Chloe Neill's House Rules book signing!

Chloe Neill paid her first visit to the soggy northwestern U.S. over the weekend with book-signing events for House Rules, the newest installment in her Chicagoland Vampires series. And I’m so glad she decided to visit Oregon, so I could meet her! Not only were we not suffering the snowstorm of epic proportions that was pummeling the northeast at that very moment, but we actually saw intermittent sunshine on the afternoon she arrived — the highest honor one can get in this part of the country!!

She spent an informal hour conversing with her audience, handing out swag (!), answering questions, and signing books. Some fans brought the entire series from home for her to sign, and she graciously obliged.

I tried to take a few notes while she spoke so I could share her banter here, but I kept getting distracted by her funny stories, so I know I missed a few things. After the jump, you can see what she had to say, and I hope I got all the details right.

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead. If you have not read this series and do not want to know which book has a devastating cliff hanger, please come back and read this post after you have finished the series!

Her writing routine...
She works her office “day job”, then tries to write for an hour or two in the evenings. I was surprised to hear this — and am now even more in awe of her prolific output than when I thought CLV was her “day job”. Yet she still finds time to interact with fans through social media and go on book-signing tours. She is a woman of many remarkable talents, much like her series’ leading lady. Does she think she has anything in common with Merit? I’ll get to that shortly.

How she researches her books and fills in the details...
First of all, Chloe Neill lives in Nebraska, not Chicago. Am I possibly the only person reading this who did not already know that??

Since other fans knew she didn’t live in Chicago before they showed up, one had a question prepared about reference sources: How does she get the details about life in Chicago? Ms. Neill mentioned Google Maps Street View first. It can show her exactly what Merit sees when standing in front of a particular building, for example. It allows her to see, from afar, through the character’s eyes. And she seems to be a very visually oriented person, in general, which I can identify with.

She said it’s easier for her to write if she sees her setting first. Which was not surprising at all to hear, because location is an essential element, a central character really, in her books (we’ve mentioned that before on this blogsite, here and here). She likes to see a physical building or area that matches what she envisions for her book, and then it’s easier for her to write the scenes that occur in that setting. Click here to see the real-life house that inspired Cadogan House on her website.

Conversations tend to “play” in her head like a movie, so they are fairly easy for her to write. She tends to write a very dramatic first draft, replete with doors slamming and pulses racing, which gets toned down to appropriate levels during revisions — which, seems to me, might in some cases be doors slamming even harder.

She visits websites and watches shows about Chicago, especially those out-of-the-way places not usually featured in the tour books, which add color and grit to her books: local food joints, dive bars, tunnels, and such.

She said her husband is “very quotable” and makes a lot of snarky “guy” quips that end up in her books. Awesomesauce is one of his words. (It’s also one of Wench Beta’s favorite words!)

In general, she constantly pays attention to people’s mannerisms and the things they say. Has she developed any tricks to help her remember them? Well, like many of us, she takes notes and sends herself text messages. Or she imagines herself walking into Ethan's office and writing them down, slowly and deliberately, on a whiteboard (which book Ethan does not have), as if she were physically doing so. I think I’m going to try that trick myself! Perhaps Ethan will join me. :-)

How she became an author...
She worked briefly for a law office before going off to college, where she saw lawyers holed up in their offices writing briefs under a deadline and thought that would be the worst job ever. And then she ended up writing to deadline for a living. (I can totally relate to that!!) A few years ago, after a relationship ended, she read a “crap ton” of PNR and Regency romance books. She got the urge to try her hand at it and began with fan fiction for Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, but after about a week and a half she realized there was no future in that. She needed to create her own characters. So she wrote her own book, decided it wasn’t very good, and put it away. And I know I missed some details here, because it was far more entertaining to watch her tell the story than to write it down, but as she pondered what to write about next she decided she wanted to write about vampires.

She read a lot of Sherrilyn Kenyon books at just the right time, and credits those as her inspiration for becoming an author.

My question: How she gets her ideas, develops her characters...
She sees a lot of similarities between herself and Merit, the voice through which the CLV books are told.

Her original story for what became CLV had Merit and her blue-haired friend Mallory, who was a drummer in a band, going to a bad band audition in a bar owned by a guy named Morgan. Merit was made a vampire that night. Then, Ms. Neill said, in her head she saw (and she stepped away from the microphone at this point, so she would not scandalize unsuspecting customers perusing the less titillating shelves around us in the store) a naked, blonde, Beckham-like man standing before her. And she suddenly “knew” who Ethan was. And she then knew who Merit had to be in order to be his foil.

She created the other characters in the series to fulfill a specific purpose, often to complement a particular character.

Once she “found” her series and its main characters, she “saw” the ending and the major emotional milestones that needed to happen along the way, though she was not sure about all the details. All the milestones she had envisioned occurring by this point in the series have not necessarily occurred, she says…we can ponder what that portends for the possibility of the series being extended beyond the currently contracted 10 books. She says she’s not averse to writing more books — it just depends on how the story goes and whether it, along with the individual mysteries in each book, can remain fresh and compelling.

Our group question: Was she surprised at the level of devastation wreaked by Hard Bitten?
Well, yes. She knew the story arc and the milestones she needed to achieve, with both the cliff hanger at the end of Hard Bitten and its complementary scene in Drink Deep. She cried when she wrote both scenes; emotionally, they were very, very difficult for her. But she still thinks it was the right thing to do and is proud of it. And fans I hear from, even if they really did NOT like it AT ALL, agree she had to do it.

Destined for a spot of honor on our bookshelves!

She sees her books as Urban Fantasy, but realizes now (if she didn’t already) that many of her fans saw them as Romance, and according to the “Romance Rules”, you simply do NOT let certain things happen to your main characters. Fans thought she had betrayed their trust by breaking those rules.

She anticipated a certain amount of backlash, but some of the downright mean emails were much worse than she expected. Fans weren’t just sad, they were angry, and so angry that some have since felt bad enough to apologize for things they wrote. She even got angry email from people who did not think Merit and Ethan belonged together in the first place, and they were just as angry as the Methan shippers. She got it from all sides!

Fans in the audience seemed to approve of her choice now that they had the bigger picture. They also felt they’d completely earned the i survived HARD BITTEN buttons she was handing out. The lone husband in attendance told us he knew exactly when the “big moment” occurred in his household, because he heard his wife screaming at her book. As I recall, I just threw mine across the room, in a more dignified, silent huff.

(I did not discover PNR/UF or this series until after Drink Deep was published. And being a little bit of a spoiler flirt, when I started reading these books I knew they packed an emotional wallop. I also knew that, if I just stocked up on tissues and kept reading through the tears, it would be worth all the angst. When I later read a discussion on the SookieVerseBlog about the series, written as the books were released, I was amazed at the horrified first responses to Hard Bitten. I totally sympathized, though, both with the readers and the author. I was glad I was late to the party on these books, because I’m a wimp with devastating cliff hangers. Some of those ladies swore they would not read another Chloe Neill book until the series was done and they knew they could trust her to end it well. If any of you ladies are reading this, I urge you to give these books another try now! I think she has more than redeemed herself!)

Other authors she likes to read when she’s not writing and researching...
She mentioned three authors right away:
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark-Hunter) is the author whose books inspired her to write books.
  • She likes J. D. Robb’s In-Death series.
  • She is waiting on Diana Gabaldon’s next Outlander book, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. (She is certainly NOT alone there. *heavy sigh* )

However, she finds she can’t enjoy most PNR/UF genre fiction much nowadays. She tends to read nonfiction on various subjects, including — surprise! — Chicago. She has recently been reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage series.

She regaled us with tales of meeting other authors at some of the conferences she attends, including the time she got to travel by car with Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries) and Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress), and the times she was too shy to introduce herself to Kim Harrison (The Hollows) or J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood and Fallen Angels). And the time she found out belatedly that the woman who had just complimented her books was Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson)! She plans to attend the RT Booklover’s Convention, scheduled this year for May 1–5 in Kansas City, Missouri, and urges all fans of PNR/UF to attend if they are able to swing it. Lots of familiar authors will attend, and there’s a low-cost Saturday event where they all hang out together signing books and talking to fans for a few hours. A couple of Wenches attended the RT convention in Chicago last year and had a blast!!

What she thought of Portland...
You know it’s a pretty special place, right? Why else would we put up with the gloomy gray skies? But Ms. Neill hadn’t had time to see or do anything in the area — except hit local favorite food haven Voodoo Doughnuts! That’s a pretty colorful spot, and probably the same place Merit would have headed to first! After a Charlaine Harris book-signing event a couple of years ago, I went with a couple of Wench friends to Voodoo Doughnuts and shared one of their impressive confections called Cock and Balls, in honor of the Gracious Plenty!!

By the end of Ms. Neill's book signing, I was a happy fan. It’s a real thrill to get more than 10 seconds of hi-and-bye with an author we admire, and an hour-long group conversation was quite a treat! I was delighted to tell her in person how much we loved her books, and that House Rules has been declared the favorite book in the series so far by several Wenches who had already finished it.

At the end of the hour, I gathered up my autographed books — one for me and one for Head Wench Barb — and my swag and my happy memories and headed home to read the last 40 pages of House Rules. I can now say it is also my favorite book in the series. (Sorry, I could not commit until I had read that last page. Maybe there is some residual fear from Hard Bitten after all! But I do trust her completely now, really! Because I know she has a plan, and I’d like to think that since she identifies with Merit she wouldn’t dream of allowing her anything but a wonderful life!)

I hope Ms. Neill will come back to see us soon in the northwest, and hang around long enough to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery. Maybe for an August release, when there’s better than a 50-50 chance of sunshine and clear mountain views! Until then, I’m already looking forward to Biting Bad in August!

And if you missed it, click here to read Zee's and Barb's Saucy Wenches review of House Rules. (Hint: They loved it, too!) It is very spoilery, so you probably don't want to read it unless you have finished the book!


  1. Sounds like a blast. I can't believe that I missed her last year in Houston. Ugh!


  2. So happy for you Kathi! Great post and it sounds like so much fun.

  3. Happy for you and jealous ( for me). This was really interesting. Maybe one day I'll be able to attend to.

  4. I hope you all get the opportunity to see her soon! I don't think she gets to spend nearly as much time with her fans as she would like to. I am planning to fly through Kansas City the week of that RT convention, and now I realize all those authors will be there a few days later!! The Saturday event would be fabulous to attend! Maybe next year....


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