Carole Nelson Douglas is the author of many, many novels, in many, many genres. I first discovered her fantasy worlds by reading Six of Swords. Carole’s latest book, Virtual Virgin, is the fifth installment of the Delilah Street Paranormal Investigator urban fantasy series. I was thrilled when Carole stopped by the virtual offices to chat about her writing career, her influences, and her latest book.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Carole Nelson Douglas] Literary chameleon. Have Imagination, Will Travel. Always loved to read, write, act, design, and rescue cats. Faves: Enya, Oscar Wilde, Bob Dylan, classic movies.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your new book, Virtual Virgin?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] First, there are three possible “suspects” for inspiring the novel’s title. One is a medieval vampire, one is the signature Inferno Bar cocktail recipe of the same name invented for this novel, which has an non-alcoholic version, and one is a rare and powerful CinSim.
Cinema Simulacra (CinSims) are celebrity zombies, a meld of characters from black-and-white movies and zombie bodies. They are 3-D, incorruptible tourist attractions leased to the Las Vegas hotels by the Immortality Mob. What tourist wouldn’t like to share a drink with the young Marilyn Monroe or Humphrey Bogart’s classic PI, Sam Spade? Or maybe Errol Flynn as Robin Hood?
Although the Delilah Street series has traditional supernaturals like zombies and werewolves, they play very fresh roles in my 2013 Las Vegas-from-Hell setting. There are also other paranormals, including Centaurs and CinSims and demon drug lords and chupacabras, oh my, not to mention a wolfhound-wolf cross dog named Quicksilver. Silver is a magical property in this world and Delilah’s evolving talents involve silver-backed mirrors. She sees dead people in them. And she can travel mirror-world from time to time.
The climax of the book takes place in the Juarez desert as Ric, Delilah and Quicksilver battle a demon drug lord in an epic clash.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for Delilah Street series?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] It all begins with her name, which is a twist on “Della Street,” who was the right-hand woman for mystery icon and investigating attorney Perry Mason. Delilah is definitely her own woman, although it’s handy to have a high-power CinSim defense attorney if her investigations get her into trouble with the police.
Having written more than thirty mystery-suspense novels, I wanted to use those classic mystery aspects in the urban fantasy series.
Delilah’s first name has an Old Testament source, which fits the post-monster apocalypse Las Vegas setting. Delilah’s last name of “Street” also evokes her mysterious past. She’s a never-adopted orphan named after the street she was found on as an abandoned infant. Except there’s no Delilah Street in Wichita, Kansas, where she grew up. Hmm. I say that sometimes Delilah is a bemused modern Dorothy Gale in a very wicked Oz, and sometimes she’s Mrs. Emma Peel of “The Avengers” on a tear in a black leather catsuit.
Seeing her exact double naked on an autopsy table on the CSI-Las Vegas TV show draws Delilah from the heartland to Sin City. What she finds there–besides an elusive twin mirror image named Lilith–is America’s most lavish entertainment city gone supernatural with werewolf mobsters and vampire moguls, a ghoulish CSI franchise film producer, a cool sexy ex-FBI guy with amazing powers, and so much more.
Delilah herself came up with the idea of creating and naming original cocktail recipes for each book. This is Vegas, right? Lots of bars. Delilah was annoyed with Snow, the rock-star owner of the Inferno Hotel, who was rumored to be an albino vampire, but denied it. So she stepped up to his hotel bar and had the quaking mixologist combine Lady Godiva white chocolate and raspberry liqueurs with vanilla vodka to create an “Albino Vampire.” That first book was Dancing with Werewolves, but after that, each novel is named after the signature drink Delilah invents in it. Next came the Brimstone Kiss, Vampire Sunrise, Silver Zombie and, of course, Virtual Virgin. The drinks had to not only taste good, but look good, and appropriate for their names. Liquor store clerks must have thought I was opening a speak-easy.
Snow, by the way, is one sexy character and a reader favorite. He figures in the “Snow Job” novella in the “Hex Appeal” anthology edited by P.N. Elrod coming in June, with stories by Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Ilona Andrews, and other urban fantasy writers.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing this series?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] Using classic noir film elements means explaining them to new generations. With the Internet and cable TV, these classic films are always “showing” somewhere, which helps. Often lines from these films are part of our pop culture. The CinSims add another dimension of unusual, amusing or touching characters to the storyline. And the question is, how human are they, really, and do they need to be free?
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Delilah Street would never have in her purse?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] Delilah usually carries a messenger bag. Sometimes she needs a glamorous vintage evening. Sometimes she wears a fanny pack that will stay out of the way when she goes martial arts. With jet-black hair and blue eyes, she doesn’t need much makeup beyond Lip Venom gloss.
She’d never carry a coin purse or a house key (because she lives in an Enchanted Cottage on the TV producer’s estate and is watched over by security cameras and the pixie staff), or lipstick.
She is a gloss girl all the way, and her partner Ricardo Montoya could find her in the dark by the taste and tingle of that naughty Lip Venom alone. http://shop.duwop.com/lip_venom_lip_plumper_lip_gloss.aspx
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Your writing career is prolific and very diverse. What is your favorite book that you have written so far and why?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] I love all my fictional children, but I’m usually most jived by what I’ve done in the latest book because I write series and am always upping the ante for the characters . . . and readers. Most of my novels are driven by female protagonists, so I did get a kick when the copy editor for the only two novels I wrote from a solely male point of view–the young, hotshot shrink Kevin Blake–assumed the author was a man. In acting, I loved to play against type. I was tempted to used a presumed-male, initial-only byline on those two SF thrillers, Probe and Counterprobe, but didn’t. And, of course, there’s a key woman character and a love story at the heart of the books.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] I love the classic genre books: the Sherlock Holmes stories, Dracula, the great Gothic, Rebecca, The Three Musketeers, The Haunting of Hill House. And the Janes: Eyre and Austen. From childhood, I read a lot of poetry aloud, from all eras, especially Edgar Allen Poe. It taught me to “hear” the words I wrote.
My mother was a widowed elementary school teacher who always had a “creative” project to suggest to me when I was “bored” as an only child. So I got used to “making” things to entertain myself.
In grade school I wrote a neighborhood newspaper and sold subscriptions, wrote plays and dragooned neighborhood kids to be in them, directed and acted. At eight I was typing a letter to “Hollywood” to make my favorite book into a movie so I could play the child heroine. Fast! Before I got too old for the part! Wish YouTube had been there then!! I recently found that old book did have a movie version . . . made in Poland many years ago.
So books and movies I love encouraged me to make my own. I majored in theater and English in college, but ended up after graduation as a reporter, then editor, on the local daily newspaper. Then . . . I started writing books. So everything I did as “play” as a child came back to be my career as an adult. Of course “everyone said” you could never make a living as a creative person all along. Wrong. I’ve done that all my working life and still love dreaming up every plot and character and writing every word.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] Easy. A keyboard, some time, and warm feet and hands. As a reporter at a time when we all worked in a bustling, noisy common room, I can concentrate on writing anywhere.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] A children’s classic called The Little White Horse and a story called "The Little White Cat" in a collection of French fairy tales. Guess who’s had a lot of white cats? But no white horse, alas.
When you asked this question, I realized these were both fairy tales. Then I remembered that, as a young child, I read through the entire fairy tale section in my big downtown library, so I drank in imagination and stories with morals at the end. That may explain my books.
On Virtual Virgin, RT Book Reviews said: “Multitalented Douglas layers complexities and moral dilemmas into this series, giving it both action and emotional punch!” I do like ethically challenged characters with issues to work out, especially on the romance side..
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Carole Nelson Douglas] I’m glad you didn’t ask what I have time to do when not writing. Not much, and I don’t think I’m unusual among career writers.
I did attend estate sales for years in search of vintage clothing and accessories I still wear. I love preserving items from the past, which is why I’ve written several historical novels. I’ve taken what dance classes are near by. Clogging was not a fave, but I loved learning tap and Flamenco, and now do Zumba.
I like to catch up on answering fan mail. My queue is always about 6,000 emails long and I keep beating that number back. No mail is deleted, and deadlines may make me months late in answering, but I always get there.
My husband, Sam Douglas, and I have been a “cottage industry” for a long time now, together every day, as few couples have the chance to be. He’s an artist in many areas and has taken 99% of my author photos. He’s also a terrific sounding board and wailing wall.
We spend a lot of time caring for and enjoying our adopted pets, mostly cats and the occasion superlative dog. (We lost our great “found” dog, Xanadu, after 16 years last summer.) We now have all-black Midnight Louie III, named for my mystery series feline PI character, Amberleigh (named after the heroine of my first novel who also had green eyes and auburn hair), Topaz and Winter, the gold and silver-shaded Persian girls, and an indoor feral former-momcat, Audrey, a beautiful long-haired calico.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thanks!
You can learn more about Carole by visiting the following websites:
Pocket After Dark:
Virtual Virgin is available now in both print and ebook formats. You can purchase the entire Delilah Street Paranormal Investigator series from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the links below.