Diana, Thank you so much for agreeing to be a guest on my blog.
Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been lucky enough to have had a pretty interesting life, which surprises me at times since it’s not like I set out to have one. I grew up a total science fiction/fantasy nerdgirl, was a total dork in high school, and then went to Georgia Tech where I met all sorts of other nerds, dorks and geeks. Heaven! For a variety of reasons I ended up with a degree in Applied Mathematics (a love of math was NOT one of those reasons,) and since that sort of degree doesn’t provide many useful and marketable skills, I ended up working as a junior data analyst making very little money. At about the same time, the casino industry was just taking off on the Gulf Coast. My (then) husband and I looked at the money that could be made there, and we both made the jump to be dealers. I worked in the casino for close to six years, eventually moving up to Pit Boss, but even though the money was very good, I hated the work. I watched people destroy their lives through gambling, and I felt like a legal crack dealer. When my first marriage came to an unfortunate end, I left the casino and decided to go into a line of work where I hoped I could feel good about what I was doing. I was hired by the sheriff’s department and went to work as a road deputy. A couple of years later I made the move into investigations and became a detective specializing in white collar/computer crimes. During this time I met my (now) husband, and when I found out I was pregnant I transferred over to the crime lab and trained in computer forensics, and later crime scene investigations in general. After seven years in law enforcement I was offered a position with the local coroner’s office that, at the time, was too good to pass up. There I had the chance to work in the morgue as a forensic photographer, and in the process learned a great deal more about death investigations. However, during this entire time I was still writing–waking up early in the morning to write, writing on my lunch hour, writing before picking my daughter up from day care–and so, when my agent called to tell me that my book had sold, my husband and I decided that time was worth more than money. I quit my job with the coroner, and have been writing full-time ever since.
Oops, you said “a little bit.” Sorry!
How long have you been writing?
I remember writing a story/poem about little people who lived in puddles (and when it rained, they were in a muddle!) not long after I learned how to write words. Growing up, I used to write stories and scenes constantly. My first “published” story was a piece of Doctor Who fanfic! I continued to write stories all through high school and college, but it really wasn’t until I hit my thirties that I thought seriously about doing it “for real” and trying to sell my scribblings to people who would pay money for them. I attended the Clarion West writers workshop in 1998 and subsequently tried to sell short fiction–because that’s what everyone said you were supposed to do: write short stories, make a name for yourself with that, and then move on to writing novels. But even though I learned a lot during Clarion about structure and style and craft, it took me a long and discouraging time to realize that I didn’t really like writing short stories as much as I liked writing novels–with all of the cool stuff you can do in the longer form. However, my big breakthrough came when a short story of mine (yes, one of the few!) won first prize in the Writers of the Future contest. Part of the prize is free attendance in a week-long writers’ workshop with some of the biggest names in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Participation in that workshop drove home to me that I really did want to write professionally, and when I returned home I started working on a new project. That novel ended up being Mark of the Demon.
What is your writing process like?
I always write out a chapter-by-chapter plot summary before getting started on my books–something that I consider to be essential since I write mysteries and I need that structure to work from in order to seed clues and develop the tension. Once I have that base in place, then I start what I call word vomit mode! I write 2K-3K words a day until I get to the end. If I hit a sticking point, I don’t stop, but instead leave a note to myself in brackets, e.g. [have them talk about gun here.] I use that initial plot summary as a guideline, but I also give myself a certain amount of freedom to deviate from it. After I have that first crappy draft finished, I’ll set it aside for a week or two, then I’ll go back through it and fill in all of the stuff in brackets, add descriptions, and do an initial pass to clean up the prose. Once it’s somewhat readable I’ll pass it off to a first reader or my critique group for feedback, and then revise revise revise!
Can you tell us about your newest release Mark of the Demon?
Mark of the Demon is a police procedural. With demons. And sex! My “elevator” pitch is, “Mark of the Demon is about a homicide detective who can summon demons, in pursuit of a serial killer who can also summon demons. Oh, and there’s some hot cop-and-demon lord action.” (Depending on the audience, I’ll sometimes throw in some suggestive gestures and a boom-chica-wow-wow!)
However, I realized that I couldn’t do the gestures/boom-chica bit for the website and other promotional stuff (darn it!,) so I came up with the following:
When Homicide Detective Kara Gillian finds traces of arcane power on a body, she quickly realizes that this is no ordinary murder. The serial killer known as the Symbol Man is a nightmare that Beaulac, Louisiana thought had ended three years ago, but now he’s back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he is well-versed in demonic lore.
However, Kara is a Summoner of Demons, and may be the only cop on the city’s small force who can stop the killer. Able to see and interact with a world most people can’t, Kara must draw on her skills as a police officer and master of the arcane to stop the Symbol Man from killing again and possibly summoning something even she can’t control.
But with a demonic lord of unearthly beauty and power haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head….
Do you have any other books coming out this year?
My next book is titled Blood of the Demon, and is slated for release on January 26, 2010. BotD continues with the same characters, though each book is intended to stand on its own as a mystery. (I use the analogy of a show like Bones or CSI. Same characters, a few continuing story arcs, but the mystery gets solved in one episode/book.)
What are you currently working on?
I’ve started work on the third book which is (very) tentatively titled Promise of the Demon. I’m also working on a proposal for an urban fantasy series about a zombie morgue tech. Mmmm, brains!
You have worked several interesting jobs, did experiences from those jobs help in writing Mark of the Demon?
Absolutely! I spent nearly ten years working in law enforcement and death investigation, and fortunate enough to work in a variety of divisions during that time. Not only does that background give me a strong base of knowledge to draw on, but I also have access to dozens of people who are more than ready to answer questions for me when I run into something I’m not certain of.
As an author, you must be an avid reader. What books do you enjoy reading? Who are your auto-buy authors?
J.D. Robb & Charlaine Harris are the ones whose books I’ll pretty much always buy in hardback. Carrie Vaughn writes terrific books, and I’d certainly buy hers in hardback if that was the only option. I love Kim Harrison’s books (though I’m a couple of books behind right now.) Kelley Armstrong, Jenna Black, and Daniel Abraham AKA MLN Hanover are other authors whose books I eagerly wait for. I’m definitely a big fan of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
What books are on your keeper shelf?
Shelf?? I have far more than one! Let’s see, the Dragonriders of Pern books, the Narnia series, just about anything by Madeline L’engle, Tolkien, all of the Arthur Ransome books… My keeper shelves tend to be occupied by the books I loved growing up. I was horribly shy and awkward as a kid and books were a refuge for me, so there’s a great deal of nostalgia associated with them.
What was the first romance book you read or the first romance book that has stood the test of time?
I read my first romance when I was in college. My roommate had bought a pirate/historical on a whim at the grocery store, and passed it to me–more as a joke than anything. I devoured it and then went looking for more. I read everything by Johanna Lindsey, and quite a few by Jude Devereaux. But one that I’ve kept to this day was a historical set in ancient Britain called Defy the Eagle (by Lynn Bartlett.) I looooooved that book! More recently, I’ve read every one of the J.D. Robb in Death books (though I don’t think they truly qualify as Romance.)
If Mark of the Demon was made into a movie, which actors would like to see as the lead characters?
Okay, this was a fun one to think about! For Kara, the homicide detective, I would love to see Felicia Day in the role. The rest of the cast stumped me a bit, so I went out and solicited input, but I finally came up with: FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff–Eric Dane, FBI Agent Zachary Garner–Ryan Reynolds, and Rhyzkahl, the Demonic Lord, played by either James Marsden or James Marsters. (Still not quite sure about that one.)
If you were not writing, what would you be doing?
You mean besides whining about not being able to write? Oh, I’d definitely be back in police work–in investigations, preferably. I really enjoyed being a cop, and even though I left the sheriff’s office to go work for the coroner, I think that if I had not sold these books, I would have gone back by now. Even though the pay is crap, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction about the work.
When you are not writing or reading, what do you enjoying doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my family is always number one. After that I really enjoy training in martial arts (I have a black belt in hapkido, and I’m currently training in kenpo.) I also like cycling and weight training, but lest anyone think that I’m some sort of athletic jock–because I’m most certainly NOT–I also loooove good food, and since I live so close to New Orleans, the cycling/weight training is a necessity if I want to avoid a coronary.
If you could ask readers any one question, what would it be?
What do you love best about urban fantasy/paranormal romance?
For more information on Diana Rowland and her books, please visit her website at: http://www.dianarowland.com/.
***Leave a comment answering Diana’s question for a chance to win a copy of Mark of the Demon. Good Luck ***