In 2007, at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Anchorage, Alaska, a few weird things happened.
The first weird event was when, on the first night of the conference, somebody was shot outside the convention hotel. Apparently drug-related violence isn't abnormal in downtown Anchorage and locals were unfazed. There was some hoopla with the police and ambulances outside the hotel, but most conference attendees were barely aware of the incident. The lesson? It takes a lot more than a measly drug hit to pry a mystery writer away from a bar.
The next weird thing that happened at the conference was Sarah Palin was keynote speaker. This was several months before she was picked as the Vice Presidential candidate and no one really knew who she was. If I recall, most people were just eager for her to finish talking so we could get on with the smörgåsbord (mmm, cold pigs in blankets). I actually spoke at the podium right after Palin, accepting an award for an author who couldn't attend the conference, and I definitely got more laughs.
The third weird thing that happened was that I appeared on a panel with Charlaine Harris. Okay, okay, I admit this isn't nearly as freaky as the hotel shooting or a pre-fame Sarah Palin appearance, but at the time it still felt a little odd. Charlaine was already well known for her Sookie Stackhouse novels and other mysteries and I wrote urban crime novels, usually set in the New York City area. We managed to find some common ground, but the panel assignment seemed almost random.
Ah, what a difference four years makes.
The Pack is my first paranormal suspense novel. After nine standalone crime novels I wanted to do something different that pushed me in a new, exciting direction. For years I've had a fascination with wolfman mythology and had been doing a lot of work in comics for DC and Marvel which encouraged me to expand my approach into urban fantasy territory, so writing a novel combining these elements seemed like a natural progression.
The switch was exciting and terrifying. While it was a nice change of pace to stray from the constraints of the crime genre, I suddenly had to confront new constraints. For example, instead of thinking about inventive ways for my characters to commit crimes, I had to come up with inventive ways for them to kill werewolves. Also, since The Pack is the first book in a seriesand aside from a few co-written novels I'd never written a series beforeI needed to plan for how the story would progress going forward.
From the get-go, I wanted to stay true to myself and my style of writing. So like my previous novels, The Pack is about real people in real situations, and the story doesn't begin in a paranormal world. The sitting is the modern day New York City area we all know. The protagonist, Simon Burns, is an ad exec in Manhattan who unexpectedly loses his job and has to become a stay-at-home dad. The other major characters in the story, including Simon's wife Alison and Olivia Becker, a successful entrepreneur, are also very identifiable. I wanted the fantasy elements of the story to seep in slowly. It isn't until Simon meets three other dads at a neighborhood playground, and feels a strange bond with them, that we start to get the sense that something is very off.
One of my favorite suspense authors is Ira Levin. One of the first books I fell in love with as a teenager was Levin's This Perfect Day, and I subsequently enjoyed books such as Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives. While much of the style and subject matter of The Pack is very different from Levin's work, I hope readers get a similar feeling of eeriness and of reality slightly tweaked. In a way, Simon Burns is a lot like meexperiencing a paranormal world for the first timeand my goal was for readers to identify with Simon's journey and experience a similar sense of discovery, and, most importantly, enjoy the ride.
Oh, and speaking of eeriness, one more weird thing happened at that conference in Anchorage, maybe the weirdest of all. At the local karaoke bar I sang an atrocious "Don't Stop Believin'." Thank God a video of this event has been removed from YouTube. There is enough horror in this world.