Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chelsea Cain Interview: 7/1/10

I have been a big fan from day one after seeing Stephen Kings review of "Heartsick" and chasing down the book and just devouring it. I have read each subsequent book on the day they were released. I finally ran into Chelsea in Indy at Bouchercon this past fall and what a wonderfully nice person she was. She also appeared on a panel with another of S&W's favorites Megan Abbott. When I first came up with the idea of doing some interviews for the website, Chelsea was at the top of my list of authors I wanted to interview. And for that, I'd like to thank Hector DeJean who helped bring it all together and make it happen. Thanks to Chelsea, who gave up her time to do this. Chelsea is the author of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell serial killer series, which includes "Heartsick", "Sweetheart" and "Evil at Heart".'s the interview with the terrific Chelsea Cain. Enjoy!

1)When I first read HEARTSICK, I thought it was the best serial killer novel since "Silence of the Lambs". Stephen King gave it rave reviews. Were you surprised at all as to how well it was received?

CC: Thank you. I was surprised that it was received at all. If someone had told me that Stephen King was going to read Heartstick, much less like it, I would have probably been too shy to publish the thing.

2) Gretchen Lowell is a serial killer that people love even though we shouldn't, much like Dexter or Hannibal Lecter. Have you ever been accused of glorifying serial killers or attacked by the media?

CC: Not really. I probably should be accused of that. But Dexter and Lecter have made the leap to TV/film, so those characters reach a lot more people. Also, although Gretchen is a big part of the books, we never experience her POV. She is always seen through the eyes of Susan or Archie. So I think there’s some narrative distance that prevents the reader from totally allying with her. Readers may love her. But they wouldn’t want to have her as a roommate.

3) You once said "if you ever got around to the story of Gretchen Lowell's childhood that you hoped someone takes the pen from your hand and uses it to stab you in the throat". Three books into the series, do you still feel that way or have you since changed your mind?

CC: I still feel that way. Readers ask for it. They beg me to write the Gretchen Lowell origin story. But I don’t think they really want it, you know? Of course we all want to see what makes a person into that kind of personality, but I think that one of the things that makes Gretchen compelling is that we know so little about her. She is completely enigmatic. Archie never knows what’s a lie and what’s truth, never knows what she’s thinking. Once she’s dissected and analyzed, that tension is gone. And she becomes a lot less scary.

4) What are you currently working on & when can we expect to see the next Gretchen Lowell on the shelves? please say it's very soon.

CC: I just finished the fourth book in the series. It’s called THE NIGHT SEASON. Yep, we’re moving away from the “heart” thing. It was just getting a little cute. I think it’s out in March. But there will be new paperback editions of the first three books out this summer.

5) I remember seeing that Heartsick had been optioned and the script was in development. Where does it stand at this time in regards to being a finished product?

CC: It’s now with a whole other team. I can’t talk about details yet, but I’m very excited about the direction. (There’s an actress attached to Gretchen.) But it’s just at the beginning stages – no script yet. So I have no idea if/when we’ll see movie posters in theater lobbies. Though I hope, when they’re made, they have a lot of blood splatter.

6) I remember reading on your website that you didn't like talking to strangers, and I was so surprised after meeting you at Bouchercon in Indy at how comfortable you seemed and how nice & friendly you were with your fans. Are you more comfortable now than you used to be meeting new people?

CC: I love talking to strangers. I just don’t like doing it over the phone. I’m actually very social, and I enjoy that part of the job. I even enjoy telephone interviews – I guess because there’s a clear idea of what we’re going to talk about. Me! Me! Me! It’s small talk that I’m not good at. I hate getting my hair done because it means three hours of chatting. And it’s all this terrible fake exercise. Because neither of us really cares about how the other’s day is going or where we went to high school. She wants a tip. And I just don’t want her to fuck up my highlights.

7) I love the fact you started your own animal cemetery for you & your neighbors and friends. Did anyone find that odd or show concern for you then? Because today they would be wanting you to see a shrink. Am I wrong?

CC: I think this might be the reason why some of my friends were not allowed to come over to my house. My mother never said anything. (Like, “you might want to wash your hands after handling that crow carcass.”) It was only years later that I realized that everyone didn’t have a pet cemetery growing up. I do have this fantasy about someone trying to dig up the yard in that house someday to put in a garden, and finding hundreds of tiny bones.

8) Is it just me, or is their a bit of Chelsea Cain in Susan Ward?

CC: Just between you and me, Susan and I do share some of the same neurosis. It makes it hard when a reader inevitably mentions to me that Susan is stupid and irritating.

9) On your website you give advice to aspiring writers, what made you decide to do this?

CC: Do I? I think that must be a link to a blog I agreed to write for a writing website. I did it because they asked, and I knew the guy who sent me the email.

10) How many mystery writers out there do you think cut their teeth on the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew? Those books have inspired a whole generation of mystery fans & they certainly inspired you?

CC: I think those books turned a lot of us into readers. I went right from Nancy Drew books to Raymond Chandler. I tried reading Judy Blume, but when no one was kidnapped or murdered in the first few chapters, I’d lose interest.

11) Why do you think the New Testament is the most over rated book?

CC: I think I’m just jealous of the sales numbers.

12) I just saw were you're going to be attending Murder and Mayhem in Muskego in Nov., are you gonna catch a Packers game while you're there?

CC: My husband would LOVE that. (He’s from Wisconsin.) But they’re not playing at home that weekend.

13) There are some terrific kick ass women writing mystery's & thrillers today. Look no further than Megan Abbott, Vicki Hendricks, Theresa Schwegel, Sara Gran, and yourself. You guys take no prisoners. Do you think you that you have helped open the door even wider for the next generation of women writers?

CC: I think that door is splintered on the floor.

14) Who are some of the writers that you can't wait to read as soon as their next book comes out?

CC: I pee my pants a little every time Val McDermid publishes a Tony Hill/Carol Jordan book.

15) Had the Green River Killings never happened, do you think you would still have written Heartsick? I ask that because I know that you followed the case closely from the age of 10.

CC: I didn’t follow it that closely. It’s just that I was a kid when he was killing the general vicinity I was living in—so the case affected me. You couldn’t avoid it. So the Beauty Killer is less based on the Green River killer, than on my fear of the Green River killer, if that makes sense. Without him, I’m sure there would have been some other boogieman to take his place.

16) I saw where you were interested in Graffiti, have you seen the new film "Exit Through the Gift Shop" on street art and done by Banksy? A fantastic film.

CC: I haven’t, but I’ve read about it, and it’s on my list.

17) Were you ever a Twin Peaks fan, because it was filmed in your neck of the woods, and it strikes me as something you might enjoy?

CC: I loved Twin Peaks. I was in high school when it was on, and I watched every episode. The character “Molly Palmer” is named after Laura Palmer.

18) I loved the way you used the Stockholm Syndrome to explain Archie's fascination with Gretchen despite the terrible things she did to him. Was Patty Hearst an inspiration for you using that here?

CC: Only vaguely. There have been so many case studies written about people who’ve experienced Stockholm Syndrome. But having grown up with leftist parents, Patty Hearts was certainly a name I grew up knowing. My dad, in particular, was very affected by that case.

19)"Whatever you think this is going to be like" ...."its going to be worse" that line from Gretchen to Archie before she tortures him sends chills up your spine. That's a really great hook, but you were able to sustain it throughout the book. Once you get Gretchen's voice in your it hard to get it out?

CC: No. None of that stuff keeps me up at night. Maybe it should. But it doesn’t. I love Gretchen’s voice. Those are the parts I enjoy writing the most. She’s a really thrilling character to write because she’s wicked and smart and funny, and she’s completely unpredictable.

20) Is this a series we can expect to be around for quite awhile and how will you know when it's time to end it?

CC: I hope to write several more in the series. Absolutely. I have a lot of ideas. I think it will be time to end it the day I sit down and start thinking seriously about a Gretchen-centered prequel.

Final Question: Dharma Girl is currently out of print , any plans to have it reprinted down the road somewhere?

CC: Nope. I love that book. It’s deeply important to me. But I sort of like that it exists in the world for the people who found it and care about it, and that there are a lot of other people who don’t even know about it. Then again, anyone who wants to read a copy can always find it on eBay.

NOIR @ BAR 4 at Delmar Lounge, St. Louis 6/28/10

The 4th Noir@Bar held at the Delmar Lounge in the heart of U. City, may have been the best yet. This will create a good problem for hosts Jed Ayres and Scott Phillips. How can they continue to raise the bar over & over again. On the night of June 28th, Noir hosted authors, Derek Nikitas and Dennis Tafoya, Matthew McBride and Jed Ayres and all read from either a short story or a bit from one of their novels. On this evening Scott Phillips did not read but instead played MC and auctioneer. Phillips helped arrange a private auction for Heidi (a friend of Noir@BAR),who was facing some legal issues & the money raised that night helped to pay her bond. Scott did an amazing job of keeping things moving and entertaining at the same time. Derek Nikitas read from his novel "The Long Division" and Dennis Tafoya read from his newly released novel "The Wolves of Fairmount Park". Jed Ayres & Matthew McBride both read recently penned short stories. Noir@Bar 5, should be on any mystery fans radar that lives within a couple hours drive of St.Louis. In less than a years time, Noir@Bar has established itself as the preimere mystery event in St. Louis. Making appearances so far, is a who's who of some of todays top young mystery writers (Anthony Neil Smith, Frank Bill, Robert Randisi, Scott Phillips, Dennis Tafoya, Derek Nikitas, Theresa Schwegel, Sean Doolittle, Malachai Stone, Matthew McBride, Laura & Pickney Benedict and Jed Ayres.) Noir@Bar 5 is just around the corner so stay tuned to see what's next.