Interview - July 2008

originally published online at
Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror newsletter

interviewer Maria Zannini
Interviewer Maria Zannini

Give us the premise for The Sweet Scent of Blood.
The Sweet Scent of Blood is set in current day London, but with an alternate history.
Genevieve Taylor is one of the noble fae, a Sidhe.  The Sidhe are a reclusive race, uncomfortable in the modern world, preferring to live in The Fair Lands and follow the old traditions. So Genny is unusual, even in present day London where celebrity vampires, eccentric goblins and scheming lesser fae mix freely with the human population.
Genny is a rising star at – making magic safe.  Spellcrackers is affiliated to the Witch Council, whose ancient tenants prohibit any contact with vampires. Genny also works as a volunteer at a clinic which treats victims of vampire attacks. Then there’s her extra curricula activity, extracting vulnerable fae lured by the local fang gangs. Genny neither wants nor needs any closer involvement with the vampires.

Where did the idea come from?
The Sweet Scent of Blood is at heart a murder mystery. And so once I’d built my world, I started with the victim and asked myself all the usual questions –  Why was she killed? Who wanted her dead? How does her death affect the people/world that she leaves behind? How would Genny, my main character, become involved? What would the murderer do to protect themselves? The answers gave me both my cast of characters and of course, my plot.

We love call stories. (Okay, I LOVE call stories.) Tell us yours.
Monday morning, 10 a.m. I was staring at my computer, biting my nails down to my knuckles, getting close to a full-blown panic attack, waiting for my agent to phone! A commissioning editor Jo Fletcher at Gollancz (now mine, of course *big grin*) had asked for a week's exclusive to read through the manuscript to see whether she liked it or not and if she wanted to take it further!  And Monday morning was D-Day!   Then the phone call came, and of course, after my agents first few positive words, I said nothing much intelligible for quite a while as you can guess! Poor man, he has to put up with a lot!

The title series, is an awesome title.
Thank you!

And you pitched it as a series to your agent. We usually get advice not to pitch series until the first book is contracted. How did you manage to pull this off?
As I love reading a series and following the same characters through different (stand-alone, rather than a trilogy or whatever ‘olgy’ number) plots, that's what I decided to write. And as I never heard the news about not pitching series books to agents, it never entered my head not to pitch like that!

How long have you been writing fiction?
I started writing five years ago. Up until then the only fictional writing I'd ever done was a (very, veeeery)  long time ago at school!

What made you decide to make this your career ambition?
I didn't start to write with the aim of getting published or having a career.  My initial efforts were more along the lines of 'Can I do this or not?' But once I began, I found I loved writing and everything about it, from thinking up the ideas, the world, the characters and how they would interact, to getting the words down on screen, and then playing with them so they say exactly what I want. I was totally thrilled when the first story I wrote was accepted for publication, and after that there was no stopping me.

Tell us about your average writing day.
Good question! My 'ideal' writing day would be 3 or 4 hours in the morning, every morning, so I could do all those other pesky things - housework, the day job, bills etc! -  in the afternoon and relax in the evenings!  Only of course it doesn’t work like that. Instead, so far, I've ended up writing in binges, from 8 a.m. to sometimes gone midnight, for a hectic few weeks, then I have to stop and sort out the rest of my half-neglected life.  But I’m still aiming for the ideal! Maybe in a few years time when I get better at all this, I might manage it!

Are you an outliner or a pantser?
Definitely an outliner, otherwise I tend to go off on tangents and fall down numerous rabbit holes!

Do you wait until your manuscript is polished before sending it to your critique partners?
My stuff has a good gleam to it when it goes to my CPs, but the real polish comes later after they've torn it to shreds (nicely, of course) and I've put it back together again.

(do you use crit partners?)
I'm lucky to be part of a weekly face2face group. The six of us have been together for four years now and we all met at the same writing class. I've also found that the OWW extremely valuable and I truly believe that without both being critiqued and critiquing I'd never have made it to having my book published.

What’s the most formidable obstacle you’ve come across your writing career?
For me, probably lack of confidence in my actual writing. I'm always worrying if it is good enough, and how I can make it better.

How did you overcome it?
As yet, I haven't, but I just keep writing, and trying, and hoping that I'm improving all the time.

What do you do to recharge your batteries when you’ve been neck-deep in edits?
Read!  I find I need to 'put the words back in' as writing or editing in binges turns my brain to porridge, and it then reaches for the easiest word/phrase it can find, which of course, is the same word/ phrase it reached for the last half dozen time - sigh.

Maria Zannini's debut book - TOUCH OF FIRE - is a futuristic fantasy set on a post-apocalyptic Earth published by Samhain It is also a hot steamy romance!!! Go check it out!!

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