Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Author Interview: DESIREE LEE

Author Interview by A.J. Llewellyn

1. Hi Des, and welcome to the divas’ dark den…you say you’re putting the romance back in necromancy…what does this mean exactly? I’ve been er…dying to ask.

I tend to like things on the darker side of life. Paranormal, horror, most anything macabre really piques my interest. When I discovered that romance books weren’t all sappy, Velveeta-laden fluff, I was stoked. Hey, I could get away with writing stories I like to write… and interject a romance in there too.

2. I know your earliest work was a short story about food…that grows to human size and takes over. I love this idea…what is the scariest food in the world to you?

Um, good question. I’m allergic to tomatoes and nuts so anything with those in it has scary potential. I love lasagna though, and salsa, so sometimes I cheat and suffer the consequences anyway.

About 15 years ago, Jake, a guy I was dating at the time, and his friend Stu got it in their minds that they wanted to try haggis. There is an annual Highland Games & Celtic Festival in the city we lived in and we knew that there were haggis vendors there. The three of us resolved that yep, we were going to try it. We got there. We got in line. We got up to order and I got a whiff of it. OMFGoodness, it smelled like a steaming dog turd. I gagged and said I was chickening out. I couldn’t get past the smell to try it. Jake and Stu each ordered some. Jake took a few bites and said he didn’t like it. Stu said it was pretty good. He ate all of his and the rest of Jake’s portion too. I’ve since been told that wasn’t “real” haggis and that if I ever went to Scotland, I’d have to try it there. I don’t know.

AJ says: I am the wrong person to ask regarding taste, since I am a vegetarian but I’ve been to Scotland and I smelled it. Steaming dog turd is so apt. Even the locals say it’s an acquired taste!
Then there was also a time Jake and I went to a Star Trek convention in Reno, NV with his friend Greg, whom we called Poly because he had a homemade Star Trek uniform (the old jumpsuit kind) that his mom made for him out of polyester. It was also made way too small for him, and Greg wasn’t exactly a trim and fit guy, if you know what I mean. Plus the legs were too short, but he loved it and he wore it, despite the fact that if you looked at the crotch area, it was the most obscene Star Trek costume on the face of the planet. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t discriminate on body type, but some people do not look good in skin-tight polyester Star Trek costumes. Nor should they wear them with white sneakers.
But, I digress…
AJ says: Des, you are hysterical!!!
Jake, Poly and I were in Reno for this Star Trek convention and we got there early. We decided to get breakfast. We went to the restaurant in the hotel where the convention was and they said there was a 45+ minute wait for a table, and asked for our name. Poly spouted off, without a moment’s hesitation, “Griswold.” As in Clark W. Griswold from the National Lampoons Vacation movies… Somehow Jake and I managed to keep straight faces. The hostess gave him an incredulous look, but wrote it down. We left and went across the street to another casino to see what the wait time was there. We ended up in this Hof-Brau at 7-something in the morning, ordering 99 cent breakfast specials. It was one of the most horrible things I have ever dared to put in my mouth. I think it’s still lodged somewhere in my intestines.

Word to the wise: A 99 cent breakfast in a Hof-Brau is a bad, BAD idea. Don’t walk away, run.

3. I’ll keep it in mind! Do you still have the actual story and where did the idea for this come from?

No, I do not have the story, unfortunately. I wrote it for a class project and it earned me a ticket to a Young Writer’s Conference where we got to do writing workshops and listed to a keynote speech by a children’s author. That year the keynote speaker was Eve Bunting. Fascinating lady and I loved her books as a child. I even read one of her books to my class when I was working at the elementary school a few months ago. But, I’m off on a different subject again.

Anyway, all of the entries of the students who attended the conference were put into an anthology and given to us. (Spiral bound with construction paper type covers, but hey, it was a book!) Unfortunately a flood in 1986 ruined a lot of my possessions, that book being one of them.

The idea came from a dream of mine. I actually dreamt the scene. At the end of the story, when I woke up, soda and food were all over the floor of my room. That didn’t happen after the real dream. *LOL*

4. You are a night owl from what I have read and you describe yourself as a vampire. One of you early pen names in fact was Desmodus Rotundus. How does Desmodus differ from Desiree as an author and as a person?

It’s almost like an evolutionary chain for me. Desmodus Rotundus the character is one that is nearest and dearest to my heart. That was my role-play character for years. In the course of being a vampire though, Des the character changes her name occasionally to account for passage of time. Mortals might notice, you know. One other name that I considered was Desoline, which was the name of my great-great grandmother. When I started getting serious about writing, I didn’t think Desmodus Rotundus (which is the genus and species of the vampire bat, btw) would be taken seriously. I felt I needed something more of a “real sounding” name. My RL surname is Japanese and gets botched in pronunciation a lot. *LOL* Plus, with my RL first name, it has a sing-songy type effect. Author Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc told me my name sounded “like an anime character.” I thought that was pretty funny.

I’ve been “Des” in some form or another since 1995. I sat and made a list of many potential pen names, but none of them felt like “me” except something “Des” related. Lee is my dad’s middle name, and also the middle name of my older brother, who is no longer with us. It’s also the surname of the vampire family my friend and I had for a vampire themed RPG we created. It was already pretty firmly entrenched into my persona, it seemed like the perfect fit.

When I got divorced last year, the judge offered me one free chance to change my name while we were there doing the divorce proceedings. I passed on the opportunity, mostly because it was such a pain to change everything over from my maiden name to my married name after the wedding, I didn’t want all the hassle in reverse. Plus, I still had book submissions floating out there with publishers that I didn’t want to have to go back and correct the name on. “Oh by the way, I submitted this book under this name, but now it’s changed to this name…” did not appeal to me. The thought of changing it to Desirée Lee crossed my mind though! I thought if I did that, my parents would be upset that I got rid of my given name. My ex didn’t care if I kept his last name so it was easiest to just keep my name as it was. Funny thing is my mom asked me later on why I didn’t change my name to Desirée Lee when I had the chance. I was floored. Missed opportunity there, I suppose. If I knew it wouldn’t have upset them, I would have legally changed it. Now if I want to legally change it, I have to go through all the paperwork, fees, yada yada. Phooey on that.

5. Wow, Des! Your real name sounds like an anime character? I love it! Okay, you and I have both had severe computer woes and lost almost entire books due to computer crashes. We both wept. I still ache. Did you ever replace the lost manuscript and do you think it is better for the rewrite?

I found a floppy disk in a box that I think MIGHT have that book on it, but it is Mac formatted. I need to find someplace here that I can get it converted over to PC format. My own computer doesn’t even have a floppy drive.

I never rewrote that story. It’s just gone now. I know however, if it is on that floppy and I do eventually recover it, then it will need a total rewrite. I knew nothing about writing when I started that. I’m sure it’s chock-full of head-hopping, passive voice, grammar errors, etc.

6. You have a lot of books published and some tied up with closed/defunct publishers. This must be devastating as an author to have your book come out, only to have the company fold. Have you had trouble getting the rights back to your books?

It was devastating. Aphrodite’s Apples closed less than a year after my first professionally published work, Top This, was released. It also closed down the day before my second book was to come out – Virginal Concupiscence, the sequel to Top This. I got my ARC, but it never hit the virtual-stands.

My other book Inking Violet got contracted by a new publisher that never even opened their cyber-doors. I tried contacting them through email and snail mail both and never heard a word from the owner. My certified letter came back returned as undeliverable as addressed. I sent it to the address on my contract.

7. On a brighter note your book Money Laundering has just been released by Wild Child Publishing. Please tell me a little about it and how the book came about – and how is your experience this far with Wild Child?

Wild Child and sister company Freya’s Bower, have been great. M.E. Ellis is a great editor, though she recently resigned her position with the companies. She really helped me polish up Last Chance upon a Murder (with FB) and Money Laundering.

Marci Baun, the company owner, is really nice. She’s communicative with the authors and very approachable. I’m pleased so far with them.

8. You’ve taken on a day job! What are you doing? And do you love it?

I work for a local telephone company. I do love it. The office is nice, pretty laid back. The people are nice. The benefits are really great. The pay is pretty decent too. For the rural area I live in, this is one of the best employers around. I’m really lucky they picked me and not another applicant. My cousin has worked there for years. My sister-in law works there too. There is also a mother-daughter team who work there. It’s very family-friendly. It’s a good blend between small-town friendliness and professional conduct. I like it. If course, I wish my sole job could be writing, but I’m pragmatic. Most writers don’t make a living off of writing, I think. We do it because we love it. If I didn’t have an outlet for the ideas, I think my brain would implode.

9. When you are writing, what is your routine like? I notice you have several books in the works…is this how you like to work, juggling?

I wish I could write start to finish, but my Muse is flighty. She’s opinionated, bitchy and stubborn. She and I butt heads a lot, but when she does work, she’s brilliant, if I do say so myself. *LOL* I write until the inspiration runs out. Maybe it’s just a snippet, or a scene, or a sub-plot line. Maybe it’s an entire chapter. When I get to a point where the idea is gone, I put the WIP aside and move on to something else until the inspiration comes back around. I figure that they’ll all get finished eventually.

10. What was the role-playing game you were addicted to and how did you cure yourself of it?

I played in numerous FFRP (Free Form Role Play) games on the Internet for years. They’re run in chat rooms and your posts are in character. It’s like improvisational acting, only instead of being on a stage or something, you’re on the computer. My other RP addiction came to EverQuest, then EverQuest2. I tried Final Fantasy Online for a bit, but went back to EQ. I haven’t tried World of Warcraft, only because I didn’t want to pay for yet another subscription to a game. I invested many years and a lot of money into my EQ/2 characters. I didn’t want to have to start all over from scratch again, though WoW does sound like a really fun game from what I’ve heard. Now that I’m working again, I’m almost considering starting up my EQ2 account again… almost. Still debating on that.

Honestly, I used the games as creative tools too. I would create characters to help me “flesh out” some of the characters I was writing about. If I could get into the game and play them, I could put myself into the characters’ mindset. I could play out the scenes then write them down.

My shifter story, Scorpio Risen, was somewhat influenced by game characters. The scorpion-men and spider-men were physically based loosely on some of the monsters in the games. A few months after Scorpio Risen was released, the movie The Scorpion King starring The Rock was on TV. The scene at the end, where he is morphed into the half-scorpion, half-man, that’s the look I was going for with my shifters. I saw the movie and was like “DOH! Why didn’t I mention that somewhere?” *LOL*

11. I know you love evil bad guys. Who are your favorites of all time?

Dracula, hands down. I love that book. He’s so much darker in the book than in the movies. I feel like bad guys are misunderstood. I don’t think Dracula intended to be the reviled creature he was, it was just in his nature.

Dee Snider played a real twisted character in Strangeland. The mindset of that character blew me away.

Many romance readers like the tortured anti-heroes who are redeemed in the end by the heroine. Where would historicals be without the dashing rake? I like a bad guy who has his own appeal. He may be bad, but he’s bad for a reason. It makes all the difference between an appealing bad guy and a sick, twisted sucker who should be locked up for good.

On behalf of Dark Diva reviews, I’d like to thank my lovely friend Desiree Lee for stopping by today. For more information on this amazing and talented author, please check out her links below:

I have some other social networks listed on my website under the Contact section, but I am on the website and MySpace most often.
I have a non-chatty newsletter-only Yahoo group too. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/the_open_coffin/
I’m always accessible at des@desireelee.com . I adore feedback!


Marci Baun said...

This is a great interview, Des. I learned so much about you that I didn't know. And I have to agree that your name does sound like an anime character. LOL

"Nice"... that's a new description for me. (grin)


Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

Nice interview, Des. I enjoyed learning more about you. :)