Meet Yvonne Navarro …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented Yvonne Navarro to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Q: You originally wanted to be an artist. I’ve done some surveys of writers and found four out of five are aural – they listen to music when writing, but the other one out of five are visually – they collect images and ideas spring from visual sources. Do you collect images that haunt you and trigger ideas? When you write a book do you collect a file of images that you associate with that book?

I did, although I currently consider myself as a “sort-of” artist now.  I’m lucky enough to be at a point in my life where I can go back and actively chase a dream that might have otherwise slipped away.  I’ve finally taken some painting classes and collected some output, and we’re perhaps a month away from me having a formal art studio in which to work.  I guess that answers your question in a roundabout way—I’m a very visual person.  As that applies to writing, you hit it on the proverbial head: I collect all kinds of images.  Sometimes the images inspire me, sometimes I seek them out to go with a work already in progress.  When I wrote Mirror Me, I had a notebook with photographs of the characters, neighbourhoods, even the kind of furniture in some of the characters’ homes.  Now that I think of it, going all the way back to my first novel, AfterAge , I did the same thing but for the city itself– I got up on Sunday mornings and went downtown in the dark so I could take photographs of a completely empty downtown and get the “feel” of what Chicago might be like if it was empty of people.

Q: You’ve written four books in the ‘Buffyverse’ and contributed to three anthologies. I know a couple of authors who write for Starwars, or Stargate, or the Buffyverse. It always strikes me as taking a lot of discipline. You must need to immerse yourself so thoroughly in the Buffyverse that writing those characters becomes instinctive. Do you do a lot of research before you start?

Actually, I’ve written seven when you include the Wicked Willow Trilogy.  It’s been awhile since I’ve written a Buffyverse book, but I can say that I did research as necessary when I was involved in the projects, specifically to make sure I kept all the details and interactions correct.  However, I was definitely immersed in the Buffy universe, in that completely geeky way that someone lives and breathes a series or movie that they absolutely adore.  (I was the same way with Babylon 5.)  I can still quote lines from Buffy shows (“Those are my chicken feet!”), just as I can from certain Aliens movies.  :o)

Q: You have an impressive list of awards and nominations to your credit. Several final-listings in the Bram Stoker Award, a win for the Women In Publishing Award and a win in the National Federation Press Women’s  Award in the Juvenile book category, to name a few. I guess the champagne corks have been popping in your house. Does it help to raise an author’s profile when they place or win in these awards?

Perhaps, although I haven’t really been aware of it.  Willow Files, Vol. 2 won the Bram Stoker Award in the category of Young Adult Fiction, and yet it was the last YA book I wrote until co‑writing a YA adventure with my husband, Weston Ochse.  I will say that it’s awfully nice to have all your hard work recognized publicly.  Hopefully there’s a certain ex out there somewhere who sees it and gets a silent moment of “She told me so.”  Oh, wait—was that my out loud voice?!

Q: You’ve also written for Species and Ultraviolet. Does this mean that you see the movie before it is released, or do you work from the script? What happens if scenes get left out on the cutting room floor?

How interesting that you chose Species and Ultraviolet, which were polar opposite experiences for me!  First off, all of the movie tie‑ins are written from the script, before the movie is released.  The object is generally to get the book out preferably before the movie is released, or at the very least, at the same time.  With Species, I worked very closely with Dennis Feldman, the scriptwriter, and we had the best time.  He actually read the manuscript and would call me directly and make comments; by the same token, I could call him anytime and ask questions.  One particularly telling question he asked me after reading the manuscript was, “What about the bus stop scene?”  To which I replied, “What bus stop scene?”  This, apparently, was something that had been added into an updated version of the script after I’d already written the first draft of the book.  That he and I were able to talk back and forth like that is a real rarity in the world of movie tie‑ins, and it really helped to make the book the best it could be.  Folks who read tie‑ins know that the best thing to do is to see the movie first, then read the book.  Invariably things are cut from the movie script because of time and money; if you read about them first and then see the movie, you’ll be disappointed that they aren’t included. If you see the movie, then read about them in the book, you’ll be delighted at the extra stuff in the book.  Which, by the way, isn’t just deleted scenes—authors often include past history, universe‑building, and detailed characterization.

Ultraviolet was interesting because I never received a single comment or change request on the manuscript.  I know I’m not a perfect writer, and that’s happened to me a couple of times (it also happened with Hellboy), but feedback is always a good thing, you know?

Q: In a review of your book Highborn, the reviewer said: ‘The term ‘Urban Fantasy’ can strike fear into the heart of many people, and not in a good way. Thankfully, this first novel in Yvonne Navarro’s Dark Redemption series (which is now followed by CONCRETE SAVIOR) is an example of the genre not only done well, but done damn near to perfection.’ They go on to say that the book is refreshing. Was it hard to come up with a fresh take on this genre?

I remember that review, and to say I feel flattered by those nice words would definitely be an understatement.  But I also have to admit that I wasn’t aiming to write an urban fantasy.  When I thought of the basis for HIGHBORN and then planned it out, it was just the book I wanted to write.  It wasn’t specifically geared to any genre, and it wasn’t until my agent sold it and the purchasing editor called it an urban fantasy that I even thought about where it might fit in terms of sales.

Q: You’ve written over a hundred short stories. It looks like you are most comfortable writing what is called Dark Fantasy now, but used to be known as horror. What’s led you down this path? Did you discover Poe when you were thirteen and have never been the same since?

My Mom and sister always liked scary stories.  I grew up watching Creature Features, reading Creepy and Eerie magazines, and looking for the spookiest fiction I could find in the library.  The first movie I remember watching was Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at the drive-in.  I like a good, scary story because it gets your blood running and your mind working, and you don’t always know there’s going to be a happy ending.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

I think people write the way they want to, and if there’s any difference, it’s because the writer does it intentionally.  There are men writing romances under pseudonyms and women writing crime thrillers using their first and middle initials whose own readers don’t realize are female.   If a woman believes she shouldn’t write about certain things because she’s a woman, she’s imposed restrictions on herself… and she’s the only person who can break those chains.  I don’t write like a woman.  I don’t write like a man.  I write like a writer.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

No, but I know that it does for some people.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

Well, it’s tempting to say I’d go backward and fix a few of my bigger mistakes in life, but then I’d probably just make different ones, right?  I tend to look at that on more of a personal basis than you’re probably intending.  If I stick to the fun side of things, I think I’d like to go into the future a hundred years or so, just to see where technology has taken us.  Of course, a thousand years from now we might actually have space travel.  Hmmmm…

Give-away Question:

Who’s your favorite female movie star heroine, and from what movie?

Yvonne says: If I was to answer this, it would be a tie between Sigourney Weaver from Aliens and Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld movies.

Follow Yvonne on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/YvonneNavarro

See Yvonne’s Blog and Website.

Catch up with Yvonne on Facebook.

Catch up with Yvonne on GoodReads.

23 Comments

Filed under Awards, Book Giveaway, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, Publishing Industry, Young Adult Books

23 Responses to Meet Yvonne Navarro …

  1. Although Kate Beckinsale in Underworld is a close second, for me its Milla Jovovich’s Alice in the Resident Evil franchise. She’s just the ultimate kick-butt and feisty hero out there. And of course there’s zombies :)

    Great interview!

  2. I agree with Cecilia! Milla Jovovich has been one of my favorite action heroes since…well…Fifth Element actually. Though at the time of RE1 I had no idea it was the same person. I’m also rather partial to Rhona Mitra (from Doomsday) – I think she’s just gorgeous and elegant (and way under-utilized).

    Movie tie-in books have always been something of an interesting thing for me. As Yvonne said, the authors will include backstory that isn’t seen in the movies (for instance in Resident Evil 3’s novelization we got a whole OTHER side of the story with a group that disappeared between movie 2 and 3). I did make the mistake of reading the Serenity novelization before watching the movie though, which was a bitter fan regret.

    Yvonne, when approached to work ‘in-verse’ for something like Buffy, other than research you do on your own are you ever given material or instructions to ensure you maintain the integrity of the characters/situations?

    • Lexie, why was it a mistake to read the Serenity novelisation before seeing the movie?

      • There’s two pivotal scenes in the movie which I think would have had more impact on me if I didn’t know they were coming. Also I wouldn’t have spent half as much time in line with some friends vaguely referring to how Joss Whedon managed to contradict his own canon about how River came to join up with her brother Simon (of which they had no idea until the opening of the movie as to what I meant).

    • Lexie — In addition to the publisher’s editor, there’s usually someone from the movie company (Sony, MGM, etc.) who reviews it. There was an entire department in the Joss Whedon franchise that reviewed Buffy books. Sometimes a new person wouldn’t actually know when something had been carried over from a previous book.

      • Ah okay. It was something that nags at me since I tend to read a lot of book tie-ins to TV series (mainly Star Trek and Buffy) and while I’m an obsessive note taker when it comes to my favorite fandoms I couldn’t imagine the dozens of writers who write in those fandoms being quite so…OCD you know?

  3. Richard Stein

    Hmmm … Take Ripley out of the equation and there seems to be precious little to go on …. or maybe it’s because I am a man. Angelina Jolie springs to mind in SALT, but I think I have to discount that because the role was written for a man and you just know that if she turned the role down, Bruce Willis could have done a similar job. She brings a female body to the role, but not the female essence like so many of the female action hero types.

    I was originally stuck on the great female roles of the 80’s early 90’s … The Rose(Midler), Silkwood(streep), The Mask and Moonstruck(Cher), Silence of the Lambs and The Accused (Foster) but in recent times, the role that really comes to mind is Lisbeth Salander from “The Girl …” series of movies adapted from the books by Stieg Larsson. She is hard and fragile, strong and vulnerable, victim and victor. Just the sort of role that Hollywood seems reluctant to make these days :(

    • Richard I was just discussing strong female roles with my DH and daughter and got onto roles for older women. Other than Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, I can’t think of many women in their 60s who get good roles. They’re both British.
      There’s Meryl Streep. The last thing I saw her in was Mama Mia. Fun but not meaty.

      • Not that she’s an action movie sort, but Maggie Smith has always struck me as a strong woman in that regard–she tends to hold her own when it comes to standing up for herself or beliefs in movies. Angela Lansbury back in the day too I think (just got done watching a whole bunch of mystery movies with her in them from the 60’s-70’s, the non-Miss Marple ones).

      • Richard Stein

        I find it hard to believe that the roles aren’t being written/created which leaves the fact that they just aren’t being produced. Would that be because the studios/producers have no guts, or because we, as viewers, have let the “team” down?

    • Yes, Lexie, Maggie Smith was brilliant as Professor McGonnnigal (Spelling?). Great actress. I remember Angela Lansbury, too. Although I remember her from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which I watched with my kids. LOL.

    • Funny you should talk about the studios. There’s been a thread on the blogs urging people to support the movie Bridesmaids. Certainly not a brilliant movie, but the idea was that if a movie which was about women, for women to enjoy could make enough money the studios would make movies like this.

      On the down side, every time a movie with a strong female lead does well the studios ‘rediscover’ the fact that a woman can carry a movie, all over again.

      Maybe it is just me, but I tend to think British shows give both males and females more freedom to be old, or eccentric, or just ordinary. eg. Misfits and The Fade.

      The mother in The Fade was played by a plump early forties rather ordinary woman, specifically because she was meant to be that kind of woman. But had it been shot in the US, she would have been botoxed and skinny and looked 15 years younger than her real age.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fades_%28TV_series%29

  4. Linda Hamilton from the first 2 Terminator films.
    Gritty and hard assed all in the name of saving her son and in turn the world.

  5. mervih

    Thanks for a great interview! I read tie-in novels, so it was interesting to hear about how they are done.

    I rather like Selene from the Underworld movies, too, but if I have to choose just one favorite (how about top 5 instead? :)) I’ll have to go with Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. I also agree with Richard: there aren’t many female action heroes today.

  6. After reading the Wicked Willow Trilogy, I contacted Yvonne because I enjoyed the novels so much. Being a huge Buffy fan, and having written my fair amount of fan fiction for the show, I was interested in learning how to write my own books for the Buffyverse. She was a huge inspiration. I loved this interview!

  7. Thanks, Jonnnie and everyone. It was really great to read all these responses. Here in the US we’re celebrating Thanksgiving, and one of the things I’m thankful for are great readers like all of you, and also fine writers like Rowena. :o)

  8. helen

    Interesting interview! I loved the two Highborn books. Are there any plans to publish anymore? I’d love to read more books about Brynna.

  9. Hi Helen. I think I might have answered you over on Goodread, but in case not, no plans yet. The Juno/Pocket line doesn’t exist anymore and the editor has moved to another job across country. Even so, I received four inquiries about a third book in four days, so I’ve emailed the replacement editor in hopes of reviving interest. Keep your fingers crossed. But thanks for the wonderful compliment. If you have a Kindle, Crossroad Press just released MIRROR ME. You might find that interesting. :o)

    • helen

      Darn!!! This is happening to all my favorite authors. As frustrating as it is for me I can’t imagine how disappointing it is for the authors! Maybe you could self-publish?
      Either way I am off to check out Mirror Me.
      Good luck!
      Helen

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