Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Author Interview: Clark Hayes and Kathleen McFall authors of The Cowboy and The Vampire

1) What is like collaborating on a novel? What’s your writing process?

Writing can be a lonely process, so writing together is enticing, but like any relationship it’s not to be entered into lightly. Whether two (or more) writers are already a couple, relatives or just writing pals, the resulting relationship after you are done — if you make it through — is intense. You learn each other’s secrets, innermost thoughts, hopes and motivations, you suffer through mood swings and jealousy, you learn how to fight constructively and accept criticism. You share extraordinary (imaginary) journeys together and spend hours, days, even years connected about as closely as two people can be as you create a shared reality that’s the best of both partners. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s kind of sexy, so it’s no surprise that it worked well for a couple romantically entwined.

And while collaborating might be sexy, the daily process is not. It’s just hard and often demoralizing work. To help us, we have a loose but mandatory process framework. We start with a rough chapter outline, or roadmap, so each of us are moving in the same direction even when we’re working on different chapters. We also switch off chapters, even if they’re not in sequence. One of us writes the first draft and then the other ruthlessly edits it.

When we wrote The Cowboy and the Vampire, Clark wrote the cowboy, Kathleen wrote the vampire. Since we were using individual voices in Part 1, it was a relatively easy technique for partnership writing. But even when we moved into the parts of the book where the voices merge into the third person, we kept up the process of switching chapters. It allows each of us to maintain an individual writing schedule and we are able to move more quickly through the entire first draft.

For each chapter, our roadmap provides us with:
·       a specific action at the beginning of the chapter or crucial piece of dialogue.
·       a general sense of what is going to happen and what each character is going to do in the chapter.
·       a very clear ending point, again, a piece of dialogue or an event.

Creatively, switching chapters allows us to focus in and make the initial footprint for the areas of the plot that interest us most. Kathleen likes writing for Elita and enjoys the philosophical underpinnings of the world we have created. Clark writes the cowboy voice, including Tucker’s killer (literally) sense of humor, so it works for him to focus in on those chapters where Tucker is the main character.

2) What made you decide to work on this novel together?

Survival. Of our relationship. We had been broken up for nearly two years, and both wanted to reconcile, but we were wary. We knew we needed some way to channel our romantic energies so we could focus the passion and creative chaos. We decided to try writing a novel together to harness some of the insanity and it seems to have worked.

3) Cowboys and Vampires are popular characters in many novels why do you think that’s the case?

Sex and symbolism.

First, both cowboys and vampires are sexy, but for different reasons. Cowboys are rugged and tough with big hearts — the kind of person you can envision a future with, even though it may involve lonesome spaces and sagebrush. Vampires are sensual and sexual and push way beyond all the accepted boundaries, existing for pleasure — the kind of person you can envision of a night of debauchery with even though you know you’ll regret it.

Second, the symbolism. Cowboys and vampires symbolically represent various aspects of our inner selves – the good and the evil. They are shorthand ways of talking about human nature in a story form. Cowboys stand for all that’s good and right in the world — strength, reliability, honesty, hard work, courage. They are a particularly American phenomenon which means readers from around the world invest all kinds of meaning to cowboy.

Vampires allow us all to examine the evil in ourselves. They prey on the innocent, live for pleasure and are obsessed with death. They are sensual creatures with fluid morals and tend to take on the fears of the ages that bring them to life, or rather keep them undead. For example, current manifestations of Vampires seem to be a stand in for the soul-crushing sense of existential angst peculiar to the modern era.

4) Who do you consider the quintessential cowboy and vampire?

Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The character is striking and original, all others are measured against him. He wasn’t the first, but he was probably the best. He was played well by Gary Oldman in the movie from the 1990s. We also liked Willem Dafoe in the Shadow of a Vampire.

As for the best cowboy, Tom Selleck in Quigley Down Under because he was such a good guy with a well-defined sense of right and wrong and romantic streak. But the antihero cowboys are great too. Clint Eastwood in the Outlaw Josey Wales kept his good-guy cowboy nature pretty well-hidden under a deadly gruff exterior, but when the chips were down, he put his life on the line for the people he cared about and what he thought was right. Jack Nicolson in the ultra creepy The Missouri Breaks also had us cheering for a really bad person.

5) What was the inspiration for the story?

The Cowboy and the Vampire is love story about what happens when two people from opposite worlds come together and then face huge challenges — Vampires bent on world domination. Our own relationship — sans Vampires — influenced the love story because we were from such different worlds when we met. Clark grew up in the middle of Montana on a cattle ranch, surrounded by open spaces and riding in the mountains and shooting. Kathleen grew up in the middle of Washington DC, surrounded by history and people, marching in protests, and wandering around in the Supreme Court on Sundays. An unlikely match, the odds were against us from the start.

We shared a few important things though — setting aside the deep and instant attraction for each other — such as a love of reading, creative tendencies and minds that enjoyed grappling with big questions about good and evil, near death experiences, spirituality and the occult. Put that all together, add in Clark’s love of the West, and the result was almost inescapable.

6) The cover for The Cowboy and The Vampire is gorgeous. How much input did you have on that?

The credit for the awesome cover goes mostly to our publisher, Midnight Ink. While they did solicit our input, and we provided basic guidelines — close up of a woman, dark hair, a little cleavage, a little blood, a tattoo — they did all the creative work. The 1999 edition had a very different cover — a boot embossed with a crucifix and drops of blood against a white background — but it didn’t “pop” quite as much as a scantily clad vampire vixen with a come hither look and fresh blood on her lips. 

7) What is the hardest part of getting a book ready for publication?

The hardest part is editing. Editing is tiring and laborious … and utterly critical. One typo can immediately turn off readers. It’s a painstaking process of reading and rereading and discussing every little detail to make sure it’s tight with no redundant or superfluous words, the actions and dialogue flow from clear motivations, the sequences are correctly timed, and any story elements make it through in the right arc. There’s no such thing as a blooper reel for books so the run-through before publishing is vital.

8) The Cowboy and the Vampire was first published in 1999 what happened that brought it back from the dead, so to speak?

One word: Twilight! There was so much interest in Vampires once Twilight took the world by storm. And also True Blood, and the Vampire Diaries. We were a little bit too far ahead of the curve in 1999. There wasn’t really paranormal romance genre when we first started out, or it was in its infancy, but certainly nothing like The Cowboy and the Vampire that mixed in action and comedy. We’re very happy to be back now and glad to know Vampires seem to remain firmly fixed in the popular consciousness.

9) You are working on a sequel to The Cowboy and the Vampire, is there anything you can tell us about it?

We are hard at on the first edit of Blood and Whiskey — it is the first book in a new trilogy that picks up where The Cowboy and the Vampire left off. Tucker and Lizzie have no sooner caught their breath from the threat of Julius and his evil minions than a new problem arises. There’s a schism in the Vampire world between the two great undead shadow nations and Lizzie is caught in the middle. The Reptile line wants her dead, the Messianic line wants to know if she can turn humans with the Vampiric gene; Lizzie just wants to settle down with Tucker in their new doublewide trailer and think about raising a family and enjoying the peace and quiet of undead life in Wyoming. That’s unlikely. From blood farms that drain humans to anarchistic Vampire governments, from Vampire cowboys to doomsday survivalists, the fate of the human race — and the Vampire race — will be in the hands of Tucker and Lizzie … and Rex, the long-suffering cow dog. 

About the book:
The Cowboy and the Vampirehttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=sb04e-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0738721611 brings together two iconic characters — cowboys and vampires — and crashes them together in a story about love, the clash of cultures and evil plans to take over the world. There’s also a healthy dose of laugh-out-loud humor, a rich portrayal of life in the modern West and a fresh new take on the Vampire myth (religion meets evolutionary biology).

Twitter: @cowboyvamp

And check out the novella Red Winter, by Clark, edited by Kathleen, released exclusively as an e-book in August.

About Red Winter:
Sheriff Early Hardiman has seen a lot of bad things in his life, but nothing could have prepared him for the first Vampire to visit the Old West. It’s 1890 and winter is closing like a noose around tiny LonePine, Wyoming. Fans of The Cowboy and the Vampire know LonePine will see its share of Vampires in another 120 years, but in 1890 no one had yet imagined the terror of Jericho Whistler.


tammy ramey said...

i love the cover and the book sounds like a wonderful story. i can't wait to read it.

The Cowboy and Vampire said...

Thanks Tammy. Let us know how you like it.

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