Today’s interview is with Sandrine Genier, the author of the book The Vampire.
Don’t let the unassuming title throw you. This novel is one of my favorite books. It is unique, original, refreshing, and completely hypnotic! In fact, I found myself deliberately slowing down to savor the experience. I contribute this effect mostly to the author’s absorbing writing style. She has truly mastered her craft.
What gave you the idea for your book The Vampire?
This vampire first came to me in the 80’s; a being who fascinated me and whose existence seemed to open doors to themes I wanted to explore and an ambience I wanted to create. But the muse would not stay and I couldn’t get the story down the way I wanted it to go.
During that time I also let myself be intimidated by writers whom I thought were much better at what they did than I was. It had already been done, and done so well—what was I thinking? Even so, I became very dissatisfied with the kinds of vampire fiction there was to read. I did enjoy Fred Saberhagen, Nancy Kilpatrick, Chelsea Quinn Yarboro. Dark Shadows was an influence as was Rice’s first book. But I was still longing for something else, something more, and I just wasn’t finding it.
It turned out the vampire was patiently waiting for me, until I was ready to begin again. I finally allowed myself to write the book I had always wanted to read. I wrote this book for myself more than anything.. I was able to delve into themes I’m interested in: being the ultimate outsider; seeking acceptance on one’s own terms; obsession, loneliness; finding a life that has personal meaning. I wanted an intimate, micro view of this creature, living among us and yet outside of society, and what his life and his relationships would be like, his impact on others and vice versa.
Tell us about your writing background. Any other published works? Contests?
I have always been fascinated with words and the process of creative writing. I grew up in a home that valued literature and I have always been a reader, often read-ing as many as 5 books at a time. I have always had stories in my head, long elaborate tales involving favorite characters but this work is the first project I have decided to publish.
I entered an excerpt from this book in a contest held on a vampire themed cruise to Alaska, and there were only two of us who entered so we both won!
I just submitted my book to a Self-Published Festival my city library is holding. It is a juried event and it would be great if I were one of those selected to be featured at the festival. Even if not selected, it can’t be bad having those librarian judges reading and discussing my book!
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?
I started writing The Vampire 6 years ago. I wrote the majority of it in pencil on unlined paper. I write at night, almost all night, sleep in the day and go to work full time in the evenings.
When I finally decided I might publish and needed to know just how long the book was I was shocked that it was so massively long once I started to type it to get page and word counts. I had not intended to write a series—I don’t especially like them, though I like long books, if the story engages me. If I love the story, I don’t want it to end! The book had to be chopped into 3 volumes, now 4, just to make it commercially viable. That meant some re-writes too.
I make time lines and may outline what I want to write next. I see a linear progression and sometimes I see the action cinematically as I write. This series contains chapters that mostly have a unifying theme. I just enjoyed writing it that way.
I have not experienced writer’s block at all. When I sit down to write—and I can write nearly anywhere—it is like taking dictation from my characters. When I need to work out a scene but I don’t know how to proceed I sit quietly with my characters and they guide me. Sometimes they tell me to write things—and I don’t understand—and they say, just write it—it will all become clear. And it does.
What got you into writing horror?
Hmmm…I have followed the Wiccan path and have always been fascinated by occult, arcane and esoteric subjects. As a long-time member of the goth community I have always loved the dark aesthetics. I do paranormal investigations and conferences as often as I can and have had some very unusual experiences. I have always loved Halloween, and besides being a spiritual time of year for me it is also great fun. I have been to Romania twice at Halloween, to Salem, MA more times than I can count and Universal’s Halloween Horror nights too. I suppose that meant a natural gravitation to write in the horror/paranormal genre. I have always been fascinated with the Dracula mythos. I prefer psychological horror to slasher gore type material. I love the theme of good and evil existing in the same individual and how that manifests. Vampires seem to encompass much of what I love. But so do ghosts, hauntings, unexplained phenomena and facing our darkest fears. I suppose there is that quest to see: what could possibly scare me—now?
Did you self-publish or go through a traditional publisher? Which do you think is better and why?
I really believe I was meant to delay publishing until the whole self-pubbed thing became acceptable. There was still a lot of stigma even just a few years ago, but it has become less now. Truthfully there is a lot of terrible self-published stuff out there, but then I have come across traditional published work that leaves me shaking my head in wonder also.
I you are in your 20’s, in good health and can remain optimistic then maybe trad publishing is for you. Personally I don’t have all that going for me and the thought of collecting a decade worth of rejection slips is too depressing. I am not looking for the “quick easier way”—there is nothing especially easy, or cheap, about self-publishing.
It became important for me to realize my book existing in print before I die.
I have heard traditionally published authors being told to get out there and market their own books, because the publishing houses won’t.. So we are in the same boat there! I do resent the fact the publishers will do some of the “hard stuff.” But then, I don’t need or want to wait for them to validate or legitimize me and my work while they stand guard at the castle, deciding who is worthy to come in or not. Even if readers didn’t like my book (but they do!) I would still be a success in my eyes. That is ultimately what matters to me.
So—which is the better option? It depends on your circumstances.
So far Bookbaby has worked for me. And I am probably looking at Create Space for POD options.
What obstacles if any did you encounter or have to overcome while writing your book(s) (ie. research, finding your voice ) etc.?
Self-doubt at first—was it good enough (for me? Would I be satisfied with the result?). A chance encounter with a 12 year old aspiring writer 6 years ago got me motivated to start writing this book again. Then giving myself permission to finally finish writing the first book and getting it published when the whole process was rather daunting. Going through a few bad editors before finding a really good one, even if it was rocky at first with that one! I am a stickler for getting details right, so a lot of research into even the most mundane things sometimes, just to be accurate. Trying to find time to read other authors as well as write your own stuff. I even brought my manuscript on vacation or wrote when I was ill or things were at their most bleak. Once I was in the hospital for several days without glasses I needed to see to write—and I still wrote nine pages even if I couldn’t actually see what I was doing!
I had a sudden job loss. Very serious health issues. Had to move suddenly. Every kind of stressor you could possibly have, in a short interval.
I have truly come to believe that writing, and writing this book in particular, was not just a passion and a seductive pleasure, but something that had come into my life for a reason, something I needed to keep me going. I feel like it might have saved me, more than once. It has been so rewarding in many ways!
What are you doing next?
Book two is being edited and may be out before the end of the year.
I really must figure out this create space thing and get my book into print ASAP.
Book three and four are each half completed.
I have a paranormal ghost themed story that I have been outlining and would like to pursue. Looking at the hazards of getting too involved with the paranormal world. Unless the vampire has other things in mind for me first.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write to please yourself first. Do the very best you can. This is a gift you are giving yourself.
Write what you would love to read. Explore what means the most to you, what themes fascinate you. I think an interesting life produces an interesting writer. Look for experiences to enrich yourself. (Helmet diving—yikes! I don’t even swim—but I did it!)
All of the places mentioned in The Vampire, many of the things they did—are places I’ve been, things I’ve done. Woven throughout the book are phrases, dates, numbers, references that are personal to me and my life.
No tears in the author, no tears in the reader. (Frost). Or: No joy in the author, no joy in the reader. (Tartt paraphrasing Frost.) Be engaging, and your readers are likely to be engaged too.
It is hard work to publish these days, but there is help out there. There are authors willing to help by sharing their experiences and websites with free advice.
Find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSandrineGenier
Find her book on BookBaby at: http://my.bookbaby.com/book/thevampire