In Which the Author Interviews Herself
Over the past five years I’ve interviewed lots of authors for my blog. And with the launch of my new novel, “Vampires of a Certain Age” this month, I thought: Why not interview me?
So here goes…
Me: What on Earth made you decide to writer a vampire novel?
Also Me: I like to push back on gendered ageism. You know: that disgusting social narrative that would have us believe every woman over forty is sexless, brainless and frail.
Me: But how does writing about vampires help? All that blood and gore. It’s unseemly.
Also Me: No, you don’t get it. This is not that kind of vampire book.
Me: What other kind is there?
Also Me: The main character in this novel is an ethical vampire. She only consumes human blood under limited circumstances. Otherwise she makes do with rodent blood.
Me: “Limited circumstances?” Like what? Like if she really really doesn’t like the person?
Also Me: You don’t expect me to tell you the whole story, do you?
Me: I wrote the whole story.
Also Me: You don’t act like it.
Me: Alright. Just tell explain writing a vampire novel pushes back on the dominant paradigm.
Also Me: A main character who is an extremely powerful five-hundred-year-old woman seems like the perfect counter-trope. Plus I enjoyed redefining the vampire as a superhero, a lesbian defender of women.
Me: And what about the title? Why Vampires of a Certain Age?
Also Me: Back when I was pondering my next novel, I read Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn. I loved how that title played with the euphemism, “Women of a Certain Age.”
So I asked myself: How to take that to the next level? How about Vampires of a Certain Age?
Me: And what do you see as your themes?
Also Me: Women’s agency, of course. The women in this story are powerful, and anyone who gets in their way lands in a heap of trouble.Another theme is the evolution in the way society views women-loving women. When I was researching for this book I found that as late as the 1800s, women in England accused of sodomy were found not guilty because, as one judge put it, “Sex between women is as likely as thunder playing the tune of ‘God Save the King.’” So there’s that irony of being saved by ignorance.
Me: And your story brings us all the way to the present, to a blood bank outside Chicago. What exactly is “ethically sourced blood?”
Also Me: My main character, Marion Chase, is a vampire who vows not to take the blood of innocent humans. She finds various workarounds for centuries and finally buys an Illinois blood bank. In the story, vampires can’t catch human diseases, so blood that tests positive for human infections and is destined for destruction has a new purpose. Marion’s blood bank provides ethically sourced blood to Midwestern vampires. It’s part of recasting the vampire as hero.
Me: Your main character, Marion Chase, is five hundred years old. What can an older mortal woman learn from her?
Also Me: As a vampire whose appearance does not change, Marion keeps trying to look like she’s aging so no one will suspect her true nature. It’s just as annoying and time-wasting as when mortal women try to look younger. And on a deeper level, Marion grapples with the past, trying to make sense of all the centuries she has lived through. The average lifespan in the 1500s, when Marion was born, was 35 years. Many of us live well over twice as long, and may also find ourselves grappling with all the lives we have lived.
Me: Your character Rachel Sutter is in her fifties. She’s the younger woman in the central romance. How unusual is that in stories, and in life?
Also Me: It’s almost funny that in the publishing world, a so-called “seasoned romance” is one that involves main characters over forty. I turn seventy this month, and forty seems incredibly young to be the dividing line. In real life, many women over fifty, sixty, and beyond find new love. I met my partner when I was 62. And more and more of us are writing about late-life love, pushing back on stereotypes.
Me: What do readers say about Vampires of a Certain Age?
Also Me: It’s great to hear how fun the book is, and how it makes people think. One reader called it “”A brilliant twist on the vampire myth, told from a feminist perspective.” Another said, “Vampires of a Certain Age brings us the matriarchal vampire.” That reader wants a whole matriarchal vampire series.
Me: So will there be a sequel? Is this novel the start of a series on powerful women vampires?
Also Me: I planned this book as a one-off. I’m writing a different book about how to write a seasoned romance and I wanted a fun romance novel from which I could extract examples. But then other characters in this novel started demanding their own stories. For example, the swordswoman Vivienne rescues my main character from a witch-hating medieval mob. Vivienne is in just a few scenes in this book. She wants her own book. And now when I look at the Goodreads reviews I see calls for a series.
Me: Vivienne wants her own novel. So I’m not the only imaginary character telling you what to do?
Also Me: Who says you’re imaginary? Maybe you’re real and I’m not.