In Their Words: Colleen Gleason

The Rest Falls Away: The Gardella Vampire Chronicles (Signet Eclipse)Rises The Night: The Gardella Vampire Chronicles

I first encountered Colleen Gleason and her wonderful vampire series when someone recommended her work in the comments of this blog. A short time later, she herself commented here, and we’ve exchanged blog comments ever since (though, that’s only been a few months). She is warm, funny, and completely approachable, and even though I confess to not being a particular fan of the regency period, I have become a fan of her series because the themes she addresses are universal, though her approach is completely original. I’m tickled, then, to offer this interview on the very day the third book in the series is being released.

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Name: Colleen Gleason
Most Recently Published Work: The Bleeding Dusk: The Gardella Vampire Chronicles (#3)

Colleen’s brief bio:

Colleen was born and raised in Michigan, and worked in the health care industry in sales and marketing for more than fifteen years before selling her first book. She currently resides near Ann Arbor with her family and is working on the fifth book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles.

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Interview Part One | Interview Part Two

In Their Words: Colleen Gleason (Part 1)

Intro | Part Two
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What question are you never, or rarely, asked in interviews, that you really wish people would ask? How would you answer it?

Hmm. I really can’t think of anything that I haven’t been asked. I must have good interviewers.

Conversely, what question are you often asked, that you really don’t like to answer? What don’t you like about that question (no, you don’t have to answer it)?

How are sales/how’s the book doing–mainly because, unless the book hits a best-seller list, it’s pretty hard to tell how a book is really doing (and what does that mean, anyway?) for at least a year. It’s a nebulous question, and there’s not an easy answer.

Who in your life was/is the greatest influence – good or bad – on your writing?

I think my agent had a big hand in helping me to get my writing to a different level. When she first took me on, I was writing well, and that’s why she wanted to work with me. But we had several conversations about–literally about–word choices. Very specific ones, and those conversations helped me to see a fairly simple but effective way to bring my writing to another level. It sounds like such a small thing, but in a way, it was a big thing.

I’ve also been influenced by my favorite authors, because I see their techniques and learn from them, using and adapting to fit my own stories, as far as craft goes.

And other big influences are my two critique partners, who read everything I write, every week, and really support and motivate me to keep writing. They’re tough, and they know their stuff. I don’t think I’d be here without them.

Do you write in longhand first, or do you compose at the keyboard? Tell us about your preferred pens, ink, paper, or platform and program.

I write everything in Word on my Macbook. Then I transfer it to my iMac and fine-tune it. I write one draft, massaging, muscling it into shape as I write–instead of writing one complete draft, then going back over it. I’m constantly editing/rewriting, tweaking, fine-tuning. At the end of the book, I do make a final pass for things like consistencies…but usually that’s pretty minor, since I’ve been pounding the book into shape all along.

What do you consider a “full day’s work” of writing? Do you measure by number of hours, or number of words? Do you spend time doing mundane chores so that you don’t have to write?

I am a great procrastinator! (I think many writers are.) There are so many other fun things to do on the computer besides write–read/answer fan mails, emails from my editor or agent, blogging, “researching” on the Internet, reading gossip columns (ahem). And if I’m sitting at my computer, I’m at least “at work” even if I’m not working.

So, I usually do a great deal of writing away from my desktop, and on my laptop, in a place where I can’t get internet. I often sit in restaurants and/or coffee shops and put my earphones in and plug away, without distractions.

As for a full day’s work…well, I like to try for 5 pages a day, but at the beginning of the book, I definitely chalk up fewer pages. But I make up for it when I get near the end, sometimes doing 10-20 pages in a day.

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Intro | Part Two

In Their Words: Colleen Gleason (Part 2)

Intro | Part One
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What are you reading these days? Or, what types of things do you like to read when you have time?

I read a variety of things, but I generally stay away from books in the genre that I write–namely, at this time, vampire books. I like to have a clean slate in my head when writing, and not worrying about what’s been done before or what hasn’t. It allows me to be freer in a way.

I’m currently reading A Mortal Bane by Roberta Gellis, who wrote The Roselynde Chronicles — one of my all-time favorite series of books. I recently finished Jamaica Inn by Daphne duMaurier and Duchess on fifth Avenue by Ruth Ryan Langan.

Got tunes? What’s flowing from your headphones or speakers while you write?

Lately I’ve been listening to either Michael W. Smith’s praise and worship music, or a party shuffle from my iTunes library.

How do you start a project? Do you begin with a random idea or an urge to cover a topic, or does research inform your choices? Once you’ve got an idea, do you outline, or just write what comes?

Since I’m writing a series now (and in fact, am writing the last book in the series), I’m already in the middle of one long story, so to speak. So I have a better idea of where it’s going than when I start a brand new project. However, even so, I still don’t plot very specifically before I begin. I have a basic idea of where the story is going and what’s going to happen, and I fill in the details as I write. And sometimes, I take a detour, or the book goes in a different direction than I’d planned….but I still end up in the same place.

When I’m starting a brand new idea, I generally sit down and just write–the first chapter or two–and then I sit back and try and figure out who these people are and what they’re doing. Then I write some more and come up with a general synopsis, and away we go!

Describe your ideal book signing. Is it in a large chain bookstore, or a smaller independent one? Is there a café? Do they have food and drinks that tie in with your book? What is the audience like?

Oooh…fun question!

It doesn’t matter to me where the signing is, or whether there’s food or drink (although I’m never one to pass up food OR drink!).

I have no problem speaking in public, especially about things like my books. So a setup where I can talk and take questions from the audience is wonderful for me. I love to have both readers/fans and non-readers, so that the conversation can go in different directions–some specifics about the books, and some in general about writing.

Tell us a bit about your current project. What’s it about? When is it coming out? Is it drastically different from your last work, or continuing a similar theme? What do you want prospective readers to know?

My newest release, The Bleeding Dusk, is out on February 5, and it continues the story of Victoria Gardella Grantworth. It’s the middle book of the five about her, and in many ways, it turns several aspects of the series on its head. I just finished writing the fourth book, When Twilight Burns, which will be out in August 08. And I’m currently writing the fifth and final book about Victoria.

As for prospective readers…the books can be read out of order, but I don’t suggest it, only because it is one long on-going story about Victoria and her struggle to balance her life with her calling as a vampire hunter in Regency England. So I recommend starting with The Rest Falls Away because then you get to see how she grows, changes, matures throughout the series.

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Intro | Part One

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

by Vendela Vida

I’ve been fascinated by the Ice Hotel in Lapland since I first saw a Discovery Channel documentary about it, (Incidentally, can you imagine asking for home insurance quotes on a structure made of ice?) so when this novel by Vendela Vida, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name caught my attention, and the cover blurb mentioned the Ice Hotel, I had to read it.

I wasn’t disappointed, even though the Ice Hotel was only really involved in one short chapter near the middle of the book, because Vida’s story was reasonably interesting. Protagonist Clarissa, organizing papers after her father’s funeral, finds her birth certificate, with a stranger’s name on it. She also learns that her fiance, Pankaj, had known for years that the man who raised her was not her biological father.

Overwhelmed, Clarissa takes off for the Arctic, chasing her biological identity, in the form of a father she never knew, and the mother who disappeared when she was fourteen.

There is no romance, but there is a cultural exchange, a posse of lost relatives who take her in, and various appearances by reindeer.

This is not a warm, cozy novel, but one as cool and brilliant as icicles catching the slanted light of winter.
Read while drinking a hot beverage, or really good vodka.

Amy and Isabelle

by Elizabeth Strout

Continuing the recent trend of reading books about mother-daughter relationships, I picked up Amy and Isabelle because I liked the cadence of the title, and found myself in a slow novel, not in the plodding sense of the word, but in the sense that this was a story of gradual emergence.

The book opens on a hot summer day in an office where there is no air conditioning, and while the period is never specified, the mention of typewriters and and lack of computers, or even any specific office supply other than such things as legal pads and Papermate pens puts us in the late sixties to early seventies.

We are introduced to both characters, Amy, the teenaged daughter of single mother Isabelle, within the first few pages, and while the rest of the novel does peel away their layers – Isabelle was raped by a family friend, never married, and has an unrequited crush on the boss, while Amy is discovering sex and lust and is openly attracted to her substitute math teacher – I never got past the feeling of wanting the story to really BEGIN.

It’s a slow tale, of people who live slow, quiet lives, and while the details are impeccable, I was left unsatisfied. Some undefinable “something’ is missing from Strout’s work.

Home from the Vinyl Cafe

by Stuart McLean

This book is subtitled “A Year of Stories,” so I knew that it would be short stories and vignettes, which makes it an excellent bathroom book, incidentally, but when I read the blurb on the back and it mentioned that Dave owned a record store, I was expecting at least something involving illicit snogging behind the audio racks. Instead, we glimpsed scenes of Dave and his wife Morley away from the store, witnessing their courtship, the early years of their marriage, and various events in their lives, over the course of a year, from winter to winter.

Author McLean has been called “the Canadian Garrison Keillor” by various media sources, and while he does share a similar folksy style, his work is also much more grounded in contemporary life than his American counterpart’s.

While I’ve never heard any of Stuart McLean’s broadcasts, his voice as an author is charming and he captured my attention. It’s true that some of the stories in this collection were a little too sitcom-ish, with pat endings and issues too easily wrapped up, but some of them made me laugh out loud at three in the morning while I was reading them on the toilet, which made Fuzzy come running to make sure I wasn’t somehow concussed.

I’m eager to read more from this collection.