Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview with Author (and Nurse!) Cassie Alexander

by Megan S.

Author and Nurse Cassie Alexander
I've been coming across people writing excitedly about Cassie Alexander and her first novel Nightshifted since December 2010.  That may not sound particularly remarkable until you realize the urban fantasy book was published only a month ago on May 22, 2012.  So, why has the book world been a buzz for a full year and a half about her debut work? Because the freshman author landed a rare three-book deal for a series unlike any other urban fantasy universe on the market.

Nightshifted is the story of completely human (read: magically unremarkable in any way, shape, or form) nurse Edie Spence and her plunge into the supernatural world.  After receiving an offer she couldn't bring herself to refuse, Edie joins the staff of Y4, a secret ward of the county hospital that caters to the sick and injured paranormal community.   Edie must learn to handle and care for shapeshifters, vampires, and even zombies as well as navigate their tricky political landscape if she's to keep her job, let alone survive.

I got the chance to chat with author and nurse Cassie Alexander a few days ago about her awesome new book and, lucky for you, you get to read all about it here...

As a nurse, you've seen some pretty strange and incredible medical cases and you've used them as inspiration in your novels. What was the creepiest, most unbelievable one you've been witness to?

Without jumping into easily identifiable patients or gross-out territory – one of the craziest things I’ve seen was a patient who had a pneumothorax that leaked air into the tissues of their chest, and the doctors made a dozen puncture wounds to try to let the trapped air out. When you touched her skin, from her shoulders down to her navel, you heard air popping underneath, like rice crispies in milk.

A number of your coworkers came out to celebrate your book launch in San Francisco earlier this month. How have other nurses and healthcare workers responded to Nightshifted?


So far, most of them are positive. I’ve gotten some fan mail from nurses and respiratory therapists. Nothing yet from doctors though…they’re either not urban fantasy fans, or I fear they may not appreciate their description in my world. Although conversely, almost all the fanmail I get from nurses says that I get the doctors right ;).

You're quoted as saying the Nightshifted universe " basically set in our world — I spent my 'difference' money with my protagonist and my supernatural creatures." What did you mean by that in reference to Edie? How is she unique among urban fantasy heroines?

She’s entirely human, not half-fairy or half-vampire or part-anything-else. She’s not a crazy fighter and her parents aren’t Batman-dead. In a weird way, me making her plain is the most abnormal thing about my entire book.

I just wanted to write a protagonist I could sympathize with. When my life was at its worst (which happened to coincide with me starting out as a nurse) reading about other characters with strange abilities began to feel like those characters were cheating. Of course they could solve their problems and get the man. But there was no one out there like me. So, I wrote Edie, a character I could believe in, one who only had the tools I had to deal with a very weird world.

Signing books at her San Francisco launch in June.
One of the most unique twists in the Nightshifted Universe is the way the supernatural creatures and their entourages are described while patients at the hospital. Each is in their most vulnerable, most human state when they're hurt or sick. Was it a conscious choice to show their humanness?

Hmmm, you know, I never actually thought about it that way before. To be honest, I was probably modeling it after people I see in the hospital, subconsciously. Everyone’s boiled down to their essences here. Once you’re in a hospital bed, king or queen down to junkie, everyone’s really the same.

Of all the supporting cast, Grandfather was one of my characters in your book. We have no idea what he's saying most of the time but it's so obvious he cares and wants to help. Who was one of your favorites and why?

I love him. I hope you’ll like him in Moonshifted too – he plays a bigger part. I’m hoping someday I get to write an explanatory backstory about him, I’ve got it all in my head.

I really enjoy Dren a lot, partially because I know where he came from and how he turns out. He has a lot of baggage that people don’t get to see, although they definitely get to deal with his fallout. He’s very sure of himself in his world. Characters like that are always fun to write. How often do you ever get the chance to be utterly cocksure?

You've already written two follow ups in the series, Moonshifted and Shapeshifted, with both scheduled to come out over the next twelve months. So, what are you working on now? Any plans for an additional series?

I’d definitely like to write more in Edie’s world – I’m sort of casually dating the fourth book in the series, waiting to see if things pan out ;). Other than that, I’d like the chance to do some backstory novellas, and I’ve got a couple other projects brewing in my head.

Lastly, now that you have one book published and two in the can, what are you doing to celebrate such an amazing success when you had such a difficult time getting the industry interested in it to begin with?

Ha! Not much, honestly. I went to Wiscon the weekend after Nightshifted was released and that felt awesome – that was probably the sum total of my celebration time. Even though I’m excited that things are working out (so far, knock wood!) in my writing career, my real life is rolling on. I’m still working every other weekend and then some, and I’ve been busy with tons of friend’s weddings this summer. I haven’t really gotten a proper rest, which is probably just as well. I suck at downtime anyhow ;).

Have questions of your own for Cassie?  Visit her on her website or ask her on Twitter!
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