Happy Halloween! Today I have an interview with Denise Verrico, author of the forthcoming vampire urban fantasy novel Cara Mia: Book One in the Immortyl Revolution Series.
Mia Disantini is a vampire whose greatest desire is to walk again in the sun. Enslaved by her charismatic master, Ethan and plunged into the ancient, unenlightened Immortyl culture, Mia struggles for the freedom to live as she chooses. Trained as Ethan’s “Bird of Prey”, Mia becomes the pawn of their powerful, enigmatic elder, Brovik, in his deadly games of deception and intrigue concerning the “forbidden science” against his rival, Gaius Lupus. Cast out by Ethan, Mia joins forces with Kurt, Brovik’s deeply troubled slave and together the lovers steal “fire (immortality) from the gods” and deliver it to Genpath Laboratories where they are duped and imprisoned by CEO, Lee Brooks. Desperate, Mia calls upon the aid of Dr. Joe Ansari, a neuroscientist assigned to work with her. But Mia and Kurt are hunted for their crime and time is running out. Will Mia and Kurt escape with their lives and succeed in their mission before their Immortyl enemies harness the power of immortality for evil purposes?
There are a lot of vampires out there right now. Nosferatu,vampires that walk in the sun, vampires that don't, even sparklepires. What are your vampires like?
Well, I started with the premise of “what would it be like if a rather ordinary young woman became a vampire?” From the very beginning I knew I would be writing the story of a real person, who happens to be a vampire. I always think of my vampires as people with a biological mutation. Just like humans some are good and some are bad, some are downright evil and even genocidal. However, none of them are goody two shoes. My heroine is an acerbic, sexy, native New Yorker who tells it like it is.
The mutation drives them in a very painful way to kill and drink human blood. The blood can only be human or it doesn’t “work”. I won’t give away just how the mutation operates because it is an important element of the stories. You might say I take a sci fi view of vampirism within the framework of urban fantasy.
My vampires do have reflections in mirrors, have fangs, heal rapidly (but not instantly), and have greater than human strength. However, they have no magical powers. They don’t read your thoughts or possess anyone, not in the magical sense, but they are attuned to body language and scent cues, and some of them are very good at mind games and planting suggestions. They can’t reproduce sexually but like to fool around—a lot. They are hypersensitive, tactile creatures. Their strength is relative to their mortal shape and size. Men are generally stronger than women, adults stronger than children. The very old ones do have some enhanced abilities.
My vamps have their ‘kryptonite”. They can’t walk in the sun, and the desire to do so drives my heroine into a very dangerous set of circumstances. They don’t burn up or vaporize. They meet their demise in a unique way. Nobody sparkles.
How many books will be in the series?
I foresee the series as three separate trilogies. The first three are told from Mia Disantini’s POV. The second three will be from the POV of a male character introduced in novel three and the last three from another female character who isn’t a vampire but an entirely new species. I also would like to write a kind of prequel series about Immortyl history as I’ve imagined it.
What type of reader do you think will enjoy Cara Mia?
I believe my stories have a broad appeal for sci fi and fantasy fans that wouldn’t normally pick up a vampire novel, as well as urban fantasy and paranormal romance fans. I believe I’ve done something different. I didn’t really read a lot of this genre until after I’d completed the first two books. I don’t follow the standard murder mystery within a paranormal setting that a lot of urban fantasy does. I do enjoy reading those novels but I have a different take. I probably owe more to Rice’s Interview With A Vampire. Matheson’s I am Legend with a dash of Tolkien and even I Claudius by Robert Graves. Not that my style or story is similar to any of these authors’ but these are books that had a profound emotional impact on me. I love history, science and mythology and wanted to bring those elements together with a healthy dose of politics and intrigue, but humor and romance lighten the soufflé.
What has surprised me is the positive response I’ve gotten from male readers in my critique group and from readings I’ve done elsewhere. I’ve always thought of this genre as having a heavily female audience due to the romantic subplot component and female protagonists. I have found there are lots of men who read vampire novels. Shame on me for my prejudice! My heroine’s love interest (I hate to use that term), Kurt Eisen, has gotten positive feedback from males. I think men get as tired of the big strapping alpha male hero as women are of the tall gorgeous heroine. In Kurt, I wanted to create a male character that is as far from that mold as possible, yet is strong, resourceful and a potential leader. Kurt soon became my favorite character and took the story to a place I hadn’t originally envisioned.
I also wanted a multicultural cast. I’m from the East Coast where there are people of many cultures and I like my vampires to reflect the real world’s diversity. A close friend of mine decried the fact that she had never seen a major female vampire character of color. I took that to heart and Leisha was born. She isn’t always the most sympathetic character, but I like to think that her complexity makes her more interesting.
I deal a lot with child and teen vampires. I always wondered where the lost boys and girls of vampire stories came from. I read a startling statistic once that most street prostitutes are under the age of eighteen. This really upset me, and an idea germinated. My vampire kids are essentially victims of their masters that become a discontented underclass of runaways and cast-offs.
What is your favorite vampire story/lore?
I mentioned my two favorite vampire stories above, but I grew up watching Dark Shadows on TV and loved it. You could say Barnabas Collins was one of the first sympathetic vampires. I had the great pleasure to meet actor, Jonathan Frid, who played him, back in the eighties when a friend of mine was his personal assistant. He lived on Gramercy Park in NYC and as a tribute to him I have Mia living there at one point.
I’ve read a lot of vampire lore from Eastern Europe. I don’t really use it, but I do poke fun sometimes at the stereotypical vampire stuff, for instance, the convention of a vampire having to be invited into a house. Mia comments acerbically on vampires being “highly territorial bastards”, and that one must seek permission to enter another vampire’s territory or home.
Best advice you can give to aspiring writers?
The best advice I can give is to be original. Don’t try to imitate anyone. Use the unique knowledge and experience you have to create a completely new world in your stories. Join a supportive but honest writer’s group and share your work. The editorial advice is priceless. Read, read, read! Read books in all genres. I love to do research. I sometimes read several sources for what may end up as one sentence about a costume, setting or historical reference. Don’t give up if your first efforts are rejected. Don’t think you’re ever too young or too old to start writing. Every stage of life brings a new perspective.
You can read more about Denise and Cara Mia at her website, where you can find character profiles, excerpts from book one, book two, and more. You can also friend Denise on Facebook where you will get all of the latest updates on the Immortyl Revolution series.