Hello Bookworms, Death Prefers Blondes was one of the most entertaining novels I read in 2020, and it makes me so happy to be interviewing him today! Caleb is an extremely talented author, and I KNOW that his novels are CRIMINALLY underrated, so EVERYONE BETTER BE READING HIS BOOKS AFTER THIS!! So keep reading to learn about Caleb’s writing process and journey and who he would choose to bring on a deserted island alongside him.
Erin : How do you come up with the ideas for your books?
Caleb : My process is a little different each time, but it normally begins with a particular story element I can’t get out of my head—a compelling scenario or setting, a specific character, maybe a trope I’ve always loved—and I sort of build it out from there. I let myself fall into the mood and imagery that initial scrap of an idea suggests to me, and then I gradually expand upon it until I have a complete picture.
Erin : Was your first book published or is it still lurking in a drawer somewhere?
Caleb : Ha! My first completed manuscript was extremely not published! I wrote it in college, and when I first started, I had no idea I was writing a novel. In the beginning, I thought it was a short story—but it got longer and longer, until in the end I had a 160,000-word YA horror epic on my hands. Honestly, I still love the plot, but the execution was a complete mess, and I made so many dreadful, elementary mistakes. Someday I may give it a good, intensive polish and see if I can’t rescue it!
Erin : Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?
Caleb : My normal goal is to write around 1,500-2,000 words per day, and I try not to really pay attention to how much time it takes. Offhand, I’d say it’s usually around 4 or 5 hours, and always in the evening. Normally, I’ll write a little before dinner, and a little after, because I’ve found allowing myself a break actually helps keep me motivated. Writing to a word count is tricky, because some days the creative well is just bone dry, and you have to be willing to cut yourself some slack.
As for my method, I am a computer writer all the way! I make way too many errors to write longhand. Plus, in the early stages of drafting, I will change character names multiple times, and the find/replace function is indispensable.
Erin : What is your favourite word, and why?
Caleb : Skullduggery. It might be a little starchy and old-fashioned, but it’s got a great rhythm, and it sounds like what it means!
Erin : How do you select the names of your characters?
Caleb : I find that some characters will name themselves, and the others I’ll wrestle with until I’ve found just the right one to suit their personality. Especially when it concerns couples or best friends—any characters who will frequently be mentioned together—I want the names to sound euphonious. I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of names I love, and I’ll plunder it for major roles; for the supporting cast, I often pick from lists of popular contemporary baby names. (For parents, I always go with popular baby names from whatever year they’d have been born in! That way, they carry a ring of authenticity.)
Erin : If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why? Criteria: a. One fictional character from your book, b. One fictional character from any other book, c. One famous person.
Caleb : a. Margo, from Death Prefers Blondes. She’s resourceful, willing to work hard, and definitely a survivor!
b. I’m going to go with Daedalus from Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson, because I happen to know he ultimately designs and builds functional wings to enable the escape from an island!
c. Manny Jacinto, because he is handsome. (I’m shallow, sue me.)
Erin : In terms of your novel, Death Prefers Blondes, tell us about the journey that led to you writing it.
Caleb : So, the journey to publication was long, and had as many twists and turns as the book itself! I got the first bit of inspiration for the idea that would eventually become Blondes from a rerun of The Lucy Show—the sitcom Lucille Ball did in the sixties, after I Love Lucy—when I was maybe seventeen. In a certain episode, she dons a disguise and passes herself off as an interior decorator named Margo, “of Margo’s Mad, Mad, Mod Interior.” Suddenly, I had an idea for a character named Margo, an heiress who drove a fancy car and was fighting with her father, and I spent a long time thereafter trying to find a home for her in my imagination; I got the idea for a team of outrageous, drag queen cat burglars from a combination of The Great Muppet Caper and Alfred Hitchock’s Family Plot; and when I saw the 2000 remake of Charlie’s Angels, I realized it had exactly the right mood and tone I needed to bring those two concepts together.
My first attempt at Death Prefers Blondes was actually a screenplay…but it was terrible, because I don’t know how to write screenplays. (And it wasn’t until I had actually completed the whole thing that I realized I was retelling Hamlet!) So I trunked it and moved on with my life—until 2016, when I mentioned the story idea to my editor. She flipped for it, so I dug the screenplay back out, figuring it would be a relatively simple process to adapt it for publication.
I was very wrong!! The concept was solid, but the script was even worse than I’d remembered; so I basically threw out everything but the bones, rebuilt an outline, and rewrote the entire story. It was sometimes fun, and sometimes agonizing, but I am so glad I did it. It’s probably the most unique and most “me” of anything I’ve created.
About Caleb Roehrig :
Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.
About Death Prefers Blondes :
Death Prefers Blondes is a high-stakes YA thriller featuring a rebel heiress and butt-kicking, jewel-thieving drag queens from Caleb Roehrig, author of a BuzzFeed Best YA Novel, Last Seen Leaving.
Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.
But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them — for good?