Interview & Giveaway: Nancy Holzner

January 11, 2010 Giveaways, Guests 41

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.

imageNancy 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.

Nancy’s Debut urban fantasy, Deadtown is available now.

imageBook 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?

image 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?

image 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?

image NH: Series I love and wouldn’t miss a book of:

  • 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?

image 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.


    Giveaway Details:

    A brand new copy of Deadtown by Nancy Holzner


    1. Open US residents only
    2. Must be a follower or subscribe via email (right sidebar)
    3. You must include your email – [at] is fine
    4. Leave a comment telling Nancy which of your personal demons you would want Vicky to exorcise
    5. Entries must be received by Midnight MST on Monday January 18th

  • 41 Responses to “Interview & Giveaway: Nancy Holzner”

    1. ParaJunkee

      My personal demon I would like to have exorcised is my addiction to sweets…please please. LOL. As I drink a vanilla latte 🙂

      I'm very excited about this book, can't wait to read it, don't know if I can hold off to see if I won it.

      Follower parajunkee at gmail dot com

    2. Stacy

      I am like Parajunkee…sweets are my downfall! Please, please make me hate them! ha ha

      I have heard a lot of great things about this book, can't wait to read it!


    3. Nancy Holzner

      Abigail, I just wanted to say that I love that zombie cartoon. It cracked me up!

      Parajunkee and tetewa both make a good point. Feeling that you're addicted to something can definitely seem like something from outside yourself is plaguing you. Ridding people of addictions could be a lucrative specialty for Vicky. 🙂

    4. Nancy Holzner

      I see that Stacy and Bethie chimed in with similar thoughts while I was typing up my comment. Yeah, I'm definitely going to have to talk to Vicky about battling the demons of addiction (or maybe just indulgence :)).

    5. Tina

      My personal demon is chocolate. I love it and eat it every day. Although, I'm not sure I want it exorcised from my life.

      I'm a follower.

    6. Rachel M

      My personal demon is the lack of motivation. It usually creeps in and whispers that I don't need to exercise. lol.

      I'm a follower.

      Thanks for the contest! I'm going to have to pick up this book either way! It looks so good! 🙂

    7. Daelith

      I would want Vicky to exorcise my personal demon of worrying about finances. I let it get to me way too much.

      I'm a follower
      cheleooc at yahoo dot com

      Thank you for the interview and contest.

    8. Nancy Holzner

      @Rachel M: That demon visits me, too! I was going to bludgeon it over the head with a dumbbell but I wasn't strong enough to lift it. LOL

      @Daelith: I know what you mean. That's a demon nobody needs.

    9. heatwave16

      Hmmm…I wish I could get rid of my fear of bugs. I hate having that somewhat 'girlie' trait of spiders creeping me out, but they do. I even hate movies that have big bugs in them.

      Can she transfer demons? Like the ones that make chocolate yummy and addictive be transfered to veggies. It would really help to balance my diet. 🙂


    10. Nancy Holzner

      LOL heatwave16, I like that idea. A culinary equivalent to what the alchemists were trying to do when they wanted to turn lead into gold.

    11. Cathy M

      My personal demons are the fear of heights (it keeps me from hiking with my kids), and my food obsession of sour Jelly Bellies, lol.

      am a follower


    12. Amanda Leigh

      My personal demon is my self-doubt, that would be an awesome one to lose.

      I'm a follower and live in the US.


    13. Jen

      I'd love my fear of insects (specifically cockroaches)to be exorcised. I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about them. Brrr.

      Please count me in.


    14. Michelle

      What a great interview. I'm glad to get more info on this book. For me, I'd be looking for Vicki's help in getting rid of my aversion to exercise. Gah! Not a good demon riding my back.

      mmillet at gmail dot com

    15. Nancy Holzner

      @Cathy M: You and me both! I refuse to call my fear of heights a phobia because I think it's a perfectly rational response to a dangerous situation LOL. I wouldn't mind getting rid of it, tho.

      @Amanda Leigh: I agree. Self-doubt keeps us from moving forward. It'd be awesome to send Vicky after it with a flaming sword and a gun loaded with bronze bullets!

      @Jen: I agree with you about insects! Not a big fan of the spiders that were mentioned earlier, either.

      @Anna Dougherty: Banishing fear once and for all would be amazing. I love the way you describe how it would feel.

      @Michelle: Glad you enjoyed the interview. (Abigail asks great questions!) If you figure out how to banish that particular demon, please let me know. 😉

    16. Sarah

      I would love Vicky to exorcise my laziness. I have so many things to do, but it takes me forever to get them done because I am so lazy. I always put things off, not good.

      [email protected]

    17. Moonsanity

      Hmmm…what a good question. I think I'd have to go with self doubt too. Though I don't have it with some things like relationships, but rather when it comes to writing things outside my comfort zone!

      Thanks for the cool interview Nancy!

      I'm a follower.
      brenda (at)

    18. jacabur1

      I am a US Resident live in Central Texas
      Follower of Blog (jacabur) and RSS Subscriber via email and email subscriber for your updates also

      My email is jacabur2008[AT]gmail[DOT]com

      The personal demon I want Vicky to exorcise is my OCD, it makes life too interesting because obsess over everything and panic attacks tend to happen when least expect them…..

      Would love to win a copy of the book, had fun reading all the comments and following all the reviews so far and reading all the different interviews has been just wonderful and informative. They all have convinced me want the book just that much more …..

      Thanks Nancy and Abigail for giving us all the chance to enjoy the process…
      jackie b central texas

    19. cait045

      My personal demon would be I am a workacholic. I always have to be moving and doing something.

      Im a follower

    20. Tiah

      My name is Tiah and I am a soda-alcoholic. We (I, but I need to spread the blame around to make me feel better) go through a case or two a week. I loves me some Diet Pepsi. I am having one now! Please help!

      [email protected]
      I follow!

    21. Nancy Holzner

      @Sarah: Good one. I tend to procrastinate, too, and always end up regretting that I put things off.

      @Stacy Stew: Those demons of appetite… it'd definitely be good to rein them in a bit.

      @Moonsanity: I've been thinking about that idea of self-doubt as a demon and find it very intriguing. Imagine if we could get rid of whatever it is that nibbles away at our self-confidence.

      @Jackie B: Thanks so much for your kind words! I've been all over the place lately–I'm glad you've enjoyed the interviews and other stuff!

      @cait045: Sounds like getting rid of that demon would let you relax once in a while. 🙂

      @Tiah: LOL I don't think any of Vicky's clients has ever asked her to exorcise the Diet Pepsi demon!

      I also wanted to say thank you to Abigail for inviting me here. This is an awesome blog!

    22. kimikimi


      I'd like to get rid of my stomach pouch, frizzy hair & love handles. ha ha

      ki mi ka io @ (no spaces)

    23. ck.twilighter (Chasity)

      Aloha Nancy please have Vicky exorcise my competitive streak. I could really go w/o it!!=)
      I'll be your BFF Vicky!! LOL!!

      I follow and subscribe.

    24. ddurance

      I wonder if the weight gain demon could be exorcised.

      I'm an email subscriber.

      deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

    25. Barbara E.

      My personal demon I'd like to have exorcised is laziness – it's just so hard to get out and get that exercise.
      Deadtown sounds like a fantastic book, I can't wait to read it.

      I'm a follower.

    26. Barbara E.

      My personal demon I'd like to have exorcised is laziness – it's just so hard to get out and get that exercise.
      Deadtown sounds like a fantastic book, I can't wait to read it.

      I'm a follower.

    27. trittn87

      I would have to say that my personal demon is procrastination. I ALWAYS wait until the last minute to do anything, no matter how hard I try to get a jump-start!
      BTW-Really looking forward to reading this book, it sounds like an excellent start to what will be a great series.
      [email protected]

    28. Vickie

      I would like Vicky to please exorcise the Fluff Demon that has taken up residence in my butt. I am tired of trying to do it on my own with the treadmill, the incessant lunges, the elliptical….sigh….

      VWinship at aol dot com

      I am a follower…

    29. Denise

      US Resident, Denisetwin at, subscriber via email. I would want Vicky to get rid of my Demon of Worry.

    30. ChiChai Hana

      My personal demon I would want exorcised is fear; I let it stop me too often to try something new.

      chichai_hana at hotmail dot com

    31. Amydee

      I've been wanting to read this one!

      My personal demon is my phobia of wasps. You wouldn't think it'd be a big deal, but I've lived in Florida for most of my life. They're everywhere! And there's always one hovering outside the front door when I need to leave.

      I'm a follower.

      [email protected]

    32. Anna ♥

      I would love to be exorcised of my fear of creepy crawlers. Not that I want to suddenly get all friendly with those icky bugs or anything. *shudders* But I would love to not run out of a room screaming whenever I see a teeny spider crawling around. XD

      I'm a follower!

      Anna ♥
      [email protected]

    33. Anne J

      I'd love her to exorcise my fear of heights, then I could go on roller coasters with the kids.

      I am an email subscriber

      ajolly1456 at gmail dot com