Interview with Cherie Priest

Hi Cherie. Having just read the first in your Cheshire Red series, Bloodshot, I’m very impressed with your protagonist Raylene. Please tell us about her, for those who have not yet read the novel.

Raylene is a severely obsessive-compulsive vampire who earns a living as an expert thief-for-hire. She’s sort of a cross between “Monk” and “Catwoman.”

Which characters came first? Was Raylene always the main character?

Yes, it was always her book first and foremost. Adrian came next (or “Sister Rose,” depending on how you slice it), and then the kids from the warehouse. But really, the story gelled entirely around Raylene.

The OCD condition that Raylene has is an interesting idea. Why did you think this was something a vampire would have?

It’s actually very common in vampire traditions around the world – this OCD thing. Depending on the region, you can escape a vampire by tossing a handful of rice, or grain, or sand … and the vampire has to stop and count every grain before continuing. There’s also a great deal of OCD-esque lore about how they can’t cross running water or certain arrangements of lines – and I know that these are instances of Christianity infiltrating pagan lore, but it still feels like part of the same picture to me.

Anyway, this is one aspect of the myth that I hadn’t really seen addressed, except possibly on Sesame Street. “The Count” beat me to it.

What attracted you personally to write an urban fantasy/vampire novel? Have you always been a fan?

Most of what I write tends to be pretty dark, and I wanted a chance to do something with more opportunity for humour – and a sense of playfulness. Obviously my alternate history books are playful in their way, but I was burning out on the vintage material, and it was time for a change of pace.

And whilst we’re talking popularity, are there any genre influences on your writing here that were important? You do mention Dracula in the novel, not to mention a few others! 

Mostly I’m a big noir nerd, and a huge fangirl for Dashiell Hammett. By and large, most of the thematic influence (if not the stylistic influence) came from that genre, and those writers from the 20s-30s.

What do you think was your greatest challenge when writing this one?

The hardest part was trying to treat both Raylene’s mental illness and Adrian’s fluid gender identity with good-humour, yet respect. I didn’t want to hold up either of them as objects of ridicule, but they’re so comfortable with themselves that they’re capable of laughing at themselves – and that balancing act sometimes presented a real challenge.

How long did Bloodshot take to write?

Hard to say. I began it and wrote the first 80 pages in a few weeks…then set it down for awhile and came back to it later. All told, it probably took about 4 months to get a draft together.

What was the process here? It reads like it was fun to write, though it may not have been! Do you have a writing schedule?

My writing schedule has to work around my day job, and also the very real, very time-consuming business-side of writing.  That’s not to say it isn’t a priority, but it does force me to be flexible. I try to maintain a routine whereby I spend mornings on day-job work, and afternoons on writing or writing business … but sometimes travel and promotion gets in the way.

Do you plan your writing in advance, in detail or as you go along?

I don’t do a whole lot of planning or outlining, though I know plenty of writers who do, and it works well for them.  I’m more of a “seat of my pants” writer. Usually when I get started, I know the beginning and end, and a few highlights in the middle. The rest gets figured out as I go.

I know there’s more in the series on the way: how far do you intend to take the series?

I’d like to take it another book or two beyond the sequel, Hellbent – but I don’ t know if I’ll get the chance. Publishing is fickle! But I am game.

Thank you, Cherie!

Mark Yon

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