Categorized | Authors, Interviews

Vampire Week: A Joint Interview with Some Hot Urban Fantasists

Posted on June 24, 2010 by alanajoli

When Matt first announced the idea of vampire week, I immediately knew I wanted to ask some personal questions to the folks who know vampires best – the authors who write about them and bring them to life. I sent out a short questionnaire to some of my favorite urban fantasy writers and got, unsurprisingly, some great responses. Here’s the who’s who of vampire know-how:

Dakota Cassidy – In the “Accidentals” series, Dakota features heroines who have turned into vampires, demons, werewolves, and were-vampire hybrids by happenstance – but they don’t let it keep them down. Accidentally Demonic is on shelves now, and My Way to Hell comes out next month.

Angie Fox – The Accidental Demon Slayer and its sequels follow a slayer who, along with her talking terrier and a gang of biker witches, takes on hell’s minions, including the occasional vampire. Angie has also contributed short stories to The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2 and the forthcoming Were Wives of Vampire County.

Max Gladstone – The author of several short stories, Max has written the gamut from space westerns to corporate espionage. His vampires, who can manage to develop a tan if they work at it hard enough, appear in his current novel-on-spec, Three Parts Dead (working title).

Mark Henry – Along with breathing new life into his sexy and snarky zombies, Mark writes about the trials and tribulations of Gil, a vampiric would-be entrepreneur, in his Amanda Feral novels. The most recent in his series is Battle of the Network Zombies, a send-up of reality TV.

Nancy Holzner – A mystery writer and urban fantasist, Nancy sets her demon slaying series in an alternate Boston. Deadtown heroine Victory Vaughn is a pro slayer, but not quite human, which makes it only natural that she’d have a vampire roomie. Novel #2, Hellforged, comes out in December.

Amanda Marrone – YA author of Uninvited, Revealers and Devoured Amanda has a range of vamps, from a scarily obsessive undead boyfriend to an amoral former demon slayer. Her upcoming novel Slayed features a discontent daughter in the Van Helsing family.

Kelly Meding – A 2009 debut author, Kelly is the author of the Dreg City series, starring paranormal bounty hunter Evy Stone, whose targets sometimes include vamps. In Three Days to Dead Evy is stuck in someone else’s body, trying to solve the murder of herself and her partners. Her second adventure, As Lie the Dead, comes out this summer.

Nicole Peeler – Another 2009 debut, Nicole introduced readers to half-selkie Jane True in Tempest Rising. Though Jane’s main squeeze may not technically be a vampire, he’s certainly a sexy bloodsucker. Tracking the Tempest, book 2 of Jane’s adventures, hits the shelves July 1.

Jeri Smith-Ready – As the creator of the WVMP radio station series, Jeri writes about obsessive-compulsive vampires stuck in their own eras and the ex-con-artist, Ciara, who tries to help them keep up with the present. Her new YA novel, Shade, is out now, and Bring on the Night, the newest WVMP book, releases in July.

1) At what age did you encounter your first vampire and who/what was it?

Angie: My “first” was Louis from Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I was in college at the time and had five roommates. We were talking about books one night and they were shocked that I’d never read Anne Rice. (I was a mystery freak at the time.) Between all of them, my roommates had Anne Rice’s entire vampire series. I started reading and couldn’t stop. I was a good little doobie “A” student, but I skipped classes for a week in order to read the series straight through. Who knew it would be good career preparation?

Dakota: He was in Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was in the Beyond section. No. I’m kidding. My first encounter was with Lestat, and that was the movie, Interview with a Vampire. Never read the book. My next was Christine Feehan and the Carpathians. After that, it was my own vamp creation.

Max: My first monster memories are of a quartet of figures I received for my birthday when I was four or so: Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and the Mummy, all in their Lon Cheney and Bela Lugosi forms. Dracula had slicked-back hair, a pronounced widow’s peak, a tall collar, a flowing black cape and an evil grimace. These figures were all built to the 1950s GI Joe scale, eleven inches tall and masterfully sculpted so that Dracula towered over my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and my army men. Something about the size of those figures and care of their molding gave me an indelible sense that monsters were Important.

Mark: I was probably in elementary school, ’cause I think my first vamp was The Count from Sesame Street. I have to say, I don’t remember being as smitten with that image as some others from that show.

Nancy: I’m dating myself here, but my first vampire was Barnabas Collins from the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. I couldn’t have been older than five at the time. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to watch the show, because my mother thought it would give us nightmares. But one afternoon I was playing at a friend’s house–and the show was on. It was a double thrill for me: a show that was scary AND forbidden. And it did give me nightmares. My older sister (or maybe it was my mom) made up a cheery little song with the line, “Shadows are darkest in the daytime” that I could sing to myself at night when I got scared. Now, I’ve watched a few old episodes of the show on the Internet, and they’re more campy and fun than terrifying. But even hearing the eerie theme song reminds me of how scared I was. Yup, I was a wimp.

Amanda: I was in high school when I read Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. (I graduated in 1984–a looong time ago.) That book scared the HELL out of me. I actually dug out an old cross necklace to wear for weeks afterward and could never look at a dark window for fear of seeing a face floating there. It was then onto Anne Rice’s books, and I devoured them. I do wonder if I’m “old school vampire” because my first taste of blood was a scary vamp.

Kelly: I’ve watched horror films since I was a little kid, so I can’t be one hundred-percent certain of this answer, but I believe it was Dracula in the cult film The Monster Squad. I was seven years old when it first came out, and I must have had some idea of who the various Universal monsters were, but I couldn’t tell you how. I just remember loving the idea of these kids (who were only a few years older than me) saving the world from Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I had no idea what a crossover was, so seeing all these different monsters in one movie was a huge thrill for my young mind. This Dracula was evil, nasty, and he cussed at little kids. He was awesome! It really wasn’t until Buffy, the Vampire Slayer that I saw vampires portrayed as anything except evil beings.

Nicole: I’d always been aware of vampires–of Dracula, Nosferatu, and the like–but I think I really became interested in them when I read about Diana Tregarde’s lover, Andre LeBrel, in Mercedes Lackey’s Children of the Night. It was, if I remember correctly, the first time for me that vampires were sexy and not just scary. I was hooked! Or fanged, whichever is more appropriate.

Jeri: I think it was George Hamilton in Love at First Bite. I must have seen it when I was 13, because that was when we got cable. My friends and I thought it was hilarious. But the first vampire that ever grabbed my imagination was Louis from Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, when I was 19. (That’s right, I said Louis, not Lestat. I’ve always found Lestat to be a conceited prick.) I loved Louis’s struggle to hold onto his humanity.

2) If you could only choose one vampire-related icon (vampire or hunter) from the media as the representative of vampire fiction, who would it be?

Max: Dexter, from the eponymous Showtime series. He’s a serial killer with no supernatural qualities to speak of, but in most respects he’s very much a vampire: he carries out his own Masquerade in which he’s a likable if somewhat weird blood-splatter analyst for the Miami Police, and at nighttime he stalks and kills other serial killers, striking from the shadows silently, reveling in their blood and fading away without a trace. Dexter’s drive to kill is depicted as a basic need for blood and death, an animal compulsion much like a vampire’s hunger, and it’s wedded to his special powers of observation, of planning, and of (in moments of need) seemingly superhuman strength. Serial killer-ism, like vampirism, can even be caught and transmitted in the world of the show. Everything a good vampire story needs is there: the sexual obsession, the blood, the hunting, the hiding-in-plain-sight. It feels as if the showrunners (and the original author) wanted to write a vampire story, then realized they could do the entire thing without a supernatural element.

Mark: I gotta say the whole gang from Near Dark. Bill Pullman with those spurs on his boots cutting gashes in people’s throats? Awesome. And their blackout van? That movie totally inspired Whedon to create Spike. Genius.

Nancy: For me, Dracula will always be the touchstone for all other vampire fiction. The Count is elegant, urbane, seductive–and a monster through and through.

Amanda: Having just finished a vampire slayer novel, I’m definitely more into the hunting aspect. As hot and sexy as vampires can be, in my opinion, I like them born-to-be-bad. Vamps are for slaying not dating. (Not that I don’t love me some True Blood–I like the notion that you can’t have a little fun with them too.)But Abraham Van Helsing is my icon–although I was surprised to revisit Dracula and find out he didn’t actually have a direct hand in killing Dracula.

Nicole: I think Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the most powerful representative for vampire fiction, because Dracula runs such a spectrum of mythology and fantasy. He can be so terrible: the monster in the night that has no pity, no humanity. But he’s also so highly sexual; something erotic as well as terrifying in a way that earlier monsters weren’t.

3) What would you consider the most dangerous power a vampire has?

Dakota: Eternal life. Dude, that would so suck if backsies were forever, no?

Max: Immortality. You can get a lot of planning done in an endless lifespan.

Mark: Got to be the power to be terrible know-it-alls. It’s one thing to study up and know a lot of stuff as a human, but imagine living it. You could never tell a vampire anything without them yawning or judging you and after a while, that’d be dangerously boring.

Amanda: The power to mesmerize. You know being with a vampire is all kinds of wrong, but the very second you connect eyes–feel their cool fingers caress your skin–you’re hooked, helpless, and head-over-heels. And likely dinner.

Kelly: Mind control. Not all vampires are portrayed as having this ability, but I think mind control in general is a pretty scary power. Vampires are shown as using this power to seduce their “food” into complying, to gain some upper hand–generally, for very bad things. I love how they use the ability in True Blood, though. Comes in very handy when you need to question an unwilling human, then make them forget.

Jeri: The power to lure their prey with just a look, making them think that giving up their blood is their idea. What Ciara from my books calls the “mesmer-eyes.”

4) Do you prefer your vampires sexy, sinister, sparkly, or sulking?

Mark: Definitely sinister. I was so happy to see the vampire-as-monster come back in 30 Days of Night. I love movie monsters and despite my respect for the urban fantasy genre and the heroic vampire, my heart is with the bloodsucking bad guys!

Nancy: Sinister is essential. Vampires are creatures that prey on human beings, and I think the danger they represent is part of their nature and part of their appeal. If you try to rehabilitate them, you have little more than a misunderstood outsider in need of a good cosmetic dentist. Sinister and sexy is a compelling combination. The vampire is an archetype of dangerous sexuality. That said, I also think that there can be something compelling in a vampire who struggles against his own dangerous nature for the sake of love.

Dakota: Jesus, definitely not sulking. Sulking makes me yawn–and sparkly is not allowed because no one can sparkle more than me. I like sexy, with a hint of sinister and a sense of humor. You so gotta be able to laugh.

Amanda: Sexy and Sinister! Nothing beats a hot, bad boy! But, um, later you have to stake them.

Kelly: Definitely sinister, but I don’t mind the combination of sinister and sexy (Spike, from Buffy, tVS is the very best example of this delectable combo). The myth and lore around vampires goes back centuries, and it continues to expand and evolve with each new generation (hence the sparkly vamps). But my favorite vampires are scary and sinister. Not necessary completely evil, but not cuddly and nice. It’s one of the reasons I made my own vampires a mix of sinister and mysterious. They aren’t friends with humans, but they don’t go around slaughtering them willy-nilly, either. They’re kind of a gray area. They have their own morals, their own goals, and their way of achieving them. And they are completely willing to crush others in order to further those goals.

Nicole: I like to read all types of vampires. That’s what I think is fabulous about the mythology: it can go so many directions and incorporate so many versions of vampire. That said, I think one of my favorite depictions of vampirism is Charlaine Harris’s. I love how her vampires are absolutely sinister, but how Sookie gets drawn in because they’re “silent” to her psychic hearing. So we understand how a human could love to be around these pretty horrifying creatures. Plus, by the time we realize (along with Sookie) that they are so terrifying, they’ve also become so much more than merely scary both to Sookie and to her readers.

Jeri: I don’t see why vampires can’t be all of these things (well, maybe not sparkly–that’s taken) in one book or universe. My feeling is that they’re just like people–meaning, they have just as much diversity in personality and tendencies as humans do. Some will sulk, some will seduce, and some will savage.

5) Imagine you discover that one of your neighbors is a vampire. What steps do you take after making the discovery?

Dakota: I invite him the hell over to drain my kids. He tells me all about being a vampire, has a little some-some, and my kids are experiencing the very popular phrase, “Do you have any idea how often you’ve suck the life out of me?” firsthand. Payback’s a bitch, eh? LOLLOL

Angie: I’d hope to heck I live in Bon Temps next door to vampire Bill. Then perhaps we’d hit Fangtasia for a beer and a True Blood.

Mark: This could very well happen, as I’m quite the snoop, I’ve discovered that my neighbors were drunks, child abusers, into spankings and so-on, why not that they were addicted to the curative tonic of hot blood? I’d probably find some way to corral them and sell them to “a private research thinktank” for a buttload of cash, or try to make them turn me into one, too. After all, it’s the least they could do after forcing me to listen to their adventures in booty-slapping.

Nancy: Hand out torches and pitchforks at the annual block party.

Amanda: This question reminds me of one of my fav movies from the 80s, Fright Night. Vampire moves in next door–falls in love with jail-bait girlfriend because she looks like his lost lover. So of course you have to stake him. I want to watch this movie again, but I’m afraid I’ll find it really cheesy now.

6) What traditional vampire weakness would you find most debilitating? (Lack of garlic in your diet? Inability to get a tan?)

Dakota: Probably the food thing. If I couldn’t have French fries, I’d be a cranky bitch.

Max: To be really traditional here: Vampires aren’t supposed to be able to cross running water under their own power. That would make living anywhere with internal plumbing a bit difficult, wouldn’t it? Not to mention all the underground rivers incorporated into the sewer systems of most cities (at least three in Manhattan). If we’re sticking with the Blade / Buffy weaknesses, though, then it’d definitely be garlic. How could I cook without my garlic press? Then again, if I was a vampire, I couldn’t eat or drink… vine… which would certainly be worse than not being able to cook with garlic. I don’t know if not eating food or drinking normal liquids counts as a weakness (it’s generally presented as more of a feature) but it would suck to give up malai kofta for all eternity.

Mark: I’m kind of a morning person. I get really bored late at night, so the inability to move about during the day would absolutely suck.

Nancy: I don’t tan, I burn, so that wouldn’t be a problem. And I’ve never been a morning person, so being up all night and going to bed at dawn wouldn’t be much of a change either. (Hey, why are my neighbors passing out pitchforks?)

Jeri: Having to avoid the sun would be the worst part. First there’s the mental health issues involved–think of people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Then imagine an eternal winter or eternal night. But setting that aside, it would be a major cramp in one’s style, especially in the summer. I guess if you were a really rich vampire, you could have a home in each hemisphere so you could always live where it was winter. But then how do you get there without flying, which tends to be during the day? Pain in the butt. Well, more than just the butt if you get caught in sunlight.

7) Imagine you’ve been turned into a vampire. How did it happen, and where did you encounter your sire?

Dakota: With my luck, it was messy and difficult. I’m not a halfway kind of girl. I never just get a toothache–I get a toothache that leads to an infection that then leads to bubonic plague. So with my luck, I was probably out shoe shopping, got hit by the Prada delivery man (who’s secretly a vampire), he jumps out of the car to see what he ran over, trips on the curb where I lay half dead and Prada-less, falls on me fangs first and I end up undead and still without those Prada’s because my vampire hero gets fired for running me over. I’m just sayin’…

Angie: Eric Northman couldn’t resist me. I thought about playing hard to get, but have you seen that man? Anyhow, he turned me and now I have to learn everything about being a vampire from him. It’s a rough job, but somebody has to do him…I mean “it.”

Max: Probably in a book store.

Mark: See #5. Damn neighbors.

Nancy: I’m a serious opera lover, so if I encountered one of those sophisticated, sexy, dangerous vampires in an opera box while I was swooning over a great performance–maybe the end of Act II of Verdi’s La Traviata–I’d be a goner. (This is why my husband really should go with me to the opera more often…)

Amanda: Never going to happen. I’m too smart for that and always carry garlic and a cross.

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