Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guest: Steve Vernon

Please welcome Steve Vernon to the hot seat today!  Should we change that hot seat to a coffin?  Maybe a nice gothic easy chair?  ;-)  Hey, Steve's got an electronic copy of SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME for one lucky commenter!

The Tulips of a Vampire

I’ve been writing and selling my work for nearly thirty-five years.
Which means I am supposed to know what I am doing by now.
Which is almost right.
A couple of weeks ago a beginning writer sent me a panic-stricken e-mail.
He was working on his first novel and was just a few chapters away from completing it and he had just discovered that a book was just released that had much the same premise as his.
“What can I do?” he asked. “Should I scrap my book and write something more original?
“Anytime that you are worried that somebody else may have already written a book about your particular idea,” I told him. “Just go on over to Amazon and search "vampires" and see how many books turn up.”
Which isn’t a bad thing.
Vampires live forever.
You know that. I know that.

Like a lot of you I learned to love vampires from the classics. One of the first full length novels I ever read was Bram Stoker’s DRACULA. My grandmother gave me a paperback copy. It had a photograph of Christopher Lee chowing down on some voluptuous heavily-lunged Hammer actress.
In fact – one of the coolest things about being as old as I am is that I actually watched a lot of the early Christopher Lee Dracula movies as they were released in the theatre. I remember watching as that old Monsignor’s blood ran down into the ice and touched the lips of Dracula and raised him up from the dead in DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968).
I was fourteen years old.

Two years later I watched as some silly twit decided to chug-a-lug a swallow of Dracula’s desiccated blood in the next Lee feature – TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA.  I’m not exactly sure what he was thinking at the time but it resulted in Dracula car-jacking that silly twit’s body and brain – well, he wasn’t using it at the time…

Then, in THE SCARS OF DRACULA (1970) a shower of blood was poured over Dracula’s dry-as-dust remains and once again the blood sucking Prince of Darkness returned to walk the earth.
Dracula kept coming back – over and over again. I was always impressed at the imaginative ways in which Hammer figured out how to bring Count Dracula back to “life”.

So – to you folks out there who are wondering if it is actually worth their trouble to write a brand new vampire novel and are worried about creating something truly original – stop being so hard on yourself, eh? There is always going to be a market out there for a well written vampire story.
So forget about original.
Try to make it a GOOD story first.
So how do you do that?

Here are my directions for you.
Give your story a beginning, a middle and an end.  This is basic. You need to know where you’re going and where you are coming from. It helps if you start as close to your ending as is humanly possible. Then gallop into it.
Give it some characters who possess a little more dimension than your average cardboard cutouts. Make him live and breathe. Shoot them full of lightning and thump on their chests and howl out in your best Colin Clive imitation “It’s alive! It’s alive!”
Then, give those characters some trouble. Make life a little hard for them. Give them a problem to solve and make it as tough a problem as possible. That’s all a story or a novel is really about. Van Helsing gets out of bed one morning and says “How in the heck am I going to put that bloodsucking boondoggle down for the count???”
Then, give them a little personal motivation. Give them a reason not to walk away from the problem. Dracula has kidnapped Van Helsing’s favorite hairless Chihuahua. The man can’t go on living with the thought of that poor little puppy at the mercy of the Nosferatu.
Then, just walk until you hit daylight.
Stop beating yourself up trying be “different”.
Still don’t believe me?
Take a look at my garden.

See all those tulips. They’re not all that original, are they? I mean, every gardener in the world has planted some tulips. Why are these any different?
Yet, every day this week I have looked out there and seen those tulips and grinned. And every day a half a hundred pedestrians walk past that patch of tulips and stop and gaze and wonder.
Wow, they say.
It doesn’t have to be original.
Tell the story.
Tell it well.
Sooner or later your readers will come – one by one – and they’ll stop at your book to gaze and wonder.
Wow, they’ll say.

 But, if you are looking for a vampire tale that is truly original you won’t go wrong picking up a copy of my vampire/hockey novella SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME. In fact I am going to give away a free copy of my e-book SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME to one lucky reader who comments on this post.
Just drop in and tell me in your comment what you look for in a story. As a writer, as a reader – or as both.
Because I want to hear it.
On account of – even after thirty-five years of writing and selling – I still am just figuring things out.
I will tell you this much.
I’ve looked throughout Amazon and I cannot find a book that pits over-the-hill Labrador hockey players against a tour bus full of honest-to-garlic vampires.  There just isn’t a book out there like it. No one would possess a sick and twisted imagination dark enough to come up with this oddball combination.
And no one could make it work.
Except me.
I know. That sounds awfully conceited – but I challenge you to read that tale and NOT be entertained.
It’s got everything a story needs.
It’s got a beginning, a middle and an ending.
It’s got living breathing characters.
And it’s got vampires.
And it’s got hockey.
Wow, tulips.

If you want to hear more from me check out my blog.
Or hook up with me over at Facebook.
Or you can follow my sporadic Twitters. @StephenVernon
Or – if you’d like to pick up a copy of SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME

Yours in storytelling,
Steve Vernon


Rain Maiden said...

It's been awhile , but I remember reading about a vampire getting drunk at a hockey game. I think he got beat up by the team...or maybe it was the other way around. I think that was the book Staked. I love lots of action in my books. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

"Tell the story, tell it well."

That is great advice. I really like that. I also agree with Rain, I like lots of action in my books but I love it when it is coupled with a great story.

SB Knight
author of Born of Blood

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian.

And thanks, Rain - for schooling me on the hockey/vampire connection. I guess there is nothing new under the sun - not even sunburn!

Marissa Farrar said...

Thanks for the post Steve! Good fiction is all about conflict, whatever the situation (though vampires are my favourite!). There probably isn't a truly original storyline out there, but it's all about the characters. If we love the characters, we'll follow them, however unoriginal the storyline.