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WesternSFA
A Chat With Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
by Catherine Book
I’ve been a total fan of Ms. Yarbro’s Saint Germain stories since the 1970s; I’ve met her a couple times over the years and interviewed her back in 2004.  So I was just beside myself when I saw that she would a guest at a local indie bookshop, The Poisoned Pen, in January 2016; and so happy that she agreed to another interview.

I was very interested in the newest book that she was promoting; a mystery titled “Haunting Investigation.”  She told me that she’s already finished a sequel and envisions a possible four-book series – depending on public response.  This is good news; as enamored as I am with Saint Germain, I’m excited about something new from her.  The next book is titled “Living Spectres.”  She’s also excited about it; because, as she told me, if she couldn’t write something else than Saint Germain, she’d get jaded.  She sees her new mystery as a bit lighter in tone than the vampire novels; a bit more wry in narration.  (Watch this site for a book review soon.)

Last year, she finished a third western in her Charity series, titled “The Changes in Charity.” The first one in the series, “The Law in Charity,” is available again as a reprint and as an e-book.  Ms. Yarbro is in the throes of recovering the publishing rights to the second book “Charity, Colorado.”  She much enjoyed the time writing in this genre; she characterizes it as a “palate cleaner.”

There will be, of course, another Saint Germain story coming soon.  She reported she has it half-written and the working title is “Orphans of Memory.”  It is set in the Kazar Empire in the 800s B.C.  The Kazars were a Turkic people who settled in the area of the Crimea.  Bordered by Muslims and two kinds of Christians, the Kazars chose to protect themselves by self-converting to a brand of Judaism.  They were also a successful mercantile empire during the Dark Ages.  It should be interesting to see what effect this experience will have on our favorite vampire.

I asked her if she had any plans to resurrect Madelaine or Olivia in a story.  She does have one story possibility for Saint Germain and Olivia.  I was bemoaning the loss of Olivia and idly asked why she had to be killed off.  Quinn confessed that it had to be done; as she had, unknowingly, tied her own hands when, in “Hotel Transylvania,” she mentioned Olivia by name and said she’d been dead for some time.  If you are not familiar with the much-beloved Saint Germain series, I will tell you that one of the most successful plot devices I’ve ever seen is Quinn’s use of letters (correspondence) between characters.  She saw it as a sneaky way to advance the plot or character development without long expository paragraphs, which no one loves.  And it is quite effective.  Olivia only held center stage in three books but she appears over and over in letters to Saint Germain; usually admonishing him – which is delightful.

She has been very proactive in getting (and keeping) her titles in print, including e-books.  It’s not a real lucrative market but it’s better than not in print at all.  And it’s burgeoning.  One hopes a new generation of e-readers will discover and fall in love with her work.

I was curious what is most important to her when she writes: setting, plot or characters?    Characters first, she asserted - with setting as a tertiary character.  For her, setting often defines how the characters interact, as it will with historical novels.  Is she able to work on different projects simultaneously?  Oh yes, she said; although she’d prefer to work on things sequentially, sometimes there’s no option.  Then it becomes a question of apportioning her time.  She uses a lunch time break – to feed the cats and herself – and maybe a bit of current events on the news, to separate a morning project from a different, afternoon project.  How about an ideal working environment, is it necessary?  Not really;  but she described that one of the joys of her home is the garden that borders open woodland, and occasionally a deer or two wander into her garden.  At which point, her indoor cats become convinced that if they could just get outside, they’d be able to bring down that deer for dinner.

I always ask what book or character the author might be most proud of.  Quinn’s response was a bit surprising:  the next one.

Does she use social media much?  No, she replied.  It appears quite seductive and could consume a lot of time; she sees her job as writing and you can’t get as much done if you’re consumed with Facebook or Twitter.  She also said, that as a child of the McCarthy era (check Wikipedia, if necessary), she is cautious about public postings.  She’s seen fellow authors run afoul of incautious statements made in public.  She does have a personal FB page and one as author.

How long does it take for her to write a book?  About four months! (the exclamation point is mine) I find that to be pretty amazing but reassuring…more books are coming!

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