An Interview With Jaye Wells on RED-HEADED STEPCHILD
Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t, but my mother did. She told me early on I should pursue writing, but I never considered it as a career. Later, after I’d tried other paths, I finally gave in to the inevitable and took a job writing for a magazine. It took a few years after that to finally get the courage to take my first fiction writing class. Once I got the bug, though, I looked back and realized that I was headed in this direction for a long time. Like a lot of authors, I have boxes of scribbled scenes and angsty poems from my youth. I’ve also always been a voracious reader, which is critical to writing good fiction. Plus, I was that annoying kid who always preferred essay questions on tests. These days, I can’t believe I didn’t try my hand at fiction sooner. I guess it just took me a while to admit mom really is always right. But don’t tell her I told you.
As a writer of urban fantasy, are there any writers in the genre that you’ve been particularly influenced by?
Kim Harrison, without a doubt. When I picked up DEAD WITCH WALKING, I remember just being blown away. I’d never read anything like it. That was my first exposure to the genre and I loved the mixture of elements. I also loved the rebelliousness of it. There are no sacred cows in urban fantasy. Harrison isn’t the only one pushing boundaries, but she was the first one I saw doing it.
Another favorite is Christopher Moore. I’m not ashamed to admit I have a major creative crush on that guy. He’s just brilliantly funny.
Red-Headed Stepchild is such a unique take on the genre, combining a highly original mythology with some very comical elements (a certain demon cat comes to mind). How did you come up with this concept?
It all started with a piece of flash fiction. My friend hosted contests on his blog, and I always played along. We’d have to come up with a 250-word story using the picture he posted as inspiration. This particular time it was a lovely picture of a full moon.
The idea came to me as I was driving down the road one day. I had been racking my brain to think of a unique take on the picture when all the sudden the first line came to me: “Digging graves is hell on a manicure.” I almost got into a wreck in my haste to pull over and write it down. The rest of the story came easily after that. The original title was “I Can Dig It.”
After the story got a lot of encouraging comments on the blog, I decided to expand it. I started with the world building because I felt a lot of the vampire mythos had been done to death and I wanted to push some boundaries. I’ve always been fascinated with the folklore and mythology surrounding Lilith, so I started there with my research. The rest was basically me asking “what if.”
Most of the comedic elements were included to amuse myself. However, it was important to me to find a balance. I didn’t want it to be too slapstick because that would diminish the gravity of Sabina’s situation. On the other hand, I felt the comedy was needed because real life is both horrifying and hilarious.
Which character was the most enjoyable to write? Is this character your favorite, or do you have another?
Giguhl. Hands down. I knew from the get-go that I had to have a hairless cat demon in this book. I’m fascinated by hairless cats. I defy anyone to look at one and tell me they don’t look demonic.
He was probably the easiest to write because he was so clear to me from the beginning. I had to be careful with him, though, because he threatened to steal the show. Plus, he makes me laugh. I have no idea where he comes up with that stuff.
When you aren’t writing, how do you like to spend your time?
Like most authors, I lead a life filled with excitement and glamour. When I’m not chained to my laptop, I’m doing the mom thing. Luckily, my son is hilarious and keeps me on my toes. Otherwise, I spend way too much time online, read every chance I can get, and watch a lot of bad reality T.V. My hobbies include sloth, gluttony and sarcasm.
As a first-time author, what have you found to be the most exciting part of the publishing process?
The whole experience has been exciting. What could be better than being paid to play make-believe all day? But I’d have to say getting “The Call” was the most exciting. It’s surprising my agent isn’t deaf given all the screaming and crying that followed the announcement that Orbit wanted to buy my books. I’ll never forget anything about that day.