Nancy Kilpatrick Interview & Review List
Short story collection
- The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick - reviewed by LoveVampires
- Evolve: Stories of the New Undead (ed. Nancy Kilpatrick) - reviewed by LoveVampires
- Evolve 2: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead - reviewed by LoveVampires
LoveVampires Interview With Nancy Kilpatrick
Interview by Sandra
Nancy Kilpatrick on Nancy Kilpatrick
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, moved to Canada in 1970, currently live in the lovely city of Montréal with my calico cat Fedex. I spend a lot of time in darkness, both literally and figuratively. I love to travel and try to orient my travel around the types of places that fuel my imagination, which are: cemeteries, ossuaries, spots where mummies can be viewed, cathedrals, crypts, interior and exterior walls where original Danse Macabre artwork still exists and, of course, any place that has anything to do with vampire! On occasion, I create mosaics based on these dark subjects, and I’ve been known to make zombie jewelry.
So… you’ve written 18 novels and 200+ short stories – tell us a about your writing.
My writing is generally dark. A lot of it has to do with vampires (but not all). Of the novels, four are under the umbrella title Power of the Blood--it’s really a world, rather than a series, and the books can be read in any order and readers won’t feel cheated. The individual titles are: Child of the Night; Near Death; Reborn; Bloodlover. Those books are available in trade paperback format and are and are just starting to come out as ebooks too, and you can find the e versions at the usual spots for Kindle, Sony, iPad etc, and also on the epublisher’s website: http://store.crossroadpress.com/
If you’re a reader who loves engaging vampires and especially vampire novels for adults (as opposed to young adults), with strong plots and unusual characters, well, these books are for you.
I’ve also written stand alone novels, some of which are vampire, both old school and new school vamps: Dracul: An Eternal Love Story (based on the musical of the same name); Eternal City(very unusual vampires); As One Dead (in the Vampire the Masquerade world). There are other novels but they’re not vampire, like the two on Jason, the slasher from the movies. Many of my short stories are vampire oriented and The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick is a print collection that will also be out as an ebook soon. I’ve got a new collection coming in 2012 or 2013 called Vampire Variations, which will be an ebook as well as a print book.
One of my interests as a writer is to work with that line between realities. I like to read and to write stories that straddle that wrinkle in time that we all experience now and then, and to allow the story to slip back and forth. That makes a more complex plot for me. I also like to shift characters so that readers run a gamut of emotions as they read.
My writing is generally deep as well as dark. I sometimes write a quirky surface story but most of my work has something hidden that savvy readers find. For instance, in a recent story “Traditions in Future Perfect” (published in The Bitten Word) which will be in Vampire Variations, the story is set at a time in the near future when vampires live among us and run a kind of euthanasia business. They are the funeral directors of the future, but this functional, organized world is not as wondrous as it’s cracked up to be for them. The story is really looking at our world and how so much of what we consider to be modern, the ultimate in science, medicine, technology, etc. etc. can leave a lot of people feeling lonely and alienated and distant from our necessary human roots.
I also like to invent names for characters. Of course, I have plenty of regular names as well, but sometimes characters just don’t fit the mold of any name and so I create one. For instance, in the three connecting stories I wrote in the late 1980s and published in the early 1990s--I mention them later in this interview--one of the characters I named Aleron. That’s a name you won’t find in any baby-name books, and especially with that spelling. Malaleik is another oddly-named. And Noma, although I cribbed that off of a box of outdoor lights! I’ve seen names I’ve created appear in the works of other writers, even as book titles. Names can’t be copyrighted, and in a way it’s flattering to see what blossomed of my brain cells featured elsewhere. That’s happened to me several times with names I’ve invented. It’s just one of the quirky bits about my writing, I guess.
What are the differences between your work under your own name and your Amarantha Knight and Desiree Knight nom-de-plumes?
Under Nancy Kilpatrick, I write horror, dark fantasy, fantasy, a touch of science fiction, and mysteries. That’s where most of the vampires are. These are the regular genres you find in bookstores and the work is meant for everyone.
I wrote a series of erotic horror novels in the early 1990s based on horror classics called The Darker Passions. These are extreme erotica and meant to be steamy, funny and well written stories that follow the original works in plot, characters and dialogue, so these books are meant to be what’s not written in the originals, writing that’s kind of between-the-lines. At that time, I had just signed a contract with Pocket Books for my first novel and one of the clauses said I couldn’t publish anything under my name with another publishing house. So I thought about a pen name for this wild series of pastiches and decided I needed a grand name that would suit this rather feral series and one that would also stand out. Knight had a few connotations: knights as of the round table; night as in the dark hours, Knight as in Nick Knight, a vampire on the now-defunct TV series Forever Knight. The individual titles are: Dracula; Frankenstein; Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; The Picture of Dorian Gray; The Fall of the House of Usher; Carmilla; The Pit and the Pendulum. The Darker Passions books are not for the faint of heart. But they are still extremely popular — a publisher in the UK is doing them as signed/limited editions that are bound in leather and I’m about to sell e rights. The books are for readers who like intensity in their erotica and from the vast number of comments I get, they are well loved.
Desirée Knight is another pen name, and I like to say that Desirée is Amarantha’s younger sister. I use it for less extreme erotic horror, what is loosely termed ‘vanilla’. These are books anyone can read who wants to check out erotica without upsetting themselves out. The books are Hunted, about a girl running away from the mob who joins an unusual circus; and Mercedez: Day of the Dead, which is written from the point of view of the Vivid Entertainment film star Mercedez. Neither involves vampires.
In addition to writing you have also edited numerous anthologies – what can you tell us about your latest editing endeavours, the Evolve anthologies?
Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead came out last year and the follow-up: Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead is out August 2011. Both are in print and are also available as ebooks.
In 2009 I co-edited with David Morrell an anthology called Tesseracts Thirteen. It was horror and dark fantasy and we agreed to agree on all the selections, which ended up having none of the vampire submissions included. Seven of those stories that involved vampires were exceptional so I approached the publisher to let me do an all-vampire antho because I wanted to show where the vampire is at now (as opposed to the old guard) and these stories did that very well. We all know about Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. But vampires have a much wider range and I thought these conveyed the scope. Adding another bunch of stories—23 altogether plus 1 poem—this book takes the vampire from today until about 2025. These are really modern stories that let us see a new vampire, not always nice and romantic, but certainly one that suits the time we live in.
Even before that anthology was in the stores, I was pondering vampires daily and realized there is more to say regarding the undead. I wanted to move blood drinkers even further into the future, hence son-of was born. In Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead, stories go from around 2025 through the remainder of this century and into the next. Five stories at the end are science fiction, meaning, set on other worlds. All the rest happen here on Earth. Some of the contributors are: Kelley Armstrong; Tanith Lee; John Shirley; Thomas Roche; William Meikle and many others. It’s a terrific book.
Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead was a phenomenal success, which is one reason the publisher was up for a second anthology on the same subject.
And, before you ask, no, there won’t be an Evolve Three. At least not in the near future.
I know it’s like asking a mother which if her offspring is her favourite child, but out of all the stories in Evolve which is your favourite – and why?
I do love them all. If I didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the book. I’m a pretty tough editor. I have high standards and am not afraid to tell someone the story doesn’t work. I owe it to readers to include the best stories and not just fill up space. Especially because I love vampires, I have a particular responsibility to make anything I write or edit involving the undead top-notch. I owe that not just to readers but to myself and also to the archetype that has been with us since 2500 BC at least and I always want to do it justice and add something new to what has been done, moving things along the evolutionary path. I respect this sub-genre too much to add crap to the bin. I think all of us who love vampire books and movies and TV shows and art and etc. know that, like most of life, there are some gems around, some real stinkers, and a lot in the middle ground. I always aim for the top and hope I end up near there.
Could you tell the readers a little about what to expect with your latest anthology?
Both Evolve and Evolve Two are composed of stories that allow the vampire the scope he/she/they needs to actualize for those who love vampires. There’s been a kind of fixation on romantic vampires for a while now, some of which are the Harlequin hero type and that includes Twilight and, I suppose, The Vampire Diaries. These books and the films/TV series they are based on are essentially for young adults but they also appeal to adults. True Blood is based on Charlaine Harris’ wonderful books and has a general appeal. Being Human, the UK and now US TV series, is for older young adults and adults. I like all of these, because I’m a vampirophile. But for my anthologies, I wanted to show—and I think only literature can do this because books are always ahead of film and TV in terms of ideas—the spectrum of situations the vampire can be seen in and that’s one thing about these anthologies that makes them different. But not just where they appear, but how they are, and how they react, the way they think. I wanted to jack it up so it’s sharply modern, edging forward. Also, the writing itself in these anthologies is pretty amazing. We haven’t had one bad review for the books, which says something. I think there is a real hunger out there among readers for something more, vampire books that are well crafted and intriguing, stories that hold the reader and don’t disappoint. These books, I believe, fill that need.
How does the work of editing an anthology differ from your work as a writer of short stories?
When I write, short or long, I’m immersed in it from a right brain perspective. My imagination is running wild and I am playing, in a sense, on the page. I tend to write in little spurts, whether it’s a story or a novel. I’ll start writing and get so far and that’s as far as my psyche will allow me to go for that day. I might write the next day, or the day after. I have enough discipline to get it down and get it done. But I’m not one of those authors who write from 8 am to noon daily. For me, that would kill my creativity. I have to let the spirit move me when it wants to, and it does. This only works because of the self-discipline. I’m compulsive about being responsible and meeting deadlines. But creativity involves play for me because it’s continually trying things and changing things and doing that within the framework of a commitment to a publisher helps me get towards my goal of finishing. If it wasn’t enjoyable, I wouldn’t do it because ultimately writing and all that’s involved with the long slog of getting a book from the idea to the published stage is hard work and there’s no point spending precious hours, days, weeks, years of a life being miserable.
When I’m editing, I am working with the left side of my brain. It’s analytical, and I’m assessing material on several levels, the first of which is the gut level—does this satisfy me as a reader? If I get a ‘yes’ to that, then I am looking more critically at the story to see if it all hangs together or if some of it feels weak or forced or if the ending is too predictable or comes out of left field and can, in some way, be improved to make a good story great. This is where, if I feel changes are needed, I get back to the writer with suggestions. Almost all writers are receptive to altering their work when an editor takes the time to review it respectfully with them. Having another set of eyes is crucial for writers and I value it myself as a writer. Too often today there is no one editing, just acquiring, and that means stories (and novels) can be lack-luster or poorly written, even by best-selling authors. Once the story comes back, it’s more of the same type of work from my end until finally a fine-tuned edit is done to make sure all the words are the right ones, spelled correctly, sentences punctuated correctly and making everything consistent with all the stories in the book. There’s also ordering stories, which I find probably the hardest part. I agonize over this every time. But, my unconscious is my friend and always gives me a brilliant idea somewhere along the road and it all becomes clear. Half the time I end up with categories. For instance, in Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead, stories are grouped into these categories: Pre-Apocalypse; Post-Apocalypse; New World Order.
Where does your enduring fascination with the horror genre and the gothic spring from?
I stumbled onto horror like most kids, on TV and in movies. I used to love to stay up late on weekends and watch the spooky late shows that always had great old horror movies. I also preferred horror movies at the theatre (pre-DVD days!) where I’d go on Saturdays and sometimes during the week. My aunt took me to the drive-in (back when there were still drive-ins!) a few times to see particularly creepy horror movies and I know it wasn’t her things at all, but it was mine, and we had a blast.
Of all the horror films, my favourites involved vampires. It might be because the monster looked like me, rather than some slimy thing from the ocean or a wolf. The vampire always felt omnipotent to me and one of my ongoing huge disappointments was having to watch a movie or read a book where this being with the strength of 10 men, who had lived several lifetimes, who could turn into a mist or a wolf or a bat, etc., this superior being was vanquished in the end by some mere mortal who outwitted the undead. I could never buy that. I always wanted the vampire to either be victorious or to at least have a worthy opponent.
When I was eight years old, my grandfather brought home a portable typewriter for me. Who knows why? He was the same doting grandfather who gave me every puppy I had as a child and who took me to the movies every Tuesday or Wednesday night for several years. I saw so many films with him of all types. I think this, coupled with the natural imagination of a loner kid, fuelled an interest in storytelling and I wrote as a child on that very typewriter, little horror stories and poems that turned into long existential essays when I was in my teens.
I read a lot as a kid and a lot more as a teenager and into my twenties, everything I could get my hands on. I devoured categories, for instance, Russian literature; existentialism. And horror. Lots and lots of horror, a category that was large enough to last a lifetime. There’s something about the horror genre that feels real and true to me. It’s not stuffy like what is deemed to be ‘literature’, wherein writing can forego plot or characterization for something ‘experimental’ which is an intellectual perspective and can be a hard slog for someone wanting to read fiction. Horror is entertaining, which is fun, but it also gets down to a very real and raw emotion that is pivotal to life and to death. Investigating the dark side is important for a well-balanced life. After all, there’s a moon as well as a sun, night as well as day. The darkness is there and to ignore it makes a person vulnerable to being overwhelmed by it.
What has been your most challenging book to write for you and why?
I’d say the most challenging was a non-fiction book, The goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. I was approached to write this book, because I’m so familiar with the goth culture, and also the vampire sub-genre, which plays a large part in the goth world. That book took two years to compile the information and write. I interviewed about 100 regular goths after putting out calls all over the Internet. I also interviewed bands, publishers of magazines, people who make makeup, board games, wine, artists, writers, you name it. That book has an enormous amount of information in it—on vampires too and vampire-related info--and I based what I wrote on the survey I did with those roughly 100 goths, most of whom were incredibly generous with their time. The contract for the book was barely signed because 9/11 had just happened and the entire publishing industry was frozen for many many months and consequently I was paid peanuts for 24 months of labor. My editor left for a new job just before the layout stage and the new editor had no idea what goth was about, but she did get on side. The Barnes & Noble chain decided not to carry the book because, I believe, they felt it was too controversial, meaning, dark, this in the aftermath of 9/11. The new editor went to bat for it and there was a mini change of heart at B&N that grew as time went by and now they carry the book. Eventually, foreign rights were sold to the UK, France and Italy so all’s well that ended well.
What I loved about doing that book was the people I met, each one fascinating, and the creative energy was electric. The low pay didn’t bother me as much as all the other problems, which weren’t from the compiling or writing end but from what happened after the book left my hands. I had to cut it by half, so a lot of material is not there that I would have liked to be there, for example, more on literature, especially Gothic literature. By the time the publisher got to the end of the book, ready to send it to the printer, they wanted legal release forms signed by everyone included and although I had email okays, I needed to re-contact everyone—hundreds of people--and that was a lot of people, and get the paper releases to them to sign to send back to the publisher’s legal department This was about 3 years after I had signed the contract to write the book and 1 year after I handed the completed manuscript in to the publisher. By that time, email addresses had changed and there were people I had to drop from the book because I could no longer find them. The layout of the book was a nightmare and took a lot of back and forths--if you have a look at the book you’ll soon appreciate how complex it must have been for the artists to put together. Each chapter starts with an amazing photograph and I almost lost those near the end when the photographer and publisher had a dispute over money. The photographer was incredibly gracious and I know did me a favour by selling his images cheap. I can assure you that post 9/11, it was hard to sell anything in New York, and a book about darkness was at the bottom of the heap. And after all that, I found it really disheartening to have the book NOT for sale at the major chain in the U.S. Fortunately, that turned around. My new editor went to bat for the book and wrote a long presentation to the chain and B&N finally placed a small order and then, thankfully, reordered and expanded the number of stores that carried the book. But not before adding wrinkles and gray hairs to my body. That’s one time when it would have been nice to morph into a bat and fly away! I’ve often thought that you have to be almost immortal to survive the snail-pace of the publishing industry.
There are a lot of vampire characters to choose from in your stories and novels, but which is your favourite?
I really don’t have a favourite. If I said I had a favourite, the other characters swarm me and drain my blood! But I know readers have favorites. In the Power of the Blood, the clear favourites are: Andre, David and Julien. Of the females: Gerlinde and Zero. I have people sending me artwork and comics they have created and doing Youtube videos about some of these characters.
I know readers also like the characters in my three interconnected stories, which I alluded to above: Passion Play; Theater of Cruelty; Meta Drama. These three stories are in The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick and were also turned into comic books for VampErotica comics back in the 1990s—I did the scripts, not the artwork. Now, Brainstorm Comics is taking those comics and the stories plus interviews with me, the artists and even the band Vampire Beach Babes who wrote a song inspired by the stories, and turning it all into a graphic novel. Nancy Kilpatrick’s Vampyre Theater will be out in print and eformat later this year.
One thing I like to do with my characters is have them change. I really enjoy writing about a character that is obnoxious or mean or seemingly crazy or callous and then move the story in a way where the reader suddenly realizes that the character now has good and honourable traits and they now like a character that half a book ago they hated. So many readers have said that to me: “How the hell did that happen?” <me, grinning>
Lawrence and Fab from the short story The Game were two of my favourite characters from your Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick collection. How did you create them? Were they based on anyone you know?
One was. Fab was a friend of mine and if you read The Power of the Blood books, there is a poem at the start of each book written by Fab. From time to time I get emails from readers wondering about him and the poetry. Fab died of AIDS about 6 years ago. I used his name (with his permission) and based the character on him. Like the character, he was a lover of life and lived to the fullest.
Who is your all time favourite fictional vampire character?
I don’t think I could pick just one because I really like a range of types of vampires. For instance, I love Barnabus Collins from Dark Shadows, both versions, and I’ll probably love the Burton/Curtis/Depp movie. I also love the Dark Shadows books by Marilyn Ross. I adore many of the Draculas, played by Christopher Lee; Gary Oldman; Frank Langella, Udo Kier, Gloria Holden in daughter of, and films like Nadia, Lemora the Female Vampire, the exquisite Daughters of Darkness, Martin, The Addiction with Lili Taylor...way too many to name.
But then I also loved Tom Cruise—who I don’t much like as an actor--as Lestat, and William Marshall as Blacula. Underworld and Blade are fabulously stylish films. Let the Right One In is pretty amazing. I’m referring to the Swedish original, not the decent-enough-but-not-spectacular U.S. version. One underrated movie from a while ago is Tale of a Vampire staring Julian Sands. It’s a UK/Japan co-production and is an amazing blend of Gothic and Japanese sensibilities.
And of course there are so many interesting characters in novels and short stories...I’d have a hard time listing those because I have a library of vampire books, mostly fiction, which totals over 2,000 volumes.
You know, this is the kind of thing I’d rather talk about than write about because I’d love to discuss various films and books and the vampires therein at length, which might mean many hours of talking. I guess what I’d have to say is, there are none I dislike, even the cheesy vampires, even the worse-than-B-movie vampires, even the purple prose vampires. They’re all fascinating in their way.
So what’s next for you? Are there any more novels in the pipeline that you can tell LoveVampires about?
I have a 5th novel in the Power of the Blood world I’m working on. I also have two other novels, one a zombie novel, the other a supernatural mystery with a vampire characters. I’m also editing the anthology Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper, which will be out in 2012. And, as I mentioned, the collection Vampire Variations is happening. Sadly, the novels get put on hold which is why I’m so slow getting them done. I have a lot of other things I do and people are often astounded by my work load, but I guess it helps to not have a life! I’m regularly asked for short stories and write about 8 to 10 a year, I have been editing one anthology a year for the last few years, I teach online writing courses for George Brown College 3 terms a year and also run private workshops from time to time and mentor through the University of Toronto, I am constantly revising and reviewing my backlist books so they can be published as ebooks, and I’m asked to blurb other people’s books frequently, so that involves reading them, and oh yes, do laundry, shop for food, play with my cat (not often enough from her point of view), and go on at least 1 major trip a year and roughly another 6 shorter trips for work, visiting friends and family, for exploration and research and to feed my creative soul. I do a lot of promotion, for instance, I may have done 50 interviews for the first Evolve, as an example, print, internet, radio, TV. All that takes time. And then there’s fighting with my computers! I’m a techno idiot so something is always going wrong in virtual land. Besides all the work, I need to swim three days a week so sitting at the computer is possible. And I like to have a social life when I can get it. If you want to know what I’m up to, you can check my website: www.nancykilpatrick.com
Better yet, join me on Facebook!
A big "thank-you" to Nancy Kilpatrick for taking part in the author interview. More information about Nancy’s novels can be found on Nancy's website.
5th July 2011