Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand puts werewolves in Vegas, baby!

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Best-selling fantasy author Carrie Vaughn—whose latest novel is Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand, the fifth in the Kitty series—says that a lot of her creative energy lately has been devoted to finding ordinary situations and thinking: "What would that look like with werewolves?"

"For this one, I looked at Las Vegas, and found a treasure trove," Vaughn said in an interview. "What if one of those trained-animal acts used not lions and tigers, but were-lions and were-tigers? What if the magicians really worked magic? And wouldn't Vegas, where everything is open 24 hours a day, be a haven for vampires?"

Vaughn had the perfect excuse to send Kitty to Vegas: She's eloping with her boyfriend, Ben. "That's the plan, but of course things go awry," Vaughn said. "She unwittingly gets caught up in a number of plots. ... It all starts when she checks into a hotel where a gun show is being held—with some supernatural bounty hunters in attendance. It all goes downhill from there. At first the question is whether Kitty and Ben will ever manage to get married. But pretty soon the question is whether or not they'll even survive the trip."

Kitty Norville was a normal, average suburban kid who expected to go on to a normal, average suburban life of her own, but in college she was attacked by a werewolf and infected with lycanthropy. "A local werewolf pack took her in, and she discovered a whole supernatural shadow world," Vaughn said. "Over the course of the series, she starts a call-in radio advice show, learns to stand up for herself, gets exiled from her werewolf pack and hometown, testifies about the supernatural before Congress and returns to her hometown to take over the old werewolf pack."

Vaughn said that the more she thinks about the nature of urban fantasy and the "kick-ass heroine" in general, the more she thinks it's important that Kitty be as realistic as possible (or as realistic as a werewolf can be, anyway). "She's not a leather-clad, gun-toting, kick-ass heroine," she said. "She has a job and family, she's just trying to get through her life as best she can. I want her to feel like the kind of people we all know. It may not be personal to my life, but it's a statement of personal philosophy."