Slayer Lit

Slayer Lit Interview

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COLLEEN GLEASON INTERVIEW
Conducted by Shiai Mata

Colleen Gleason

It could be said that the mark of a truly iconic character is how many other characters it inspires in its wake. Well, go ahead and add Buffy Summers to that list of icons (as if you hadn't already!), for that well known vampire slayer has begat a sister of the stake, so to speak.

Author Colleen Gleason has just published the first of what will be a planned series of novels under the umbrella title of "The Gardella Vampire Chronicles," and that first book... THE REST FALLS AWAY... stars a young woman in 19th Century Regency England , Victoria Gardella Grantworth. The inspiration of Buffy is clear, but what is also quite clear upon reading the book is that Colleen didn't simply swipe a neat idea and change the scenery around. She has written a very compelling, very exciting, very romantic, and very ORIGINAL tale... and she has made it very much her own. Going into THE REST FALLS AWAY, you may be a Buffy fan, but coming out of it, chances are you'll also be a Victoria fan, too!

SlayerLit regulars who browse the site will recall that we added THE REST FALLS AWAY to our 'Kindred Lit' section a short while back. Somehow or another, Colleen learned of this, and she wrote me a very nice Email to thank me for it. That, in turn, has led to this interview... the very first one we've done with someone not directly tied to the Buffyverse. But, all things considered, we're hoping you'll agree that she fits into the mix quite nicely.

In the following discussion, Colleen talks about her new series, and about how it is and it isn't like Buffy. And stay tuned through the very end, when we'll be making a very special announcement!

SlayerLit: Hello, Colleen! I guess the logical question to open up with is, what prompted you to write a romance novel featuring a young female vampire slayer in the 19th Century?

Colleen Gleason: Well, I love historical fiction, and I read a lot of it. I’ve written several (unpublished) books set in Medieval England and Regency England, so when I started thinking about this whole vampire slayer thing... and I realized that Buffy Summers was only one in a long line of vampire hunters, I wondered what it would have been like for the Slayer who was around when Angelus was turned. And... voila! The ideas came together and I had the basic premise of a story!

SL: At first glance, early 19th Century London might seem like an ideal setting for both a supernatural adventure tale as well as a gothic romance. But when your hero is a female, and English society of the day was incredibly restrictive of women... particularly in the upper class... all sorts of stumbling blocks seem to appear. How difficult was it to circumvent these issues? And at any point, were you ever tempted to move the story to a more modern day setting, just for convenience’s sake?

CG: I was never tempted to bring Victoria to modern times because I loved the thought of writing about a woman who had to outsmart all of those restrictions and Societal stereotypes. That was so much fun—figuring out where she could hide her stake, and how to explain her disappearances from balls and the theater... and how, when she was forced to sit through a boring musicale, how she wished she did have something more exciting and fun to do.

Plus I enjoyed the opportunity to pit some of the wit and manners and restraint of that time period against the situation—not so unlike Buffy, whose humor is one of the best parts of the show.

SL: You’ve created quite an in-depth mythology for both the Venators and the vampires, including tying them both directly into Biblical origins. Was the backstory something you developed first, or did it come to you after you had more or less plotted out the main story? And how important was it, if at all, to have the crafted legacy to draw on as you were writing the story?

CG: I don’t read a lot of vampire novels, and really have only watched Buffy and one or two Dracula movies ever, so when it came time to write the mythology and to give more details about it—that is, when I was in the scene where Aunt Eustacia is telling Victoria the details!—I realized I needed to do research. In fact, I spent more time researching that aspect than the historical stuff for this particular book.

The germ of the idea that the first vampire was Judas Iscariot came, not from DRACULA 2000 (which I didn’t see until about two years after the book was written!), but from a very short blurb I found when searching the Internet. That blurb gave me the beginnings of the idea and I went from there.

I was looking for a mythology that worked with what the most common vampire myth was—that they die by a stake to the heart, that silver frightens them, that they drank blood to live, and that holy items would scare or injure them.

These details all came to me in a very short time after I read that blurb: they seemed to fit in with my idea of vampires so well, and because my focus is on the slayer and not the vampires and their society, and I wanted it to be accessible to non-vampire readers, I preferred to keep the mythology familiar.

SL: Are Venators limited only to the females of the Gardella line?

CG: No, there are male Venators as well, and in fact they are the norm. One of the things that readers will learn in RISES THE NIGHT [her second 'Vampire Chronicles' novel, due out this summer] is that there are more living Venators than Victoria and Eustacia (although it’s hinted at in THE REST FALLS AWAY). In fact, the Gardella family tree is very widespread and has far-flung branches throughout the world—which is, of course, important if one is to fight an evil that also permeates the world.

That was one thing that always made me nervous about Buffy—she was fighting all the creatures attracted to or coming from the Hellmouth... but what about all the other stuff happening all over the rest of the world? Like where I live?

What makes Victoria and Eustacia different are first, that they’re women, and secondly, that they are direct descendants from Gardella, the first Venator; i.e., they still bear the Gardella name. The other Venators (or potential Venators) pop up randomly—or maybe not so randomly!—throughout the world, sort of like a genetic mutation. In a good way.

SL: Your novel has been dubbed “Pride and Prejudice meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” There are obviously a lot of parallels to Buffy Summers in your Victoria Gardella Grantworth: Two young women with supernatural powers, secretly waging a war on vampires in the shadows while attempting to pursue as normal a life as possible in public. And in the Venators, we have not only Slayers, but in a sense, the Council of Watchers. So just what makes Victoria different enough from the more familiar Chosen One to not simply be Buffy in petticoats?

CG: One of the decisions I made purposely about Victoria when I decided to write her story is that I didn’t want her to be the reluctant heroine that Buffy was. I wanted her to embrace— sometimes foolishly, sometimes irresponsibly—her powers, her choices, and her chance to have a life that’s different that what was planned for her. This is one of the big differences between her character and that of Joss Whedon’s creation, and I think it’s a big one.

As I mentioned above, she’s not the only living vampire slayer in my mythology, purposely, for some of the reasons I’ve already stated. I also didn’t want her to have to feel quite as isolated as Buffy does (although she does feel that way at times). She’s one of a team, and not a Scooby team, although there are a few elements of that with some of the characters like Verbena... but not so much.

The other thing that makes this different than The Chosen One in Petticoats is that the vampires are always, irrevocably, evil and unrepentant and irredeemable. The vampires in my mythology still have their souls—it’s just that they’re warped and mutated now that they’re undead.

In addition, I tried and continue to try very hard to bring a multi-cultural feel to the characters, the mythology, and the stories. This happens more in the second and third books, but we have Venators from other cultures, we have trainers who teach martial arts from the Far East , and not only objects that come from Far Eastern mythology (as happens in Buffy) but also characters and customs and myths. The setting of the story changes, too... because, as above, I feel that vampires and their ilk are a threat in more places than Sunnydale.

But, as with every superhero ever written, there are elements of reluctance, of isolation... the same battles that Peter Parker fights to hide his identity and to live a “normal” life are similar to what Buffy and Victoria and Clark Kent and Diana Prince all have to do. It’s part of the task of being a hero and having those added powers. So there will always be similarities.

SL: When you pitched the book to publishers, did you avoid any direct mentions of Buffy, or did you cite her as an influence?

CG: As I was writing it, I kept referring to the book as my “Buffy in Regency England” story whenever I mentioned it to my agent. It was the easiest, clearest way to get the basic premise across. I don’t know whether my agent did the same thing when she pitched it to editors, but she very well might have.

SL: In any way, was writing this story a chance for you to “fix” some things about Joss Whedon’s creation that bothered you any?

CG: Not at all. Once I started writing the story, it no longer was Buffy in Regency England ... it became Victoria Gardella, Venator, and all the Buffyesque elements sort of fell away and the story became its own.

SL: You’re clearly a fan of BtVS. Do you have a favorite season or episode?

CG: Do I have to admit that I haven’t watched past the beginning of the fourth season? Eeek! I hate to say it, but I haven’t ever seen the famous musical episode, nor have I gotten to see Spike in all of his glory. I did watch the final episode when it was aired on TV—and at that point, I’d only seen the first and second seasons.

I’ve also never watched one episode of Angel. Can you believe it?

SL: Victoria ’s powers of strength, speed and heightened senses are not innate, but rather are granted to her from a talisman, the vis bulla. Does this mean that anyone possessing the vis bulla... perhaps even a vampire... would gain those powers? Or is this something that can only be tapped into by a Gardella?

CG: No. In order for the vis bulla to have its effect on its wearer, that person must be a Venator and does have the innate skills, sense, and power. Those abilities lie dormant until the five dreams that portend the Calling as a Venator, and are brought to fruition when the Venator chooses the life and accepts the vis bulla. Each Venator has to kill a vampire before he/she can wear the vis bulla, and become a full-fledged Venator. It’s those innate skills and sensations that help the born Venator to do so.

As for vampires... they’d never be able to touch the vis because of what it is: made of silver, blessed, kept in holy water... and its powers.

There are Venators not of Gardella blood—such as Max. The vis bulla works the same way for them, however, those chosen Venators don’t have the innate skills buried inside them, waiting to come out. They have to hone their abilities all on their own until they get the vis.

SL: You employ some interesting character names in your book. “ Victoria ” is obviously common enough, particularly during that era. But where did you come up with the likes of Eustacia, Elysia and Rosamunde?

CG: I have no idea. They just popped in my head! Rosamunde is a common name for her time period (Twelfth Century). Eustacia and Elysia... who knows?? Most of the time, character names just pop in my head when said character makes his/her first appearance. Verbena, Max, Sebastian, Wayren, Lord Rockley... all of them.

SL: At its core, do you see this as a vampire story with romantic facets, or a romance with horror elements?

CG: Hmmm... .I think I see it mostly as a historical superhero story, and a coming of age tale. Truly, the more I think about it.

But the romance elements are very strong... and I enjoy that part of the book, and the juggling of Victoria ’s three men.

SL: What is it that you suppose makes vampires so popular as exotic... even erotic... figures, and not only in literature?

CG: I think it’s the neck-biting thing. It’s so intimate. That’s the part that gets me—and I don’t think of vampires as erotic at all. All that blood and tearing and stuff... and the idea of a thrall, of being captured by someone who wants to bite your neck.

I think also the fact that they only move about at night. Night time is erotic and intimate by its very nature.

SL: Amazon.com suggests that readers who enjoy THE REST FALLS AWAY might also like BLOOD BOUND, a book in the 'Mercy Thompson' series by Patricia Briggs. Have you ever read any of the Mercy Thompson books, and would you agree they compliment your work? And what else in the genre have you enjoyed? The GHOSTS OF ALBION books (by BtVS actress Amber Benson and Christopher Golden) are similarly set in early 19th Century England ... have you had the opportunity to read them?

CG: I don’t really read vampire books. I’ve read two of JR Ward’s books, and two Sookie Stackhouse books... and that’s it. I haven’t even read Anne Rice or—gasp!—DRACULA. I just don’t find vampires appealing, which is why they’re always the bad guys in my stories.

I’m familiar with BLOOD BOUND, but haven’t read it. I haven’t heard of the GHOSTS OF ALBION , however.

SL: Who are some of the authors you enjoy to read?

CG: I read a lot of historical authors, and some contemporary romance or mystery authors. I don’t read a lot of paranormal books—partly because I want to stay away from any influence they might have on my stories. Some of my favorites are J D Robb, Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, Liz Carlyle, Philippa Gregory, JK Rowling, Georgette Heyer, Judith Merkle Riley, and others.

SL: You’ll be following up THE REST FALLS AWAY with RISES THE NIGHT in June of 2007, followed by THE BLEEDING DUSK in early 2008. Will the focus remain on Victoria , or will you ever shift focus to another Venator?

CG: I intend to write five books about Victoria , telling her story. Then my plan is to move on to focus on a different Venator. But who knows which one or where... .

SL: If Victoria ever makes her way to the screen, who could you see playing her? And did you have someone specific fixed in your mind’s eye when you created her?

CG: Well, I think Emmy Rossum looks a lot like Victoria does, so she’d probably be one of my choices.

It’s more the men I’m worried about! I had a young Christopher Plummer in mind when I wrote Max, but of course he couldn’t play the role now. Maybe Clive Owen or Gerard Butler for Max. For Sebastian, a young Alan Rickman, but he’s not quite perfectly handsome enough. I’ve considered Patrick Wilson, but he’s not quite right either. I don’t know. Rockley would be someone like Hugh Grant. Judi Dench would be a great Aunt Eustacia. Joan Cusack, with orange hair, would be awesome as Verbena.

And for Lilith... .I don’t know.

SL: Now that you’ve plunged into the vampire slayer waters, would you ever be interested in writing a Buffy novel?

CG: I don’t think so... only because I’d want to impose my own mythology on it!

SL: Colleen, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. And good luck with “The Gardella Vampire Chronicles”... here’s hoping there are tales to tell for a long time to come.

CG: Thanks so much for having me! This has been a lot of fun, and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here.

 

THE GARDELLA VAMPIRE CHRONICLES CONTEST!

ENTER THE CONTEST!

In honor of SlayerLit's fourth anniversary, Colleen Gleason has graciously offered us some sweet swag for a contest!

This is a very simple quiz: In your own words, describe at least one way in which Victoria and Buffy differ. If you can, you may just win!

And just what will you win? Well first, you'll have your choice between a copy of THE REST FALLS AWAY or else an advance review copy of RISES THE NIGHT, either one signed by Colleen. PLUS, you'll also receive a prop replica stake that looks just like the one Victoria uses to slay vampires, and Colleen will sign that, too!

(Legal disclaimer: In the event either of the announced prizes are unavailable, a suitable replacement prize will be provided. Sorry... no cash, 19th Century pound notes or otherwise. One entry per person. And while we're talking legalese here, don't go poking anybody with that stake!)

To enter, write your answer and mail it to SlayerLit@yahoo.com. Entries will be accepted from now until 11:59 PM CST on Monday, April 2... the night of the full moon!

No purchase necessary! Winners will be notified via Email by 4/6/07.

And if you're looking for any further clarification about Victoria , Colleen invites you to head on over to her blog at colleengleason.com/wordpress, and she'll do her best to answer your questions.

Don't delay... enter today!