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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Interview with Douglas Clegg


Official The Vampyricon Trilogy Website
Fantasy Book Critic’s GIVEAWAY For The Vampyricon Trilogy

With Douglas Clegg’sThe Queen of Wolves” coming out on September 4, 2007, completing the excellent Vampyricon Trilogy, I thought it was the perfect time to interview the author and happily Mr. Clegg obliged. So whether you’re a diehard fan of the writer or new to Douglas Clegg, I hope you’ll enjoy the following piece which talks about The Vampyricon Trilogy, vampires in general, the author’s reinvented Arthurian series, e-publishing, TV commercials and much more. As always, much thanks to Mr. Clegg for his time & effort, and to all of the readers…

Q: For someone who may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe your writing style and what story of yours would you recommend first picking up and why?

Douglas: I suppose I'm a storyteller versus stylist. If I were to pick up one novel of mine, it would be three of them – “The Priest of Blood”, “The Hour Before Dark”, and “Neverland”. I believe these are three individual examples of what I do best as a writer.

If I had to pick one short story, it would probably be "Where Flies Are Born," one of the first short stories I ever submitted for publication, a very short tale, and one that I'm still happy with the way it turned out.

Q: You’re primarily a writer of horror fiction. Is it just me or does the genre not get the same kind of respect—aside from a few big names like Stephen King, John Saul, etc—that other speculative fiction does like fantasy or science fiction? Personally, I find this a little strange, especially considering how popular horror is in other formats like movies, but I was just wondering what your thoughts are on this topic?

Douglas: I never think about genre when I write. To me, it's all fiction -- and whether it's classified as paranormal, supernatural, fantasy, horror, or suspense, I tend to write what I believe is from my inner sense of the outer world.

I've never actually cared about literary respect, although literary parties can be fun in a very post-modern ironic way. My goal as a writer is to write the stories that come to me, and not really concern myself with how a genre might be respected.

Q: Very well said :D So. Focusing on your books, “The Queen of Wolves” comes out on September 4, 2007 and completes your Vampyricon Trilogy. Are you satisfied with the way the series turned out? How has the trilogy evolved, if at all, from when you first conceived it? And finally, will we get to see any future stories set in the same universe?

Douglas: To take your questions here one at a time -- I am never completely satisfied with anything I do, from the way I walk the dog to the way I make toast. So, satisfaction isn't a term I'm familiar with -- but I am happy with the demands the trilogy put on me while writing it. All three books of The Vampyricon – “The Priest of Blood”, “The Lady of Serpents”, and “The Queen of Wolves” -- demanded a lot from me over the years it took to work on them and make them come alive.

I do feel the story went exactly where it needed to go, and didn't follow a formula or an expectation or anticipation of genre. I loved living alongside Aleric as he grew up, was murdered, returned as a vampire -- and faced a destiny as a savior of the undead.

Regarding the evolution of The Vampyricon -- it began in my head when I was ten years old climbing the steps of the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico; it further developed in travels in Spain and France when I was a teenager and then in my early 20s. When I was about 30, I had the title “The Priest of Blood”, and I began writing bits of it. It wasn't until a few years ago that I just let it take over my life, finished each book, and so it evolved as I lived much of my life.

I doubt I could've written the majority of it had I not experienced the illnesses and deaths of my parents -- they died within a year of each other -- which was a stormy and difficult time. Yet, somehow, this enormous creative knot came untangled for me in the midst of this -- and The Vampyricon was born.

There may be other Vampyricon tales to be told. I'm not ruling this out. Because this particular tale takes place in the mists of the medieval era, I can certainly explore the Medhyic vampyres prior to Aleric's life, and there's a hint in “The Queen of Wolves” that there may be wars to come in the future, as well.

Still, “The Queen of Wolves” puts a period on Aleric's main quest and struggle -- and The Vampyricon Trilogy is a complete tale with this third novel.

Q: Vampires and horror are practically synonymous with one another. Why do you think the idea of vampires are so appealing, what attracted you to write about them, and what did you hope to accomplish with your Vampyricon Trilogy?

Douglas: I have never seen the vampire as an object of horror. Whether in movies like Near Dark, novels like “Dracula” or “Interview with the Vampire”, or even “Salem's Lot” -- the erotic threat, the sense of being overpowered by a great force within a creature that cannot easily be killed, and the seduction of the prey all seem to be part of what the vampire's allure is for me.

Additionally, the idea of being eternally young, having been resurrected from the grave -- being the beautiful monster, basically, is an additional glamour of vampyrism in fiction.

The vampyric mythology I created in The Vampyricon is closer to classical myth than to old stories of graves and corpses -- I wanted my vampyres to be beautiful harpies, threatening gorgons, and heroes of a lost world. They're brutal, but no more brutal than the mortal world around them. Because Aleric, the Falconer, is close to his mortal life in these novels, he retains more humanity than many of the other vampyres -- and his loves for his tribe, his friends, and his lovers intensify that range of human responses for him. He is unique among his tribe -- he has talents and abilities far beyond them -- and he must seek out the key to the mystery of who he has become in order to fulfull his sense of destiny.

What did I hope to accomplish? To bring this story alive, to live within it as I wrote it, to experience this world that I created, first-hand. Aleric is a romantic, fallen hero who must take the brutality thrown at him and find his path within it -- I suspect all of us have that. The world is a rough place to all -- and yet, what we must do is create from this brutal place a paradise, or at least some place where we can feel beauty or good or right exists. Each of us hears the call of our own path, and either we follow it through the murk of life, or we end up in a prison of our own making. Seeking our destiny is a risk; but not seeking it is, I believe, a greater risk. All of this came out for me in writing The Vampyricon.

Frankly, when I began these novels in earnest, I was escaping the idea of my parents' deaths -- and the vampire, by rising from the ashes of death like a phoenix, had the power that I wished we all had.

Q: I believe The Vampyricon was the first trilogy that you wrote. What did you feel was the hardest and easiest aspects about writing in that format?

Douglas: It was like writing any other novel -- I see The Vampyricon as one novel, divided into three. Perhaps the hardest part with the first two novels was simply where to stop and say, "This is the first book," and "This is the second book."

Q: You also have another trilogy started, which reinvents the Arthurian legend and stars Mordred (Volume One: Mordred, Bastard Son-available now). First off, what’s the progress report with the second and third volumes of the trilogy?

Douglas: The publisher of the first book and I did not come to terms on the second or third, so right now, it's in limbo. I hope to get back to Mordred, because I believe the second book will be a bit stronger than the first, but I do have to wait to see where publishers are on this stuff. We just sold rights to a wonderful Czech publisher, so I'm looking forward to seeing that edition.

Q: That’s a real shame. It sounds like a pretty interesting story and hopefully you’ll be able to complete it. I am wondering though what inspired you to retell the legend of King Arthur as you did, especially focusing on Mordred?

Douglas: I'm not sure I'd characterize Mordred as a genuine hero in my novel -- but as a rebel of sorts who performs heroic action (as all rebels do).

He is the outcast bastard son of a powerful father, and he bears the burden of a mother whose family was destroyed by his father's family -- and whose crown was taken. That's the story in "Mordred, Bastard Son", and I very much look forward to further books of his life.

Mordred is the person who defines the other side of the Arthurian legend, and it's through his eyes that we see this world.

The main controversy that arose with this first book is simply that I decided that Mordred was gay, and very pagan -- and apparently, not everyone likes revisionism with their legends. Interestingly, I get the most fan mail for this novel than for any of my others -- and mostly from women readers. I look forward to writing about him again.

Q: Are there any other projects that you’re working on that you could shed some light on?

Douglas: I don't really love talking about what's next until everything is done and in. Right now, I hope readers will discover The Vampyricon and its three books. Sometime this winter, a novelette called “Mr. Darkness” will be out from Cemetery Dance Publications in hardcover. But at this point, that's all I'm willing to say.

Q: Fair enough. So, how do you feel that you’ve improved as a writer since your first book was published in 1989? Are there any areas that you’d like to get stronger in?

Douglas: I don't think about writing this way. I apply myself to research, I read a lot, write a lot, travel a bit and live a bit -- and just focus on getting the world of the story down on paper. After that, I edit it down before sending it in to my publisher to make sure the story is exactly what I mean it to be, and each sentence adds to the effect of the tale.

Q: Your novel “Bad Karma” was made into a film and another book “The Hour Before Dark” was optioned. How did it feel to see one of your books made into a movie, and what’s the report on “The Hour Before Dark”?

Douglas: Having books turned into movies is a lot of fun -- there's the money, which is nothing to sneeze at, and then there's that moment when you get to sit down with popcorn and soda pop and watch the movie. Right now, I have no report on “The Hour Before Dark” -- it's still in development -- but it looks like the movie of my book, “The Attraction”, is moving toward production. I can't really report on any of this -- most of it is up to the movie companies to announce when there's news.

But it is fun, even if the movie is worlds away from the book from which it is drawn.

Q: Do you have any other works that are generating interest or have been optioned for film, or any other adaptation for that matter including comic books, animation, videogames, et cetera, and if so, can you give us any details?

Douglas: I don't speculate on this stuff until contracts are signed -- I'm pretty good at keeping tight-lipped about future prospects.

Q: Well, I was hoping you might reveal something but how about we just fantasize for a bit. If you could have your choice of anything, what would be your dream adaptation?

Douglas: I never think about this stuff. I'm so involved in whatever my next novel or story might be, that I don't go to a dream of what might happen but may never come to pass.

Q: As a writer you’ve already been branching out some with different genres and formats (novel, short story/novella), but is there a particular medium such as comic books, television, movie scripts, videogames or a specific genre that you’d like to someday tackle? If so, what and why?

Douglas: I've written two screenplays, but I wouldn't say I'm itching to write them. I love writing fiction. I've done it since I was eight years old, and I'll probably do it in the nursing home in thirty years with puree dribbling down my chin.

Q: One of your more interesting accomplishments was your book “Naomi” (1999), which was the “world's first publisher-sponsored eserial novel”. Can you tell us how that first came about, how the book has impacted your career as a writer, and where you see the future of e-publishing?

Douglas: I feel as if I've told this story many times, but it bears repeating: I just decided to do this. I had no real expectations for it at first. I just wanted to write the book, and I wanted it to be an event. I hired a friend to set up a rudimentary website for me, and my then-publisher, Leisure Books, was kind enough to sponsor it so that I'd be paid something while I gave the e-serial away free to those who subscribed to my newsletter.

It changed my career because, well, readers discovered my work through the serial, and it made news around the world -- from here to India and beyond. I've done other e-serials since “Naomi”, and each time, I've enjoyed doing it.

I think e-publishing has five years before it becomes as close to mass market paperback publishing as it may get. Right now, it's a growing method of publishing -- and possibly more successful in nonfiction than fiction, for reasons that are obvious to anyone who has ever used the Internet to do research. But I believe that by or before 2012, people will be downloading books either online or at the local bookmart.

Q: Speaking of publishing, you’ve worked with a lot of different publishers, both large and small as well as the aforementioned e-publishing. What do you feel are the positives/negatives between indie publishers, the larger companies and e-publishing, and what would be your ideal publishing situation?

Douglas: I love how I'm published. Everything in life has a positive and a negative side. My business is writing fiction and seeing that it's published; I leave the publishing side of things to the publishers and their very smart editors and sales people. I've been very fortunate with just about every publisher I've had, and it would be absurd of me to complain given how well I've been treated.

Q: The Internet in general seems to be very important to you. You’re website is consistently updated, you have a LiveJournal and a Myspace, and you’re very responsive to your readers. How much of an impact has the Internet had on your success as a writer and how important do you think the Internet will be in the future for publishers/authors in promoting their books?

Douglas: The Internet is where many readers go, therefore, it's where I go to meet them.

I try to keep my website as inviting as possible, and I do what I can to make it somewhat interactive between my Myspace page, my blog, and my free newsletter.

I've gotten to know many of the people who read my fiction, and some have become very good friends. I like people who read. I don't really enjoy the company of people who don't read fiction.

Until something replaces it, the Internet is basically what TV was in the late '40s (although we might be in the early '50s by now). I go to it for news, for gossip, for communication, moreso than the phone. I listen to music, I watch videos, I buy books and CDs and even fingernail clippers over it. For people like me who don't love shopping, it's fantastic -- I can comparison shop in 20 minutes, get the best deal, and never put my shoes on.

So this is _the_ medium for the early 21st century. It's where we are, where we meet, where we interact, where we buy and where we sell and where we give away, too. That means it's incredibly important for promoting fiction -- which is just a matter of presenting the world of the book to those who might be interested in it.

Q: On the subject of promotion, you have a couple of 30-second TV commercials that will air on the SciFi channel, Spike TV, the History channel, Adult Swim/Cartoon Network, AMC, and Hallmark. Personally, I think the commercials are a great idea (and they look great as well!). How did the commercials first come together? Will be seeing more of this from other publishers/authors?

Douglas: I wish I could take credit for everything smart that happens around my books. There are publicists and marketing and sales people who do a lot of this. Sheila English, who is CEO of COSProductions.com came up with the concept of book trailers years ago, and began a business of making them -- and making them beautifully. She also buys media time for them on behalf of her clients, so I was the recipient of that. It is all her and her creative team. I think more books need to be advertised on television -- in fact, I think television and the internet are the primary places where books should be promoted, outside of bookstores.

Weren't the special effects very cool in the recent book trailer? I want to live in that world. Those were done by Michael Miller and Jacob Henderson, who are the effects wizards at COSProductions.com. The whole concept was from them and from Sheila English. I love it.

Q: You’ve been the recipient of a number of awards including the Bram Stoker, the International Horror Guild Award and the Shocker. Which one are you most proud of and why?

Douglas: Awards are a recognition at a particular moment in a career or life, usually for specific work. I was very honored to receive these awards -- the Bram Stoker is a peer-based award, the International Horror Guild Award is a jury-based award, and the Shocker is a completely popular vote from readers. All of them were honors, mainly because they also had nominated writers and books that, in my opinion, were terrific and, also in my opinion, won those awards, too, just by the nomination.

I can't say I'm most proud of any one of them -- they all were honors that meant something to me at particular times with particular works.

Q: So what books have been grabbing your attention lately? What about up-and-coming writers?

Douglas: I read across all genres. Right now I'm reading M.J. Rose's "The Reincarnationist" -- a big explosive thriller dealing with past lives and murder. It's excellent. I also got around to reading Tess Gerritsen's novel, "The Mephisto Club" -- which I loved. Otherwise, I've been reading a lot of nonfiction this week. When I go into a bookstore, I basically leave with twenty or more books, usually from fantasy, horror, mystery, paranormal, and, well, general fiction. I just like good books no matter the genre.

I would say that Craig Davidson and Derek Nikitas are two of my favorite up-and-coming writers. Craig wrote the fantastic novel, "The Fighter", and Derek's novel, "Pyres", is just brilliant and fascinating. "Pyres" is hands-down the best debut novel I've read this year.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

Douglas: Well, as I do whenever I can, I like to encourage people to consider rescuing an animal from the local shelter or rescue group or Humane Society if they're looking for pets. All my pets since I've been an adult have been rescues of one kind or another. Thank you for your questions.

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