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Author Interview: Renee Harrell

I need to begin by saying that I really enjoyed this mystery/romance book. I can't say too much without giving the book away, but you can check out my review here. If you love a good mystery/ghost story, you'll enjoy this novel! Plus, there is an element of 60s rock that makes this story... well, ROCK.

The technical stuff:

1. How did you come up with the idea for Something Wicked?

Harrell: Renée and I were talking about our lives as teenagers. Our families didn’t have any extra money, we couldn’t afford our own cars, we each had some minor body issues, and we had a small circle of close friends. In other words, we were pretty normal. So we decided, from the onset, to have a fairly balanced, pretty ordinary, heroine, living a similar teenage life to the one we knew.

Renée: One of my interests as a teenager was music and bands and dancing so those became some of our main character’s interests, too. She needed a place to enjoy those things so we introduced a new teen nightclub to the town. But, then, we thought: What if this nightclub wasn’t exactly what it appeared to be? What if things were just slightly skewed there? What if the hot, new band on its stage wasn’t quite right, either? And the ideas flowed.

2. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Renée: I struggle with dialogue and some of the odd bits of business that make a novel interesting. I’m not as interested in characterization as I am in moving the storyline from point A to point B.

Harrell: But I live for that stuff. I’m never happier than when I surprise my writing partner with something she didn’t expect. On the other hand, I’m a weak plotter, I don’t enjoy adding description, and I hate writing song lyrics (like those in Something Wicked), poems or riddles (which will appear in our September s-f novel, Aly’s Luck). I gladly give those challenges to Renée.

I think it’s great that the two of you compliment each other so well. I’m sure that really makes the writing process A LOT easier for you both.

3. What advice would you give to someone that wanted to write their own book?

Harrell: Sit down and get to it. We’ve met dozens of people and they’re all planning to write a novel but they never get past the first few chapters. That’s depressing! Although it’s challenging, it’s not hard to write a book and there’s never enough good ones.

Renée: Some of the print publishers are struggling but there’s a universe of electronic publishers out there and many of them are actively seeking new material. Self-publishing is an option, too (absolutely!) and some writers, like Joe Konrath, consider it their first choice. Whenever we start a new project, we create a general outline, then proceed chapter-by-chapter and improvise as needed. With a co-writer like Harrell, improvisation is a huge tool and plotting changes are required.

Book related questions:

4. After finishing the book, I was reminded of my favorite Ray Bradbury book: Something Wicked This Way Comes. Even the title, Something Wicked, seems to speak of Bradbury’s book. Was this intentional or just a coincidence?

Harrell: When I was 16, my friend and I met and interviewed Ray Bradbury. He was wonderful to us and I told him, then, how much I loved Something Wicked This Way Comes. Even though I haven’t read it for years, it is definitely my favorite Bradbury novel.

Renée: It’s my favorite Ray Bradbury book, too, but our choice of title was pretty much just a coincidence. From the onset, we’d planned to write at least three novels in the Ann Lippens series: Whispers, Rumors and Lies were the original titles but, as publication neared, we decided to go with Something Wicked, Something Evil and Something Dead.

Okay, first I think it is incredibly awesome that you actually MET Ray Bradbury. I don’t think I would know what to say/do in that situation. I bet he was very interesting. (Something Wicked This Way Comes is my favorite Bradbury book also. The movie version is pretty good too… I use it to teach symbolism and suspense to the kiddos.) Second, I’m glad to hear that there will be three books in this series. I’m anxious to see what happens in the second book. Now that you told me the third book is going to be titled Something Dead, I can’t help but me curious. The wheels in my head are already turning. (That can be dangerous!)

5. When you created the character of Bobby Winters/ Cody Rhodes, did you have a particular rock and roll icon in mind?

Harrell: Renée didn’t but I was thinking of Jim Morrison with a Paul McCartney accent. My wife has a thing for cute English rockers but I suspect those guys are secretly evil.

Hahahaha… I’m depicting a bit of jealousy. Jim Morrison? That gives Bobby a whole new image in my mind. I can see that visual… I’m glad you picked Paul’s accent of Elton’s. I don’t think it would work the same.

6. I’m happy to see that the ending of the book leaves the door wide open for a sequel. Are you currently working on the second book? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

Renée: We hate series novels that aren’t complete in and of themselves and we think Wicked tells its own tale. But, yes, we’ve completed a general outline for Something Evil – the paranormal story aspects ramp up, the romance ramps us, and we’re hoping the scares will ramp up while remaining appropriate for our readers. Ann finally gets her own car, Cody Rhodes seems to have disappeared, but all is not well at the nightclub....

7. This one is for me… I couldn’t help but notice a similarity between Eric and Billy. Was that the intended connection, or is my brain in symbolism overdrive?

Harrell: One of Renée’s favorite cousins is married to a wonderful man who used to be a drummer so, for us, drummers are good guys. That’s the biggest connection between Eric and Billy: We needed some good guys to step up and help Ann battle the monsters.

Fair enough… I told you it’s dangerous when my wheels start turning. I drove my English teachers crazy in school.

8. Which of the characters from Something Wicked is your favorite? Why?

Harrell: I love Cutter, our scariest villain. As evil as he is, he is sadly desperate where Cody Rhodes is concerned.

Renée: I have two favorites, both minor characters in the first book. There’s Liz Stride, the nightclub’s boss, and her employee, Jack the bartender. All Ripperologists know that Liz Stride was a Jack the Ripper victim – and our Liz and our Jack definitely share a supernatural connection. Favors are asked and given in Wicked, very small favors, but Liz has met Ann and remembers her when she needs help. In the sequel, she literally knocks on her door.

Awesome! When you mentioned the nightclub playing a roll in the second book, I instantly thought of Liz. Glad to hear that she will be back. I remember her “talk” with Ann and it did seem important. I knew there was more to it! I thought Cutter was scary (sorry). I would hate to meet him in a dark alley. However, I can see what you mean by “desperate.” He seemed to be constantly seeking Cody’s approval and acceptance.

BTW, Liz…Jack…Jack the Ripper. I did NOT see that one at all. Very interesting. Knowing that was intentional, I can’t help but wonder what roll they will play in the second book.

Random stuff:

9. If you could be any character from a book you’ve read, who would it be? Why?

Renée: I’d like to be Laura, from the Little House on the Prairie series of books. She had such an interesting life growing up and I’ve always loved those stories.

Harrell: Frank Hardy from the Hardy Boys mysteries. When I was eleven and twelve, I loved those novels and wished I could have such a fun, exciting daily life (with Chet as my best friend!) Or I might be Lew Brady, from Donald Westlake’s Kahawa: He’s a man’s man, battling Idi Amin and winning the girl. Then again, maybe I’d be Farm Boy from Goldman’s The Princess Bride. He has fantastic adventures and risks everything for love. I’m a sucker for love.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have never actually read the Little House books. Or Gone With the Wind for that matter. It’s terrible, I know! I’m ashamed to admit it. I have, however, read The Princess Bride. I occasionally make my children watch the movie with me. The boys hate it.

10. Do you have any favorite authors and/or favorite books? I absolutely love Lord of the Flies. It’s such a well-known fact in my family that everyone tells me when they hear a reference to it—including my dad who called me late at night to tell me that there was a reference to the pig in an episode of LOST. I had to remind my dad that LOST has been off the air for some time and that I really didn’t need to know that at 11 o’clock at night.

Harrell: In younger days, I loved P.G. Wodehouse, sent him a fan letter, and he actually wrote me back. I’ve read everything Wodehousian. I’m also a huge admirer of Donald E. Westlake, I’ve read everything of his I can find, and I deeply regret that I’ll never again find a new Dortmunder novel.

Renée: I mentioned the Little House stories, right? As a teen, I also loved Conan the Barbarian and I knew all of the Agatha Christie/Hercule Poirot mysteries by heart. To this day, I still deeply enjoy the works of H.P. Lovecraft; someday, somehow, I’m going to talk my writing partner into doing a novella set in the Cthulhu mythos.

11. If you had to pick a favorite song from Bobby’s era, what would it be?

Renée: ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles.

Harrell: English rockers. Pur evil.

12. What’s your favorite book to movie adaptation? I personally am not a fan of books being made into movies. It seems that Hollywood does not do the books justice. If you feel the same way, it’s ok.

Harrell: The worst, did you say? Kubrick’s The Shining – I was so disappointed. Where were the frightening hedge creatures? On the other hand, I like Jurassic Park, the movie, more than Jurassic Park, the novel. I thought the kids were more interesting and better-rounded in the film.

Renée: I was never able to get into the Lord of the Rings novels, much to the dismay of some of our friends. But I enjoyed the movies so, I guess, that’s my choice.

I liked the movies for Lord of the Rings more than the books too. I think it was the Hobbit feet that held my attention. It’s been so long since I’ve read Jurassic Park. I think that was required reading for me in 8th grade.

13. If you found out tomorrow that you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would buy/do with your winnings? This is an easy one for me! I would buy shoes and books!

Renée: You mean, after the boring but wonderful things like paying the bills and helping family and friends? This is an easy one for me. We have a British friend, Paul Abbott, who’s a wonderful artist. If we had lottery-type money, I’d finally be able to afford one of his paintings.

Harrell: I’d hire someone to help me fake an English accent. Seriously. Hey, I know what pleases my wife. If you can’t beat ‘em....

Oh, Renee, you’re too practical! You ruined a good dream… (not really) Those pesky realities do take some fun away from a fantasy. But we can always wish on the Powerball, right?

A huge thank you goes out to Renee and Harrell. They have been great to work with, even when they're sick. If we haven't sold you on reading Something Wicked, I guess I'll be forced to sing my many reasons to the tune of "The Song That Never Ends."


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