We’re happy to have you join us in our Duck Chat once again!
Nancy Haddock is our guest, so get ready for some fun!
One of those authors who have taken to heart to write what she knows, Nancy has hit the motherlode with her stories of St. Augustine, Florida, where her heroine, Cesca, gets a second chance at life in La Vida Vampire and Last Vampire Standing, (see my reviews here) the first two books in her Oldest City Vampire series that hit the shelves in April of last year.
Nancy and her family moved from the Oklahoma/Texas area to the coast of Florida and the history of St. Augustine took over, giving her plenty to work with in her writing. She has degrees in education and speech and language pathology and was a teacher for many years. She loves dark chocolate, garage sales, and has just recently taken up surfing again.
So what are we waiting for? Leave one of those meaningful comments and we’ll put you in the kitty to win a copy of La Vida Vampire and Last Vampire Standing. And for more opportunities to win a book, see the Beach Party page on Nancy’s web site. Now let’s chat!
DUCK CHAT: Nancy, I have to lead off with this question just because I’m curious – how’s the learning to surf again coming along? Any mishaps? Or has it been smooth sailing, like riding a bike?
NANCY HADDOCK: Oh, Sandy, if only it was smooth sailing … or riding! I fell off my bike when I relearned to ride (the hand brakes threw me off), and I fall off my surfboard all the time. Even when I’m just sitting on the board! However, I love being in the water and making an effort – and sometimes I’m in the water when dolphins swim by not far away. That makes the wipeouts easier to, uh, swallow. Plus salt water can really clean out the sinuses!
DC: Your Oldest City Vampire books are a hit with readers. What was that first spark when you realized you had a story to tell about Cesca?
NH: The very first spark was a Jif Peanut Butter commercial in which I misheard a line of dialogue. I heard, “… play Crazy Eights or watch this Princess Vampire video.” Even though I knew I misheard, the idea of a Princess Vampire struck me as funny. As I developed the concept and the story world, Cesca grew so real to me, I often felt as if I were channeling her. I still do, and she always brings surprises along!
DC: If you could retire any question and never, ever have it asked again, what would it be? Feel free to answer it.
NH: Hmmm. I think it’s too early in my published life to want to retire any kind of question.
DC: You’ve got two books out in the series so far, La Vida Vampire and Last Vampire Standing. Would give us a quick look at the series as a whole and then tell us about each book?
NH: The series features Cesca Marinelli, a vampire still adjusting to the 21st century. She wants to have a normal, semi-human afterlife but is forced to embrace her vampire self and skills in order to solve murders – and ultimately, to defeat a bigger enemy that is controlling vampires: the Void.
In La Vida Vampire, Cesca’s just begun her job as a ghost tour guide in the Nation’s Oldest City (St. Augustine) when a tourist is murdered. As the prime suspect, Cesca is thrown together with former vampire slayer, now special investigator, Deke Saber. Saber challenges Cesca’s notions of normal and, as they draw closer to finding the killer, their attraction sparks a romance neither can resist.
In Last Vampire Standing, Jo-Jo the Jester is a wannabe stand-up comic from Atlanta who begs Cesca for sanctuary so he can follow his dream. But bad bumps-in-the-night follow Jo-Jo to town Jester, and Cesca must help Saber solve another murder. She must also confront painful pieces of her past so she can take the final steps to find and destroy the Void.
Excerpt from Last Vampire Standing:
There are times when I want to roll my eyes so far back in my head, I’m sure I’ll see my brains. That’s one way to have them examined.
And this was one of those times.
High above the wind-whipped whitecaps, I stood quaking in my sneakers on the temporary bridge spanning Matanzas Bay, the one in use while the old Bridge of Lions was being rebuilt. Sure I was safe on the pedestrian walkway for now, squarely behind concrete barricades topped with strong metal railings. But I wouldn’t be high and dry for long, not if I went through with this lunacy.
“Guys, for the last time, I am not taking a flying leap off this bridge. Somebody’s watching. I can feel it, and they’re going to report me as a jumper.”
Saber put an arm around my shoulders and huddled the three of us closer so he didn’t have to shout over the wind.
“Cesca, it’s nearly two in the morning. There is no traffic right now, so we won’t alarm drivers. Plus I called the city police and the sheriff’s office to tell them we’re conducting an experiment.”
“In what? Doing belly busters off the bridge?”
“You’re not going to fall, honey. You’re going to fly.”
“Besides, Highness, you’re the one who insisted we practice over water.”
“I didn’t mean from a million feet in the air.” Another strong gust blew, and I death-gripped the railing. “Why can’t I jump off something shorter?”
“Like what?” Saber asked.
“Like a curb,” I snapped.
“My lady, you have to be high enough to catch the updrafts,” Jo-Jo said.
I could tell his patience was waning, but me jump off the bridge? Not in this afterlife.
Saber rubbed his forehead. “I have an idea.”
“Oh, goody, another one?”
“Jo-Jo, how much weight can you carry when you fly?”
“Saber,” I said, partly objecting to another scheme, and partly to insist that someone watched us.
“Are you thinking I should take the Princess up for a test spin? Like a tandem parachute jump?”
“Exactly. Can you do it?”
Jo-Jo looked uncomfortable. “I can if Highness will allow me the liberty of touching her person.”
Both men looked at me.
“Face and conquer your fear, honey,” Saber challenged.
I hate it when he’s right, and short of making a dash for freedom, I was stuck on the damned bridge. For the moment.
I squared my shoulders. “Fine. How do you want to do this, Jo-Jo?”
“Let’s give the piggyback position a go.”
He crouched, and Saber gave me a boost onto Jo-Jo’s bony back. It was like mounting a malnourished horse. I feared I’d slide right off, but Jo-Jo hooked his arms under my legs.
“Good, Princess. Now put your arms around my neck while I climb up and test my balance with you on my — aargh,” he croaked. “Arms. Too. Tight.”
I loosened my hold on his neck, then slid off his skinny back when he arched to rub his throat.
Attempt aborted, which was fine by me. I still felt watched, and the watcher was creeping closer.
I peered into the shadows, even used my vamp vision, but saw nothing. I didn’t smell anything either–like Gorman’s foul breath–but I wouldn’t if the lurker was downwind. Should I alert Saber?
“Cesca, pay attention,” Saber hollered and tipped his head toward Jo-Jo, who gave his abused neck one last rub.
“By your leave, my lady, I’ll hold you in front of me. You’ll be able to feel the liftoff better from this position anyway. May I demonstrate?”
I shrugged, and he stepped behind me. His arms around my rib cage, he told me to start walking with my right foot.
“You won’t take off without warning me, right?” I yelled over my shoulder.
He shook his head, so I stepped when he did. One. Two. Three.
“Good, Princess. Now we do it for real.”
“We’re not going to climb on the rails?”
“No. Hold on.”
His leg nudged mine.
One step. Gulp.
Two steps. Eek.
Three steps. Panic.
My rubbery legs suddenly locked, and I dug the heels of my tennis shoes into the concrete.
Jo-Jo tripped over me, and we stumbled forward like a couple of stooges.
“Are you all right, Princess?” Jo-Jo asked when we’d righted ourselves, his arm still curled around my waist.
“Fine, and I’m sorry. Really. I’m just positive someone is watching.”
At that moment, a flash of golden fur landed smack in front of us, and a brain-rattling “Rrryyow” rent the night.
Jo-Jo screamed, “Aaaiiieeee,” tightened his hold around me, and vaulted away from Pandora.
Next thing I knew, I was dangling from Jo-Jo’s crooked arm, ten feet away from the bridge and a hundred feet over dark, churning water.
DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes?
NH: Oh, yes! My characters surprise me all the time! Two surprises in Last Vampire Standing were Cesca’s relationship with her family and Saber’s secret. As I mentioned, I often feel that I’m channeling Cesca and the gang – acting as a “recording secretary” first, then as the story editor. The arrangement is fine by me! Better flow than no-go!
DC: Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing? Who usually wins?
NH: I do occasionally argue, and so far Cesca and the gang have won. For instance, in La Vida Vampire I hadn’t intended for Cesca and Saber to do more than exchange some heated kisses. They had other ideas, and I tried to write around what they wanted. After three days, I was whining about my lack of progress. Cesca pointedly told me to get out of their way, write the love scene they wanted, and then we’d carry on. When I gave up control to the characters, the scene worked, and we forged on.
DC: You went from Oklahoma/Texas to the shores of Florida. What was that move like for you? Anything that really surprised you about either Florida or living near the ocean that you didn’t expect?
NH: I visited Florida regularly for 13 years before moving here. Since much of that time was spent in St. Augustine, I was very familiar with the town in general. The biggest surprise was the effect that living here had on my writing. I truly feel that the change in scene – and the energy and rhythm of my new home – fed my creativity and freed my voice. I’m constantly inspired living by the ocean!
DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?
NH: ARGH! E-mail and doing promo things like newsletters and updating my web site. I’m a punctual person overall, but I seem to be consistently late in getting those kinds of tasks done.
Of course, the gorgeous beach day here and there may distract me, too.
DC: I have to admit when I started reading La Vida Vampire, I wasn’t expecting the humor you’ve written into the books. Was that an idea from the beginning or did it evolve once you began to really know your characters?
NH: I adore romantic comedies and cozy mysteries, so I initially conceived La Vida Vampire as a cozy mystery with a vampire amateur sleuth. And, since the idea of a part day-walking vampire who gives ghost tours and surfs struck me as lighthearted, the humor was always an element. I didn’t anticipate the level of humor – for instance with the Jag Queens – and didn’t realize the story would involve as much romance as it did. Those aspects evolved as Cesca and the cast of characters did.
DC: How many books are planned in the series?
NH: I’m not sure at this point. Longevity of a series is very much up to the readers who buy and the publishers who look at those “buy” numbers. Writing might be an art, but publishing is a business!
DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?
NH: Ohhh, yes! Regency romance, possibly western romance, and YA paranormal.
DC: Are you working on the next book now? Can you tell us a little about it?
NH: Book 3 will see Cesca confronting Triton to work out their relationship – a must before they can unite their powers to defeat the Void. That’s about all I can say at this point.
DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?
NH: Write more, volunteer less.
DC: What are you reading right now? And what was the last book you finished?
NH: Right now I’m reading nonfiction back to back. I just finished Bloody Sunset in St. Augustine by Nancy Powell and Jim Mast, the story an infamous murder in the 1970s. The book I’m now reading is Fifty Feet in Paradise: The Booming of Florida by St. Augustine historian David Nolan. Of course, by the time this interview runs, I’ll have read at least two historical romances and a couple paranormals and/ or mysteries. I’m always reading at least one book, sometimes two.
DC: What’s the best fan letter you’ve gotten so far?
NH: They’re all such a kick, it’s hard to pick one. I do love those that say reading my book made them laugh and helped shift them out of the doldrums.
DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?
NH: I’d likely have continued to teach. I adored teaching, and still do!
– dark or milk chocolate? – Dark!
– smooth or chunky peanut butter? – Smooth
– heels or flats? – Barefoot! If I must be shod, it’s usually in flats.
– coffee or tea? – Both, but I drink enough Starbucks to raise their stock.
– summer or winter? – Summer
– mountains or beach? – Beach, but I love the mountains, too.
– mustard or mayonnaise? – Mayo with cold food, mustard with hot. I know it’s weird.
– flowers or candy? – Candy
– pockets or purse? – Purse
– Pepsi or Coke? – Pepsi
– ebook or print? – Since I don’t have an e-reader, print
And because we just like to know:
1. What is your favorite word? – Plethora
2. What is your least favorite word? – Let’s just say it’s unprintable.
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Connecting with nature
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Chaos of all kinds
5. What sound or noise do you love? – The sounds of the ocean
6. What sound or noise do you hate? – Loud, aggressive voices
7. What is your favorite curse word? – It’s also (preferably) unprintable
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – Does being George Clooney’s perpetual leading lady count? No? Well, you’re no fun. Okay, I’d want to give full-time paranormal investigating a shot.
9. What profession would you not like to do? – Anything on a submarine. I’m not super claustrophobic, but I need sunlight and fresh air.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “High time! I thought I’d never get you off the beach!”
Sandy, thank you so much for inviting me to TGTBTU! You and your readers are too much fun!
DC: And thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to join us today! It’s been a blast.