Hi and welcome to my blog, Denise Verrico. Please make yourself at home and grab a drink from my hunky cabana boys, Zeke and Jake. So tell us a little about yourself.
Q: What genre do you write and for what publisher(s)?
I write urban fantasy, fantasy and sci fi. I’m also a playwright. My publisher is L&L Dreamspell.
Q: Tell us about your latest/upcoming release. What inspired it?
The latest Immortyl Revolution novel, My Fearful Symmetry, is set mostly in India. Here, in the court of their chief elder, Immortyls live much as they did three thousand years ago. Nineteen-year-old Cedric MacKinnon, a rent boy, fresh from the modern-day streets of London, is trained as an adept of the ancient arts, (courtesan and temple dancer in service to the goddess Kali). He becomes entangled in a web of political and sexual intrigue centered on the revolution started by Mia Disantini and Kurt Eisen in the first two books. The young man soon realizes that the chief elder uses Kali’s fearsome reputation as a tool to exert control over other Immortyls. Cedric is at first highly skeptical of the Goddess’ power, but after much trial and tribulation, he begins to question his disbelief. The neat thing about this book is that it can be read first because the saga is seen through fresh eyes. The reader can jump into the series here and later read Mia and Kurt’s story in the first two books.
The inspiration for the book is two-fold. First, the series needed a character on the inside of the Immortyl ruling class to see the revolution from a different POV. Cedric MacKinnon was a character I’d created as a love interest for a character in a future book, but the boy just shouted to be heard. It occurred to me that Cedric would be an excellent observer for this side of the saga.
Second, I’m a sucker, if you’ll pardon the expression, for vampire lore. In my research, I found a lot of evidence pointing to vampire legends first appearing in India. Indian mythology provides many examples of vampire-like spirits and deities. Many of them are more like incubi and succubae that feed on sexual energy than the blood-sucking variety. One deity often associated with vampirism is Kali. The more I read, the more I became fascinated with the stories surrounding Kali and the tantric practices of some of her cults. This led me to imagine the origin of the Immortyl culture and to give them their own religion based on tantrism. Tantric rituals often involve sex. In tantrism sex is viewed as a mystical experience that can confer great spiritual enlightenment.
While digging into Indian history and culture, I also came across accounts of the devidasi. These were female temple devotees, skilled in music and dance and frequently exploited as courtesans. Some of them, though, wielded surprising power. The devidasi inspired the adepts of the ancient arts in my novels. Like their historical counterparts the devidasi, adepts are employed as courtesans. The sexual aspect of the adepts’ art is an elaborate tantric ritual symbolizing the act of Immortyl creation.
Out of all these elements, Cedric the male vampire courtesan was born.
Q: How do you build characters and their personalities and looks?
I spend a lot of time fleshing them out with research and imagination. There’s a lot of psychology involved. I really do think of them as people and delve deep into their psyches. My background is in the theater, so I always fall back on the skills I learned there to create characters. I keep character files and notes, creating detailed back-stories before I begin writing. Sometimes a real person will inspire the looks of a character. Usually I have a bulletin board where I post images that remind me of my characters. At least that’s what I tell my husband about the pictures of scantily clad twenty-something males. I jokingly call these my “muses”, but they do inspire me.
Q: Tell me about some of your heroes/heroines:
The plot of the series revolves around four characters, one of which is introduced near the end of the upcoming fourth book, Ratopia. I don’t write much about people who’ve had it easy. My heroes and heroines are orphans and runaways that fall under the spell of Immortyl glamour, only to find it a bad bargain.
Mia Disantini is a feisty Italian-American from Brooklyn, the child of immigrants. She runs away from her abusive aunt in 1950 and becomes an actress in New York. An alpha male vampire makes her his concubine, but Mia is a modern woman with modern ideas and rebels against him.
Meanwhile in Norway, a boy about Mia’s age has lost his entire family to the Holocaust, and fallen under the spell of a vampire elder named Brovik. This is Kurt Eisen, the man Mia is destined to love. Kurt is small and slight, yet angelically beautiful, thoughtful, intense and deliberate, where Mia is impulsive and passionate.
Their love is forbidden, since they are the property of their masters, but they meet and correspond in secret. Some forty years later, the two finally become lovers. Together they steal a scientific blueprint to the secrets of immortality and inspire a revolution made up of the cast-off and downtrodden of Immortyl society.
The third player in the saga is Cedric MacKinnon, the hero of My Fearful Symmetry. At fifteen, he runs away from a foster home in Scotland to London. He’d love to be a rock star, but of course, his aspiration is naive. Without any prospects but his good looks, he falls into prostitution. This nearly kills him. Enter Raj, a sexy Indian Immortyl who beguiles Cedric with promises of fame and fortune. Cedric starts out selfish and needy. He’s gotten by on his looks for a long time, until his guru, a woman named Sandhya, teaches him that he has greater value. Lord Liu, an elder Cedric’s assigned to entertain, becomes an admirer and mentor to the boy, spotting the potential warrior under the paint and silk of the adept.
Book four brings these three main characters together and introduces the fourth, but I can’t tell you more about her because of spoilers.
Q: What do you do when the muse decides to take a holiday or become really difficult? How do you try to coax them back to the drawing board?
I’ll read or listen to music. I find a lot of inspiration in those activities. Sometimes, I go for a walk on the nature trail in the park near my home. Research always seems to get my creative juices flowing again. I enjoy non-fiction reading and documentary films or shows. Politics infuriates me but gives me a lot of material for my books. I wrote a lot of Twilight of the Gods during the presidential race. I’m always working on other projects in various stages, so I can always hop over and take a break. It seems to help if I write on a rotation, giving my main project most of my time, but taking a “night off” every third of fourth night to develop other works.
Q: Do you have any specific things (or rituals) that help you to write or that inspire you?
I sit on my sofa with my laptop. I may have VH1 classic on for background or play music. Coffee helps, but if I’m stressed a glass of red wine goes a long way. Wine calls for extra proofreading later. Usually, my birds are out of their cages and hanging out with me. I have a Timneh African Grey Parrot, two cockatiels and three budgies.
Q: If the world was to end tomorrow, what three things would be on your bucket list?
Well, I’d love to travel, but that wouldn’t give me enough time to go to the exotic places I want to see. First, I’d get up in time to see the sunrise, make a quick trip to Cedar Point and ride my favorite roller coasters one last time. Next, I guess I’d buy some really good wine, put on Mozart, Chopin, Queen and Bowie and the rest of my favorites and eat all the lobster and chocolate mousse I could hold–with my husband and son of course. Then, I’d lie on my back and look at the stars until the very last moment.
Q: Are there any authors who have influenced your work?
I love the dark, dreamlike quality of Anne Rice’s vampire novels. I also have to give a nod to historical fiction authors like Mary Renault and Robert Graves. They wrote about historical figures in a very accessible first-person voice. I have to say I owe an awful lot to Joss Whedon. When I started writing Cara Mia, my first novel, there weren’t many vampire books with a mix of adventure, humor, romance and horror. Also, he had the ultimate kick-ass character in Buffy. That show married a lot of elements that I like in a story. It morphs easily through humor to horror to pathos.
Q: What comes first for you: Setting? Storyline? Characters?
When the germ of a story idea occurs to me, I usually start with creating the characters and writing scenes of dialogue. I was a playwright, so it’s very natural for me to see a story like a movie in my head. This helps me, because books today tend to be dialogue driven and the emphasis less on narrative and descriptive passages. With this third book, it all kind of came together at once. The Indian setting is so important to My Fearful Symmetry, and I put a lot of time into making the flavor as authentic as possible.
Q: If one of your books became a movie, which celebrity would you like to star as your main characters?
I have the casting all sorted out. Cedric would have to be the young British actor, Nicholas Hoult. He just played Beast in the latest X-Men movie and was Tony in the original British version of Skins. He’s smart, sexy, really tall and one hell of a good actor. All of those are perfect qualities for Cedric. Nick was brilliant in A Single Man with Colin Firth. If you haven’t seen this film, you must. I always thought Christina Ricci should play Mia. She’s a very pretty Italian-American gal, petite and curvy, with an acerbic, East Coast edge that fits my heroine. Elijah Wood would be perfect for Kurt. He has this ethereal beauty and otherworldly quality that I love. Those eyes of his are amazing. I admit to stealing them for Kurt.
Q: What do you have coming next? Anything you want to tell us?
I’m just about finished with the final draft of book four in my Immortyl Revolution series, Ratopia, which should be out next spring. Other projects on the horizon are an urban fantasy with a variety of magical creatures, a historical fantasy set in an eighteenth-century inspired culture and a paranormal romance spoof called Betti Loves Yeti.
Q: If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
You asked for it: Potential Cougar. Dangerous Wit. Handle with caution.
Q: What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?
One of the great pleasures for me in writing speculative fiction is all of the possibilities that exist for the imagination. Urban fantasy, in particular, allows a blending of the real world with the fantastical. I love reading about legends and mythology. Recently, I was on a panel at a science fiction convention, where one of the writers suggested that urban fantasy is about creating mythology for the modern day. He referenced Joseph Campbell’s books, such as The Power of Myth. If you haven’t read Campbell’s books and you’re interested at all in mythology, I highly recommend them. You may be surprised by the similarity of myths from cultures around the world and corresponding themes in a lot of stories that are popular today. I try in my small way to re-imagine some of these powerful stories in a contemporary way.
Q: Where can we find you on the web?
Only the most gifted and beautiful Immortyls are chosen to serve Mother Kali as adepts of the ancient arts…
For nineteen-year-old Cedric MacKinnon, the promise of eternal youth and celebrity sounds like a dream come true. It becomes a nightmare when a master vampire plucks the boy from the London streets and spirits him away to India. In the fabled ashram of the adepts of the ancient arts, Cedric undergoes the grueling process of training as a temple dancer and courtesan. With the threat of revolution hanging over court, the chief elder employs the boy he names Shardul in dangerous games of seduction and intrigue. Hated by the chief’s mistress and abused by those he entertains, Cedric struggles with visions of a violent destiny that seem to come from Kali herself. The stakes are heightened when the rebel leader, Loki, is brought to India for trial and Cedric is forced to choose between the protection and patronage of a powerful elder and his love for a female adept.
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