Jean: Hello and welcome to BuzzyMag.com This is Jean Marie Ward reporting from Malice Domestic. With us today is Carole Nelson Douglas, the author of 58 novels of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, including 4 novels in the “Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator” series and over 20 novels featuring “Midnight Louie,” a 20-pound Sam Spade with hairballs. Thanks for joining us here today, Carole.
Carole: Oh, it’s a delight.
Jean: Oh, good. People tend to think of mixing genres, specifically fantasy and mystery, mystery and science fiction. Science fiction and fantasy is something new, but you’ve been doing this since the very beginning of your career. Could you tell us what prompted you to try to mix it up?
Carole: I’d started out with high fantasy, and it was pretty traditional except that I put the characters through a new world in every book so it was a lot of invention, and I also really wanted a strong woman protagonist. In fact, I put her in tunic and trousers for five entire books because I didn’t want a chain mail bikini-clad woman on the cover of the book. And there was also very strong co-protagonist. I tend to do that with men as co-protagonists.
And that was basically fantasy, straight fantasy with invented worlds. And I then moved into…I quit my job. I needed to work. I tried contemporary romance, and I made up the first idea of a quartet within a long series of individual quartet. And I wanted something more than just the romance, so I put it in a mysterious character narrator who sounded like he was out of Damon Runyon or Sam Spade, could’ve been him, around Las Vegas and knew all that was happening and commented to the reader about what was going on.
And that was “Midnight Louie,” 20-pound alley cat, Sam Spade with Hairballs, as you mentioned. And he was one of the best things in the book as far as I was concerned, which was chopped by the editor and, kind of, thrown away because the romance confines were too much in operation those days. So I’ve said, “Hey, Midnight Louie is one of the best things in the books.” And I flipped him into a mystery series, and he was the same kind of hard-boiled but funny, satirical voice, but he was a cat, and only the reader really knew. The characters didn’t. He did nothing a strong, smart cat couldn’t do if he could think, but, like, Sam Spade, they do think pretty well on their own.
So he was a fantasy construct in a traditional, not a cozy mystery series, because I have international terrorism elements in the background, and I had to come up with a new name for it, cozy-noire. And I don’t like barriers and I do like to mix things up.
Jean: Let’s talk a little bit about your most recent strong heroine, Delilah Street. How did the “Delilah Street” series come about?
Carole: I was very, very excited. My high fantasy did very well in the ’80s, but it did not work out because not a lot of women were doing that. And a lot of women that would’ve gone very far in the ’80s diversified and dropped out of the field because it wasn’t seeming welcome then, although my sales were phenomenal. And I moved into another genre where I thought I could do more, and I suddenly saw that the urban fantasy was coming up again, and it comes and it goes, and it was with a strong female protagonist, and I said, “Oh, now is the time.”
I tend to be ahead of my time because I was a reporter and I like to anticipate things, and even in reporting they didn’t wanna it. They said, “Well why should we do this story?” And I said, “Because it’s important.” And they said no, and six months later it’d be on be on “60 Minutes.” But I have a tendency just to look ahead, not as far as science fiction too far. I don’t go too far that way, but in the fantasy area. And I just wanted to jump in and see what I could do with it.
Jean: So she was basically a response to market forces, but one of the things that “Publishers Weekly” mentioned was that she was not your standard urban fantasy heroine, albeit that she was strong, she turned off in a slightly different direction. She’s not…for example, she kicks butt but in a rather girly way. Is this a reflection of strong women in today’s world or was something else at work here?
Carole: Again, I don’t like to see women stereotyped, and I felt often…well, a whole series. You mentioned the “Midnight Louie” series and its mysteries, but I was dealing with a sexual responsibility in the age of AIDS with the cats and the cats community because there’s a whole world of cats, and some are fixed and some aren’t and they’re feral and they’re homeless, and there are parallels to the homeless people, parallels to our responsibility.
People were feeling very threatened when I started it in late ’80s. That has become less important now, but that was, you know, you say I’m doing a cozy-noire mystery series with, you know, about sexual responsibility in the age of AIDS. You’ll never sell that one. And with Delilah I was a little disturbed some of these kick-butt chicks had stories that were a little glib. They were, you know, with events of terrible abuse and they’re coming back and they’re winning and they’re beating whipping the villain’s asses and blah, blah, blah.
And I said that’s not really realistic for women. Even though it’s fantasy, I want a woman who maybe being smarter at times is more important than being physically strong, or she has allies, or she’s a part of a team. And sometimes I would see she has a 150-pound wolfhound psychic named Quicksilver that she adopted. He was gonna put down. And some people say, “Well, strong woman. Well, she got rescued here two times.” Well what about the three times she rescued. I mean, everybody helps each other. Strong people stand up for what they believe in and fight, and we’re not alone in it.
That’s my premise. And strong women will take help. I have opened doors for men for years and never objected when one opened one for me back when it was unfashionable. And if a guy coming into a office building with one of those carts with [inaudible 00:07:20] boxes, he’ll get his door opened by me. So I really want that kind of social egalitarianism where we don’t put a gender difference on every little act we do.
Jean: Zombies are a hot topic right at the moment with “The Walking Dead” on AMC and elsewhere. And in Delilah, you have a very interesting take on zombies that goes back to social responsibility. Could you talk a little bit about your Sims?
Carole: They’re called the CinSims, the Cinema Simulacrums, and they are based on…I like my social issues. Zombie bodies are being smuggled illegally in from Mexico to provide labor, and, of course, Las Vegas where it’s set is very near to it. And in Las Vegas something we don’t quite know about but it’s probably science fiction, possibly mixed with a little magic because I do mix, and they create the CinSims and they put the zombie bodies together by some process we don’t know yet with the only the black and white characters from film with the silver nitrite, which is a precious and, kind of, lost process, and it was destroyed for the silver in it.
And they leafed and chipped to the major hotel casinos as celebrity attractions. For a sense of the Infernal Bar, you’ll see Nick and Nora Charles and Asta just hanging out as black and white and silver and [inaudible 00:08:58] and that wonderful glowing…what they call the silver screen look, and they’re pretty. And the question is are they the actor? Are they the character? Or are they the poor schlub underneath and is this a right way to treat them?
And I call them celebrity zombies, and they’re also a lot of fun because you can play with all the characters of Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” series, going into literature and changing it up and having adventures. I really, really like that concept, and I said, “I can’t do what he did it. So I thought maybe I could do it with film characters.
Jean: So what is next in the “Delilah Street” series? You just finished “Silver Zombie?”
Carole: And I must say that one of the funnest scenes in “Silver Zombie” was when Delilah and her partner at work and personal partner, Ric, go to a drive-in movie theater that’s been resurrected to see “Night of The Living Dead” and the zombies come off the screen for the audience, so I have a lot of fun with the zombies, and some zombies are pretty scary, but I also enjoy having the fun with the classics of that genre.
The next book is “Virtual Virgin.” And I am going ever deeper into film. The famous “Metropolis” silent film which was futuristic. They’re building a Las Vegas tower from “Metropolis,” and Ric, who can douse for the dead, has developed a new sideline. He’s now got some of Delilah’s silver powers and he calls the female robot, the famous female robot, who inspired R2-D2…no, inspired the other one.
Carole: Yes, the golden guy.
Carole: She was more silver although there was some gold in that costume in real life. And she is brought off the screen, and she’s the most interesting celebrity zombie or CimSin of all, because inside the character is the conflicted role of the evil robot, the saintly Maria peasant woman who’s helping the helpless, and the young actress who’s playing it, and also, you know, that persona. So it’s been a lot of fun to do.
Jean: Really mixing it up. Yeah.
Carole: Oh, I’m calling it Art Deco Steampunk.
Jean: Okay, cool. So what is on the horizon for you and your characters? You’ve got the “Delilah Street” series going. You’ve got the “Midnight Louie” series going. Anything else that you wanna tell your readers about?
Carole: Well, I will mention that “Virtual Virgin” is coming out November 29th. That’s the fifth “Delilah Street.”
Jean: And “Silver Zombie” is available now from book stores everywhere and online.
Carole: That’s right, online sale sites. I am, maybe, if I can get the time, going to probably post some of my reverted work, including short stories and novellas involving all of my major characters, Delilah, Louie, and Irene Adler and put them online and do the indie publisher route as they’re calling it. And I might be doing something new, but it’s too soon to tell.
Jean: Okay, you’re being coy. Now, if you put it online it will be on your website which is at…
Carole: Www.carole, with and “E” on the end of it, nelsondouglas.com.
Jean: Oh, yeah. That’s very important to get that “E” in. I know. Okay. Finally, I just wanna talk about where readers and fans can see you. You’re going to be going to Salt Lake City at the end of May?
Carole: The last weekend in May, I’ll be guest of honor, writing guest of honor at Conduit, and that’s in Salt Lake City. And we have a lot of fun things planned, including a panel which I will morph into three of my major characters before your very eyes, well, pretty completely with bits of costume and obviously, hopefully, changes of personality so you know just how multi-personality I am.
Jean: How diverse your characters and you are. And maybe, if with luck, we’ll see you at Dragon Con.
Carole: I’m thinking so. I’m thinking so.
Jean: Okay, very, very good. Thank you so much for joining us here today, Carole. And thank you, readers, for joining us at BuzzyMag.com. This is Jean Marie Ward, signing off.
With us today is Carole Nelson Douglas, the author of 58 novels of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, including 4 novels in the “Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator” series and over 20 novels featuring “Midnight Louie,” a 20-pound Sam Spade with hairballs. Thanks for joining us here today, Carole.
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Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.