AND the winner of the drawing is LYNETTE MAE! Happy reading!
Hey, kids! Well. Here we are. Another Friday, another author in the summer blast tour. This week, we’ve got Damian Serbu, author of gay paranormal and gothic horror novels. OOOOOO! Damian is also giving away a copy of The Vampire’s Quest, the latest in his Vampire’s Angel series. More below. But first:
If you’d like to be in the drawing for Damian’s book, please state that clearly in a comment. Don’t include your email address in the comment body (we’re trying to save you from spambots), but do include it in the fill-out form for the comment. The elves in back will see it, but they won’t tell a soul. Swear.
We’ll be doing the drawing Friday night at 11 PM EST (US). I post the name of the winner on this blog right after the drawing and I’ll email the winner within 30 minutes of the drawing. So if you see your name here but you haven’t heard from me after that time period, check your spam filter.
All rightie. Let’s go meet Damian and take a gander at some of his work.
Damian Serbu resides in Chicago with his partner of 17 years and their dogs. He writes the Vampire’s Angel series, which is set during the French Revolution. He has also written a ghostly novel, Secrets in the Attic. And be prepared for Dark Sorcerer Threatening, a whole new dark magic novel, coming your way this fall.
source: regalcrest.biz (re-sized here)
Book 1 in the Vampire’s Angel series: Xavier, a Parisian priest trying to negotiate the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution, is drawn to Thomas, a mysterious American, who tries desperately to keep his secret from Xavier — that he is not entirely human. Dark forces are afoot, however, in the household of Xavier’s sister, who has fallen prey to a witch doctor’s machinations and stands to lose the family fortune. Can Xavier break the spell over his sister? Will Thomas return his affections? Or will all be lost in the brewing storm of war? Well, golly gee, you might want to read it and find out!
THIS HERE BOOK IS UP FOR A GIVEAWAY!
Book 2 of the Vampire’s Angel series: It’s 1822, and Xavier and Thomas face another challenge. Xavier has been called by the archangel Michael to undertake a quest to America. But this is in violation of the Vampire Council’s codes, and the punishment could be death or worse. Xavier must also abandon Thomas, a decision that tears at him. He seeks the help of his aging sister, with both Thomas and the Vampire Council on his trail, both vying for his soul. Win it and find out what happens!
source: regalcrest.biz (re-sized here)
Teenaged Jaret and his family leave Colorado to attend his beloved grandfather’s funeral in another state. But Jaret has a feeling that all is not right at the family home where his grandparents resided, that something lurks in the attic, and that he needs to protect his family from it. They don’t believe that he’s able to see ghosts, including his grandfather, who has been trying to warn him. But warn him about what? Is there really something in the attic? What family secrets will be uncovered? And will Jaret be able to tap into whatever powers he seems to have to help? Maybe you should read it and see. 😀
Sound good? Let’s go get all dark and creepy with Damian!
ANDI: Hey, Damian! Long time no chat. Full disclosure for our readers. I have served as the editor on two of your manuscripts, which was pretty darn groovy. So heck, we go back, you and I! LOL You write gay horror, but I’d argue that there are elements of gothic historical fiction in your work — particularly the Vampire’s Angel series, which takes place during the French Revolution and the years after. Could you tell our readers how you came to write this series?
DAMIAN: Definitely both horror/speculative fiction and gothic/historical elements go into my vampire novels — even the one coming out next spring that is set in contemporary times. That’s a merging of two passions in my life. My academic training is in history, so I love playing around with the past and making sure that, even in my fiction, the basic facts are correct. For example, a lot of people have told me that they learned something about the French Revolution from The Vampire’s Angel and slavery from The Vampire’s Quest. That background of mine is where the gothic/historical comes from.
ANDI: That’s something you and I have in common. We both have academic backgrounds in history, and I really enjoy that element of your work my own self. HISTORY ROCKS!
DAMIAN: Moving toward the horror/speculative fiction — I love reading about vampires, ghosts, and the supernatural.
ANDI: And who doesn’t? It’s that “what if” element that so many of us enjoy. Clearly, you took it a bit more seriously than most. 😉
DAMIAN: That has long been a hobby of mine and actually intensified as I studied history because it provided escapism from graduate school.
ANDI: Heh. I wrote a lot of poetry and volunteered as a part-time radio host and DJ. That helped a lot. But I do admit a fascination with the paranormal.
DAMIAN: I’ve always been intrigued with jumping into a world of ghosts, goblins, vampires, or whatever, as a way to explore the human condition while also relaxing over something spooky. So my writing is a natural merging of these two passions.
ANDI: Let’s come forward in time. You’ve also written contemporary paranormal fiction, Secrets in the Attic. This book deals with a haunting and a teenaged boy’s abilities as well as his struggle with his sexual orientation. Where did the idea for this work come from?
DAMIAN: I love telling this story! The whole idea came from a dream. Or actually a nightmare that I had about three times as a teenager.
DAMIAN: In the dream, I’ve returned to my Gramps’s town for his funeral (he was still alive at the time). I’m wandering around his house (historical note: I have no idea where the house in my dream came from because Gramps only had an apartment), when I see him and my grandmother (another historical note: I never met my grandmother, as she had died before I was born), in ghost form, dancing together in the attic and happy. But then something happens and I have to run through the house to escape.
ANDI: WOW. Talk about art imitating dream! Readers, if you read Secrets in the Attic, you’ll definitely see elements of this dream in it.
DAMIAN: Next in the dream, I’m in the car with my family. We drive away from the house but my grandfather’s ghost swoops out of the window and down onto our car. That’s when I wake up. Before I even thought I would seriously ever write a novel, I knew that this dream would make a cool scene in a movie or book. So I wrapped the story around the nightmare. Even though Secrets was my second published novel, I had actually written it before The Vampire’s Angel because of the influence of this dream.
ANDI: That is a really cool story. Okay, so were you that weird guy in school who was fascinated with vampires and things that go bump in the night? No? Then what drew you to horror and paranormal subjects?
DAMIAN: I was someone who always loved vampires and horror films, and my friends knew that about me. But I was far too shy for it to become too much of a persona until college, and even after that. I do remember a friend of mine and I running around town one night in vampire caps, and it wasn’t Halloween!
ANDI: I’m going to guess you’re referring to TEETH caps and not vampire baseball caps. You’ll have to let me know another time if you ever bit your tongue doing that.
DAMIAN: I’m not sure what first called to me in terms of my interest in horror. I was never very adventurous in terms of being a daredevil or defying rules. So maybe it was the way that I got a thrill and stepped outside the norm, without being too wild and crazy.
ANDI: I think a lot of us can probably relate to that.
DAMIAN: No one in my immediate family really digs horror, so it was something I came to on my own. They still talk about the time they chose me to select our Christmas Eve movie, and I had us watch Silence of the Lambs.
ANDI: Oh, for SURE, Damian. AWESOME feel-good movie for the holidays! LOL As an aside, I went to see that on its opening day, which was Valentine’s Day, 1991. Which seemed appropriate for my mood at the time. I had some drama in my life, and really didn’t want anything to do with Valentine’s Day in the traditional sense. So I went to see that.
DAMIAN: Seemed like a good selection to me — what with it winning an Academy Award and all. To this day I am not allowed to participate in choosing movies for all of us to watch!
ANDI: Huh. Well, no accounting for taste. Your family has missed out on some assuredly great horror flicks to liven up the holidays. I think I’m going to come to your house for both Christmas AND Halloween just to indulge my own taste for the weird and paranormal. Back to the matter at hand, about what else might have drawn you to horror.
DAMIAN: I think that the hidden nature of vampires and sexuality related in my mind to coming to terms with being gay, even if I didn’t know it in those terms at the time. I play around with this when writing about my vampires, too. There are also sorts of closets and layers of secrets. Looking back, my coming-of-age self could play with those ideas and explore them through horror before I was ready to come to terms with my sexuality.
ANDI: I’m intrigued by this idea of vampirism as itself a metaphor for being gay, something I’ve thought about in the past. I’ll get to that in a minute. In the meantime, how did you come to write fiction? Have you always been writing it or was there a moment where you just thought: “Wow. This could make a good story”?
DAMIAN: Until graduate school, I almost exclusively read nonfiction, except the occasional horror novel for fun, and never dreamt of writing fiction! I realize now, however, that the stories in my novels and a passion for the written word, both fiction and nonfiction, always lurked within me. I started writing fiction because a story came to me that just demanded to get out. Literally, the story compelled me to get it onto paper. That story is actually my fourth novel, coming out this fall: Dark Sorcerer Threatening. [NOTE: you can find out more HERE] I just realized that I had more to communicate in writing than I could if I just stuck to nonfiction. Plus, it allowed me to get the vampires and ghouls involved. Not to mention the emotion — historians don’t always do emotion, lol. I needed an outlet for that.
ANDI: So true, about historians. And sad. Because history is so full of great stories, full of all kinds of emotion. But alas, the strictures of academia don’t let you express that. Let’s dig a bit. You and I both have ties to Colorado. You blogged recently that you came out in the early 1990s, and that you attended several Pride festivals in Denver. If it was 1990-1992, I was there! We’re like two ships. . .Anyway. Is there some aspect of being gay that relates to writing vampirism for you? Both are considered, in many circles, “outcast” identities, but there’s invariably this weird fascination with both, from those who label us outsiders. The paranormal often beckons, but also repels. I often wonder about its attraction to LGBTQ writers. Thoughts?
DAMIAN: I should have read all the questions before I wrote the one above, that kind of gets at this! The hidden world is definitely a theme for both gay life and horror. There is a mystery and intrigue with the unknown, but also the knowledge that scares people, especially those on the outside.
ANDI: I mean, think about it. Vampires live on the margins of societies — they’ll move through it, engage with certain parts of it, but they’re not really ever a part of it. They’re loathed and feared but people are drawn to them and the idea of forbidden sex, sensuality, and sexuality. Sound like any of the anti-gay people you know? The ones who constantly rail about the evils of gay sex but are constantly talking and clearly thinking about it? Well, vampires are a representation of the evils of carnal lust, but they are, in a sense, irresistible. In most modern vampire fiction, you’ll see those elements at play. And I think that LGBT authors, because we are marginalized in society, and because we are often falsely reviled as sexual predators, sense that about vampiric legends and lore, and maybe that’s why some LGBT authors find paranormal fiction resonates with them — a sense of the forbidden and “on the edges.” We live there anyway, because of what society forces upon us. So why not explore it through fiction?
DAMIAN: My vampires are more like Anne Rice vampires than Bram Stoker or Stephen King evil vampires. She plays around with these ideas, and I started reading her in college. I think she transformed writing about vampires.
ANDI: I agree. She really did turn vampires into rock stars (literally, for those who have read her work).
DAMIAN: So now, vampires are often misunderstood and have to remain in hiding for their own safety. That obviously relates to being gay and coming out. Sometimes I write about that overtly, and other times it’s a theme that pops out after I finish the novel. I also like the supernatural because in dealing with LGBTQ issues, you can strip away some constraints, whether financial, economic, political, or whatever, and get at the heart of love and caring. You can also punish prejudicial assholes when the vampires suck out their soul. Lol. Brutal, I know. But fun — as long as it’s fiction.
ANDI: I find myself rooting for vampires when they’re opening a can of serious vampiric whup-ass on some asshat. So yes, I get that. And I like that fiction allows an arena for explorations of all sides of the human emotional spectrum. But vampires and ghosts aren’t all you write about. You’re expecting the release of Dark Sorcerer Threatening this fall. Can you tell us a bit about it and its inspiration?
DAMIAN: It was inspired by a movie about the three musketeers.
ANDI: Oh, of course. I totally should have guessed. 😀
DAMIAN: I thought it would be romantic to go back to that era but play around with a hidden kingdom of men loving men. To get the supernatural into it, I’ve added wizards and magic. There is a sorcerer threatening the kingdom. But even more than that, it’s a love story between the king and a new arrival to Elysium. I would say that it’s part romance, part mystery, and part horror.
ANDI: Sounds like a great mash-up of elements. You also do something interesting in the forthcoming Book III of the Vampire’s Angel series (called The Vampire’s Witch). That is, you bring characters from the ghostly Secrets in the Attic together with characters from the Vampire’s Angel series. Two very different time periods and worlds, and very different characters. How did you come to write that?
DAMIAN: The merging of those two worlds actually materialized over time. I had often envisioned a sequel to Secrets in the Attic. I even had the basic premise of the story and knew that I wanted to continue with Jaret’s life and bring back his ghostly nemesis. At the same time, the vampire books became a series. It just hit me that Jaret was going to meet these vampires. So suddenly the third in the Vampire’s Angel series merged with Jaret’s story, and there you have it! It was fun to mix those two worlds, again kind of like Anne Rice has done over the course of her novels.
ANDI: I like it. So what’s your writing process? Do you write to music? Do you have a private space? Any rituals you engage in prior to writing?
DAMIAN: The process depends on my mood and varies from time to time. Sometimes I use music, sometimes candles. Other times I just take a quiet moment to transport myself to that “other place,” to that other story, and let it take over. I really need to concentrate when I’m writing. So I don’t answer the phone, don’t go to the internet. Even Paul, my spouse, knows not to interrupt! I remove myself completely to the story and allow the characters to take over.
Though you should know that the dogs refuse to obey this rule, so barking, carrying on, and demanding attention are all allowed no matter what I’m doing. Sometimes there is a mandatory giving kisses break. Sometimes we have to pee immediately. Sometimes the mail carrier threatens the house. Paul and I rent from the dogs, so I can’t do anything about their being in charge.
ANDI: LOL My dog, who I lost last October, used to hate it when I was reading something so she’d come over and put her paw right in the middle of the page of whatever it was. Book, newspaper, magazine. If I was working at the computer, she’d come and stare at me and she’d do this plaintive sigh. It was so cute. I’d of course drop everything and let her outside or take her for a stroll. I really miss her. So yes, I do know what it means to rent from the dog.
DAMIAN: Back to the question at hand. When it’s time to write, it’s all about the muse taking over. I also have cool things in my office, where I do most of my writing, that help to inspire me. Like a statue of the archangel St. Michel, emblems from Vlad the Impaler’s life, a skeleton painting my brother did for me. Cool shit that sets a darkened mood.
ANDI: I am SO coming to your house for the holidays! MUAH HA HA! So as cool as those Vlad the Impaler emblems are, tell us something that not many people know about you. Like, do you play drums in a Goth band or something?
DAMIAN: Hmm, I’m a diehard Cleveland sports fan. Totally in love with the Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers. I never really played sports but grew up in a family that loves them. So I live and die with my teams. Even have season tickets to the Browns. The one demand I had for Paul before we got married was that he had to become a Browns fan!
ANDI: You drive a hard bargain, sir!
DAMIAN: A lot of people find this part of my life surprising when they meet me — gay horror author, and sports have little to do with that or history!
ANDI: Well, maybe the history YOU do! I enjoy baseball history, so there you go.
DAMIAN: And there aren’t a lot of diehard sports fans in the gay community that I hang around with.
ANDI: My god, man! You need more lesbians in your life! LOL
Okay, I know you’ve got a pirate novel under way, as well as a “top secret” project. When can we expect those and what else might you have in the pipeline?
DAMIAN: Well, the “when” is more up to my publisher than anything! I should have the query about the pirate novel to Regal Crest this fall sometime, and hopefully they will accept it! That should come out in a year or so, if all goes well. The top secret project would be after that. It is a total departure for me, but I write a bit of it each week and am loving it. That’s maybe 18 months out? Once I get that done, the fourth installment of the Vampire’s Angel series is lurking in my mind with a new vampire and a much darker side to the vampire world than I’ve explored thus far.
ANDI: And those all sound fab! I’m going to let you get back to it, so your fans can rest assured I’m not talking your ear off and keeping you from writing. It’s been a pleasure catching up with you. Thanks!
Readers, you can find info about Damian and his work at his website, HERE, and at the Regal Crest website.
Happy reading, happy Friday, and good luck in the drawing!