Welcome to Waiting for Fairies’ first ever author interview! Vicki Pettersson, author of The Signs of the Zodiac series, Feathered and Sequined Goddess of the Southwestern Desert, graciously agreed to “break [us] in”, so to speak. She even agreed not to do the interview by smoke signal as originally planned. My signal fire was a little weak that day, what can I say? This premiere interview is awfully fitting, since the very first book review ever posted at Waiting for Fairies way back in March of 2007 was Vicki’s first book: The Scent of Shadows!
I have to say, I was nervous to do this interview. Who wouldn’t be nervous when speaking to a tall, leggy redhead who is not only a NYT best-selling author but could also probably Can-Can me into the ground? You have no idea how often I’ve double, triple, and quadruple checked that I have spelled that name correctly, every time, so I wouldn’t completely humiliate myself. (Especially after recently doing a review of Jesse Petersen‘s last book!) Luckily for me, Vicki is a classy lady who didn’t begrudge me my interview-ginity. And, P.S. – it’s Swedish and pronounced “Pet-ter-suhn”, in case you were curious!
VP: Oh, sure – blame me!
Here’s a secret, one I’ve held close to my heart throughout this entire series: I didn’t initially think the series, or Joanna, was all that dark. I mean, I was always aware that she was tough, but the way I saw it, my job was to create antagonists and conflicts to rival that toughness. So Joanna created her enemies (and the plot twists) which then returned to shape Joanna, and on it went.
It wasn’t until I was having dinner with my editor – who loves the series as much as I do – that I realized just how dark I was going with this character. I casually mentioned that Joanna’s reactions didn’t seem all that extreme to me, and my editor looked at me like I’d just stolen her cocktail. Twice.
That said, I too started feeling Joanna’s fatigue, especially after CITY OF SOULS. How much can one woman go through? And it was the answer to that question that steered me toward ending the series. I didn’t want to throw new monsters at her just for the sake of conflict, or to merely extend the series. That would cheapen Joanna’s previous efforts, and dilute the emotion of such a hard-fought journey. So I’m happy with this ending, and thrilled that even after everything she’s been through, she can believably retain her toughness and go out swinging.
Q2: Speaking of those horrible things… You never, ever pulled any punches in this series. Was there ever a point where you stopped and said to yourself, “Man, this is getting pretty brutal”? I know you practically had a reader revolt on your hands after City of Souls. Man, that was a long, long year to wait for resolution! Did you ever want to be nicer to your cast of characters?
VP: That year-long wait was awful for me too. I wanted to tell each and every reader, “Just wait, please trust me. I know what I’m doing!” But I think that strong reader reaction came precisely because Joanna’s journey had gotten so brutal. It also had nothing to do with the story’s fantastical elements. Readers had put themselves in Jo’s shoes, and were feeling her emotional pain acutely, so that was a real turning point in the series. From the fourth book on, the series had less to do with fantastical new creatures, or the world of the Zodiac, than it did with Jo’s emotions and personal life.
Did I ever want to be nicer? Yes. But not as much as I wanted to tell the truth about her and her world.
Q3: Midheaven is an interesting aspect of the books, and I’ve always wondered what you intended when you describe it as a “woman’s world”. What did you want people to take away from that description? For instance, I found it beautiful and mysterious – yet also pretty savage (kind of like women in general can be at times). Were you trying to make a gender statement there or was it simply something to fuel the story?
VP: I believe the primary purpose of fiction is to entertain, so while I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I did want to explore this matriarchal society I’d set up in the Zodiac series. Preaching, or having some sort of authorial agenda is a no-no, yet novels are such a great way to explore haunting social or emotional questions. Would it really be so much better/different if a woman were running things? My conclusion was exactly what you stated: at their best, woman are beautiful and mysterious. At their worst, they can be savage. Exactly the same as men actually, if in different ways.
Q4: When we readers are finally ready to say good-bye to Joanna and company, it appears you have something else wonderful in the works. It’s being described as “a partnership between a supernatural private eye and a rockabilly reporter with a real nose for trouble.” What can you tell us about the new Celestial Blues series that we can’t already find out from your FAQ?
VP: The first book in the Celestial Blues series is called THE TAKEN. It alternates narratives between Griffin Shaw, a moody fallen* angel/P.I., and a female reporter named Kit Craig, who is full of modern-day rockabilly swagger. Mind, “fallen angel” is a bit of a misnomer. Grif hasn’t fallen as much as he’s been busted, and working with Kit is a by-product of his punishment. I’ve just handed in the first draft, so I promise you’ll be hearing a lot more about THE TAKEN very soon!
Q5: What authors are YOU reading right now? I know in the past you’ve praised the work of Richard Kadrey. Is there anyone else we should be checking out while we wait for Celestial Blues?
VP: Other than the usual suspects, I can recommend Sophie Littlefield, who does an amazing job in both mystery and UF. She’s quickly becoming one of my auto buys, and UF readers should definitely pick up her AFTERTIME. I got behind on my reading in J.D. Robb’s IN DEATH series, so I’m playing catch-up now. (Problem is, she writes faster than I can read!) Alie Condie and Suzanne Collins are my most recent YA reads; I’m really enjoying the dystopian YA trend. Other than that, lately it’s been a lot of thrillers. I also can’t recommend Diana Gabaldon enough to those who may not yet have picked up OUTLANDER. I actually feel sorry for people who haven’t read that book.
Q6: Thank you so much for stopping by and giving us a little bit of your time! Is there anything else you’d like to say to either long-time readers or those just picking up the series?
VP: I just want to say thank you to all my readers – no matter when they started reading. Without them, there wouldn’t be a Signs of the Zodiac series … or the upcoming Celestial Blues series. I also want to give props to those readers who’ve been with me the last four years. Following Joanna Archer hasn’t always been an easy journey, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Thank you, Vicki, for stopping by! I hope my readers out there will consider picking up Signs of the Zodiac if they haven’t already. This series has the Waiting for Fairies Seal of Approval! (Yes, I just made that up. I can totally do that. It’s my blog!)