This week’s Vampire author was supposed to be Skyla Dawn Cameron. However, she has suffered an injury which makes writing difficult and has a load of stuff to catch up on and has therefore sent her apologies. However, I am not one to be thrown by a mere disaster like this. I always have a back up plan and in this case my main guy on the substitute bench is Jason Petty, author of The Vampire of Meadow Lake. He was intended to run to the touchline in week five of Vampire Month (cos, months have five weeks in them, right? 🙂 Well, even if they don’t Vampire ones do cos they is special that way) but I have pushed him forward to week four instead. Don’t panic, Skyla will be headlining the mythical week five of Vampire month. For now, enjoy Jason’s answers to the questions…
What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?
I was in seventh or eighth grade, so I was probably 13 or 14. I was bullied like few would believe. I’d had a really bad day, and I mean BAD. I was physically abused by a gym teacher for finishing a fight three guys picked with me, and then told by the sheriffs office that I couldn’t do anything unless I could prove they started it. He was the coach and the bullies where on the team and they were the only witnesses so I was up a fairly stinky creek and none too pleased about it.
I punched the bag till I collapsed and I was just laying there thinking, “Man! If I could just get these jerks one-on-one…” So I pulled out a notebook and a pen and I wrote it out. I wrote about cornering one of them on his farm and running him down with a combine; pretty standard, craptastic angsty BS. I’d written in school, but that piece felt alive to me. It was like unchaining my darkest urges.
In the real world I’d have been locked up for killing that jerk, but this wasn’t the real world. It was my world and in it I could do anything I pleased. I remember shaking with every emotion I knew writing that piece. I think I actually scared myself.
I bet if a kid wrote that sort of thing today he’d be arrested. Hell, I’m pretty sure that story would have qualified as plotting a terrorist act even back then. It was pretty gruesome. I’d have never acted it out in real life, but that doesn’t matter to a school board that feels their star quarterback is threatened. I think I shredded it for fear that my parents would find it or something. Hard telling. Those were strange years for me.
When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?
I sort of jumped in right around 2004 when I realized that the short story I was writing had passed the 60k word marker.
What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?
My characters are my strong suit. By the time they hit paper they’ve “lived” in my head for upwards of two years, cooperating, arguing, scheming and fighting. I don’t have any perfect characters. They all have weaknesses and fears and things they don’t understand, even the heroes. Instead of comparing one of my characters to a comic book hero or villian or other literary character, I compare them to real people I know or read about. I try to avoid dramatic speeches or overly heartfelt “You complete me” type scenes, but I let the characters do the talking. They feel real to most people.
The other thing I’m really good at is painting a picture with words, which is right where my weaker points begin, too. My rough drafts are usually too descriptive. My greatest weakness, however, is my ADD and diverse interests, which lead me to get distracted waaaay too easily. I like trees. And wikipedia. And ducklings. And (not joking) going for bike rides.
I’ll sit down to write, turn on Itunes and decide thirty seconds into a song that I should go try and learn the song on guitar. It’ll only take a minute, right? I get back to the computer, read what I was working on and go “Oh, I should just draw that out so I have a reverence pic.” Fifteen minutes into that fresh distraction I usually go “Y’know what? I need to make a 3D model of this so I can try it from this angle!”
Then I notice it’s a nice day out and I think “I should go for a bike ride! Heck, I should drive over to mom and dad’s and have some target practice.” I get there and go “Hey, it’s so nice, I’m gonna go over to the farm and walk back to the pond!” Two hours into that I’m sitting there on the shore watching the trees in the breeze and I go “Man, I could just see my characters here in this situation. I bet Dawn would climb that tree. Kevin and Marc would probably try and see what motor that old car has in it. Dawn would slip trying to get a better look at a bird’s nest or something: she always gets hurt, it seems. Then again, so does her brother. He’s gonna die of tetanus someday…Must run in the family. I wonder if that’s something they got from their mom or their dad…OH CRAP! I need to get that chapter done today!!”
I just did it again. Everything from that last question to here was half a paragraph before I chased that rabbit. See what I deal with now, mi amigo? Add to that the fact that I act as my own agent, which means managing my fan page, my website (www.vampireofmeadowlake.com), doing giveaways on the facebook page and keeping track of prizes and shipping addresses, all while calling book stores, and the paperwork, plus taxes…Time management is my weakest skill. I beat it by telling someone I’ll get something done on an impossible deadline, and then setting it in stone by telling everyone and their brother that I’ll get it done. I can’t stand going back on a deal, so then I have to do it.
Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?
I live in a speck on the map that some joker labelled “Meriden, Kansas.” There ain’t much to say, really. It’s just three or four thousand people who like each other a lot less than they let on at the gas station, three cops that get paid to sleep in their cars most nights, and a little grocery store full of local crops and grass-fed beef. Hunting dogs make the front page of the paper every few weeks, narrowly edging out a big fish someone caught, a big deer someone shot, a minor car accident, and local dirt track race drivers. To say not much happens would be a gross understatement.
I like that, though. You can’t beat a place where the biggest “crime” is kids throwing donuts in the school parking lot or a family having a bonfire with out a burn permit. Even if you don’t necessarily like someone, you care what happens to them. They’re your neighbour and you stop to help them if they look like they need it. That’s how it is, and that’s how it should be. And that carries directly into my writing. Almost every story I’ve ever written is set in Smalltown, USA.
Meadow Lake is an amalgamation of several of the little towns I haunted as a teenager. Many of the details are taken directly from little the dots on the map along k-4. Like my home town, Meadow Lake has an overabundance of muscle cars and farm trucks. Both have a grave yard across the street from the high school and are surrounded by farmland. You can drive a few miles from either of them and be at the lake. And both have colourful characters littered in and among some pretty bland yokels.
There’s an eerie, quiet tension to small town life. You know so much about everyone around you that you start wonder what all you don’t know. Every killer lives next door to someone, y’know. Where does that guy go on his motorcycle at two in the morning most Tuesdays? Why does that blue Chevy wagon always seem to ride lower in the back on the way out of town than coming back? Why don’t you ever see anyone home at that house on the hill outside of town? Why are the lights always off at that neat old mansion on the corner? Your imagination runs wild because there ain’t much else for it to do. A story can write it’s self in seconds if you just look around you.
Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?
I’m not a big reader, really. I’m dyslexic and it takes me forever to finish a full-length novel. I got the British audio books for Harry Potter and listened through them while I played through a video game, though. Rowling’s work definitely had an effect on my writing. I love how simple and straight forward her work is. And I’m always stunned by how easily she can set a scene, or even introduce a different time of year. I like how approachable her writing is. It’s important to note that I’m also a life-long Narnian and more than a bit into Stephen King.
What drove you to write about Vampires?
Tricky question. I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts and such. I’ve heard a lot of first-hand ghost stories, but sadly, I’ve never seen one for my self. That’s probably a good thing, come think of it. I always liked stories about haunted houses and in particular, ghost cars.
So then one night in 2002 (or maybe ’03?) some friends and I were playing Halo 2 when one of them just blurted out “Y’know what would totally suck?” Before anyone could speak I replied “If you went to look at a car only to find out that the guy that listed it for sale was a vampire using the car to bait in victims?” I think he was going to say something more along the lines “If Jason got hold of the #$%@ing carbine again,” but we’ll never know.
At any rate, my imagination latched onto the idea. I wrote a short story and started working my way up from there.
What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?
I think right now there is a lot of hype over the subject. Some (if not most) of the stuff coming out now will later be retroactively labelled into a new genre, where it belongs. Right now there are a lot of people looking for and demanding Twilight-esque reads. Some of them branch out into witches, other werewolves (or Coyotes) but most of the top sellers right now are romance novels with a paranormal veneer.
You could gut the paranormal/vampire part and replace it with rival gangs or any number of soap opera love triangles. Not that they’re all bad books or anything, (my own book is a murder mystery with vampires thrown in for good measure, fer Petesake) but they don’t fit into the classic definition of vampire fiction, or even vampire romance. They’re their own thing and it’s not fair to anyone to lump them in with the classic vampire stuff.
People come to it for different reasons. Some are looking for an escape from their endless sequence of crappy love interests. Some are Potter fans all grown up and looking for a new world of magic now that Voldy’s gone moldy. I imagine a lot of folks are hopping the bandwagon just to see what the fuss is all about. Some stick around, some don’t. There are as many reasons to read vampire fiction as there are books in the genre, really.
In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?
I don’t really know, but my money’s on one of Anne Rice’s characters. Mercy Thompson is more of a shifter type, but she’s pretty tou—never mind. She’d get seduced or raped halfway through and need rescued or something. My money is definitely on someone out of Anne Rice’s catalog.
What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?
You’re asking the wrong guy, chief. I don’t find murderous reanimated corpses to be all that attractive, to the truth. Most guys I know prefer their date stop at giving a hicky, and nobody wants ANYTHING sucked to the point that blood comes out of it. Most of ’em are sharp dressed, though. Gotta give ’em that much. Dracula had some style, man. The cape and the ruffled shirt…he was like Elvis before there was one!
Very well. My protagonist is mortal, but carries a cross bow and a .45 loaded with silver hollow points. When time comes to put boot to rump…well, you get the idea.
Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.
To me, a vampire is like a 180 pound spider. They live in dark, quiet places where they aren’t apt to be disturbed; attics, basements, abandoned cabins up in the woods and local legends. They’re rarely in the spotlight, but if you pay close enough attention you might catch one skulking around the shadows when no ones looking. As a result most people don’t even catch on that they are what they are until it’s too late. And that’s the case with the Vampire of Meadow Lake.
The desolate stretches of road around the town used to be the stomping grounds for a vicious and brutal killer. He hunted his prey on the open road in what could best be described as a race car. And once he’d caught them and had his fun, he wrote things on their car in their blood. But no one’s seen or heard from him since the early 80’s: or if they have they’ve been in no position to tell the tale. Some say he died. Some say he was dead when he started. Some say he’s still out there, biding his time and waiting for the right moment to strike again.
And they have reason to think just that. Every so often someone goes missing or turns up dead. The most recent victim happens to be high school heart breaker, Amy Walker. And that’s where the reader picks up at: six months after she’s found dead in the woods near the lake. Her best friend, Jenny, took it the hardest.
Her mom is no more help to her than her abusive dad and older brother. She spends most of her nights drinking herself numb and her days wishing she were. Moody and snappish, she tends to ward off any would be pity or help with a derisive comment and snort. Her only real relief are day dreams, which often turn into full-blown flash backs to time she spent with Amy. Invariably, she wakes up, literally landing face-first in the present, all alone. John, her boyfriend and fellow protagonist, is about ready to wash his hands of Jenny and the whole situation.
The two have every problem a couple can. They communicate in different ways, handle problems in different ways, have different morals…the relationship looks pretty bleak. The tension is mounting. Despite John’s many warnings and concerns, Jenny insists on trying to track down the killer herself. After everything she’s been through, her greatest fear is that she’ll never find the killer; his greatest fear is what will happen if she does.
I’m bad at “who I am” sort of stuff, so I’ll just tell you about my dream day, and let you make what you want of it.
It’d be on vacation, for certain. My friends and I would be staying at a small, family run resort on a lake someplace. Probably Lake of the Ozarks. We’d get up near dawn and hop in a rented boat and spend a few hours making fools of ourselves on a innertube because none of us can freaking ski. At noon we’d stop at a restaurant on a beach and get burgers. We’d have to walk around town for a few hours, taking in the local sights and posing for pictures in front of neat oddities, probably buying a few souvenirs, too.
The afternoon would be dirt bikes on old mining trails, hopefully with some good jumps and washboard runs to play on. The trail would have to go up to something abandoned, where we would go in and get some pictures and climb on things we ought not climb. Then we’d head back down the trail to the town, park the bikes and go do something like lazer tag, or paintball. We’d wind down playing skiball at some place with old, old machines.
The whole thing would end with a bite to eat at someplace with live music and cold drinks, preferably outside with a nice moon watching over us. After we tired of the band screwing up our favorite songs we’d get in the boat go back to the cabin to make a bon fire and stare at the stars, telling ghost stories, reliving the day’s antics and talking about things we never got to do. Hell, that won’t work! It wouldn’t be the perfect day without going for a drive in a classic piece of American steel with a V8 mill and cushy seats. At any rate, we’d end up on the beach with a roaring fire that settled to a crackle.
Then I’d return to my normal, boring life in small town America, where I eagerly wait for the next chance to get out and do something fun in something that goes too fast.