There are times within a genre where certain aspect loose their appeal to a reader. For me Vampires had fallen out of favour awhile back and I was less likely to pick up a book that featured them. So I was in for a great surprise when I picked up J. F. Lewis' novel Staked. Here we no longer had the glittery vampires that had become so popular, but the ones of folk lore with their strength and weaknesses. Please welcome to Blood Rose Books today:
The Urban Fantasy / Paranormal genres appear to be the genre that everyone is writing in these days (even authors that are well established in other genres), what do you think draws authors to these genres? How do you believe your novels stand out from the rest of the crowd?
Every culture has a vampire myth. Part of the core of urban fantasy is based in that ancient tradition of telling stories to explain why the dark is scary. The need to make sense of the explainable is hard wired into humans. Urban fantasy is an extension of that, adding magic to the mundane.
As for what makes my urban fantasy different...
Mine has a flesh-eating 1964 1/2 Mustang convertible? I'm only sort of joking there. Reviewers have called my fiction "literary methamphetamine" or mentioned that I dial things up to eleven. I think what they mean is that Void City novels tend to be tightly plotted and even if some moments don't seem important at first, they are.
You won't find very many static or unimportant characters and if you think you've found one, quite often, that individual will be important eventually, even if it is a few books down the line.
You have two separate series that you are in the process of writing (The Void City and The Grudgebearer) what is it about writing a series appeals to you instead of a standalone novel?
The Grudegbearer Trilogy is meant to be read as one large manuscript much like the Lord of the Rings, but with more carnivores.
Void City, though, is definitely more episodic. I don’t know what makes me feel differently about one than the other, except that the characters in Void City have many different stories in them and with Grudgebearer, to use most of the same set of characters, I’d have to go backward rather than forward.
If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why?
Sir Terry Pratchett is my favorite author, so he'd be my pick. His sense of humor combined with his scathing social commentary are impossible to beat.
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why?
Southern Fiction. I’m just not wired to write those types of stories. I prefer magic and the supernatural.
Your main character in your Void City Series is a little unconventional when compared to all the pretty boy shiny vampires that have flooded the genre (insert eye roll). Why did you decide to create a main character that was both brutal and insane?
I’m not sure I agree with the assessment of Eric as insane, though he can definitely be brutal at times. When I set out to write STAKED, it was a reaction to the idea many writers were using at the time of vampirism being something akin to the ultimate coolness pill.
Being a vampire meant that you were suddenly super cool, beautiful, had great fashion sense, knew how to dance, and had Fung Shui out the ying yang, but that made many protagonists super emo.
With Eric, I wanted being vampire to actually be rough. All of a vampire’s bodily fluids get replaced with blood. I also took away many of the usual crutches. He can’t drink animal blood and it can’t be microwaved, so he basically has to drink blood fresh if he wants it hot. A few times a week, he wakes up so hungry, he knows someone one is going to die…
Basically, I wanted to give him the short end of the stick in a lot of ways and then have him refuse to whine about it. When life gives him lemons, he throws them back and flips “Life” the bird.
On the same note, The Vampires in your story burn in sunlight, don’t like crosses and have some kind of ability to turn into a bat like creature. Was it important to you to keep them a little more classic? Maybe bring the classic ideas in to a more modern time?
Yes, I took all of the vampire myths and said these are all true most of the time, then figured out how to have them all be true while keeping things manageable from a logistics standpoint. In the end I settled on vampirism being the ultimate Rorschach test. The more unique and interesting you were in life, the more likely you are to be higher on the vampiric food chain. The higher up you go the more powerful you are.
So boring people become Drones, barely even vampires. Soldiers are next, possessing most of the your stereotypical powers and weaknesses common to vampires form their home mythology. Masters get all those, plus usually one traditional weakness doesn’t work on them. Vlads are kind of like Dracula: they have all the power and there is only one way to kill one and make it stick, which varies by individual, though it is tied into their home mythology.
You write from both the male and female (Eric & Tabitha)point of view in your Void City series, do you find it more difficult to write from a female perspective? Did you have some help getting in to the female mind?
Writing from a woman’s point of view is awesome. My best example of how I approach it can be summed up by a conversation I had with my wife the night before my first con. We were having dinner and I asked her what she was thinking about.
“Well,” she said, “I’m wondering if the kids are behaving for your mother. I think I probably should have ordered something different. I’m trying to decide whether or not we have time to run somewhere and buy an easel for you to display your cover art better… Why? What are you thinking about?”
I looked up at her and said, “I’m chewing.”
In short, when writing from a female point of view, just remember that they're usually thinking about six things at once.
For those of us that have not had a chance to read your Grudgebearer series, could you give a run down on the world, characters and premise?
It’s exactly like the Lord of the Rings except there are no Hobbits, there is no ring, and Legolas eats anyone who gets in his way.
Seriously, though, while there are several new races (Aern, Vael, Eldrennai, Sri’Zaur, etc.) and enough characters that I should probably have included a spreadsheet, it really boils down to the idea of an ancient empire having to reach out to their nigh immortal former slaves and ask for help after having broken a treaty that kept the peace for a couple hundred years. It's about slavery and restitution, about the importance of family, about kids growing up and making their own decisions... it's about gender inequalities, disparities in power, and the bond between brothers in arms... but it's also a tightly plotted narrative with wit and humor. Fans of Eric and Greta will probably like Kholster and Rae'en. You should read it.
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
I'm currently at work on the next two Void City books. Readers can follow me on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJFLewis/) or Twitter (@jf_lewis) to get updates on availability and other projects.
What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think everyone should read
Roger Zelazney's Nine Princes in Amber. Corwin is a snarky protagonist and I love the concepts tossed around in that book. I'm going to cheat and give you two. The second one is The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold. Her protagonist is one of the best "thinking' heroes since the creation of Sherlock Holmes.
I want to say thank you once again to Lewis for taking the time to answer these questions and give us some insight on he books. I know my favourite answer is the one about writing from a woman's point of view, lol. If you are looking for an old but fresh take on Vampires I suggest you try his Void City Series. Do not let the covers fool you, they are dark, gritty and have some gore and action to them, basically everything I want in a Vampire book :)