The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Interview with Carolyn Crane, Author of Disillusionists Trilogy

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

ImageI was totally psyched when Carolyn Crane, author of the Disillusionists trilogy (Mind Games and Double Cross were released this year; the third book will be released in 2011) agreed to talk to me!

I reviewed the series, which focuses a young hypochondriac named Justine who is recruited into a gang of neurotics who disillusion people with their negative emotions (fear, anger, grimness, recklessness, ennui, etc.), a few weeks ago.  It’s an urban fantasy that doesn’t read like a typical urban fantasy, lacking supernatural creatures and obvious “good guys” and “bad guys.”  Mind Games and Double Cross were two of my favorite books of 2010, and I can’t recommend them enough.  You can learn more about Carolyn and the series on her website or blog.

In this interview, Carolyn talks about how she got the idea for the series, her path to publication, her upcoming projects, and the heroics of Dashboard Gumby.


How did you get the idea for the Disillusionists?

So many ideas for books start with “what if,” and mine definitely did. I remember I was reading Straw Dogs by John Gray, a hugely depressing sort of philosophical book that takes a SUPER dismal view of humanity. It made me feel really awful, and I thought, if I had an enemy, I would give them this book as a gift, so that they could feel as disillusioned as I did. (LOL. That’s right people, don’t get on my bad side.) Then I thought, hey, what if there were people who did this? Instead of a hit squad that murders people, it was a hit squad that disillusions people? I was reading a lot of urban fantasy at the time, so I thought, “Hey, that would make an interesting urban fantasy plot.”

Justine Jones is not your typical urban fantasy heroine.  How did she take shape for you?

As a writer, I have a big fetish with power shifts. When something bad flips to good (or good to bad), when the winner becomes the loser, etc. Or, in this case, when a debilitating weakness becomes a strength, making a total loser into a hero. And I sort of went to something I knew for Justine–health fear. I’ve known lots of hypochondriacs, and though I wouldn’t put myself in the hypochondriac category, it’s definitely something I can relate to.

I was shocked to find out that Vein Star Syndrome, as well as the other diseases used as hypochondria fuel in the books, aren’t real!  (Guess I can go back to assuming every headache I get is just a brain tumor, after all!)  What made you decide to use made-up diseases instead of real ones?  And how did you come up with all the medical details and jargon you used to flesh them out?

They are all based on real diseases. For example, Osirus Virus was inspired by this scary skin condition called Morgellons. Vein Star is a modified brain hemorrhage. I liked the idea of giving them new twists and odd names because I thought it made them seem more mysterious and of-this-world, yet not. Also, I didn’t want to use real diseases because I thought it would be distracting to people who have been involved with those conditions, and I didn’t want to seem to be making fun of those conditions.

ImageWhat would your Disillusionist power and/or highcap ability be?

I’m the person who gets half a block away from the house and has to go back and make sure she turned off the stove. Or I have to go back out in the cold to make sure I locked the car. I can get a bit OCD, so I guess I could zing bad guys with that. Watch out, bad guys!

What was the genesis of these books like?  Did you plan what you were going to write ahead of time, or did you plunge in without knowing what was going to happen?

I like to know where I’m going with a book. I do a lot of daydreaming during my writing time, running scenarios in my head like a movie, and then re-running them in different ways, making notes of ideas I like. I’ll write snippets of dialogue, or things to plant for later scenes. So before I even write, I have a lot of writing in place, in the form of notes. That said, I don’t plot meticulously. I still find surprise detours, but my overall route tends to be pretty well planned out, what with all the daydreaming and copious notes.

What made you decide to become a writer?

Writing is something I have always loved. I love high drama. I love intrigue and mystery. I love words. I also write for my day job (business writing, ad copy, video scripts, etc.) and I’ve always had some fiction project on the side, and I just became more and more serious about it.  

What was the path to publication like for you?

Long! Depending on what you want to consider a finished novel, I wrote two or three finished, fully polished novels, and they were always almost picked up. It’s heartbreaking to put years into a novel and then have to tuck it away into a drawer. It’s such a cliché, but sticking with writing is really what got me published. Also, I tended to write books that were neither fish nor fowl: not quite literary fiction, not quite mystery or romance or sci-fi…not quite anything. I’ve always been pathetic at coloring in the lines. So, with Mind Games, I tried to think about where it fit.

When I was finished, I cold-queried an agent, Cameron McClure at Donald Maass. She was like, cut the first 100 pages down to 50 and I’ll think about repping you. I thought it was tough, smart advice, so I did it. And she took it and sold it. She’s amazing!

What post-Disillusionists projects do you have in the works?

At some point this spring, I’m doing an ebook anthology with the wonderful authors from Odd Shots (minus Nalini Singh). That will be feature a pair of minor characters from the Disillusionists world (Sophia and the Monk, the most dangerous Disillusionist). I was also asked to contribute a story to the Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance. And there’s a new series in the works, a paranormal spy drama I’m really excited about.

Do you have the title or release date of the final book yet?

Not yet! It should be released in the second half of 2011 but it’s being worked out. I’m hoping to have news very soon.  

Being the rabid fangirl that I am, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask Carolyn a few specific questions about the series, the ending of Double Cross, and the final book.  THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD, if you haven’t read Mind Games or Double Cross.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!