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Saturday, May 28, 2011
Author Interview: Lexi George
The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Lexi George whose debut novel Demon Hunter in Dixie has just been released by Kensington Brava.
Lexi began writing in the third grade—bad poetry, she said, about hydrangea bushes and Erik the Red.
"The poem about the hydrangea bush I cannot explain, except that maybe I thought the blossoms were pretty," she told me. "As for Erik the Red, I was fascinated with Vikings as a child. Ironically, I ended up marrying one, a—gasp!—Yankee who came to Alabama with the Air Force and stayed. We met doing community theater, but that’s another story."
All through high school and college she wrote poetry, however when she decided to go to law school, things changed.
"The words dried up. Law school does that to you," she said. "Sucks all the goody out of you. Good news: I can write about soulless evil, because I’m a lawyer. Hah, beat you to the lawyer joke!"
She started writing again when her oldest child was a toddler—deciding to try her hand at a novel, even though she knew nothing about fiction writing. She never took a class or read a book on writing; she just started writing and loved it. She joined a writers' group about five years ago and admitted it's been a tremendous help.
"Getting feed-back and constructive criticism is essential, in my opinion. You can’t write in a vacuum, not if you want to get published. There are rules and you have to learn about them before you can break them," she stated.
Lexi worked on that first manuscript for ten years. It's a fantasy about a middle-aged widow who gets sucked down a rabbit hole and into a magical land filled with magic and monsters. She wakes up in another woman’s body. And not just any woman’s body: an eighteen-year-old hottie princess’s body. She finds adventure and love, and confronts the evil sorcerer who murdered her parents and tried to murder her.
She admitted that it was her own personal fantasy: to be eighteen again physically while keeping her memories and experience.
About five years ago, she started the querying rounds, but got rejected.
"Hoo boy, big time. Something like a hundred ‘no thanks,’" she remembered. "Discouraged, I turned to my first love for solace: romance. I have been an avid romance reader since the seventh grade, when I discovered Georgette Heyer. I read all kinds of romance, everything from historicals, to romantic suspense and contemporaries. I am also a HUGE fan of Janet Evanovich and Charlaine Harris, and I love alpha males. That Viking thing again, I guess.
"I read somewhere to ‘write what you know,” so I decided to write a paranormal romance set in a fictional small Southern town and peopled it with whacky characters. It took me a year to write—I work full-time and have two teenage daughters.
"The result was Demon Hunting in Dixie, a paranormal romance about a feisty small-town florist who meets an ancient, inter-dimensional demon hunter in pursuit of a rogue demon. This book was a total surprise. When I started writing it, I had a dark, sensuous story in mind. I even named it something different: Dark Encounter. Dramatic, huh?
"But it quickly morphed into something else. This snarky voice came out of me that I never knew existed. It was amazing and liberating.
"Probably all that pent up repression from law school. The book is still sexy but way more funny than serious. Who knew? Certainly not I."
Lexi shared with me that the biggest block she has as a writer is a lack of time, since she's a full-time employee, mom, wife, and housekeeper.
"Okay, the housekeeper part is a lie. My house looks like it threw up," she admitted. "But I’m busy, which makes it hard to find butt-in-chair time."
She also goes down a rabbit trail, at times, when she writes.
"A writer friend of mine calls this the drunken squirrel phenomenon," she explained. "I’ve followed that squirrel a few times, heading off in a wrong direction. I’ve learned to recognize this inebriated rodent by the unsettled, sick feeling I get in my stomach that tells me the story is going wrong. That’s your muse saying, 'Dude, stop following the bushy tail.' Listen to your muse and eschew the drunken squirrel."
I asked Lexi which came first: plot or characters.
"I am a plotser—a combination of plotter and pantser," she told me. "The idea comes first. Like, I’m gonna write a paranormal romance about a small town chick and a sexy immortal demon hunter. Chaos to follow. That’s the beginning. Now that I know what the story is going to be about, roughly, I create my hero and heroine. I give them names and decide what they look like. Then I decide how I want them to meet and I start writing.
"I wing it for the first four or five chapters, until I’m comfortable with my characters. Then I jot down a list of plot points, things I know I want to happen in the book. Each new chapter is like a mini book for me. I know what I want to happen in a chapter when I start it.
"It doesn’t always work out the way I think it will. Sometimes, the unexpected happens, a character or a situation I did not foresee. That’s the fun part, when characters and events you don’t anticipate make themselves known."
Lexi sold Demon Hunting in Dixie to Kensington last year as part of a three-book deal, and right after she sold the book they invited her to write a novella for a Halloween anthology called So I Married a Demon Hunter. She was thrilled, especially when she found out Angie Fox and Kathy Love were also going to be in the anthology.
She's currently working on book two of the demon series, called Demon Hunting in the Deep South and is set in the same town with some of the same zany characters.
"The hero and heroine were secondary characters in the first book. The book opens with a murder," she explained. "One of those incidental unexpected characters I mentioned earlier is in book two. She made her first appearance in the novella. I call her Mullet Woman and she is great fun to write. As soon as I finish book two, I will dive right into book three, Demon Hunting in a Dive Bar."
"What was the hardest part of writing your book?" I wondered.
"The battle scene near the end took me more than a week to write. I wrote 3500 words and trashed them when I realized I’d done it all wrong. (See drunken squirrel reference above.) I rewrote the chapter and focused on the emotions of the characters, rather than the mechanics of the battle, and liked it much better. Writing that first sex scene was a doozy, too. Took several glasses of wine to get that sucker on paper, but it was fun!"
On a more personal note, Lexi shared with me she has two dogs: a Labrador retriever named Bama Louisa and a miniature dachshund named Boo Lily.
"They are both clowns and they are always happy to see me at the end of the day, which I cherish. So far, we’ve spent over $1000 trying to keep the Lab in the yard—invisible fence, chain link, doggie therapy. Most of the time she stays put, but every now and then she dashes through the electric fence to go and visit her grandmother (my mother) around the corner. After she’s satisfied this familial urge, she parks her butt at the back door of my mother’s car, waiting for her chauffeur to give her a ride home. It’s a tough life.
"The dachshund is a brain surgeon . . . not! But her happy personality and affectionate nature make up for her lack of smarts. She has also been known to take a revenge poop in the house when I go out of town.
"It’s nice to be loved, but I’d rather she send me a Hallmark card to show she cares."
I asked, "Have you ever cried during a movie?"
"I get hysterical at sad movies. Seriously. So, I avoid them like the plague. This aversion dates back to the age of nine when I was traumatized by Old Yeller. That Disney fellow has a lot to answer for. I mean, puh-leeze, Bambi and Old Yeller?
"I did make an exception for Titanic¸ because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Everybody died. Well, not everybody, but a heck of a lot of people. And Jack died, which sucked. Froze himself into a little Jacksicle to save Rose. I cried a little at that one, but not too much. I mean, I knew going in it wasn’t a happy-happy-joy-joy kind of movie. It’s a movie about a ship sinking and people drowning, for Pete’s sake. So, I was prepared.
"I hate the ones that sneak up on you, though. Like My Girl. There was a happy, cute little movie and then wham! Macaulay Culkin dies. Killed by bees. Never saw it coming. Had to be sedated after that one.
"See, once I start crying, I can’t stop. It’s embarrassing."
Lexi also admitted to being very superstitious—part of her Southern heritage. If she knocks over the salt shaker, she throws salt over her left shoulder to keep the devil away. She won't put a hat on the bed or walk around with one shoe off and one shoe on because it's bad luck.
"I have a hard time at Christmas, because of the tree thing," she admitted. "Some folks say it’s bad luck to bring in the New Year with an old tree. But, I’m Episcopalian and there are the twelve days of Christmas to consider. I usually compromise and take the tree down after New Year’s but before the twelfth day. It worries me though, so I dance around and throw salt everywhere to chase away the bad stuff. Just kidding. But now that I think of it, it’s not a bad idea. . ."
You can keep up with Lexi on her website, http://www.lexigeorge.com