Please Welcome Novelist Werner A. Lind to Cutis Anserina...
Your novel Lifeblood is a century-spanning vampiric romance; what were the challenges in creating the various time periods?
Yes, Lifeblood begins in 17th-century England, but shifts quickly to modern-day Iowa, where my vampire heroine is re-animated. Then there are a couple of flashbacks, interspersed with the modern-day plot, that show some key events in 17th-century Transylvania, where she originated. Of course, creating the modern setting in Iowa wasn’t too hard; I was raised there. But the 17th-century settings required more research, especially the Transylvanian ones, although of course I already had some general knowledge. (Luckily, I’m a history major.) Much of what I found on Romanian life and culture (Transylvania is part of modern Romania) was from a later time, but a lot of the details would have been the same in the 1600s, too –the features of the traditional culture don’t change much over time. The juxtaposition of time periods created opportunities as well as challenge; I had fun in some places with Ana’s total ignorance of modern culture and technology. (It was a bit of a time travel story, too, in that respect.)
How did the character of Ana Vasilifata emerge?
Well, I knew at the outset that I wanted my vampire character to be female (that fit into the symbolism of the tale). I also wanted her to come from peasant stock, to be a more normal person, as it were, than the typical aristocratic vampires of literature, who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouths and maybe don’t relate very well to ordinary people as equals. And because of the type of plot I created, I wanted her to be the kind of person who could both feel love for, and attract the love of, a worthy guy; that shaped some of the kinds of personal qualities she has. I’m attracted to strong heroines who can fight if they have to, so portraying her that way came naturally (and fits in with her physical vampire strength). And her Transylvanian roots were something I wanted, both as a nod to Balkan vampire folklore and literary tradition and to give her a touch of the exotic. From there, it was a matter of honing the character over the 20 years or so that it took me to write the book.
What sets your novel apart from the plethora of vampire centered romance novels in the market today?
Good question, M. R.! The basic idea of the novel was born in my mind back in the mid-70s, well before the current explosion of vampire-themed romance novels, and for me the romantic aspect was never an end in itself. It was something I wanted for its inherent power as a literary symbol or metaphor for the Christian gospel, the idea of salvation through the blood of Christ from the sin that corrupts our nature. Being a Christian, that’s a message that’s important to me to present in my work, whenever it can fit naturally into the story, without being forced in. (And here, of course, the fit is natural, because the whole concept of the premise and plot is built on it.) So if it’s a “romance” novel (and I suppose it is!) it’s one that wasn’t self-consciously written to romance genre expectations. (So, don’t expect sex and “Her bones melted at his touch!” prose!). It’s also, for want of a better term, “wholesome;” I’ve found, interestingly, that it appeals to quite a few readers who say they usually don’t like vampire books.
What vampire work was the most influential to you as an author?
Actually, before I started writing Lifeblood, I’d only read two vampire works: a dumbed-down kid’s version of Dracula (which even in that form made a real impression on me!) and Les Whitten’s Progeny of the Adder. (During the 90s, when I was writing the book, I read the original Dracula, and I’d read some of Stoker’s The Lady of the Shroud earlier, as a kid –the title character there isn’t really a vampire, but some details of Balkan culture from that novel found their way into mine.) I was really mainly influenced by the TV series Dark Shadows, where Barnabas and the other vampires are people with moral sensibilities and free will, not automatons of bloodthirsty evil; the former model is the one I gravitated to. So my conception of the vampire, in my work, is a combination of Stoker’s and that of Dark Shadows –pretty traditional, in terms of Undead physical characteristics and powers/weaknesses. Once I started the writing process, I deliberately didn’t read any vampire fiction by other modern authors, because I didn’t want to be influenced; I wanted to write the novel with my OWN voice. (I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few modern vampire works since finishing the book!)
Are there any other classic horror creatures you would like to play around with? If so, which ones?
My short story “Wolf Hunt” (which is available on Smashwords for 99 cents) deals with the werewolf mythos. Someday I want to tell that story from the werewolf’s point of view, which will require expanding it into a novel; but that’s a project for a later time!
Who is your favorite fictional character? How has this character impacted you over the years?
It would be really hard for me to pick one single favorite fictional character; there are so many that I like! As a kid, I liked the Hardy Boys, Tarzan, and Sherlock Holmes; as an adult, I discovered Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John, and some of Robert E. Howard’s marvelous creations; in recent years, I’ve come to really admire Harry Potter and his friends, Bella and the Cullens from the Twilight Saga, and Sarah Tolerance, the sword-wielding “agent of inquiry” in Madeleine Robins’ alternate Regency London. And there are many others, too numerous to mention! A common thread that tends to bind all of them together, though, is that they’re brave and capable, and that they use their courage and ability to set right what’s wrong and stand up for those who need a defender. I think they’re pretty good role models on that account; I don’t know how much they’ve impacted who I actually am, but they’ve shaped the way that I’d like to be.
What was the first truly frightening novel you remember reading? Was your reaction to bury in the closet, or to run out and find other stories like it?
For me, the first novel I found truly frightening was the Hardy Boys book, The Flickering Torch Mystery. Obviously, now I’d find it pretty tame! But for my nine-year-old self, the silent, sinister hooded and black-shrouded figures, moving through the pitch-dark tunnels and recesses of a menacing cavern, and signaling who knows what with torches against the night sky, scared the bejabbers out of me and haunted my childhood dreams. My reaction was to bury myself under the bedclothes at night –AND to keep reading every Hardy Boys mystery I could. That’s the same reaction I had to the episodes of Boris Karloff’s old TV show Thriller, at that age and younger; I’d pull the covers over my head at night in the hope that if I couldn't see the ghoulies, they couldn't see me –but I’d be glued to the screen the next time it came back on!
What current genre authors are you following?
I’m following all the books of Krisi Keley’s On the Soul series as they come out, and finding them VERY rewarding. The series opener is On the Soul of a Vampire; the prequel is Pro Luce Habere, which was originally published in two volumes because of its length, and the conclusion to the trilogy will be Genesis. Hers is, IMO, the best Christian treatment of the vampire mythos I’ve ever read (and I include my own in that comparison!).
What current trends are you finding in the horror field? Do you find them positive or negative? Why?
Truth to tell, I don’t see myself as a “horror” reader, or writer. I’m fascinated by the fiction of the supernatural, and all the range of literary possibilities it opens up. But not all of those are horrific; and while they certainly can be, and I like that approach if it’s well done, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of my interest. Horror for its own sake doesn’t interest me that much, particularly when it’s horror that’s evoked through grisly, in-your-face violence, perversion and torture porn. That kind of thing is sort of a trend that I see in contemporary horror, from reading reviews and so forth –the whole splatter-punk school—and I do see it as a negative trend. Another is the shift from traditional situational horror, where the horrific events are an aberration in the universe, to contemporary existential horror (reflecting modern nihilism and existential pessimism), in which the structure of reality itself is horrific and there’s no hope for deliverance. (Those are trends that Lifeblood bucks.)
Do you have new projects coming down the pipeline you would like to share with us?
One of my friends on the social network Goodreads really liked the character Lorna, who appears in my short story “The Gift” (also available on Smashwords). She’s begged me to write another story featuring Lorna, so I’m working on one. I’m also a bit more than half done with my second novel (which I’ve been working on for about six years –I’m hoping it doesn't take 20 years to write, like the first one did!). It won’t be a sequel to Lifeblood, but rather a totally different tale with different characters, set in Appalachian Virginia where I live now and drawing on the themes and premises of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos (though with a more optimistic outlook than his). Finding time to write, in the midst of a full-time day job and lots of family responsibilities, is the real challenge that makes finishing any work such a slow process! But like all writers, it’s something I do because I love doing it; and that’s what makes me persevere.
Thanks so much for interviewing me, M.R.! I appreciate it a lot.
And thank you for the kind thank you, all the best...