Introducing the author of, Waking Up Dead, Margo Bond Collins!
Where are you from?
I grew up in a small college town in Texas—the home of the only place one could get a degree in rodeo!
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But about ten years ago, a friend suggested I join in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org). Until then, I had always written short stories. That year, I finished the first draft of what would eventually become Legally Undead—it will be my second published novel, but it’s the first one I wrote. My first published novel, Waking Up Dead, was inspired by a single moment when I lived in Alabama for a few years. I remember driving to work one morning and seeing just a wisp of fog move across the statue in the middle of the town square. The statue was of some Civil War figure, and I remember thinking that it looked oddly ghostly. In between teaching classes that day (I’m a college professor in my other life), I started writing Callie’s story.
Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
I don’t so much balance as juggle. In my other life, I’m a college professor; I teach English courses online and write academic articles. Plus my husband and I have a three-year-old daughter. There’s never enough time in the day!
How did you come up with the title?
My grandmother used to say it: “Someday you’re going to wake up dead, and then you’ll be sorry.” It always made me laugh.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I didn’t realize until after I had finished writing Waking Up Dead that it was so very much about the continuing effects of racism in our world. The Deep South setting made that issue easy to address, but it’s certainly not an issue that is limited to the South. I don’t know if there’s a take-away “message,” precisely, but I do hope the book reminds readers that we’re all just people.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
In Waking Up Dead, the character of Maw-Maw is actually largely based on a combination of my own grandmother and great-grandmother--the only real difference is that they were white and from Texas rather than black and from Alabama. Otherwise, she talks like them and acts like them. It's my great-grandmother's voice I hear in my head when I write her dialogue, my grandmother's movements I see when I picture her walking around. Physically, I imagine her looking a bit like Ruby Dee in the television movie version of The Stand. But her attitude? That's straight from my own family!
What books have most influenced your life most?
Ha! Never ask an English professor to discuss books unless you want the multi-paragraph answer! Like most novelists, I am a voracious reader in my field, which means that I read all kinds of urban fantasy and paranormal fiction. But in addition to being an urban fantasy writer, I have Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British literature. This means that any time anyone wants to talk books, I have more than my share to say!
In early British literature, I love the classics—but especially the stories with heroes and monsters: Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Knight’s Tale. I love Shakespeare’s plays, but my favorites to teach are Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream because each is such a great example of its genre. Hamlet’s tragedy seems virtually unavoidable, and Midsummer’s comedy hits all the high (and low!) points.
In my own sub-specialty of eighteenth-century British literature, I love the early novels written by some of the first women to make a living writing in England, such as Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, and Delarivier Manley. Behn’s 1688 novel Oroonoko tells the story of a king who became a slave and found the woman he loved in the process, only to kill her and their unborn child to save them from slavery. In Haywood’s Fantomina (1724), a young noblewoman sets off on a sexual adventure full of disguises and intrigue. And in Manley’s The Wife’s Resentment (1720), a young woman takes revenge against her unfaithful husband with a gruesome murder. These early novels influenced later gothic tales, with virtuous damsels in distress and monstrous villains out to destroy them.
I think these various loves in more traditional literature—monsters, heroes, strong women, and gothic settings—are all parts of what have influenced my love of urban fantasy and horror. I love seeing many of the same tropes and ideas in more recent publications that influenced earlier works, as well.
What book are you reading now?
I just, moments ago, finished re-reading Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I re-read this book about once every twelve to eighteen months. McKinley does a beautiful job of setting up a world that is almost, but not exactly, like our own. The eponymous protagonist almost seems to ramble sometimes, but the voice is perfectly her own and the things she reveals about herself are beautifully woven back into the plot. Also, the vampires are creepy as all get-out!
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Always. I recently read Bonnie Milani’s Home World and loved it. Amanda Bonilla’s books are new to me, and I’m thrilled to have found them! And in no particular order, I adore the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs; The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead; the Kate Daniels Magic series by Ilona Andrews; the Stray series by Rachel Vincent; Kitty the Werewolf series by Carrie Vaughn; The Spider’s Web series by Jennifer Estep.
What are your current projects?
As an academic, I write articles about television and movies, so I often have something running in the background. I tend to incorporate the things I love into my writing life, so I’ve written articles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, The Walking Dead, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries. Pretty much anything with a supernatural slant. I’m also currently working on sequels to Waking Up Dead and Legally Undead and I’m writing a paranormal romance novel. I’m also editing collections of academic essays on Farscape, Teen Wolf, and The Vampire Diaries.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The Taylors—a group of friends from college (many years ago now!) who have become like extended family. My heroine is named Callie Taylor in honor of them.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Always. The best thing I ever learned to do as a writer was to decide that I was done with a project—because I could tweak it for the rest of eternity!
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here’s an excerpt from Waking Up Dead:
When I died, I expected to go to heaven.
Okay. Maybe hell. It’s not like I was perfect or anything. But I was sort of hoping for heaven.
Instead, I went to Alabama.
Yeah. I know. It’s weird.
I died in Dallas, my hometown. I was killed, actually. Murdered. I’ll spare you the gruesome details. I don’t like to remember them myself. Some jerk with a knife--and probably a Bad-Mommy complex. Believe me, if I knew where he was, I’d go haunt his ass.
At any rate, by the time death came, I was ready for it--ready to stop hurting, ready to let go. I didn’t even fight it.
And then I woke up dead in Alabama. Talk about pissed off.
You know, even reincarnation would have been fine with me--I could have started over, clean slate and all that. Human, cow, bug. Whatever. But no. I ended up haunting someplace I’d never even been.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, right? Ghosts are supposed to be the tortured spirits of those who cannot let go of their earthly existence. If they could be convinced to follow the light, they’d leave behind said earthly existence and quit scaring the bejesus out of the poor folks who run across them. That’s what all those “ghost hunter” shows on television tell us.
Let me tell you something. The living don’t know jack about the dead.
Not this dead chick, anyway.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I get stuck, like everyone. I hit writer’s block sometimes. But when that happens, I usually switch over to another project or go for a walk. But I loathe editing and revising. I know it must be done, but I hate it with a fiery passion.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Unfair question! I have lots (see my multi-paragraph answer about books, above). That said, here are some of my current favorites: Neil Gaiman, Charles Stross, China Mieville, Holly Black, Mark Danielewski, Ann Aguirre.
Neil Gaiman is wonderful! I'll have to check out the others.
Who designed the covers?
Kelly Abell designed the cover of Waking Up Dead, though I had more input than I think is usual.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Figuring out the plot. About halfway through I figured out that I was going to need to solve the mystery before the characters did! So at that point I decided where I was headed, generally—but the characters took me where I needed to go.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
As I was writing Waking Up Dead, I had to find out when the thousand-dollar bill was discontinued. It was last printed in 1946 and totally discontinued in 1969.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The very best advice I ever got was just this: keep writing new things. Always have a work in progress. Finish writing a piece, do a quick edit, and submit it somewhere for publication. Then move on to the next project. Don’t wait to hear back—that way lies madness! If it’s rejected (and often it will be; that’s the nature of writing for publication), don’t let it get you down. Just send it out again and go back to your work in progress.
What do you think about e-publishing versus technical publishing?
I think they both have their place. I am a fan of ebooks; I like being able to carry hundreds of books around in my phone. But I fear that 300 years from now, many of those books will be lost because the technology will have changed too much for people to read them. So I think we should keep them both alive as print forms.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
I’ve lived many places that interest me: New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles. I am glad to be back home in Texas, though I love to travel often.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Slowing down time so I could get more done!
Excellent answer! Thanks for joining us, Margo! -K.N. Lee
About the Author:
Margo Bond Collins lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters. Waking Up Dead is her first published novel. Her second novel, Legally Undead, is an urban fantasy, forthcoming in 2014 from World Weaver Press.
Buy Waking Up Dead on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Waking-Up-Dead-ebook/dp/B00FOXWLM8/
Connect with Margo
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/margobondcollins
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargoBondCollin @MargoBondCollin
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/vampirarchy
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/MargoBondCollins
Facebook Novel Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Waking-Up-Dead/502076076537575
Be sure to add Waking Up Dead to your Goodreads bookshelves: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18428064-waking-up-dead