The League Interview: Jeri Smith-Ready


Joining us today in the League Lounge is Jeri Smith-Ready. But it's filthy--Anton threw a party last night for all his alcoholic gamer friends and left the place a mess. Lucky for me, Carrie (the Bookgirl) has agreed to help clean up--I don't think she has any ulterior motives, but we'll see--she's like my little hausfrau (without the oomlaus because I don't know how to make those happen).

So, with that, Jeri and I sit down with foot tall steins of beer. Carrie sulks around in the shadows, sweeping.

Moi: So you're old hat at this book release thing, what with the two "Crow" books on the shelf and all. Did you spend May 13th sitting around drinking Grasshoppers and yawning?

Jeri: I guess from a distance, to a deaf person, it might have looked like yawning. But up close, to the non-hearing-impaired, it looked (and sounded) a lot like yelling. I won't say it was a complete mental meltdown, but my laptop had to be put into protective custody.

I'm all better now. *twitch*

Me: The first thing I noticed when picking up your book was the playlist in the front. How did you pick the music for your playlist or are those your favorites?

Jeri: I actually didn't pick the music for the playlist, I picked the music for the story itself. Then the buyer for one of the major bookstore chains read the manuscript, loved it, and suggested I add to the front matter a list of all the songs mentioned in the text. And when a buyer of a major chain says, "Jump!" you don't ask "How high?". You get on a pogo stick.

The fun part of forming the list was figuring out which songs to choose when they were mentioned only obliquely. For instance, the text in one scene said that Shane played a Bob Dylan song and then a Pogues song. So I had to figure out which songs he would play (I went with "Isis" and "The Old Main Drag," if anyone cares). I also went back in the text and put "a Liz Phair song" in the background of one scene, just so I could add "Flower." It's a perfect song for Ciara and Shane. Every line. (Mom, if you're reading this, you're NOT allowed to look up the lyrics.)

Not all the songs on the playlist are favorites of mine. I wouldn't count myself a big fan of Blue Oyster Cult (or any band with an umlaut in their name), outside of the SNL/Christopher Walken cowbell sketch.

Before I stop yammering about music, I have to mention the most awesome song appearing on the BAD TO THE BONE playlist (coming May 2009): "Christmas Sucks" by Peter Murphy and Tom Waits. It's a thing of beauty. A lot of people *think* they have a dark sense of humor, but this song is the litmus test. It can be heard on vampire Regina's playlist.

Carrie elbows her way in between us and slaps a fresh stein down.

Carrie: The vampires in Wicked Game are pretty unique. Did you consciously set out to have a different vampire or did they just evolve that way (this one is from Carrie)?

Jeri: When I first had the idea almost three years ago, vampires were already EVERYWHERE, so I was not looking to follow the crowd. But what other paranormal creature could get psychologically and culturally stuck in time? It had to be one of the living dead, and I wasn't brilliant/twisted enough to think of zombies.

So for me to enjoy writing about vampires, they had to be different. The 'stuck in time' thing, the OCD behavior, etc. But the twist was so extreme, I had to ground them in many recognizable vampire traditions, like aversion to sunlight, drinking blood, supah-sexeh eyes, etc.

Me (pushing Carrie to the side): The only other vampire DJs I remember were both in movies (Buffy and Blade). Were either of those influences?

Jeri: I've actually never seen BLADE, and I don't remember a vampire DJ in the Buffy movie. Then again, there was that three-day blank spot in my memory that took place after the bright light appeared over my house. Maybe those movies were pumped into my unconscious mind. It sure beats an anal probe. Though not by much.

Carrie (slips back in, kneeing me in the groin): Will there by another book about Ciara, Shane, and the other vamps at WVMP?

Jeri: Yep! BAD TO THE BONE (current bane of my existence, as I'm wrestling the plot into submission for the purposes of, er, submission) will appear May 1, 2009. Beyond that, let's be frank: it's up to readers. Popular series continue, the less popular ones, not so much.

To savvy readers I'm sure it feels like a holdup/hostage situation--the publisher points a metaphorical gun to the book's head and tells them, GIMME YOUR MONEY OR THE SERIES GETS IT!

But it's just business.

Me (slipping sleeping pills into Carrie's drink): You're in or near Baltimore, right? I gotta ask, because I've never met anyone who lived there, is John Waters as important to your life as he is mine? Are there monuments to his honor, perhaps depicting "tea-bagging?"

It's Bawlmer, hon, of course there are monuments to our favorite son (Barry Levinson and Babe Ruth notwithstanding)! A 20-foot statue of Divine stands outside the American Visionary Art Museum. Sadly, the gay strip joint Club Atlantis, home of the infamous tea-bagging ritual, is now closed. Another lost American icon, but you know how it is with the Wal-Martization of the country. Ever since those big-chain gay strip clubs moved in, it's hard for the little guys to compete.

It can safely be stated that Baltimore is like nowhere else. If you ever come here, I promise you a John Waters tour. And a Barry Levinson tour, for the sober day.

Me (nudging Carrie's body with my toe): I'll get beat all up against the head if I don't ask you to tell us about your first sale. What it be?

Jeri (wincing): I entered my second completed novel (the first was just batting practice), urban fantasy REQUIEM FOR THE DEVIL, in the Warner Aspect First Novel contest. It made the semi-finals, and I got a letter from Betsy Mitchell, who said she was passing it on to Paul Witcover, the sf/f editor for their new e-publishing venture, iPublish.com (an unfortunate name, as people kept getting it mixed up with the self-publisher iUniverse). Paul bought it, became my first amazing editor, and it was published in 2001 (and is still available at your friendly neighborhood impersonal online bookseller).

Since the Warner Aspect First Novel contest and iPublish.com no longer exist, my path to publication is irreproducible. But there's the story, useless as it is to anyone but you, who at least will avoid a beating about the head because of it.

Me: I read in your bio that you love cooking, maybe you can help me out, what am I going to do with all this leftover beer?

Jeri: 'Leftover,' as in 'not drunk'? Hmmm...

Leftover Beer
Leftover Beer
Leftover Beer

Sorry, can't help. Those words just don't like each other.

Me: Well thanks Jeri. Sorry about this mess.

I drag Carrie's body to the corner and prop it up next to Anton's.

Me: I hope you'll come back real soon.

Turning back I notice that Jeri has escaped.

*****************
Visit Jeri at her website and don't forget to order Wicked Games, out now.

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