Please help me welcome Katherine Gilbert, with her new release, Protecting the Dead – Great title, right? I love the cover too, and it’s one of the choices in the Moonlight and Mystery Cover Contest. I’m sure Katherine would love your votes!
Good morning, Katherine. Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I’ve been born and raised in South Carolina (unofficial state motto: “Our politicians embarrass us”). My real family and best friend is my sister, Armida. Our goal is to become strange, cackling old ladies in the corner of a tearoom together.
Where did you get the idea for Protecting the Dead?
There was, until recently, a real apartment complex in Decatur, GA (where my novel is set) which my sister and I once visited on an apartment hunt. Unfortunately, everything there was just a little too creepy, including the apartment she was shown which didn’t quite feel empty. When she asked about the turnover of tenants, she was told, “Oh, our residents never leave.” This hit my gothic imagination with an audible buzzing sound and wouldn’t leave me alone, until it was written.
Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?
Some of the places in the novel are based off of Atlanta urban legends, such as the club (now closed, I believe) which was said to be the home of vampires.
Are there any tricks, habits or superstitions you have when creating a story?
I can’t talk about a story, while I’m writing it. If I do, I’ll talk it out of myself and won’t ever sit down to write.
What book have you read that you wish you had written?
Every book I love I know I couldn’t have written, but I do admire the talents of so many other authors. I wish I could throw off a laugh-till-it-hurts line like Terry Pratchett. I wish I could create a fascinating, unexpected twist like Agatha Christie. I wish I could convey an astonishing sense of time and place like Barbara Hambly–and so many, many others.
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?
I teach English at a SC community college. As to whether I like it, it depends on the students. Some are lovely, funny, fascinating people who I fervently hope succeed in all their dreams. Some have never mentally shown up to school once, so I’ve really only met their bodies. When there are many more of the latter group, it’s not a wonderful semester.
What do you love that most people don’t like and wouldn’t understand why you do?
When I go to a new city, I love to visit Victorian cemeteries, especially ones with very ornate mausoleums or stone angels, etc. One of the great joys of my life was getting to visit Highgate Cemetery in London, especially the older parts you need to have a guide to be allowed into. It’s beautiful, quiet, wooded, and the statues–ohh, the statues.
What do you dislike that most people wouldn’t understand?
Spicy food! It seems to me that every commercial now is for some restaurant or fast food place which promises that your head will actively explode after tasting their burningly spicy food. I love flavor in food, especially subtle, delicate flavors and spices, but not having my taste buds actively burned out of my mouth.
Do you collect anything?
Quite a few things. Among them are magnets (from just about everywhere I visit) and weird little salt-and-pepper shakers. Among the stranger ones I have is a set of Hello Kitty vibrating shakers. That’s right–you pull the string, and they vibrate. The wonderful absurdity of it just makes me giggle.
What’s your favorite book of all time and why?
It’s so hard to choose! I can maybe cull it down to three: Terry Pratchett’s The Fifth Elephant (all of Discworld is wonderful, but add the gothic and I’m totally hooked), Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog (The world-building! The romance! The references to 19th-century comic authors!), and Jean Ferris’ Much Ado About Grubstake (it’s just a wonderfully good-hearted, light-hearted YA novel set in a fictional old west town).
What do you want readers to come away with after they read Protecting the Dead?
I’d like them to take a few moments to smile and sigh and enjoy having lived in that world for awhile.
Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
It’s hard to choose, but I suppose it depends on the bad review. No book is to everyone’s taste, so I accept that there will be people I can’t please. I’d rather not have a review which seems to be purposely trying to cut out my soul, though. As for no reviews, that’s difficult, too, since I don’t know whether anyone is reading it–and others who might want to aren’t given any guidance on whether they’d like it. I guess my answer, then, is . . . I haven’t a clue?
What is your favorite quote?
My friend, Chris, always says, “When someone thinks they’re doing you wrong, they’re actually doing you a favor.” It’s a philosophy I try to remember, when people aren’t very nice.
What celebrity would you most like to be stranded on an island with?
Sorry, she’s not famous, but it’d have to be my sister. We’d never survive, but at least we’d be together.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
To quote from the movie, Auntie Mame: “Odd, but loving.”
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yes, I have three completed urban fantasies and one completed contemporary romance. I’m also actively working on a fourth urban fantasy novel. All the fantasies take place in different parts of the same alternate universe, and they generally fall into two categories: the magical and the gothic. Protecting the Dead is also one of the gothic ones.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Generally speaking, real people aren’t as interesting for me to write about as the ones I make up. I don’t think anyone would thrill to tales of a department meeting.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
My sister is my biggest supporter. I read her every chapter, as it’s written. My friends are sort of in shock that I’ve kept at it long and hard enough to be published, but they’re excited for me.
What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?
That would be the demon who wants to destroy Lydia.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
I walked about six feet behind David Carradine once. Weird Al Yankovic sweated on and sang to my sister at a concert (when she was sitting right beside me). They were fun moments, but, to quote Weird Al, I think they also qualify as pretty “Lame Claims to Fame.”
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Only that good and bad people come in all forms. The forms alone don’t tell you much about the person. The way that people interact with others does.
How much of the book is realistic?
It’s based on a real place, but overall it’s much more fantasy than urban.
How did your interest in writing originate?
I started writing fan fiction for a show I was obsessed with, La Femme Nikita. I wrote a LOT of it, and there were quite a few people who enjoyed it. After awhile, I started branching out into a couple of alternate universe pieces–and through that realized that I could actually create my own characters and plot. I also realized that I didn’t need to know everything about a story to write it. I just needed to get started, and the characters would show me where things were headed, as I went along.
Song–“Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls (I’m not a gigantic fan of theirs otherwise, but I LOVE that one song). A close second and third would be Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Veteran of the Psychic Wars.”
Place you’ve visited–Ireland, England, and Scotland, all of them beautiful with touches of the gothic throughout
Place you’d like to visit–Brookgreen Gardens, a figural sculpture garden in SC. I’ve been there dozens of times, but I always want to go back.
TV show from childhood—Lou Grant, or maybe Scooby Doo–I was an eclectic kid.
TV show from adulthood—La Femme Nikita, although there are plenty of others I like. I usually only come across a show on DVD long after it’s over nowadays.
Are there any urban legends or haunted houses in your area? Leave a comment and I’ll select a random commenter to receive a $5 gift card from Amazon.
After a childhood filled with demons and her devil-worshiping parents, Lydia longs for a quiet, normal life, a safe haven somewhere blissfully dull. Being the manager at the Roanoke Apartments seems to fit that bill. But Lydia soon learns that you can’t leave the past behind so easily. She finds herself faced with unclogging drains for werewolves, conducting nightly vampire counseling sessions, and caring for two talkative cats. Then there’s the distraction of Geoffrey, the hottest, and most angelic, boss anyone ever dreamed of. As if that isn’t enough, the demon who nearly killed her shows up to finish the job. So much for a peaceful, simple life…
She knew she was being rude, knew she certainly wasn’t being a good assistant to Geoffrey, but she couldn’t quite force herself to look up again. If she did, she was going to see things she couldn’t wholly deny. She couldn’t take that. Whatever its dangers, denial felt safe. There was only so much oddity her brain could withstand, before it just started to explode.
She found herself sitting on the couch a moment later, knew that all these men were watching her, knew that she was direly failing whatever test she was being given. But she just couldn’t help it. It was too much, was far too weird. If only life could be all picket fences and well-tended lawns and SUVs and…
Okay, so she really wasn’t dumb enough to think such details meant an utter lack of misery, but they just seemed so nice, compared to her life. She felt someone sit on the couch beside her, knew it was Geoffrey, even before he spoke.
“Give her a minute,” he whispered, tenderly stroking her blue hair.
That only made her sigh all the more. There were times she truly wished she could be a stereotypical vapid blonde.
That wish, of course, was part of the reason why she’d ended up with the hair color she was now stuck with, but she wasn’t up to such analysis.
One of the residents sighed softly. “I guess we are a bit much for a first day. Especially with our moon phase coming up and all.”
She wished she lived the sort of life which made it impossible to guess what they were talking about.
Geoffrey’s soft touch made her raise her head again, her eyes a little misty, as she gazed at the two werewolves’ worried yellow eyes. Their normal clothing only made the situation weirder. The one who had greeted them, Hugh, dressed much like her boss tended to. The second one was even wearing a business suit. She was trying not to scream.
Fortunately, Geoffrey surprised her out of the impulse, pulling her close, his arms tender, mouth by her ear. Into it, he whispered a series of soft, soothing sounds. Like at her lunch with Glory, none of them were quite recognizable, except for her name. “Lydia,” he would breathe, before those only half-hidden words began again. “Lydia.” It made her real name so darn tempting that she couldn’t quite remember why she’d ever chosen another, and it finally made her sanity begin to piece itself slowly back together.
She wasn’t certain how long they were like that, knew nothing except his touch, his comfort. Some final spate of words settled inside her as a sort of hope for the future, a thought — even if she had no conscious access to it — that comforted her even more. She felt his soft kiss there, before he finally leaned back. She didn’t really know what to think, after that.
Katherine Gilbert was born at house number 1313 and then transplanted to a crumbling antebellum ruin so gothic that The Munsters would have run from it. She has since gained several ridiculously-impractical degrees in English, Religious Studies, and Women’s Studies. She now teaches at a South Carolina community college, where all her students think, correctly, that she is very, very strange, indeed.
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