. Does her surname say something about her personality?
Yes. And it’s close to the name I really wanted to use–Hannah Storm. Of course, that name was taken by a famous CBS anchorwoman so I had to come up with something else. Now I love the name.
Damn you, CBS! ;-) A story of yours features in a popular vampire birthday anthology, Many Bloody Returns. How did the project start? Were you invited, or did you ask politely (and if so, was there any bribing ;-) )?
I was invited into Many Bloody Returns to take the place of an author who had to drop out. Lucky for me, unlucky for that author. The book has done quite well and I’ve gotten such good response from readers about the character, Sophie, that my editor suggested I come up with a proposal for a book of her own. I’m working on it now.
Aw, we’re feeling the love :-) Are your vampire creations emo, or do they try to make the best of a bad situation?
Actually, it’s the direct opposite of what Anna is. She was angry at first at what happened to her. But she’s a realist and determined to live her life on her own conditions. One of the most important, was retaining contact with her human family. She is able to feed safely so the hardest part is trying to maintain her relationship with her human business partner and spend as much time as she can with her parents and now, her niece. She knows her time with them is limited since at some point, it will become obvious that they are ageing and she is not. But I make it a point to explain in the books that becoming vampire does not change the type of person you are, only the physical aspects of the body. So morally and intellectually, you are the same person you were before the change.
The Anna Strong novels have sold to Germany; yay! In which other foreign countries/languages would you most like to be published?
I suppose any country with an interest in urban fantasy. I haven’t yet seen the German editions and I really can’t wait to see what covers they come up with.
Are things progressing to get your books published in the UK, and therefore in Australia?
You know, that’s all in my agent’s hands. I hope the answer is yes.
Note to Mr Miller: Sell, sell, sell! We’re deprived in Oz ;-) *ahem* Do you outline your works, or do you work on the fly?
I don’t outline. I know how a book is going to start and I know how it’s going to end. I have an idea of the new characters I plan to introduce along the way. After that, I let the story tell itself.
You share a joint blog with Mr Mario Acevedo. How did you meet, and why get together instead of having separate blogs?
Mario and I go way back. Eight years or so. We’ve been in the same critique group for that long. I wasn’t keen on doing a blog–couldn’t imagine anyone would be interested in my opinions about anything. But Mario said we had to do it because it’s another marketing tool to use to reach new readers and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Now I find it’s fun–it’s very unstructured. Mario is the funny guy and I’m the straight (wo)man. I use anything and everything that catches my eye during the week. Movies, books, anything to do with Joss Whedon (my hero). So far, I haven’t resorted to listing what I ate for breakfast or how many loads of laundry I have to do. When I reach that point, I’ll quit.
See, that’s where I differ from other urban fantasy writers–my hero is Seth MacFarlane. Now, for everyone’s favourite hypothetical question: for which urban fantasy author(s) would you turn gay/straight?
Jeez, now that’s a question I’ve never been asked before! Okay, let’s see, I’m a straight female but Marjorie Liu is awfully cute. And Laurell K Hamilton has an edge that’s appealing. Now, I have no idea of the sexual orientation of either of these women (well, I know LKH is married so I guess that says something) but since you asked, that’s my answer! And notice I put Marjorie Liu being cute as the first consideration—does that make me terribly shallow?
Thanks, Tez, for a very entertaining bunch of questions!
Not a problem, lass. And yes, Ms Liu is aesthetically pleasing ;-)