If you happen to be familiar with the Black Gate submission guidelines, then you’ve read the following on our feelings about vampires around the office:
We see far too much bad vampire fiction, and if you think you’re going to surprise readers by revealing your hero is a vampire on the last page, you’re dead wrong.
As a hard-core vampire fan you might think this would be just another chafing point for me, along with the toilet seat being left up in the unisex bathrooms and Scott Taylor coming in shirtless and pretending to be an Ork every Halloween.
I wholeheartedly support this anti-vampire stance but not just because most vampire fiction is bad. It’s because it is a rare thing indeed, to find a truly unique take on the concept. Bram Stoker created an epic character and ever since, it’s pretty much been the same thing only different; slight variations on all the major themes of immortality, blood consumption, aversion to daylight, etc, etc, etc.
Imaginative vampires in literature are as difficult to find as the real thing, but thankfully, not impossible.
Enter Stavros — an artist and author who, like Dracula, goes by one name — and his first novel Blood Junky. I devoured the book in one sitting which is not what I expected to do when I first talked to Stavros about it at this year’s Comic-Con. This story was really, truly different; it was cool and kind of gross. I couldn’t put it down.
I had to know more about this guy and this book.
So, everyone meet Stavros. Stavros, meet everyone.
An Interview with Stavros
Conducted and Transcribed by Sue Granquist, September 2011
S: I wish. I think it would have been a lot more fun had I gone in with that attitude instead of having the dream of rocking out huge stadiums with my original songs. In fact, I used to tell my girlfriends that the music came first. (sad, I know) And poetry? Well, that was just something I had to do. It was a compulsion. Though, it did get me laid from time to time. A snake charmer’s tongue, so to speak. I got into graphic design to make a living and did photography to overcome a personal fear. So, I’m definitely missing something.
GC: What made you decide to tackle the vampire genre; one that has been visited ad nauseum, especially in the past few years?
S: Actually, it was the vampire genre that tackled me. In 1995, I was transitioning out of my life as a starving musician into my first foray as a small business owner with a clothing design company, tea house, and eventual small press. So, I wasn’t prepared when the vampire came to me in a dream.
I had this dream of Cornelius (that’s what he eventually grew to be called) hovering a few inches above my face. He didn’t say anything or do anything. But I woke with a slew of ideas, thoughts, and questions at 5 a.m. and started to fervently take notes. Upon returning home, I borrowed a computer from my brother – which died after a month, taking with it all first drafts – and that began a 15-year journey of research and development.
I kept asking questions, like who was this guy, what did he want, where did he come from and why did he look the way he did. I kept receiving answers, but I also got more questions too. Each time I tried to write prose or craft story I was met with some bizarre catastrophe, like with the computer. Discs would go missing. Printed pages would go missing. It was as if God did not want me to write – just research.
Nothing was allowed to stick until I began drafting comic book scripts. In ’98, I went to ComiCon with a script, and made some impressive contacts. Had I been able to secure an illustrator with enough self-confidence to produce a few pages, the One Blood series would have happened before George W. Bush, Jr. and 911, instead of after.
Tell us a little about Blood Junky and where did you get the idea to approach such a well-worn topic from such a different angle?
Back in the ‘90s when I was researching I knew that vampires had to be biological, rather than mythical or metaphysical, or even magical. That they had to be grounded in reality. Our reality. The fact is, almost every culture that has existed on the planet has some reference and/or story of vampirism in their history, save for one Indonesian country. That’s pretty impressive when you think about it, but yet ever since Dracula hit the stands and been immortalized on the screen people have been recycling the same Scandinavian roots over and over again as if nothing else existed. (GC: Amen brother) And that is such a waste because the rest of the stuff that is out there is so much more interesting…and disgusting.
So, I didn’t want to labor under Dracula’s Cape like everyone else. As with my earlier pursuits with music, I strove to be unique. Different. Original. I have a creative spark that pushes me toward that end. For as much as I am a joiner and a member of the collective, I’m also a bit of a loner. And perhaps, just arrogant enough to believe that I can do something that nobody else has done.
Blood Junky is indeed one of the most unique approaches to a vampire tale that I’ve read in recent memory; spanning hundreds of years and different locations all over the world and encompassing an entirely new language. How did you go about researching the more exotic aspects of the story?
Thank God for the Internet! It is SO MUCH easier now than it used to be, where I was dragging tons of books home from the library, and spending days upon days in map rooms breathing cool recycled air. I adore technology just about as much as I loathe having to use it. Comparatively, the process of arriving at an exotic aspect is really rather dull. I usually have the TV on in the background.
Pop! There went that illusion.
Blood Junky portrays the state of vampirism in a completely different way; as a parasite/host relationship. With the plethora of vampire literature, what was your inspiration for taking vampires down this entirely different path?
Though I am a spiritual person, I am also a realist. The world is what the world is. What I appreciate the most from Bram Stoker’s Dracula was the way he chose to write his story. He wrote it as if he was just some anonymous guy who found and compiled these newspaper clippings and journal entries, who was compelled to warn us. That was intriguing to me at the time that I read it. He created “reality” fiction. That usually gets lost because of the dude in the cape with fangs. But what Bram did with his form was attempting to make his story real.
Since I wasn’t interested in laboring under Dracula’s Cape, but yet still influenced by Bram’s work I decided to absorb his passion for making his story real. So, in my pursuits to actualize my characters a form of vampirism evolved that was biological. The vampire virus had been done. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is sheer brilliance. I encourage everyone to ignore the movies and pick up the source and see for themselves what his story truly is. They will not be disappointed. Hollywood is notorious for changing things to suit their own ends….and yet, they still haven’t learned that the bullshit they sling isn’t half as good as the original material they are hacking to pieces.
But I digress. In our shared and common history it is clear that our species was predated, not just by primates, but perhaps by what we call Angels. The stories of the Annunaki and Nephalim became an integral part of what I was creating, because they really are an integral part of our lost and broken beginnings on planet Earth. Regardless of what you believe personally – from Wiccan to Buddha; Christ and Mohamed to Zoroastrianism, Horus and Ra, or Druid mysticism – each world religion here and gone hints at something or some one else that was here before us, connecting to us through an all knowing, unseen, invisible force. And they were blood-suckers, who fed from the sangreal fluid of virgins. Seriously. When you dig back far enough it’s there. So, I simply hypothesized their existence co-mingling with ours to provide a historical base for the creation of vampires…and my symbiont variation was formed.
Your three main characters are women and if I hadn’t met you, I might think you were one. What is your secret for writing in the voice of the opposite sex?
Throughout my life all my best friends have been women. They still are. I had to work really hard in the mid 90’s to have a guy as a close friend. And it didn’t last. Guys are stupid pigs. (GC: Before I start getting threats, he said that not me)
The 18th century is a major point in time in Blood Junky. What is it about this era that was an appealing place to set your story?
I knew that I had something different with the One Blood series. I was also afraid of it coming off too far-fetched. So, I made a conscious decision to ground certain aspects into what people already knew. That way they could find a common ground, become endeared to my characters and journey with me as I take them further and further down a road that they have never been. The first few books do feature familiar signposts as we continue to go off grid.
You’re working on several films as well. Can you tell us a bit about Love in Vein and Firefly’s Kiss?
Not so much films yet. I have written scripts that I am actively seeking to raise investment capital and produce. And I’m working with a few up and coming actresses to make a few short vampire videos to help toward that end to get these properties made and marketed. As with my novels, I knew I possessed a game changer, and I am slowly seeing it take root. Which is awesome. But I also know that once I get to put vampires on the screen the way that I see ‘em…there’ll be no going back. I know it’s cocky to say… but welcome to the Vampire Revolution!
Firefly’s Kiss is a taut violent horror thriller about how good intentions can lead to the worse hell imaginable. Brother and sister, Hector & Dalia Jimenez, unfortunately find out what a living hell is. While they struggle to cope with what’s happened to them they upset the balance of Baltimore’s vampire contingent and everything starts to spiral out of control. FFK also gives a very cool history on vampirism, explaining a bit of the symbiont condition. But the events that take place in FFK have a deeper impact in the overall story line of the One Blood series.
Love in Vein is the sequel to Blood Junky, though it was written first as a screenplay. I wrote BJ as a prequel, because there was simply too much action and great dialogue to bore an audience with exposition to explain why my vampires looked and acted the way that they do. LIV continues the story of Lin and Z, going deeper into the massacre of the southwestern farming village at the hands of the vampires that Lin was traveling with when they got caught in the sandstorm back in 1934.
I read that Love in Vein will portray a vampire’s thirst on film in a way that has never been done. Can you give us any hints? When can we expect to get a first look on the big screen?
I wish I could tell you. I really do. Because I am tired of seeing the same old boring vampire movies made and re-made, making millions of dollars when I know I have something that’ll blow ‘em out of the water and I can’t even afford groceries on a regular basis. But yes, I do have two very distinct ways to portray a vampire’s thirst on screen that have never been seen or done before. I plan on patenting them once I get the opportunity to do it. But unfortunately, I need production capital first, in order to do it.
And though I am planning a couple of video shorts with actresses Melanie Robel and Carol Anne Watts, I will not be able to afford to make them look the way my symbiont condition of vampirism truly exists until somebody wises up and scoops me up, and let’s me make my movies. But…they will be fun anyway, and cool to shoot. Baby steps. I know I’m going to get there. I feel it. Though, it’s just going to take a little bit of time and planning. Love in Vein only sports a 2 million dollar production budget, and if there’s anybody out there who seriously wants to see the investment portfolio and business plan, just send me an email. I’m ready to go!
Yes. Jamie Lund wakes up dead. The story begins with her body being thrown off a bridge into a river, where she moors to the bank and wakes as a zombie.
From there, it’s a mystery once she accepts her undead state, struggling to figure out what happened to her, who murdered her, and why. Her memory is pock-marked, and she’s aided by a kiss from an ancient Egyptian god, her ex-boyfriend Billy, and a murder of crows that follow her around as she slowly decays. It’s pretty exciting.
And though, it’s only been a couple of weeks since its been out I’m already receiving exceptional reader response. People seem to really like what I’m doing.
You’re also a photographer who expresses some very haunting themes which made me wonder if your photos might have been the first inspirations for the themes in Blood Junky. Any correlation?
Yes and no. It’s kind of ironic that you asked that, because this current evolution of my vampire research, which ultimately came to print in Blood Junky and the upcoming Love in Vein at the end of the month, came about from a failed photo shoot.
It was 2007, I was living in Albuquerque, NM and was working on my multi-award winning documentary film, Committing Poetry in Times of War. I was very frustrated. The project was dragging on due to Producer changes that would have been better left untested.
But he wasn’t listening to me. Regardless that the film concept was my idea and that I had enough footage for two complete films, he had me locked on a very unhealthy production path.
So, I needed a release. I needed something other than the film project, so I turned to my vampire universe to produce a few ultra-cool vampire shoots with some models that I had met. We got together one day and jammed out a bunch of ideas and those ideas became the basis for the screenplay of Love in Vein and the characters of Lin, Z, and Sarah.
Up until this time I had been trying, for the past decade, to write a novel based on my dream and research featuring Cornelius. But I was very unsuccessful.
I kept re-writing the same two chapters over and over and over and over again. It was insane, so I had set the thing down and the film happened – which despite my production misgivings, is a very cool film. Just not the one I wanted to make.
Anyhow, after that initial meeting with the models Life intervened and we never shot anything. Lindsey moved to Florida after Emily got into a bar fight and received a black eye, and then Zaidee (AKA Julia Ghoulia) moved to Connecticut.
So, when my back-up plan to relax went bust I fortified my efforts and began using our shot list as the basic scenarios of the Love in Vein screenplay and made the photograph, Nobody Listens, to vent my production woes.
As a side note, the stories featuring Cornelius begin with book four of the Song of the Vam Pŷr story line…only two more books away. (yay!)
What’s next for you?
More of the same, only different, I guess. I’m wrapping up the editing on the novel of Love in Vein and it’ll be out by the end of this September. I’m also working on producing some new vampire photo shoots and other scary fun in front of the camera, and as I’ve mentioned, I have the ’lil video short that I am making with actresses Melanie Robel and Carol Anne Watts with the hopes that it will lead to the full production of the Love in Vein feature film, as well as Firefly’s Kiss. I would love to cast real life acting brother and sister, Jesus and Gabriela Mayorga, as the unfortunate siblings in FFK. They are simply AMAZING! And it is a travesty that nobody knows who they are yet.
Where can Black Gate readers find you if they want to learn more about your upcoming projects?
All Black Gate readers can Bite Me Really Hard at www.bitemereallyhard.com. Or stop by the Arti(s)fact Store (www.artisfactstore.com) to pick up a photo print or their very own copy of Blood Junky and Dead Girl: A Romantic Zombie Tale of Revenge. (GC: Blood Junky is also available at www.amazon.com)
(Cue scary organ music.)
So, there truly is a creative take on vampires that still leaves them icky and disturbing as opposed to sparkling and angsty, and won’t cause Bela Lugosi to spin in his grave like a rotisserie.
Well done Stavros.
What do you think of the whole vampire genre; stake it in the heart or keep it coming? Post a comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.