This the second of my interviews with the writing team of Patricia Rosemoor and Marc Paoletti. As I said yesterday, they’ve teamed up to write a new urban fantasy–The Last Vampire, (in stores June 24th) where the vampire is (gasp) truly the bad guy. :D
Author of: THE LAST VAMPIRE
Favorite Candy: I have to chose just one? Probably Snickers, though I’ve always had a soft spot (excuse the pun) for Rocky Road bars. As a kid, I ate RRs at summer camp like they were going out of style. I also like Butterfingers. Hershey Bars with almonds are good, too. And who can live without the occasional Reese’s?
Favorite Cartoon Character: This one’s a no-brainer: Ultraman from the 1960s Japanese television show (which, by the way, is where the name for Team Ultra comes from in THE LAST VAMPIRE). Ultraman doesn’t qualify as a cartoon character in the strictest sense of the term, I suppose, but he might as well. He’s a giant red-and-silver dude from space who has all sorts of cool powers like Ultra Chop, Ultra Punch, and Ultra Attack Beam, which he uses to put the smack-down on giant monsters that want to destroy the earth.
Super Power Most Covets: Flying at supersonic speed. Imagine: you could go anywhere you like, at any time you like for FREE.
You’d never again have to worry about distance and money when it comes to travel. You’d become a citizen of the world overnight, plus you could rush to the aid of relatives and friends who needed you, no matter how far away they were.
Q.) First tell us about The Last Vampire
M.P.) Here’s the back cover copy: Deep in a Texas cave, the military unearths a five-hundred-year-old corpse, its desiccated flesh teeming with mysterious DNA that can transform mortals into beings of unimaginable power.
Commander Scott Boulder, leader of a Black Ops unit that has been endowed with these superhuman abilities, is among the first to benefit from the find. But when, with the help of a voodoo priestess, the creature is conjured to life, unleashing an ancient evil bent on reinstating its poisonous kind on earth, Scott knows he must return the monster to the grave. But this is no ordinary vampire. Once a brutal torturer in the Spanish Inquisition, it can bend the laws of science and magic in horrifying new ways. Powerless to fight this evil alone, Scott grudgingly seeks the aid of reclusive anthropologist Leah Maguire, an expert in the mystical rituals of the past. To keep humanity from entering a new Dark Age, Scott and Leah will battle unspeakable horrors and will sacrifice everything they hold dear-perhaps even their own humanity-to destroy the last vampire.
Now here’s the scoop: This book kicks ass.
In movie terms: Blend Dracula, all the Die Hard flicks, a few sweaty episodes of Showtime After Dark, the History Channel (i.e. documentaries of 15th Century Spain), and a little bit of Ghost (you know, the movie with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, but only the cool parts), then throw in a bunch of demented stuff like genetic manipulation, dark voodoo, weird gadgets, a brutal home invasion, tons of frontal nudity, some dude who gets his throat torn out while having sex, and snakes (you won’t believe where the slithery little bastards make their appearance), and you’ll get the idea. We tried very hard to make this book different from any other vampire book you’re likely to read (except for the sequel, which is due out Jan 2009, but you know what I mean.) Let me give you a few more examples: The vampire is a different creature altogether. He has the standard vamp powers, sure, but he can wield lightning and, perhaps even more impressive, magnetism, which means you might want to rethink wearing your flashy new belt buckle when fighting him. The hero is a seasoned Special Forces soldier who loses all his battlefield advantages up front, and the heroine is severely dysfunctional, almost to the point of immobility, and practiced in a powerful and bizarre form of magic you’ve probably never heard of. This brings up another important point: the characters. Man, they’re fucked up, and that’s why we love them—and we hope readers will love them, too. Nobody is truly good, or truly evil.
Everybody acts for both selfless and selfish reasons.
Everybody has issues to work out, and the fun is watching those issues collide. You want to heal a family member from a terrible illness? You want to save your parents from an undeserved fate? You want to protect a younger sibling from harm, or overcome your control issues, or prove to yourself that you’re more than the role society has dictated for you, or not as afraid and weak as you think? If you’ve wrestled with any of these questions, then you’ll identify with the people in this book in some way.
Q.) Why the team thing? How did you meet?
M.P.) I took a brief hiatus from my career as a senior advertising writer (sixteen years and counting…) to enroll in the graduate-level MFA Creative Writing Program at Columbia College in Chicago. Believe me, that was a tough decision to make. I left a successful career and a damn good paycheck to take a shot at novel writing—something I’d always wanted to try.
Looking back, I’m glad I did, but at the time, it was pretty tough. In addition to taking a heavy load of core classes at Columbia, I signed up for Patricia’s genre fiction elective, which added a nice practicality to an MFA program that stressed more of the conceptual aspect of writing. I soon discovered that Patricia had a good sense of humor, and could appreciate a tasty margarita. She’s a bit of a geek, too, and I mean that in the most respectful way (it takes one to know one, after all). She gets the whole monster thing. She’s never given me the “what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about” look that everybody out there who loves horror and/or dark fantasy has inevitably gotten from someone in his or her life. We became friends, and much later decided to write a novel together.
Q.) What benefits and challenges did writing as a team present?
M.P.) Writing with a partner is a challenge because it’s a meeting of minds, and those minds rarely have the same opinion or thoughts about how to tackle a creative problem. Personally, I think that’s a good thing because you’re able to tap into the strengths of two people rather than just one. So the projects became an exercise in compromise and sifting through ideas to find what worked best for the story. One way we did this was to divide writing duties for both books along gender lines (one of Patricia’s many great suggestions). That is: She wrote the female-POV chapters and I wrote the male-POV chapters. We wanted to keep the tone, biases, and perspectives of each gender as intact as possible, which, in our oh-so-humble opinion, serves both stories very well.
The books have plenty of action, romance, history, and bizarre mysticism that we hope readers enjoy.
Q.) How did you work it—each write a POV, one write and the other revise, etc.?
M.P.) Yeah, like I mentioned earlier, I wrote the hero and villain chaps, and Patricia wrote the heroine and villainess chaps. We traded chaps, gave each other notes, and then rewrote accordingly. Sure, there were times when we didn’t agree with each other’s notes.
After some back and forth, the decision about what to do would ultimately fall on the person who wrote the chap.
Q. ) What vampire traditions does The Last Vampire honor? Any you changed or left out completely?
M.P.) Our vamp was created from blood magic and alchemy, which means he has traditional powers (smoke, strength, suggestion) and new powers (lightning, magnetism), plus traditional weaknesses (certain religious icons, wearing too much black) and new weaknesses (you’ll have to read the book to find out what those are). Actually, his major weakness is any musical recording by William Shatner. Okay, I’m kidding, but how cool would that be? On a somewhat related note: As a boy, our vampire was manipulated by his father to take part in the Spanish Inquisition. As a result, he’s more foul-tempered and sadistic than most. You get to see much of his development through flashbacks and magical time travel, which adds a very powerful, historical element to the book. These scenes are told through Scott’s (the hero’s) and the vamp’s POVs, and were a kick to write. More opportunities to add murder and mayhem…all with a historically accurate flair. Also, be sure to look out for a Very Special Guest in one of the historical scenes.
Q.) You both have individual careers too. Can you tell us a bit about those books?
M.P.) As I mentioned earlier, I’ve made my living for years as a senior advertising copywriter. I’ve written for many global advertising agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather and DraftFCB on accounts like Microsoft, TimeWarner, United Airlines, The Los Angeles Phiharmonic, and many, many others. I started to take fiction seriously about five years ago when I enrolled in Columbia’s graduate-level MFA Creative Writing Program. Since then, I’ve had a couple dozen short stories published (horror & literary) in various anthologies, and my first novel, an action-thriller entitled SCORCH, was just published in hardcover by Five Star Mysteries. One of my literary stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and one of my horror stories was awarded an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collection.
Q.) Do you think readers who have read you individually will see “you” in The Last Vampire? How or how not?
M.P.) In some ways. Those familiar with my short work will see similar themes in TLV. Namely: physical transformation brought about by psychological trauma.
Everything I’ve written touches upon this particular theme in some way for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom. Aside from that, the male characters in TLV encompass a blend of everything I’ve been through in my life: successes, failures, emotional zeniths and devastations. There are other themes that run through the male characters that I’d prefer to keep to myself.
I’ve included a few homages, too—some obvious, some not-so obvious—to horror and action movies I loved as a kid. Ultraman/Team Ultra is a good example of a not-so obvious one. A signed book goes to the person who can name them all (or to the person who comes closest, anyway).
Q.) Are you a plotter or a pantser? Character-driven or plot driven? Ever try to be the opposite? Do you have a set method you use when starting a book?
M.P.) Depends. Sometimes I’ll think of a cool character who I want to get to know better, other times I’ll think of a cool situation, and other times I’ll base a story loosely on my own experiences. An example of the latter is my novel, SCORCH. SCORCH is about a Hollywood special effects guy who inadvertently runs afoul of the mob. As a result, they try to kill him and end up killing his son instead. The hero spends the rest of the book trying to bring the mobsters to justice by relying on his knowledge of F/X and urban warfare. This reflects my life in the sense that, for about three years, I worked as a special effects pyrotechnician in Hollywood. In other words, I blew things up for movies, television shows and commercials. As you might imagine, it was a pretty great job. I drew upon those experiences for certain technical aspects, and to give the story a unique realism. Also, many of the situations and characters in SCORCH are inspired by first- or second-hand accounts that I heard during my time in Hollywood. The trick was to offer readers action, technical accuracy, and rounded characters without stepping on toes. THE LAST VAMPIRE was a blend of the first and second approach, which I think was more a result of working with a team member than anything else. With two people, the process tends to be less linear. We thought of different aspects of the story at different times, and often those aspects built upon both character and place. There was no chicken before egg, but rather chicken and egg (and blood and mayhem and magic, etc).
Q.) Any new projects on the horizon (individually or as a team)? What would you like to try next?
M.P.) We just finished the sequel to THE LAST VAMPIRE, entitled THE DARK AGENT, which is due out January 2009. If you like TLV, you’ll love TDA. We amped up the level of, well, everything. Since the second book picks up mere days after the first leaves off, they’re best read in order. Other than that, I plan to finish a crime novel, and then move on to a sort of magical reality literary romantic thing. Either that, or another action-thriller set in Hollywood, or another urban fantasy. Haven’t decided yet. And if the numbers for TLV are good, maybe there’ll be a third book.
Q.) Who do you enjoy reading? If someone were to compare your books to anyone else’s what author would you most like to be compared to? Why?
M.P.) First favorite candy… and now favorite authors? Are you trying to torture us? ;) I love reading—and would love to be compared to—those literary and genre authors who can enlighten as well as entertain. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Q.) Where on the web can readers find out more about The Last Vampire and the books you have written individually?