Just reading all of that exhausts me. But not Victoria — she thrives on the excitement and chaos of bringing all of her ideas and characters to life on the written page (or e-book digital page, as it were), and she’s as giddy as a schoolgirl when she thinks about the reaction her fans will have when they are presented with this smorgasbord of fiction. I spoke with Victoria recently, and in a spoiler-free way, she told me all about her latest works, her future plans, and why she felt it was time to say goodbye to M.J. and the Ghost Hunter Mystery series.
First up: M.J., Gilley, Heath and Doc, and why the series had run its course. When Victoria announced that the 10th book in the series, “A Ghoul’s Guide to Love and Murder,” would be the last, her fans were understandably upset — and in universal agreement that she gave all of her characters a deserving send-off. But Victoria knew it was time to wind down the series by book eight: “‘The Ghoul Next Door’ was just such a struggle to write. And it was a progression of each book becoming more and more difficult. I almost felt like the books had started out with a sense of realism and less fantasy ... more like, this stuff actually happens. And then I pushed the envelope throughout that series to try to scare the pants off you while making you laugh in the next paragraph. That tricky balance just is a very difficult thing to reproduce book after book while making each story unique.
“After book eight, I was like, I don’t know that I have a lot left in me for the series. M.J. has been so beaten up and pummeled throughout the series. I felt like she’s being abused by her creator; I kind of felt like I was the abusive husband in this game. I just didn’t want to beat her up anymore. I really wanted her to earn a rest and respite for all that she had been through. I wanted to do a full-circle moment for book 10 with M.J. still being chased by those demons. I feel it all came together in that 10th book.”
Victoria truly feels empathy for her fans who are distraught that the series ended; she’s been there as an avid reader herself. “I understand. I hate it when a good series — either television or book — ends for me. When it goes away, it kind of leaves a little hole in your heart. And so I really struggle when fans are like, ‘Please don’t end the series.’ It was a really, really hard decision for me. I did this for the characters and knowing it’s the right move for them.”
One of the many elements that attracts readers to this series is the dynamic duo of Abby Cooper and her trusted BFF and confidante, Candice Fusco. And while we don’t get much of Dutch and Brice in this installment, as per usual, Candice is by Abby’s side to help suss out the clues as she tries to stop the murders of four people that she saw in a vision. Candice is there to support Abby with a kind of girl power that we don’t often see between women in pop culture nowadays. “Personally, I have been so wholly supported through my female friends,” Victoria reveals to me. “I have truly been blessed in this lifetime with the most loyal, wonderful, fabulous, amazing, strong, independent, wise women who have honestly made me a better person. Candice is an amalgam of two specific friends of mine who just inspire me every day. And there’s that kind of loyalty that comes inherent with their friendship. I think it’s because these two women are incredibly secure. And when you can have a friend who’s as incredibly secure, as Candace is to Abby, then Abby is just free to be herself.”
While many fans of the series who enjoy swooning over Dutch and/or Brice were disappointed that they were in this book so little, Victoria promises: “Dutch and Brice are definitely in the next one; Abby needed to find herself and find her way in this one.” This book’s “sisters are doing it for themselves” vibe was very much intentional on Victoria’s part, and very much appreciated by her countless fans. We saw the introduction of another strong and supportive female character, Special Agent Hart, who helps grease the wheels for Abby at the L.A. office. “I like strong, supportive women who don’t feel insecure around each other,” Victoria explains. “It’s exhausting to be catty and jealous. Women don’t tell each other enough how dazzling and amazing we are. Life can beat women down and women can beat women down, and I’m tired of it.”
Unlike her other books, however, this one was a struggle for Victoria to write. “I never had writer’s block until this book. I hit a wall. I battled a bad bout of depression during it, and it became a physical struggle to write. Exercise was key for me to come out of that state. I wrote it in about four weeks; it was fast-going once I was able to crawl out of the well of depression. I was struggling so much, and I found that Abby’s humor helped me through it.”
As far as the idea for this intriguing storyline — Abby helping the FBI office in San Diego solve a series of bank robberies only to get a vision of four buried bodies who are victims of murders that haven’t happened yet — she actually turned to TV for inspiration. “My sister is a big fan of ‘Medium,’ and she told me about an episode where the main character, Allison, has a dream where she sees a car and sees the license plate, and there’s a dead body rolled up in a rug in the trunk of the car. They trace the plate to Arizona, but it’s a style that wouldn’t be made for another 10 years, so she realizes her vision was of a future murder. I thought that was a brilliant idea.”
Speaking of mediums, those of you who are familiar with Victoria know that she is more psychic than medium, one who can assess the energy you carry in your aura, where she can see your health, emotions, wishes, hopes and bits of the future. She puts on her psychic goggles and focuses on that. She also can feel pulled in a certain direction. “I’m pulled to do things that might seem spontaneous, but it’s my intuition telling me to do this or do that.”
Victoria is just finishing up the 15th installment of her Psychic Eye mysteries series, and she promises that we won’t be disappointed. “I am really enjoying myself with this one. It’s fun, and I’m really ratcheting up the tension. The premise is Dutch, Milo, Brice and Dave are building panic rooms for Austin’s wealthy clients. One day, Dave doesn’t show up for a meeting and no one can find him. Someone is murdered and all signs point to Dave.”
This will be our first deeper glimpse into this minor character who has had a big impact on Abby. “Dave is a mystery. Fifteen books in, and we may or may not learn his lady’s name. This is a fun and funny romp. It’s a unique book to the series, and I am super-excited about its release.”
And that’s one of the things that fans love most about the series: Each book brings us a fun and intriguing new adventure. Victoria feels the same way, especially about this book, as she explains: “I am proud of this book, and proud of the series as a whole. It hasn’t repeated on itself yet. I want every book to be its own original story. I want you to remember stories wholly and not mix them up.”
Lily feels inexplicably linked to Amber, and she can’t help but think that there’s more to the girl’s story. Determined to investigate the truth about Cole’s uncle’s death, Lily and Cole are pulled into a dark mystery — one that shakes the constraints of the world they’ve always believed in.
For this book, Victoria explains, “I did a lot of research through the University of Virginia, where they have a whole department devoted to reincarnation studies.”
And if that’s not enough, Victoria is in the early, pre-pitch stage with her publishers for a new series to replace the M.J. series, which she says M.J. fans will love. “I’m very excited to explore these characters more. I’ll be able to let you know more about this in late fall.”
Undaunted, I was able to coax a little bit more out of Victoria pertaining to the new series, so prepare to be teased. “My new protagonist, Esmé, is the most courageous, fierce, kick-ass character I’ve ever created,” Victoria reveals. “She’s a definite force to be reckoned with, but she’s also got a soft, compassionate side — and of course she meets, falls for, and tangles with a guy who’s totally her match. These two won’t know if they’re made for each other, or made to kill each other.” Of course, I love Esmé already, and Victoria’s legions of fans will too.
Last but not least, she has three more YA books fully fleshed out and outlined, which she is going to pitch to her publisher soon. And, as Victoria says, “I think this will be even bigger than ‘When.’ It’s an angle no one’s approached before; it was inspired by an email subject line: ‘Why human beings do the things they do.’”
So update your GoodReads “to-read” list for the many exciting things to come from this crazy-talented author. And for all the latest updates, follow Victoria on Twitter (@Victoria_Laurie), and join her Facebook fan page (facebook.com/groups/VictoriaLaurieFans).