Friday, April 20, 2012

Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts with her nose stuck in a book. This meant that she tended to walk into things, wore glasses before she was out of elementary school, and forced her parents to institute a “no reading at the dinner table” rule. It was probably inevitable that she majored in English in college and then, because there were still a lot of books she wanted to read, continued her studies long enough to earn a masters degree and a PhD.She began her career as a medievalist, then jumped off the tenure track to try some other things. Besides teaching English and philosophy, she’s worked as a technical writer, freelance editor and instructional designer, college admissions counselor, and corporate trainer. Most of her nonfiction books are published under the name Nancy Conner.Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve, where they both work from home without getting on each other’s nerves. She enjoys visiting local wineries, listening obsessively to opera and she says there are still a lot of books out there that she wants to read. Thank you so much for coming by Nancy.

Thank you for inviting me to stop by. I'm very happy to be here!

1. Let’s start off with a summary of your DEADTOWN series for followers that need to bump it up on their TBR list.
DEADTOWN features Victory Vaughn, a shapeshifter who is Boston's only professional demon slayer. Vicky makes her living killing other people's personal demons but finds herself wrestling with bigger, badder demons of her own.
Deadtown is Boston's paranormal district. Three years ago, a mysterious plague hit the downtown at lunchtime on a weekday, killing two thousand Bostonians before mutating into something harmless. Paranormals, who were immune, helped maintain the quarantine zone and deal with the bodies—three days later, the bodies rose. The quarantine zone became the city's paranormal district, with all the newly reanimated “zombies” and other paranormals required by law to live there.
Vicky has a teenage zombie apprentice, and her roommate is Juliet, a 650-year-old vampire who takes exception with Shakespeare's depiction of her. She dates Kane, a workaholic werewolf lawyer whose goal is to establish paranormal civil rights at the federal level. And a book of ancient prophecies, written in the language of Hell, predicts a pivotal role for her in the coming war between demons and humans.
2. Writing reference and how-to books is much different than writing urban fantasy. Was switching an easy slide or did you have to rethink the process? How long did you think about doing it before you took the plunge and started seriously writing urban fantasy?
For several years, I worked on fiction simultaneously with writing the nonfiction books. I published a couple of short stories, abandoned an attempt at a novel, and finished a mystery, which my agent sold to a small press. Switching from nonfiction to fiction became a part of my work day: I'd  spend most of the day writing the how-to or tech book I had under contract, take a break, and then switch to fiction in the evenings. Because we both worked at home, my husband and I liked to go out to a coffee shop in the evening. The switch in venue helped me switch what I was writing. Different surroundings, different project.
The two kinds of writing are very different. For a nonfiction book, I rely on a detailed outline. The outline becomes part of my contract, and I rely on it to structure the book. It helps me know how many pages to devote to each topic and what needs to be covered. Also, technical and reference publishers tend to frown on including zombies. :) For fiction, I start with a much looser outline (a 5- to 7-point bulleted list) that allows for plenty of changes and surprises as I write. It's important to let a story develop organically—and those twists and surprises are the best part of writing.
I started writing urban fantasy because I was reading almost exclusively in that genre at the time. It was so much fun to read, I thought I'd try writing it. And doing that was as much fun as I'd hoped!
3. Do you feel like some of Tina’s personality traits surfaced from past experiences of being a parent?
I have a daughter, but she and Tina don't have much in common. Tina is more a composite of some of my favorite—and most frustrating—students from when I was teaching high school. She started out as almost a caricature of a teenager, but she's grown in ways that have surprised me.
4. Is it sometimes hard to separate yourself when you leave the keyboard, or do your characters follow you and continue to badger you throughout the rest of your waking hours?
When the writing is going well, my characters follow me everywhere. They won't shut up. Occasionally, though, they take off on vacation without telling me where they're going. Not even a postcard.
5. Finish this sentence.
Writing, to me is,.......
...something I do every day. Writing means a lot to me, but everything follows from the practice of writing daily.

6. Do you plan to use mythology as a part of future projects? If so will you stray, or stay with with Mabinogi stories?
I'm interested in all kinds of mythologies, because they use stories to explain how the world works. Taking those stories at their word and bringing them into the present day can be a springboard for all kinds of great plots. That said, I'm thinking of writing some spinoff stories, perhaps featuring Aunt Mab, drawn from other aspects of Welsh stories  and mythology that I haven't worked into the DEADTOWN books. 

7. Recently, the cover for DARKLANDS (due to be released next July) was revealed on your web site. It’s awesome, by the way! Tell us how much input do you have when it comes to designing, and the finished result for your book covers.
Glad you like it! I've been very lucky with my cover designers at Ace.
My editor asks me for input before the cover meeting. At that point, the manuscript may not yet be finished, so she asks about major scenes and any cool new weapons Vicky might have. A couple of months later, I'll see a draft of the cover. By then, the concept is nailed down and the only changes will be tweaks. So my main chance to influence a cover is to give my editor ideas to take into the initial cover design meeting. But honestly, I'm not a design professional, and the actual designers have created covers that far surpassed any ideas I had. 

Nancy was able to convince Vicky to come along with her today and we have a few questions we would like to ask her now. 

8. Vicky, how would you describe the relationship between Nancy and you? Does she listen to you when you have something you need to discuss, or you don’t like a scene she has written?
Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say “sadistic,” but there have been times when I fought my way through a really tough situation and expected a breather, only to hear Nancy asking, “What's the worst thing that could happen now?”—and then brainstorming a whole list of possibilities. She tends to pick the worst one, and I'm the one who deals with the fallout.
I prefer to work solo—that's partly why that whole apprenticeship thing with Tina didn't work out. Still, Nancy and I make a pretty good team. She thinks up impossible situations, and I fight my way out of them. Once in a while, though, she tries to push me into doing something I wouldn't normally do. That's when I dig in my heels, and the story just stops. That gets her attention, and eventually she sees things my way. 

9. What is your all time favorite situation you have found yourself in that Nancy has published?
Something pretty amazing happens in DARKLANDS (something I never imagined could happen), but since the book isn't out until the end of July, I'd better not talk about that yet. So I'll pick a moment in HELLFORGED, when Kane bought me a replacement for a watch I'd lost that keeps outside time in other people's dreams. I knew then that he was paying attention in a way I hadn't realized. Gave me butterflies. 

10. Vicky, tell us three things about yourself that we haven’t read in Nancy’s books.
Okay. One, I love Thai food, but Nancy has never yet set a scene in a Thai restaurant. Two, I'm an Aries (nobody knows this because Nancy let my 29th birthday fall between books). And three, when I was a kid nobody ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Because of some demonic prophecies that may or may not come true, along with a few other reasons, it was assumed my career path was demon fighter. And that was fine—it was want I wanted, more than anything. But one time when I was in high school, I watched ambulance workers help this kid who'd been hit by a car while riding his bike. For a few minutes, I thought that would be a great job, to be an EMT. Instead of killing things, I could save people, or at least try to. That really appealed to me. 

Thanks for visiting with us Nancy and Vicky. For more information about your books and future projects Nancy, where can our followers find you?  

Thanks so much for a fun interview!

You are welcome and please come back anytime, we enjoyed talking to you and Vicky.
Nancy is having an awesome giveaway for one of our lucky followers. She is offering a signed copy of one of her book. Winner’s choice: Deadtown, Hellforged, or Bloodstone. Just be a follower, and leave a comment or question for Nancy with you email address. Nancy also wants everyone to know that this is open to our international followers so take a minute, visit with Nancy, and good luck to all.


  1. Hi Nancy! i'm currently reading the first book, deadtown, and i can't wait to get to the flaming sword part. why did you decide to use a flaming sword, i wonder? why not a flaming crossbow, or super machine gun, or something else?

  2. I stumbled across Deadtown earlier this year and inhaled it. I just finished Hellforged and, well, OMG. Awesome books, Nancy. I can't wait until I can pick up Bloodstone. Thank you for writing them.

  3. Hi, Nancy, I have not had the chance to read your books but they sound extremely interesting and I am adding them to my TBR list!! Thank you so much for the awesome giveaway and I love to see a tough chick be the heroine in books!!

  4. Hi, all! And thanks again to Shonna for inviting me to stop by and for coming up with those really fun interview questions.

    To Sienny: Great question! To be honest, when Vicky first stepped forward in my imagination, she was holding that sword. *She* let *me* know that was her weapon. But I think that there are two main reasons behind the flaming sword: (1) Vicky was trained in centuries-old demon-fighting techniques, so she'd use a weapon that's both ancient and magical and (2) I've read stories where archangels use flaming swords to battle demons. Anyway, I hope you're enjoying the book!

  5. Hi, B.E.! Thank you so much for your comment. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the first two books and hope the series continues to be a fun ride for you--and watch for Darklands, which comes out at the end of July.

  6. Thanks, Jenny! One of the things that's fun about writing Vicky is that she's tough but also a real person who wrestles with fears and insecurities. But of course, she doesn't let those get in the way of getting the job done. :) I hope you'll get a chance to check out the series.

  7. Hello,Nancy I have not read your books yet they are on my to read list. but they sound wonderful!

  8. I loved Deadtown - the idea of a flaming sword really struck my fancy! Also, Tina cracks me up. She's actually a lot like my college students, which is pretty darn sad..


  9. This is a new to me series but it has me intrigued I keep hearing about a flaming sword that has my interest piqued I really wanna read this series. So I would love to win the first in the series.
    GFC Anna Dase
    email berrylicious_cutie(at)hotmail(.)com

  10. Hi S.C.: I hope you'll get a chance to start the series!

    Thanks, Rebe! I know what you mean--Tina has shown up in my own classrooms in many guises. :)

    Hi, Anna: Thanks for your interest, and good luck in the giveaway!

  11. Hi Nancy! I've been planning on reading your books for a long time. Finally have Deadtown and look forward to reading it!

  12. Could you tell us a little about another one of your books, PEACE, LOVE, AND MURDER ??

  13. Amanda, thanks for picking up Deadtown! I try to make the books fun and full of action--I hope you'll like it!

  14. I so love this series. I have read Deadtown and it was great. I also have Bloodstone, but have been waiting to get Hellforged off of the wishlist to continue LOL I tend to go all fangirl when I love a series and my coolness factor goes right in the dumpper, but it is so worth it. Thank you so much for sharing with us today and I can only hope that Vicky's journey continues for many many more adventures to come.

  15. @Shonna: Sure. Peace, Love, and Murder was my first novel, which was published by a small press in 2009. It's a murder mystery set in an upstate NY college town (a lot like the one where I live LOL). Nothing paranormal about it. The protagonist, Bo Forrester, grew up on a commune outside of town and became estranged from his hippie parents when he joined the Army. Years later, he comes back looking for them, but the commune is now a subdivision and his parents have moved on with no forwarding address. He take a job as a taxi driver, and all hell breaks loose when the body of a local philanthropist is discovered in the trunk of his cab. The story combines quirky characters with a fast-moving mystery, as Bo gets caught between the police, who suspect him, and a killer who's desperate to stay hidden.

    PLM was fun to write. I'd been struggling with a more literary novel (and not getting very far) when the idea for the mystery hit me. The story just took off, and I wrote the first draft in a matter of weeks. It's available from the small press that first published it and also as a 99-cent ebook. It's very different from Deadtown, but still fun. I've had a lot of requests for a sequel, which I plan to write later this year.

  16. Hi, Denise--thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. I hope you can get your hands on Hellforged soon!

  17. wow Nancy this is looking really good and in need of a good reading by me very soon.. thank you for sharing.. what are some of your other ideas of other books to come? I'm greedy sorry

  18. Zombies- I love Zombies! Def. going to put this series higher up on my TBR list. Thank you Nancy for stopping by today

  19. Hi, LT, and thanks for your question. I've got two more Deadtown books to write (there will be six in the series), and I'm also working on some shorter works that spin off from Vicky's world, including a prequel about the zombie plague. Besides that, though, there are so many ideas floating around my head that it's hard to choose. As I mention above, I'd like to write a sequel to my mystery, Peace, Love, and Murder. And I've got ideas for a gritty dark historical fantasy/horror novel set in London's East End at the time of Jack the Ripper, as well as a lighter series about the Greek gods, who've retired to upstate NY. Lots of possibilities!

    1. wow Nancy that makes me want to read more about your stories

  20. Hi Wendy, If you love zombies, you might find Deadtown's zombies fun. They're different from traditional zombies in that they retain their personalities and can talk. But that whole being-dead-for-three-days-and-then-reanimated thing has caused some interesting ... changes. Vicky's sidekick, Tina, is a teenage zombie with an attitude. :)

  21. I love the idea of a varitey of paranormals in a book! How many books do you have planned for the series? Would love to read the book and to be a fan like most of the commenters are!

    GFC: books4me

    books4me67 at ymail dot com

  22. I enjoyed the interview and the chance to get to know more about Nancy's work as well as Vicky. I have Deadtown on my TBR pile, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. I think I need to move it up to the top of the pile, because I have a lot of catching up to do with this series.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

  23. Hi books4me: There are three books out in the series right now; the fourth will be out in July, and there will be a total of six altogether. (I just signed a contract for the last two.) After that ... who knows? I might do some spinoff stories or something completely different. :)

  24. Hi, Barbara! Thanks for adding Deadtown to your TBR pile (if it's anything like mine, it's probably more like a TBR tower). I hope you'll like Deadtown when it makes its way to the top!

  25. oooooh i havent heard of this series b4 but im checking it out on amazon now!!!

  26. Hey Nancy, thanks for the interview. I've seen this series on the shelves before, added it to my TBR pile.

    so my q for you (if you have read the Remy Chandler series)how do you think Vicky would handle sharing the turf of Boston with the angel Remiel?

    e-mail drakenfyre75[at]msn[dot]com

  27. ha! pretty slick saying Vicky's favorite scene is in the book coming out! . That was a pretty brilliant question asking Vicky to list some things no one knows about her :) don't enter me cause I have all the books, Just wanted to give some love!

  28. Thanks for the interview. I think this will be a great book. can't wait to read it. Gale