Once again Amber and I struck gold when author Merrie Destefano agreed to have a sit down sheep pow-wow with us. A trip to the south later found us face to face with the author, and the following account is what happened. For those of you who don't already know, her debut Sci-Fi book, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles is in stores now!
New Orleans. Creepy Bayou. 2 Sheep and 1 Clone meet.
Katie: So Merrie, thank you so much for sitting down with us in this um nice location. (all the insects grow quiet at once in the background, and I am really starting to rethink this whole Bayou trip.) How did you come up with the concept for this story?
Merrie: Katie and Amber, Thanks so much for having me here today! How did I come up with this story? Well, I happen to like random scientific information, so from time to time I read science magazines. Once I saw an article about how we might be able to discover the key to immortal life if we could figure out how to lengthen the telomeres in our DNA. Oh, snap, I thought. That’s would make a great story premise. So I built a world around a technology where we had basically made death obsolete.
Katie: Mankind seems to have this obsession with finding the Fountain of Youth. But, I think the real question is why? Why want to live forever? Would you, Merrie, go the Fresh Start route?
Merrie: Katie, I think we all have a built-in desire to live, rather than die. It's part of our survival instinct. So, in my opinion, the desire to live forever is really just an honest confession to the fear of death. Would I go the Fresh Start route? Ah, now the plot thickens. [dastardly laugh] Actually, no. I would choose to be a One-Timer, like the main character in Afterlife, Chaz.
Amber: The clones in this story come to life at age 21, was there a reason that became the lucky rebirth number?
Merrie: I know I wouldn’t want to have to go through high school again. No way. And bizarrely, from all the blog posts and comments other people have made, nobody else wants to do that either. And who want to start life at age 18, when it’s not even legal to do half the stuff we love to do? So I figured, let’s start at age 21, when the world is still sparkly and shiny and you have the energy to conquer every dream.
Katie: New Orleans plays a big part in this book, was there a draw to writing the story in this city? Maybe some roots from your past?
Merrie: Absolutely. I’ve been fascinated by New Orleans—in a good way—for a long, long time. Then my heart broke when Hurricane Katrina struck. Back then I was the editor of Victorian Homes magazine, so I dedicated an issue of the magazine to the people and the homes of the City That Care Forgot. The rebuilding isn’t over yet and I still don’t want people to forget. Part of me is amazed at how much the concept of home means to us. It’s primal. Even when our home is destroyed and we have the option to go somewhere else, like what happened in NOLA, there’s this part of the human spirit that refuses to give up. This has happened to whole cities before—with the fire in Chicago, the earthquake in San Francisco, the terrorist attack on New York—but the inhabitants of those cities just wouldn’t leave this precious thing called home. I believe that is an honorable and beautiful part of our nature. Also, I have a pack of wild dogs in the book. I never mention it, but in my mind they were Katrina Dogs, packs of dogs that somehow banded together and found a way to survive the devastation of the hurricane and its aftermath.
Katie: What a wonderful tribute to such a rich and vibrant city. Will we read more about the dog pack in upcoming books?
Merrie: Katie, I'm glad you liked the reasons why I chose New Orleans as a setting. Sometimes I wonder if I over-think things. But maybe, that's what all authors do. [grin] About the dog packs — I know Omega would be in upcoming books, and probably Alpha. But the rest of the pack are on the their own now, so they probably won't be in any more books.
Amber: If you had a chance to go back in time and change 1 thing that happened would you do it? And what would it be?
Merrie: This one makes me want to cry, so it’s probably a good answer. My parents divorced when I was eight. So every weekend, I would go see my dad. I loved him more than anyone else in the world. But when I got to be a teenager, sometimes I got too busy with my own life. He passed away from a heart attack when I was 16 and I had missed seeing him the previous weekend. If I could do anything over, I would spend that weekend with him and let him know how much he means to me and how much I truly love him. I still miss him.
Amber: Thats so sweet, now I AM crying! lol
Katie: As a dog lover, I fell for Omega right away. I know you have some German Shepherds in your life, was Omega based on either of them?
Merrie: Again, absolutely! And I’m so glad you loved Omega. He was favorite character. We have two German shepherds. The first one, Caleb, we bought from a breeder and he’s a real beauty. The other dog, Joshua, we got from a local German shepherd rescue organization. He might not be as pretty as Caleb, but he has such a sweet, gentle personality that I cannot imagine how his owners got rid of him. He doesn’t know how to play with toys—something our other dog loves to do—and I think it’s because no one played with him as a puppy. The first day he walked into our house, he ran around, picking up all of Caleb’s half-eaten bones and started chewing them up. I feel like he has such a sad story of what might have happened to him before we found him, so he was the model for Omega. Omega didn’t have a very nice life until Elizabeth came along. Having someone to love you makes all the difference in the world. Also, for those of you who read my book, the photo on the inside back cover is of Joshua and me.
Amber: The book is written from several different accepts, male and female. Was it hard writing from the male perspective?
Merrie: Actually, no. Maybe I’m weird, but I’ve always loved writing from a male perspective. That might be because I read a lot of books written by men, with a male protagonist, so I’m used to that POV. And I have my own personal opinion about what makes men and women tick. I believe that deep down inside, in their hidden heart of hearts, women are the realists and men are the romantics. Women know that they have to take care of themselves and their children, so they usually won’t take too much crap from men. Or at least, not for too long. Men, on the other hand, tend to fall in love with a woman and it doesn’t matter what she does, they are in love forever. Also, if you study literature, who was writing all the romantic poetry of the 1600s-1900s? Men. I’ve had some heated discussions [grin] with other writers about this topic. But I believe that having this opinion about what motivates men and women affects my writing and I think it helps me to create richer characters.
Katie: Ok this is just me and my weird addiction but will we get any romance in the up coming books? Hot and steamy? Chaz with his shirt off perhaps lol
Merrie: Good question! I don’t know if there will be anything hot and steamy, but there will definitely be that element of what is it about love that can last forever. In our culture, it seems to be easy to love someone for 5 years or 10 years, but to stay in love and be married to the same person for 50 or 60 years is incredibly rare. I’d love to depict a couple who may argue occasionally and then kick bad guys’ butt occasionally and then somehow manage to stay together forever. Kind of a modern Nick and Nora from The Thin Man. I’ve always thought that the sexiest guy is the one who loves his children and his wife and will do anything to protect and care for them. So Chaz definitely falls into that category.
Katie: I completely agree. Protect and love. But can he do that without a shirt? hehehe
Merrie: Katie, you are cracking me up now. LOL.
Amber: The Underground Circus is a freaky place, kids in this series are not safe- (an eerie howl shrieks around us, Katie and Amber exchange nervous glances and shiver at the same time) um anyway, what can we look forward to --is that the right word?-- what can anticipate with the Circus in the next book?
Merrie: I haven’t decided if the Underground Circus will play a big part in the next book, but I do know that at least one book will focus on it. I need to show Isabelle grown up and getting her own form of revenge. I’d love to see her find a way to take it down. I haven’t figured out how she can do that yet, though. Maybe because in my mind, she’s not grown up yet. I really want her to have a chance to fall in love too. We see her at the end of Afterlife and we know that she gets married and has children. But we didn’t see her romantic journey. But back to the Circus, yes, I will definitely write about it again. It is a huge nemesis in Chaz and Isabelle’s lives and it needs to be addressed.
Amber: Oh I can't wait Merrie! Isabelle could turn out to be one kick-butt chick…this is getting very interesting.
Katie: Have you ever had a reoccurring dream? I often dream of being chased by the freaky alien Predator from the Arnold Gov-a-nator movie, is there a dream you have never been able to shake?
Merrie: Yikes! Why are all recurring dreams scary? When I was a teenager I used to have a recurring dream about an invisible monster. I think it was based on that creature from The Forbidden Planet. Man, that thing scared the crap out of me! It still does!
Katie: Yeah, why can't it be recurring winning the lottery dreams? lol
Amber: Where can fans look forward to seeing you in the near future? Any conventions or singings coming up?
Merrie: Well, in the near future I have a Meet the Author Tea at Paris in a Cup in Orange, California, on Oct. 30. Beyond that, I just started lining up events for next year. So far I think I will be attending the following in 2011: ConDor XVIII in San Diego in February, Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Los Angeles in April, Comic Con in San Diego in July, and World Fantasy Con in San Diego in October.
Also, my second novel, Feast, is scheduled to come out in July, 2011. It’s not a sequel to Afterlife, but it’s pretty cool. It has new monsters in it.
Amber: We might be at the RT convention too! Still trying to work that all out but you may see us there. Please don't beat us off with a stick. hahaha
Merrie: Amber and Katie, that would SO awesome if you went to the RT convention. Right now I'll be wandering around like a lost soul. So I need friends!
Katie: If you could be any super hero with all the powers that come with it, who would you be and why?
Merrie: Supergirl. When I was young I had the biggest crush on Superman. I was in love with him. I don’t really care about having his super powers myself, but just being like him would be almost as good as having him around.
Katie: It's the glasses that did it for me. Nerdy but smokin hot! yummy! lol
Katie: Ok last question before we start some rapid fire…If Peter Piper picked a peck or pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick? lol
Merrie: At least 16. For sure. Yeah, 16.
Amber: Sorry Merrie, don't mind Katie she's one sheep shy of a flock. lol And I mean that in the most loving way possible Katie! Alright it's time to clear your mind and get ready from some rapid-fire. Answer with the first thing that pops into your mind……ready……and go!
Amber: Plane or Train
Merrie: Train. *planes, shivers*
Katie: Silver or Gold
Merrie: White gold
Amber: Sand or Snow
Katie: Fish or Chicken
Amber: Sweats or Jeans
Katie: Old Navy or Kohls
Merrie: Old Navy
Amber: Coke or Pepsi
Katie: HAHAHAHA!!! Oh man I have lost count now Amber! How many is this? Tell me HOW many times now has Coke been choosen OVER Pepsi? *holds hand to ear*
Amber: No! Pepsi will be the winner in the end…you can savor these victories now Katie. Just watch and wait.
Katie: *makes annoying kid faces at Amber*
Katie: Brownies or Cookies
Katie: mmmmm yes, warm and gooey….
Amber: Bad boy or Nerd
Merrie: Bad boy!
Katie: Pool or Hot tub
Merrie: Pool, definitely!
Amber: New York or CA
Merrie: California. I love it here!
Katie: *starts singing Katy Perry's California Girls, slightly off key*
Katie: Thank you so much much Merrie for opening yourself up to the women of sheep, and to your fans. We loved the book and now we love you!
Merrie: Katie and Amber, thank you both for having me here! I love your blog and your sense of humor and the sheep—Wow, these little guys are piling up for a group hug. Totally unexpected. Mmmuuurffff. I mean, thanks —smmmmmuuummmphff—for inviting me—phhhheeemmfffff.
*Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles is in stores now. Make sure to grab a copy today!
Time for the giveaway contest. In the comments below, leave two things to be automatically entered to win the Afterlife party pack. This pack includes our fun version of Liquid Light. ;)
1. Your email address
2. What name would you choose for yourself if you awoke in a brand spanking new cloned body?
Contest ends Monday November 1st at Midnight.
Good luck everyone!