Friday, 15 June 2012

Guest post: "How not to want to murder your heroine" by MaryJanice Davidson

When I was asked what topics I would like to hear MaryJanice Davidson discuss on my blog when she stopped by to celebrate the recent release of her latest novel Undead and Unstable, one that immediately jumped to my mind was the question on "How not to want to murder your heroine" - after so many installments a main character can grow as lovable and irritating as a beloved sibling, what's the trick oj MaryJanice on not wanting to strangle her? So please welcome MaryJanice Davidson who shares with us her side of the story.


My name is MaryJanice Davidson, and people don’t like it when I talk trash about someone who isn’t real. Yeah: meditate on the horror that is my life. (Off-topic, my life is actually the opposite of horrible. But don’t you love it when writers bitch about the terrible deadlines and the awful book tours and the excruciating hell of getting paid to do what you’d do for free? I won’t name names, but when a colleague started sniveling about dreadful deadlines that she herself set, I laughed so hard I aspirated my ginger ale. She started to get pissed but, after watching me blow ginger ale into Kleenexes for ten minutes, decided the gods had punished me enough.)

I’ve got a backlist of 60+ books but am best known for my Undead series, about a ditzy, vain, Minnesotan vampire queen with a love for shoes and a penchant for making everything about her (to be fair, when it comes to vampire shenanigans, everything mostly is about her). And reader reaction to Betsy is always one of two things. 1) Betsy is hilarious; I can’t believe her zany antics! Or 2) Betsy’s unendurably irritating. Her zany antics piss me off to no end. There’s no middle ground, ever.

Which is fine, but depending on who I’m talking to, I need to be careful what I say. “She’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” I’ll say, and the reader who finds her beyond annoying will laugh and agree. But the reader who loves her will fix me with a flat stare.

“I mean, her heart’s in the right place,” I’ll add, a little unnerved by the narrowing eyes and tightening mouth. “But come on. She never learns from her mistakes. She hasn’t been redeemed by love. And she’s still bitching about being the queen, when she needs to grow up, suck it up, and get on with her life. Uh, death.”

“You’re being too hard on her,” the reader will tell me coldly. “She’s been through a lot. I don’t think you understand just how hard it’s been on her.”

“Actually, I’m pretty sure I—“

“Her father died!”

“Yeah, I know, I’m the one who—“

“And she found out her sister’s the Anti-Christ!”

“—who’s actually a much nicer person than Betsy is, so what does that say about—“

“Look, maybe we should talk about something else.”

“I think that’s—“

“Because you obviously don’t get it.”

“Yes ma’am,” I’ll say humbly, and trot back to the bar for another Margarita or four.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe I should give Betsy a break. It’s not her fault she’s such an idiot. Maybe—oh, shit. Here they come! A horde of angry readers. They’re either enjoying baked Alaskas and Bailey’s Comets and B-52s, or coming for me with torches. What was I thinking, trash-talking a fictional character at a writer’s conference?

That’s okay, though. Along with the privilege of book tours and the responsibility of deadlines, realizing readers won’t tolerate anyone dissing a beloved character is a terrific “problem” to have. So is beating out the flames from a carelessly spilled Bailey’s Comet, but I’m not complaining.

* * *

Excerpt from UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE

“I wasn’t going to hurt him.”

“No, of course not.”

“They’re acting like I was going to hurt him. You are, too.”

“No,” my husband disagreed.

“Sinclair, you’ve got your arm around my elbow and you’re propelling me out of the kitchen.”

“No.”

“You absolutely are, Sinclair.”

“No.”

“And Tina’s right behind you!” Backing him up, like she always did. Or she was backing me up. Or she was helping him back me up. So that’d be . . . backing him up to back me up?

Anyway: they were hustling me up the stairs so fast, I was getting vertigo.

“We’re not . . . I’m just, ah, pleased to see you, My Queen.”

“Spare me the crapola, Tina.”

Tina was our assistant/subject/friend. She was Sinclair’s majordomo—I’ve recently learned that’s one word! (Oh, the things I’ve picked up in death . . . I could write a book. A funny, shallow book which would be, incomprehensibly, a best-seller.)

Tina was my husband’s superassistant, a secretary with power who occasionally carried a pistol. (So: best secretary ever! And since I used to be a bad one, I’d know.) Majordomo or, as she once teased last month (I think she was teasing), Major of the Mansion. Yeah, I know: I was scared to call her that if she was teasing, or if she was serious. Could I tease if she was serious about M of the M? What if I took it seriously when she was teasing? You see the sort of problems I have to deal with on a daily, nightmare-y basis.

So she was an assistant, but much much more. Except I never knew just how much. Friends didn’t call you “Your Majesty,” and she’d saved my ass about nine times in the last couple of years. But she discouraged closeness. Chilly, and also insanely hot: Tina’d been killed in her teens during the Civil War, and dressed like an escapee from a Catholic School run by a really dirty old man. So chilly but hot. Distant but caring. Professional but familiar.

“We were having a family meeting,” I explained, all the time being rushed to my room like a bad girl (“Bad vampire queen!”), “and things got a teensy bit heated, and then Sinclair freaked out, and that’s when you came in. Cribbing lines from Practical Magic, I might add.” It was Tina’s favorite book, but not her favorite movie. Weirdo. Bullock and Kidman rocked that flick.

“It did seem a little tense in there.”

“Tense? Try insane. They don’t think I should save Marc.”

“Can you save Marc?”

“You missed the ‘duh, queen of the vampires, duh!’ part of the meeting, because I established I was pretty sure I c—yeow!” A final shove up the stairs, a slam of the door, and now the three of us were in my bedroom.

I took a breath and tried to chill. “Seriously: why did you put me on the train to heck straight to my room?” (Having actually been to hell, I hardly ever used hell these days unless I was referring to hell.)

“You cannot, my own.”

Tina nodded so hard she almost lost a hair ribbon. (See, see? A hair ribbon? She looked like a slutty hot extra from Little House on the Prairie.) “The king is right, Majesty, you cannot.”

“Don’t you two start.” I scowled and flopped on the bed, leaned back on my elbows, and scowled more. “It’s my fault Marc decided he had to give himself a dirt nap. I’m getting him out of said dirt nap and I don’t wanna hear from you two about it.”

“Yes.”

“Precisely,” Sinclair said in almost the same breath.

“Uh . . . what?” I was usually braced for opposition, so when I didn’t get it, it sometimes threw me off guard. “Sorry?”

“But you cannot.”

“I’m confused,” I admitted. Maybe less scowling, more paying attention? I guess it could work . . . couldn’t hurt to try, right? “And too hungry to concentrate on your riddles. Dude, we haven’t snacked on each other for two days. And my rapist-trolling was a bust last night. Stupid St. Paul low crime rate . . .” Rapists and cops: they were never around when you needed to complain about a parking ticket or lure a sexual offender into a dark alley to drink their blood and explain the concept of irony. Typical.


Betsy Taylor is determined to change the future for herself and her loved ones, but her actions could have life-shattering repercussions. That’s to be expected when a friend returns from the dead, when your dear sister just happens to be the Antichrist, and when your mother is the devil.

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