November 2010 interview with C.S. Winchester author of PaSt Due

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C.S. Winchester author of PaSt Due

Welcome C.S. Winchester to Vampire-Love-Affair. I’m excited to have found a new vampire series to read.  Thanks a bunch for stopping by for our Q & A session.

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1) What was your first introduction to vampire romance literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?

I never had a particular affinity for vampire novels. I’ve read hundreds of horror novels over the years and a fair few of them involved vampires, but I’m ashamed to say I have never read Anne Rice, Poppy Z Brite or Bram Stoker and the like. I also have a weird “thing” where by if something gets too popular, I no longer want to try it, I just lose interest. I can’t really explain why.

I also don’t specifically recall the first vampire novel I read, sorry.

I chose vampires for the series because they fact they embodied the elements I needed. And though I do love vampires and will continue writing them, it’s not a genre I want to be pigeon holed into. Right now I am trying to work out the details on a new series that centers around a Muse and the slightly hapless man she’s assigned to serve.

2) Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite vampire romance book and why?

For a vampire romance book… I suppose the Twilight books would be the best romance books. And yes, I know there are many many problems with those novels, but once you start reading they are addictive and I literally couldn’t put them down. Back when I read them there also wasn’t the insanity that can be found in the Twilight fandom today, or the huge backlash that comes with popularity.

For a purely fun vampire read I like The Confessions of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom (though they’re not strictly vampire novels) and the Southern Vampire Mysteries.

3) Do you look to your own phobias to find subject matter? Are your stories the products of nightmares, childhood experiences, fantasies?

When writing Frankie I needed a reason that an intelligent, sane, professional woman would have anything to do with vampires, which is where the idea for her gift came from. When writing her I draw heavily on my own experiences as an undiagnosed dyslexic. My school denied the condition even existed, I was labeled as lazy, every report I ever had said I needed to try harder, though I was already trying twice as hard as everyone else. Even today most people just don’t understand why I can’t spell and why I have difficulty with things like telling the time or telling left from right. I used to be very resentful and obviously my confidence took many dents over the years, though I did my best to hide it as Frankie does. Even today I feel out of step with the rest of the world and though Frankie feels this to a much greater degree, have drawn heavily on experiences to define some areas of her character.

The stories themselves come from fantasies. I have always suffered from insomnia and my coping mechanism is to create stories in my head as I wait for sleep. It beats counting sheep!

4) Which of your books was the easiest/hardest to write?

The first novel was definitely the hardest. In fact I wrote it twice because I was so unhappy with my first attempt. Now that the rules of that universe and the characters core personalities are set in stone, it’s much easier to slip inside their heads and see what they will do in any given situation.

5) Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?

I think Dante would be the most entertaining but he’s unstable at the moment and probably most likely to eat me, so he definitely won’t be getting a dinner invitation in the foreseeable future.

Josh would be the least likely to eat me and he’s such a complex character that there’s a lot about him that even I don’t know, so I’d love to sit down and have a chat with him.

6) Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what way(s)?

Frankie is probably most like me. As well as what I mentioned above, I’ve given her a lot of my bad habits and personality flaws. She’s such a damaged person and it’s easier to write that from experience where possible.

Least like me is probably Dante. He’s smug, superficial, glib, witty and could sell coals to Newcastle if he were so inclined. He enjoys playing games and isn’t above manipulating people for his own enjoyment so he is the least like me.

7) What would your ideal career be, if you couldn’t be an author?

A vet because I adore animals. If I ever hit the big time, starting an animal sanctuary is one of my dreams.

8) Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

After I’ve finished editing a book I hand it over to a select few vampire fiction fans to pick apart, on the condition that they are brutally honest and don’t spare my feelings. I don’t take their opinions as law but if the same thing is mentioned by more than one, I’ll go back and look at it again. If there’s no compelling reason to leave it as it is, I’ll edit and improve it.

By doing that I hope that any negative reviews are just personal opinion. I have a circle of friends and I think it would be safe to say that none of them enjoy my books. I don’t take it personally, it just isn’t their thing. Everyone has different taste and it’s not a reflection on me if someone doesn’t like it. Of course if the same issues crop up over and over in reviews, I listen. I’d be daft not to.

9) Do you ever come up with anything so wild that you scare yourself and it leaves you wondering where that came from?

I’m afraid not. My mother is a true crime junkie and though it’s far from my preferred genre, I’ve been exposed to a lot of it over the years. I think it’s a fairly safe bet that nothing I put in my books is as sick and twisted as reality can be.

While I want there to be an element of fear in my books, I also want them to be escapist fun. I don’t want anyone going to bed at night worrying about my bad guys. As such, while they’re evil, they’re not climb-in-your-bedroom-window-kidnap-and-torture-you evil, if that makes sense.

10) What do you think draws people to vampire romance novels? Why do think we, as readers, like vampires?

What I find most attractive about vampires is their confidence. These are creatures who are stronger and faster than everything else, they’re more intelligent (or at least faster thinking, in my world they can still be a little clueless). They can control any human and therefore almost any experience and they have seen and done so much more than the average person, so very little phases them.

Of course that would make most people arrogant but vampires must live in secret, so they learn not to shout about their power and living for centuries also means they experience much loss. I think these factors combined serve to temper their ego’s and instead of creating monsters, create a creature with a truly accurate picture of their place in the world.

Vampires have nothing to prove, they don’t boast or brag because their ego’s don’t need stroking.

As for why my readers like them, I’ve read many theories over the years about why women like vampires and for me none have been accurate so I wouldn’t like to speak for anyone else.

11) Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?

As a reader I don’t like too graphic descriptions of sex. When it starts to read like an instruction manual I don’t find it sexy at all. Instead I try and paint an overall picture and capture the sensation and emotion. Plus my books aren’t just about romance, they’re about relationships and a long, lingering glance across a crowded room can be much more moving than a three page bedroom romp.

With action scenes, the necessary pace of a fight will prevent me from including too many graphic details because in the heat of the moment, the details aren’t registered in minute detail. When I do have the time to describe a violent scene, such as a crime scene, again I try not to go into too much detail but rather give an impression of it.

I have seen many graphic things depicted in films over the years but the one that has always stayed with me was a film where you never saw the actual crime. Later in the story you saw the lights switched off in the room where the murder happened and the walls literally glowed with Luminol. That made it quite clear just how brutal the murder had been without being in the slightest bit graphic. I find that the mind does a much more frightening  job of filling in the blanks than any description can.

12) Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?

Oh yes. I chose to set the books in Edinburgh because there is such a rich history here as well as being such a beautiful city. Most of the locations I use are real places (with a few exceptions) and I try when possible set events in real locations.

In book three which I’m writing now, I use the ghost of Bloody Mackenzie and the story of Greyfriars Bobbie, though they are not part of the main plot.

It’s lovely to have such a long history to draw from when writing the books because I think it gives them an added depth and helps anchor them in reality. I’d like to think some readers would be interested in researching the legends further, or maybe even visiting Bobbies grave if they ever happen to visit Edinburgh.

13) The perception of the vampire romance writer is that he/she is just a little bit weirder than most. Do you find yourself — and other vampire romance writers — to be more idiosyncratic than the average person?

Oh yes. I’m a huge geek (long before being a geek was considered cool) and I’ve always been on a slightly different wavelength to most people. Though I think I can hide it quite well when necessary.

I wouldn’t want to tar all vampire authors with the same brush though and most seem lovely.

14) What is one stereotype about vampire romance writers that is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?

I must confess I haven’t heard many stereotypes relating to vampire authors but I would guess they’re similar to the labels Emo’s and Goths have been tagged with over the years.

We are not obsessed with death or dying, we do not wear only black, we do not sleep in coffins, we are not depressives who spend all day reading Sylvia Plath and dreaming up inventive ways to commit suicide.

It seems to me that we’re regular people who enjoy a good horror story.

15) Have you ever been surprised by a controversy among fans or reviewers – for example, you created a character without thinking too much about what people would think of him, and found some readers loved him and some hated him?

No, not yet at least. I do wonder if one day it’ll end up with a Team Edward vs Team Jacob scenario, but so far I have seen no untoward love or loathing towards any of the characters.

I try and make all the main characters sympathetic, even when they do something wrong, so I hope no one will ever hate them, but considering what some of them get up to, I wouldn’t blame any readers who hated them.

16) Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?

I can’t say there’s any I’m sick of answering. The most common question seems top be what elements of my personality and my life have I used for the books and characters. I think if you like a character or a story, it’s quite natural to want to know about the mind that created it, so I hope that question never stops being asked.

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Cat,

I really enjoyed your answers to my questions.  With the holidays coming up and snow fast coming to Utah I love curling up with a good book and just immersing myself.  I look forward to getting to enjoy your series by starting with PaSt Due.

Tina D.
Tweet me @ vamploveaffair

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