Sunday, August 3, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Elise Walters


It is a common bit of convention wisdom the vampire genre is played out. Of course, that was said after the glut of Dracula-rip offs following Bela Lugosi. Then it was said again during the Hammer Horror picture era. It was said to Anne Rice when she tried to publish Interview with a Vampire. Then it was said to Laurel K. Hamilton after she published Guilty Pleasures. It was also said to Stephanie Meyer before she sold enough copies of her books to purchase a small galaxy.

In short, vampires will never played out but they can become repetitive unless you bring something new to the genre. Vampires might be overexposed at times but the same was said for J.R.R Tolkien and his style of fantasy after ten thousand or more (I may actually be underestimating the numbers) published books more or less identical to his works but lacking his creativity.

As a self-styled discriminating vampire fiction connoisseur, I have nothing to do with 90% of the vampire market but restrict myself to what I feel is the wheat from the chaff. For the most part, this doesn't have to be Tolkien or even Rice but it does have to be different. Things like Gabrielle Faust's post-apocalypse cyberpunk Eternal Vigilance series (here) or even just very well-written character drama in the Paranormal Romance Blackthorn series (reviewed here, here, and here).

So what does this mean for our latest interviewee? Elise Allyn Walters wrote a very good vampire novel. One which isn't about their tortured angst over their condition or, necessarily, how a vampire can be fixed by the love of a good woman. That, alone, puts it over 60% of its competing market. The humor and enjoyability of its plucky heroine added another 31% with an additional 1% for its villain's comic book supervillainy. So, it's squarely within the 90% range and I reviewed the first novel of the Tentyrian Legacy series here.

Better still, she's agreed to do a interview with us!

1.  So, Elise, what makes Tentyrian Legacy different from other vampire novels?

When you boil it down, it’s the book’s original concept that makes it different. I created my vampires, called Tentyrians, using the mythology surrounding the Zodiac of Dendera, which has never been done before. I was inspired by the Dendera Zodiac, an Egyptian bas-relief that was taken from the ceiling of a temple found in Dendera, Egypt in the 1800s.

The carving was found in a chapel of the Hathor temple at Dendera but it is now housed at the Louvre museum in Paris, France. The carving depicts the twelve symbols and constellations associated with the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

In Tentyrian Legacy I created twelve fictional vampire covens from these symbols to form the Tentyrian race that lived in the city of Tentyris at the time of the Ptolemaic reign. Dendera is in fact a real place; it was once the capital of the 6th Nome in Upper Egypt. In Greek, “Dendera” translates to “Tentyra”, which is how I came up with the name of my vampires and their city.

In Tentyrian Legacy, the Tentyrians are ruled by the Council of the Zodiac, which consists of the twelve coven leaders as well as four “Luminary” princesses and Queen Hathor. The idea for the Luminaries and the Queen was inspired by images found in the Zodiac of Dendera as well.

What was great about creating the world of Tentyrian Legacy is that I wasn’t held back by preconceived ideas of vampires. I was able to create them from my imagination and tie them to something historically accurate. That isn’t to say the Tentyrian vampires don’t bear any resemblance to vampires that we all know and love either in books or movies.
Origin: Possess a genetic mutation from humans that appeared around 180 B.C. While born of human parents those with the mutation decided to form their own community called Tentyris led by Queen Hathor. In modern day, this mutation has largely gone dormant. Tentyrians can be “created” from humans, however it is an arduous process that requires months and often years of teaching self- control to prevent blood lust.
Survival: Require blood to drink (human or animal), can eat food in small quantities, practically immortal but severe injury such as decapitation will kill them, can go out in sunlight but prefer to be in the dark as that is when they are strongest
Appearance: Do not age past 25, pale skin, most are beautiful.
Power: Powers range in each Tentyrian (telekinesis, memory manipulation, premonition, etc.) but the most powerful are those on the Council of the Zodiac. Council members can “shift” or physically move themselves with their minds.
Survival: To survive the Tentyrians built the city of Tentyris under the guise of a religious community. They are sworn to a code where their true nature is kept secret from humans outside of Tentyris. As part of the code, Tentyrians can only take blood from willing humans.
2. How would you describe your lead, Arianna Parker? How is she different from other heroines in these sorts of books?


Since Tentyrian Legacy follows Arianna from childhood and into adulthood her personality changes as she grows. As a young child and pre-teen we see her quiet and subservient to her demanding parents who completely misunderstand her. Through a series of events, Arianna grows into a headstrong woman who values her independence and is admired for her brilliance.

On a superficial level, Arianna is gorgeous. But she doesn’t rely on her good looks to get her where she wants to be. Arianna works hard for what she has, constantly struggling with symptoms akin to schizophrenia that take her years to control. Ultimately, Arianna comes to be a successful businesswoman in finance; she’s methodical in nature and intensely private with her inner circle. When the legacy of the Tentyrians comes into her life, she is completely unprepared for what’s in store.

As far as how she compares to other heroines in vampire literature, I’m sure there are parallels you could call out—her physical beauty, her love interest Maximos who also isn’t hard on the eyes…But I’d say the crux of what makes her different is that she is very much her own woman and she never needs a man to define her. Rather than wanting to be swept up in a man’s arms her instinct is to want to stand on her own two feet.  

3. Arianna is diagnosed as schizophrenic at the start of the novel. How did you go about deciding to incorporate such an element into your character?

As I started drafting Tentyrian Legacy I knew I wanted Arianna to have the power to read minds and to have what I’d call a “broken” childhood. Having her labeled as a “schizophrenic” served as the vehicle for bringing both of those elements to life. As a child, Arianna can’t understand the voices she hears in her head and the physical and mental ramifications she experiences cause her parents to alienate her. All of this contributes to Arianna becoming the woman she is.

4. The Tentyrian vampires have a very well-developed culture based around ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology and history. How did those elements influence your characterization of their society?

The mythological and historical elements not only helped create the structure of Tentyrian society but I’d say it helped characterize them as I tried to notch the Tentyrians into history seamlessly. What I mean by that is, if the Tentyrians were in fact real—I wanted how they needed to act and live to reflect how for thousands of years their existence was kept secret. As a society (until all hell breaks loose), the Tentyrians pride themselves on loyalty, honor, secrecy, and respect for all life.

That is why the Tentyrians have such an elaborate governing system and code for how they must coexist with humans. By using a point in time around 53 B.C. where Ptolemy XII (“Auletes”) was in power, I was also able to use real life events to explain the emotions and ultimately the actions of the Tentyrians to abandon Tentyris, which is the jumping off point for the entire story.

5. There's a lot of flashbacks in your book. Do you think using history is an underdeveloped tool in vampire novels?


Yes, I do think it is underutilized. I love using flashbacks as a way to show how key experiences in a character’s life shapes him or her. I think there are a lot of books out there that will present to you a character and they are the way they are because the author just tells you so with a few adjectives. I want to actually show why. In terms of historical components, I like bringing them into my work because I find them interesting and because they add an element of realness.

6. Did you have any influences from favorite writers going into this book?


I’d say Anne Rice and Karen Essex. Anne Rice because, in my mind, she is queen of all things vampire. Rice was the first writer to make me fall in love with the genre and even want to write a vampire book to begin with. Karen Essex’s writing style and approach to Egyptian history has always been inspiring to me.  I could reread Essex’s Kleopatra again and again.

7. Who is your favorite character after Arianna?


Probably Stavros or Calix. I like how bad they are and I found writing their dialogue and describing them—from their choice in clothes to their deepest emotions –really freeing. It was like doing something naughty and loving it. Maybe it’s because deep down I’m not as good as I’d like to think…

8. How would you describe Tentyrian vampires? What makes them tick?


Well there are two types of Tentyrian vampires as they break into different factions. The good ones led by the Tentyrian Brotherhood are loyal, stoic, brave, and a little sad. Their sole purpose for living is taking down the Dark Coven and saving the human race—all because of a promise and prophecy made millennia prior. Meanwhile, the bad ones (The Dark Coven) see themselves as realists, they are admittedly bloodthirsty and selfish but it is because they fundamentally believe they are superior creatures.

9. How do you like your vampires? Misunderstood or bad?


Both, I think! For me they come hand in hand. It’s funny though, by the time I finished writing Tentyrian Legacy I felt I liked the “bad guys” the Dark Coven more than my own hero Maximos who is more of the traditionally “misunderstood” love interest.

10. What can we expect in future installments of the Tentyrian Legacy series?
 

More vampires, love, and plots to destroy the world! The next installment is called Tentyrian Thirst and focuses on the story of the Second Luminary, Kiersten Kincaid.  Kiersten is strong like Arianna—I don’t think I have it in me to create weak female heroines—but she will face some unique challenges when it comes to embracing her Tentyrian heritage and human love interest Xavier Shafer.  And if you liked the characters in Tentyrian Legacy, don’t worry they will be back in book 2. I hope you will take a read!

Thank you, Elise, I appreciate you taking the time to join us!

2 comments:

  1. Great interview, Elise - and Charles, of course! It sounds like you have the start of a fascinating series here. I'd love to know how long you've spent creating it. It's now on my TBR pile.

    And thanks for the Blackthorn shout-out too, Charles!

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    1. Thanks for the shout-out, Lindsay! I think you'll like it!

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