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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Check out this Character Interview! With Necronite Jesse Sullivan, from Dying for a Living (Not a zombie!)

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The interdimensional travel leaves me queasier this time--my head's throbbing, and I'm clutching a nearby trashcan to stand. Or vomit.


Either way, I'm thrilled. In my experience, the worse the pre-hangover, the wilder the character I'm about to meet--and after last time's heart-wrenching frustration, I'm ready for some kick-ass and snark.

But I didn't expect to find pigeons pecking the pavement in front of hip downtown shops; dirty automobiles edge around each other under shadows etched against a clear blue sky. "Nashville, Tennessee. Huh." I was expecting a cemetery or something.

It's not hard to find the unobtrusive little office on Broadway, a sign directing me away from the comic bookstore in front to a back entrance with Jesse Sullivan, Death Replacement Agent written above the door.

I knock, stifling my queasy stomach; as the door opens a shiver runs down my spine. I've found her.

Jesse's wearing dark jeans, a black zip-up hoodie, and mismatched shoes--one red Nike and one black and red Adidas. She raises an eyebrow.

"Hi, uh," I pause. "I made an appointment? For an interview?"

She opens her mouth to respond, when a familiar growl rumbles behind me.

Jesse's eyes shoot wide open like searchlights.

"Oh crap," I mutter.

I whirl; the bundle of scales and heat slams into me and my back pounds the carpet with a muffled thud. Claws wrap around my throat--I'm trying to jam my pen into its jugular--

A hiss! All the lightbulbs blow; the grip on my throat loosens as a pulse blasts out from Jesse's body. She's cursing and apologizing as glass from the ceiling-light shatters around the beast. It shrieks in panic, fades into the air, and disappears, leaving me with a panting, shouting, freaked out, and apparently-super-powered protagonist.


“Shit,” she says and throws her arms up. “I just replaced that computer, man.”

I scramble to my feet stammering: "Uh, sorry, that's a Dragon Spawn--sometimes they follow me through dimensions, they're--uh--mostly harmless to anyone who's not me--" I'm still stumbling. More praise, more praise! "Hey, uh, thank-you!" I say. "You were great! Really cool. It's very dead, very gone, thanks to your rave show there..."

I'm still talking as she flops into her desk chair to inspect the damage.

I rub my forehead. "Wow, so uh—interview.”

“You wanted to know what I do for a living,” she offers. She writes something on a notepad before taping it to the still smoking computer monitor.

“Yeah,” I say and take out my notepad and pen. "That."

"I’m a death-replacement agent for FBRD--Federal Bureau of Regenerative Deaths." She jingles the dog-tags around her neck. "Basically, if someone is about to die, they can hire me to make sure that doesn’t happen. Except, of course, this means I have to die instead." She rolls her eyes up and sticks out her tongue in a cartoonish parody of death.

I'm not supposed to giggle, but I do. "Ahem--hm, well uh--how does that work?"

"You should attend one of Dr. York’s sensitivity seminars over at the hospital," she says. She replaces the light bulb on her desk lamp, supplementing the afternoon glow. "He explains all this in detail. But long story short, I have this neurological disorder—NRD—that doesn’t let me die. Assuming my brains don’t get damaged. If my brain stops working then I’m just dead—like dead, dead. So I kind of have to be careful in the jobs I take. Not that being careful is really part of the job description. I’m always sore and bloody and I’ve got all these scars." She lifts one foot, looking at her un-paired Adidas. "And shoes! I can’t keep a pair of shoes to save my freaking life."

"That sounds--rough. Why do you do it?"

She shakes the busted bulb before tossing it. "You can blame that on Brinkley, my handler. He got me into the mess. I suppose I should be grateful. I’m paid really well for a high-school drop out. Even if the hours do suck. And I can’t get health insurance. To. Save. My. Life." She grins. It's a bad joke, but I'm grinning too now--Guess I've thrown professional sensitivity right out the window…

"Ha. What's the worst job you've taken so far?"

"Eve Hildebrand, hands down. Not only because she’s a prostitute—sorry, sex worker—and I had to see her—never mind, what I saw wasn’t even the worse part. The worst part was after—all that--" she makes a suggestive gesture with her hand--"She tried to kill me! I was hired to keep her alive and then she tries to decapitate me." Her index finger slices across her throat with flair. "Can you believe that shit?"

I shake my head. "I feel like incidents like that would really get in the way of--uh--family life and stuff. If you don't mind my asking--who's closest to you in your life right now?"

"Ally. She’s my best friend, and well, my personal assistant too. But I’d die for that girl. Again." No joke--a shimmering sadness overtakes her eyes.

"I know, that's really personal, I'm sorry," I say. "Hey, where is she right now? Day off?”

“She's meeting with Kirk, the mortician, about an upcoming replacement.” Jesse grimaces, looking at the computer again. “She’ll never shut up about this.”

“Ah. Uh, I'm sorry, here's something more fun: What's the most important sound in the world to you?"

She arches an eyebrow, then shrugs. "Probably my heartbeat I guess. It’s usually the first thing I notice when I wake up after a replacement, and it means I didn’t really bite it—like for real."

Okay, we're not getting any more light-hearted, so might as well rip the bandaid right off. "What's your biggest fear?"

She snorts. "I can't die. What do I have to be afraid of?"

But she looks uncomfortable. As an interviewer, I'd pursue that question further if I knew her better--but I don't want to press it. I want to find the ray of joy in her life, and watch it glimmer. So: "What's your dearest dream?"

She shrugs again. "It used to be to get the hell out of death-replacing. I hated the people and I hated the job." Her tone softens. "But after Eve and everything else, I know that’s not even an option. So I guess I don’t have a new dream yet. Unless—well, I hope that the people I love survive this. Things are just going to get worse for me from here on out, you know?—So I guess my greatest wish is that I can keep them alive."

"I hope you gain your dream, Jesse," I whisper under my breath, leaning back in my seat. But I can feel the somber air stifling her spunk, so aloud I say, "Okay, no more questions. You wanna go for Krispy Kreme?”

"That was a question," she smirks. “And I’m not sure I want to hang out with someone who gets attacked by dragons. I can’t die today. I go on the clock at midnight, and you’re a bit of a hazard to be around.”

“You’re one to talk,” I say.

She grins. “Touche.”

"So? Donuts?"

"Are you real?" she arches a suspicious brow. “Sometimes I—you know—death can be hard on the brain.” She taps her temple.

“Eh, I'm as real as you are. Maybe a little more real, or a little less, depending on where you go. Don't worry, no one will think you're crazy talking to me. Now, people will think you're crazy if you don't take me up on these donuts.”

“No more questions?”

"No more questions." I rise, flipping my braids over my shoulder. “Coming?”

“Ok,” she grins. Grabbing the keys, she locks up behind us. “I know just the place.”

I'll be keeping an eye out for this protagonist. If you're similarly intrigued by Jesse and her job, you can check out
Dying for a Living when it comes out March 4! In the meantime, follow Jesse's author Kory M. Shrum on twitter, and on her blog, for news on the upcoming release!


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