Reading the coyly self-deprecating autobiography on her web site, one gets the distinct impression that MaryJanice Davidson does not have the slightest interest in talking about herself. Perhaps it's because she simply doesn't have the time. Prolific does not begin to describe this chart-busting dynamo, the author of four bestselling series and literally dozens of novellas and short stories.
A writer with a few romances and YA novels to her credit, Davidson had tried for years to interest publishers in her idea for a humorous, tongue-in-cheek vampire romance. After dozens of rejections (and assurances that there was no market for paranormal!), she submitted her manuscript for publication online. An editor at a New York publishing house downloaded the story, was royally entertained, and contacted Davidson to acquire the print rights to Undead and Unwed. On the spot, she was offered a three-book contract.
When Undead and Unwed and its wry sequel, Undead and Unemployed, were released in early 2004, not one, but two stars were born: Davidson and her irresistible protagonist, the reluctant vampire queen Betsy Taylor.
A smart, sassy, 27-year-old secretary, Betsy is killed in a freak car accident and wakes up (so to speak) to discover that she is not only a vampire but the much-prophesied Queen of the Undead. Readers loved Davidson's wry take on vampire literature, a genre long distinguished by its gothic self-seriousness. Betsy, with her smarty-pants attitude and passion for designer shoes, is one vampire queen who owes more to Sophie Kinsella than to Anne Rice.
While Davidson has continued to produce more Undead novels, she has also found the time to launch three other romantic fantasy series featuring 1.) a hybrid mermaid named Fred, 2.) an eccentric family of Alaskan royals, and 3.) a cyborg spy. All are infused with her trademark wit and imagination. In addition, she and her husband, Anthony Alongi, have written the Jennifer Scales series, originally marketed to young adults and re-released as fantasy fiction for all ages. Davidson also remains one of the most popular writers of paranormal romantica; her short stories and novellas appear regularly in anthologies.
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Davidson is not the only one in her family to achieve fame. Her mother once broke the world record for target shooting.
Before she devoted her time to chronicling the love lives of vampires and werewolves, Davidson was voted Miss Congeniality in her high school.
Even though Davidson is one of the most popular writers of modern monster fiction, in real life she is actually terrified of the undead. In fact, she is currently holding a contest on her web site asking readers to put together a twelve-step program to help her get over her fear of zombies!
As she writes on her website, Davidson lived a transient life as a young girl. Her father's career in the U.S. Air Force led her to live in such disparate locales as Guam, Mississippi, and North Dakota. As she grew older, her life in the working world was just as restless as her childhood. She tried her hand at everything from waitressing to modeling to editing to a stint as a medical test subject (!) before settling on a career as a bestselling novelist. These days, her life may be a bit more settled, but it has hardly slowed down.
A few fun outtakes from our interview with Davidson
"I'm a former model -- worst job ever, honestly."
"I'm a gigantic sushi hog -- it's pretty much my favorite meal."
"The more terrible and groaningly awful a horror movie is, the more I like it."
"Um, I like bubble baths? Seriously. I know that sounds like something a Playboy Bunny would say, but I really do."
"I like taking my kids to new restaurants and encouraging them to try new dishes -- we did "Dim Sum" just the other day."
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In the summer of 2006, MaryJanice Davidson took some time out to answer some of our questions.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Not only was the heroine genuinely unlikable (I mean, come on, Scarlett was a bitch, no two ways about it), but Mitchell managed to flesh out full personalities for at least fifty characters. Not to mention, it all happened during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Our heroine married multiple times (never for love, mind you) and used up everyone around her. Still, I loved her. I even respected her choices. And I was amazed that someone MADE HER UP. Someone sat down and made her up and gave her all these problems and made me care about a jerk like Scarlett. From then on, I was hooked.
What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- Duh.
Rules of Prey by John Sandford -- All the Prey books take place in Minneapolis, which, as a local, I find cool, not to mention I have a huge crush on Lucas Davenport, the main character.
The Prince of Tides, The Beach House, and Our Losing Season by Pat Conroy -- Let's face it, anything by Pat Conroy. He writes like a gourmet chef cooks. He writes like a son of a bitch! He's probably the greatest writer walking around on the planet right now.
Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton -- The world building! The cool, kick-ass heroine! The suave vamps and the sexy weres! What's not to like?
Dark Gold by Christine Feehan -- The first Feehan/Carpathian book I ever read, and it blew me away. The sex! The heroes! Zow.
A Death in the Family by XXXX -- Okay, this is a graphic novel, not a book, but still: Robin DIES. He gets beaten to death and then blown up by the Joker, and Batman, already grim enough, has to soldier on. Great, great writing.
The Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith -- A typical revenge novel by Goldsmith, but it dishes about the publishing industry and I've probably read it fifteen times in four years. Great, great book.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- I always appreciate my centrally heated home and the food in the fridge when I read this book. I read it for the first time when I was a pre-teen and remembered being horrified that they couldn't just to the Cub Foods or whatever and stock up.
Timeline by Michael Crichton -- The best of his books, even more so than the Jurassic Park books. I always learn something when I read one of his books, and for scientists to go back to medieval times...wow! Just too cool. GREAT book.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?Gone with the Wind (duh) -- Because they took the greatest book in the world and managed to slap it together on the big screen.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban -- It's my favorite of the Harrt Potter books, and they did a great job being true to the story.
Gladiator -- Are you not entertained?
Batman Begins -- I'm a comic FREAK, and they did a great job with the Batman mythology. Plus, I have a serious crush on Christian Bale.
Shaun of the Dead -- I'm scared of zombies, and that movie did a great job of showing how people in dead end jobs might not notice that zombies have taken over the world. Plus the zombies are slow. I like slow, shuffling zombies, as opposed to the speedy zombies in 28 Days Later.
Braveheart -- Except the end. I hate the end. But it sure stuck with me. I frequently try to break puppies out of the humane society while yelling, "They may take our lands, but they'll nivver take...our freedom!"
Armageddon -- I love disaster movies where the hero saves the planet at the last minute, usually at huge cost to himself.
The Abyss -- Another disaster movie, but you cared about ALL the characters, not just the hero. You even understood the "villains". And there was so much going on in that movie! The intrepid crew would solve one problem and it'd be like, ‘Oh, yeah, we still don't have enough oxygen to last the night." There was always something else.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
All 80's, all the time, baby! One Night In Bangkok is my favorite song. My shuffle is filled with Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, George Michael... all that good stuff.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I usually give my own books, autographed. I know, sounds cheesy, but it's what all my friends really want. As far as getting, I'd rather get a gift card from B&N, and pick out my own books. Because I'm really eclectic: one week it's cook books, the next it's true crime, the next it's just magazines, the next it's horror, the next it's graphic novels.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
Right now there's a snake my son made for me out of Floam. I work in chaos: papers, contracts, manuscripts all over the place. In fact, I usually work on my laptop in the living room, watching the Nip/Tuck DVD.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
Well, I started writing when I was 13, and I didn't get published until I was 29. I don't have horror stories, it's just a long apprenticeship. What's fun is, now that I've hit the big time, everyone who sent me a rejection slip in the past (Harelquin, Silhouette, Warner, Little Brown, Random House) wants me to write for them. Hee!
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Do not, EVER, ever ever give up. I wrote for over 15 years before I got published, and Berkley didn't knock on my door until I was 33. If I had quit at any point before that, I'd never have been published. If you can hang in there, the rewards are more than worth it, I promise.
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|MaryJanice Davidson Home
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|In Our Other Stores|
Signed, First Editions by MaryJanice Davidson|
|Undead and Unwed, 2004|
|Undead and Unemployed, 2004|
|Derik's Bane: A Wyndham Werewolf Tale, 2005|
|Undead and Unappreciated, 2005|
|Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace, 2005|
|Undead and Unreturnable, 2005|
|Dead and Loving It, 2006|
|Undead and Unpopular, 2006|
|Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light, 2006|
|Sleeping with the Fishes, 2006|
|Undead and Uneasy, 2007|