I can't believe I haven't asked Eileen these questions about the Messenger Series before but I think in large part I've been so charmed by Melina, so swept up in Eileen voice that the usual questions of construction haven't even occurred to me. But In Dead Letter Day they occur to me, not because Melina is any less charming or fascinating or heart-rending, because she's only more so. And Eileen's voice is as warm and inclusive and funny and smart as ever.
But the world takes a turn, in this book and now...now I've got some questions.
1. Let's talk about research and your bad guy selection...I love that each book has sort of a Mythology of the week vibe, I think it's FASCINATING. And I realize how perfectly set up the world is to do this and I need to seriously tip my hat to you!!! How do you choose which mythology to use? Because it is obscure stuff. Do you know all this stuff? Or is there tons of research?
It's really one of the great things about setting the series in northern California. There really isn't an ethnicity that didn't make its way here at some point in time or another. At least, not that I can think of off the top of my head. So . . . how do I choose? The pathway to the Chinese vampires in the first book was so convoluted that I'm not entirely sure how I got there now. I know there was a lot of time spent clicking links from one web page to another until the kiang shi jumped out at me.
For Dead Letter Day, I know exactly when I settled on Norse mythology. It was seriously something my spin instructor said as we walked out of class one night. He's very into Norse mythology and he brought up something I'd never heard of and couldn't even spell. It went steamrolling from there. In terms of research, the internet really is a vast and amazing place. I'm amazed at how much is at our finger tips and how much time I spend looking at cat videos rather than learning.
2. How much planning went into this series in terms of Melina's character arc/storyline? You've thrown some pretty delicious curve balls at us, even from the first book - how much of that did you know going in? How much more do you have planned out? Planning and selling a series is one of the hardest things to do - seriously, I'm amazed at all the balls that have to be kept in the air. Can you tell us a little about that process for you?
I actually didn't conceive of it as a series. I had the idea for the first book, wrote the synopsis, wrote some pages and sent it all to my agent who said that we needed to pitch it as a series. That meant I needed to come up with idea for at least two more books, none of which we've actually used, by the way. There were somethings I knew going in. There's a bit of a love triangle at the beginning of the first book. I didn't want to keep revisiting that. I get a little irritated with heroines of series who still haven't made up their minds 7 or 8 books in. I didn't want her to keep dealing with the same issues over and over.
I am forcing her to grow up fast. Part of it is not wanting her to tread water in one place. Part of it is not knowing how many books I'll have to tell her story. Part of it is, in the words of Stephanie Doyle, the need to throw my heroine in her personal Dumpster.
I get a little nervous sometimes because I don't want to contradict the rules of my own universe. I realize it should be easy to avoid that pitfall, but I don't always remember every little thing I've said in the previous books. A lot of authors talk about creating a "bible" for their series. I wouldn't even know what to write down. Something that's a throw-away line in one book can become a more serious issue in another. Since I've often written another type of book in-between Messenger books, I don't remember every little detail.
3. Can you tell us what's next - even the mythology?
I think I know what I want to do with Melina's personal life. I'm toying with some Filipino mythology right now, but I don't know enough about it yet to commit. We'll see.
FILIPINO MYTHOLOGY?!!! I'm in, Eileen. I'm in. Wherever you're going to go - I'm with you.