I was lucky enough to land an interview with Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry on their new book Wanted Undead or Alive, which is hands down one of the biggest vampire books of the year. Check out the interview:
Can you tell us about Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil?
JANICE GABLE BASHMAN: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE deals with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. It includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists.
JONATHAN MABERRY: We go for a Big Picture view of the topic starting with the basic questions: What is Evil? and What is Good? These aren’t easy questions to answer, so we chase it through philosophy, religion, politics, literature, art, film, comics, pop-culture and the real world.
We’ve been debating whether Evil exists for as long as we’ve been ABLE to debate; and we’re no closer to a definitive viewpoint that is acceptable to all. After all, in war each side believes that God is on their side while at the same time demonizing the other. Sociopaths don’t believe that laws apply to them. Governments often do horrible things in the name of the ‘common good’. Evil is relative, and therefore so is its diametric opposite.
We have a lot of fun with this all through the book.
Where did the idea for your book come from?
BASHMAN: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE is a companion to VAMPIRE UNIVERSE by Jonathan Maberry (2006) and THEY BITE by Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer (2009).
MABERRY: I’ve done four previous books on the supernatural but they mostly focused on the predators (VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, ZOMBIE CSU and THEY BITE—all available from Citadel Press). I wanted to wrap that series with a book based entirely on the good guys. Now that we know what’s out there in the dark, who are we gonna call?
I also did one book before those, THE VAMPIRE SLAYERS FIELD GUIDE TTO THE UNDEAD, under the pen name of Shane MacDougall, and though that focused on the hunt for vampires it was more informational and more limited in scope.
WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE digs deeper and uses a Big Picture viewpoint. We look at how good and evil fit into the range of human experience. Wars, racial tension everywhere, religious tension everywhere, the economy in the toilet…it’s nice to shift focus from those things that frighten us and take a look at what is going to save our butts. And, yeah, the book doesn’t deal entirely with real world problems (after all, most of us aren’t like to have to fend off a vampire or werewolf!) but it’s reassuring to know that at no time in our vast and complex human experience has mankind ever said: “Screw it, the Big Bad is too big and too bad.” We always fight back, we always rise. That, more than anything, is the heart of this book.
How did your writing style and Jonathan Maberry’s work together?
BASHMAN: When writing or co-writing a book, voice is important. The challenge with two authors is finding one voice that both authors can write and that fits the tone of the book. At first it takes a bit of trial and error (and writing and rewriting) to get there, but the end result is, if you do your job right, a voice from two writers that sounds like it’s from one. We accomplished this fairly easily, with some trial and error, since we had worked together on a number of articles in the past.
MABERRY: We split the writing duties, each of us tackling areas of interest or expertise. Being the real geek of the team I tackled comics and the pulps; and of course vampires since I’ve written about them quite a bit. Janice tackled serial killers and some of the big picture mythology. Then we took passes on each others’ work, nipping and tucking until we had a book that reads like it was written by one person. It was a wonderful, smooth and easy process. A great deal of fun.
As an award-winning author, what advice can you give an aspiring writer, particularly one writing about vampires?
BASHMAN: Make it fresh. Find a new angle, a new twist, a new theme on the whole vampire idea and give your readers something original and exciting. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Readers don’t want to read the same old stuff. Sure they want to read about vampires, but they don’t want to read the same book over and over again. So, find a way to make your work unique, and write from the heart. If you care about your work, your readers will too.
MABERRY: Investigate the folklore. That’s the best way to keep it fresh. There are many, many fascinating vampire sub-types in folklore. Instead of retreading the same post-Bram Stoker versions, a writer looking to make his/her mark in the genre would be well-served by mining folklore for something old that would be fresh. For example, there’s the Draugr, a vampire-ghost that inhabits the bodies of dead Vikings. There are the steel-teethed tree-dwelling vampires of Africa, and the were-jaguars of South America.
Also…writers who try to establish their credentials by slamming popular vampires books or movies are shooting themselves in the foot. Even if you seriously dislike a certain piece of vampire fiction, if it’s popular then it’s making money for the genre –and for a lot of people in the business (from agents to reviewers to authors).
Which part of the book do you think the vampire fans will love the most?
BASHMAN: There’s a ton of vampire stuff in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE. We discuss vampire history, legend, folklore, and mythology. We cover vampire slayers, how to kill vampires, and how to prevent loved ones from turning into vampires. We talk about vampire books, comics, and movies, and even have a list of top vampire movies of all time.
MABERRY: They’ll dig the different species of vampires. There are vampire legends in virtually every country, and most of them are quite different. Much of what people know about vampires comes from Bram Stoker, Hollywood, Anne Rice and Twilight–and those sources are really not very close to the vampires from folklore. The idea of sunlight, crosses, holy water and similar themes are NOT in folklore. We present the story behind the modern pop culture perception.
We also discuss different kinds of vampires. Cat vampires and Viking vampires, and all sorts of other kinds. Different species, different powers. All fascinating.
And…it’s fun to see how people constructed weapons and methods against evil. That is rarely presented, and we build a big component of our book around the fight against supernatural evil.
Who are some of the big names vampire fans can find in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE?
BASHMAN: We interview Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Series and TRUE BLOOD), Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampire novels), L.A. Banks (Vampire Huntress series), Lucienne Diver (VAMPED), Amber Benson (Tara on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), and scream queen Brinke Stevens.
MABERRY: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE is a who’s who of pop culture. We snagged interviews with Stan Lee, Laurell K. Hamilton (ANITA BLAKE), Brian Lumley (NECROSCOPTE), Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy), filmmaker John Carpenter (THE THING, HALLOWEEN), authors Jack Ketchum (OFF SEASON, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR), Peter Straub (GHOST STORY), Dr. Kim Paffenroth (GOSPEL OF THE LIVING DEAD), S.G. Browne (BREATHERS: A ZOMBIE’S LAMENT), Christopher Golden (THE NEW DEAD), Gregg Hurwitz (SOMEONE IS WATCHING, V), Douglass Clegg (Vampyricon), and soooo many others. A stellar line up.
Who is your favorite fictitious vampire?
BASHMAN: I like the character Mike in the 1987 movie THE LOST BOYS. At first he’s just a normal guy, but then vampires come to town and he becomes one of them. It’s up to his brother to save him. What I find appealing about this character is that we see both vampire and human qualities in him. He’s not pure good or evil, but a mixture of both. In WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we explore that whole good vs evil idea as it relates to vampires, monsters, serial killers, ghosts, real people, and more.
MABERRY: In print, Lestat de Lioncourt from Anne Rice’s books. I enjoyed the series up to QUEEN OF THE DAMNED and the character is fascinating. Coming in at a close second is Miriam Blaylock from Whitley Strieber’s THE HUNGER.
On TV, Spike wins hands down. He was the most honorable vampire. Angel may have been more overtly heroic, but he was only a hero because his soul had been returned to him; Spike went out and fought to have his soul returned.
What is your favorite vampire book/movie/show?
BASHMAN: That’s a hard question to answer—there are so many good ones out there and so many I still have to see or read. Bram Stoker’s DRACULA is a classic and one I love. The novel informed so many of the vampire books and movies we read and watch today. Of course it didn’t all start with Count Dracula, but he certainly paved the way for what was to come.
MABERRY: There are a million ways to answer that because I’ve seen so many and read so many and love so many. But…let me take a swing at it. For books, it’s a split between I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson (he gave me a copy when I was a kid!), ‘SLEM’S LOT by Stephen King (my vote for the best American vampire epic), and A DELICATE DEPENDCY by the late Michael Talbot (arguably the first steampunk vampire novel).
For TV, I was a huge fan of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL from the first episodes. Love Whedon’s mix of good allegorical storytelling, pop culture sense and superb character development. As for TV movies, THE NIGHT STALKER will always reign. Scary then, scary now. The miniseries COUNT DRACULA with Louis Jordan was also superb.
Favorite all-time vampire film is HORROR OF DRACULA. Peter Cushing will always be THE Van Helsing, and Christopher Lee was superb as Dracula. I also love Gary Oldman’s take on DRACULA in the Coppola film, although it’s just about the only thing I liked about the film (apart from Tom Waits as Renfield!).
I always want to give a shout out to Marvel Comics brilliant TOMB OF DRACULA comic, which introduced Blade and many other great characters and stories.
And finally, what other projects are you currently working on? Any goodies we should watch out for?
BASHMAN: I’m finishing up a proposal for my next non-fiction book; it’s still under wraps so I can’t share the details at this time. I can say that dozens of key players are already on board for the project and it’s sure to be a fun one. I continue to write for various publications, and I’ll also be shopping a young adult novel shortly.
MABERRY: Between novels, nonfiction books, short stories and comics (for Marvel), I’ve had something new coming out every month, and often multiple things coming out in a single week.
Next up is ROT & RUIN, my first young adult novel. It’s set fourteen years after the zombie apocalypse and kicks off a new series that will be released in hardcover by Simon & Schuster. Then I have my third Joe Ledger thriller, THE KING OF PLAGUES, hitting stores in March from St. Martins Griffin. I also have three mini-series from Marvel in the pipeline. MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE PUNISHER is already running, and it’s a post-apocalyptic existentialist adventure. Very strange, even for me. Next up is BLACK PANTHER: KLAWS OF THE PANTHER, kicking off in October; and then in January we launch CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, a five-issue Marvel Event that follows Cap from World War II to present day. And my graphic novel, DOOMWAR, debuts in hardcover in October.
I’m currently writing DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie novel to be release by Griffin in June.
Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil will hit bookstores August 31.
Janice Gable Bashman has written for THE BIG THRILL, NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and many others. She can be reached at www.janicegablebashman.com.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including THE CRYPTOPEDIA, VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THEY BITE, ZOMBIE CSU and PATIENT ZERO. He can be reached at www.jonathanmaberry.com.