Writing and Book Expo America

By Kendra Saunders


It’s afternoon, the beginning of June and I’m sitting outside of Starbucks in Concord, New Hampshire. This Starbucks holds special meaning, from the friendly staff to the two electric plugs that all of the laptop-happy-customers fight over. It’s very windy today and a Ben Kingsley lookalike sits in the parking lot watching me and blasting a news program from the windows of his Jeep. It’s surreal to be here, in a place that has been my home for so long, in the place where I wrote Death and Mr. Right, after visiting the gray and grime tinged rush of New York City.

I don’t belong here.

Last year, I pitched a novel to Kate Kaynak in New York City, as we carpooled back to New Hampshire together. It was my first time in America’s best city and I was overwhelmed with exhaustion, inspiration and lyrics from Interpol songs. Death and Mr. Right had a title and it had already been written as a short story. The premise: the agent of nightmares falls in love, loses his job and is exiled into the modern world. Kate loved the idea and asked me to write it and submit it to her. I returned home, my head buzzing, and wrote Death and Mr. Right in only a few months. I edited it and put the finishing touches on it Halloween 2012. The next morning I began writing The Unlove Spell, a novel I’d been kicking around my head for weeks.

Death and Mr. Right was accepted by Spence City in late 2012 and I wrote The Unlove Spell in a few brief, joyous months. Both books were comedies, full of light and dark, in-jokes, colorful characters and tributes to my friends, muses and heroes. They were the easiest books I’d ever written. Both were also surprisingly personal – much of Death’s backstory was linked to my own youthful neuroses, brought to life through the safety of humor. Viktor’s struggles to balance a demanding family member with responsibility and his own dreams of being a writer reflected my own familial troubles as an eldest child with a difficult relationship with a cruel parental figure. But both were full of bliss, a cathartic experience, a creative binge that left me worn out in the best possible way and glowing afterward.

When my publisher said we would have review copies of D&MR to sign at Book Expo America, I planned my whole year around the trip, reserving a room at the Jane Hotel as much for its special meaning to my best friend (her favorite building in the city) as for the inexpensive price.

All of my books are written like movies, with a complete cast of muses. The Unlove Spell had been inspired by Clemence Poesy as my impulsive witch, Marling, Lana Del Rey as my crazy fae queen (perfect, right?) and Dmitry Sholokhov as the honorable, rock star writer who is also hiding a huge secret – he doesn’t write about magical beings. He IS one.

I met Dmitry at his Lord & Taylor event to launch his capsule dress collection and told him how much he’d inspired me, both because he’d worked so hard to get where he was (a kick for me to get moving!) and as a muse for Viktor. Fast forward to May and Dmitry was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to drop by the Javits Center for a bit, as my guest.

Kendra Saunders and Charles Day at BEA. More pictures can be found here, http://www.kendralsaunders.com/BEA2013.html.

BEA seemed busier this year than the year before, but as I sashayed my way through the Javits in my gorgeous Sholokhov dress and six-inch heels, I noticed a more subdued attitude in the crowd. There weren’t nearly as many free books and from what I could tell, the biggest draw of Friday would be Grumpy Cat.

My signing took place between 12:30 and 1:30, deep inside the air-conditioned safety of the Javits. Handing my book to bloggers, librarians and reviewers was absolutely enchanting and nerve-wracking, in the right portions. One gentleman caught sight of it as he walked by, wandered over to investigate and ultimately asked for a copy. I guzzled two water bottles to suppress nerves, and received a steady stream of compliments on my dress, shoes and book cover.

Books and fashion? Win-win!

Dmitry arrived at the end of my signing and I handed him a special unbound copy of The Unlove Spell’s unedited manuscript, told him all about Viktor and then posed for pictures. Though it was a blur, I do remember looking out and seeing a line of ten? fifteen? digital cameras, professional cameras, cell phones and a pink iPad. It was crazy.

After wandering a bit, laughing about Grumpy Cat’s impending appearance and signing some silly messages in Dmitry’s copy of my books, we said our goodbyes and headed out into the blistering afternoon. All I could think of, over and over, was The Great Gatsby. My friend Megan and my sister hopped into a cab with me and we escaped to Greenwich Village, intending to hide out in the cool of our hotel, just as the protagonists of Gatsby had. I’d only taken a few steps away from the cab when my shoe broke.

I took this as a good omen. I’d traveled to the big city, brought along some dear friends, been aided by several fairy godmothers (complete with lip balm, tissues, and bottles of water!)

Death and Mr. Right lives in the hands of bloggers, reviewers, librarians, teachers, a few authors, a lovely young woman who travelled from Maryland to meet me and Dmitry. Between now and October 1, I will have interviews and promotional events to keep me busy, but June in New Hampshire might as well be the dark side of the moon in most respects. I’m ready to hear what everyone thinks of little blue haired Death and his misadventures, ready to unleash The Unlove Spell on the world, and I’m dying to return to New York City.

If the broken shoe is any sign of the future, I should be headed back that way soon, ready to begin a new volume in the book of life.

About the Author:

Kendra L. Saunders is the author of the urban fantasy Inanimate Objects, short story collection Overlapping Visions and the upcoming dark comedy Death and Mr. Right (Spence City, 10/13).

She’s conducted interviews with Jennifer L.  Armentrout, Aurelio Voltaire, Dmitry Sholokhov, Fabio Costa and many  others for ipmNation, Steampunk Magazine and The New England Horror  Writers. She’s one cat allergy away from a stereotypical writer. Find  her at kendralsaunders.com or on twitter @kendrybird where she loves to answer writing questions, talk about music and fashion and share insider tips about the publishing industry.

Voltaire comes to Anthocon

Spencer Hill Press’s and Spence City’s lovely Kendra L. Saunders interviews the Gothic icon for Jason Harris Promotions.

Hello Voltaire!

I have to say, I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of meeting you this weekend at Anthocon in Portsmouth, N.H. I attended Anthocon last year, (which was actually its debut year), and had a blast. Your guest appearance at an event like this is going to be a really cool marriage of the macabre and über-fun, especially since you’ll be debuting the cover for your novel, Call of the Jersey Devil (Spence City, 2013).

So, to get everyone ready for Anthocon, I’d like to ask you a few quick questions.

Q: Your book, Call of the Jersey Devil, continues your long-standing jokes on Jersey. For the people that don’t know, what’s up with you and Jersey?

A: I was born in Cuba, but within a few years of emigrating to this country, my family had settled in New Jersey. At first, we lived in Newark, and I was the only “white” kid at my all black and Puerto Rican school, so I was in a fight every day for being different. When I was in third grade, we moved to the suburbs, and I went from being “white” to being the only “hispanic” kid (or “spic” as they called me) in an all-white neighborhood, again, because I guess I didn’t fit in. Furthermore, growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey from that point on, I was constantly ridiculed for being interested in art and music and stop-motion animation. I was perpetually bullied and called a “fag.” I finally ran away from New Jersey when I was 17 and went to New York City where I seemed to fit in just fine. My experience in New Jersey was that they don’t like anything that isn’t completely familiar and grotesquely mediocre. Suffice to say, if you’ve seen the MTV show Jersey Shore, let me tell you, that’s exactly how New Jersey really is!!!! I simply had to get out to keep my sanity.

Q: When I mentioned your name online recently, I heard a lot of happy cybersqueals from your fans. Happily, they come from all walks of life including bookstore clerks, steampunk fans, writers and folk lovers. They’re definitely excited about your upcoming novel. What would you say is the one thing about your novel that will most surprise your fans?

A: I’m not entirely sure the novel will surprise these nice people. I think that over the years, people who have followed my work have noticed a certain twisted sense of humor mixed with a poignant sense of pathos. I do believe there is a unique thread running through most of what I do. It’s simply my way of looking at the world. This novel is really, I think, the culmination of all of the things that makes my point of view, uniquely mine. So if they’ve enjoyed what I’ve done in the past, I think they will really appreciate this book. I do believe it’s my best work to date. If it tells you anything, there are parts that still make even me laugh out loud when I read them and tear up like a baby as well.

Q: Now, as a musician, you must have a pretty cool soundtrack for when you’re writing, right? What are a few of the songs or albums that you really enjoyed listening to while you wrote Call of the Jersey Devil?

A: Believe it or not, I feel most comfortable writing in noisy places. There is no place more productive for me than a busy cafe. Like most of my comic books, I wrote this novel at Yaffa Cafe in NYC between the hours of midnight and eight am. The music I wrote to was mostly the clanging of silverware, random conversations between transvestites and after hour club people and whatever CD the waiter chose to play on any given night.

Q: There’s something about the smell of coffee or the sound of strangers talking that inspires, that’s so true. Anthocon is a horror and [speculative fiction] convention, so I have to ask, what are your top three favorite horror movies? And how about horror novels?

A: That’s probably impossible to answer. There are about twenty films in my top ten! They are also not all “horror” films because I’m a fan of monsters, not genres. So I don’t tend to separate sci-fi, fantasy and horror if they have monsters in them. I just call them “genre” films or “monster movies.” If I had to name three favorites off of the top of my head, I’d say King Kong (1933), Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Ridley Scott’s Alien. As for novels, at the risk of alienating a lot of people, I will admit that I’m not an avid reader, so I can’t really say. It probably explains why most of my novel’s influences are horror movies from the 80s!

Q: I love that though! So many good authors are influenced by movies and music and other forms of arts than just books. Now, you’ve done a little bit of everything; stop-motion animation, music, books. What’s next on your agenda? World domination?

A: Believe it or not … acting! I’ve always wanted to do it and recently was cast in my first real role in a feature. It’s a horror film called Model Hunger, directed by the talented horror film actress, Debbie Rochon. I play an acerbic alcoholic (yes, I was typecast!). It comes out at some point in 2013. I hope to do much more of this. It was as much fun as I’d imagined!

Q: You’re appearing at Anthocon on Sunday. Will this be your first time in New Hampshire?

A: Nope! Last year, when I went on my “Black Unicorn Cabaret Tour,” I performed in Manchester, New Hampshire. That was my first area show.

Q: I’m pretty impressed by your wardrobe, gotta say. Were you visited by a goth fairy of great fashion sense or were you always just this cool?

A: You’re too kind! I’m not a fairy, though Neil Gaiman did describe me once as a “Gothic Elf Lord” which, of course, I loved! If it tells you anything, I was run out of New Jersey on a rail in 1984 because I was a “New Romantic” or “Goth”. So, the desire to dress up has been with me for a long, long time. I’m middle-aged now and putting on some pounds around the middle, so I no longer wear tights and dress like Adam Ant, but I still have a little dark glamour left in me!

Thank you so much for your time and we all look forward to seeing you at Anthocon, for your reading AND for your concert!

For more information about Anthocon, please visit: http://anthocon.com/

A: My pleasure entirely! And for those who would like to learn more about my comics, animation, music and toys, of course, they can always check out my official website at www.voltaire.net

Cheers! Voltaire

Kendra L. Saunders is the author of the magic realism novel Inanimate Objects and the upcoming dark comedy Death and Mr. Right. She is marketing coordinator for Spencer Hill Press and has conducted interviews for Steampunk Magazine and ipmnation.com. In her spare time, she likes to drink too much tea, read fashion magazines, attend steampunk conventions, daydream about boys with dark hair, listen to records on vinyl and try to travel back in time to the Jazz Age. Find her online at www.kendralsaunders.com