"I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared to meet me is another matter."
-Winston Churchill

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Bite of Immortality with Denise Verrico author of Cara Mia

Please give a warm welcome to author Denise Verrico.  Thank you so much for being with us today Denise.  I love the synopsis of your book and I can't wait to start reading it.  The cover is gorgeous!

Please tell us a little about yourself.....

I’m originally from the East Coast, but I currently live in Ohio.  My husband and I met doing theatre and have been married twenty years.  I have a punk-rocker son that I’m very proud of.  We’re all roller coaster fanatics.  Other than riding coasters, watching good movies is my favorite way to relax.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Being Human and Dark Shadows are my favorite paranormal TV shows.  My favorite rock group is Queen.  I have seven birds in the parrot family: an African Grey named Gromit, three cockatiels, Pippin, Galadriel and Toby and three budgies, Wacko, Yacko and Dot.

 What do you see as your influences on your writing?

Hmm…my training in the theatre has shaped the way I attack character and conflict.  I see each chapter like a scene in a play, with an individual arc that affects the arc of the entire story.  My love of history, theatre and science plays a big part in Cara Mia.  I like to create characters from time periods that interest me, like ancient Rome, the Holocaust or the American civil war and throw them together.  I think a lot about how the time and place a character came from may have influenced them.  
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Trying to give the characters depth, yet not weigh down the narrative with too much introspection or description.  It’s tricky to show and not tell.  This is a challenge I also happen to like.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

I’m trying to improve my craft all the time.  I have plans for nine total books in this series, and I’ve started other projects, including plays.  A screenplay of Cara Mia is a dream of mine.

 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set

I start with a general outline, but then some character will hijack it and take it to places I hadn’t foreseen.  I’m not a big plotter.  Creating characters is the part I love best.  They come to me after I’ve done some research or read something that really inspires me.  When I create a character, I go back to my training as an actor and do my homework.  I come up with a back-story, attitudes, likes, dislikes and mannerisms, both physical and vocal.  I also try to give everyone an occupation of some kind.  I ask myself questions.  How do they dress and move?  What are their relationships like?  How do they feel about and interact with the other characters.  Most importantly, what do my characters want?  What are their beliefs and motivations?  Conflict arises out of obstacles placed in the characters’ way.  Even minor characters have a story.
The plot of Cara Mia evolved over time.  I had the Mia, Ethan and Brovik triangle roughed out, and then Kurt came into the picture, creating yet another triangle and shaking things up.  Then I became interested in biotechnology and came up with the idea of Mia and Kurt rebelling against their masters to take the secret of immortality to science.  The whole idea of the revolution and the “forbidden science” grew from that.  

 What drew you to write about vampires/paranormal romance/horror/science fiction (please choose your genre here)?

I’ve always found vampires fascinating because they reflect the dark side of humanity.  This is a life-long obsession of mine.  It’s always intrigued me how easily people can turn into monsters under extreme circumstances.  History is full of examples of man’s inhumanity to man.
I’d say my story is urban fantasy with sci fi elements, rather than paranormal romance.  Although Mia and Kurt’s romance and love for one another is an important component to their story, I’ve never really been into romance for romance’s sake, or the vampire as alpha male hero.  My heroine doesn’t need saving.  Oh, she makes plenty of mistakes and bad decisions.  She suffers a lot because of them, but she fights back.

 How do you keep your writing different from the vast variety of
 stories (in your genre) out there today?

I try to think outside of the box (or is that coffin?)  What I’ve tried to do is build a unique world, while not entirely throwing out some of the legendary vampire attributes.  My vamps are still stronger and faster than ordinary humans, but they are biologically mutated rather than “undead”.  They can’t go out in the sun and must drink human blood, but the blood doesn’t have to come from live victims.  I turn to mythology, literature, history and science for inspiration.  My vampires live in a multi-layered society, with cultural customs and even a religion.  There are no werewolves or other supernatural beings in this world and no magical powers.
In my opinion, the key is to create a fresh cast of characters that doesn’t follow the stereotypes.  A hero doesn’t have to be six-two and rugged to be tough.  Kurt is five-six and a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet, but he’s smart and courageous.  He doesn’t treat Mia as a possession but an equal partner.  Also, characters don’t have to be likeable all the time.  Mia can be a bit snarky.  She’s a native New Yorker and doesn’t mince words.


 How did your title come into play?

Cara Mia is an endearment in Italian.  It means, my darling.  It’s something Mia’s father called her as a little girl.  Her master, Ethan also calls her this, but it takes on a sinister connotation.  Mia is a possessive pronoun, conveying his ownership of her.  Mia Disantini loosely means, my little saint.  

 Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters and/or the plot in your book?

The book opens in 1986, with Mia badly beaten and cast out by Ethan in the middle of a winter night to fend for herself.  We see a seemingly helpless young woman who turns out to be neither young nor helpless.  It flashes forward to 2000, to the POV of Dr. Joe Ansari, a neuroscientist at Genpath Laboratories.  Joe is assigned to create a behavioral profile on Mia and her lover, Kurt who are imprisoned in separate cells in the facility.  Mia refuses at first to cooperate, but strikes a deal with Joe, who agrees to deliver messages between her and Kurt.  She tells Joe of a fifty-year journey, fraught with peril and intrigue that led her to Genpath.  But Joe begins to realize that there are details in the story Mia has left out, and he is caught in the middle of a dangerous struggle.

Mia is a strong and independent woman who chafes against a culture that assigns her the role of concubine.  In Kurt, she finds a strong yet compassionate man who loves her for the woman she is.

 Can you tell us a the difference between an Immortal Elder,  Immortal Alpha,  and Immortal Slave?

An Immortyl Elder is the head of one of the thirteen houses of vampires. The fountainhead of Immortyl blood is the Chief Elder, Kalidasa who claims to have been gifted his immortality by the Goddess, Kali. He's essentially a king.  These "Houses" are somewhat like feudal fiefdoms and the elders the Barons.  They are generally the most ancient, but sometimes they are younger and have defeated the previous elder to win the title.  They control territories throughout the old world.  No one can do business or stay in the territory without petioning the elder for permission and paying him tribute.  North America and South America are neutral ground.  The alphas are vassals to the elder and are his "blood".  They oversee the elder's business interests in his territories.  Each elder may have six alphas in service to him.  Slaves fall into two classes, one being a soldier class, called "dogs" and the other being a class of male and female sexual companions and domestics.  In addition, there are Immortyl temple artists and courtesans called Adepts of the Ancient Arts.  They are devotees of the Goddess Kali in an Immortyl Tantric cult founded by the Chief Elder, Kalidasa.  Adepts are the equivilant to an Immortyl celebrity in spite of their slave status.  Lastly, there are runaways and cast-off slaves known as sewer rats, these are mostly kids and teenagers in form, and rogue dogs who sell their services as assassins and mercenaries.


What were your feelings when you first novel was accepted for publication?

Lisa Smith from L&L Dreamspell sent me an e-mail offering me a contract while I was watching the Oscars in 2009.  (Ironically, the actor from Twilight was on at that moment.)  It took three days to sink in.  I walked around in a daze.  Then I was very excited and scared too.  By the way, L&L Dreamspell just published their 100th book!

 Who is your favorite author? What genre of books do you read?

I’ve read all kinds of books from classics to graphic novels.  What actor doesn’t love Shakespeare?  I love historical fiction.  Two of my favorite authors in that genre are Robert Graves and Mary Renault.  My favorite in my genre is Anne Rice.

 Are you working on any projects right now?

Book Three, Fearful Symmetry is going through critique with my writer’s group.  I’m on a third draft of Book Four, Ratopia and I’m kicking around two other novels.  

If you could leave readers with one legacy, what would you want it to
I’d like to take the genre to a new place.  My mission is not only to entertain, but to also raise some questions about human nature.   That’s my lofty goal, but I do like to make people laugh as well.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out in this genre?
I’m still learning myself, but first off, every writer should be a reader and not only in one’s genre.  A writer should read up on all sorts of subjects and observe the world around him or her.  Also, read books on writing.  Join a good critique group who is supportive, but not afraid to tell you when you’re off track.  I’ve worked with mine on books two and three, and I’ve learned a lot.  The free editing advice is priceless.  Don’t try to be like anyone else.  Use your unique experiences and knowledge to write an original story.  There is only one Anne Rice or Charlaine Harris and there is only one of you.  Perfect your craft and find your own niche.  Learn to present yourself and your project in a professional manner.  The one thing writers seldom know about at first is how the publishing industry works.  Research the kinds of publishers and find the right fit for you.  Go to sites like Predators and Editors to learn to avoid pitfalls.

 Any last comments you would like to add?.....(upcoming events,  titles, etc. )

 Twilight of the Gods, Book Two of the Immortyl Revolution will be out this fall.  I’ll be appearing next at Marcon in Columbus, Ohio over Memorial Day weekend.  This interview is the kick-off of my Virtual Book Tour.  For the complete schedule of my VBT, go to my website, blog or Facebook fan page.  I also host interviews and giveaways at my blog.
Cara Mia is available in trade paperback from Amazon (also on Kindle), Borders, and Barnes and Noble’s websites, as well multi-format e-book from Fictionwise and other sites.  If your local bookstore doesn’t stock copies yet, they will special order them.  Autographed copies can be ordered from my website and blog.  Cara Mia merchandise (with the lovely butterfly cover by L&L Dreamspell’s Linda Houle) is sold through http://www.cafepress.com/CaraMiaImmortyl.

Is there a website that readers may find you at?
I’m at www.deniseverricowriter.webs.com and my blog is www.ImmortylRevolution.blogspot.com.

You can follow me at my Facebook fan page, Immortyl Revolution and on Twitter.  I’m also on Live Journal, Bitten by Books in the Blood Bank, Goodreads, Shelfari and I have an author page at Amazon.com.  I’m a member of Authors Supporting Authors.

Thank you so much for stopping by Denise.  It has been such a pleasure chatting with you.  Please be sure to follow Denise on her book tour,  and leave a comment here today for an entry to win a copy of her book.  Also,  by leaving a comment and becoming a follower of my blog,  you will be entered for your chance to win a journal with a book light. (light color may vary)

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