Natasha Rhodes interview - The mind behind monster-hunter Kayla Steel
Interview by Emma Wright
In an in-depth interview, Natasha Rhodes gives us a glimpse into her mind with an exclusive on the titles of her two new Kayla Steel books plus a quick sneak peek of a hot new character coming our way. From axing characters to curing writer's block, Natasha spills the beans on all. Including the age-old question: Werewolves or vampires?
Natasha Rhodes on Kayla Steele, Vampires and Werewolves...
Could you give us a brief summary of the past two books for people who haven't read them?
'Dante's Girl' is a story about lost love and revenge, featuring werewolves, vampires, and a whole bunch of hot guys running around with their shirts off. When Kayla Steel's fiancé Karrel Dante is found mauled to death, she thinks it's the end of her world. But when Karrel shockingly returns from the dead, Kayla is stunned to find out that everything she knew about the man she loved was a lie. Part of an underground network of supernatural hit-men, Karrel Dante had secretly dedicated his life to exterminating the dangerous supernatural entities that stalked the streets of California. Now Kayla is on a mission to learn the Dark Arts so that she can join the Hunters and avenge Karrel's death... Not easy for a girl trying to hold down a job at the local mall to pay her mounting bills.
'The Last Angel' is Book 2 in the Kayla Steel series, and continues the story where the first left off. When an angel is found murdered on the streets of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, all hell breaks lose. To the media gossip mongers, it's the scoop of the century. To the Hunters, an underground monster-fighting hit-squad, it's just another case of 'whodunnit'. To Kayla Steele, their youngest and newest member, it means a last, desperate chance to bring her murdered fiancé back from the dead, and to others with a far darker purpose, it is the means to destroy the human race. If the Hunters are to stop the onset of Armageddon they must join forces with their most hated enemies, the werewolves...
You've talked about in other interviews about your dream cast if it were to ever make it to the big screen. Is that dream any closer to becoming a reality?
I've been told by so many people that these books would make a great movie... That's a great compliment! We did recently have some interest from a movie company who were very interested in buying the rights to the series, so I guess we'll see.
Who is your favourite character from the story and what makes them so special to you?
My favourite character in the story has definitely got to be Mutt. He started out as something of a joke, a bad-boy rogue werewolf who was trying to lure Kayla away from her true love Karrel Dante, the Werewolf Hunter. I was going to axe Mutt after he got his comeuppance for his sleazy behaviour at the end of the first book, but I got so many letters from readers asking me what was going to happen to Mutt, if he was okay, when I was bringing him back and how he survived the end of Book 1, that I didn't really have any choice but to put him into the second book.
In the soon-to-be-released third in the series, 'Circus Of Sins,' Mutt gets a run for his money when Kayla meets a mysterious vampire named Niki who challenges Mutt for her loyalty and her heart. More on that one in a minute!
Now, as the series goes on, some characters are getting axed - Julissa springs to mind immediately. As a writer, how do you decide who gets to stay?
As with Mutt, it's usually my readers who decide. If I get a lot of letters and emails about a certain character, I know I've struck a chord in readers, and am more likely to bring that character back in the next book. Even if people hate a character and take the time to write to me and tell me so, I'd rather keep that character over one who nobody ever talks about, as at least I'm getting a reaction, good or bad!
In your blog, you describe a day of writing as a day of procrastination followed by a mad jolt of inspiration at four in the morning. True story? Or does your writing pattern have more of a structure to it?
At the risk of giving my dear book Editors even more grey hair, I'll have to say that that's 100% true. When I'm sitting in front of my computer at eight in the morning with a blank screen in front of me, it seems like a huge job to fill up that screen with words. I have to trick myself in order to write, to pretend I'm not actually working, in order to make the job of writing a whole novel seem much smaller.
So I'll go outside with my laptop and sit in a local cafe or a bar, or tap away on the beach whilst blasting some rock or metal music on my iPod. A change of scenery definitely helps! 'Dante's Girl' was written mostly on a laptop in a beach cafe in Venice, CA, whilst 'The Last Angel' was written variously in a Trucker's Cafe in El Segundo, a strip joint in Inglewood, California, and in an attic bar-room in Kent, England.
Writers often suffer from the dreaded writer's block. Have you ever fallen into a writing funk and if so how do you snap back?
I don't get writer's block that often, mainly because I have rent to pay each month! When I do, I find the best thing to shift it is just to stop writing, take a break, and go outside for a half-hour walk around the neighbourhood. By the time I get home I've usually got a whole bunch of new ideas for the next chapter in my head, and I'm dying to write them down.
Out of all the guys in your books who would you want to go on a date with?
Good question! Probably Niki (the vampire love-interest in the soon-to-be released third book in the series) He has all the charm and cool of Mutt, but he also has his own money, owns half the clubs in LA, drives a much cooler car, and doesn't shed on the carpet... Even though his dating techniques leave a little bit to be desired, as Kayla will soon find out!
And who would you hate to be stuck in an elevator with?
Any one of the werewolves during a full moon! Okay, you walked right into that one. Seriously, I'd say Julissa. She annoyed me a lot. I didn't have the heart to kill her off as I'd named her after a friend, so instead I sent her off to work as a P.A. in Lucifer's Admin Department in Lower Hell. That got rid of her nicely without undue bloodshed.
Vampires are classic, but you've strayed from the conventional path with your beasties. What prompted that?
I was just a little tired of the traditional, pouffy-shirt/ Anne Rice image of the vampire, and wanted to try and make vamps more realistic, if such a thing was possible. Readers these days are a lot more educated than they were when 'Nosferatu' first came out in 1922, so authors can no longer get away with explaining everything by just saying that these creatures are from Mars and so that's why they like to eat human brains.
Movies like 'Blade' and 'Underworld' are putting the science back into the scare, and new vamp movies are asking some interesting questions about how the world would cope if these creatures were real.
There are a lot of books out there portraying vampires as tortured souls, for example Twilight. How do you feel about these books?
I think the conventional view of the vampire needs a little updating for this modern world. It was very easy to be a tortured soul two hundred years ago, when all you had to do was mope around by your crypt all day and eat the occasional virgin, but times have changed a lot since then. These days, it's much harder for vampires to bemoan the fact that they're cursed to walk the cruel unending night for all eternity, when we have two thousand channels of cable, a million movies on demand and bargain-basement-priced intercontinental airline travel to every city in the world to keep them entertained. If I was a vampire, my NetFlix list would be out of control.
How do you feel about the Twilight series?
I resisted buying the books for almost a year, just as a protest against all the hype. I finally gave in and picked up a copy of the first book at a departure lounge right before a 13-hour transatlantic flight from England to America, and quite literally did not go to sleep that night until I'd finished it, at about 4 AM the next morning! I know various celebrity authors have criticised Stephanie Mayer's writing style as being overly simplistic, but I found all four books a very fast and enjoyable read, and find they stand up surprisingly well when you re-read them, which is the mark of a good book.
My only criticism of the books is that Bella is such a passive heroine! All she does is walk around swooning over how wonderful/ beautiful/ handsome her new vampire boyfriend Edward is, constantly cook dinner for her culinarily-incompetent father (what's up with that?), and then occasionally do something incredibly stupid and get saved by Edward at the last minute. If Bella and Kayla got into a fight, Kayla would definitely win.
Are any of your characters based around real people, or indeed any of the events (highly unlikely, but hey, you never know)?
The number one piece of advice I'd give to new authors is to never, ever base your characters directly on people you know in real life, in case they try to sue you. So naturally, almost everyone in my books is based on or named after someone I know, mainly friends of mine from local LA bands. Oh, and there's a vampire called Niki in the forthcoming Book 3 in the series who any Motley Crue fans out there might recognise. I'll say no more or else I'll probably get sued.
A: My favourite quote will be inside the cover of my next 'Kayla' book:
'Well-behaved women rarely make history.' - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
Your house is on fire, you only have chance to grab one thing whilst running out. Assuming all living things (cats etc) have managed to escape, what do you grab?
Most people would say 'my photo albums' but in these digital days it would have to be my Sony VAIO laptop. I've written eight novels on that laptop, on four different continents. It's been through hell and back with me, so that would probably be the first thing I'd grab.If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what one would it be?
My favourite album of all time has got to be 'Lunatic Ride ' by a British band called Halo. Their style is very unique, kind of like a cross between Muse and Placebo, with gorgeous layered rock harmonies, killer guitar work and soaring vocals, and somewhat disturbing lyrics about vampires.
Will there be any more books in the Kayla Steel series?
I'm pleased to announce that two more books have already been written and are currently being edited ready for release. Book 3 in the Kayla Steel series is called 'Circus Of Sins,' and will be released towards the end of this year. Book 4 will be called 'Dark Steel' (working title), and should be released next spring.
Once you've finished with Kayla and her crew, what can we expect from you next?
I would love to create a graphic novel based on the four books. I think that the characters and events in the books would translate very well into comic-book form.
Now the most important question of all, werewolves or vampires?
Werewolves, every time. Vampires have been done to death these last few years, and now I think it's time for the werewolves to have a turn. I'm a huge fan!
Vampires have gotten a lot of press attention in the past few years due to TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood, but I'm personally a huge werewolf fan. I think werewolves are hugely underrated, and apart from 'American Werewolf in London,' I feel they've never been done properly on the big screen. With the new Twilight movie 'New Moon' coming out soon, I'm excited to see how they portray werewolves. I'm guessing werewolves are about to get a whole lot of media attention, and about time too!
Is there anything we really should have asked you but were too stupid to notice?
My next book release will be Book 3 in the Kayla Steele series. It's called 'Circus of Sins,' and will be released by Solaris Books towards the end of this year. Check out my MySpace page at www.myspace.com/natasharhodes for more details and for a sneak preview of the first chapter, as well as a Fan-Art competition on my blog to win signed copies of my last two books. And a huge thanks to Emma Wright for doing this interview!