Rachel Caine has published dozens of books, both originals and media tie-ins, under the names Rachel Caine, Julie Fortune, and Roxanne Longstreet Conrad.
Her latest novel, Carpe Corpus, continues the Morganville Vampires series with its sixth installment. An underground resistance is brewing in Morganville, and Claire Danvers is the only one who stands in the way of payback from evil vampire Bishop and his death grip on the town. Even if she defeats Bishop, will the vampires ever be content to go back to the old rules, after having such a taste of power?
Caine and her husband, fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas with their pets.
SF Signal Danger Gal Lisa Paitz Spindler interviewed Rachel Caine about Carpe Corpus, her Weather Warden series, and other upcoming projects…
Rachel Caine: Carpe Corpus is the sixth book of the Morganville Vampires series, which is really one long, intense story told in six sections (hence, my evil rep for cliffhangers!). In brief, Claire (our main character) has moved up from being the new, scared kid in town to the girl all the bad (and good) guys want to have playing on their team…and she hates it. But she has to choose a side, and work out some compromise that will do good for everyone with a stake (no pun intended) in the Morganville game…vampires and humans alike.
Oh, and she’s dealing with parental issues, a boyfriend locked in prison who’s hostage for her good behavior, a potentially lethal boss who’s crazier than most of the vampires, and a bloodsucking computer. So, there’s that.
RC: I think it was mainly shedding the years and experience that stood between me and the ages of my main characters, who range from (at the start of the book) 16 to just barely 19. That, and of course the experience of that age group today isn’t the same as it was for my youth … but there are themes and concerns that are universal, whether you were a teenager in ancient Rome or are dealing with it this week. I tried to focus on those universal problems and concerns, more than staying up-to-the-minute on teen life.
The Weather Warden series presents a whole different set of challenges — research, and lots of it! Every book seems to come with its own unique requirements which force me to become an Instant Expert, Just Add References. Everything from the obvious — meteorology — to the less obvious — muscle cars, stores in Fort Lauderdale, the propulsion system of modern ocean liners.
SFS: When did you begin writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
RC: I wrote my first story at age 14, and continued it as a hobby for probably about 15 years before someone FORCED me to consider being a writer (thank you, Alan Hanna!). I was hell-bent on being a professional musician, and I actually had played in several professional orchestras to that point … but then I discovered that people would actually pay me for my stories. That changed my life.
SFS: What kinds of resources do you use for researching your novels?
RC: All kinds. I’m not shy about calling up experts and asking questions, or emailing, or buying textbooks and references. The Internet is always a brilliant way to find instant facts, but it’s not a great way to really understand your subjects in depth without a lot of work.
RC: It depends. Some — like the Weather Warden series — started with character, completely. Morganville started from plot. I think it really depends on the idea.
SFS: Do you write every day? Do you approach writing as you would a typical day-job or do you write when inspired?
RC: I try very hard to write a lot, every day. It’s a struggle, since I still have a full-time job, but I manage to write about 50,000 words a month, at least.
SFS: You’ve written quite a few strong female characters from Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin to Morganville’s Claire Danvers — as well as a rare female vampire in the character of Amelie. How did you manage to make these characters unique?
RC: I think at some level, it’s just alchemy that we, as writers, can’t explain. I don’t set out to create the characters — they’re not, to me, collections of quirks that I can put together like Mr. Potatohead. I discover the characters, instead. I usually go through a standard set of interview questions with the character in the beginning and ask the vital stuff: What’s important to you? What do you love? Hate? Fear? .. and then I know where to start. But the characters just grow on their own, at a certain point. And start surprising me.
SFS: What aspect of writing about vampires intrigues you the most?
RC: History. I think about what they’ve seen and done, and it really fires up the closet history geek inside me.
SFS: What kinds of challenges do you face switching from writing Urban Fantasy to Young Adult?
RC: I think it’s more a matter of style. The three series I’m doing now — Weather Warden, Outcast Season, and Morganville — all have drastically different voices, so it really requires me to put on completely different clothes, as it were. That can be a bit of whiplash when deadlines are so close together.
SFS: I’ve read that you have a music background and that music is very important to your writing. Is it true that you create playlists for different projects? What have been some of your favorite songs and their associated stories?
RC: Oh yes, I deeply love my playlists — it’s my surrogate for the desire to continue to be a musician myself, I think. I become my own music director. As to favorite songs … I’d have to say that “Three Wishes” from The Pierces really inspired me to come up with the entire Outcast Season series, which is really quite cool. And Jim Suhler’s “Shake” provided the perfect inspiration for the (literally) earth-shaking events in Gale Force. I think that going back to Glass Houses, there’s a song by The Bravery called “Something To Believe” that defined the entire Morganville experience for me.
And Joe Bonamassa, guitar god, continues to be a driving force in every soundtrack.
SFS: Being an avid Stargate fan, are you looking forward to Stargate: Universe? Do you have any other Stargate tie-in projects in the works writing as Julie Fortune?
RC: I am REALLY excited about the Stargate franchise continuing on! It’s such a great concept, from movie all the way through the various series, and I can’t wait to dive in to the next installment. I’d love to do more tie-in projects, but I am seriously overburdened right now with other commitments.
SFS: What books are on your To-Be-Read shelf?
RC: You mean the To-Be-Read *room*, right? I’m so far behind. I’m just now getting to Scott Westerfields’ series (Pretties, Uglies, Specials…) I’m very excited about them. I also have releases from most of my good friends to enjoy as well!
SFS: What’s in store next for the Weather Warden and Morganville Vampires series?
RC: Cape Storm (Weather Warden #8) brings the whole drama of Joanne and David’s relationship up a notch, as well as involving Lewis in ways that he really, really didn’t want to be involved. There are storms! Ocean liners! Scary aliens! And Joanne is being seduced by the dark side in a big way, which leads to an ultimate confrontation with Lewis that I’ve wanted to write for a long time. (Cape Storm is out August 4.)
Fade Out (Morganville #7) is out in early November, and for the first time, it’s a stand-alone book in the Morganville universe. Still the same characters, and a whole lot going on. The town of Morganville is rebuilding, things *seem* better, but there are hidden elements still maneuvering for control. When Eve brings a new friend into the mix, everything starts coming apart, including her friendship with Claire. It was an interesting and kind of painful thing to write, but I think it’s very true to the way relationships change.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you! It’s a great pleasure!