Interview with Tanya Huff

April 10, 2007 (Firefox News / Megan Herrell) -- Tanya Huff, author of the best-selling Blood Books novels upon which Lifetime’s new show “Blood Ties” is based, very graciously gave of her time to answer questions about her book, share insight into her characters and talk a bit about the show. A very big thank you goes out to Ms. Huff for her time. “Blood Ties” airs Sunday nights at 10 PM on Lifetime.

Harrell: How did you come up with the concept for your books?

Huff: I get the ideas for my books from a number of different places. I remember that Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light was inspired by the historical belief that "simple" people could see fairie. Fifth Quarter grew out of a very short dream. Mostly though, I don't get concepts, I just tell stories...

Harrell: What inspired you to write the Blood Books?

Huff: I was working at Bakka Books, an SF bookstore in Toronto, and I realized that vampire readers are incredibly loyal. They'll buy anything with fangs in the hope of finding something worth reading. So I thought, I should write these guys a good vampire book -- they'll have the story they want and I'll be able to get a mortgage and we'll all be happy.

Harrell: Do you have a favorite Blood novel?

Huff: That's kind of like asking a parent if they have a favourite child. I love them all equally.

Harrell: When you wrote Blood Price, did you intend for it to spawn a series of books centered around Vicki, or was it originally just supposed to be a one shot novel?

Huff: The Vicki Nelson books were sold as a minimum four book series with the emotional story arc always aiming for that pivotal scene in Blood Pact where Mike thinks he's going to lose her by saving her and Henry knows that if he saves her, he loses her. If he doesn't -- both he and Mike suffer, if he does, he suffers alone. I intended to use traditional monster movie monsters and had I been able to slip in a book staring the creature from the Rideau Canal, I would have. We should probably all be grateful I never managed it.

Harrell: What made you decide to end the Vicki Nelson series the way you did with Blood Pact and Blood Debt?

Huff: Blood Pact was always intended to be the end of the series. That was where I was aiming for right from the beginning. Then, in the years after Pact, I wrote two short stories using the same characters and realized that I still had something to say about them, that there were loose ends to tie up. So I wrote Blood Debt, tied them up, and have nothing further to explore at novel length about these characters. I've said everything I have to say. I think Henry's last line to Vicki is a terrific way to end the series, "Be mystery to him."

Harrell: If you could rewrite any part of your books now, would you? If so, what would you change?

Huff: I've mentioned in a number of places that I think Peter Mohan -- the Blood Ties showrunner, creator, executive producer -- making Coreen Vicki's assistant was a brilliant idea so if I was writing the books now, I'd do the same thing but... I would never rewrite one of my earlier books because I'm not the person I was when I wrote them and I have to trust that person knew what she was doing. If you start second guessing your earlier work, you'll drive yourself crazy. All you can do is go on and keep producing new work that allows you to express where you are now.

Harrell: What made you decide to base your vampire on an actual person, and why did you choose Henry, Duke of Richmond?

Huff: I was reading a Tudor history and came upon a paragraph about Henry Fitzroy, how he went from a perfectly healthy, robust seventeen year old to pale and wan to dead in three short months and I thought, wow, that certainly sounds like he ran into a vampire. He wasn't a particularly well known historical figure even though he comes from one of the most analyzed periods in English history, and that gave me a lot to work with.

Harrell: Is there anyone specific who helped inspire the characters of Vicki and Mike?

Huff: Vicki is more like me than any of my other characters. We have the same sense of humour, we have the same tendency to swear too much, we have the same commitment issues and prickly emotional barriers -- so at core, she's a bit like me. But overall, she's herself. Mike was always himself, right from the start.

Harrell: Why did you decide to give Retinitis Pigmentosa to Vicki?

Huff: I needed to give Vicki a reason to have been forced off active duty as a police officer so it had to be a serious condition but it couldn't impede her too much as a PI. I saw a PBS program about RP and I thought her having lost her night vision and therefore not being able to function at night was a terrific parallel to Henry's not being able to function in the daytime.

Harrell: How does Vicki’s relationship with and feelings for Mike differ from her relationship with and feelings for Henry? At times it seems like she’s just scratching an itch with how she hops between their beds (Vicki's definitely not losing that way), but at other times it seems like she really cares about them in more than a “good friends with benefits” kind of way.

Huff: Vicki loves Mike in a 'this is my other half, this is a man who understands and accepts me, this is a man who won't let me lie to myself' kind of way but she's terrified of commitment. If she admits she loves him, she feels that gives him power over her. While her past has made her emotionally defensive, the RP diagnosis totally cut the ground out form under her. She's going blind and there is no cure -- she's totally freaked by that and sees Mike's concern as pity. She's always been very self-contained and independent, unable to give over control to others and the RP is suddenly controlling a part of her life. Also, to an extent, Mike represents the job she loved and lost and, when she looks at him, sometimes that's what she sees. Thus, as things spiral out of control, she's put up emotional barricades between them to keep from getting hurt. . Mike pretty much knows all this about Vicki and because he knows what's behind the barricade, he's willing to try and knock it down.

Vicki's attraction to Henry is, in part, a way of distancing herself from her feelings for Mike. In part. Henry's also attractive, powerful, mysterious and like nothing she's ever known before. He doesn't pity her because he didn't know her before the RP -- also, he ignites in sunlight so in some respects they're more equal than her and Mike. Commitment isn't an issue with Henry because they can't have a happily ever after -- he can't only feed on her so there will always be others, she'll age and he won't, he can only exist in the night while she can only see in the day. She knows there's no future with Henry but as well as the physical attraction, she loves his sense of responsibility, his sense of justice, and his willingness to go the extra mile for those he considers his.

Henry is Mystery to her. Mike is all the wonderfully messy things that make up Reality.

Harrell: Henry contradicts quite a few typical vampire myths. Why did you decide to go against popular vampire lore, and how did you decide to keep certain myths, such as Henry burning in the sun, and to discard other myths, such as Henry wearing crosses and seeing his reflection?

Huff: I kept every myth I could rationalize a biological reason for and tossed everything I couldn't. Sunrise brings changes in the earth's electromagnetic field -- thus it's within the realm of plausibility there could be a condition this acts on resulting in unconsciousness like unto death. Sunlight's reaction with Henry's skin is like a fictionally extreme case of CEP one of the rarest variations of the genetic disorder called Porphyria where exposure to any ultraviolet light can burn skin. Since my vampires aren't evil, there's no reason for religious symbolism to affect them. And there's no reason at all for the laws of physics to be rescinded and for light to bend around them giving them no reflection.

Harrell: What is it about Vicki that makes Henry so infatuated with her?

Huff: In the beginning, it was because she saw him and accepted him for what he was so he could be himself around her. No lies, no pretense, no masks. Eventually, he began to love the things that define her -- her strength, her unwillingness to surrender, the way she keeps fighting when logically she should quit, her sense of justice, her sense of humour, her intelligence. He started to understand that all her emotional bravado and the way she kept her passions so tightly leashed came from a fear of being hurt and he wanted to be the one to prove to her that there was nothing to be afraid of.

Interestingly enough, Mike loves the exact same things.

Harrell: A lot of authors don’t like fanfiction written with their characters. How do you feel about fans of both the books and the show crafting their own stories with your characters?

Huff: Officially, I'm not allowed to know about fanfic. There's all sorts of weird layers and complications if I do.

Unofficially, I'm as honoured by fans wanting to play in my world as I am honoured by the people who make television shows. So unofficially, you have my blessing, knock yourselves out. Just don't let me know about it! Seriously, that last point is really important. Don't send me links, don't tell me what you've done because if, gods forbid, anything of a legal nature should come up we'll both be screwed.

Harrell: The Blood Books were written before the Buffy and supernatural craze really caught on in television. What’s it like to have Vicki compared to Buffy, who was created several years after you’d created your characters?

Huff: I worship the ground Joss Whedon creates upon so if people want to compare Vicki to Buffy, I'm totally cool with it. I'd give up a kidney to write for one of Joss Whedon's shows.

Harrell: When you wrote the book series, did you have any idea it would be adapted for television?

Huff: My degree is actually in Radio and Television Arts so I always hoped the Blood books (as well as the other seventeen books I've written) would someday be adapted for film or television but you can't write with that idea in mind. All you can do is tell the stories you have as best as you can.

Harrell: Is there anything the show has done with your characters or a particular storyline that after seeing you wish you had explored in your books?

Huff: I love that Coreen has signed on as Vicki's assistant and I love the possibilities in the demon tats on Vicki's arms. There's a million things that can be done with that and I'm loving what I've seen of it so far.

Harrell: Is there any chance of the character Tony making an appearance on the show?

Huff: Because Tony has his own series of books, my agent and I thought it best to keep him out of Blood Ties entirely in hopes of him someday getting his own series. So, no, because of this, Tony will never make an appearance on the show.

Harrell: There are several differences I’ve noticed between your books and the show. What are some of the differences you’ve noticed, and are any of the differences so major they irk you?

Huff: I've noticed the major differences of course, Coreen, Vicki's tats (already mentioned I love both) and Henry being a graphic artist rather than a romance writer (much better visually!). They've also introduced new reoccurring characters and that's important because I only wrote five books and nine short stories. Even if they could use everything I came up with -- and they obviously can't -- that's still only fourteen actual plots and the show's writers need to fill twenty-two episodes in the first season alone. If we go to a second season, they'll clearly have to expand the world even further.

I have been incredibly lucky that my books are being interpreted for television by a creative team so skilled and willing to honor the spirit of my words that I perpetually want to jump up and down and clap my hands in glee. I trust them. Nothing irks me.

Harrell: If you could change anything about the show, what would it be?

Huff: I'd like it if Henry had male and female lovers -- in the background of the primary Henry/Vicki/Mike relationship -- but even that lack doesn't irk me.

Harrell: So far the only novel the show has directly adapted for an episode has been Blood Price. Are there any upcoming episodes that adapted one of the other Blood novels?

Huff: There's a mummy episode coming up with Danny Trejo playing the mummy that took a lot of its inspiration from Blood Lines. Given the restrictions of shooting, it wasn't able to follow the book exactly but the core story is in there.

Harrell: It was interesting to see Blood Price was the title of Henry’s graphic novel. Are there any other references to your books that you’ve seen pop up in the show?

Huff: That was cool, wasn't it? I haven't seen anything else.

Harrell: How much input did you have in the selection of the actors chosen to play the characters?

Huff: None at all. The people at Kaleidoscope were wonderful about sending me lists of people they were considering but it was a courtesy only. I was thrilled with their choices though. Particularly since I'd seen Christina Cox as the perfect actor for Vicki ever since I saw her in F/X The Series back in the 1990's.

Harrell: What is it like to watch Christina Cox, Dylan Neal and Kyle Schmid breathe life into your characters on a weekly basis?

Huff: It's totally amazing. They've completely over-written the character descriptions in the books for me. As far as I'm concerned, Christina, Dylan, and Kyle are Vicki, Mike, and Henry.

Harrell: You are listed as the creative consultant for the show. How much input do you have in the making of the episodes and character/storyline development?

Huff: The writers are great about contacting me when there's background they need to have filled in or character motivations they need to check. Were I actually in Vancouver, where the show is shot, I'd happily be in the writing room one or two days a week. Unfortunately, I'm not in Vancouver so thank goodness for email.

Harrell: What has been your favorite episode of the show?

Huff: That's hard because I've loved parts of every episode I've seen and, as of right now, still haven't seen the last eight.

Harrell: What is your favorite aspect of the show?

Huff: I love the look of it. I think Danny Nowak the Cinematographer is amazing. He gives every scene a depth and a richness that just blows me away.

Harrell: Do you feel the show has stayed true to your characters?

Huff: Definitely.

Harrell: Personally, I love how Vicki is with both Henry and Mike in the books. How do you feel about the way the show has handled the Mike/Vicki/Henry love triangle so far?

Huff: There's two big things you have to remember about relationships on television. One, is how long a season lasts -- we're talking twenty-two episodes presented in less time than it takes me to write a book. You simply can not resolved relationship issues early on or you've got nothing left for the rest of the season. Two -- remember what killed Moonlighting. As Christina said in an interview recently, on television the prelude to the kiss is more important than the kiss. It's all about the anticipation.

And the short answer is, I'm great with it. And since I know how the season ends... whoa!

Harrell: What has been your favorite part about being involved with the show?

Huff: My favourite part about being involved with the show has been the opportunity to watch dozens of talented, creative people make magic. Being on the set and seeing how hard the cast, the crew, the production staff works every day -- and they're long days -- in order to turn ideas into words and words into story and story into a viable, believable world has been amazing. I want everyone who watches this show to watch the credits all the way to the end at least once and give these people the recognition they deserve. There's never been a moment where they didn't give 100% to the job and considering some of the moments, that deserves a standing ovation.

Harrell: The show has already developed a pretty decently sized, very loyal fanbase. Given your experience with how loyal vampire readers are, did you expect this to translate over to the show as well?

Huff: I hoped we'd acquire a loyal fanbase -- if nothing else I hoped the fans of the books would become fans of the show as well -- but I had no expectations and the reaction from the fans has been incredible!

Harrell: What is your favorite thing about being involved with Lifetime's website for the show in your blog and the behind the scenes clips?

Huff: I'm really enjoying the fan reaction. I love that so many of them love the show as much as I do.

Harrell: If the show is renewed for another season, will you continue to be involved with it?

Huff: It would give me great joy to be involved with this show for as long as there is a show.

Fanged Films

USA, 2006
Karl Bites
Yugoslavia, 1971
The Time of Vampires

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?