Today we meet the first of this year’s Vampire Month authors – Jen Ponce. I first met Jen through the Dragon’s Rocketship Facebook group and am welcoming the chance to learn more about her here. You can find out more about her on http://jenniferponce.com/about-jen-ponce/
1. What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?
I wrote a lot, but the first thing I remember writing and getting an audience response from (which was epic, by the way) was a play I wrote and then performed with my Animal puppet. I was ten. I remember futzing over that little script for days, wanting it to be perfect. My older sisters (both in college), my brother-in-law, my nephew, and my mom were in the audience. I squatted behind the couch and let Animal do the talking. I remember it was a play about the Fourth of July, but I can’t remember much else about it except that my audience all laughed when they were supposed to laugh. That moment made me a writer.
2. When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?
The moment I decided to become a professional writer was the moment I decided I was going to sit down and finish a novel. I’d written several with friends, but I’d never finished an entire book myself and I burned to do that. I set myself a goal and dangled tantalizing bait at the end: the DVD set of A & E’s Pride and Prejudice. I knew I’d never be happy with myself if I didn’t hold a book in my hands with my name on it. I knew that I wanted to be a professional writer ever since that moment I made my family laugh with something I wrote.
3. What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?
I think my greatest strength would be the ability to build suspense and my characters. I write by feel: does this chapter feel like it ends on a high note? Does this sentence feel scary? It’s kind of a weird thing but I think I’ve read so many books that the pace and rhythm of novel structure has settled into my muscle memory.
My greatest weakness would be settling into the story long enough to show what’s going on. I sometimes have a tendency to set the pace, to drive toward the end, that I forget some people like to know what the setting looks like, what the characters look like, etc. … I’ve been working on slowing down my prose long enough to settle readers firmly into the place of the book, into the physical body of the character. It helps to have writer friends with those strengths, who can point out places where my setting is thin so I can fix it. I’ve found that being more detailed is fun, though I’m still a “go go go” kind of writer.
4. Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?
I live in the Panhandle of Nebraska, which is a very homogeneous culture. Whenever I go places, I’m so grateful for diversity it’s silly. Nebraska is a beautiful place and it’s home to people with a great capacity for independence and self-sufficiency.
One place that I visited that inspired the creepy setting of one of my books, Bug Queen, was a coffer dam in Cisco, TX. It used to be the hub of all things social and fun: a gigantic pool, a small zoo, a skating rink. It was an extremely busy place … until there was no more money to keep it running. When my friend and fellow writer Kathy took me there long ago, it was a silent and eerie place. The pool water was covered with green and the remnants of one of the ladders for the diving board still jutted from the murky depths. It was the perfect spot for my alien fungus to drive its victims, to store them, and to let the fungus wriggling inside them grow.
5. Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?
That would be hard to say. I read and write in several genres. Stephen King’s It is probably one of my favorite books of all time, if I had to pick one. I am still awed by its complexity and the way he wove in the past and the present, all those characters, all those stories, into a novel that still sucks me in when I start reading it, even after many read throughs, even after all this time.
6. What drove you to write about Vampires?
The Hammer Brothers films started me loving vampires. Those films gave me delicious nightmares when I was a kid, (and if you know me at all, you know I love nightmares—that’s where a lot of my stories come from.) The thing I always wished for was the vampire to live and was disappointed time and again that the vampire would get staked and the world would turn back to normal. Who wants normal? Love At First Bite gave me a good ending—the vampire gets the girl and they fly off into the sunset. Yay! And then the Vampire Lestat came along. If I wasn’t hooked already, I would have been. Anne Rice opened up a wider world view for me and made me hunt for more books about vampires. Some were hits and some were misses, but it was all story fodder.
7. What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?
For me, vampires are the promise of something magical. This world is so mundane that we humans are always inventing things to make it more fantastical. (Think Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy.) Why do we have these things? Why did our ancestors believe in jorogumo, fairies, daemons? Partially because there were gaps in our scientific knowledge, sure, but also because it makes life easier to think that just around the corner there could be a leprechaun we could catch to win some gold, or a genie to grant us wishes. I’ve always wanted to become a vampire and gain immortality—think of all the books I’d have time to read! Vampires give us magic and they give us sex and they give us darkness. There are things we don’t want to experience in real life that we enjoy reading about. We don’t want to murder (most of us, I hope) but we settle ourselves into the skin of a vampire main character and murder people. We relish the blood, the violence, the power, and then we go back to our fairly safe, mundane lives. Vampire fiction gives us an outlet, it’s a waking dream. Then we close the book and become human once more.
8. In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?
I’m liking Leo Pellissier, from Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. I considered Lestat, but he does a lot of navel gazing and pondering the numinous, and I considered Akasha, but of course, Lestat does defeat her, so probably Leo. “Go Leo!”
9. What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?
Eric Northman from the Sookie Stackhouse series would win sexy male. (Sorry Leo and Lestat, you’re cute too.) Ivy from the Rachel Morgan series would win sexy female. I crushed on her hard the whole time I read those books. Kisten too, but my heart is still sad over him.
10. How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?
Lady Catherine would win against Leo. She is evil and sadistic and worse, it takes a specific person’s blood to even kill her. She’d have Leo’s head off and he’d be deader than a doornail in minutes. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would think she was sexy though. Evil has a way of shining through and hers is a very base kind of evil.
11. Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.
Blood Drunk is the sequel to Blood Curse (featuring the evil Lady Catherine.) It’s the story of Claudia, a vampire focused on revenge against Patrick Montgomery, one of three brothers who figured out how to use vampire blood to lengthen their lives without turning. She thinks him responsible for the horrors she experienced at the hands of the Marquis de Chaval. (I based him on the notorious Marquis de Sade. I figured I should get something out of the horrors I experienced reading his books. Eep.)
Before Patrick became a vampire hunter, he was a pirate, and he was the one responsible for Claudia’s husband’s death. But of course, all is not as it seems, and as the story unfolds, the truth comes to light.
The main characters of Blood Curse, Lorelei and Issala, return in this book, as do Patrick’s brothers and Lorelei’s insane twin, Morganna, who seems to be following in Lady Catherine’s dainty footsteps. I’m planning two more books, each one focusing on a different set of characters and their individual stories against the backdrop of a larger, more complicated story line. Blood Curse sat for a short while at #1 on Amazon in the lesbian horror category and it consistently sits in the top 100. Since the next book’s focus is not on Lorelei and Issala, it’ll be interesting to see how it fares.
Bio for author Jen Ponce
I’m a voracious reader and growing up, I constantly looked for heroic female characters. To my disappointment, so many of the women in the genre fiction I was reading were doormats, weak-willed, boring, incapable, or even downright dumb. That’s why my fiction features strong women. Women who are heroic, women who don’t fall in love and forget who they are, women who fight for what they believe in. If you are looking for character-rich stories that drive you relentlessly toward the big finish, then you just might like my books. Keep in mind I’m a big fan of blood and horror too. Do you like to be scared while you watch a kick ass woman save the day? My books might be just the thing to keep you up all night long.
I’m a writer, a mother of three boys, a cat herder and zombie apocalypse aficionado. I also love vampires, so if you meet one, send ’em my way, okay? I would appreciate it.
If you’re interested in my Kick Ass Woman’s Manifesto, please visit my website here: http://jenniferponce.com/kick-ass-womans-manifesto/ and follow my blog if you like what you see.
Find Jen on Facebook and Twitter