Monday, May 19, 2008

Jeri-Smith Ready Interview and Contest!

First off, I want to announce the winner of Alexa Young’s FRENEMIES. Alexa had a hard decision to make, she and I both loved all your stories, but ultimately she decided on Dominque! So Dominique, please email me at stephanie AT stephaniekuehnert DOT com to claim your prize.

Today I’ve got another author with a new release here to do an interview and a contest. I’d like to introduce Jeri Smith-Ready, who is going to tell you about her book WICKED GAME, which is definitely one of my favorite books of 2008! I mean, it mixes rock ‘n’ roll and vampires, how much cooler can you get? Not to mention it’s funny and sexy, the heroine kicks ass, it brings up the important issue of corporate radio buyouts (bad for music!), and it allowed me to fantasize about what Kurt Cobain would be like if he were a vampire. But enough of my blathering, here is the official lowdown on WICKED GAME:

Late-night radio you can sink your teeth into

Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin is trying to live the straight life, even if it means finding a (shudder!) real job. She takes an internship at a local radio station, whose late-night time-warp format features 1940s blues, 60s psychedelia, 80s Goth, and more, all with an uncannily authentic flair. Ciara soon discovers how the DJs maintain their cred: they’re vampires, stuck forever in the eras in which they were turned.

Ciara’s first instinct, as always, is to cut and run. But communications giant Skywave wants to buy WMMP and turn it into just another hit-playing clone. Without the station—and the link it provides to their original Life Times—the vampires would “fade,” becoming little more than mindless ghosts of the past. Suddenly a routine corporate takeover becomes a matter of life and un-death.

To boost ratings and save the lives of her strange new friends, Ciara re-brands the station as “WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ’n’ Roll.” In the ultimate con, she hides the DJs’ vampire nature in plain sight, disguising the bloody truth as a marketing gimmick. WVMP becomes the hottest thing around—next to Ciara’s complicated affair with grunge vamp Shane McAllister. But the “gimmick” enrages a posse of ancient and powerful vampires who aren’t so eager to be brought into the light. Soon the stakes are higher-and the perils graver-than any con game Ciara’s ever played…

Here’s what you need to know about Jeri:

Jeri Smith-Ready has been writing fiction since the night she had her first double espresso. She holds a master’s degree in environmental policy and lives in Maryland with her husband, cat, and the world’s goofiest greyhound.

You can find Jeri on her website:, but today she’s obliged me with an in-depth interview and after that, she’s giving away a signed copy of WICKED GAME!

Thanks for letting me interview you, Jeri. Now getting to read an advance copy of WICKED GAME was one of my first published author perks. You and I found each other on myspace, realized we had the same editor and a lot of the same interests, and decided to trade ARCs. I cannot say how glad I am that that all happened because WICKED GAME is an absolutely awesome book and a truly unique vampire story, which is hard to find. Rock 'n' roll gives these vampires a connection to the era they were born, thereby keeping them from "fading" into mindless ghosts. What a cool concept! Can you tell us a little bit how you came up with it?

Stephanie, thanks so much for having me. I found you totally by chance, when I was web-surfing one day avoiding work, and your blog post caught my eye, “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Rock 'n' Roll." Then I stalked you, and the rest is history!

Anyway, the idea for WICKED GAME: I was driving to work flipping the dial and came to a classic rock station playing “Bad Company” by the band of the same name. I thought, Hmm, “Bad Company” would be a perfect title for a paranormal book with a shady main character.

I suppose it was the radio itself that got me from title to concept. By the time I reached the office half an hour later, I had a fully formed idea about vampire DJs stuck in time and a heroine with a criminal past. (The punch line is that even though it all began with “Bad Company,” the publisher ultimately asked me to change the title.)

Ciara, our heroine, is a kick-ass chick who is sexy (my YA readers should take note that this book is definitely an adult book and R-rated), sly, and tough and her whole con artist upbringing makes the book even more unique. Would you share the inspiration for her or tell us a little about how she developed as a character?

At the beginning, I only knew that Ciara would be 'bad' in some way. Bad but not bitchy. Blonde but not ditzy.

When I figured out she would be a con artist, that helped me form her personality. Con artists are the charmers of the criminal world. They tend to be highly intelligent and highly attractive, which is probably why they're so glamorized in Hollywood. Look at the dudes in Ocean's Eleven. We all want to be that cool.

Ciara’s a little different than most urban fantasy heroines. She kicks ass, but with her brains and charm, not with muscles or magic.

It would have been very easy to make the vampires cliche. Not only are there the typical vamp cliches, there are the stereotypes associated with their eras, but you avoided those. Your 60s vampire may be a hippie, but he's got a very dark streak in place of that peace-and-love thing. You chose a reggae vampire for the 70s and a goth vampire for the 80s instead of the stereotypical disco and neon wearing new-waver. Can you speak to these choices? Did they come out of your own musical preferences or did the characters just reveal themselves?

Heh. Jim's darkness was definitely an effort to buck the stereotype. I decided that when he was alive, Jim became a hippie as more of a fashion statement (and to get chicks) than as an expression of his true inner philosophy. This was not uncommon, I am told. Every movement has its poseurs.

As for reggae, I loved the idea of a man trying to reconcile his Rasta faith with a vampire's need to prey on others. Noah does his best to stay true to his religion (even though he can't strictly be a vegetarian). Plus, reggae has an revolutionary, anti-establishment attitude, like all the other genres represented by the vamps. Disco does not.

As for the 80s, Goth and vampires go together like peanut butter and jelly. Regina is the only DJ who looks like a stereotypical vampire (and her transformation was definitely voluntary). But Regina also has the punk thing going on, which gives her a more aggressive edge than your average goth.

Speaking of musical preferences, what are your favorite musical eras? Which eras took more research to write?

Out of the 6 represented in the book, I'm most passionate about the oldest (Delta blues) and the two newest (80s punk/Goth and 90s grunge/indie).

It was interesting to learn about Jim's era, delineating his focus (60s psychedelia and British Invasion) from all the other classic rock that I've listened to my whole life. Jim died in 1970, so he wouldn't have had a clue about bands like the Eagles or Boston or Billy Joel (or if he did, he would ignore them).

Now, I think everyone knows Nirvana is my favorite band and I kind of feel like Shane is Kurt Cobain if he became a vampire instead of killing himself, so that makes him my favorite vamp. Do you have a favorite?

Definitely Shane (Nirvana is my favorite band, too). In a lot of ways, Shane is me. I'm not nearly that tortured, but I think that's due to the grace of good fortune. Shane faced a lot of challenges in his human life, and like Cobain, had (and still has, as a vampire) a rawness to his soul that leaves him vulnerable.

If Shane were just Moody Guitar Boy, it would get old really quick. But also he has a very dry, self-deprecating, occasionally raunchy sense of humor. Not unlike Cobain himself.

Now I'm gonna provide you with my questions I ask every writer I interview, though I think they will work extra well since WICKED GAME is such a musical book. Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to your book and explain how they relate to your story or characters.

Better yet, I’ll give you the complete playlist. These are most of the songs that are mentioned in the actual book. It can also be found at . is a fantastic site I first learned about from none other than Stephanie Kuehnert (thanks!). (If anyone would like the code to put the WICKED GAME playlist on your website or MySpace page, just e-mail me at jeri AT SIGN jerismithready DOT com. The playlists come in different colors!)

Name some of Ciara's favorite musicians or bands.

Red Hot Chili Peppers is her #1 favorite. My mother-in-law read the manuscript and said she thought of Ciara when she heard the song "Dani California." The band completely embodies her attitude.

Other faves:
Jane's Addiction
Fiona Apple
The Shins
Violent Femmes

Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?

First tier (ones whose every album I own)
Eve 6
Tori Amos
Green Day

Second tier, close behind:
The Cure
The Smiths
Steve Earle
Marcy Playground
Liz Phair
Neil Young (with or without Crazy Horse)

Then there are the subgenres I love, like the riot grrls (especially L7 and Bikini Kill), Delta blues (esp. Leadbelly and Son House in the old days and more recently Guy Davis and Alvin Youngblood Hart), and Irish folk-rock (especially The Pogues and Dropkick Murphys). I also love all forms of punk (too many to name).

My latest hot band discovery is The Raveonettes. Entertainment Weekly described them as “the supergroup that, in an alternate universe, the Ronettes, My Bloody Valentine, and the Velvet Underground formed on a lost weekend.” For me it was Love at First Listen.

Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?

I usually listen to music when writing a first draft. It helps me focus, keeps my mood up, gets me into a rhythm, and most important, keeps me awake. But during editing, I can't have anything on because I need to be able to hear the words in my head.

While music is my muse, I know other writers find their muse in theater, sports, art, the great outdoors, etc. What is your main muse?

Definitely music. My first two novels came to me while I was watching live performances, and WICKED GAME hit me while I was listening to the radio.

I find inspiration in sports as well, but not for the creative part. I admire athletes' drive and perseverance, and especially their discipline. Professional sports is a lot like the entertainment industry, of which publishing is a part. We work hard and dream hard for years, with no guarantee of success. The life can be all-consuming and requires unwavering dedication. But there are triumphant moments when it’s all worth it.

Okay, now that everything thinks Jeri is as awesome as I do and are dying to get their hands on WICKED GAME. Here’s the contest to win a signed copy! It’s easy, just leave a comment, a question for Jeri or tell us how music inspires your life or creativity by Thursday at 5 pm, Jeri will pick a winner at random, let me know and I will announce them on Friday. It would be an excellent way to start off your Memorial Day weekend, right? So comment away!


Rachael Stein said...

music is a big inspiration in everything i do. and i cannot live without my iPod. seriously. i think music is very important in expressing ourselves, even if we are not playing the music, because even choosing what we listen to is a way of showing your feelings.

Ruth Schaller said...

Music certainly helps get me moving, whether I'm driving or writing. Once it's on and going I start singing and that's it. Evanescence is certainly a big help when I'm in the mood to either write or read.

So it helps tremendously to bring out the creativity (or just for plain old fun! )

tetewa said...

I love music and listen all the time to the radio. I especially like listening while I'm at work, it puts me in a good mood and helps to pass the time. I love music from the 80's as this was the time in my life when I went to many concerts. If you name a band or singer from the 80's I've probably seen them at one time or another. Certain songs also bring back alot of great memories.

Cari Quinn said...

I can't do anything without music... write, drive, read, think, work...And I'm fickle-I love everything from rap to alternative to classical.

As much as I love books, music is my first love. Stories with a beat-ahh, heaven! :)

Lori T said...

Hi Jeri~

I'm sure you knew I would be here.

A great interview...I can tell how much you love music. I think that music is very important and when you look back on the important or big moments in your life they can always be linked to the music that you were listening to at the time.

Wicked Game is amazing!!!!

dd said...

Without music my life would be one-dimensional! It can make you reflective or happy. When I have my mp3, I ALWAYS look forward to walking up the steep slope going to Uni! There’s nothing like chillaxing to some sweet tunes when you’re doing something you don’t want be doing! I also make sure that I listen to some relaxing music before I go to bed, because it makes me feel calm (I recommend ‘The World Spins Madly On’ by The Weepies, ‘To Be Alone With You’ by Sufjan Stevens and (Ironically!) ‘Trouble Sleeping’ by The Perishers!) Lol, The Shins rock! And Wicked Game looks awesome too! =D

Jeri said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

Book muncher: I really like that thought! Listening to music doesn't have to be a passive activity--like you said, it's a form of expression.

Ruth: Oh, I LOVE Evanescence for writing. They're so evocative.

Tetewa: I know what you mean about memories. I have a very, uh, colorful history with the song "Wicked Game," but I offered it as a title, anyway, because it sounded good. :-)

Carolynn: Yep, music is my first love, too. If I had to choose between blind and deaf, I'd go blind. Not that I anticipate having that choice.

Lori: *waves* Great to see you here! I know what you mean. I used to make 'soundtracks' for the interesting times in my life. I still have them, from junior year of high school all the way up through September 11 (yes, I made a 9/11 mix tape, but it's depressing, because Side 2 is so full of hope that the world would change for the better). Glad you liked WICKED GAME!

Softindierocker: Yes, music is great in giving us just what we need--whether it's to sleep or to get through the exercise (though I tend to watch DVDs when I work out--I need a LOT of distraction from the boredom of exercise).

Book Sp(l)ot said...

I'm spening this (almost) Memorial Day weekend cleaning to get ready for people coming in for Graduation (which is how I'll spend the actual weekend) so I can't imagine a better way to compensate for that than with a great book--except for maybe a great book that has some great music to it :)

I had to get an adapter cord so I could listen to my iPod while I was cleaning because music is about the only thing that can keep me sane (and the thing that inspires me and keeps me going while I do my own writing) and seeing the playlist with this book makes me want to read it so, so much more....

I'm going to have to go clean some more now, though so I'll shut up ;)