Travis Ludke is the author of the Nightlife Series and part of the latest wave of Urban Fantasy vampire authors. He’s currently running a poll to help select his newest cover and I thought it would be cool to interview him.
Hello everybody, Travis Luedke here. A lifelong fan of vampire films and novels, I consider it an honor to be featured here.
Thanks, Travis! Can you tell us who you are and why you’ve chosen this genre?
I’m just your average guy with a life-long love of horrific, macabre, escapist literature. It started with Stephen King, Clive Barker, Robert R. McCammon, and Dean Koontz. I loved these authors all through my late teens. I dipped here and there into sci-fi with Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Piers Anthony, Poul Andersen and one of my favorites, Dan Simmons (The Hyperion Series). I even played with Fantasy a bit, L. E. Modesitt and many others.
Where I really “sunk my teeth” later years as reader, was a somewhat new category called Urban Fantasy. I read all the YA novels like Twilight, Dresden Files, and the Mortal Instruments series, and I really got into the adult stuff by Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, Sunny, JR Ward and many others.
This became my focus, adult themed Urban Fantasy. Its my guilty pleasure to both read and write in these genres. I write macabre, perverse, violent, and graphic flights of fancy involving horrific yet sexy supernatural creatures.
What is it about vampires that you find captivating?
They live such long and fascinating lives, standing outside, apart from history, yet often taking part in it. And they can be such passionate creatures. They are seducers, consumers, and yet often they have an intense internal struggle to retain humanity, to become more than just a predator. Their power and superiority over mankind is intoxicating. They also have this dark grace and beauty (as I see them). I know that the traditional vampire is monstrous, but I see that as a facet of those extreme moments. They have the capacity to become monstrous, but that’s not entirely who they are.
What are you hoping to bring to the vampire legend or genre that we haven’t seen before?
My creatures are of somewhat unknown origin. In later Nightlife Series novels we will learn the truth about where vampires come from. I have a fairly unique mythology, but you’ll need to wait until Nightlife Paris and Nightlife London to see how it develops.
It’s certainly not a heaven/hell-damned-for-all-eternity kinda thing. It’s more biological, a blood-borne pathogen. Mirrors and crosses and water and silver, none of this really matters. They don’t do daylight at all, don’t even function during the daylight, but that’s simply an extreme photo-sensitivity. They are 100% nocturnal.
My contribution to the genre is a somewhat uniquely styled creature, essentially the perfect predator. They are magnetically attractive to humans, their natural prey. Their venomous bite has a drug-like effect, so powerful, they can reduce a person to an addict, a bloodslave, in a single prolonged bite of a few minutes. People literally need to be bitten over and over again, the euphoric experience is like no other. The bloodslave addiction is physical and psychological, comes with a psychic bond, and there is no cure.
The entire premise of the series is highly erotic. These creatures ooze sensuality at every turn. And they perform with supernatural prowess.
Tell us something about your series.
The Nightlife Series revolves around the seedy corruption found in metropolitan areas blended with vampires trying to slip between the cracks of society. You have every kind of excess: sex, drugs, alcoholism, prostitution, pimps, corrupt police, gangs, cartels and mafia. Vampires live in these elements night after night, and there’s really no way to escape the corruption and debauchery unscathed. It’s a tale of vampires against the world, and they have no one to rely on but each other when things get out of hand, as they so often do in the nightlife.
The series begins in New York, where we meet Aaron Pilan. This first novel is his coming of age story. He’s young, naive, inexperienced, but he will soon learn his way. He changes dramatically as we follow his tale of love, sex, and slavery under vampire master Michelle.
Michelle is mostly a mystery, she doesn’t like to talk about her past, she would rather forget what she has seen and done. Michelle is a harsh mistress for Aaron, with little tolerance for misbehavior. They find love and learn to trust each other through their nightly misadventures.
From New York we move onto Las Vegas where our odd couple quickly become the target of an angry mafia boss and his Colombian cartel connections. It’s the quintessential Vegas experience, drugs, alcohol, ménage à trois sexscapades, and Aaron breaks Michelle’s golden rule, no bloodslaves, ever. They adopt a pet, bringing the food home with them. It’s a wild ride of sex, violence, violent sex, drugs, gambling, and all that naughty Las Vegas stuff.
Aaron and Michelle survive Las Vegas, and decide it’s time to get out of town, so they are off to Paris, to Michelle’s homeland. But the mistakes and excesses of Las Vegas have left their mark on the couple. Michelle has to come clean to Aaron and start providing some answers, until this moment he didn’t even know her last name.
By the end of this year we will be on to London to hunt a vampire who’s been misbehaving.
Here’s the elevator pitch: The Nightlife Series is sexy, violent, and occasionally violently sexy. A quote from a 5 star review: “If you like your vampires vicious and bloody and your erotica with a plot, this is the book for you.”
Did you intend to write romance/erotica when you first started this series?
When I first grappled with the idea of the Nightlife New York, I didn’t really plan a series. The idea came to me to write this book, a book I wish had been written for my reading pleasure. As it flowed out of me at all hours of the day and night, I had to face the fact it would never be a Young Adult read. It was too gritty, too sensual. So I committed myself to embracing that aspect of my writing. I began the process of learning how to write sex scenes. That first novel has since been rewritten about seven times.
By then I knew I had plans for a series and it would border on erotica, or what they now call ‘paranormal erotic romance’. With Nightlife Las Vegas I tipped over the edge into the erotic twilight zone, and I haven’t really ever made my way back to normalcy.
Have you drawn any inspiration from anyone in the real world for your main characters?
Aaron’s situation at the start of the series is so heartbreakingly similar to many young men today that are basically lost, falling into whatever relationship lands in their lap. I could walk into any mall in America and in a few moments I’d find dozens of twenty year olds who fit that mold. So yes, the lost youth of America inspired Aaron’s character in all aspects.
Michelle’s character was inspired by a novel called “A Year in the Merde” about a British man fumbling through Parisian corporate politics, and chasing after French women. All of a sudden I heard her heavy accent speaking to Aaron, explaining all these shocking things. When I pictured her flippant Gallic shoulder shrug, I knew she had to be a French Femme Fatale.
As the series progresses, there are definitely inspirational moments from characters I met in real life. I have known some interesting people, and there are far more true life situations of corruption, excess, and debauchery in my novels than I will ever confess to.
You write pretty gritty, sexy stories. In addition to vampires, all three of your books feature involvement with gang and mafia violence. What got you interested in this (excellent) combo?
I actually lived on both sides of the Mexico border for four years. I had occasion to witness and experience things you might expect from a Quentin Tarantino film. I have known a number of interesting individuals who made their living illegally. I learned that Tequila has an amazing ability to loosen the tongue.
I also met many colorful, lively people in jail. And the stories of their exploits are far stranger than any fiction I can come up with. Many of the interesting characters you meet in my novels have been inspired by people and events I touched on in real life.
You tend to write about unconventional couples, including bisexual women and polyamorous situations. How do you write bisexual women that are more than man-candy?
I’m going to steal one of my favorite lines, “I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.” ~ Jack Nicholson ~ As Good As It Gets
On a serious note, I don’t find it difficult to imagine all the things I would do to a girl, if I was I girl. I live very vicariously through my writing.
And truthfully, I had a very close lesbian friend at one point. We used to hit the bars together, both hunting for the same thing. At the end of the night we compared notes to see how many phone numbers we each collected. I usually won the competition.
You’re also going to be releasing some young adult novels. What was it like transitioning from your very extreme, balls-out style in the adult novels to the young adult audience?
It’s strange for sure. It’s like cutting out a piece of my soul to remove the excess sensuality and eroticism from my writing. But I think I found a balance. To be sure, my YA is not your goody-two shoes stuff. Its gritty, true-life, troubled teens who face difficult challenges as they grow to become adults. I am sticking with what I know and love, paranormal thrillers, but it’s toned down on the sex and violence for a YA readers.
What do you plan to write or publish next?
I am currently in heavy edits/rewrites of my first YA novel, The Shepherd. From there I will move on to The Nightlife London, and then jump back over to another YA novel. And there are plans for a paranormal thriller ~ urban fantasy series involving witchcraft and alternate dimensional gateways.
You can find me at all my major social media outlets:
Twitter https://twitter.com/TWLuedke or @TWLuedke
Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/pages/TW-Luedke/231016383686967
And now for the poll! Which of the following covers do you like best? Provide an answer in the comments section!