1) Tell me a little about your book.
In ONE BLOOD, a centuries-old vampire, Jon Sharpay, tracks down the last descendant of an enemy who almost destroyed him 100 years in the past. The descendant, Kat Van Braam, happens to be a brilliant, courageous and beautiful archeologist who’s working as a museum curator at Princeton University. We know Sharpay expects that this confrontation will somehow relieve his tedium and growing disgust over his existence. But is it just revenge and the ultimate conquest that he’s after, or something more? ONE BLOOD is a prequel to my first published novel, DANCE WITH THE DRAGON, which won a 2004 EPPIE award as Best Horror Novel.
2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
The first version of ONE BLOOD also was the first novel-length manuscript I ever wrote, decades ago! I reworked it several times, each time trying to find a publisher, but vampire romances were not selling back then. I gave up and wrote DANCE WITH THE DRAGON, which is more of a thriller. But several people told me that DD left them curious about how the hero and heroine had met and formed their rather unique relationship. Plus, vamp romances are everywhere now! So I decided to update that story and put it out as ONE BLOOD. I daresay, though, that it’s quite a bit different from most paranormal romances on the market today.
3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Part-time, in fiction, because I have a very demanding full-time job writing and editing nonfiction. I usually write—or deal in some way with my fiction—for an hour or two in the evening on weekdays. If I’m really rolling on something, I’ll put in more time on the weekend. My other trick is to carry a microcassette recorder in my car and work out plot points verbally while I’m driving. So far, I haven’t been pulled over by a cop who thought it was a cell phone!
4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Probably ever since I realized there were people who actually wrote the stories I was reading. When my father brought home extra typing paper from work, I’d fold some in half (about the size of a trade paperback today—coincidence?), draw a cover picture and print a few pages of a “novel” before I ran out of steam. I wrote Nancy Drew-type adventure stories for my friends in high school and won a short story contest my freshman year in college. In spite of that, I’ve never been terribly into short stories, always novels.
5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
That would vary with each book. I’m always encouraged when someone tells me they don’t usually like paranormal stories but they loved mine. I use paranormal themes to deal with real-life issues, and I’m glad when people “get” that and don’t just dismiss anything supernatural as frivolous.
6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
My books have always been thrillers rather than true horror, and I like to read in the thriller and mystery genres more than modern, hard-core horror. I like action, gutsy characters and a twisty plot, but I’m not crazy about gore and sadistic violence. My 2009 book, DANU’S CHILDREN, is as much a murder mystery as a thriller, and I’m hoping to launch a “cozy” mystery series soon with a psychic amateur sleuth.
7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Not being able to spend enough time at it. I always feel as if I could have done more research, come up with a better description or just spent more time getting to know my characters. But I’ve come to realize I’m kind of a sprinter, anyway. I write in short dashes with a lot of thinking in between. Through mulling what I’ve done and rewriting, I can eventually bring the book close to the level that I want.
8) Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
Not too much in ONE BLOOD... I got the original inspiration when I visited my cousin on the Princeton campus, many years ago when he was going there. I had vampires on the brain back then, and Princeton at Halloween, with the fall colors and all that gothic architecture...it felt like the perfect setting! The sequel, DANCE WITH THE DRAGON, was partly inspired by the David Koresh cult. In the 1990s, when that was in the news, I got thinking about evil cult leaders who mesmerized hoards of people to follow them slavishly, and wondered, what if one was a real vampire? It would explain a lot, wouldn’t it!
9) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
My female protagonist, Kat, is to me what Indiana Jones probably is for most guys! She’s intentionally a larger-than-life heroine—beautiful, brilliant, brave. She’s traveled widely and had adventures an archeologist, but she also feels an urge to help humanity. She’s got her heartache, too, because she’s trying to live up to the legacy of heroic parents and she intimidates most men. I’d say that I have similar values to Kat, but she’s out there living them to the max. Of course, she’s a lot younger, too!
10) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
Even though I was pretty familiar with the town and campus of Princeton, having visited them over the years, when I got serious about this book I had to go back a couple more times and do more research on the web. Also, because it takes place in the late 1990s, I had to figure out what locations might have changed since that time and what events would and would not be taking place back then. The town is so well-known that I couldn’t get away with having my characters walk into a public library, for instance, that wasn’t built until 2004.
11) Does writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
It does, to some degree. I don’t get any rush out of writing extreme violence; I kind of steel myself and think, “Okay, this has to be nasty to have any impact, so let’s do it.” Even so, I don’t rub the reader’s nose in it, as some horror writers do—I leave a lot to the imagination. I do the same with sex scenes, although at least they’re more pleasant. I get things going and then just suggest the rest. After all, I’m trying to express the culmination of the relationship, not just body parts coming together. Very graphic sex scenes are all pretty much the same, I think, and you can lose the individuality of the characters and their feelings.
12) What about your book makes it special?
I think I’m tackling some aspects of the vampire legend that aren’t dealt with too often—the mind control, the loss of individuality, the experience of the victim. I don’t really eroticize that aspect, as some writers do. My heroine hates being controlled and being a victim! And I explore what might be a controversial idea: Given enough time--the equivalent of many lifetimes--could a truly evil man grow into a truly good one?
13) What is your marketing plan?
Not having a whole lot of time or money to devote to marketing, I do as much as possible on the Web. I have a growing circle of readers to whom I send notices about my books and activities. I belong to several writers’ groups, from local to international, and I take part in marketing activities with other members. I travel to conventions when I can, doing talks, readings, panels and signings. Since the Recession, I haven’t been able to go too far afield, but I’ve gotten up and down the East Coast. I even go to street fairs, usually taking a table with a few other authors. When there aren’t too many other vendors hawking books, I think you make more sales, and at public events you also get a feel for your target audience.
14) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
My website, www.efwatkins.com, has biographical information, some how-to articles I’ve done on writing, and a News page that lists my past and upcoming appearances. Also, my Background page has a few paragraphs explaining my inspiration for each of my six books, with photos of locales I’ve used, etc.
15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
It’s not the easiest sub-genre, because it may not be bloody or dark enough for horror fans and might be a bit too paranormal for thriller fans! I would say, ground your paranormal story in reality. Even if you have supernatural characters, they should think and behave realistically for their situations. Just because you’re “making things up,” you’re not off the hook! Practice all the techniques of good fiction writing in terms of plotting, character development, sensory description, etc. You want people to say, “I don’t usually like this kind of story, but I really liked yours!”
ONE BLOOD: Synopsis
Disgusted with his long, bloodthirsty existence, Jon Sharpay discovers a fresh challenge—the last living descendent of the arch-enemy who nearly destroyed him a century ago. He travels from New York City to Princeton to hunt down Kat Van Braam, a curator at the university’s art museum. But Sharpay also is being hunted, by two men—one determined to avenge the death of his pregnant young wife, the other a foreign agent out to recruit Sharpay’s paranormal skills for an international crime organization.
When Sharpay meets the brilliant and beautiful Kat, his plans for her expand beyond mere revenge. Kat also is drawn to “Dr. Sharpay,” the mysterious Eastern European scholar… until she learns his true nature and identity. Then she fights his enslavement of her will and vows to succeed where her ancestor failed—to keep this creature from ever harming anyone else.
But will she be undone by her own “sympathy for the Devil”?