Review for ‘That Which Bites’ & Exclusive Interview with Author Celis T. Rono
Horror-Fantasy genres, and the vampire/human romance literature craze can welcome a refreshingly new addition: That Which Bites, by Celis T. Rono. Our heroine is Julia Poe, surviving in a post-apocalyptic world where her fellow humans are few and far between, but there are vampires aplenty. Before you start assuming the worst; this is no amalgam of Harris/Hamilton/Rice fiction. Julia Poe is a scarred, serious hunter, who relies on qualities like her aim, instead of a supernatural talent for reading minds, and vampires are clearly the enemy. Novelties like justice are controlled entirely by vampires, and the few humans are cattle.
The vampires in That Which Bites are also refreshingly varied; there is the presence of various bizarre gifts, however, few are the stereotypical "vampire powers" we've come to expect from the genre. The lack of leather anything also speaks volumes (see interview below); the take on fashion is retro rock'n'roll, less modern club wear. Poe is emotional, but rarely cries, angry, but not overly impulsive, and furthermore, holds her own when a situation gets out of control. The book has a little something for everyone, including those addicted to vampire/human romance, but more, I cannot say, without giving away too much. Want to know more about the author, the series, the characters and concept? Read the interview with brilliant author Celis T. Rono below!
Q. Have you always had a deep interest in vampires, and the supernatural? If so, what was the catalyst?
My mom would always take us to the library when we were kids and let us choose books from the 25 cent donation bin. I found great treasures there and by age eleven, I’d discovered Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Clive Barker. I loved their old-fashioned, yet timely style. I know paranormal romance and urban fantasy (like my book) are the rage nowadays, but really, I miss the classics. Seeing Salem’s Lot and Christopher Lee vampire flicks gave fuel to my imagination as well.
Q. Where do you stand on the emotional spectrum with vampires; are they scary, or sexy, or an amalgamation of different emotional adjectives?
I would go with an amalgamation of adjectives. I liked what Richard Matheson did which was to de-romanticize vampires and turn them into a nightmarish hungry mess, turning away from Bram Stoker’s heady and alluring Dracula. But you can only go so far with that. I like action and well-developed characters and my vampires are evil, good, hilarious, notorious, and what have you. I wanted them to be like humans but with a bit of power.
Q. What do you think of the rising teen fascination with vampires?
It’s great to have kids reading…period. I suppose this question has something to do with Twilight and other books mainly targeting the teens. I’ve read my fair share of young adult books, including vampire books that speak to a younger audience. I pretty much like what I read except for the fact that the female characters often can’t seem to protect themselves, tripping all the time which means they have to be rescued by a vampire with a mercurial mood. A friend of mine who counsels abused women once said to me that many teen stories boil down to the Beauty and the Beast syndrome. Beast locks her up. He throws her in the dungeon. He screams in rage at her yet she wants to tame him by giving him her utmost love hoping he’d change. That’s a battered woman’s mentality, my friend said to me. Anyway, these books are harmless and they make girls fall in love with cute vamps. This makes them read. Then it’s okay, as long as they keep girl power going.
Q. What do you think of the new trend in vampire novels; the human/vampire romance?
My book is part of such a trend. I suppose it’s the new type of romance novel. Vampires have been portrayed as something sexy and enchanting since Stoker’s Dracula…then there’s Anne Rice. Now it’s paranormal romance. The trend is very popular and one of the things that makes it so is the sex. I believe Ms. Hamilton was one of the progenitors of this genre. However, I have to say that I love action and my book is full of it but there are a couple of steamy scenes…but as an aside instead of the focal point.
Q. Your book has been compared with works by Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Stephenie Meyer; did any of these authors inspire you, and what are your feelings about the comparisons?
Actually, I’ve written five books, four of which are non-vampire related. I wrote a vamp book because of a dare. My friend wanted to find out if I could do it. So I did and whatdoyouknow, it was the first one to get published. I read three LKH books in the ’90s when I was in college, but that’s about all. I read mostly American Lit (that was my major) and non-fiction books - boring, I know. I don’t know how the other authors’ books are, but my heroine is pretty much an innocent that’s thrown into a situation where she thought she was the only human alive (this was an influence of Richard Matheson in I am Legend which I think is the best vampire book ever). The violence, guns, and mayhem are taken from everything the media throws on us.
Q. The character Julia Poe is no demure, southern bar wench, and she's definitely not a savvy detective; what was your inspiration for the edgy, possible-reincarnation-of-a-rock-goddess?
I wanted Poe to be pure even though she is surrounded by foulness. Little by little, she gets her humanity tested. She’s small but she’s tough. She’s tough but she gets hurt. Poe can definitely take care of herself and getting rescued is far from her vocabulary. I like the fact that her beauty gets marred and is not the central point of her sex appeal. That fact that she will not lie down even though she’d been beaten to death is in essence her glory. Also, I made it a point to make her vegetarian and anti-leather because I find that in most of the vamp novels out there, wearing leather is a requirement like in Anne Rice novels. She’s completely indie rock.
Q. Maybe a touchy subject, but with all the vampire fiction being pumped into the literary world, are you nervous about your novel's reception?
Yes. I’m definitely nervous. I’m a nervous person in general! When people write me on myspace, they always ask if my style is like LKH or Kim Harrison or Anne Rice’s… I don’t believe so. I mean, you’ve read my book…do you see any comparison? As far as the reception, however, I’ve gotten all five-star ratings so far from Amazon and Barnes reader reviews. My myspace page is full of praise for my book. I guess the crazy cover gave them the wrong idea about my book but once they read it, they tell me they love it.
Q. I loved the book, so I have to ask, will there be a sequel, or a series?
There will be a sequel. I’m actually writing it now. I have my other books to work on so I’m thinking that this should be a short series, not a sixteen-parter. I think three books will be enough to do justice to the story I want to tell without taking too many drifty detours along the way.
Q. Willing to share any inside info on the next book, if there is?
Well, I can tell you that some of the book will take place in the California Central Valley. There’s going to be an interesting man by the name of James Maclemar…and the return of Trench. This will occur two years later so Poe will be more mature - and hopefully more calmer.
Q. Last question! The cover art for That Which Bites is a little rough and struck me as misleading, since the book itself was fantastic; what's going on there, and is there any chance of a makeover?
I’ve been getting that feedback myself. I had the same feeling when the cover was presented to me. I threw in my ten cents but nobody listened. I’m hoping there will be a new cover…soon!