13 Questions with Natasha Rhodes

In August, I posted a short review of Dante’s Girl, which I loved.

After begging and pleading for a couple months, I finally convinced Natasha Rhodes to agree to an interview. Okay, so maybe not begging and pleading, but I did bug her a few times. And I think you’ll agree that it was worth the wait. From Natasha’s answers below, you’ll be able to see her wit and hopefully it’ll prompt you to go read her book! Or you can just wait till tomorrow to enter a giveaway for Dante’s Girl. So check back tomorrow!

1. For those who haven’t yet read Dante’s Girl, can you give us a brief synopsis?

When Kayla Steel’s fiance, Karrel Dante, is found mauled to death, she thinks it’s the end of her world. But when Karrel shockingly returns from the dead, Kayla is stunned to find out that everything she knew about the man she loved was a lie. Part of an underground network of supernatural hit-men, Karrel had secretly dedicated his life to exterminating the dangerous supernatural entities that stalk the streets of Los Angeles. Now Kayla is on a mission to learn the Dark Arts so she can avenge Karrel’s death! but there’s one small problem. The killer-werewolf gang who murdered Karrel are now hot on her trail, so it’s a race against time for Kayla to find out the real truth about Karrel’s secret past – or die trying.

2. Which actors would you choose to play the main characters in a Dante’s Girl movie, if they gave you free reign?

That’s a very good question! For the Good Guys, I would choose Jessica Biel to play Kayla (because she kicked ass in Blade 3 and looks great in leather wristguards), and I’d get Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese from The Terminator) to play Karrel, due to his scruffy good looks, his healthy disrespect for anything resembling Authority, and for his loyal devotion to Kayla. Karrel dies for Kayla at the start of the book, and you just don’t get guys like that these days. For the rest of the team I’d pick Hugh Jackman and Catherine Zeta-Jones to play Kayla’s Hunter mentors Phil and Ninette. They combine the right mix of brains and beauty with that sense of raw vitality and off-the-cuff fun that makes them both such entertaining characters to write. For the Bad Guys, I’ll go with the unsurprising option of Jennifer Garner from Alias for Cyan X, the femme-fatale Vampiress. I love Jennifer’s particular combination of innocence and ruthlessness that the character of Cyan embodies, although I pictured Cyan being a little older than her when I was writing her. Harlem is a sadistic werewolf killer who, despite his high level of intelligence, falls in love with Cyan and follows her around like a lovesick puppy-dog when he’s not out butchering people! I think I’d cast Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue as Harlem he has that cool mix of self-destructive wildness and animal sex-appeal that attracts women by the dozen; whilst scaring off the ones he really wants, much to his annoyance. He’s actually my favorite character in the novel, come to think of it.

3. Urban fantasy/paranormal novels are popular and widespread right now. What different about the Kayla Steele series that sets it apart from the others?

Because it’s written by me! Just kidding. Seriously, it’s all about me. Stop laughing! I’m hardly a typical American teen (mainly because I’m British and 29), but the series is at heart a coming-of-age story that I think everybody can relate to. In order to write this novel series, I basically moved from a tiny rural town in England where I’d spent my whole life, to a town smack-bang in the middle of Hollywood, California. and this Dark Fantasy series is my attempt to make sense of the craziness I see around me on a daily basis. As with “Buffy”, everything in the book is allegory: lawyers become vampires, street-gangs become werewolf hit-squads, celebrities become possessed three-headed demons, and so on. There are a million other paranormal/ fantasy novels out there, I know, but the one thing I can guarantee my readers is that if it’s in the book, I’ve probably lived it in the past 8 months (except for the bit with the seven-foot-tall Death Entity named Skippy). but I digress. Put simply, Dante’s Girl is simply my offering to the top of the teetering pile of vampire books on your bedside table – take it or leave it. I had a lot of fun writing the novel, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

4. Describe your vampires. (Are they of the traditional Bram Stoker variety?)

The one thing I REALLY wanted to avoid when writing this series was to make sure my vampires weren’t too Anne-Rice-y. Almost every vampire film I’ve seen in my life has been a disappointment to me because the vampires are badly written, the logic of their situation is poorly thought-out, and the actors who play them are usually incredibly over-the-top and campy. Not scary at all, and a tragic waste of popcorn because I’ll start throwing it at the screen past a certain point. Personally, I far prefer the Dusk Till Dawn kind of vampires, because they’re actually pretty normal, likable people… until they turn into ravening monsters and start chewing your face off. Dante’s Girl is more centered on werewolves, but my next book in the Kayla Steel series, The Last Angel, starts to introduce more vampires into the mix as the story heats up. My favorite new villain from Book 2 (who is introduced at the end of Dante’s Girl) is a master vampire called Harlequin, who is a twisted mixture of The Joker from Batman, Hannibal Lector, and Brad Pitt from Fight Club. He is the “Hitler” of the Vampire race (an incredibly driven, vicious dictator who suffers from such a terrible sense of self-loathing at what he is) a parasitic monster – that he orders the complete annihilation of his own race just to justify his own pathological sense of aloneness. That’s MY kind of vampire.

5. You have several werewolf characters too. What are these guys like?

Werewolves in Dante’s Girl are the street-toughs, the brawlers and the drinkers. They are the good guys compared to the vampires, but of course they still eat people, so the Hunters are hell-bent on wiping them out too, regardless of their personal circumstances. The werewolf gang who kills the heroine’s fiance Karrel are pretty uncomplicated characters who like to shoot guns, ride around in their piece-o-shit street-cars and commit the odd act of serial-butchery, just because they’ve got nothing better to do on a Friday night. Kayla’s main love interest, on the other hand, is a young renegade werewolf who claims to be Karrel’s best friend in order to save his own life… then falls for Kayla shortly after betraying her to her enemies for the sake of a few bucks. Mutt (to me) typifies the men I’ve met so far in Hollywood (incredibly good looking and supremely confident, yet with a tendency to be more than a little self-centered and arrogant) the kind of guy who spends so much time and money on appearances (the right look, the right wheels, the right one-bedroom house-with-swimming-pool-and-roof-terrace) that he’s got no idea what to do with a woman who doesn’t want or need all of that. Mutt is a good foil for Kayla because he is the absolute opposite of everything she stands for – and their constant arguing makes for some crazy chemistry.

6. How long did it take you to write Dante’s Girl?

About half as long as it took me to write the outline plan for the series! To me, the best writing is more about what you take OUT rather than what you leave IN. I had to cut a lot of stuff before I was satisfied with the book outline – and as the series progresses, I plan to keep on cutting. The goal is to strip away more and more characters in all kinds of evil and unpleasant ways, until I am left with the most powerful and inventive characters in the book, who will then have to battle it out for a starring role in the final book. It’s like survival of the fittest. If a character doesn’t work, even if I like him, he’s toast. It’s the only way. And it keeps me grinning while I’m writing.

7. How many books are planned for Kayla Steele?

This was originally conceived as a three-book series, but depending on how many new and twisted plotlines I can dream up, it may run to five or more. Basically, I’m told that if the series keeps on selling, I’ll be allowed to go on writing it. So go buy a copy today!

8. What’s next for you, after this series? Any other stories on the horizon?

Personally, I’d like to write a spin-off series starring Karrel Dante, Kayla’s fiance. He’s a great character, very independent and highly driven to do what he thinks is right, even if everyone around him is telling him that he’s wrong. I think a lot of guys can relate to him as he constantly locks horns with Authority in order to fight his battles his own way… and save the girl in the process. Everyone who’s written in to me about Dante’s Girl on MySpace seems to love him and everything he stands for – all I hear on the Online chat-boards about the series is “More Karrel! More Karrel!” So we’ll see.

9. Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.

Ha, that would be telling! I’ve always loved writing, but had never even thought about trying to get anything published until 2004, when due to a crazy twist of fate I got a chance to audition for a new up-and-coming book company called Black Flame, who had links to New Line Cinema. The company loved my work and pretty much hired me on the spot, so after that I basically went from working in a photography studio photographing local Metal bands and screaming kids, to writing and publishing multiple novelizations (screen-to-book adaptations) of international blockbuster movies like Blade Trinity, Final Destination 1 and 2 and so on. Since then I’ve written and published 6 books in a little under 4 years, including a line of original books based on movies such as the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Final Destination” series. The Last Angel will be my 7th novel in a row when it’s released next Spring 2008, and then after that I plan on getting some sleep.

10. What inspires you?

My landlord. Living costs are sky-high out here in Los Angeles, so the pretty red Final Demand notices he likes to push under my door as Rent Day approaches keep me truly inspired. I already mentioned that you should buy my book, right?

11. Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?

I don’t read much horror, but I’ve watched nearly every horror/ action movie ever made, just for the hell of it. If I choose to read a book for fun then it’s usually a Fantasy or Comedy book like Red Dwarf or the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, because I love to laugh. My favorite author of all time has always been Douglas Adams – I love his way with words and his amazingly convoluted run-on sentences which always somehow manage to work out, Mobius-strip-like, at the end. He has a true sense of joy at the absurdity and pointlessness of Life, and everyone knows somebody like one of his characters – even those characters that have two heads. Another favorite author of mine is Terry Pratchett, who takes everything Douglas held near and dear and sprinkles the mix with hugely amusing modern-day takes on creatures like witches and trolls and vampires. He has a ridiculous amount of fun with word-play – each novel is like his sandbox, but he is never over-clever or pedantic about it. He treats his readers with a great deal of respect, letting them fill in the blanks for themselves, then making them feel very clever for doing so. He can go from cowpats to quantum mechanics in the space of a single line, and his sense of respect for life and his deep sense of wonder at the everyday world around us is a big inspiration to me.

12. What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?

I put off writing. That’s my favorite pastime. There are so many ways I’ve discovered to put off writing that someday I may even write a book on the subject; but of course I’ll never get it done because I keep putting it off. When I have a Book Deadline approaching, you’ll usually find me outside on the rooftop of my apartment block, happily vacuuming the cat, polishing my neighbor’s light bulbs and alphabetizing my beer-mat collection. Never happier.

13. Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a big “thank you!” to SciFiChick.com for letting me do this interview, so I could put off writing my latest book for another hour or so. I’d like to add that the next Kayla Steele novel, The Last Angel, is due out in Spring 2008. It’ll be available at all good bookstores and online at Amazon.com. There, that’s my book-plug done. Thanks for listening. Now I’m going back to vacuuming the cat.

9 thoughts on “13 Questions with Natasha Rhodes”

  1. Damn…I was going to buy this back in the summer when I read your reivew and then I forgot. Now I’ve written it down again and will hit the book store after work. This sounds awesome!

  2. I love #10! It reminds me of what Jim Butcher said about writer’s block: he can’t have it–he has a mortgage. 🙂

    I’ve put this on my to-buy list, too.

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