Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vampires Who Don't Hang Out in Rural Washington: An interview with paranormal romance author Uzuri Wilkerson

Today I'm talking with Uzuri Wilkerson about her upcoming vampire paranormal romance, SWEET.

1) Tell us about your book.

SWEET is paranormal fiction set in modern-day Boston. Celia is a bartender at a hip bar-and-lounge downtown. She enjoys living life in the moment. Her current goal is to save up for a vacation with her boyfriend. Everything seems fine until she witnesses a man stabbed in the chest. Her simple life that is usually only complicated by her inability to find parking in front of her building soon becomes very complicated. Now she has to face the reality that her boyfriend is not entirely indestructible, confront her fears about the future of her relationship, and learn about her own mysterious abilities she had never bothered to think about before.

2) What inspired this book?

The Twilight movie was being advertised on television and I was surprised to find that there was a new vampire series I hadn’t heard of before. I read the books and thought I can do this. It was one of the easier ways that I have found inspiration. I always carry a notebook where I jot down ideas and quotations that come to me throughout the day. I usually refer back to the notebook when I need motivation. For this novel, I wanted a story set where I live involving a conflicted main character dealing with relationship issues like everyone else—except in this case, one of the complications is that the guy is a hundred years dead. There’s nothing too lovey-dovey, though. There is a turf war going on around them, which becomes a distraction as well.

3) Vampires are very popular, but that very popularity has led to a lot of competition. What sets apart your book from others in the genre?

SWEET takes place in an urban, inner city locale. A lot of stories take place in small or rural towns or in the early 1900s. There is also no set power system in my story. There are “areas” run by one lead vampire but no hierarchy, at least not with vampires…

4) Even in more modern times with more positive portrayals, they are still typically depicted as blood-suckers that are barely on the edge of self-control. What’s the continuing appeal of vampires?

I think it has a lot to do with them being secretive, superhuman beings. There’s also the sexiness of them. The exchanging of fluids. The “glamour” they use to entice and disguise themselves. Mysterious borderline dangerous characters usually intrigue people. They want to know what makes them tick. I tried to portray a range of characters and the challenges they faced with their existence.

5) Can you tell us what went into creating your male and female leads?

SWEET mainly centers around Celia and Victor. I wanted Celia to be strong-willed and opinionated but to also have a silly, relaxed side. She likes Victor but not when she’s forced to think of the future. That makes his “otherness” and her own mortality too real.

I wanted Victor to be handsome, of course, and smoldering. I always picture Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon with his angular, dark features. Victor holds onto his humanity by living and interacting with humans. But he is also old enough to be aware of the curse of his immortality. He’ll never have kids or feel the sun on his face and yet he still craves those things.

These attributes came about during the course of writing. As author Tess Gerritsen once described in a seminar I attended, I am more of a “seat-of-the-pantser” when it comes to writing. I sit at my computer and let the words come to me. Only when I am blocked do I revert to the “planner,” who has to look at her notes and outline what needs to happen.

To that end, when this story first came to me, I only had an image of a female main character talking to a hunter who was trying to stake her boyfriend. In this original vision, the main character didn’t know her boyfriend was a vamp and didn’t believe the hunter. I had the scene clear in my head: the two were in a park, under a tree, next to a park bench. It was nighttime and a small breeze rustled the green leaves of the tree. The story developed and evolved from there.

6) You have a background in screenwriting. Did this influence your novel at all?

Studying film helped me to see things visually. I try to be as vivid as possible to ensure that the readers see what I see. It’s a challenge sometimes but that’s the process I try to maintain. I only moved away from screenwriting and back to novels because I have more control and freedom when it comes to how much direction I have over the characters and scenery. There’s no fear of stepping on anyone’s toes because it’s just me and the input of my editors as opposed to producers and an entire film crew.

7) With all the world building involved in this story, sequels are easy to imagine. Do you have any planned?

This has always been a series to me. After finishing SWEET, I didn’t want it to end because I enjoyed the characters and there was more to add on and more that needed explanation. The problem I encountered was the direction of the series. I had been working on the fourth book when I found a publisher but I had been battling constant writer’s block with that story. I knew I needed an ending. Who cared about baby showers and how many drinks Celia served if none of that was about her development? I didn’t want it to drag on.

Having an end point also forced me to think about what was relevant to the big picture. I need those kinds of restraints because I have a tendency to be long-winded while writing. I had to scrap some of the minor characters as well as a few events that weren’t pertinent. I think that may be the hardest part of being a writer: finding the discipline to just stop. Stop editing. Stop nitpicking. Stop changing miniscule details. Leaving the series open-ended was why I had writer’s block halfway through. Now I have a focus and a goal.


Thanks, Uzuri.

To learn more about Uzuri Wilkerson and to stay up-to-date on upcoming novels and contests, visit www.uzurimwilkerson.com. To enter and get a chance at winning a $25 VISA gift card, visit www.azizapublishing.com for the SWEET contest details.

SWEET can be pre-ordered from the publisher at www.azizapublishing.com.


Midu said...

Sounds really interesting!

J.A. Beard said...

Thanks for stopping by, Midu.

Cara Bristol said...

Enjoyed the interview. Good questions, good answers.

J.A. Beard said...

Thanks, Cara.