Good morning and welcome to June at RVL…
While the Vampire’s English literary origins might be said to lie not in fiction but in the poetic output of Romantic writers such as Robert Southey in Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Lord Byron in The Giaour (1813), Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Christabel (1816), and John Keats in Lamia (1820) the origins of vampire fiction, in English, can be traced back to the publication of John Polidori’s “The Vampyre; A Tale” in 1819 and during the Victorian period vampire fiction came into its own with the serialized publication of the work of James Malcolm Rymer (Varney the Vampire: Or, the Feast of Blood ~ 1847) Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla (1872); and, most famously, Irishman Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897)
One might be forgiven for thinking, in contemporary times, that the genre of Vampire literature lay, and lies, firmly in the province of authors from the United States; one might be forgiven for not looking into such splendid, darkly gothic and sharply witty works such as Doctors Wear Scarlet by the late Simon Raven, the comedic work The Great Right Hope: The Sid Tillsley Chronicles by Mark Jackman, Red’s Robin: Vampire Memoirs by Nicola Ormerod, Suckers by Anne Billson and Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.
Adding to the strength, and proliferation, of the Vampire literature field, from the U.K. comes the trilogy Legacy of the Dark Kind by our guest tonight; a trilogy described as “Vampirism at a deliciously literary level, dark fantasy at its best!‘ (G.Power)
Describing herself as a possessed scribbler, dreamer and pagan witch, we are extremely pleased, and honoured, to be able to bring to you an interview with author Raven Dane, award winning** writer of steampunk, dark fantasy,horror novels and short stories.
RVL: Good evening Raven it is great pleasure to be able to spend a little time with you. If we may, firstly, ask a little something about your background and your interest in vampires?
Raven: I guess I was a Goth long before the term was born, way back in the early seventies. Even to work, I would wear dramatic, vampiric clothes, black nail polish, long dark hair with a silver streak in complete contrast to my bright coloured, hot pants wearing contemporaries. Then I was influenced by the Jerry Cornelius stories by Michael Moorcock rather than actual vampires. There was really only Christopher Lee and Bela Legosi versions of Dracula then though I had read Bram Stoker’s original novel. I have always been on the dark side of the fence though, always wanting the screen monsters to win.
Lets face it, Frankenstein’s monster didn’t ask to be created and damaged at that, the Mummy fell for the wrong woman, the Wolfman was just an ordinary guy who got bitten while out for a stroll and Count Dracula was crossing oceans of time to find his lost love. I am not a fan of Van Helsing !
My own professional background is a tad eccentric, I have been a professional journalist, an assistant in a toy shop and once trained actors and stunt people to ride horses for film work when I wasn’t part of a jousting and medieval tournament team. I now write full time but miss those crazy days of crashing about in armour on fiery horses.
I am also the daughter of a Welsh father and an Irish mother, so very much a child of the Celtic Twilight. My earliest memories of the dark, medieval and narrow streets, castle and ancient ruins of Kilkenny city in Eire must have had a big influence on my love of all things gothic.
RVL: Okay, to break the ice, and because we’re dying to know, do you identify as a real, modern vampire? Or, just in case you would rather “plead the fifth” on that one, who’s your favourite vampire?
Raven:I don’t suppose making fangs out of toothpaste every morning when I brush my teeth counts? Swiftly moving on, my favourite vampire? Out of my own , it has to be Jazriel in his own words ‘the re-animated corpse of a suicidal, junkie, male whore vampire.‘In books, it is Sam Stone’s Cesare Borgia from the fabulous Vampire Gene series, in film and TV, my all time favourite is Spike. (James Marsters from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
RVL: Are you aware that there is a thriving community of people who self-identify as “vampires” in the world today and what is your perception of that?
Raven:Fabulous! Enjoy every precious minute of your time on earth being what you know you are, living how you want to live. I loathe the constrictions of being forced to conform to society’s expectations and accursed so called normality. As a witch I believe in freedom as long as you harm none. Simplistic, maybe, but actually much harder to live by than it sounds. Be the vampire you know your soul tells you to be, be darkly beautiful and be happy.
RVL: In your research and development of the books, prior to writing, how important was the history, myth and folklore about vampires?
Raven: Not sure to be honest. I was determined to avoid all clichés if possible without destroying the gothic feel of the series. I wanted to create my own mythos for my Dark Kind, the Legacy series is part alternative history/ dark fantasy but also with a touch of SF. There is a great deal of myth and folklore in the first book, Blood Tears, as a scene setter but it is my own creation and not based on existing vampire legends.
RVL:Have you had the opportunity to read any of the non-fiction material that deals with the modern, real vampire community?
Raven: Not recently unfortunately. I used to subscribe to a magazine for the real vampire community, though I still have many really close friends amongst it in London and Manchester…I guess I am too busy writing, bringing up my son and looking after my horses to read anything these days…I know, disgraceful. *grins*
RVL: In approaching the subject of your work what was the basic definition of “vampire” that was uppermost in your mind?
Raven: I did not want an Undead being that was once human. I didn’t want a vampire that had any human emotional baggage of guilt and teenage angst ( sorry Louis and Edward) I wanted my vampires to be a totally different species to humans, one higher up the food chain who once held sway over humanity in vast regions of the known worlds as Vampire Kings and warlords. In many ways they are inferior to humans, they cannot create anything of their own or re-create. They have fewer emotional nuances but are creature of great passions, though have no interest in humans beyond being their prey and servants. They are mortal and their unchanging youth and longevity is due to superior biology. My vampires are not supernatural and have no special powers….well….one has….but no spoilers !
RVL: Has your mindset changed from the basic premise of vampires that you set out with in approaching your writing?
Raven:Not at all, in fact it has strengthened with each novel. I started out with a blank page and nothing but an image of a black clad rider in a dark forest….actually Michael Wincott on a black Spanish stallion on a beach in 1492, Conquest of Paradise! From that one image I created thousands of years of past history and a new species of being on Earth
RVL: Please tell us a little about this particular trilogy… just a teaser
Raven: Probably already have with the earlier answers! OK, if you want your vampires to be beautiful, have long, vicious fangs that rip out throats, don’t sparkle, don’t suffer from remorse or angst , then give the Legacy of the Dark Kind a try… Warning, the series is definitely not paranormal romance so do not expect swooning virgins collapsing into the arms of a dark, dangerous stranger. Or capes. Or coffins. Or bats.
RVL: Do you have other works in the pipeline, along the same lines?
Raven:I do…I had decided to leave the Legacy as a trilogy. I was enjoying writing my Cyrus Darian steampunk books and Victorian horror stories so much , I felt I had nothing left to say about the Dark Kind. My readers disagreed in no uncertain terms! I have just finished an alternative history/ supernatural book set in 1066 and my publishers are owed another Cyrus Darian. Then I will definitely write a fourth Legacy novel, one set back in the hey day of the Vampire Kings with Prince Azrar and King Dezarn, due to popular demand. And because I want to!
RVL: …and who do you see as your target audience with your work in this genre?
Raven:I wrote the first book on the request of a young friend who wanted something dark, dramatic and exciting. Something we would both enjoy and love to watch as a film. Since then, I realised my readership is very wide in demographics, readers from sophisticated 14 years olds wanting something more challenging to read than YA novels to older people who have never read dark fantasy before. The real vampires I know love the books even though Jaz does something terrible to some of them in Blood Lament….I took a big risk with that chapter! So, no, I do not seem to have a target audience.
RVL:Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your work?
Raven:They are available to order from any good book store and on line and the usual suspects like Amazon both as paper backs and ebooks. There seems to be a delay with the latest edition of the last book, Blood Alliance….I’ll chase that up with my publisher. ##
RVL: Are there any plans afoot to take your creations to the screen, big or small?
Raven:I wish! The books are crying out to be made into films or a TV series like the very wonderful Game of Thrones ! I am with a small publisher and have no agent so it would take a miracle to get these books under the noses of the movers and shakers of the film world.
RVL:Do you have any general comments that you would like to make about the subject of vampires,the literary vampire genre or, in general, the existence of real living, modern, self-identified vampires?
Raven:Enjoy! Vampires are a deeply, darkly beautiful part of both our mythos and our culture. The literature ( well, some of it ) enriches our lives and gives great pleasure to so many people. For many, the books are an escape into a world of moonlight, secrets and shadows.
I applaud all those who are real, living modern self-identified vampires…it is not an easy path to follow with modern society so hostile to those who do not conform. I also follow a different path as a pagan hedgewitch but it is important to be true to yourself.
RVL: Thank you very much indeed for your time today Raven; we are honoured and delighted to be able to help introduce your work to our readership and we wish you every success with it.
Raven: No, it is my delight and honour, many thanks for the opportunity to witter on about my work and my beautiful bad boys and girls ! After all these years, I have realised how much people around the world have enjoyed the Legacy series and I am so happy to be able to spread the word thanks to your kind invitation.
Across the field of literary endeavour moves are afoot to take back the “Vampires” and restore them to their rightful places. Interpretations are moving back toward the darker side of the spectrum, moving back toward the classical dependability of the “bad boys and girls” that are more reminiscent of the vampires of old. Authors who have previously proliferated, and won awards, in other fields are delivering us darker, more sensual and self-gratifying characters.
It is, in any field, almost an inevitability that sooner or later many things, if not all, come a full circle and this is no less evident than in modern vampire literature. Indeed, one might be forgiven for thinking the new catch cry in the vampire literature genre is indeed ‘carpe noctem‘.
Copyright: RVL & Raven Dane 2013
**Raven Dane won the inaugural VSS Steampunk Novel Award of 2011 with Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron.
“After spellbinding the reader with dark enchantment in Blood Tears, Raven Dane seduces us with Blood Lament, the latest in the Legacy of the Dark Kind series. It tells the story of her charismatic , beautiful and very bad boy Jazriel and his reckless downward spiral which threatens the other surviving Dark Kind. As with the first book, this is beautifully written, fast-paced and intriguing.”
“This is the sequel to Blood Tears – and I’m so glad I got to read it right after finishing the first book (bonus). Jazriel is such a reckless and self-sabotaging Dark brooding delicious being, I want to take him home. As usual, Dane doesn’t stick to any stereotypes”
“So often reviews do not live up to their rating. Blood Tears is truly excellent!”
“A true literary delight, after a seemingly long wait, I was finally able to read this new chapter in Dane’s portfolio, her best work yet!”
“ I have read many Vampire stories, never thought I’d be this surprised…”
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