Welcome once again, Andrew Valentine. I am so jealous, for yesterday and today Mr. Valentine has been rubbing elbows with my very own publisher at the UNDEADCON in New Orleans. All my best to both of them at their author panel! Yes, that’s right totally jealous, but don’t worry someday I will make my rounds in the author world.
Thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity to be here and talk to you about writing, the history of vampires and my new novel, Bitter Consequence.
1. How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first book before I learned how to read. I was six years old, and I wrote a picture book. I was so proud of it that, in school, I walked around with puffed-up chest. All my friends had a really good reaction to it when I told them I wrote a book. I think it must have been the title that impressed them, Gods of the Monsters. Adults just laughed, particularly when I told them I didn’t write the book, I “authorized” it – I thought that made me sound grown-up and professional, but reminded them of a biography to which I’d given my consent – which, by extension, suggested I was the God of the Monsters.
I’m sure my parents would attest to that.
2. What fuels or inspires your writing? Movies, news, music, life?
Would it be embarrassing to say that what inspired Bitter Consequence was my publisher? Based on the success of Bitter Things, she asked if I would put together another book in the series. That was fine with me because I had a number of ideas already fermenting about possible extensions to the story. I felt—and a lot of readers told me they felt this, too—that there were many unanswered questions in Bitter Things that could easily have been answered in a follow-up.
When writing Bitter Consequence, I wanted to write a stand-alone—so that those who hadn’t read Bitter Things would not be at a loss if they just picked up Bitter Consequence.
The title for the novel comes from what might be my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, Richard III. Richard says the line in a scene where he tells his henchman, Buckingham, that he expects Buckingham to kill Prince Edward for him. Buckingham doesn’t want to do it, and is pretending that he doesn’t really understand what Richard is commanding him to do. So Richard makes fun of Buckingham, mockingly saying “Oh, bitter consequence that Edward still should live!’” I love Richard III for so many reasons—he’s one of the world’s first true anti-heroes in literature, he’s so conniving and operates outside the normal moral code within his universe that he makes the audience feel like they’re in it with him. I especially love the Ian McKellen interpretation.
So I attempted to borrow from Shakespeare and develop a plot thick with characters doing things for their own advantage. In fact, the blood goddess Kali even cites the line from Shakespeare, saying how much she wants Michelle (the main character) dead.
When doing my book tour for Bitter Things, I met a former Catholic nun who said she’d never seen a vampire novel with a vampire infant (yes, she’d seen vampire children throughout the literature and on screen, but not a baby; even Renesmee from Breaking Dawn in the Twilight series starts out as an infant but then ages, and so is not a true vampire infant. There’s also a scene in Dracula where his vampire nymphs steal a baby for their own uses, but don’t turn him into an immortal.] I liked that idea and wanted to play off it. Especially since the theme of Bitter Consequence is motherhood or parenthood.
This brings me to research—not just what’s written in the literature—but actual vampire history, which is one of the best sources of inspiration. There is such a rich tapestry of threads in vampire mythology that can be unstrung and weaved into a new plot. Bitter Consequence plays with the traditional expectations of vampires—garlic irritates them; holy water burns; mirrors cast no reflect of them—and turns them around. There are also great opportunities in world culture to bring in new vampire mythology. Bitter Consequence brings in the Hindu goddess Kali, for example. In fact, if you look closely at the front cover of the book, the goddess floats above the title. In the end, I had to choose the best ones, and hope the reader feels I incorporated them seamlessly and entertainingly.
For the inspiration for the sex scenes, I wish I could say I took up the method actor’s approach. But in reality, I did a lot of reading in that area. Writing based on experience can be difficult because you’re 1) limited by your experiences [and mine are sadly limited!]; and/or 2) limited to reporting. To write a book like this, you have to know what other people are writing, how they write it to get the response they’re looking for, and to study it. It doesn’t hurt that the homework is so much fun!
So, while there are some elements of it that are autobiographical—the Italian connection, the scenes around New York City–it’s complete and total fiction. (The Italian-connection in Bitter Consequence is that the scenes there are based on supposed events that happened to my own ancestors hundreds of years ago. I’ve heard these stories growing up and I thought they would make a great addition to the book.)
3. Are you satisfied with the reception your first book, Bitter Things, has gotten? Why or Why not?
Realistically, I couldn’t be happier with the reception it’s gotten. There are the unrealistic wishes – Hollywood calling, for example. But I have a community of readers and fans who are all so supportive, and I love my publisher to death – and I think the book just has a great, visual appeal. Not to mention my website – I’m particularly proud of my website (www.bitterthingsthebook.com).I wouldn’t mind more marketing dollars—or more royalties!—but otherwise, it’s all peaches and cream! For example, I heard that the latest Twilight film made over $500 million. I’d be happy with only 10% of that. I’m not greedy.
As of this interview, I’m working with the design & programming team to come up with a new look and new trailer for Bitter Consequence (www.BitterConsequence.com).
In all honesty, I’m a little nervous about the reception Bitter Consequence will get. I think it’s a stronger book than Bitter Things. I’m a better writer today than I was when I wrote Bitter Things. The sex scenes are hotter; the horror is more horrible; the characters are more engaging. The plot is rich. But I’m nervous because… well, because it’s new and I don’t know how people will react.
Here’s a short synopsis of the new novel:
Immortal love. Immortal evil. A woman must save her husband from an evil blood-goddess to prevent a supernatural war on the streets of modern New York in this groundbreaking tale of erotic horror
4. What has been your biggest challenge as a writer?
Time to write. There are a lot of legitimate demands on my time—work, family, house, gym—and squeezing in an hour or two a day to devote to this is not easy. But the enthusiasm of others for these books keeps me alive. So while it’s tough, I’ll find the time to do it. If it means getting up an hour earlier or going to bed an hour later—or taking a vacation day to stay in and pound the keys—I’m going to make that sacrifice and do it.
After all, every one of my favorite writers somehow did it—and I feel it wouldn’t be a proper “thank you” to them if I didn’t make the effort.
5. What is your favorite genre to read?
I have several favorite genres, based on mood, mostly. These are thriller, horror, erotica, romance and non-fiction.
Some of my favorite thriller writers are:
- James Rollins
- Matt Reilly
- Alex Lukeman (he’s an up and coming star in the field, currently and indie author soon to be a best-seller)
Some of my favorite horror writers are:
- Deborah Leblanc
- Simon Clark
- Robert Bloch (author of Psycho and hundreds of terrific short stories!)
- Jeremy Wagner
- Cal Miller III
Some of my favorite erotica writers are:
- A.N. Roquelaure (the pseudonym Anne Rice uses for her Beauty series)
- Lora Leigh (especially Forbidden Pleasure)
- Marquis de Sade (believe it or not! He wrote this one book I love, call the Philosophies of the Bedroom, which is both physically and intellectually stimulating)
- Lenore Elliott (I though her Dirty as Sin novella was fantastic!)
Some of my favorite romance writers are:
- Nora Roberts (really enjoyed the “Key” series)
- Sherrilyn Kenyon (currently reading Bad Moon Rising)
- Lisa Philips
One of my favorite non-fiction writers is Ben Macintyre.
6. What is your favorite genre to write?
I love the space I’m currently in with Bitter Things and Bitter Consequence, which is erotic horror.
I think there are some profound limitations in both genres—horror and erotica—that are very similar. For example: horror is best when it involves the main character(s) directly; similarly, sex scenes should focus on main characters and not simply be gratuitous, or there because we need a scene like that. Both elements—horrific scenes and sex scenes—need to move the story forward. And what I really like is the juxtaposition of the two: usually a horror scene evokes the exact opposite emotions that a sex scene evokes. At least, most times this is the case—or should be if the writer is doing his or her job. But what I like to do is to play with that a little—make the sex a little dangerous; make the horror a little alluring.
There’s a lot of opportunity for play in this mixed bag of genres called erotic horror. Horror also allows me to challenge the reader’s expectations—such as having the main character die in the opening chapter, and not have the rest of the novel work as a flashback. Aside from science fiction, no other genres allow you to do that!
(Did I just reveal a spoiler there?)
When I’m not in this space, I really like writing thrillers. A lot of my thriller writing techniques inform Bitter Consequence, particularly. For example, the chapters tend to be short, and end with a question or an important revelation. This, too, is meant to drive the story forward.
7. Do you have a favorite author?
Aside from the authors I listed above, I didn’t really mention Stephen King—and he’s one of the reasons I love to write horror. However, every time I’m halfway through something of his that I’m really starting to love, he kills off a character that I really enjoy. And it amazes me how he’s able to make me feel something emotionally for this fictional individual. I suppose it’s a testament to what a great writer he is and how engaging his characters can be. But come on! I think he’s a little careless with my emotions and sometimes I feel really hurt. And he never calls!
8. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
In the immortal words of Yoda: “Do or do not; there is no try.”
Joking around aside, first think of yourself as a writer. Not as someone trying to become a writer.
After that, my advice is to remember writing is your job. Sitting down at a computer and typing is the hardest thing in the world. But once you’re there, it’s the best thing in the world. Allow yourself to be immersed in that pleasure of creating.
You absolutely MUST give yourself some time every day to do it. It doesn’t matter if what you wrote sucks and you end up throwing it all away. The process is paramount.
Which means advice point number 3: don’t get discouraged. It’s impossible to count on being lucky, with a publisher-calling-an-unknown-writer story like me. Instead, think like Henry Ford, who said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” I had to write that novel first, polish it, hone it, find the right contest, etc. I had to read a lot of books – even things outside my subject area.
My advice comes down to these 4 points:
- Don’t give up.
- Never stop.
9. Any parting words?
Of course! This is my chance at a shameless plug!
Bitter Consequence will be available Amazon: Paperbacks are $14.95; Kindles will be for $9.99. Right now, Bitter Things is only $2.99 as a special, to introduce you to the Bitter world. Please feel free to click here to order your copy.
My publisher has an excellent distribution system, so you can order it from any of your physical local booksellers. And you can join the fan club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndrewValentinesBitterThings
I’m updating the trailer for Bitter Consequence, which isn’t quite ready yet (as of this writing). But in the meantime, check out the trailer for the other book, on my website:
(I like to say it will give you 1000 Bitter Things thrills in less than a minute)
Here’s a teaser from the book:
I’m presenting this excerpt of Bitter Consequence for you because in my interview I mention my own familial history in Italy. The section here is based on stories that I’ve heard my family tell since I was a child. I name the character Severina after my grandmother. The father in the story is unnamed; but my real ancestor who supposedly lived this tale was named “Valentino,” which is where my own “Valentine” comes from. [My own ancestry calls Abruzzi home, not Sicily (Palermo). Sicily fit the story better, though.] Hope you enjoy!
* * * * * *
The rolling hills above Palermo were lush and green that summer, the aroma of vineyards to the south carried on a breeze. To the east, a briny scent hung in the air. The balm of the late afternoon sun was full of promise, of new love and new life. For the newly-wed Severina—a cheerful girl who was completely misnamed—the darkening sky and sea was just an echo of the baby growing inside her.
Severina’s mother—who should have been called severe—saw the growing bulge in her daughter’s womb as a bad omen. Severina didn’t put stock in her mother’s superstitions: the woman wore black even in the summer heat because she was perpetually in mourning. Severina’s father was still alive; that wasn’t the issue. According to her mother, you never knew when something bad was going to happen; best to be prepared now. For her, there was no greater joy than the promise of despair.
It surprised Severina as she walked in the waist-high grass toward a lone tree at the top of the hill that such a dour woman could marry a man like her father. He woke up every day with a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes. Even Severina’s husband, a serious boy at 19, would shake off his concerns like slipping out of an old coat when her father was around. She walked forward, cradling the swinging pouch that held her unborn child.
As an example of the continuous need for worry, Severina’s mother pointed to the tenant farmers’ complaints about unseen wolves slaughtering their livestock. Her eyes gleamed as she relayed rumors that gypsies hiding in the woods were responsible. Darker stories called them witches.
But on a day like today it was easy to ignore the fearful lot and enjoy her after-supper stroll. Severina usually had her husband or a chaperone with her, but she needed time alone with the baby to send sweet words of love to it even before it was born. Talking to the child was a kind of prayer she thought as she fingered the band of silver rosary beads. She wouldn’t be distracted from her duty, and the villa had too many mother-hens clucking over her. It was a simple task to sneak out of the kitchen when the servants were too busy to notice.
Severina settled under a tree, watching the lights in the town flicker. She could almost see the narrow lanes festooned with garlands and flower-filled terraces lining the roads. A Mediterranean breeze gently swept through them and on up the hill to her tree, brushing the hair from her face. The leaves above rustled, whispering gently. Severina’s eyes grew heavy.
A sharp pain beneath her ribs kicked her awake. It was the baby sounding an alarm. Severina’s eyes flew open. The moon shown down in the night sky making dark clouds glow. Dogs barked madly in the fields below. Sheep bleated fearfully.
A small figure of a young woman appeared on the rise, perhaps a few years older than Severina. She wore a patchwork dress, cinched tightly at the waist. Her face was as dark as her hair. There was a frightened look about her.
Severina’s first reaction was pity. An urge to help tugged on her heart. But this girl was a gypsy and Severina had been taught to mistrust them.
“Please,” the girl called out.
She stood up, cradling her full belly in one hand and with the other, fishing in a hidden pocket for the blade she always carried with her.
“Please,” the girl said again, moving cautiously toward her, palms out. “I’m afraid.”
The sound of barking dogs grew louder. Severina realized it was coming from the forest, not the fields below. A hunting party?
“Where are your people?” she asked the young beauty. “Why are you here alone at night?” The same question could be asked of her, she thought, and realized just how foolish she was. Severina gripped the blade tighter.
“I was walking with my mother and we got separated. Then I heard dogs in the woods. I saw men with lanterns and long guns and I ran.” The girl sobbed, stepping closer. “I know running only makes it look like I did something wrong, but my people… everyone thinks my people are liars and thieves. But it’s not true!”
“What do you want me to do?”
“You’re from here. You might know those men. You could tell them I did nothing wrong.”
“I could,” she said. “If I believed you.”
The girl moved closer still, hands raised in supplication. A cloud shifted in front of the moon, dousing all light on the hill for a moment.
It was all the time the girl needed.
In a flash, she disappeared. Severina only had seconds to stand in shock before she felt icy hands on her bare arms. Two sharp nails were pressed to her throat.
“Your little knife won’t do you any good.” The girl’s words were breathy on her neck. Her lips brushed Severina’s skin as she spoke.
“I’ll say whatever you want. Just don’t hurt my baby!”
A sharp pain in the side of her throat made her yelp. The gypsy girl bit her, drawing blood! Severina struggled madly—not just for her own life, but for the child’s. She twisted and writhed and the silver rosary swung up, slapping the girl.
Merely connecting with the silver sent her into a rage. She tossed Severina aside as if she were on fire and retreated into the shadows of the tree.
The sound of thunder tore the sky apart. A shotgun blast ripped a hole in the bark. Splinters rained down in an explosion of debris.
The group of hunters had surrounded the hilltop and had been waiting for a clear shot, trying to avoid hitting Severina. The man leading them was her father. She’d never seen such a harsh look on his face. It was that expression, more than the actual events, which filled her with dread. Suddenly, she was frozen in fear.
The girl laughed but remained in the shadows. “Fools! You can’t kill me with those!”
“No, but we can wound you,” Severina’s father said. “And that’s why you hide from us.”
“And if you’re hurt badly enough,” called another voice. Severina’s husband stepped from behind her father, carrying a wreath of garlic. “We’ll stuff these in your bloody wounds.”
“That won’t stop me!” the girl cried.
“It will slow you. And dawn is just an hour off.”
A blur of motion jarred Severina, a move like something out of a dream. Once again, the girl had her in her grip.
“Your young mother is mine,” said the girl. “I’ve already drank some of her blood.”
“Release her and we might let you go.”
“It’s too late to release her,” the girl admitted. “By taking her blood, she will always be mine. But I can do better. I will… bless… this child and her descendants. Her line will have the Gift, the Sight. They will have a greater sense of the unseen world, which will help them in ways other people cannot guess.” The girl looked sharply at Severina. “And clearly they need the help.”
“And you will leave this town for good?”
The girl bit her own pointer finger, causing a pool of blood to rise up. It was black and shiny in the moonlight. She gently rubbed it over the laceration on Severina’s neck.
Instantly a tingling sensation erupted all over her body. At once, it was a storm of heat and ice. She inhaled sharply. The baby kicked inside her. Her life—and those of her future generations—were changed forever in that simple act.
“Take whatever animals you find in the forest,” Severina’s father said. “And be gone before sunset.” He cocked his shotgun. “Or the deal is off.”
The girl cackled then vanished. As the men rushed over to Severina, she thought never had laughter sounded so evil.
* * * * * *