Jeannie Holmes is a native of southwest Mississippi. Before receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Alabama, she worked in a variety of interesting fields, including medical records, independent auction houses, and owned a small handcrafted jewelry business. In addition to working on the sequel to Blood Law, she received her Master of Arts degree in English in December 2008 and lives in Mobile, AL with her husband and four neurotic cats.
Amid all of the excitement of gearing up for the release of her first novel, Jeannie took a few minutes to chat with Big Thrill contributing editor Jonathan Maberry about Blood Law.
Jeannie….Blood Lawis your first novel. Give us some backstory on how you broke into the publishing biz.
How I broke into the publishing biz is a sordid tale full of sex, lies, blackmail, and murder. Okay, not really, but that would be a far more entertaining tale because I’ve been very fortunate up to this point.
I’ve always made up stories, even when I was a kid in rural Mississippi. My siblings are older and often my mother and I were the only two at home so I would entertain myself with the stories I created. After high school and the first round of college, I worked in the medical field for a number of years, mostly in the administrative side, before going back to finish my BA degree in English at the University of South Alabama.
While at USA, I signed up for a fiction writing workshop with author Carolyn Haines, and rediscovered my love for writing. I began working on Blood Law with Carolyn’s guidance and had it nearly completed by the time I graduated in 2006. I enrolled in the graduate creative writing program and continued working with Carolyn. She’s actually the reason I have an agent.
Blood Law was finished and Carolyn asked her agent, Marian Young, if she would read a portion of it and give me some feedback – no strings or offers attached. Marian was kind enough to agree. I sent her the first one hundred pages. She e-mailed me within a few days and asked for the rest of the manuscript. She called a week later and said she wanted to be my agent. I incorporated some suggestions she made and she started shopping it around about a month later.
It landed six or seven months later with senior editor Danielle Perez, who was with Bantam Dell at the time. She initially rejected it but did agree to give me a second read if I was willing to revise it a bit. Naturally, I revised. Marian sent it back to Danielle, and she loved it and made us a two-book offer. I officially signed my contract with Bantam Dell on August 8, 2008, and became the first creative writing graduate student from USA to have a publishing contract before receiving a degree.
That’s extremely cool. Congrats.
I’ve been working on Blood Law since signing my contract. I now have a new editor, Shauna Summers, and am looking forward to working with her on the sequel.
Okay, so what’s the skinny on Blood Law?
Blood Law follows Alexandra Sabian, a vampire and Enforcer with the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation, as she tries to discover who is killing vampires in the small town of Jefferson, Mississippi. The murders are very reminiscent of the way in which Alex’s father was killed in 1968, and the rising tensions between the human and vampire populations begins to affect Alex in a negative way. Her bosses at the FBPI decide to pull her former mentor (and ex-fiancé), Varik Baudelaire, out of retirement and send him to evaluate the situation and assist her with the case. Alex resents Varik’s presence but slowly realizes he may be her best ally in both finding the killer and in facing the demons of her past.
Nice. Creepiness, action and police procedure. Is this a one-shot of a series?
Blood Law is the first in a new series.
Vampires are red hot right now. Are you old school vampire (they’re nasty monsters) or new school (they’re misunderstood and tragic)?
Somewhere in the middle. My vampires live openly among humans but they do have laws regarding their interaction with humans, which is where the Enforcers and FBPI come in. The vampires in Blood Law are a lot like their human counterparts in that they hold down jobs, try to raise their families as best as they can, and pay their taxes.
Are all the vamps middle of the road?
There are a few “bad seeds” among them. I admit I have a great deal of fun playing around with those bad seeds.
What kind of research did you do on vampires?
I’ve been a fan of vampires since childhood so I’ve read a lot of the eastern European folklore as well as from other parts of the world since as northern Africa and Malaysia. I also researched the modern vampire subculture and actually interviewed a few people who claimed to be vampires. It was a very eye-opening experience.
What fanbase will be ripe for Blood Law? Is this for the Stephen King crew? Laurell Hamilton/LA Banks? Charlaine Harris?
That’s a loaded question. I like to think Blood Law is accessible to a wide range of readers. Booklist recommended Blood Law as a “read alike” for Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison fans, and I would definitely agree with that assessment. Charlaine and Kim are two of my favorite authors so naturally being even remotely compared to them is a huge thrill for me.
So, this is for the adult market?
As I said, it’s accessible to a wide range of readers. Booklist also gave it a “YA recommendation for mature teens.” My sixteen-year-old niece read it and gave it her seal of approval so I can only assume that other teens will enjoy it.
A lot of books in this genre are built for the romance crowd. Is that the case withBlood Law?
I do have to say that even though I have a strong romantic undercurrent with the relationship between Alex and Varik, romance readers may not care for it. I’m not a “happily ever after” kind of writer. Life is too uncertain for me, as an author, to end every story with hearts and rainbows. However, having said that, I think anyone who likes a good mystery or suspense with a paranormal twist is going to like Blood Law.
You’ve created an extensive mythology for this book. Give us a tour of this strange new world.
For starters, the action is set in the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi. Jefferson has a population of roughly six thousand and about half are vampires. The vampires in theBlood Law world aren’t the typical undead – in fact, they’re completely mortal. They evolved alongside humans and have extremely long lifespans, similar to the elves in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I kept some of the familiar tropes of the vampire, such as heightened senses and greater-than-human strength, but tried to give them plausible evolutionary and biological sources. Because vampires are born rather than created, I had to find another reason for them to require blood, which I did but I’m not going to share that particular tidbit. I can’t reveal all my secrets. I can say it involved a lot of research and many e-mailed questions to my high school biology teacher brother. In the end, I had a lot of fun creating a new race of vampires and think readers will respond to them well.
What’s next for you?
The Blood Law promo tour is in full swing throughout July and a portion of August. I recently turned in the sequel to Blood Law and am now working on a trilogy featuring demons, which I hope will be picked up for publication soon. I’ve also toyed with the idea of return to college for a second bachelor’s degree but haven’t fully committed to it yet. It largely depends on how the next few weeks play out. Otherwise, I’m keeping busy and hoping no hurricanes come my way.
Find Jeannie Holmes online at: www.jeannieholmes.com/ and read her blog:http://www.jeannieholmes.com/Blog/tabid/59/Default.aspx