I’m thrilled today to welcome Nancy Holzner, author of the just released Deadtown (you can read my review HERE, I loved it) to All Things Urban Fantasy. Be sure to check out the giveaway detail below for a chance to win a copy of Deadtown.
Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts. She majored in English in college and then 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. Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve. She enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera.
Book Description: They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders — but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…Vicky’s demanding job keeping the city safe from all manner of monsters is one reason her relationship with workaholic lawyer (and werewolf) Alexander Kane is in constant limbo. Throw in a foolhardy zombie apprentice, a mysterious demon-plagued client, and a suspicious research facility that’s taken an unwelcome interest in her family, and Vicky’s love life has as much of a pulse as Deadtown’s citizens. But now Vicky’s got bigger things to worry about. The Hellion who murdered her father ten years ago has somehow broken through Boston’s magical protections. The Hellion is a ruthless force of destruction with a personal grudge against Vicky, and she’s the only one who can stop the demon before it destroys the city and everyone in it.
ATUF: Can you tell us a little about Deadtown?
NH: Deadtown takes place in an alternative version of Boston. Three years earlier, a virus turned two thousand Bostonians into zombies. The former quarantine zone has become Deadtown, a city-within-a-city that’s home (by law) to Boston’s paranormal community. Shapeshifter Vicky Vaughn lives there, along with her vampire roommate, her teenage zombie apprentice, and her on-again, off-again boyfriend Alexander Kane, a workaholic werewolf lawyer.
Vicky kills other people’s demons for a living: personal demons of fear, guilt, and revenge. When one of her clients is horribly murdered, Vicky must face a bigger, badder demon—one from her own past—to protect the city.
ATUF: I read that the original title of Deadtown was Darktown. How and why did that change come about?
NH: Back when I was writing the book, my working title was actually Zombie Town. (I thought of the book by that title for a couple of years, but it sounds odd to me now.) My editor at Ace wanted to change the title for a couple of reasons, the main ones being that it suggested horror more than urban fantasy and that readers may have certain assumptions about zombies that don’t apply to the zombies in my book. Those were both good points, so we set to work coming up with a new title.
We went through a back-and-forth period where we kicked around more than a dozen possible titles. Darktown was one, and for a while it looked like we were going to go with that, but then the consensus at Ace was that Deadtown would be better. It suggested zombies without screaming that word and had a stronger sense of danger than Darktown.
ATUF: What made you decide to borrow from Welsh mythology in creating Deadtown?
NH: I’ve always liked the story of Ceridwen and Gwion Bach from the Mabinogi. Ceridwen is a witch/goddess who’s brewing a potion of knowledge and power for her infant son. She hires a boy, Gwion, to stir the potion for her for a year and a day. Just as the potion reaches its full power, Gwion steals it (kinda by accident, but still), and the furious Ceridwen chases him. The now-powerful Gwion changes into a hare so he can run faster, and Ceridwen becomes a greyhound to erase his advantage. The chase continues like this—he becomes a fish, she pursues him as an otter; he turns into a bird, she turns into a hawk—until the exhausted Gwion dives into a pile of wheat and becomes a piece of grain in an attempt to hide. Ceridwen changes into a fat black hen and eats the whole pile, Gwion included. Later, she gives birth to him anew, and he grows up to be Taliesin, the great Welsh poet.
I thought that was a cool origin story for a race of shapeshifters who were a little different from those already prevalent in urban fantasy. The name of Vicky’s race, the Cerddorion (pronounced ker-THORR-yon) means “sons of Ceridwen.” The legend also suggested to me some of the limitations of Cerddorion shapeshifting: When Ceridwen swallows Gwion, she takes his shapeshifting ability back into herself, so in Vicky’s world, only females can shift. And since there’s no mention of further shapeshifting after Taliesin is reborn, those females lose the ability to shift if they give birth. It adds an interesting level of tension and conflict to Vicky’s supernatural ability.
ATUF: Your zombies are nothing like the mindless animated corpses in movies and videogames. What made you decide to portray them the way you did?
NH: Well, there’s only so much fun you can have with a mindless corpse. I knew from the start that I wanted the book’s zombies to be actual characters who could think and talk, not symbols or plot devices. Also, I was looking for something that would force the humans to acknowledge the existence of the paranormals they’d been trying to ignore. Nothing like a zombie plague to make you realize that werewolves and vampires might also exist.
ATUF: Where do you fall on the Humans and Paranormal Americans living together issue?
NH: That’s an interesting question. Kane obviously believes that it’s possible and desirable for humans and paranormals to live side by side as equals under the law. But he’s a strong believer in social justice, and not all paranormals share his views. There are some who see humans as prey and prefer to remain hidden. The humans are smart to be cautious, but they’re not so smart to think they can control paranormals by passing laws. This is a conflict that grows as the series continues.
ATUF: If you could hire your main character Vicky, which of your personal demons would you have her exorcise?
NH: Good question! I wish it were that easy. In Vicky’s world, the demons who feed on fear, Drudes, are the demons that cause nightmares. I don’t have nightmares very often, but there are a few fears I wouldn’t mind getting rid of. I’d start with my fear of heights and my related fear of driving across bridges.
ATUF: What are some of your favorite urban fantasy books past, present, or future?
- Rachel Morgan by Kim Harrison
- Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs
- Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
- Allie Beckstrom by Devon Monk
A couple of recent debuts I really enjoyed are Gail Carriger’s Soulless and Kelly Meding’s Three Days to Dead. I’ve heard great things about Nicole Peeler’s Tempest Rising, which is currently at the top of my TBR pile. And I read and enjoyed Sean Cummings’s Shade Fright in manuscript form, so I’m looking forward to its release later this year.
ATUF: Do you have a dream cast in mind if Deadtown were to be made into a movie?
NH: I think Deadtown would make a really fun movie, but I’ve avoided thinking of the novel in those terms, because I don’t want actors to overshadow the characters as they appear in my mind. They’re like real people to me. It’s sort of like this: Although I could probably imagine an actress playing my best friend or my mom or my daughter in a film, I’d never want the actress’s face superimposed (so to speak) over the real person’s. If that makes any sense. That said, I’m always interested to hear opinions on this question from readers.
ATUF: Peace, Love, and Murder: A Bo Forrester Mystery was published this past August. What was it like juggling two different genres and do you have plans to write another Bo Forrester mystery?
I wrote the two books in sequence. After I finished Peace, Love, and Murder, I started querying agents to see if anyone would be interested in representing it. At the same time, I wanted to start a new project. I thought about writing a sequel to the mystery, but I didn’t know whether the first book would ever get published, so I wasn’t sure that I wanted to work on continuing a series that might never get off the ground. I’d had an idea for an urban fantasy series that I wanted to write and it wouldn’t leave me alone, so I jumped into that project, which became Deadtown.
I’ve sketched out the plots for two more Bo Forrester mysteries, but at this point I can’t say whether I’ll follow through and write them. I want to follow Vicky’s story through to its end, and my day job limits the amount of time I have for writing fiction.
ATUF: Can you tell us anything about the sequel to Deadtown? Do you have more ideas to continue the series beyond that?
NH: The sequel picks up a couple of months after Deadtown ends. Actions that Vicky took in the first book come back to haunt her (literally) and she travels to Wales to get further training so she can face this new threat. In Wales, she learns some troubling things about her family history and meets a distant relative who has plans for her, in line with his own unholy ambition.
I do hope to the series beyond the sequel. I’m currently working on proposals for three more books. I’ll be bringing in more Welsh mythology, deepening Vicky’s relationships, and ramping up the conflict.
Thanks so much Nancy! Come back anytime.
A brand new copy of Deadtown by Nancy Holzner
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