Angela Roquet loves everything macabre - with a dash of comedy. She is also fascinated by world religions, the afterlife and mythology. This clearly shows in her work, where mythological characters tend to make an appearance, showing off their more mundane sides. Today, Roquet talks to us about what inspired her book, Graveyard Shift, why she has a female reaper in the leading role and how she used to raise eyebrows in public with the types of books she was reading.
Please give us a short introduction to Graveyard Shift
Graveyard Shift is the first book in my Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. series. It’s set in Limbo City, the capital of a very eclectic and modern afterlife, and it follows Lana Harvey, a low-risk soul harvester who works for Grim, as she discovers that she’s not just another nameless face at the bottom of the corporate barrel. This reveal is pretty shocking for Lana, who is usually content just scraping by at work. She’d much rather be having a beer at Purgatory Lounge with her best friend, the archangel Gabriel, or shopping at Athena’s Boutique with her sailing partner. The events in Graveyard Shift kick off a turning point in Eternity, slowly building toward a war between the Afterlife Council’s peaceful rule and a group of rebels led by a defunct deity from ancient mythology.
What inspired you to make your protagonist a reaper?
When I first started writing this series, back in 2007, the only time I had encountered the grim reaper in fiction, it had always been the traditional, skeletal, male figure in a hooded robe. I’m a big fan of gender role reversals, and so I penned a short story with a female reaper. It evolved into Graveyard Shift, and then took off as a series. Since then, I’ve discovered a whole slew of fantastic, diverse reapers, in books and television.
Why did you decide to mix comedy, fantasy and a bit of horror?
Because I adore Joss Whedon. lol. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my favorite shows. (I’ve seen every episode at least 4 times). That combination of horror, fantasy, and comedy has always appealed to me. There’s something fascinating about the lighter side of the macabre.
What are your 3 all-time favorite books —and why?
Oh, man. You’re going to make me pick just 3? Let’s see… The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is my #1 favorite. That’s the easy one. It's been my favorite since childhood. Wild new worlds and interesting characters on a fantastic quest. What's not to love? For the other two, I’m going to go with A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, and Stiff by Mary Roach. Both have that macabre comedy that I so love.
Did you write Graveyard Shift for yourself, or do you write them with a particular reader/audience in mind?
I think it’s important for a writer to first write for themselves. If you don’t love what you’re writing, it shows. Also, you have to assume right up front that not everyone will like what you write. It doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. You will never please every single reader. It’s just not possible. People are far too diverse for all that. But as long as you love what you write, it’s easier to take the negative criticism. It’s also more meaningful when a reader expresses their love for your work. The connection feels more genuine with a shared affection for characters and settings.
Do you have any interesting writing habits, what's your average writing day like?
I’m terrible. I often feel like I don’t do any of the “right” things when it comes to writing habits or schedules. I start off with good intentions and very detailed lists. I tell myself, Self, if you write 2,000 words a day, 5 days a week, you can have this novel knocked out in 2 months’ time! And then I go binge watch NCIS with my husband for a couple weeks. The next conversation with myself demands 3,000 words a day… and it’s not hard to see how easily I get myself into trouble with deadlines. I could say that I work best under pressure, but I wouldn’t really know, since I have nothing to compare it to. That’s my only method. Let me just add this to my New Year’s Resolution list… again.
The only thing I can say that I think I do well is outline. I’m a pro at outlining, and it saves my ass more than I’d care to admit when it gets down to crunch time. A good outline definitely speeds up my process and calms my panicking mind when there’s a looming deadline.
You touch a bit on a couple of world religions and beliefs about the afterlife in your book. How much research did it require from you? What was the most interesting aspect of your research?
I’ve always been interested in world religions. I spent most of my early education in a private Lutheran school. Public school opened my eyes to so many other paths, and I explored those paths with an open and hungry mind. I took a very unfulfilling world religions course in college, and ended up checking out every book I could find in my local library for a more thorough education. Even that wasn’t enough to sate me. I ended up going online and buying up a wide variety of books on paganism, Wicca, druids, shamanism, mythology, voodoo, Hinduism, necromancy, kabala—my library does not discriminate. There were a few religions I would have liked to find more on, but my collection is a work in progress.
I’d have to say that the most interesting aspect of my research was the mixed reactions I received from others when I began this quest. This was before e-readers or smart phones were popular, so I was still checking out tons of random religious books from the library. I was also doing a fair amount of traveling, and I transported my books around in a giant Rubbermaid tub. It was clear, so the spines of the books could be read through the plastic… Summoning Spirits, The History of Hell, Do Witches Fly?, Forbidden Rites. The looks from hotel staff were priceless.
For your book, you drew on religion and mythology. How did you approach taking centuries-old myths and telling them in a fresh way?
I think a lot of this process, of depicting old gods in a fresh, modern setting, involved answering two questions for them. What mundane, everyday task does their particular history or skillset most prepare them for? And, what vice or setback would most affect them in a modern society? It’s an easy and fun way to bring a mythological character to life.
If you lived in the world of your series, who do you think you would be?
Given my choice, I’d be a retired deity on permanent vacation. I’d spend most of it in Summerland, partying with the faeries. If I died and ended up in my version of the afterlife, I’d hope to be a factory soul. As an atheist, it would be my best case scenario, since most non-believers are dumped in the Sea of Eternity. While the factory souls get to enjoy Limbo City for a century before going back to the mortal side and being born into a celebrity family.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Before going full-time with the writing, I was a graphic designer. It’s really come in handy with all the promotional materials needed as an indie author—social media banners, bookmarks, ads, etc. I also design my book covers. Back when I was a newbie starving author, I designed the covers out of necessity, thinking I would eventually hire that out to an industry pro once I started earning more. I received so many compliments that I just kept doing it. I might still hire out a few covers in the future, but I’m definitely more comfortable with my abilities these days.
What are you working on now?
I am finishing up the seventh and final book in Lana’s series, Hellfire and Brimstone, due out next month. And I’m also outlining several Lana short stories that will be part of a collection coming out by the end of the year, Limbo City Lights.
Where can our readers interact with you and discover more of your work?
I’m all over the interwebs, and I do my best to reply to every email and Facebook message from readers. : )
Reaper Report (newsletter): http://eepurl.com/Zftnj
Read Graveyard Shift on your favorite e-reader for FREE! http://angelaroquet.com/books_graveyard_shift.html