Kim Newman is the brilliant man behind the innovative novel Anno Dracula, a book which not only earned high praise from Neil Gaiman himself but also won the Dracula Society’s Children of the Night Award, the Lord Ruthven Assembly’s Fiction Award, and the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel, and was even short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel. Pretty damn impressive! To celebrate the re-printing of Anno Dracula I was lucky enough to interview the author himself, Kim Newman. Check it out!
Can you tell us about your book Anno Dracula?
The pitch is: what if … Dracula won. It’s an alternate history/England invaded novel which assumes that the first half of Bram Stoker’s novel took place, but instead of being defeated by Dr Van Helsing the Count destroyed his enemies, spread his brand of vampirism widely through Victorian society, became the Prince Consort by marrying Queen Victoria and generally taking over the country. A few years later, in 1888, Dr Seward – a surviving Stoker character, driven mad by all this – starts murdering vampire prostitutes in Whitechapel. The murders are investigated by, among others, a human secret agent and adventurer, Charles Beauregard, and a vampire who hates Dracula, Geneviève Dieudonné. It also has a lot of historical or historical/fictional characters, so we can see what a Victorian world with vampires living openly might look like from the point of view of, say, Oscar Wilde, Dr Jekyll or number two vampire Lord Ruthven.
How does Anno Dracula differ from other novels about vampires?
I set out to write a book that encompassed vampire fiction rather than diverged from it, though I suspect it has been as influential on subsequent works as previous works were on it. Before me, there weren’t that many alternate worlds with vampires (though John M Ford and Brian Stableford had done that) and visions of worlds dominated by vampires tended to read like zombie apocalypse stories or offer simple slave hierarchies – I started exploring the idea of vampires as a significant minority, with their own internal dissent and faction-fighting as well as complicated relationships with the rest of us – which has been done several times since.
What inspired you to write Anno Dracula?
A long-standing interest in Dracula, vampires, invasion narratives, Victorian detectives, alternate history, actual history, Jack the Ripper and a very British brand of polite totalitarianism evident in too many of our governments to mention. It was also one of those ideas – I wish I had more of them – that start with a tiny question (it was originally a footnote in a thesis I wrote at university) and unfold to disclose an entire fictional world that demanded to be explored. The chain of ‘if that, then this’ thinking is still running in my head, which is why there will be more AD in the near future.
Ok, here’s a question I ask all folks I interview: I’ve noticed that most of the authors I follow on Twitter talk about the music they’re currently writing to. What kind of setting/atmosphere do you find most conducive to your writing?
I used to play music appropriate to the period I was writing about – Gilbert & Sullivan for Anno Dracula, the Velvet Underground for Andy Warhol’s Dracula. Lately, I’ve tended to write without music. That may shift again. I’ve also become prone to ‘shuffle’ or ‘random play’.
What is your favorite vampire book, movie and show?
Book: Dracula (no surprises) and I Am Legend. Movie: Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – but many others. Show: this was harder for me since I think all vampire shows tend to have ups and downs – so I’ll cheat and say Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I have a particular fondness for those weird crossovers where vampires appear on series you wouldn’t expect them to – the vampire episodes of Bilko, Get Smart, The Man From UNCLE, Gilligan’s Island, Starsky & Hutch, Diagnosis: Murder, BJ and the Bear, McCloud, etc. Still, none of these are as good as ‘Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man’s Job’, the mummy episode of The Rockford Files.
Given the current vampire craze, people feel especially attracted to vampires, why do you think that is?
As monsters go, they’re generally more presentable, more articulate, sexier and more sophisticated – so naturally they attract interest that only really strange folks would give to zombies or werewolves. The whole vampire romance genre is a bit of a mystery, though I suppose Anno Dracula is among other things a vampire romance. I use the set-up of vampire girl/human guy (which continues, in complicated form, throughout the series) rather than vampire guy/human girl (which is the Twilight/True Blood/Anita Blake format). I note most vampire guy/human girl books are written by women, though Sherri Gottlieb’s Love Bites is a vampire girl/human guy love story. Vampire girl/human guy also shows up in a few movies (Innocent Blood).
If vampires were discovered to exist today, do you think our society would accept them or try to destroy them?
Depends on whether they were Bram Stoker vampires, Anne Rice vampires, Stephenie Meyer vampires or 30 Days of Night vampires. Generally, vampires are rich – being immortal means long-term financial security – and that would give them a better chance of survival in the modern world. If you’re rich, killing people isn’t necessarily a barrier to general acceptance.
Tell our readers why they should check out your book – in 3 words:
It’s a scream!
And finally, what other projects are you currently working on? Any goodies we should watch out for?
My next novel is The Hound of the d’Urbervilles: The Crime-Book of Professor Moriarty (Titan), due out this Autumn. I’m currently working on new material for the reissues of The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha, the Anno Dracula sequels – they’ll include new novellas called ‘Vampire Romance’ (set in the 1920s) and ‘Aquarius’ (set in 1968). Then, I’ll finish the fourth book, Johnny Alucard. After that, I might need a rest.