Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Author Interview: Diana Rowland

Today the Ninja Peas are pleased to welcome fabulously talented author Diana Rowland to the Pod! (She's our first official published author interview. How cool is that?) If you aren't familiar with Diana and her work--and why aren't you?!--you should be. In addition to being a former police officer, morgue tech, and all-around awesome person, she writes both the Kara Gillian and White Trash Zombies urban fantasy series. A couple of things you, dear reader, should know about Diana before we continue...

1. Before pounding the keyboard for a living, she was a bartender, a blackjack dealer, a pit boss, a street cop, a detective, a computer forensics specialist, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant.
Author Diana Rowland

2. She won the marksmanship award in her Police Academy class and has a black belt in Hapkido.

What does all this mean? Well, frankly, it means she can calculate the best angle and trajectory from which to completely kick your ass in a state-approved manner, and then to show there are no hard feelings, she can mix up a great drink and deal you into a friendly game of blackjack...just don't get caught cheating.

Now that you know a little about the author, you need to know a little about her writing. For those who aren't familiar with these series, here are the cover copies and cover art for the first book in each series. More information can be found at Diana's website for subsequent books.

Book 1 of Kara Gillian series

When Homicide Detective Kara Gillian finds traces of arcane power on a body, she quickly realizes that this is no ordinary murder. The serial killer known as the Symbol Man is a nightmare that Beaulac, Louisiana thought had ended three years ago, but now he's back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he is well-versed in demonic lore.

However, Kara is a Summoner of Demons, and may be the only cop on the city's small force who can stop the killer. Able to see and interact with a world most people can't, Kara must draw on her skills as a police officer and master of the arcane to stop the Symbol Man from killing again and possibly summoning something even she can't control.

But with a demonic lord of unearthly beauty and power haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head....

Book 1 of White Trash Zombie series

Angel Crawford is a loser

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue--and that it's an offer she doesn't dare refuse.

Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey--just when she's hungriest!

Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat.


If you're a regular reader, you may remember that A, M, and I discussed cover art a few weeks ago. While our opinions were varied and strong, I thought it would be fun to get another author's perspective on the matter. My first thought was to grill--uh, interview Diana because, as you can see, she has truly mind-blowing covers. Here's what she had to say on the subject:

Jeannie: Readers may often decide which books they want to read based solely on the cover. As an author, how important is it you that the cover art reflect the story you've written?

Diana Rowland: Cover art can be a very touchy subject with both authors and readers. For my part, I would definitely push back if I had a cover that depicted the story or characters in a way that I felt was radically different from how I’d written them. However, I also believe that a cover’s primary purpose is to sell the book. To that end the cover should be eye-catching, attractive, and give the reader a solid sense of what sort of story this is, e.g. if there’s a spaceship on the cover, the expectation is that it’s some sort of science fiction. That being said, I don’t think that a cover needs to illustrate the book down to the slightest detail, and it’s more important that it capture the overall feel of the book. The woman on the cover of the White Trash Zombie books doesn’t look exactly how I’ve described Angel, yet somehow those paintings perfectly capture who she is. (And yes, I LOVE my cover artist, Dan Dos Santos!)

J: Series covers can change over time as characters change. However, you had the experience of changing publishers with your first series. Has the difference in covers affected the Kara Gillian series? What is some of the reader feedback you've gotten about the difference (if you can share)?

Book 4 of Kara Gillian series
DR: The change in covers hasn’t affected the story or writing of the series, of course, but I think it’s changed the marketing. DAW very much wanted this series to be marketed as urban fantasy (which it is!), whereas I feel that Bantam wanted it to be marketed more to the paranormal romance side of things. I’m more comfortable with it being marketed as urban fantasy, not because I have anything against paranormal romance at all, but because this isn’t paranormal romance, and I think those readers would have grown frustrated over time with the lack of a major romantic plotline.

That being said, yes, I would have liked for all of the books to match, but in the long run I do think that the newer covers reflect the true nature of the series much better. But, oh, the reader feedback!! The reactions have run the gamut from cautious approval to virulent hatred, but I think that if the series had started out with the Dos Santos covers no one would have batted an eyelash. The majority of the less-than-positive feedback has been because the series as a whole doesn’t match, and I can certainly respect that avid readers could be disappointed in that.

J: You have a new "white trash" zombie series which sports some spectacular artwork from Daniel Dos Santos. Can you tell us a little about how these covers were created? Is he given a description of Angel and a basic outline for each book?

DR: I am the luckiest author in the world because I actually get to talk to my cover artist! For both of the White Trash Zombie covers, I’ve had extended telephone conversations and email exchanges with Dan where we’ve discussed the overall themes of the books, possible scenes, her appearance in general as well as specifics of how rotten she could be. Dan always asks me if I have an idea for the cover, I tell him that I have zero visual artistic sense and go ahead and give him a sample scene idea, and then he (thankfully!) ignores my suggestion and paints something a thousand times better. :-D

J:  The cover for EVEN WHITE TRASH ZOMBIES GET THE BLUES is definitely "trashy" but in a good way. What was your initial reaction to seeing it?

Book 2 of White Trash Zombies series
DR: SO. MUCH. LOVE!!!  Seriously, this is the perfect example of a cover capturing the feel of a book. Funny thing is that Dan and I had this particular cover discussion while I was at a Chik-Fil-A with my daughter. She was playing in the climby-playground thing while I was on the phone with Dan merrily describing rotting body parts and gunshot wounds and grungy, nasty settings… It wasn’t until I hung up with him that I realized that a woman and her two small children had been sitting behind me that whole time. Oops!

J: In addition to being an author, I know you're an avid reader. What are some of your favorite books covers, past and present? How important is the cover to you as a reader when choosing a book?

DR: A cover that’s obviously cheap or a bad photoshop job will turn me off of a book, simply because I tend to think that a sloppy cover will likely mean a sloppy book as well. (And, yes, I know this isn’t universally true.) I’m certainly drawn to covers that are striking (in a good way) or exceptionally creative or attractive, but beyond that I tend to use cover art as a guide to genre, and will gravitate toward the “look” that I’m in the mood for at that time.

Some of my favorite covers include the Jane True books by Nicole Peeler, and The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey, simply because they both have cover art that is interesting and striking, that perfectly conveys the tone and concept of the books.

J:  And now for every author's favorite question: What's next for Diana Rowland?

DR: I’ll be starting White Trash Zombie Apocalypse fairly soon, and at this time it looks as if that will be the end of that series. I have some other possible projects on tap, but nothing solid yet.

But, for the Kara Gillian fans, I can tell you that I’ll be working hard on the Demon series for a few more years. After all, there’s still a ways to go to finish up that whole story. We’re just now getting to the really good stuff!

J: Awesome insights, Diana! Thanks for hanging out with us. :-)

That's all, folks. Be sure to come back next week when we dish on...*drumroll*...The Hunger Games: Book vs. Movie! Until then...

Peas out.

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