Last week, I read an incredible guest post on Vampire Book Club by author Jason Henderson explained why it is time for an anti-vampire hero. His book, “Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising” sounds really incredible and finally brings back a slayer into YA/ Urban Fantasy world. I´m really excited to read it (yes, I have already ordered it, thank you amazon) and I´ll also be reviewing it sometime in September. Today, Jason is here on Reading on the Dark Side to introduce his book and talk about his writing.
Pkease welcome Jason Henderson!
“Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising” is a supernatural thriller about a 14-year-old boy who discovers he is part of a family that has been fighting the scourge of vampirism for nearly two hundred years. Alex gets recruited into a high-tech multinational spy organization that has ties to his family, and begins to learn their techniques. He also discovers that because of his family's history with the vampire lines, he has the ability to sense vampires when they're near-- his one and only special ability.
You are one of the few authors in whose books vampires are the antagonists. Are you afraid that this choice might cost you readers, those who prefer to admire vampires are supernatural Mr. Right´s?
Not at all! I actually think it's the other way around, that readers might like the variety. Besides, I think Alex has a potential to be Mr. Right.
Also, I have been SO thrilled by the response I've gotten in the book community. The readers I've talked to have been genuine. This is especially cool because Alex Van Helsing is action-adventure for teens, so it's different from what a lot of them are reading.
After reading your guest post on Vampire Book Club, I got the impression that it is very important to you the the hero of your book is human, someone who had to struggle to become a hero and not someone who was simply another species or who got simply turned into a hero. So I guess you would like Alex Van Helsing to be a role model?
Yes. What I really admire about Alex is that, although he's young, he's very serious about improving his efforts. He's constantly, constantly, reciting lists and rules to help him solve a problem. He doesn't just naturally know how to climb rocks, for instance-- he's had to practice it. I like that those are things humans can do. I especially like Alex's awareness of his own emotions. Whenever he gets scared he -- if he can remember to-- stops to be aware of how he's being affected by adrenaline, where he is, where the other people are, and what is options are. A vampire wouldn't have to do that, but a human does. It's a human way to overcome the natural urge to freeze and do nothing.
YA books about vampires are almost bound to attract female readership. Is that okay with you or would you prefer if guys read your books as well?
Oh, I want both! So far, most of the reviews I've gotten have been from female readers and reviewers. So to some extent it's marketing to say that the action book is "for males" and the romantic book is "for females." An exciting story will be enjoyed by either one. Still, I do think that not enough YA novels are marketed towards male readers, and I have definitely spun this book that way.
You also wrote a mini series about an all-female hit squad called Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow. Is it once again a book for women? Would you see yourself as an author who prefers to write for women/girls?
In fact, Alex Van Helsing (which is a series) is the first series I´ve written with a male lead. Sword of Dracula, a trade paperback comic in the same universe as Alex Van Helsing, was about Veronica Van Helsing, Alex's sister. She has her own entire storyline, working for the same spy organization Alex does! I wrote Soulcatcher, which you can also get in paperback, which is a sort of ghost-hunting romance with a female lead. I also wrote Strange Magic and Sylvia Faust, two different comics about teen female witches. And of course now I'm writing Daughters of the Shadow. So oddly, Alex Van Helsing is the first thing I've done with a male lead in a long time.
It almost didn't happen that way-- Alex Van Helsing was pitched as a YA series about Ronnie (Veronica), the star of the comics. It just so happened that HarperTeen was more interested in seeing some stories about Alex. But those Ronnie YA stories have yet to be told.
Did you do a lot of research for your book?
All the time. The world of Alex Van Helsing is our world with vampire terrorists, and a major part of it is that almost all classic vampire literature and legends have some relation to the truth. So I read constantly-- material on weapons and survival, geography, history, and mythology.
Can you name the key ingredients of your books in short words?
I can try. There are two Alex Van Helsing books already written, and generally the ingredients are: big action, suspense, and lots of split-second decision-making. Powerful vampires with a big plan, and a clock that's ticking while Alex tries to figure out how to solve it. I try not to leave my characters with much time for belly-aching.
There are going to be more book in your Alex Van Helsing series. How much can we actually hope for?
There are three under the current plan. The first one, Vampire Rising, came out this Summer in hardback and will be out in paperback in July of 2011. Book 2, Voice of the Undead, comes out the same day as the paperback of Vampire Rising. Book 3 comes out the following Summer. Beyond that, who knows. It depends on what kind of response the books get.
How far ahead are you plotting your books?
About a book ahead, in a general outline, and then I do a very detailed outline on the book I'm working on at the time.
What are you currently working on?
Several things. I just finished the first three chapters of a new middle-grade adventure series with an all-new hero. I'm really excited about it! Meanwhile I'm writing a paranormal suspense-romance about a college-aged criminology major working with a cop from another time.
In September, I´ll focus mostly on male authors. Urban Fantasy however is a genre dominated mostly by woman. Are guys too cool to write it? J Why did you chose to write Urban Fantasy? Or was ot more coincidence?
Is that what they are, "urban fantasy?" If so, it's just where I wound up-- I started out writing high fantasy, but I realized I prefer these stories where people can wear jeans and have cell phones and motorcycles. It's much more accessible. But that's just where my books fall!
The cool thing is, to me, that makes these books very approachable. Someone might not want to get their heads around the riggings of a schooner in the 19th century, but they can see a motorcycle sailing through a glass window-- you can play out the events as though you were seeing a movie in your head.
I read almost anything-- in the past month I read Dean Koontz' Relentless (suspense), Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (adventure), Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire (suspense), J Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (vampire horror), Tom Clancy's Submarine (nonfiction), Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (science fiction). The only thing I really don't read is modern vampire fiction, because I don't want to be influenced by it.
Would you say that your mood has an influence on your writing?
Not really! Writing is pure joy, but it's work. If I have to do some writing, it's my responsibility to deliver myself to it-- to get in the mood for it.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Music, books, TV shows or real life?
I'm inspired most by tales of heroics-- I want to write really suspenseful yarns of derring-do that mixes the spy and horror genres. But I don't want it to be mindless- the underpinning needs to be a real respect for the literarature that's gone before.
When I'm writing, I listen to music-- usually something really suspenseful and hard-charging-- when I'm writing. A lot of James Bond music, Prokofiev, and Rob Zombie.
A question that I am always curious about (but could be kind of personal) is: are your characters based on people you really know or maybe even a little bit about yourself or are they all purely fictional?
Generally they are purely fictional with a few exceptions. Alex, for instance, is like no-one I've ever met. He's way cooler than I could be. But I think his pal Sid, who knows all kinds of vampire trivia, is a little bit patterned after me. And Alex's sister Ronnie, at least the adult version we see in the Sword of Dracula comic, is patterned after a ski editor I knew. One of the spies Alex works with, Anne, is in both the Ronnie comic and the Alex books-- and she is the spitting image and has the background of an actual Air Force pilot I knew in law school.
Beyond that, the places are real. Little towns, places of business may change, but in general all of these places are real; you can read about them. I want to capture the feel of Geneva in the Fall, where Alex finds himself in the first two books.
How did you chose the names of the characters in your book? Do they have a special meaning?
Well, I mentioned that Anne, who is a sort of mentor, is named after an actual Anne. Generally lots of the minor characters have a special meaning, a tip of the hat. These "in-jokes" are all over the books. Almost every name other than the three main boys has a relation to something vampire-related. Everything.
What do you like most about being an author? And what annoys you?
Nothing annoys me about it other than there are only so many hours in the day. I have a busy life-- I work a day job as a business manager, so writing is at night and on weekends. But I love getting writing done. If anything I just wish I could do more of it.
Did you ever have a writer´s block? If so, what did you do to deal with it?
For me, deadlines help-- set yourself a goal and follow it.
Tell us something about your favourites:
Koontz and King, the masters of page-turning "invisible" writing, where you just get sucked into the storytelling
favourite paranormal creature?
favourite all time hero/heroine?
Why, Van Helsing, of course.
favourite all time villain?
Dracula, who we rarely see as evil as he should be.
Which one do you prefer, book or e-reader?
Books. I can buy paperbacks at the charity outreach center for 25 cents apiece, and sell my own books so others can read them. I can read a book on the train and make a friend; I made a very good friend once because this person came up and said, "I saw you were reading Hamlet." E-readers take all that away, closing us in between ourselves and a database. It's convenient, I suppose. But paper, the holding of it, makes books an experience between me and the community. I prefer books.
Still writing, and when not that, watching movies.
On Writing, by Stephen King. An inspiring book I love to read over and over again.
Was being an author something you´ve always wanted or did it just happen?
I always wanted to write. I started submitting short stories as a kid, sending short stories into Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid-80s.
Is there any question you´ve always wanted to be asked? And if so, what would be the answer?
The question is: what do you want most from Alex Van Helsing? The answer is, I want to create a set of heroes that become part of people's lives, the way heroes I read about as a kid did. I want people to wonder what happens next, and imagine more stories even before I get to them. I want to join the great Procession of Story.
I can't wait to read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I really love the main character because she reminds me of the lead of Sword of Dracula.
And finally: Is there anything you want to say to your/my readers?
Okay: Hi. I don't know if you've heard of Alex Van Helsing, but I'd be obliged if you gave it a shot, because it's an exciting alternate look at the vampire world. But generally: thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it.
Thank you Jason for being her and answering all my questions! It´s been both a great pleasure and honor for me!
Now, if you want to give Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising a try, and I definetly think you should, check out Jason´s blog or order Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising and the book about Alex´s sister "Sword of Dracula"