THE REST FALLS AWAY, the first vampire book by author Colleen Gleason, was recently released as mass market paperback by Penguin and can be found at most book stores. Last week I had the opportunity to sit down to lunch at a local Irish Pub and meet her in person, as she resides in my neighborhood.
Q: How did you first get into writing?
COLLEEN: Well, I've been writing ever since I was elementary school and that was the time of when the Waltons was on TV and John Boy was writer, and I was reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and she was a writer, too. So it was always in the back of my head that you could write books. I always had ideas for stories. I went to college at University of Michigan, had a career in Healthcare and marketing. And then I got my graduate degree from U of M Flint. So I had a great career going, got married, had kids, and all during this time I'd write when I could. I finished eight books before I wrote this one that sold.
Q: I think a lot of people believe that the first book an author has published is also the first book they've written, when it's usually quite a few. I know an author now who has won several Stoker Awards in the past few years but he went through many long years without getting anything published. And when he finally started getting them accepted he went back and revised that old pile of novels he had...
COLLEEN: Once you have a name you're a commodity. In fact, I write other books under a different name because they're totally different genre, Erotica. Erotica is sex with little plot, very graphic, though there is some crossover with the Romance novels.
Q: THE REST FALLS AWAY is being marketed as a historical romance--
COLLEEN: Well, technically it's not really a romance. The definition of a Romance Novel is there's one man and one woman and they live happily ever after by the end of the book. That doesn't happen in THE REST FALLS AWAY, which is the first of a five book series. The story is about a woman named Victoria Gardella who finds she's next in the line in her family of vampire hunters in 1820's England. So, in the fifth book she might ride off into the sunset but it will take five books to get there.
Q: What inspired you to write about vampires?
COLLEEN: I think I my kids were watching Cinderella and I had watched an episode of BUFFY with the Angelus character. And I thought, "What if Angelus was at the Ball?" and that got the idea going. In "Women's Fiction" the most popular time period is 1810-1820's, the "Pride & Prejudice" time period. This is the Regency Period, the time of manners and balls, which is very popular in women's fiction, particularly romance. So I thought that if I was going to do a historical "Buffy" I had to pick the right time period. And I knew that the publishers would go for this. If Buffy has such a hard time in the 21st Century killing vampires, what would a woman fighting them in the 1800's have to deal with? When I was writing I realized I couldn't tell Victoria's story in one book.
Q: Is this going to be a continuing series?
COLLEEN: This is not a never-ending series, this will end in five books, but after five books I may continue the story with a different female protagonist and do another mini-series.
Q: It could be in the same "universe", the same family...
COLLEEN: Exactly, they could be members of the Gardella family.
Q: And the vampire hunters are called "Venators?"
COLLEEN: It comes from Latin for Hunter. And in my mythology it turns out that the first vampire was Judas Iscariot. So the first hunters would have started in that area of the world.
Q: You saw DRACULA 2000?
COLLEEN: After I wrote the book. I saw it about three months ago.
Q: Yeah, I came across that same idea in a recent Dracula book put out by Dark Horse Press...
COLLEEN: Having Judas be the first vampire makes sense on a lot of levels, though, when you think about the mythology and the legends.
Q: Do you read a lot of horror?
COLLEEN: I don't read a lot of horror novels, I haven't read any Stephen King or Dean Koontz. The reason I wrote about a vampire hunter is I don't find vampires attractive. They are horrible creatures, they need to die. So when I was researching vampires I came upon a web site about a group of people who thought they were vampires in 2003, somewhere in Serbia, and that they were descendents from Judas Iscariot. They had the aversion to silver, did the drinking of blood. But there are vampire legends about bloodsucking creatures all over the world before the time Christ was born...
Q: Why did you decide to place your book in an older time period?
COLLEEN: There's so many vampire novels in present time so I knew that if I wanted to stand out I needed to write a historical one. When I say there weren't many I'm talking about "Women's fiction". I also always loved to read and write about historical fiction.
Q: I think a lot of writers don't know how to market themselves.
COLLEEN: You can't write to the market, you have to think smart about the market. I was thinking, "Buffy is hot, vampires are hot." I'm hoping that I can take the Gardella Legacy stories to The Crusades, to Renaissance Italy. Like what STAR WARS did with the prequels, which really worked.
I also had an agent, though, two years before I sold, so she was marketing them for me. It happened that I wrote something that was very timely.
Q: Do you think you'll write more horror books, after this series is completed?
COLLEEN: I don't know, I really don't know. All the other books I wrote before this had no horror or paranormal elements to it, so it's not something I really read or write. And the vampires are the bad guys, there's' no "Angel" character, a vampire with a soul. I do have demons showing up in the second book. In my mythology I drew a relationship between vampires and demons. Vampires are a separate race from demons, half-demon, half human, and they were created by Lucifer. Demons are Fallen Angels, who have been around a long time. The demons think they ought to have the keys of hell but Lucifer has created the vampires. You have the two bad guys, the demons and vampires, who are at war with each other.
Q: In your books, how is someone made into a vampire?
COLLEEN: In mine they have to be bitten and drink the vampires' blood. And it can happen somewhat quickly, overnight or in a few hours. They are in a state of "undead", though very human. For example, iff I were a vampire you wouldn't be able to tell. If I was ready to bite you my eyes would turn red and the fangs would grow. They have a heart beat. They can eat if they want to. I just call them "undead" because it's this nebulous thing.
Q: Do the vampires have a soul or are they soul-less?
COLLEEN: They have a bad soul. If it can be made good again is to be determined.
Q: Are there different types of vampires in the series?
COLLEEN: I have a heirarchy of vampires. Judas doesn't appear but his daughter, Lilith, appears in the first book. She is the "big bad". She's the most powerful vampire on the earth, but not as powerful as the demons. Then there's the Imperial Vampires, the older ones. Their eyes are magenta, they use swords when they fight and are the fiercest, with some shape-shifting abilities. They can't birth children but will steal a baby and then raise it until it's ready to change. After the imperials are the Guardians and they have poison in their fangs. They can also enthrall you much more easily. And then there's the regular vampires.
Q: Is Victoria a reluctant hunter? Was this sprung upon her?
COLLEEN: Unlike BUFFY, there are many Venators, not just one. She descends directly from Gardella, the first vampire hunter. They have five dreams of what their lives are going to be like. She knew from her great Aunt that if she had these dreams she should talk to her about them. Her Aunt is the reigning vampire hunter of the time. So Victoria is not reluctant because she's going to have a type of freedom women of her time period don't have. Yet, she's not alone. She actually meets another Venator, her Aunt is there, and there's a mysterious woman who is a resource, who has information or can find information. The problem with Victoria is that she thinks she can have it all-be a vampire hunter and then get married and be a part of society.
Q: Are the Venators primarily women?
COLLEEN: No, they are almost entirely men. It's very unusual for a woman to be one. In that time period the woman's job was to get married and have children. If she was at a ball she couldn't go outside alone with a man. They also had dresses with very thin, flimsy material, so there's no place to hide a stake. That's part of her issue. The other thing about Venators is that they get their strength from a Strength Amulet and that's the source of their powers. They already have an innate sense-and must kill a vampire before they get their amulet. Then it has to be pierced through their flesh at all times because it has to become one with them. She has a navel ring. If she took it off she'd "be weak as a woman".
Q: I guess that's not the era of piercings...
COLLEEN: That's not true. I understood that men used to pierce their foreskins and clip it on the inside of their trousers so they'd be kept in line...
Q: Ahhhh, not during lunch...
Q: When do the other books in THE GARDELLA VAMPIRE CHRONICLES come out?
COLLEEN: So the first book is out now, the second one comes out in June, I'm writing the third book now.
Q: What do your friends and family think about your writing a vampire novel?
COLLEEN: They think it's the coolest thing in the world.