Deidre Knight e-interviewed by Martina Bexte (March, 2006)
Before Deidre Knight founded The Knight Agency in 1996, she worked behind the camera in movies and television. Over the last decade, her agency has grown to national prominence, shepherding authors onto every major bestseller list. She's established a reputation for discovering vivid and unique storytellers and is considered an industry expert on the hot trend of paranormal fiction.
After helping so many authors discover their creative potential, Deidre celebrates her own fiction debut in April 2006. Parallel Attraction is the first in her innovative 'the future meets the present' paranormal series that's described as having 'tremendous verve and a great knack for character and smart scenes.' Others have called her writing outstanding and emotionally evocative. As for Deidre herself, 'she's excited to embark on another new and creative journey'.
Q: How did you evolve from movies and television to working as an agent and to writing fiction? Was each move a natural creative step for you?
A: Working in the movie industry was a result of my burning dream while I was in college to work in film. Miraculously, I broke into this industry at a car wash in Atlanta, where I met an official in the top documentary and commercial filmmaking company. He hired me as a production assistant, and I have many fun memories of working with such celebrities as Carroll O'Connor (In the Heat of the Night). Fast forward several years. After getting married, I had left the filmmaking business and was involved in international sales for six years or so. My husband, who is also an author, began working with a New York agent who had moved to Atlanta. We had dinner at her home one night, and it was like every single dream and aspiration I'd been bottling up inside while in sales came tiling in to place. It drew on everything I loved: writing, editing, selling, reading, film and television. I launched my own agency and have enjoyed helping authors realize their publishing dreams ever since.
The transition to author was much more seamless than you might imagine, because during the years I spent in film production, then in sales, I never stopped writing. In fact, I first decided to be a writer when I was nine years old and began keeping a regular journal (and was published in my local newspaper at that same time!) Later, while in the movies, I had ambitions of becoming a screenwriter. In fact, I did write a number of screenplays, but the collaborative nature of filmmaking/writing felt limiting and frustrating. For instance, I couldn't simply say, "He stroked her long auburn hair ..." Hair color, gestures and so forth were part of casting and directing. I started writing novels in 2000, and I definitely felt that I'd found the right fit as a writer. The length, the freedom, the broader canvas — all these elements of novel writing (as opposed to screenwriting) all clicked for me. I kept at it, and didn't even try to get published for about five years. Only when I felt I was ready did I try to make the "leap." Even then, my agent didn't sell the first project we shopped!
Q: How much has the romance industry changed over the past decade? Where do see it heading in the coming decade?
A: The romance market has undergone many changes in the past decade. First, the publishers have consolidated, with imprints under a limited number of "umbrellas," such as Random House and Penguin Putnam. At the same time, opportunities for authors are much more diverse, as the market has opened up and embraced areas such as multicultural romance, paranormals and erotic romance. For me, as a reader, agent and author, the romance market is a much more vibrant place. Ten years ago, I couldn't have sold a paranormal. Now I sell them all the time. Of course, the market is cyclical, but it feels less "musty" than it did a decade ago.
Q: You've gained a reputation as an "expert" in paranormal romance. Why is this genre so hot right now?
A: It's ironic that, in 1997, when I started shopping some of my paranormal authors, I had a tough time finding any takers among the publishing houses. Everyone thought that more "woo-woo" elements were a tough sell to romance readers. But the advent of 9/11, and readers' subsequent desire to escape, to master their fates (in a world where they felt powerless), and to believe that Good could win, ignited this genre. There's been no stopping it ever since, so it's been a great era for me to champion my favorite kinds of stories.
Q: With most major publishers actively seeking paranormals, isn't there a danger of over-saturation, reader overload or even reader dissatisfaction with generic or mediocre stories?
A: With any popular genre, these issues will always arise. Look at what happened after the immense popularity of Civil War romances. I still can't shop those out successfully. That said, I see the paranormal "shift," as we can call it, to be more of an opening in the market — a change that's knocked down walls and limits on what can happen within the romance genre. I think it's redefining the strict confines that were governing romance as a whole for a while. I do think readers will eventually tire of certain elements and begin to rely only on favorite authors to spin those tales well. But we still don't seem to be there yet! For instance, two years ago I remember editors saying, "We already have all the vampires we can take." Then, those same editors told me six months later, "Nobody's getting tired of vampires!" I think the readers are guiding this trend, and, so long as they keep demanding more paranormal, more vampires, more aliens, the publishers and authors will keep supplying them.
Q: What is the number one selling point of an outstanding paranormal?
A: I think what editors are looking for is the same thing readers really respond to - strong world building. That and unique concepts. I'll use a client of mine, Jaci Burton, as an example. She had been writing for Ellora's Cave, and I signed her on then sold her promptly to Bantam Dell at auction with Surviving Demon Island. The unique and unusual concept really struck editors. That, coupled with the very sexy writing (also a big selling point right now) won over the bidding houses. We pitched the book as being about a reality show gone awry, where fantasy becomes reality, and nothing is what it seems.
Q: What advice would you give writers who are trying to break into the paranormal romance market?
A: My advice would dovetail with what I mentioned above about strong world-building and unique concepts. Right now, as an agent, I'm eager to find paranormals, but I see a lot of similar ideas. I want to be knocked out by something new - I always respond to fresh and different, both as an agent and as a reader. That's what I would advise writers to aim for; they should really push themselves at the conceptual level to dream up unique ideas. Once they have that unusual, fresh concept, then they need to make sure the world is well developed.
Q: Did your love of the paranormal find its beginnings in books, movies, television series or all three?
A: All three actually. Early on, I was a sci-fi geek, growing up on shows and movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, Starman, and the like. In my grown-up years I've been an avid fan of Roswell, Farscape, and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. But I also developed a love of fantasy elements, especially Arthurian stories. So I was a sci-fi geek, an epic fantasy fan, and a lover of all things Arthurian. I think it was natural that these influences instilled a love of paranormal romance and fiction within me. I particularly love the big epic stories. Once you read Parallel Attraction, you'll glimpse shades of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere — although I won't tell you who's who! You've got to figure out that part for yourself!
Q: Let's talk about your first novel, Parallel Attraction; why did you decide to write a love story where 'the future meets the past'?
A: It's not just "the future meets the past" concept that inspired Parallel Attraction. It was the concept of alternate realities as well. I am fascinated with the idea that our choices all have repercussions, and for all we know - much like in the movie, Sliding Doors - every time we make an impacting choice, it might well spawn alternate realities. Haven't we all felt like somehow, just beyond our reach, we could be living a whole other life? It's the feeling that somehow along the road, many paths branched off.
It's the sense of almost being able to touch those other lives (the ones, for example, that I might have led) that was a big part of what inspired my Parallel series. And don't we all long for the chance to start over and make better, more perfect choices - especially with the hindsight of knowing our mistakes? That appeal is a big part of what makes my series work - the inherent desire to revise our wrong choices, to maximize the right ones. To live to the absolute fullest, defying our limitations of time and space. Although this series is hot, I would also say that it has a spiritual dimension. If we can bend time to our will, then we can defy everything that limits us as human beings.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the story and your characters without giving away too much of the plot?
A: First, I think the possibility of aliens existing isn't just real, it's likely. I believe that there are most likely material constants in other intelligent life forms in the universe so that they would actually look and be very much like humans. My ah-ha moment in this belief got me thinking about the character who became Jared, King of the Refarians. He is a being, a man, very much like us, with very similar DNA. He has traveled across the galaxies to reach our planet, only to find that his species and ours are nearly identical, with the same needs, hopes, dreams, passions and fears breathing in all of us.
Jared arrives on Earth as a youth, in the breathtakingly beautiful area of the Tetons, Jackson Hole and Yellowstone, has an amazing encounter with a young woman and is forever changed by the bonding. She is his soul mate, and he is hers. The inherent conflicts in their relationship spawned not only a book but also a series. He is a king and, as the last of his race, must procreate. By virtue of his birth and his values, he must fight to protect his people. This earth woman doesn't quite fit into his race's scheme of things, but theirs is a love destined to cross all boundaries of time and space. Greater love hath no man, nor alien ...
Q: Why did you set this story on Earth and not another planet or galaxy?
A: What interests me most about sci-fi is where it intersects the world we know. And what's most romantic in sci-fi is the idea of human/alien romance. I'm not saying I won't ever write truly futuristic sci-fi romance (and trust me, I already have some ideas along these lines that are percolating!). I just love very Earth-bound sci-fi, or at the very least, sci-fi that touches the world I personally live in and know. It's one reason that a current television favorite is Battlestar Galactica - these are humans, very much like us (and living in a "post 9/11" world, which the show represents metaphorically), with all our same needs and desires. Sure, there's the Galactica (the "bucket" as some in that universe are starting to call the ship), but it's a gritty, believable place. Telephones still have cords. Computers aren't wireless and networked - in the world of BSG that's because they're combating machines - but it isn't all that unlike Earth now, in its own way.
Q: Jared Bennett (your hero) has a duality that allows him to transform into pure energy. Tell us your reasoning for giving him this ability.
A: Truthfully, it was how his character presented itself to me - literally, his duality was the first angle I got on him. He was born out of a simple question: what if there were an alien, a being of pure energy, and what if his human lover wanted nothing so much as simply to ... touch him! I actually saw that in my vision for the two of them. Usually characters tend to grow that way for me: I get one very clear element or bit of a scene, and it all builds from there.
Q: Let's say that humans had the ability to reset the future - at this time in our history do you believe we'd use this gift wisely?
A: Ha! I don't think humans would ever have a good handle on playing with time. There's a reason we're locked into this dimension, at least for the time being. Who would oversee the decisions? And what would we do with the fact that every time we reset time, we wound up creating alternate realities? Let's hope the Caltech scientists never figure out how to manipulate wormholes and make this sci-fi vision a reality!
Q: Did you need to do very much research before tackling the finer points of time travel?
A: I loved the research I did for this first book and can't wait to get back to reading more on hyperspace, multi-dimensional theory, and all the other wonders of theoretical physics I got to explore. Last summer at the beach, I was sitting by the pool reading a book called Hyperspace. Not your basic light summer reading, but I was amazed at how very readable some of the books on time travel truly are. The strangest research I did was joining a Yahoo group of people who actually believe they do travel through time. It finally weirded me out so much - especially receiving the group emails on my blackberry no matter where I was - after I unsubscribed.
Q: Sequels to Parallel Attraction are scheduled for October of 2006 and April of 2007. Can you give us a brief synopsis of Parallel Heat and Parallel Seduction and tell how these stories will continue Jared and his people's fight for freedom? Are you planning any more books in this series?
A: Parallel Heat can be described as the Sliding Doors companion to Parallel Attraction. In other words, if you've seen that movie, the second book is an "answer" to the "call" of the first book. What happens now that the present has been altered by the decisions in book one? Will Marco still betray Jared and Kelsey and the other Refarians? Given a certain knowledge of what the future holds, what will our protagonists do with that information? Similarly, Parallel Seduction (book three) truly explores the results of changing time - how alternate/parallel universes are generated every time you monkey with time. The world our "this universe" characters occupy becomes progressively more complicated every time they try to change the future's outcome. In other words, it's going to get pretty darn messy for Jared et al as a result of choices they've made (and are making) about time itself.
Q: Which career(s) do you see yourself still actively pursuing twenty years from now?
A: I'll definitely still be an agent. We talk frequently with our kids about our hopes that they'll take over the business one day. Even if they don't, this is my lifelong career, and we are planning twenty years out. The possibility of one day opening a New York office, that kind of thing. Likewise, I know I will be writing twenty years from now, simply because I have always written. Now, whether there will be a place for me in the market, that remains to be seen! But I know that I'd love to be doing both twenty years from now. Maybe I'll be taking a bit more time to myself by retirement time, once that day comes, but I foresee always being very busy with what I love most — books.
Thank you! I love the BookLoons site and am delighted to be featured by you, with this my debut novel!Find out more about the author at DeidreKnight.com and about the Parallel series at DeidreKnightBooks.com.
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