We are so lucky to have Chris Marie Green with us today. If you recall, we gave away a set of the first three books in her Vampire Babylon series last month for BlogFest. We had more than 1,000 entries. We took that as a sign to give you more on her unique vampire series. Chris was kind enough to answer our questions about her vampires, writing authentic fight scenes, Hollywood’s obsession with fame and immortality.
Plus, in her author awesomeness she gave Vampire Book Club signed copies of the first four Vampire Babylon books to send to one lucky reader. (The contest information and entry form are at the end of this post, but really, we’d like you to read the interview.)
Vampire Book Club: Can you give new readers a basic overview of what they can expect with the Vampire Babylon series?
Chris Marie Green: It centers around a vampire hunting team that’s headed by an ex-stuntwoman named Dawn Madison, and they go after different “undergrounds” that developed from the master of all vampires—Vlad Tepes. I tell people that, if the spies in ALIAS had been vamp hunters, this is the series you might’ve gotten, LOL. There’s not only lots of action, but the series has personal/family issues that play a huge part in Dawn’s life, too.
The series is divided into trilogies—the first takes place in Hollywood and the second in London. Basically, in the first one, the existence of the vampires revolves around the question of “What if the old James Dean was really the new James Dean?” The second uses a lot of fairy tale elements, especially Red Riding Hood and the idea of a wicked stepmother. Both were so much fun—and a challenge—to write, because I’m totally in to playing with deeper themes that lurk below the storylines.
Chris Marie Green: Some of my vamps are still in touch with their humanity—or at least the idea of what humanity was like for them. (I figured that, since vampirism made them superhuman in many ways—stronger, faster, etc.—why wouldn’t their emotions get bigger, as well?) Since they have this memory of humanity and how civilization worked, they might perhaps operate with the same type of social classes in this undead world, too.
In the Hollywood underground, for instance, the central vampires are called Elites—all the other vamps’ existences pretty much revolve around these “special creatures.” Sure, there’s a higher level of vampire above the Elites, like the master and his assistant, but even the master is in the thrall of the Elites. Below them, they have Groupies, who are basically pet vamps, and Servants, who take care of a lot of the aboveground needs for the society, as well as guardian-type vampires—the bottom of the barrel beings who do the drudge work.
Vampire Book Club: In Vampire Babylon, celebrities choose to die young and pretty and convert to vampire to return decades later as “the next” variant of themselves in Hollywood. Was your goal to explore the lengths people will go to in the name of fame? If not, what should we take away?
Chris Marie Green: You’ve got it! And I tried to extend the whole idea of the lengths we’ll go to for fame, youth, and fortune with the Groupies and Servants—and even the Hollywood master. None of them have the Allure of the Elite vampires, but they still want to be close to their “magic,” just like any fan. It’s always been interesting for me to think about what makes movie stars what they are. Why are we so enthralled with them? Why do we want to follow them and, in some cases, even worship them? If there were really vampires, I have no doubt they’d convert their appeal into something that benefits their finances as well as their egos, LOL.
In the second book, MIDNIGHT REIGN, I wanted to go a step further with the theme you pointed out. There’s one character who’s accused of murder—and he has groupies, too, just like movie stars, rock stars, and my vampires. In a warped way, he’s admired and followed by “fans.” What blows my mind is that this happens in real life, when people become enamored of criminals. Take Ted Bundy. There were women who showed up at his court trials dressed like his victims. Why? What kind of Allure did he have? It all just fascinates me, and there’s so much you can use in a vampire story to try and figure out these questions.
Chris Marie Green: LOL. Life brings a lot of ups and downs, and with the types of vampires I’ve written—creatures whose emotions are heightened—I’d probably go insane, so I’d take a pass on immortality in that case.
Vampire Book Club: The heroine Dawn is very strong, but her past issues — particularly with her family — weigh heavily on her. What elements of her character did you introduce to make her more real?
Chris Marie Green: I think her strained relationship with her father humanized her, as well as her longing for her murdered mother. She grew up with a dad who was saddled with guilt about his wife’s death, and Dawn basically had to raise him. It made her a rebel, too, because she resented her dad and her mom, because both had left her in their own ways.
I also made her a stuntwoman who was on the outs with Hollywood, and there were three reasons for that. One, I wanted her to be ready to fight those vampires. However (and this is the second reason), her being a stuntwoman introduced the element/theme of what’s real and what’s not real in Hollywood. The first time she encounters the vamps, her mind is like, “Horror movie—monster make-up…this has got to be make believe!” But it’s not, and I think any of us would react that way if we were thrown into a fight with vamps. The third reason is that I wanted all the hunters to be on the fringes of Hollywood—outsiders, just like the rest of us mere mortals who worship the silver screen. As a stuntwoman, especially one who had a problem on a movie set and was pretty much banished from the industry, Dawn is the underdog, and I like that in a heroine.
Vampire Book Club: Which character in the series was your favorite to write? (I love Kiko.)
Chris Marie Green: Hah—thank you, I love him, too. : ) This sounds weird, but Kiko’s scenes are so very easy to write because I hear him. Seriously. He’s a motormouth, anyway, and his dialogue just sort of flows from my fingers to the keyboard, LOL. He’s my fave to write, but Dawn’s a close second. I relate to that underdog aspect of her. In the London series, I really got in to the young vampire Della; she was everything that was awful about being a female teenager, and you never leave some of those dark times behind.
Vampire Book Club: Was including scenes of Dawn working out and training part of developing her character or a way to make the fight scenes more believable?
I’d say it was a bit of both. I wanted to show that vamp hunting isn’t just something that you decide to do one day. It’s work. It requires well-earned skills, and, most importantly, it’s dangerous. (And that’s why I feel compelled to show the damage that hunting can bring. People die. People get seriously injured physically and mentally. You can’t just write, “These vampires are so dangerous” and have there be no evidence of that. They’ve got to get the better of the heroes every so often for there to be tension in those fight scenes.)
As far as developing Dawn’s character through her training, I tried to work in some plot developments during those scenes. For instance, during the fencing scene in NIGHT RISING, book one, Jacqueline Ashley is introduced—Dawn’s reaction to the starlet is really important (in more than one way, as you know).
Also, I wanted Dawn to seem like a real stuntperson; they’re very serious about their bodies and keeping in shape, and to never show Dawn dealing with this aspect of her life seemed odd.
Vampire Book Club: Either way, the fight scenes (not just with Dawn’s character) come across authentic. What steps did you take to bring the ring of truth to a fight with supernatural beings?
Chris Marie Green: That’s great to hear! I researched stuntwork (Zoe Bell is the model for Dawn.) and I even dabbled in some of the stuff Dawn trains in. Hilariously, I took some fencing, Krav Maga, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at one point. My dedication didn’t last all that long, but it gave me an appreciation for what Dawn goes through. Also, as I mentioned, I don’t hesitate to injure the characters, . When I took Krav Maga, my hands were taped, and we used boxing gloves in some cases. I can’t imagine the scrapes and aches I would’ve gotten without the padding. You don’t come out of these kinds of fights unscathed, especially if you’re dealing with vamps who have bladed tails and crap like that, LOL.
Vampire Book Club: Dawn has a love interest, if we can classify him that way, that is mostly a disembodied voice. He can get into her mind, but we have to ask: How do you go into writing sex scenes with one character not in corporeal form? It works, but what spawned that idea?
Chris Marie Green: I wanted “The Voice” to be in command of Dawn in ways that she couldn’t necessarily fight off at first. She’s pretty good at physically controlling things—you could probably even say that she’s got some sexaholic issues early on, and being in charge of when she gets it and how she gets it is a way of keeping normal guys in check for her. But to have a “man” enter her all the way inside? It puts her in a vulnerable place that excites her; The Voice does something for her that no one ever has, and that’s scary…and exhilarating.
Chris Marie Green: There’s a whole new mystery to crack as the series opens in A DROP OF RED (book 4). I used the point of view of one of the girl vampires who is just finding out what being in this underground entails, and the details unfold bit by bit for both her and the reader. The move to London throws the hunting team off a little, too, because they’re not on familiar ground—not with this polite, more restrained culture and not with these new dangers coming at them with this new line of vampires. I had the opportunity to go to London to do research, and I went to places like Highgate Cemetery to develop scenes and record details. Isn’t my life sucky?
For those who’ve read the entire series, there’ll be a Vampire Babylon short story coming out in March 2011. It takes place after book 6, and it’s in an anthology titled THOSE WHO FIGHT MONSTERS. Straight horror. Fun stuff.
Vampire Book Club: We hear you’ll have a new urban fantasy series coming out next year, called Bloodlands. What can you tell us about the new books?
Chris Marie Green: Yes! Ace is calling it a “post-apocalyptic western urban fantasy series.” I also say it’s a “paranormal SHANE meets MAD MAX.” There’s some mystery, mayhem, and a whole new world of vampires and more. It’s coming out in back-to-back months in 2011: August (BLOODLANDS), September (BLOOD RULES), and October (IN BLOOD WE TRUST). I should be getting covers soon, and I post updates on Twitter and Facebook . Everyone can subscribe to my newsletter, too, at my urban fantasy site at www.chrismariegreen.com.
Vampire Book Club: Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions, Chris. I know the readers will love it (me too!).
Chris Marie Green: Thank you so much! This was great fun. Good luck to those entering the contest, and happy hunting!
We’re keeping this one simple:
CONTEST RULES & DETAILS
1. You must fill out the form. Comments, while we love them, will not count for entries.
2. Optional bonus entries are available (you’ll need to provide a link or username for credit).
+1 entry if you’re a follower — be it via Google Friend Connect (the “Join this Site” button), RSS or email.
+1 entry for following @VampBookClub on Twitter
+1 entry for following @ChrisMarieGreen on Twitter
+1 entry if you share this contest (tweet the link, post to Facebook, blog about it, etc.)
3. This contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.
4. You must enter no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, Oct. 17.
5. Winner will be contacted via email. She or he then has 48 hours to respond and claim his or her prize, or we will select another winner.
7. Vampire Book Club has the right to change or cancel any giveaway at any time without prior notice.
8. Books in this contest were provided by the author.