S.J. Ford has worked in radio, television and even in the video game industry. On top of that, he also teaches martial arts and works as a military simulation designer. But that’s not all! He has also written a new vampire thriller titled Silo Nine which tells the tale of a vampire captured by a shady multinational corporation and the madness that ensues. I recently chatted with the highly impressive man on his new book, vampires and more. Check it out!
Can you tell us about your book Silo Nine?
I guess the idea came out of a childhood spent watching B-movies. You know the kind; where an intrepid band of heroes struggle to get the authorities to believe there’s a monster/s on the loose; be it a vampire, werewolf, The Blob or any number of space aliens. Years later I was musing over this premise and wondered what would happen if the authorities knew about it all along. What if the government or, better still, big business, got their hands on a genuine fantasy creature? The choice of creature for me was always going to be a vampire.
What do vampires do? They live forever, stay young, never get sick and recover instantly form almost any injury. It’s not such a stretch to imagine what a big pharmaceutical or cosmetics company would do to get some of that action.
If TVSN advertised a product that didn’t merely make you look younger, but made you actually younger; what wouldn’t people pay for that? I even produced the TV commercial in my head; pictured leading edge CGI with the voice-over tagline: “Using Vampire technology – for your youngest skin ever.”
From that starting point the obvious next step was to imagine how they’d go about trying to extract the properties of the vampire, to commercialize it. First they’d need to contain it. That’s where Silo Nine came from. It’s a re-purposed missile silo, a relic of the cold-war, taken over by private enterprise. Where better to locate it than in the middle of the Australian desert; on my home continent, the driest and most sun-bleached on the planet. But they’d need sunlight at night as well. No problem for a multinational corporation. A chain of satellites reflect sunlight into the silo 24/7.
Into that environment enters the protagonist, Leslie Tatum, a former captain in the USAMRIID (United States, Army, Medical, Research Institute of Infectious Diseases). She has a troubled past; having been court-martialed after a disastrous mission to the Antarctic where here team was killed by a mysterious pathogen, created in a lab by another Pharmaceutical company. Even though she’s reluctant (terrified is a better description) she agrees to travel to Australia to help investigate the possible source of the pathogen that killed her people – Patient Zero.
Patient Zero turns out to be a genuine, fangs-&-all vampire; like he stepped straight out of the pages of Dracula. The core of the story is really about the developing relationship between Leslie and the vampire; with a truckload of intrigue, suspense, violence, sex and thrills thrown in.
How does Silo Nine differ from other novels about vampires?
My vampire lore is grounded in techno and sci-fi rather than fantasy. Silo Nine doesn’t fit into the Urban Fantasy mold as I understand it. It’s set in a world of computers, the internet, Bio-chemistry, electronics, big-business and corporate rivalry. The vampire is powerful and dangerous, on an individual level, but the big corporate execs who capture him take being ruthless to a whole new level.
Apart from vampire fiction I’m also a fan of Sci-Fi, espionage and techno-thrillers and admire authors like; Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming. In Silo Nine I’ve tried to blend the Vampire and the Techno-Thriller.
Silo Nine is also NOT targeted to the YA market. There’s extreme coarse language and graphic sex scenes as well as grisly violence. I write for grown-ups who want their vampire fiction edgy and dark. If it was a movie it would be rated R.
What inspired you to write about vampires?
I suppose it comes from watching vampire movies as a child. I’ve been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. I was raised by my grandparents during the 1960s and they tended to go to bed early. I usually stayed up on my own watching late-night scary movies. My favorites were any that dealt with vampires.
But there was not a lot to be found back then, vampire movies were a rare treat. Mostly, I had books; Dracula, collections of short stories, novellas like Carmilla and comics of course. Back then there wasn’t anything like the volume of vampire movies and literature we have these days; and forget about TV, at least until Dan Curtis’ Dark Shadows and The Night Stalker came along.
I saw Christopher Lee in a few Hammer horrors and he was just remarkable, but not frightening. Then in 1970, or 71, I saw Count Yorga – Vampire on the big screen. It’s very tame by today’s standards but back then, to an 11 year old, it was like another world had been revealed. Here was a vampire movie that was really scary.
I guess I’ve been trying to replicate that thrill ever since.
What is one thing you would like people to take away from their experience of reading Silo Nine?
I hope people enjoy the ride. Time is precious. If someone devotes theirs to reading my book then I want to entertain them and, hopefully, leave them wanting more.
Given the current vampire craze, people feel especially attracted to vampires, why do you think that is?
That’s a loaded question. Volumes have been devoted to it, and by intellects more qualified than me. But I’ll give it a shot.
To start off either you’re a vampire person or you’re not. Vampires are like Jazz that way. You can’t explain it to people who don’t get it.
Vampires tend to evolve to fit the mores of each generation. In 1897 Dracula tapped into Victorian England’s innate xenophobia and the simmering sexual tensions of the late nineteenth century.
Even earlier, Varney the Vampire appealed to people’s thirst for the lurid and sensational. By the way, that market is perennial. I think the current audience for vampires have a lot in common with those people who were fascinated by Varney.
As for the current craze, it’s obvious, it’s all about sex. Sex sells. When Universal released Dracula, with Bela Lugosi, in 1931 he received more gushing fan mail from female fans than any matinee idol of the time.
The vampire’s bite, as a metaphor for sex (without the penetration) is perfect for the YA audience. It’s driven by teens and pre-teens.
But all these YAs will grow up and they may want something with more bite than Twilight. Authors like Charlaine Harris, with her superb Sookie Stackhouse series, has tapped into a rich vein that’s overflowed into an adult market. I too want to appeal to that same age group, but from a different angle.
Who’s your favorite fictitious vampire (other than your own)?
Without reservation I put Dracula at the top of my list. He rose from his coffin at the sunset of the nineteenth century but, like me, he’s a child of the 20th. I grew up with him and Dracula remains one of my best friends.
What is your favorite vampire book, movie and/or show?
I don’t have absolute favorites, some have equal billing.
Favorite vampire books: Dracula, Salem’s Lot, I am Legend, Carmilla
Favorite vampire movies: Count Yorga Vampire, Night Stalker (original TV movie), Dracula AD1972 (Cheesy but so much fun), Dracula (1979 with Frank Langella), Fright Night (1985 original), Salem’s Lot (remake with Rob Lowe – surprisingly good and filmed her just outside Melbourne where I live), True Blood
Tell our readers why they should check out your book – in 3 words: (bwahaha)
Sex, Suspense, Vampires
And finally, what other projects are you currently working on? Any goodies we should watch out for?
I’m working on the sequel to Silo Nine. It’s part of a much larger overarching story that I’m steadily getting onto my hard-drive. Without wishing to give spoilers the sequel does involve the Titanic. The vampire makes the briefest mention of it in Silo Nine. I’m also writing a couple of short stories that I’ll have up on Amazon soon, to build up my catalog.