Novelist Julie Kenner is so busy finishing new books that she had to clone herself to do it all. Publishing not only as Julie Kenner (author of the popular tales of Kate Connor, Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, the Tainted, Torn, and Turned urban fantasy series, and the Good Ghouls young adult books), but also now as J. K. Beck (The Shadow Keepers series launching Summer 2010), the prolific fantasy/adventure/paranormal romance author has had no less than three books published each year since her first sales in 2000. With rumors of a swarm of demons, vampires, and zombies descending on the convention, it’s about time she made an appearance at Dragon*Con and shared her expertise for the protection of us all.
Daily Dragon (DD): I read Carpe Demon, California Demon, Demons are Forever, and Deja Demon to prepare for the supernatural assault that some diviners say is due in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. For those who haven’t prepared for the worst by studying Kate Connor’s demon-hunting techniques, how can we determine who is and who is not a demon?
Julie Kenner/J. K. Beck (JK/B.): Thank goodness you asked! I’d hate for people to be unprepared! Okay, step one: check their breath. Major halitosis? You might be chatting up a demon (they get really stinky on the inside, you know). But before you go jamming your handy Bic through Stinky’s eye, wait. Alas, bad breath is also a (unfortunately) not-too-uncommon trait of your average, everyday human and/or conference attendee.
Step two: splash them with holy water. What? You came to the con without a vial of holy water? (Shakes head in utter disbelief…). Well, in that case…
Step three: drag the potential demon to a church. No, really. Just casually suggest a walk. To see the sights. Then go to the nearest church (I recommend studying the local guide that will surely be in your hotel dresser drawer beforehand). Demons can’t walk on holy ground, so you’ll know you’re walking with evil if your companion suddenly collapses in pain and begins writhing in agony. At that point you can both a) take the demon out with your handy-dandy action figure (see below), and b) fill up a vial of holy water so you won’t have to make this trip next time. (But beware! Demon bodies don’t go poof like in the movies. So keep an eye out for tourists, locals, and, uh, law enforcement…)
DD: Keeping in mind the Dragon*Con peace-bonding weapons policy, what should I stow in my convention backpack to protect myself from demons or other supernatural bad guys?
JK/B: Those security rules certainly can be pesky, can’t they? But never fear. Even your average, everyday items can become handy demon killing tools in the hands of a knowledgeable hunter.
After all, surely someone at the con will be selling action figures of some sort, right? Giving away promotional pens or pencils? Anything pointy will do just fine. (That’s the way to kill a demon, you see. Get it through the eye, and the demon that’s inhabiting the body will be sucked back into the ether). Women are at an advantage, as well, particularly women with long hair held up in handy-dandy metal clips. (Alas, I’ve cut mine short. A severe lack of forethought…)
DD: What professional level organization can I call to take out any demons I’ve identified but can’t handle myself? And how do I reach a pro demon hunter in an emergency?
JK/B: The inherent trouble with super secret arms of the Vatican is that they are, by definition, super secret. So Forza Scura has no 800-number or website. But they do monitor “chatter,” so tweet your friends, mention the encounter on Facebook, talk loudly in the lobby, tell a local priest. Odds are good a demon hunter will be dispatched to your area.
DD: Is there a test for demon hunter aptitude? What traits must a wannabe demon hunter possess to succeed in a future career nailing the pesky critters?
JK/B: The good news is that no preternatural skills are required. The bad news is that it’s harder to fight demonic forces without preternatural skills. Overall “scrappiness” is the best aptitude. Resourceful and determined. Someone who’s as comfortable using a Happy Meal toy as a stiletto blade to take out one of the pesky beasties.
DD: Kate Connor has also faced zombies in her San Diablo adventures. Are there different kinds of “living dead” we should be aware of and how do we tell them apart?
JK/B: Absolutely! Demons essentially are the “living dead” because what demons do is take advantage of that tiny sliver of a moment after death as the soul is leaving the body to force their way in (or try to; they aren’t always successful). All those people who the EMTs revived after an “unusually” long time? Yeah, now you know. But other than the nasty breath (which, I should mention, can be covered by mints and gum—is your new con friend chewing a lot of Orbit?), these demons can blend in quite well with the regular population.
More traditional zombies are created later, after the soul is gone and the body is starting to decay. These you can easily identify by the rotting flesh and disgusting stench of death. Parasites are often a major clue.
DD: Although nobody wants supernatural villains walking the halls of San Diablo High, vampires appear to be de rigueur in your Good Ghouls young adult series. How do I tell a good vamp from a bad one?
JK/B: Excellent question. If they’re trying to bite your neck (and you’re not romantically involved), it’s a good bet they’re bad.
DD: Assuming Kate Connor is not available due to a preschool play date, if the onslaught of super bad guys at Dragon*Con is too much for us mundane fans to handle, which of the heroes from your Protector series might make the grade and save the convention?
JK/B: Oh, that is a hard question! Superheroes who descended from the Greek gods (who really weren’t gods at all, but they thought it was a really fun cover story) would make excellent demon hunters. I’m going to have to go with Mordi. Because he has a bit of a bad boy streak in him, I think he’d be the best at anticipating the demon’s moves and outmaneuvering them. Either that, or Davy, who’s now a bit older and still a keen inventor. At the very least, he could probably whip up a demon-detection kit using some AV equipment, an iPhone, and a hot plate from the hotel’s catering department.
DD: On a scale of one to ten, which really smells worse, demon halitosis or a stinky diaper?
JK/B: Diapers. By far. (After all, Wal-Mart carries Diaper Genies. But it doesn’t carry Demon Breath Spray. I think that pretty much says it all.)
DD: You’ve proved your own bravery as a home-schooling mother of two. Be honest, what takes more courage and determination, demon-hunting or teaching a smart kid higher mathematics?
JK/B: Thankfully, higher math still awaits us. As for whether teaching 3rd grade math requires more courage and determination . . . well, I think maybe I should take the Fifth (ack! my inner attorney is showing!)
DD: Let’s face it, as a writer, you’re a genre jumper. How did that affect the decision to let your cloned identity J. K. Beck take credit for your new Shadow Keepers series?
JK/B: Me? A genre jumper? I can’t imagine what gave you that idea. Seriously, though, there was definite impact. For one thing, the new Shadow Keepers series is paranormal romantic suspense, and I’ve been off the single title romance shelves for over five years now (having moved across the aisle to fantasy). So that’s one reason to call out the clone. Also, the tone of The Shadow Keepers is much different than the tone of the Kate Connor books, and we didn’t want readers going in expecting a certain type of read. Besides, you really can’t have too many web pages, can you?
DD: Of the genres in which you work, what challenges do you face in each? Do you keep “the rules” straight or do you flaunt/ignore convention?
JK/B: Honestly, a little bit of both. First, though, I have to say that I don’t subscribe to the idea that there are “rules.” But there are expectations. In a mystery, you expect the detective (professional or amateur) to solve the crime. In romance, you expect the hero and heroine to have a happily ever after (or a happily for now). People go to the movies expecting a certain type of show and they get irritated if the show on screen doesn’t deliver what they thought they were shelling out their hard-earned money for. So I’m always aware of reader expectation. But at the same time, you want to arrive at that end point in an unexpected way. And that’s both the goal and the challenge!
DD: What advice do you have for writers who dabble in more than one genre?
Seriously, time management is important. Learn it. Embrace it. Live it.
DD: To what do you owe your literary and publishing success?
JK/B: My readers!
DD: What tips have you learned that might aid an adept seeking a future in genre fiction?
JK/B: The best advice I have is to read as much as you possibly can and to write as much as you can. And finish stuff. Don’t keep polishing the first chapter over and over and over.
DD: What new projects are on the horizon for your faithful readers and new Dragon*Con fans (after all, you’re saving them from hordes of demons and various undead—they’ll undoubtedly seek more self-preserving advice; perhaps one of them will save the world one day, Kate-Connor style)?
JK/B: I think we’ve mentioned most of them! It was a very busy year for me last year, and all of that work is going to start hitting shelves. I’ve got Demon Ex Machina, another Kate book, later this month, and then in the pipe is a Kate and Allie short story in an anthology with a great line-up of authors (check my website for deets on that—I’ll post ‘em as I get ‘em). Then in November, December, and January, I have the Blood Lily Chronicles, a new series from Ace: Tainted, Torn, and Turned. (One really cool thing is that I’m actually podcasting Tainted—in its entirety!—with the first episode airing on September 2! Just go to www.kennercast.com to check it out or subscribe. You can also find it at iTunes by looking for the Kenner-cast podcast. And while you’re there, listen to the podcast of my two young adult books, The Good Ghouls’ Guide to Getting Even and Good Ghouls Do!)
And, of course, next year J.K. Beck has The Shadow Keepers: When Blood Calls, When Pleasure Rules, and When Wicked Craves. And in honor of the new series, I’ll be giving away an advance copy and a Kindle. So folks can visit the site and register to win. I’ve also got “You’ve Got To Be Cruel To Be Kyne” buttons at the con, and if you grab one, it has the website, and if you send me a pic of you with a button, I’ll put it on the website.
After that . . . well, lots of stuff in the pipe, and I’ll announce it on my blog and website as things get firmed up!
Thanks so much for interviewing me. I hope folks are more prepared now to avoid those pesky demons.