Y’all, I’m really excited about today’s interview. This team of writers is ridiculously prolific, and their most recent books is CRUSADE, an epic (epic!) book set in the near future, where vampires have begun to take over governments, people are living in fear, and a group of vampire hunters from around the world (but trained in Spain by the Catholic Church) must come together to save humanity. The first in a series, I absolutely couldn’t put this book down — it’s fast-paced, thrilling, and rich with romance, action, and intrigue. You absolutely don’t want to miss this book, from the same ladies who brought us WICKED, and lucky for you, I have a bright, shiny copy to give away! First, check out this insightful interview with paranormal rock stars Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié. Then, check the end of this post for details on how to win your very own copy of CRUSADE!
E. Kristin Anderson: You could have set this book, which is, ultimately, a dystopia, anywhere in the world. What made you choose the primary settings of Spain and New Orleans?
Debbie Viguié: New Orleans is legendary for being exotic and spooky in its own right. In WICKED we had two characters who were from New Orleans. This time we decided to go to the city itself and see what it would look like as a vampire stronghold.
Nancy Holder: I couldn’t wait to get to the Mardi Gras scenes. I love New Orleans. I’ve set a lot of books there. We used Houmas House from before it was restored as the setting for the safe house on the bayou. I used the same house in a series I wrote about THE GIFTED for Harlequin.
As for Spain, we felt that a story dealing with Catholicism, especially the special problems of the Jews during the Inquisition, needed to be set in Spain. We had used France as the backdrop for WICKED, and we had Spanish characters in WICKED. We wanted to explore Spain a little more. We both speak some Spanish
and had access to native speakers and professional translators, so that made it extra fun.
EKA: Given that the market seems saturated with vampire stories, what made you want to write a vampire book?
NH: We both love vampires, and as far as I’m concerned, the market is far from saturated! We loved the idea of returning to a more classically evil, bloodsucking kind of vampire. We wanted to use the analogy of World War II, with the vampires as the Nazis.
DV: We hinted that there were vampires in the world at the end of the WICKED series and we wanted to follow through on that.
EKA: The vampires in your world, for the most part, are pretty freaking evil. Why evil vampires, when sexy boy-next-door vampires are so hot right now?
DV: I like evil vampires. And evil vampires are sexy in their own right — just look at DRACULA!
NH: What Debbie said. Again, we’re going for the classical vampire image. There is real evil in the world of CRUSADE — the vampires — and our guys are trying to get rid of it.
EKA: Religion is a big theme in CRUSADE — I’m guessing partly based on Catholicism’s involvement with vampire mythology. But you have characters of many different faiths. Why did you make religion such a major part of the story?
NH: We are both students of religions and faith traditions. In older times, there was no separation of church and state, and you had to swear your allegiance to the faith of your betters. People were executed based on which side they took in the many political and religious schisms and wars that occurred. The original Crusades were both religious and political in nature.
It’s very natural to the older vampires in our story to seek out something (or someone) to believe in. I don’t think they have the capacity to decide simply to believe in nothing. In our grandparents’ generation, everyone went to church, or temple, or a mosque. People asked each other, “Where do you go to church?” and not “Do you go to church?” So these characters are believers–in different gods, yes, but they believe.
DV: What Nancy said. Given that this is a Crusade, a holy war against the Cursed Ones, religion felt like it had to be a part of the story for all concerned.
EKA: I couldn’t help but notice the ethnic diversity of the cast in CRUSADE. Was this something you put together with diversity in mind? Do you think it’s important to have more diverse characters in science fiction and fantasy?
DV: Nancy and I like to give our books more of a global feel. In WICKED we pulled in characters from different ethnic backgrounds and it felt natural to do the same here, especially because we wanted to stress that this is a true world war, one enemy that threatens all humanity.
NH: Yes, I do feel that it’s important to have more diverse characters in F&SF. What fascinates me about the world of CRUSADE is that even with a global threat, we humans still can’t pull together to fight it. But part of the reason is that we disagree on how to fight it.
EKA: Debbie, given that you’ve written for the Christian market in the past, was that something that you felt prepared you to write a religiously-themed book? Or is it just another story?
DV: I tend to write a lot of religious characters, even if the stories themselves are not. Faith is a big part of who I am and I tend to know what my characters believe, or don’t believe, before I write them. Sometimes that comes across in the telling of the story and sometimes it doesn’t. When writing for the Christian market it has to come across, but I try to incorporate it in such a way that all my fans, even those who are atheists, can enjoy the story. I’m not big on “preaching”. My characters’ faith is a natural part of who they are and just like with all people, sometimes you can tell a person has a particular religious view and sometimes you can’t. It’s funny, but even though CRUSADE isn’t written for the Christian market, it’s one of the most “religious” books I’ve ever written.
EKA: This is your second series writing as partners, though you both publish books on your own. What made you want to write together? And are there any specific challenges that writing with a partner brings to the table?
NH: I love writing with Debbie. I enjoy being part of the team and experiencing the alchemy that occurs when we work together. We have solo careers, but when our contracts arrive for our series books, we are referred to “the Author.” I like having that third, new person in the room — part Debbie, part Nancy, all us.
DV: Nancy, that was so well put!
EKA: Good vs. Evil was a major part of CRUSADE’s story. But what struck me is how a lot of the “good guys” seemed to be battling each other instead of the bad guys. Why are your good guys so conflicted?
DV: It happens because that’s how it is often in real life. When people can’t defeat their enemies they often take it out on their friends. Everyone who is on the same sport or work team may not agree how to best proceed and tempers flare. During primary elections people who supposedly share the same political affiliations spend millions trying to destroy each other instead of strategizing on how to take down the opponent from the other party. Protestants spend so much time fixated on what sect they are that they focus on what divides instead of what unites and don’t pay attention to attacks from those who want to limit their ability to worship when and how they choose. Family members daily inflict greater atrocities on each other than most strangers could.
It’s sad, but true. So it is for Team Salamanca. Until they can learn to focus on fighting the enemy they will not truly be a force to be reckoned with.
NH: As Tolstoy says, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Our characters are trying to become a “family” during wartime. They have come from tragic situations to try to save humanity. Death has touched them; they’re frightened, angry, idealistic, and passionate. Involved in a life and death struggle, they are putting it all on the line for something they believe in. They’re fighters in the largest sense of the word. So it makes sense that they also fight among themselves.
EKA: Nancy, in the past you’ve written for the Buffy franchise. Did being so involved with this mythology influence the way you built your own vampire world?
NH: I spent nearly a decade writing about Buffy, so yes, I’ve been influenced. I’ve internalized so much about vampires that they feel real to me. I will also say that being around the incredible talent of Joss Whedon and his writers, actors, and crew has made me want to tell the best story I can tell, each time out.
EKA: There are a lot of vampire mythologies out there. While I think CRUSADE is sort of John Carpenter’s Vampires meets Buffy, what were some of your major influences while writing this book?
DV: Bram Stoker’s DRACULA had a strong impact on me as did Buffy. My favorite vampire story, though, is the television series Forever Knight. It makes me smile just to think about it.
NH: I’ve watched so many vampire movies and read so much vampire fiction that it’s tough to sort out which specific influences I had. Interview with the Vampire, some bits of Coppola’s Dracula, Langella’s Dracula, and of course, Buffy.
I’m also a huge fan of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I’m very visual; she sets each of her COUNT ST. GERMAIN novels in a different time period and I really feel I’m there.
EKA: You’ve both written books for Simon Pulse’s ONCE UPON A TIME, a series of reimagined fairytales told by many contemporary authors. How does writing books like this compare to writing scary, intense books like CRUSADE and WICKED?
NH: My OUAT novel THE ROSE BRIDE was pretty intense. And SPIRITED was set during the French and Indian War. In fact, the fairy tales that we retell are actually quite horrific at their origin.
DV: I have to agree, fairy tales at their heart are often horror stories. It’s fun to pull a bit of that out and play with it. I’ve written three of them with my little red riding hood retell, SCARLET MOON, being by far the scariest. It’s also the most passionate. It deals with really intense emotions, death, terror, etc. It’s also my first story with a werewolf in it.
EKA: What’s the biggest difference between writing for the mass market – the books you’ve written for franchises like Buffy, Charmed or other series — versus writing your own characters?
NH: In some ways, there’s actually more freedom writing for a franchise. The characters are so well drawn (by someone else!) that you can write a comedy, or a mystery, something with high drama, or a quirky one-off. But creating my/our own characters is intensely satisfying and exciting. You create companions of your spirit — a very special thing.
DV: There is a lot that you don’t have to figure out when you write for a franchise, but this can also cause you some problems because you can’t make up your own rules for how things work when you write yourself into a corner. I had particular trouble with one scene in CHARMED: PIED PIPER when a character had great need of an item, but I just couldn’t conjure it out of thin air like I would have done with our WICKED books. It took me two days to solve that one.
EKA: You both have a bent toward fantasy and horror. Why do you write in these altered worlds? Will either of you write contemporary YA in the future?
DV: I have written a contemporary YA series in the past, SWEET SEASONS. I would love to do another four books following the adventures of Candace as she works at a theme park. Other than that I currently have no plans to do any non-supernatural YA in the future.
NH: I have written a lot of contemporary romances and women’s fiction. At the beginning of my career, a wise writer told me to look at my bookshelf. It’s not “write what you know,” it’s “write what you love.” I love fantasy, dark fantasy, and horror. I also like to write about how love can and does change the world. Love is magick, whether it’s in a corporate boardroom, a castle, or a crypt. Even in the darkest place, there is hope. That’s what I love to write about.
EKA: What are you guys working on right now? Can you tell us, or are your projects super secret?
DV: Nancy and I just finished the second CRUSADE book. We’re working on a third series together. For myself I have three adult series I’m working on: THE PSALM 23 MYSTERIES, the KISS trilogy (vampires), and a supernatural thriller series (witches).
NH: Debbie and I are working on THE WOLF SPRINGS CHRONICLES in addition to CRUSADE. I have one more book in my young adult POSSESSIONS horror series for Razorbill, called THE SCREAMING SEASON. My POSSESSIONS editor and I are thinking of doing a mystery/thriller like my previous book, PRETTY LITTLE DEVILS. And I have plans for a historical horror trilogy.
Thanks so much to these magical, hard-working ladies! I don’t know about you, but I am psyched to read the books they’re working on (not to mention their entire backlist!). Readers, have any of you read books by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguié before? Or books set in the Buffy/Charmed universes that they contributed to? If not, go check them out, you’ll fall in love!
OKAY! So you want to win a copy of CRUSADE? 1. Leave a comment on this post, and make sure you leave your Twitter name! 2. Follow me (@emilytastic)on Twitter, and then tweet “I WANT TO BE A HUNTER @emilytastic.” You will thusly be entered in the drawing. Deadline for entries is Wednesday November 3. Winner will be determined by magical elves. Good luck!