Way back in 2011 I considered myself very lucky indeed to snag an interview with the undisputed queen of paranormal chick lit, Mary Janice Davidson! Even tho we've lost touch since 2014 I and the human have followed her career. We were very sorry to see the Queen Betsy series end, but never fear, MJ has other great ideas in the works.
To reminisce, we are reprinting our very first interview with MJ! (No spoiler alerts necesssary, this was done in 2011, remember!!!!!)
Well, Kitties, the big day has finally arrived! I cannot tell you how unbelievably thrilled I am to have (drumroll, please) the fabulous, queen of paranormal chick-lit herself, MARYJANICE DAVIDSON in my hotseat!
For those of you living under a rock and do not know MaryJanice, here’s a bit about her from her website:
MaryJanice Davidson invented a) her children, and b) the vampire chick lit genre. Also the Internet. She is kind to (some) children and (occasional) small animals, and enjoyes referring to herself in the third person. Appearing several times a year on the best-seller list, as well as occasional Federal "person of interest" sheets, she takes time from the living hell that is being paid to do what she loves best to seek out the nearest Cinnabon franchise. Her goals include working for world peace, figuring out how to make potstickers, and speaking at writer and reader conferences around the world. (Australia is still recovering.)
Visit her blog to check out the antics of some of MJ's heroines (Vampire Queen Betsy, FBI Agent Cadence/Shiro/Adrienne, and Jennifer Scales), eyeball book excerpts, see where she'll be any given week, play the "who do you want to play Betsy/Cadence/Jennifer in the coming movie?" game with other fans, and mock her weekly. She occasionally tolerates getting mail from readers at email@example.com , has a Facebook page, and absolutely zero interest in Twitter.
And now, without any further ado, I present...MARYJANICE DAVIDSON! Unplugged and Uncensored! In my Hotseat!
R: Hello, MaryJanice! Welcome to my hotseat!
MJ: Thank you so much for having me. ROCCO!
R: We’ll get right to it: I have heard that your road to publication started out as an e-author. Can you tell us a bit about that journey?
MJ: Sure. I had a decade’s worth of rejection slips from various print publishers (hilariously, many of the publishers who now ask my agent or me for cover quotes for their authors) and was pretty discouraged. So I decided to try my luck with e-pubs. Their overhead wasn’t nearly as high, so they could take chances on the more out there ideas (say, a secretary who loves designer shoes getting fired and run over on her 30th birthday, only to return from the grave as queen of the vampires). UNDEAD AND UNWED was originally an e-book.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the big paper publishers were keeping an eye on the e-pubs. My Berkley editor, Cindy Hwang, heard about U&U, bought it online like any customer, downloaded it, and read it. She called a few days later to offer to buy the print rights. Since I hadn’t queried anyone at Berkley, or pitched anyone at a conference, I was pretty astonished and assumed it was all a cruel, sadistic joke. And that’s how it all started.
R: A very encouraging story, meow! Now, can you tell us a little bit about your writing environment and/or any rituals you go through before sitting down to write?
MJ: Mostly my rituals involve the eating of chocolate, showering my assistant with verbal abuse, and watching re-runs of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. (Dammit, Dennis can be saved! He just needs the love of a good woman. Or my love.) Ironically, though I have the option of using two beautiful offices (one at our year-round residence, and one at our cabin in Wisconsin) I usually plunk down on the nearest couch with my laptop. And also chocolate. And also the TV remote.
R: You write contemporary as well as paranormal, and you’ve been called the “queen of vampire chick-lit”. What’s your favorite genre to write in/read?
MJ: Right now, it’s definitely paranormal romance, closely followed by...I guess it’d be romantic suspense? In addition to my vampire series, I’m writing a trilogy for St. Martins Press about an FBI agent with multiple personality disorder. There’s not a witch or werewolf in sight in those books, but I love writing them! And if I get hung up on a problem in the Betsyverse, I can switch to another manuscript to see if the log jam in my brain will clear a little easier.
Much as I love the genre, I almost never read anything in paranormal romance these days because I’m in that world so much, creating my own stories. That sound I keep hearing, the one coming from inside my head, sounds a lot like frying eggs...that can’t be good...better read an old Carl Hiaasen novel for a while...
R: If you could be a character from one of your favorite books (not your own), who would you be?
MJ: Wow...tough one! Hmm...not Scarlett O’Hara (too much drama, not to mention the slow starvation during the war years). Not one of Carl Hiaasen’s characters...their lives and experiences are hilarious, but they tend to get shot. Same with Andrew Vachss...his books have these wonderful dark characters who had horrific childhoods and now run around New York City scamming pimps, pedophiles, and crooked lawyers.
I’d have to go with a superhero from one of my eight zillion graphic novels (I’ve been reading comics since I was 12). The Invisible Woman, I think...she’s probably one of the most dangerous (and underrated) superheroes ever imagined, plus she’s married to a brilliant man who never so much as glanced at another woman, and her family life is so dear to her...she never loses her perspective, no matter how many villains she pummels. I’m always amazed at how underrated the character is...she can pop an invisible force field anywhere. Dark alleys. Amusement parks. THE MIDDLE OF YOUR BRAIN. She can kill you with a thought, and no one seems to put that together and see her as very, very dangerous. There was a parallel universe Fantastic Four a few years back where Susan Storm was big-time evil, and pretty much RULED THE WORLD. Because she could put an invisible force field in YOUR BRAIN.
R: If you could trade places with any author, past or present, who would it be and why?
MJ: I wouldn’t, actually! Nope, I’m not budging from this body/life/career. I’m well aware that I’m ridiculously fortunate: I’m getting well paid to do one of my favorite things, I can write anything I want and pitch anything I want, over a million copies of my books have sold, and I usually make at least one best-seller list a year. As above: ridiculously fortunate. Would never change places. Ridiculous. And fortunate!
R: You’ve mentioned in past interviews an interest in screenwriting. How would you bring the “Betsy” saga to the big screen? Who would you want to play her and Sinclair and why?
MJ: I’ve always thought Jenna Elfman (Dharma from Dharma and Greg) would be a great Betsy. Clive Owen (though he cannot pass for a man in his late teens/early 20s, which is when Sinclair was turned by his greatest and most loyal friend, Tina) for Sinclair, just because I love love love Clive Owen. Or Karl Urban...oh my God, the deliciousness that is Karl Urban...if I drool much more I’ll short out the keyboard again...
While we’re tossing around wish lists, I always thought Queen Latifah would be a fantastic Jessica (yes, Jessica is super skinny, but the character is far more about attitude than weight), Amanda Seyfries would be a great Laura (the Anti-Christ), and Jennifer Coolidge (the nail technician from the Legally Blonde movies) for the Ant, Betsy’s dead stepmother (currently Satan’s assistant in Hell, which only confirmed every suspicion Betsy ever had about her).
What’s exciting is that The Betsy Show (for lack of the actual title, at least for now) is coming to Germany! They offered me a contract for a 90-minute pilot and 6 episodes, which I jumped at. So we’ll see how that goes...meanwhile, my agent is shopping Betsy & Co. around Hollywood, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Also my toes. Ow! Cramp. We actually had an offer from Disney, but turned it down...Disney’s great, but when they want the rights to something, they want EVERYTHING. Not just stuff you’ve already written. Stuff you might one day eventually write, maybe. The people who shot Bambi’s mom are not to be messed with. My agent and I kindly (and respectfully) turned them down.
R: That is interesting, meow! Do you listen to music while you write, if so what’s on your playlist?
MJ: Not while I write, but I will admit that it’s pretty much all 80s, all the time on my iPod. Also, One Night In Bangkok is the single greatest 80s song in the history of 80s songs. Suck on that, Sting.
R: What do you find is your biggest challenge in keeping Betsy and Sinclair “fresh”?
MJ: It can be tricky, because an awful lot has happened to the characters in a very short time. And as much as I love the Betsyverse, there are only so many shoe sales I can write about without getting near-permanent brain-freeze. Thus the shake-up seen in UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED (weirdly, despite the title, many readers assumed that was the last book in the series). There were more shake-ups in UNDEAD AND UNDERMINED, but I’ve asked my readers not to fret too much...
*** (Caution – minor SPOILER!)
...because I’m a Disney ending writer, and Betsy WILL save the day in UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE. The things we feared in UNFINISHED
*** (Caution – another minor SPOILER!)
will be fixed, or will never come to pass. Or weren’t what we thought they were. Things will work out, one way or another. Y’know, eventually. After another shoe sale. And several Orange Juliuses. And maybe a nap.
R: Meow, our readers appreciate the sneak preview! So, how far do you envision taking this series, and are any spinoffs planned?
MJ: I’d like to write at least 2 more after UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE, and while no spinoffs or planned, I’d love to do a couple of books where Laura, the Anti-Christ, is the main protagonist. Next year I’ll be working on a paranormal anthology, UNDEAD AND UNDERWATER, which will have a werewolf novella, a story about my super hero with OCD, and a Betsy/Fred the mermaid team-up. Be afraid.
R: Ooh, sounds great. What do you love the most about your work?
MJ: What I love about my work today is what I loved when I was 13: getting the clutter of stories trapped in my teeny brain written down. Out, out, damned stories! If I couldn’t write them down, they’d just stick in there. Like fishhooks. Which, you know...ow.
R: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
MJ: Quit my series of SDJs (Stupid Day Jobs) to write full-time. It wasn’t so much crazy as scary. Many, many people thought this was an extremely bad move on my part, not lease because I never went to college but was making a decent living doing office work. But my husband, Anthony (he writes the Jennifer Scales weredragon series with me), was 100% supportive, and he was the one who was proved right. Thank goodness!
About a year or two later, I did some number crunching and was amazed to realize that, if my books kept selling the way they were, I would eventually earn more than my husband, who had a Master’s from Harvard. This had never happened in our marriage, and I wasn’t quite sure how my alpha husband would react. So one night I said, “Uh, hon, if my books keep selling like they have, I might...I mean, I’ll probably make more money than you next year. What d’you think about that?” He blinked at me in surprise and said, “What, are you kidding? I wish you were making more than me right now!” To say he was fine with it would not even come close. Thrilled with it. Delighted with it. I’ll never forget the surprise and hilarity of that moment.
R: What advice do you have for writers just starting out?
MJ: Listen carefully: Ten. Years. Of. Rejection slips. That was not fun. Writing is fun, but getting rejected, not so much. But that’s what it costs. You’re basically in sales, and salespeople hear 9 “no thanks” for every 1 “sure, I’ll take it”. And that’s a conservative estimate. I started writing when I was 13, and started submitting for publication in my early 20s. Berkley knocked on my door when I was 33, and UNDEAD AND UNWED hit shelves in 2004 (I’m 42 right now). If I’d given up at any point in those years, I’d still be trapped in SDJs. Hang in there. When you get a rejection slip, send something else out immediately. If they don’t like your book, that doesn’t mean they don’t like you (something I’ve noticed a lot of us have trouble understanding). And write. WRITE, dammit! Write and submit and write more and submit again. You will not improve if your manuscript is under your bed and you’re sick to death of looking at it. You will not improve if the only person who looks at your work is your mommy. Write something else and haul that sucker out when a couple of months have gone by. Then write more. And then more. Write. WRITE, DAMMIT!
It can be tedious, and the learning curve can be long. But the rewards are astonishing. Unimaginable and amazing and wonderful and worth every rejection slip. WRITE, DAMMIT!
R: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
MJ: Um...well, my mom broke the world record in silhouette shooting when I was 6, and my folks regularly won shooting tournaments. When I was a teenager, I won a few as well. We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, so my dad taught me how to hunt and fish, and by the time I was 14, I was regularly helping put food on the table. (I can already hear the shrieking from the animal rights people, and I respect your beliefs though I don’t share them. But I also hate Hamburger Helper without the hamburger, thus the hunting. Do not speak to me of Portobello mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms do not taste like beef. They taste like mushrooms.)
I’ll never forget something my mother-in-law said, a woman I respect and love dearly (uh, now). She was pretty horrified to find her son was dating a woman who was the polar opposite in almost every respect: religiously, politically, economically, a Master’s vs. a high school diploma...different in every way (which, since we’ve been married 17 years, seems to have worked out). She wouldn’t let my husband and his siblings so much as pick up a stick and pretend to shoot it when they were kids, that’s how little she cared for guns of any kind. Enter moi, who might as well have walked into her house with a 12-guage shotgun strapped to my back, hissing, “Hola, beeches!” like Ben Stiller in Ron Burgandy: Anchorman.
She was super polite and nice, but couldn’t quite hide her apprehension (“Where should I put this shotgun? Never mind, I’ll unload it and keep it in the guest bathroom.”). It was Easter weekend, so there were tons of relatives milling around and delicious smells in the air when she said: “I just can’t believe you go hunting. It sounds fairly...what do you shoot? You shoot ducks and deer? Oh, the poor—oh, look! The lamb chops are ready!”
R: And now, a little thing I call:
Just for Fun:
Day or Night person? Day!
Cat or Dog? Dog! (Meow, and I liked you so much until that answer! Nothing I can do to change your mind?)
Hawaii or Paris? Hawaii!
Ryan O’Neal or Ryan Gosling? Karl Urban!
Favorite Drink? Orange Julius!
Favorite TV Show? Too many: 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny, Sons of Anarchy...
Favorite Movie? Gone with the Wind
Favorite Author (other than yourself J) Carl Hiaasen and Andrew Vachss
R: This has been a blast! Thank you, Mary Janice!
MJ: Great questions, ROCCO! Thank you. You are one cool cat.