Welcome, one and all, to another author interview! Today, I’m welcoming Amanda Cherry to the site. Amanda is currently writing within a shared super hero/villain universe, with her latest novel in the world being Rites and Desires. So, let’s get to it!
Your latest novel Rites and Desires has just been released and tells the tale of a super villain that’s lost her magic, and just how far she’ll go to get it back. First up, what inspired you write about a villain rather than a hero?
I will forever maintain that a good bad guy is a thing of beauty. I have always been intrigued by a well-written antagonist. When the villain is deep and well thought out by the writer, when they’re realistically motivated and make organic decisions, that draws my interest far more than your average ‘good guy’. So getting to flip the script and make my villain the protagonist rather than the antagonist just seemed like a natural progression of my love for well-done literary wickedness. Ruby is a delicious character and I can’t wait for people to get to know her.
I know that the POTUS in the book is the object of vitriol from both heroes and villains in the universe, which fits with current real-world circumstances quite nicely. Is he the only character to hold a mirror to aspects of the real world though? For example, was your leading lady Ruby Killingsworth based on anyone?
She’s me. *insert maniacal laughter*. No, really. Author Dawn Vogel (www.scarywhitegirl.com) was working on a new hero in the Cobalt City Pantheon whose backstory was as a teenage pop star. As I mentioned, I have a fascination with well done villains, and I asked (half-joking) if she would base this hero’s nemesis on me. The next thing I knew we were collaborating on Ruby’s name and backstory.
As for other things in the book: Cobalt City in 2017 is definitely an echo of real America in 2017. Ruby is part of the 1%, and her ‘I’ve got mine and don’t give a damn whether you get yours’ attitude is part of what marks her as patently NOT heroic. Her neighbor and love interest is another billionaire who feels differently—he’s a bona fide Good Guy who only wishes he could do more to fight the corrupt regime and make the world better.
A fictional analog to the America we live in, Cobalt City is a fantastic lens through which to examine the current political quagmire and in what way our alliances (and our perceived alliances) effect how we navigate it.
The trickster God Loki makes an appearance in the book too. There’s something wonderfully appealing about his nature I think, which is possibly why he’s been represented in so many different tales. Have you always been a fan of the Norse god? Do you have any favourite appearances from him in other media?
I’m a Wagner fan, so I’ve always had a soft spot for Norse myth. Loki has appeared in previous Cobalt City tomes, most notably in Jeremy Zimmerman’s Kensei series (www.bolthy.com) and I adored this iteration of the famous god from the first read. I knew he would make a good partner in crime for Ruby. And although Loki in Cobalt City is depicted with red hair, I cannot picture him as anything other than a ginger Tom Hiddleston. I love the MCU version of Loki and I feel like Hiddleston’s performance really informed the way I present the character in Rites & Desires.
Do you have a favourite scene or moment in the book?
Oh, gosh! There are a few one-liners that I’m really proud of: Ruby calls the President a “pusillanimous cretin” at one point and I really, really love that.
But as for a *moment* I have to say there’s a little bit of business with Ruby, her love interest, and a LEGO minifig that makes me smile. It’s just about the only time we see Ruby get flustered and have *feelings* and I like the moment of honest humanity that accompanies it.
I love the vintage feel to the cover. Who was the artist, and did you have much input with the design?
My cover was done by the incredible Lee Moyer (www.leemoyer.com) based on what I’d had in my head since I started writing the book. We met in person and I was able to describe my idea to him while he sat and sketched. We spoke on the phone and via email a few times after that, as the cover art progressed from sketch to pencils to color to final. He is an amazing artist and was SO easy to collaborate with. I feel honored to have his work on my cover.
The super hero genre is enjoying much success right now thanks in part to the success of several big screen adaptions. If you were to see Rites and Desires translated to the big screen, who would be your dream team of director, studio and star?
I’d want Patty Jenkins or Ava Duvernay or someone trained by one of those women to direct for sure. I think telling a complex story about a complex female character who is wicked, but not unlikeable, is the kind of thing that would take a very measured approach—and a female at the helm. I’d say Universal or one of their imprints would be a good fit, because there’s a moment in the book that would make a pretty fun theme park ride! And as for the star: my other career is as a television actress; so, since the character is based on me, I’d want to do that myself. 😉
Rites and Desires is part of the Cobalt City, which is a shared universe. Your first appearance in this setting was with a short story in the anthology Cobalt City Christmas: Christmas Harder. What drew you to this anthology, and did you already have your protagonist in mind before you started writing for it?
Because I got to be in on the creation of Ruby for Dawn’s story, I was enamored of her from the get-go. When the idea for the Christmas anthology was being bandied about, I dropped the hint that I’d like to maybe write a Ruby story. I had never sold anything to a professional market before and I figured nothing would come of it. But then I got the email: author Nathan Crowder (www.nathancrowder.com) who created Cobalt City and who was curating the anthology invited me to submit. Because it’s a shared universe, and there’s a need not to have too many fingers in the pie at once, just being given the shot was a big deal. And I was ecstatic when the story sold and was published.
How have you found writing in a shared universe? Are there set rules that you must follow when planning plot lines for example?
I don’t know what it’s like for authors who write for bigger IP, but things are pretty laid back in Cobalt City. There’s definitely an etiquette. I wouldn’t kill off a character another author created without a long discussion with that author and anyone else who has written for that character. I do mess up a long-standing relationship in Rites & Desires and I made sure to leave the characters in a place where things *could* go back to how they’d been before… just in case anyone needed that for a work-in-progress. It turns out I had done everyone a favor by introducing this relational tension and apparently it’s got Erik Scott De Bie (www.erikscottdebie.com) working on another Cobalt City book right now!
Do you all allow for characters to cross-over into each other’s stories? If so, do you discuss character points with each other before writing to ensure consistency?
Oh, we definitely do. One of the main characters in Rites & Desires is the city’s most famous superhero, Stardust. He’s been seen or mentioned in nearly every Cobalt City novel to date (and several short stories). We talk to each other about the characters’ voices and proclivities and we read each other’s work (and works in progress!) to make sure we stay up-to-date on where the characters are—physically and emotionally. One of the greatest compliments I’ve gotten was the unanimous decree by other Cobalt City authors that “my” Stardust was spot-on!
Has writing within a shared universe been difficult at all, or is there a sense of comradery inherent to doing so?
We have a wiki! The day my short story sold to Christmas Harder, I got an email that said: “Welcome to Cobalt City!” with the wiki address and account info all set up. It’s easy to keep track of people and places that way. And yeah, the collaboration and camaraderie has been phenomenal. I can email any of the other authors with any questions I have and they’ve all be super generous with their time and expertise. I have felt very, very supported.
The Cobalt City books, as well as the Mad Scientist Journal anthology collections are all released through DefCon One Publishing. What can you tell us about the label?
DefCon One started with Dawn Vogel and Jeremy Zimmerman and their venture to publish the Mad Scientist Journal quarterlies—which are collections of the short fiction from www.madscientistjournal.org along with special print-only features. They later decided to use the imprint to effectively self-publish-but-not their own long form fiction, and the brand grew from there. They’ve since put together four themed short story anthologies (with another in the works!) as well as publishing novellas and ebooks. Mine is the first novel from an outside author to be published by DefCon one and I am so grateful for the opportunity and honored to have been chosen to help them grow the brand.
Outside of writing books, you have quite a lot of achievements to your name! For one, you’re a roller derby official. How did this come about, and do you have any fun memories from officiating the sport?
I have so many good memories of derby. It’s a great and empowering sport and I love being part of the community. One standout moment was in 2015: I was living abroad in Germany and wound up invited to be the head skating official for the first WFTDA Regulation game played in Poland. I love that I was able to help grow my sport and to support these amazing, enthusiastic women!
You’re also a musical performer and television actress. Do you have any performances that you’re particularly proud of?
I joke that my claim to fame is that I once co-starred with *the* Gecko. I was a principal cast member in the pilot episode of “Legit”. I have had some wonderful moments in live theatre, too: big favorites include playing Esther Smith in “Meet Me In St. Louis” and Nancy in “Oliver!”
You’re a self-confessed Star Wars nerd. What drew you to the franchise, and how would you rank the films from best to worst?
I was probably four years old when I looked up at my family’s television and saw a petite woman with flawlessly braided hair out-flying and out-shooting a couple of guys in white armor who I could tell were professional soldiers. I know now that what I was seeing was the famous speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi and I have been a fan and devotee of all things Leia Organa ever since.
As for ranking the films: that’s WAY too hard! I will say The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are my favorites, but other than that it’s really hard to rank them.
Your love of Star Wars also plays into the fact that you’re a writer and podcaster for Tosche Station. What can you tell us about the site and the podcast?
www.tosche-station.net is a Star Wars and geek culture site and I adore being part of the team. I’ve written on everything from my impressions of books and movies to recaps of convention panels, to coverage of events connected to Star Wars or geekdom in general. I really love the site and its dedication to diverse voices.
I was privileged to be part of the Thrawncast team at Tosche Station: a podcast dedicated to reliving the beginning of the old Expanded Universe of Star Wars literature. Thrawncast is on extended break at the moment, but our back episodes are still available. I also have a new podcast currently in development—stay tuned for news on that front!
Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by today. Do you have any final messages for readers, and where can they go to find out more about you and your work? Feel free to link to anywhere you want.
I do a little blogging about my writing and keep folks up to date on convention and bookstore appearances at www.thegingervillain.com
You can find me on goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16099525.Amanda_Cherry
I’m also a prolific and entertaining tweeter! Follow me on Twitter @MandaTheGinger