Interview & Contest: Deborah Coonts

Jen: Today we are excited to welcome Deborah Coonts to Romancing the Book.  Deborah, will you please share a short bio with us?

Deborah: My mother tells me I was born a very long time ago, but I’m not so sure—my mother can’t be trusted. These things I do know: I was raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. I have career A.D.D: I’ve been a business owner, a tax lawyer, a humor columnist, a flight instructor, and now, a professional liar. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to raise a couple of husbands. I did actually succeed on that front with my son—even surviving him as a teenager. I currently reside in Las Vegas, where my friends assure me I cannot get into too much trouble. Silly people. I am the author of Wanna Get Lucky? (A New York Times Notable Crime Novel for 2010 and double RITA™ Finalist) and Lucky Stiff (Just out Februrary 1st), and the forthcoming So Damn Lucky.

Jen: Tell us about your books.
Deborah: I’ll have three out over the next three months: The mass market of Lucky Stiff (November, 2011), the second in the series. A novella, Lucky in Love (January 2012), that will be published in digital format only. And then the hardcover of the third book, So Damn Lucky, slated for February 1, 2012. These all are continuing stories featuring Lucky O’Toole, the Head of Customer Relations for the Babylon, Las Vegas’ most over-the-top Strip Casino/Hotel.

Although not necessary, if you want to start at the beginning of the series check out Wanna Get Lucky?, where you will enjoy an entertaining introduction to Lucky O’Tool and the cast of reoccurring characters.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.

Deborah: Wow, I’ve always been a story lover. I guess my first foray into writing was with poetry in the 7th Grade (don’t ask). After that, I wrote non-fiction and was a humor columnist for a national magazine (small, aviation related)—but this was after I was chronologically mature. Fiction came later—my first novel, Wanna Get Lucky? was published last year.

My call story… After I finished my first novel, I sat back and was horrified. I thought, “What in God’s name have I done? I’ve broken all the rules. My hero is a female impersonator. I have porn stars and swingers and a sex toy arcade.” I began to hyperventilate. Six months of serious butt-in-chair time down the drain. When perspective returned, I drunk-dialed an agent friend of mine in NYC. She agreed to read the manuscript and give me her opinion—I think she did this out of pity, although she denies it. Regardless, I know I caught her in a weak moment. Well, one night she started reading and started laughing. Her husband became interested. He started reading, and laughing. They did this all night until they’d finished the story. At six a.m. the next morning, New York Time, he called me…I live in Vegas (Pacific Time)…to tell me he wanted to buy my book. He’s a senior editor at Tor/Forge and is my editor today—even after what I said when I picked up the phone.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?

Deborah: Not a one. No lawyers either. I’m sort of a black sheep.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?

Deborah: A bit of both. I have loose ideas of character arcs. I’m a bit more specific when it comes to planning the mystery. But the rest? I totally go with the flow. There are some days I sit down and think I know what I’m going to write, then the characters disagree. There’s this French chef in So Damn Lucky. Typically French, he held the whole story hostage until I would listen to him and do as he said. You’d think I would be smart enough to have more compliant imaginary friends. But while many find me funny, no one has accused me of being overly bright.

Jen: Do you struggle with deadlines? How do you deal with the pressure?

Deborah: I struggle with a compulsion to throw words on the page and play, so deadlines are usually irrelevant—I’m so far ahead the publisher can’t keep up. So, as you might imagine, my struggle is with having a balanced life as I tiptoe each day along the line between a borderline personality disorder and full-blown schizophrenia. A writer’s life.

The pressure I feel is not time, but rather quality. I write a series and I know readers expect each story to deliver the same punch as the first. I constantly ask myself whether I am delivering. I thought the burden would get lighter as the series progressed, but I think it gets heavier. But, all-in-all a lovely problem to have.

Jen: Do you have a theme, object or person that appears in all of your stories?

Deborah: I write a series, so my protagonist, Lucky, appears in all the books as do a core cast of characters. The setting is the same: The Babylon Resort and Casino, Las Vegas’ most over-the-top Strip property—at least until Steve Wynn comes up with his next idea. Lucky is the Head of Customer Relations at the Babylon—but she refers to herself as the “chief problem solver.” And, oh the problems she has to solve….hey, it’s Vegas.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?

Deborah: With swingers, male strippers, and porn stars popping in for visits in the stories, you expect me to tell? Actually, I did do research on all of that. The trip to the Adult Video Awards and the male strip club are classics. However, my favorite was the time I asked a young employee at Shark Reef in the Mandalay Bay hotel if I dropped a dead body into the shark tank would the Tiger Shark eat it? It was a special moment. My son, God Bless him, posted bail.

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?

Deborah: All stories are cathartic for the scribblers—if they tell you any different they are prevaricating. So, to answer your question, I guess it depends on the story and how the personal issues I’m dealing with end up as themes. In my current work-in-progress, Lucky Bastard, there are three murders…all men. I’m thinking I most identify with the killer in that one…scary thought.

To give you a more definitive answer, I write in the first person, so people ask me whether I am my main character, Lucky. I always tell them that Lucky is taller than I am, better looking, with a better job and better luck with men. But, she has my value structure and my sense of humor—so, in all the important ways, she’s me.

Jen: If the Lucky O’Tool Vegas Adventures were made into a movie, which actors would you cast as the main characters?

Deborah: Cameron Diaz as Lucky. Hugh Jackman as Teddie. Robert DeNiro as the Big Boss. Ashley Judd as Mona. That’s as far as I’ve gotten….it’s a dream.

Jen: Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?

Deborah: Book more time with my therapist or drink heavily depending on how flush I am.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?

Deborah: One guy said the story was too over-the-top to be real. He left me wondering what part of “fiction” did he not understand. And, clearly he had never been to Vegas.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Deborah: I’m almost done with the fourth book in the series, Lucky Bastard (I hope the publisher keeps that title because it’s perfect for the story. Besides, anyone who is offended will be offended by my stories). After that, I hope to write another novella, Lucky Bang—I know what you’re thinking. Actually, the story takes place over the 4th of July. Then there are proposals to write for three medical thrillers. Then there’s that series with the female helicopter pilot who flies out to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, and those stand-alone romantic suspense stories…three of them. Aren’t you glad you asked? Do you understand now about that whole compulsion to write thing?

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Deborah: www.deborahcoonts.com; Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn…I even heard my photo is on the wall in the Post Office. Isn’t that nice?

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Deborah: If you’re familiar with my stories, what am I doing right? What not-so-much? Is there anything you’d like to see from Lucky’s stories?

Contest details:

  • The prize is print copies of Wanna Get Lucky? and Lucky Stiff to one lucky commenter.
  • The contest is open to US and Canadian residents over the age of 18.
  • You must leave a meaningful comment for entry.  This means your comment needs to be more than “please enter me in the contest”.
  • A valid email address needs to be included in your comment.  If you’re worried about spam, please modify your address, such as admin.bookblog AT gmail.com.  You can also send a message to this email after your comment has been posted.
  • While following the blog isn’t required, it is appreciated.
  • The contest ends on Sunday, November 27.

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