Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Author Interview: Vampires Vs. Aliens, Book 5 (coming March 2022)


KD: First, let me thank you for conducting this interview, or at least a portion of it on VVA5. I’m told by my publisher and by Amazon the book is coming out in two weeks and there’s no way I’d have time to write any marketing blurbs on it. So thank you; you get a free copy. [Laughs]


JJ: For any of my readers who don’t know, VVA5 is Vampires Vs. Aliens, Book 5.


KD: Right. Thanks. We abbreviate all the titles here, so I just think of it as VVA. And for my blog readers, just let them know, this is part of a larger interview that’ll be on your site — well, the rest of the interview will be on your site but this portion strictly devoted to VVA5 will only appear on my blog so if anyone wants to re-blog this excerpt, that’s fine by me.


JJ: So what type of series is Vampires Vs. Aliens and how did you come up with such an oddball title/concept?


KD: I’d been doing some deep philosophical writing and I wanted to take a break and write something completely different so I mixed two genres I’ve done a lot of writing in: science fiction and fantasy.


JJ: But how did you come up with that?


KD: I’d been hearing some buzz about a British kids’ show — those and Australian children’s television are about the closest thing you can find to the good old-fashioned fun stuff we had in the U.S. during my childhood — so anyway, this show was titled Wizards Versus Aliens and I thought, with a title like that, even if it’s bad it’s going to be entertaining to watch. So I watched three seasons and I’d been watching The Vampire Diaries and I thought, let’s mix these in the blender and see what we get.


JJ: I’ve seen The Vampire Diaries but I’m not familiar with the British show.


KD: It’s probably still on YouTube. There’s an alien spaceship secretly orbiting Earth commanded by their king with the focus on his Young Adult son and daughter, the prince and princess. So I started with that premise but as time went on I gradually developed the alien culture and religion, and increased the size of the alien cast.


JJ:  So how did you tie the vampires into that?


KD: Since you’re familiar with Diaries, you know that’s simply a love triangle between a teenage girl and a pair of vampire brothers. So I took the love triangle aspect but changed it to a teenage girl going back and forth between a handsome young vampire and a dashing young alien prince. Of course, when I say “young” they only look young because both aliens and vampires have lifespans of centuries or longer.


JJ:  Do you have other vampires, as well?


KD: Oh sure. There’s a whole hierarchy. When they first become vampires they’re called New Bloods and they have these hyped up sensory perceptions and emotions, along with powers they don’t know how to use. Once they settle down, they become Young Bloods who are less wild and more in control of their supernatural abilities. After a few centuries, they’re sort of middle-aged, so they’re much calmer and wiser. By the time they’ve been around for thousands of years, they become Elders who’ve experienced so much that nothing fazes them and they can no longer experience any emotions — they’ve become mere husks acting purely on logic.


JJ:  So as they age, they lose their humanity.


KD: Exactly. And lastly, we have the really old vampires called Ancients. They’ve been around longer than the Earth and may have arrived before humankind developed.


JJ:  How do the vampires get involved with the aliens?


KD: The aliens come from a planet whose sun has gotten extremely hot and now they keep running out of water. They’ve developed a technique to raid other worlds and steal the water they need to survive. Of course, without water, all the humans and animals on our planet would die out — and we’re the food supply for vampires.


JJ:  So the vampires want to stop the aliens purely out of self-interest?


KD: Exactly.


JJ:  Besides the teenage girl, are there any characters who aren’t aliens or vampires?


KD: Oh sure. Many segments of society are represented. There’s a crusading reporter — sort of a noir character who keeps a Glock and a bottle of scotch in his desk drawer; a lot of the protagonist’s Young Adult friends, and her father who’s a general commanding the local military base.


JJ:  Now, you structure your books differently from other writers —


KD: I wouldn’t say —


JJ:  What I mean is, you’ve blogged about episodic fiction —


KD: Oh, right. I see where you’re going. The generations of writers that preceded me were all influenced by the literature they read. I read the classics as well but I was also part of the television generation so TV influenced my writing as much as books did. I’ve blogged about how, when I’m writing a series as opposed to a one-off book, I treat each book in the series like a season of a TV series and each chapter like an episode in that season. So, my series aren’t like The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew where there are fifty books in the series and you can pick up any one and get a self-contained story in that one book. In all my series, my books are in chronological order so you really have to start with Book 1 and read them in order. Because it’s all part of a larger, ongoing story.


JJ:  So if you start with Book 4, you won’t understand the backstory plot or the characters?


KD: Plus, if you do that, you’re gonna find out a whole lot of spoilers. That’s why it’s hard for me to talk about VVA5 without giving away things that happen in the previous books: I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read them yet.


JJ: You’ve been criticized for —


KD: [Nodding] I’ve seen that Amazon review, too. [Laughs].  Whether it’s three books or ten books in a series, you have to look at it as one long story being told in installments. Now each book has its own theme and its own plot related to that theme but it’s also part of a larger storyline and there are multiples subplot threads, some of which are continued from the previous books and may be resolved in this book but there are also new subplots that may start in this book but continue into the next book. Sometimes the subplot will become so significant that it’s a lead-in to the following book. So that gives me the opportunity to use a television and film writing staple known as the cliffhanger.


JJ: But doesn’t that make the reader feel like they’re being cheated out of the story?


KD: Oh no. Just the opposite. I grew up watching Flash Gordon, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, Batman — they all had cliffhangers and that made it even more exciting. Flash Gordon always ended on a cliffhanger with Flash, Dale Arden, or Dr. Zarkov at times literally hanging from a cliff. Batman made us tune in “same bat-time, same bat-channel” to see how Batman and Robin would survive their latest peril. Now what Irwin Allen, the producer of Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel would do, is tell a self-contained story for fifty-five minutes and the last five minutes was basically the first five minutes of next week’s episode — also a self-contained story but since you were five minutes into it and the words “To Be Continued” flashed across the TV screen, every episode ended with a cliffhanger. But they were all complete stories and sometimes in syndication they’ll lop off last five minutes to add more commercials and you lose the cliffhanger but you don’t lose any of the main story. That’s sort of what I do. You get your money’s worth; you get your story. But, you also get a preview of what’s coming.


JJ: As a writer myself, it sounds like you’re ending on a climax rather than a dénouement.


KD: Well, remember the rising action that leads into the climax is coming from a subplot, not the main plot. For example, to bring us back to VVA5 without giving away spoilers, one of the characters had a running subplot in the previous book that turned her entire life upside down and led into an unfortunately common YA theme of depression and suicide. So while that may lead to one of the previous book’s cliffhangers, in VVA5 her story and entire subplot is capsulized as the first chapter and it becomes the inciting incident for the rest of the book and the one that follows.


JJ: Are we talking about your protagonist, the teenage girl?


KD: No, this is a different character, a very religious girl who starts out with a schoolgirl crush and ends up demoralized, losing her faith, and suicidal. Regardless of what choice she makes, there’s someone who pushed her to this point and there are people who care about her, so there will be a reckoning. Of course, when that happens it will spawn consequences as well. Always new plot threads.


JJ: You mentioned themes —


KD: Yes, it’s a very topical series. Since it’s not deeply philosophical like my previous series was, I started referring to VVA as my little bit of fluff but it’s been heavily influenced by current events so I don’t think I can call it fluff anymore. I’ve been willing to change the dynamic of the series and make it very fluid, very flexible to adapt to new themes. At one point the aliens were potentially conquerors but in the real world at the time I was writing it we had a serious refugee problem. It dawned on me intergalactic aliens would make perfect refugees, so the refugee crisis became a dominant theme in the third book. Book 6 deals with the theme of authoritarianism. While we’ve all been dealing with COVID-19, my characters had to deal with a deadly so-called “alien virus”. One theme has been the targeting of certain groups by hatemongers. Once the alien presence becomes known, humans are divided on the issue with groups like “Alien Lives Matter” and “The Earth For Humans League” springing up. I had one beta reader who told me “I don’t know who to root for. I keep alternating between the aliens and the vampires.”


JJ: So who are the bad guys?


KD: Well, you know life isn’t always about good guys versus bad guys, heroes and villains. I think it’s more about people who find themselves in situations where they must make choices, and that often means moral relativism comes into play. Is it wrong to murder hundreds of aliens? What if doing so saves the lives of eight billion humans on Earth? And if you go through with it, does that make you a hero or a villain?


JJ: How many books are in the Vampires Vs. Aliens series?


KD: At the moment, it’s an ongoing series. I’m just finishing writing Book 7 now. I believe Books 5, 6 and 7 are scheduled to be published this year. There’ll definitely be a Book 8 to follow. A second omnibus collection is also going to be released in 2022.


 JJ: The omnibuses are —?


KD: The omnibus editions are print collections. The first omnibus is already out at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and it collects Books 1 through 3. The second omnibus will collect Books 4 through 6; and Book 7 will be a good jumping on point for new readers because it introduces a new protagonist and some major plot changes.

 Some housekeeping notes: I can't post the links for the print edition until the publication date (March 15) so I'll come back and add those links and the link to the rest of your interview when they're available. Meantime, the ebook editions of Vampires Vs. Aliens Book 5 can be pre-ordered now at both Amazon (for Kindle) and All Other Ebooks (including Apple, Nook, and Kobo). We'll also be updating the links on my blog and the Amber Book Company website.