Any fantasy-fiction lover probably has a healthy appreciation and respect for the basics: fairy tales. I had the pleasure of talking with Charlotte Henley Babb, author of Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil. Babb is a modern day purveyor of … Continue reading
After recently reading Steve Luna’s Joe Vampire, I had to know what his inspiration had been behind this refreshing and hilarious take on becoming a vampire. Luna was willing to oblige my curiosity and so here it is folks, a look into the mind that created my new favorite vampire: Joe, no glitz, no glam, but definitely heavy on the sarcasm.
Q: What was your inspiration behind Joe Vampire?
Steve Luna (SL): I had some quick luck when I first tried to secure an agent for a middle-grade fantasy I had written several years ago. Ultimately it fell through shortly before Twilight blew up…once that happened, the vampire genre became the big thing, it was difficult to get anyone’s attention if you weren’t writing vampire lit…which I wasn’t. I opted to put writing aside for awhile, until last summer, when a friend made an offhanded comment about vampires. My response to her was that not all the vampires sparkle in the sun; some of them are just average Joes, and you can’t tell where or who they might be. The image of a regular guy getting stuck in a ridiculous situation sounded like a fun theme to explore. Joe’s voice showed up in my head shortly after that, and I just let him talk while I wrote it all down. It became my way of beating the vampires at their own game…that’s how I thought of it, anyway.
Q: What made you tell the story through his blogging?
SL: Joe was originally a character blog, a sort-of multimedia art project I came up with after the idea first occurred…he was going to offer advice and answer readers’ letters, and expand his blog with website links and other content as his music developed. After nine posts, I saw a story emerging, but I held onto the idea of him blogging, which let me write as if he were keeping a journal. The fact that it was being read by his followers gave it more direction than if he’d just been writing down his thoughts; he has an audience to keep entertained, which also provides a different type of structure for the storytelling. So I changed the blog to something more authorly and took down all but the first three posts, then continued writing the chapters as posts and crafted a very definite story line that reveals itself through the casual blog telling.
Q: When friends find out Joe is a vampire, no one seems too surprised. Did you mean for there to be a certain casualness in his situation by making it so his condition isn’t as fantastical as it is in most vampire stories?
SL: Absolutely. I call Joe the anti-vampire; he’s pretty unassuming overall, and I wanted to tell his tale as the polar opposite of what we’ve come to expect from a vampire novel. One of the themes I reminded myself to keep in place while I wrote was, what if you became a vampire and nobody noticed? You can replace the word “vampire” with any other life-altering situation that would make a person super self-conscious but that others might not truly notice, and you’d be telling the same story. And it’s one of the biggest lessons Joe has to learn, that he actually will be accepted by the people who love him regardless of what he’s become. He even says it himself at one point in the book:”…maybe I’ve been making too much of everything this whole time.” Good thing he does, though; there wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise.
Q: Any teasers you can share for the next Joe Vampire book? How is his relationship with Chloe? Plot?
SL: The next book is called Joe Vampire: The Afterlife, and it picks up a year after the first book ends. There are a few fun twists in this one, and I don’t want to give away too much, but the underlying theme of the whole story is “Joe Grows Up”. He has a lot more interaction with the other characters in this one; there are more fun times with Hube and Louise, he gets a little traction on his music career, and his family makes a few crazy appearances. His relationship with Chloe becomes much deeper and more complicated, too. And it wouldn’t be Joe Vampire without the vampire parts showing up to make things challenging for him…though it happens quite differently this time. We’re hoping for a late fall release.
Q: So might we be seeing more of Joe Vampire after the second installment?
SL: Joe will, in fact, be a series. There is a Joe Vampire 3 in the very early planning stages at the moment. I’m figuring on a summer 2013 release or thereabout. There’s another character I’m working on – a rock star this time, to change up a little from vampires for a while – and he’ll be out in spring 2013 to fill the gap, if all goes well. I haven’t thought as far as a Joe Vampire 4 yet, but I didn’t think there’d be anything beyond the first book, either, so there’s always a possibility that he’ll have more story to tell.
Bio: Steven Luna was relatively quiet when he was born; that all changed once he learned to speak. Now? Good luck getting him to shut up. He’s also known for not giving straight answers, but those around him are accustomed to ignoring him anyway, so it all works out. He’s currently writing another book…really, though, aren’t we all? http://joevampire.blogspot.com
Robert James Russell, author of Sea of Trees, a novella I recently read, loved and reviewed, has allowed me to happily pick his brain just a little. In a Q&A, he shared his research methods as well as his inspiration for the story.
Q: What inspired you to write Sea of Trees?
RJR: I actually happened upon an article about Aokigahara on chance and was just immediately taken with it. Imagine it: this beautiful, twisted, lava-rock-infused landscape that’s just supernaturally quiet all the time, where people go to kill themselves. Macabre, yes, but also haunting—I couldn’t get the images out of my mind. So I did a bunch of research, knowing I wanted to write something about it, and the story sort of came out of all of that.
Q: This story is heavily based in Japanese culture. How did you become so familiar with it?
RJR: I’ve been interested in Japanese culture for a long time—partially because it’s so removed from the Midwest culture I’ve grown up with, and also because of the dichotomy of old vs. new that Japan plays with more than any other culture in the world (I think, anyway). Broadly, the Japanese are so technologically advanced, but still adhere to many fascinating (and old) rituals in everyday life.
Q: Have you ever visited the Aokigahara Forest? If so, can you describe what it was like to visit such a place of sadness?
RJR: I’ve been to Tokyo once (briefly), but not the forest—I unfortunately didn’t hear about it until well after my trip (I do hope to go in the next year, though). However, I do love the outdoors, and spend as much free time as I can hiking and walking through woods near my home, so I learned as much as I could about Aokigahara (including watching some unsettling documentaries about it), took walks through my own woods, and just imagined a similar place…but with all the death and despair of Aokigahara, the eerie calm of everything.
Q: Were the stories of those who fell within the forest purely fiction, or had you done some research on people who had taken their lives within the trees?
RJR: Most of the suicides—as well as the characters/stories—are completely fictional; however, a few were based on real-life incidents that happened in Japan (none of which took place in Aokigahara, though). I did research on suicides for a while when I was first brainstorming, and came across some interesting stories that sort of set the scene in my mind. Aokigahara is the personification of loneliness and isolation, so it made sense to me that since these people had committed to wanting to end their lives, they would come to a place like this to do it. Also, when doing my research, I read about various bodies, notes left behind that were found by volunteers and family, and that was some inspiration as well for the vignettes.
Q: What are you hoping people take away from this?
RJR: I’m not trying to make excuses for suicide, or claim to have any answers, or, really, do anything other than just explore it as a fact of life. Something that happens…regularly. Personally, I think the relationships in the book are more important than the suicides, the interconnectedness of the characters and their families, friends and lovers, and how every single character loses that with someone (or multiple people) in their own way. To me the story is really how they deal with this loss, how they feel disconnected from everyone. Suicide is obviously an extreme way of dealing with this, but it’s a way to highlight, I think, the breakdown of communication between people. And how important it is.
Q: Do you have any new stories in the works for publication?
RJR: I’m currently looking for representation/a publisher for a novel (fingers crossed), and also working on a new one—I hope to get the first draft done by the end of this summer. I like to stay busy.
Bio: Robert James Russell is the co-founding editor of Midwestern Gothic. His work has appeared in The Collagist, Joyland, Thunderclap! Magazine, Red River Review, LITSNACK, Greatest Lakes Review, and The Legendary, among others. Sea of Trees is his first novel. Find him online at www.robertjamesrussell.com.