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[SFFWRTCHT] A Chat With Author Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn just released the 10th novel in the bestselling urban fantasy Kitty Norville series, Kitty Steals The Show. The series began with Kitty And The Midnight Hour in 2005. Her other books include After The Golden Age and Discord’s Apple. A 1998 Odyssey Workshop graduate, she’s also a contributor to George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards shared world series. Currently living near the Rockies in Colorado, her stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Talebones and many anthologies. An Air Force Brat, she can be found online via Twitter and her website at She also blogs regular with a group of fellow authors at

SFFWRTCHT: First things first, where’d your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?

Carrie Vaughn: My parents shared their love of science fiction and fantasy early on. So in 2001 at eight years old, FTW.

SFFWRTCHT: YAY Parents! Who are some of your favorite authors and books that inspire you?

CV: Ray Bradbury, LeGuin, Lois M. Bujold, Robin Mckinley ‘s The Blue Sword is a favorite. Steven Erikson, Steven Brust, Patricia McKillip, I could just keep tweeting authors all night…

SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to become a storyteller and how did you get your start?

CV: I started young, age eight, and just kept going. By college graduation, I didn’t want to do anything else.

SFFWRTCHT: How did you get started learning your craft? Study in school? Learn as you go? Workshop? Bribe a genie? 

CV: I wrote a bunch, started sending stories to magazines when I was sixteen. Took ten years to finally sell one. Lots and lots of writing badly. Attended the Odyssey Workshop in ’98, and things took off after.

SFFWRTCHT: The authors favorite authors you mentioned aren’t known for urban fantasy. What drew you to writing that subgenre in particular?

CV: I had a story that fit the genre. UF picked me rather than the other way around.

SFFWRTCHT: When did you sell your first piece? What was your big break? Was it the one at twenty-six?

CV: First story sold to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress 17, and yes I was twenty-six. Big break: the Kitty novel in 2005.

SFFWRTCHT: To your mind, what are the core elements of a good urban fantasy?

CV: Great main character, great worldbuilding, avoiding cliches, having a fresh take.

SFFWRTCHT: Kitty Norville is a radio talk show host bitten by werewolves and now one herself. Which came first-plot or characters? Theme? World?

CV: Once I had the idea for the radio show, I needed a host: along came Kitty. So, the idea came first, then characters, then world, then theme. The theme let me expand the short stories into novels.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you envision it as a series or did that come later?

CV: The series definitely came later. At first, I thought I wouldn’t write more than a couple of short stories.

SFFWRTCHT: How long does it take to write your typical novel?

CV: About six months, plus some revision time.  So far, it’s been about two books a year, roughly. I think I can keep that up.  It feels like a good schedule and it seems to work.

SFFWRTCHT: Outliner or pantser?

CV: Both? I like to know the ending, so I know where I’m going. But I’m often pretty fuzzy about the middle.

SFFWRTCHT: so your first novels started out as short stories? How much more work did those take? with the additions of stuff

CV: Expanding a short story to a novel usually means seeing the bigger picture. After that, it just takes time. Hard to explain. For Kitty, I thought it was such a weird idea at first that it would never be more than a short story. But once I figured out the “coming of age” story of her learning to stand up for herself, the novel took off.

SFFWRTCHT: In Kitty Steals The Show, Kitty travels with her husband, Ben, and his cousin, Cormac, to London for a Paranormal Convention. Tell us a bit about that? And did you struggle at all with keeping it fresh after 10 books?

CV: I figure if I’m challenged, and it’s exciting for me, it’ll stay fresh for the reader. Crazy ideas like traveling to London keep the series fresh I try to have a new project/challenge with each book. I’m always working on something along with Kitty novels. Alternating projects helps keep the series fresh.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you imagine in 2005 you might be writing the 11th book seven years later?

CV: Nope, not even a little. I’m not generally a fan of reading series, and I didn’t think I’d be writing one.  Shows what I know! I’m just going with it, because it seems to be working. I’ve really enjoyed writing the series, it’s been a great challenge and I’m a much better writer because of it.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you have a planned end for the Kitty series? or it is a series you could see expanding upon indefinitely?

CV:  I do have an ending planned for the series, but I don’t know exactly when I’m going to get to it.  I have more I want to write in the meantime.

SFFWRTCHT: Now that Kitty’s life is starting to be somewhat happy. How long until you kill someone and shake things up?

CV: Funny you should ask…just kidding. Rocks the House may have a shocking moment, but not a death.

SFFWRTCHT: What drew you to writing about shapeshifters?

CV:  Way more interesting to me than vampires?

SFFWRTCHT: How did you decide which werewolf lore to use in the Kitty books or did you just make it up?

CV: It’s a combination. Mostly movie lore since people are familiar with it, and I could comment on it. But I also wanted to incorporate actual wolf biology and behavior, to give my werewolves some realism. I wanted a lore where my werewolves could be functional, and not angst all the time over being werewolves. I was tired of werewolves stories were it was all about the beast within, yadda yadda, and then you die, the end.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like-specific block? Write `til you reach word count? Grab it when you can?

CV: I try to do about 1000 words a day. I do a little every day, even if it’s outlining, revising, rather than word count.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you have any writing rituals or tools? Scrivener? Word? Something else? Do you write to music?

CV: No rituals, really. I listen to music. My dog sleeps next to the desk. Walking the dog is a cherished break in the day.

SFFWRTCHT: You’ve also contributed to Wild Cards. What are the challenges and blessings of a shared world series project?

CV: I’m an old fan of Wild Cards, so it’s great basically getting paid to write fanfic. The challenge is subsuming my writer ego to the group project. And mourning stories that end up on cutting room floor.

SFFWRTCHT: How’d you come to be involved with that?

CV: I know Daniel Abraham and asked him how he got involved, then went to Albuquerque and pestered George and Melinda until they let me in.

SFFWRTCHT: Are you planning to continue participating and when can we expect something new from you there?

CV: I am. I keep telling myself I don’t have time, but I can’t resist. Next new Wild Cards book is Lowball, and I’m in that one with a sitcom like story.

SFFWRTCHT: Are you at all involved with the Wild Cards series/movie? I know Melinda is scripting at least the pilot.

CV: Not directly involved. Melinda’s writing the script. If she uses my characters, she’ll talk to me about it.

SFFWRTCHT: Besides Wild Cards, your novel After the Golden Age is also about superheroes. Have you been paying attention to other people exploring superheroes in novels, like Adam Christopher?

CV: Not as much as I should. There’s a lot going on right now with superheroes. I’ve got Adam’s book on the pile.

SFFWRTCHT: Any plans to do a sequel with your superhero characters or perhaps another standalone?

CV: Oh yes — I’m working on Age Of Tin right now. It’s about the kids. Look for Hex Appel ed. by PN Elrod – there’s a Grant story in that anthology.

SFFWRTCHT: What about Discord’s Apple/Evie Walker? Any further plans with the magical storeroom?

CV: No, that one really is a standalone in my mind.  For me, that one was a story about family, history, war, etc., and I covered what I needed to.

SFFWRTCHT: You’ve got Voices Of Dragons, your first YA. Is the new YA a sequel?

CV: I want to write a sequel to Voices of Dragons, but it’s actually a different project I’m working right now.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you find any challenges to writing YA vs. writing for adults?

CV: The challenge with YA is remembering what it’s like to be a teen and taking that mindset seriously. I try to approach YA exactly the same, just remembering my characters are teens, and real people, and their problems are real.

SFFWRTCHT: What genres besides urban fantasy are you writing in?

CV: I’ve written SF short stories. I was nominated for a Hugo last year for an SF short. I have plans for a novel or two. Or at least a space opera novel! Love space opera… I have an epic fantasy I want to write. So many genres!

SFFWRTCHT: What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

CV: Best: focus on writing the next book and making it great. Promotion is secondary. Worst: write to the market. (That never works, really.)

SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?

CV: As mentioned, my current WIP is a sequel to my superhero novel After the Golden Age, called Age of Tin. I’m also working on that YA. Future projects: At least four more Kitty books, including, probably, a spin off starring Cormac. Lots more short stories. Kitty Rocks the House will be out spring 2013. I have about a million projects on the back burner, so I hope you’ll always see something new from me.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends(forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.