Interview: Lucy A. Snyder on Switchblade Goddess and Beyond
With the release of Switchblade Goddess by Del Rey in late December, Lucy A. Snyder officially turned her Jessie Shimmer stories into a trilogy. In this blog interview, Lucy reveals that we have definitely not seen the last of Jessie Shimmer.
I am a raving fan of the first two books, and look forward to digging in to SG as soon as possible (the reading stack here at home, were it not mostly electronic, would have collapsed one of my walls by now, but I digress). Her first book, Spellbent, was nominated in 2010 for a Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in a first Novel. (Check out my review of the first book here). Previously, Lucy’s collection Chimeric Machines won 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Poetry. But enough from me.
Congratulations on the release of Switchblade Goddess. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Did you conceive of the Jessie Shimmer stories as a trilogy, or did the development come after Spellbent?
Spellbent emerged from a short story assignment that never happened. Some years back, I got a heads-up that there might be openings in the anthology Apprentice Fantastic, so I started working up some ideas to pitch to the editor. I got the idea for a story centered on a young apprentice who loses her master when a storm-calling goes wrong and has to face down a demon with just the help of her familiar. The anthology ended up not having any openings, but by that time, I’d gotten excited about the characters and slowly started working on the story, which became a a novella, which became a novel.
By the time the story had expanded to novella size, I was already thinking ahead to additional stories I wanted to tell about the characters, and also about the overarching plot that would be carried out over the course of several books. Of course I had no idea if I could sell the book, or if whoever bought the book would want a series, so Spellbent was written with a more “closed” ending than either Shotgun Sorceress or Switchblade Goddess. Which consequently resulted in my adding the prologue and epilogue to Spellbent.
And ironically enough, I haven’t managed to get to the events implied by the prologue in the series yet, so really I might as well not have included it! I need three more books to carry through with the main plot arc. Said novels, unfortunately, will probably not be released by Del Rey. My agent and I are in contact with other publishers; one way or another, I will write the rest of the Jessie Shimmer series and make it available to readers. But at the same time, I do have to keep a roof over my head, so if I end up writing the rest of the series without the benefit of an advance, it’ll take me longer than I’d like.
One of the joys of the trilogy is your portrayal of the sorcerers and witches existing as an open secret in the mundane world. Is this just fun extrapolation or do you think there are secrets hiding in plain sight in the real world that the average person has conditioned themselves to ignore? (Author photo by Doug Dangler)
Mostly it’s a fun extrapolation. At the same time, we humans aren’t built to be able to sense everything that happens around us: x-rays and magnetic fields are invisible, very low and very high pitches are inaudible, quarks and gluons untouchable. So who’s to say that there aren’t secrets hiding from us in plain sight?
One of the things I love about the series is the character of Jessie Shimmer. She rides a fine moral and ethical line in ways that I think will surprise uninitiated readers. Did you have a clear understanding of where she makes her stand in most scenes? Did anything raise a flag with yourself, your pre-readers or you publisher that you had to reconsider?
As a character, Jessie is a good person who wrestles with her own darker impulses. She’s quick to anger and her first instinct is to jump in and fight when the people she loves are threatened. So, she wants to do the right thing, but a calmer, more dispassionate person might question the prudence of the things she decides to do.
The main things as a writer that I’ve asked my editors and first readers for input on is the level of violence. The violence and darkness in the books won’t be anything extreme to horror readers, but not all urban fantasy readers have been expecting it. Some people who read what’s marketed as urban fantasy are mainly romance readers, and they expect the urban fantasy novels they open to simply be a more action-oriented kind of paranormal romance. My books have a love story, but they are not romances and were not intended to be romances. Romance readers have a different set of expectations, and they often don’t expect the kind of violence that happens in my books.
And there’s issues with sex. Romance readers may usually expect sex scenes to mostly happen off stage. If the sex happens on stage, it’s supposed to fit with the plot, sure, but mostly it’s supposed to be hot. Some of the sex scenes I’ve written are supposed to be plotworthy and disturbing, or plotworthy and funny, or plotworthy and creepy. It doesn’t all titillate because it’s not all supposed to titillate.
Might we be seeing Jessie or the supporting cast of this trilogy in future stories?
Absolutely! The story “Repent, Jessie Shimmer!” will appear in Apex Book Company’s 2012 anthology Southern Undead. And there will be a set of new stories about Jessie, Cooper, the Warlock, and other characters in my forthcoming collection Orchid Carousals, which I hope will be out toward the end of 2012. I’m still working on the stories, which are all erotica; some of them may also be appearing in other anthologies, but that hasn’t been decided yet.
Thanks again, Lucy, and congratulations! I’m looking forward to checking it out.
Learn more about Lucy A. Snyder at these links.