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An Author's Perspective:

The Evolution of a Book, by Kerry Schafer

© 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Title: Dead Before Dying

Publisher: Diversion Books

Release Date: February 9, 2016



I blame Twitter.

The day Gerry Vermeer came into being began like any other ordinary day. I was procrastinating during my writing time, hanging out with some writing buddies online. Somehow or other, the topic of vampires came up. I was not a big vampire fan at the time. I hadn't read Dracula or the Dresden Files or even watched Buffy (an oversight which I have since remedied). As for the sparkly vampire phenomenon, it eluded me completely. I can't remember what chain of tweets inspired me to make the flip comment that maybe I should write a geriatric vampire novel.

I certainly wasn't serious about the idea, but we had so much fun with it that I wrote an opening scene for the Great Geriatric Vampire Novel and sent it to my friend Linda Grimes (author of the Ciel Halligan series) as a joke.

She loved it. I loved it. In fact, everybody I talked to lit up when I mentioned Gerry Vermeer, the geriatric vampire. Even the agent I pitched at a writers' conference shortly thereafter was bored by my pitch for Between but told me to contact her whenever the geriatric vampire book was done. And so, in November of 2010, I wrote a complete draft during Nanowrimo.

It was a fun project, but not much of a book, and I put it away in my "maybe later" file. Not too long after that, my debut novel, Between, was picked up by Penguin, and for the next few years I was too busy to pay much attention to Gerry Vermeer, the aged and arthritic old vampire stuck in a nursing home.

He wouldn't leave me alone, though. I dabbled with his story off and on, until one day Maureen Keslyn showed up on the page. She was smart, sarcastic, independent, and about to be put out to pasture after a long and successful career as a paranormal investigator. From the minute she started talking I knew that this book really belonged to her, and that she'd be investigating a series of paranormal events at Shadow Valley Manor, the retirement home where Gerry Vermeer was cooling his heels and waiting for action. Maureen was not as excited about this idea as I was. The very last thing in the world she wanted was to be stuck in a retirement home. To her, the very idea of retiring in such a place felt like being dead before dying, a state of mind which just happened to be shared by Gerry Vermeer.

So I had the book. I had the title. I had the love of beta readers and critique partners who were more excited about this book than anything I'd written previously. Finding a publisher was a little bit trickier.

Dead Before Dying doesn't fit neatly into a genre. It's sort of a paranormal mystery thriller with elements of cozy. A lot of the publishing houses my agent pitched didn't know what to do with the book. It wasn't paranormal enough, or it was too paranormal. Some editors feared that readers would be put off by a mystery/thriller located in a retirement home, or that, at fifty-nine, Maureen was too old to be the lead in a book of this type. Fortunately, the editors at Diversion Press loved my "strange, witty, wonderful book," and the contract for both Dead Before Dying and a sequel were signed in the spring of 2015, about five years after the day when Gerry Vermeer first showed up on the page. I'm thrilled to launch Maureen and Gerry and their cast of co-characters out into the world, and hope they will have many adventures to follow this one.


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