Author P.N. Elrod (photo courtesy of Elrod)
Personally, one of my favorite current vampire writers, if one can call the past couple-of-dozen-or-so-years current, is Pat Elrod, better known on the bookshelves as P.N. Elrod. I first met Elrod at UncommonCon in Dallas many years ago. At that time I was going only by the initials and not knowing what the P.N. stood for. I discovered it stood for Pat and a whole Saturday Night Live scenario began playing out in my mind. The unisex name kept me in the dark as I lurked about the convention trying to discover what Pat Elrod looked like, much less if I was seeking a man or a woman to interview for one of my TV programs. Turns out that the author is an outgoing, outspoken and intriguing lady and based here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
Elrod has a number of short stories in a variety of anthologies but she is probably best known for her work as a novelist, vampires being the star of the show. She wrote adventures for the Ravenloft RPG as well as two novels (I, Strahd, Memoirs of a Vampire and I, Strahd, The War Against Azalin) about Strahd von Zarovich, the vampire lord that rules over the country.
She also created the character of Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire, an American colonist during the Revolutionary War. Her unusual spin on the character is that he and is family are British Loyalists, opposing the break from England. This four-book series is available from Dallas's own Benbella Books.
Barrett was sent to England to finish his education and became lover to a most charming vampire lady. A couple years later, when he was killed in an ambush while home in the colonies, the vampire part kicked in and brought him back in a very frightening way - frightening for Barrett, at least, but only for a moment. As a challenge to herself, Pat wrote the entire series without actually using the word "vampire" until late in the fourth book, and then only once.
Elrod's most popular on-going vampire series is The Vampire Files. The main character, Jack Fleming, also had a lady vamp for a lover. Her mysterious disappearance sparked a five year search by Fleming, who finally gave in to a need for a change in his life. He arrives in Chicago in 1936 during the era following prohibition. Fleming falls afoul of some gangsters and is killed. It's the bad guy's tough luck when Fleming returns from the dead to solve his own murder.
In the first book, Bloodlist, Fleming meets private agent Charles Escott, a British national who was a stage actor before going into the investigation business and the beautiful Bobbi Smythe, a talented singer with a lot of moxie and a wicked right hook. Thus begins Jack's afterlife adventures.
A lot has happened in the course of the series with new characters coming in and taking on an afterlife of their own. Elrod has revisited some characters with a story that takes place between the third book, Bloodcircle and the twelfth, Dark Road Rising. The following interview with Elrod has links to official excerpts to some of the books so you can try-before-you-buy.
Volume 2 omnibus collects books 4-6.
(image courtesy of Elrod)
Ethan Nahté: You have two dozen novels published in approximately twenty years. This number doesn't include all of your short stories in anthologies as well as the anthologies you have edited. How many hours/day or days/week do you spend writing on average?
P.N. Elrod: As few as possible! I have no discipline, which is a horrible flaw for any writer. Once I'm well started on a project, though, then I'm addicted to it all day long. When it's done, I collapse and have to really kick myself to start a new one.
EN: In 2009 Ace Science Fiction published Dark Road Rising, the twelfth Vampire Files novel which stars former journalist cum vampire detective & nightclub owner Jack Fleming along with his partner, private eye, Charles Escott, Fleming's girlfriend Bobbi & the newest addition, Whitey Kroun, which continues the storyline from Song In The Dark. A lot of serious changes have suddenly developed in Jack's life. Was this simply due to a need for change in your eyes?
Elrod: No, it was the natural progression of development in the life of the character. Real people—the interesting ones, anyway—don't remain static and neither do the ones I write about. Changes take place and they react to them. Whether they make good or poor choices is up to them, I just write about it.
Elrod: It's not a small book, it just looks that way! Tom and I fiddled with the fonts to keep the page count down along with the costs. The book is only 10K words shorter than one of my other novels. I could have made it bigger and fatter, but not sold it at a reasonable price.
EN: Why the separate story and the focus on Jonathan Barrett?
Elrod: I wanted to “finish” a sort of loose end left dangling in my third book, Bloodcircle. In that one the body of someone Jack and Barrett both cared about had been consigned to an anonymous grave. Barrett wanted to have a proper funeral, and it was just his bad luck there was more than one body in that grave. The two of them team up to figure out who killed that person, and it takes them straight into major trouble with some very bad people. Unfortunately, a tag team of annoyed vampires is a whole lot badder.
The story is a sequel to Bloodcircle since the plot makes better sense if you read that first. Time-wise, it takes place after Dark Road Rising, which is a year or so after Bloodcircle. It was a chance for me to put out a signed, limited edition—it's on acid-free paper, too—and see how it might sell.
It was also something for my readers! Some really nice people have been gently nagging me for more Vampire Files stories and this filled the bill.
I self-published because I knew my regular publisher would not pick up a book that was so tied to what they would see as an “old” title. They prefer “stand alone books” so new readers don't feel adrift in not knowing the back story of a series. This is definitely aimed for long-standing VF readers!
Since this one did so well, I'm planning a collection of Vampire Files short stories. I'm doing rewrites of out of print stories and will include an all new one in the mix. Some of my readers have been wanting the VF stories in one volume, so I hope this will do well, too. The word count will be about the same as The Devil You Know. It will look skinny, but only to keep the costs down.
Again, I'll have to self-publish it because unless you're on the New York Times bestseller lists, anthologies don't sell all that well. However, low sales to a big publisher are a major success to a small one!
EN: The Devil You Know is currently sold out, which is a good thing in a way. Is another printing coming soon?
Elrod: Absolutely! Soon as I get the cash set aside, I'll be talking to Tom Knowles and Darkstar about a new edition. Some very sharp fans caught a couple of typos (just a couple) and I'll have those fixed. Also, the first 500 copies had an error on the book spine. My name was spelled “Elrond” not “Elrod.” Tom was mortified, but I thought it was hilarious and wouldn't let him correct it. That print run is called the “elvish edition” and the books are now collectibles!
EN: Your new vampire character, Whitey Kroun, has his own story coming out in Vampires: Dracula and the Undead Legions. When is that due out? Anything you can tell us about the storyline?
Elrod: It's out already from Moonstone Books. Whitey just wanted to get away from Chicago—and Jack Fleming—and have a little R&R and thinking time. He checks out a bar and deadly hijinks follow.
The fun stuff about Kroun is that he's a blank slate even to himself. He's puzzled about moral issues that stand in the way of an easy solution to a problem. If killing someone solves that problem, then his first impulse is to go ahead and shoot, but he's learning to stop and think first. He's a sociopath who's developed a conscience—which makes him a lot of fun to write!
EN: You mentioned the other day on Facebook that you have a new book due out this year. When is the book coming out? Can fans expect to hear something from it at any of the upcoming conventions such as FenCon VII?
Elrod: That would be my new collection with St. Martin's, Dark And Stormy Knights, and it's out and selling well.
EN: What is the theme of this anthology? Who are some of the authors included in the book?
EN: You also recently sold a new anthology?
Elrod: Indeed, yes! My agent sold a new urban fantasy proposal to St. Martin's called Hex Symbols. We're in the process of getting the contracts to the writers, so I don't see the book hitting the shelves until late 2011 or early 2012. Jim Butcher is in that one, too, along with Simon Green whose work I love. I'm looking forward to seeing the new stories coming in!
EN: Let's talk Jim Butcher for a moment. When I first saw his books coming out the descriptions seemed to be very reminiscent of locale and subject matter of Jack Fleming. Obviously there are some differences and you even mentioned at a recent convention that included Mr. Butcher that you were wondering about his book as well. Turns out you like his writing and support him. Any comments?
Elrod: I was just yanking his chain on that panel. I've got nothing but respect for him and his talent! He, his wife, writer Shannon K. Butcher, and I are buds and hang out to talk shop when we have the time. I want them to adopt me, but I think they're too busy.
The parallels of our respective series? That's just two great minds thinking alike. I LOVE Jim's work! He had NO idea that I had a vampire PI working in Chicago, but the Vampire Files are set in the 1930s, and Jim's wizard PI is in the present, and there are plenty of other differences. He's such a good writer I either had to love his work or shoot him, and if I shot him there wouldn't be new Dresden Files.
EN: Any other books, stories, anthologies or other exciting news that you would like to mention that we haven't covered or may not be on your Vampwriter.com site at the moment?
Elrod: I'm working on a sequel to Quincey Morris, Vampire, which is at Baen Books. Quincey is one of the five hunters who went after Dracula. He was killed at the end of Dracula, but in my universe Quincey comes back as a vampire himself, just a different “breed” from Dracula I had a lot of fun returning that Texan to London. This new book is way overdue, but I think Quincey Morris and the West End Ripper will be worth the wait!