That’s right guys! Not only do we have an interview with the fantastic editor and author Nancy Kilpatrick, but we’re also giving a copy of Evolve to one lucky reader. Woot!
Nancy Kilpatrick is an award-winning author who has published over a dozen novels, over one hundred and ninety short stories and has edited quite a few amazing anthologies. The best part – most of her work features vampires! I was lucky enough to interview her, so check it out and make sure to enter for a chance to win a copy of Evolve (details at the bottom).
Can you tell us about Evolve?
Evolve is the anthology I’ve always wanted to edit, since the first of my ten edited anthologies, back in the mid-1990s (which, btw, was an erotic vampire antho called Love Bites).
Besides being a writer and editor, I’ve been a reader vampire fact and fiction for many many years, and have collected about 2000 titles (which take up every wall of my office and then some!) I’ve seen the vampire change since its inception in myth then literature, and like most writers, I’ve wondered ‘what next’? That question became burning as we hit the deluge of young adult vampire books we’re seeing today. With YA has come adult vampire fiction that allows the vampire to openly live among us. I have to admit that I’m partly responsible for this vampire that has relationships with humans, which I explored in my Power of the Blood series. The four Power of the Blood books have been reissued recently so readers can check them out.
Naturally, I don’t see the movement to YA and vampire-as-species-among-us as a bad thing because this is evolution and the vampire alters along with the society in which he/she/it dwells. But my curiosity has been piqued even more within the last couple of years as we seem immersed in the current explosion and I’ve wondered where this can and will lead in terms of the undead.
Edge SF & F had never done a vampire anthology. In fact, they had only done one horror anthology, Tesseracts Thirteen, which I co-edited with David Morrell. But the publisher was open to new ideas and allowed me to create Evolve. For this antho, I gave the writers a mandate to go where vampire writers had not gone before. I provided a brief history of vampire fiction up to the present and suggested they watch a bit of Twilight; True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and Being Human. They didn’t have time to read many books and still meet my tight deadline.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure how this antho would turn out. I didn’t want to direct the writers beyond the above; I didn’t want to impose my views.
I was astonished by the stories that came in. These authors were able to take what exists and extrapolate into the near future, what we will be seeing tomorrow, ten or twenty years from now. I’m delighted with the results.
Can you explain the role of editor and how you assembled the incredible group of authors for Evolve?
An editor is someone who has a vision. I start out with an idea of the type of book I’d like to see which is often the type of book I’d like to read. Usually there’s a theme. Some of my anthos have had these obvious themes: In the Shadow of the Gargoyle (co-edited with Thomas Roche); Outsiders (co-edited with Nancy Holder). The editor has to sell the book of course, to the publishing house, so there needs to be a kind of overview of the type of stories I’d compile. Once the sale is done, then the editor has to write guidelines that let the writers know what the book is about, its scope and limitations. In Evolve, for instance, I was after vampire stories that could be read by all readers, all ages, and stories that did not replicate what we’ve seen so far. The writers had to take the vampire into the future. That’s not an easy task for writers and in the case of Evolve, as I say, I had to provide some history, and some direction so writers could see what’s happening now–not all writers are familiar with vampire fiction.
Evolve was an invitational anthology because I had a very short time frame. We wanted to launch the book at the World Horror Convention in the UK, March 2010, and that required hustling. The writers were excited by the challenged to do what hadn’t been done. They came up with an incredible range of vampire stories and I think there’s plenty there for every lover of vampire fiction.
As an editor, I’m sometimes in the position of having to reject stories, and do so fearlessly. After all, the book is important to me and ultimately I’m responsible for the reaction. I want to stick to my original vision. Sometimes stories don’t fall within that vision. Some stories just don’t hang together, although the idea might be good. Some writing doesn’t live up to the high standards I set. OK, I’m a demon editor! <laughing> But, I myself have thrown books across the room in total frustration at poor writing, predictable stories and cheap plots. I won’t be responsible for that. If a writer has a great idea and the writing is good but the plot doesn’t work, I give them some guidance and they can rework it. Sometimes writers have reworked a piece 3 or 4 times. Almost always the story gets in, although I’ve had a couple of stories that got worse with the rewrites. Not all writers can revise a story quickly and some can’t grasp the changes that need to be made to make it less predictable or to keep it from being too far-fetched. For Evolve, only one story was rejected and it wasn’t one of the invitees but someone who had heard about the antho and sent in an unsolicited story. The idea was good but the plot needed work and the writer didn’t want to rework it. Such is life.
Once I have all the stories and the edits are done and approved by the writers, I play with putting the stories into a reasonable order. That’s always difficult. I want an anthology that can be read out of order so that readers can pick out stories because they have only a few minutes to read or because they love a particular author. But I also want an anthology that can be read from start to finish because a lot of readers read that way too. An anthology is not a novel, but it should read as a whole and there should be some sort of building that by the end of the book feels like a completion. Editing is a lot of work. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it.
What do you consider to be the key elements of a great vampire story?
I’ve always felt that with vampires, there needs to be some danger. For me the vampire is the archetypal predator and we humans their prey. This doesn’t mean they will kill us, but their struggle not to should be an element of who they are.
One of my all-time favorite stories is by Tanith Lee, Fleur et Feu or, Bite Me Not. It’s a clever and clean mythological tale that captures a lovely quality of vampires for me that is clearly myth (as opposed to literature, although it is, of course, a fictional story). It shows how the predatory nature can alter with an unexpected result.
I hear that there’s a story behind the cover of the book, could you share that with us?
Because the publisher had not done a vampire book and wasn’t real familiar with horror (he’s mainly published science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction), he had no clue about a cover design. He sent me some god-awful images–like the alien with antennae and fangs–that had me screaming in real horror and I let him know about it. He said, well, give me an example of what you like. I went around the net and said, ok, here are some book covers. We can’t use these, but I like them all. One I found was by John Kaiine and it was on Tanith Lee’s website so I’d assumed it was a cover for one of her books. The publisher liked this too and asked me to email John to see if he had other art that might work as a cover. I did and John graciously sent me a disc with about 15 pieces of his lovely artwork. In discussion, I found out from John that the artwork the publisher and I loved had not been used as a cover, but it was a work inspired by Tanith Lee. That’s the one the publisher selected and the rest is history.
In the first printings of Evolve, the lettering on the cover is transparent. It’s a unique concept. For the US market, the powers-that-be wanted the lettering colored and it is now red. It’s nice. Personally, I think that US readers would have loved the transparent lettering because US readers are savvy and especially vampire book readers. But, no one asked my opinion!
What do you think it is about vampires that makes them such a fantastic topic to write about?
Vamps have a lot going for them. They:
– live forever or at least a long time
– are young and beautiful for the most part
– are super strong & powerful
– possess a mesmerizing quality
– are the top of the food chain (whereas we think WE are at the top)
Their limitations these days are few:
– some can walk in daylight
– they are not horrified by crosses and mirrors (some see their reflections)
– they are not allergic to garlic
– it takes a whole lot to kill a vampire so they are more or less invincible
These are superior beings, no longer the hideous resuscitated corpses of old, hell-bent like zombies on our destruction. Vampires are young, vital, sexy creatures that could kill us but often face that demon-within and spare us. They can even love us. What’s not to like? Who wouldn’t want to read about or even meet such a being?
If vampires were discovered to exist today, do you think our society would accept them or try to destroy them?
I think that first of all, most cultures would go into shock. Then, when the media declares that vampires are not out to get us, ordinary people would be skeptical and hesitant but would make an effort to be accepting. At the same time there would be that rabid element of society actively trying to destroy them. A bit like the configuration on the TV show True Blood! <laughing> There are all sorts of vampires, as you well know. V’s like the ones in 30 Days of Night, the comic and movie, are hard to live with, to put it mildly. Other vampires have a more humane approach and exhibit a lot of restraint, so that is workable for us breathers, aka: the prey.
Who’s your favorite fictitious vampire (other than your own)?
I’m not sure I have a real favorite. There are a lot and lots of vampires I like.
What is your favorite vampire book/movie/show?
Oh, how much time do you have???
Book – I can’t name a favorite because I have too many favorites, and it is my field and I’d be in deep do-do if I mentioned some authors and left out others. But I will note a recent read that I blurbed which is a translation by the award-winning Russian author Lena Meydan, with the unfortunate title Twilight Forever Rising. The book is lyrical, and so much better than the title.
TV – It’s a tie between True Blood and Being Human. But I also loved Moonlight and was sorry to see it go.
Movie – I tend towards vamp films that run the gauntlet. In no particular order: Underworld; 30 Days of Night; Nadja; Tale of a Vampire; Chronos; Nosferatu (Hertzog); Interview With the Vampire; Martin; The Breed; The Hunger; The Addiction; Blade; Daughters of Darkness; The Last Man on Earth; Shadow of the Vampire; Black Sunday; The Lost Boys…Ok, ok, I’ll stop now!
And finally, what other projects are you currently working on? Anything we should watch out for?
I have about a dozen short stories out right now but I’ll just mention the vampire stories:
“Bitches of the Night” in Blood Lite
“Traditions in Future Perfect” in The Bitten Word
“Vampire Anonymous” in Vampires: Dracula and the Undead Legions
“The Vechi Barbat” in By Blood We Live
My graphic novel has just been released: Nancy Kilpatrick’s Vampyre Theater. I wrote 3 comics a while ago for Brainstorm Comics, their Vamperotica series, and just recently the publisher wanted to do a graph novel. This book features the 3 original stories, the 3 issues of the comics, interviews, and also has something unusual. The band Vampire Beach Babes was inspired by my stories and wrote a song based on them which is offered as a free download when you buy the g-novel.
I’m working on several projects as we speak, including a follow-up anthology tentatively titled Evolve², in which I hope to take the vampire even further into the future. Let’s see how this divinely devilish bloodsucker will further evolve!
Find Nancy here:
To enter into the giveaway all you have to do is send an email titled “Evolve” to firstname.lastname@example.org and on September 21, 2010 I will pick one random winner for a copy of Evolve (US residents only).