First of all Colleen, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself, and what got you into writing to begin with?
I’ve been writing stories since I was very young, in elementary school (one of my first efforts was a version of my classmates and me in a Gilligan’s Island sort of story. It is long buried!) I wrote all through high school and college, but didn’t actually finish a book until after I’d graduated college and was working full time.
I went on to write eight books in total, trying to sell each of them to a publisher, until I wrote and, with the help of my agent, sold my ninth book to a division of Penguin Books in late 2005. That book was released in 2007, and since then I’ve written and published eleven novels (five as Colleen Gleason, three as Colette Gale, and three as Joss Ware).
Sometimes, I’m not sure who I am when I wake up in the morning!
What gave you the idea to blend a modern-day Buffy with a Jane Austen-style heroine, to come up with the wonderfully original Victoria Gardella series?
I confess that…I don’t really read a lot of vampire novels. Never have. But in 2005, I knew that vampires were popular, and as a would-be writer trying to break in, I knew I had to pay at least some attention to the market. So writing a series about a vampire hunter seemed to work for me…and combining that idea with the fact that I was watching Cinderella with my daughters one night, when I saw Cindy rush from the ball at midnight, the thought popped into my head: what if she’s not leaving because the spell is breaking…but because she’s got to stake a vampire?
And that’s where that idea started…and it just sort of exploded from there. I wanted to write about a female superhero who lived in a very restrictive society—not just in mores and culture, but in communication and technology as well. Buffy had it hard enough, but my poor Victoria…she had it much worse! I wanted her to have to make choices about what her dual life was going to be like. And she did. Sometimes…not the right ones.
You’ve gone from writing Buffy meets Elizabeth Bennett in the hugely popular ‘Gardella Vampire Chronicles’ to your latest series: a futuristic, post-apocalypse trilogy written under the pen name, Joss Ware. Tell us a little about the background for the series?
We’ve all seen the movies or read the books where the bad guys try to destroy the world…but are stopped at the last minute. Well, I wondered to myself…what would happen if someone couldn’t stop them? What if they succeeded?
And then I thought about how it would be to rebuild that world, what civilization would be like, having our knowledge of science and technology, our pop culture and history…but no longer having the infrastructure to maintain it. What an interesting blend the setting would be—overgrown shopping malls, abandoned Main Streets, silence and stars visible…plastic everywhere…what about soda pop? McDonald’s? The Internet?
That was the germ of the idea…and the setting. The story evolved from there because I wanted to make sure I had the juxtaposition of “our” world with the new post-apocalyptic one, and so I have built the series around five men who were somehow suspended in time, or travelled through time, to find themselves awakening suddenly and finding themselves fifty years in the future. Where everything they knew is now gone.
What made you decide on the format of each story featuring one couple’s struggle in a supernatural world-pitted against them?
The series is definitely a romance series, so at the core of each book is the story of one couple trying to build a life in this new world. For the men, it’s harder because they literally woke up one day and found themselves in a strange new place. They have to figure out how to live in a world without careers and televised sports and man caves….and at the same time, they are trying to fight against the immortal humans who are trying to suppress what’s left of our race.
Thus, at the core of the book is the theme that, for many of us, a life partner is what helps us to become grounded and happy and to find our way through whatever life brings us—no matter how devastating.
Of course, I have to ask, was choosing a pen name deliberate in launching the new series?
Yes, indeed. Because these books are so very different from the Gardella books—and because they are with a different publisher—we decided that a pen name would be the best way to go.
What would you say defines your style of writing: the romance, the setting, or the supernatural elements, or a little of each?
I think it’s the balance between all of those components, and how they fit together. In my books, you can’t have one without the other parts—they all feed off each other, they all affect the others. I try to make each scene integrate the romance with the setting or the paranormal or the adventure–so that none of them can be extracted without pulling it apart. Not sure that I always succeed, but that’s the attempt I make.
How do you like to approach your writing when starting a new project? Do you do outlines and breakdown scenes, or do you just leap straight into writing the narrative?
I just jump into writing the narrative…and then I might have to sit back and think about the setting and how it got there, what caused it, etc. But usually, by starting with the narrative, my subconscious is able to let loose and give me enough clues to fill in the pieces of who, what, when, why, where…at least, the big pieces. The little ones always come later.
I never outline, I never do scene breakdowns. I wish I could (I’d probably be more efficient), but that’s not the way my brain works. When I’m writing the book, it’s more like I’m just a reader, waiting to see what happens next. I usually know sort of where I’m going, what the Big Deal will be near the end…but not always, and definitely not the details.
How do you create your characters? Do you start with a basic outline of personality type, or work them up as you go along?
The characters become who they are as I go along…although I have a very slim, basic idea when I start. If I didn’t at least have a general thought as to personality/background of the character, I’d be writing Victoria’s and Maxes over and over again. So I have to start with some basic stereotype or archetype in order to keep from doing that, and then the details fill in as I work through the book.
What do you think are some of the most effective things an author can do to advertise him or herself?
I’ve become a big fan of Facebook because of the way it “pushes” information to your fans and potential fans. It’s automatic, rather than expecting people to come to your website or blog, they are already on FB, so your face is there in front of them more often than otherwise.
The other thing I rely on a lot is my newsletter. I gather as many email addresses as I can (with permission, of course) and only send newsletters when I have something specific to talk about—a new book, a new release, a contest, etc.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about being a writer?
Only one thing? I love being able to live in my own world(s) and stories, and get paid to do it. I also love (being rather an introvert, and being married to an extrovert) that I can use my “work” as an excuse to be anti-social at times. Heh! There it is—my big secret, here for all to see!
Born in Detroit, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Colleen Gleason spent most of her adult life in Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, receiving her BA in English, and later went on to obtain her MBA from the University of Michigan in Flint.
After more than fifteen years of sales, marketing, and management experience in the health care industry, Colleen began her own health insurance agency, which she owned and operated for several years. However, her passion has always been writing fiction, and in late 2005, she sold her first two books to New American Library, a division of The Penguin Group.
Her debut novel, The Rest Falls Away, the first in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, was released to acclaim in early 2007. Since then, Colleen has gone on to pen more than two dozen titles. The Clockwork Scarab, the first in the YA ‘Stoker & Holmes’ series is published by Chronicle Books, and now available.