An Interview With Nancy Kilpatrick

Nancy Kilpatrick has published 60 short stories and (under a pseudonym) two erotic horror novels. A long-standing aficionado of the undead, she possesses one of the world's largest collections of vampire- related materials.

Nancy KilpatrickPocket Books has recently released her vampire novel _Near Death_. _Near Death_ focuses on a vampire named David and his very unusual relationship with a human woman, Zero.

Ms. Kilpatrick is also the author of a chapbook, _Sex & the Single Vampire_, available from Tal Publications. Information on how to order from Tal is at the end of part 2 of this interview.

When and how did you start on a career as a writer?

My"career" seriously began about 1972, when I was on staff at what we then called an "underground" newspaper in Montreal -- a kind of early _Rolling Stone_. I was the entertainment columnist. I'd always written and had a few pieces published with other underground papers, but that was the first time I got involved in a major way.

When I was a kid I wrote essays and stream-of-consciousness pieces. I was the kind of annoying youth who almost never studied but usually got A and B grades just by winging it. I was always good at composition and could write off the top of my head on any subject, even when I didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

As to fiction, I had a couple of stories published in the seventies. They were literary in nature. In 1975 I spontaneously wrote a vampire novel. Sounds like spontaneous combustion, and it was, kind of. I'd saved enough money so that I could take a year off -- you could still do things like that then. Anyway, I lived in a little cottage-like house in downtown Toronto with two other women. I wrote that novel in nine months, on a typewriter, including rewrites. Basically I wrote, slept, ate, wrote, slept, ate.... One woman moved out. A guy moved in. He moved out. The woman moved back in. The other woman went to Mexico for several months and returned. I wasn't aware of any of it and learned much of all this later. I was thoroughly caught up in the experience of writing on a 24-hour-a-day basis. At the time I smoked cigarettes and drank coffee and lived on those things. I'm not even sure I did any laundry during that nine month pregnancy. It was wonderful, ecstatic, heady stuff. I'd never do it again. Now it would probably kill me. But then, it was a magnificent way to exist.

What have been the major influences on your work?

I was a lonely kid, as many writers were. An only child in a very dysfunctional family. I played a lot of imaginative games, with very little input from the outside. Consequently, I've never asked myself that tormented question: Do I exist? I always knew *I* existed. It's everybody else I wondered about. [grin]

Being of a fanciful nature, I loved movies and I loved books. The first book I took out of the library was called _The Little Witch_, so I guess I was destined to write horror. _The Catcher in the Rye_ (or "Wry" as I used to think of it) was one of the first books that knocked my socks off. I ended up reading everything by and about Salinger. Whenever I found an author I liked, I'd immerse myself. For instance, I read all of Kafka, including letters he wrote to his girlfriend and his father, essays, etc. I went through phases: I read Russian Lit. for a couple of years solid; I was hot for the existentialists for a while. Naturally, when I began reading vampire books, I was obsessive. I have one of the largest collections in the world -- close to 1,200 books -- plus posters, lobby cards, and two trunks loaded with vampirabilia.

Spiritual transformation and working with archetypal energies has always been the major focus of my life, even before I knew those terms and could identify what I was doing. Vampires fit in nicely, don't you think?

How do vampires fit into these ideas for you?

Vampires are one of the major archetypal images -- they've appeared in all cultures since the earliest recorded works. Human beings needed to identify this energy. All archetypes have two sides, positive and negative, and both are crucial. Some have said the positive side of the Devil is God and vice versa.

For many people who have a great deal of trouble with organized religion, the vampire takes on a special significance. Organized religion, in my opinion, has served humanity well and poorly. We humans seem to need images to focus on. But concretizing them, the way many religions have done, misses the point. These images are metaphors, and to make them concrete is like trying to hammer the air into a box -- you just can't do it if you want to stay sane. We're talking paradox here; some things are mysterious and should stay that way.

The vampire is an image that has stayed mysterious despite all the Grade Z Hollywood movies. It is an extremely powerful archetype and has an amazing capacity for transformation, so you get both sides. That's clearly in the vampire's nature. He/she has transformed, and can help others transform. To transform, you have to go from there to here, or here to there. I think the vampire is a kind of Grail, what's missing in Western religion. If we were in India, we'd have Kali, but here we only have the Devil, and he/she is one side of a coin. In India, Kali holds the opposites. It's the paradox we in the West don't know about and have a hard time living with.

What got you started writing about vampires?

I'd watched vampire movies as a kid -- Bela Lugosi, Gloria Holden, etc., on the late show. But it wasn't until I saw Christopher Lee in _Horror of Dracula_ when I'd just hit puberty that I really got hooked. I'd already loved horror movies more than any other type of movie, so it was just a question of zeroing in on a particular sub-genre that resonated.

I went with my cousin Barbara to see _Horror of Dracula_, which in itself was a big deal. She was older, a sexy, outrageous teenager, always getting into trouble for her wild life. I think that contributed to the event. Lee was fabulous. Tall, dark and gruesome, as his autobiography says. I went back to see that movie seven times. After that, I couldn't get enough vampire movies, comics, etc.

What led you to write _Near Death_?

_Near Death_ is the third vampire book I wrote (completed in 1988). There are three vampire friends: David, Andre, and Karl. I wanted to write about each of them, and each is extremely different from the others. The thing about these three vampire males is that they are fairly recent vampires -- in the one hundred year range. None of them go back centuries, although the first book I wrote is about a vampire from the 1500s in France. But David, Andre, and Karl are departures from the conventional vampire who is centuries old, and the more modern versions, who were created yesterday.

David appealed to me because of his poetic nature. I've always loved the romantic poets, Byron in particular -- his life was so outrageous and intriguing. He was such a bad boy, a fly boy (as we'd say now -- couldn't keep his feet on the ground). I wanted to write about a kind of tortured poet vampire. I'm interested in psychology; in the last ten years, Jungian psychology. The notion that people have a dark side (what the Jungians call "the shadow") that they don't know about is fascinating. The vampire usually is seen as a metaphor for the dark side of humans: our greed, lust, obsession, predatory natures, desire for eternal life, the tragic quality of being boxed in by fate, etc. In our let's-put-everything-out-in-the-light society, the dark becomes fascinating and affirms that life is a mystery, not just cut-and-dried commerce. There are things we don't know and may never know. What fascinated me was the idea of creating a vampire character who is all of those things, but too soft, mushy even, who has to get in touch with *his* dark side.

The dark side, by the way, isn't always bad stuff; it's just what we don't know about. A nasty person could have a very sweet dark side. In David's case, he needed to toughen up, and I liked working with that concept.

I think the notion of vampires having a "shadow" hasn't really been explored. The vampire, being "evil", has a "good" shadow. But shadow and light are never black and white, so to speak. It's all much more complex. If David were just this whining, tortured poet, he'd be pretty boring. What gives him complexity is that he's struggling -- not so much to be good, as to uncover all that he is. It's a struggle I respect in people, and in vampires!

Zero appeals to me for a lot of reasons. I was never a prostitute or a drug addict, and I did not come from an incestuous home, nor was I beaten. I did, however, come from a poor family, and I understand the way poor people think. I know the hopelessness and the toughness. Zero has a heart of gold, but make no mistake; she is far tougher than David in many ways, and he had to learn some of the basics from a flesh and blood woman -- a woman who, if most of us saw her on the street, would call her an airhead, or worse.

I'm intrigued by the half-vampire Michel/Mikey. how did you think of him?

Michel/Mikey seemed like a natural character to me, and is a major subject of the second novel, which I'm trying to sell now. He's kind of like an ordinary kid with supernatural abilities. A vampire and human mated and I wondered what they would produce. But Michel/Mikey is still a child. We don't know yet what he will become, since he's the only one of his kind.

What projects do you have in the works right now?

I very much want to see _Child of the Night_ published. It is the story of Carol and Andre and Michel. This book is independent of _Near Death_. If people like _Near Death_ and want to see more, I would be extremely grateful if they could take the time to write even a short note to:

Pocket Books Publicity Department 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

I mean this in all seriousness, because although my editor loves _Child of the Night_ and wants to buy it, the higher-ups are closing off to horror at the moment, and she can't. If, however, she had some readers asking for another book by me (coupled with good sales), that's something concrete she can take to the decision-makers and maybe sway the tide.

[Nancy's editor, Rebecca Todd, is no longer with Pocket, but mail addressed to Rebecca Todd is also okay; mail with RE: NEAR DEATH in the address will probably move faster.]

Of course, there's the possibility of going to another publisher as well.

What do you think of the outlook for publishing vampire fiction?

I think that vampire fans need to take a stand. From the inside, I can tell you that there are at present only five publishing houses that will even look at vampire fiction. After [the movie] _Interview with the Vampire_ comes out, there will be a slacking off, then a resurge in 1997 (the 100th anniversary of _Dracula_), then likely a dying off. This isn't my opinion, but what I've read in the trade journals. They are saying vampires are dead [!] as a subgenre.

If people want to see more vampire books, and if they want to see more from me, they'd better write the publishers and tell them this. Publishers will listen to readers.

How can you say that when i've reviewed over twenty recent vampire novels in each of my last two columns?

The books that you hold in your hands now are books that were accepted for publication two years ago. In other words, that's what publishers were buying two years ago, not now. Word has it that Zebra will stop publishing horror altogether, filtering into their list as mainstream anybody, like Rick Hautula, who can cut it mainstream (he's not a vampire writer, BTW).

Some of the info I get on publishing is from being online; what I'm conveying to you is the inside dope, as well as what's in the trade journals. The trend at the moment seems to be "worlds." White Wolf is becoming a very big publisher of anthologies and novels, but their worlds are extremely rigid. Vampire series books are big (not that it helps me with Pocket having so little interest in publishing horror!).

Got any advice for aspiring writers?

As John Preston said, publishing rewards longevity. My advice sounds trite, because it's been said so often, but it really is the basis of what I understand to be the key to getting published: keep writing, and hang in there through the tough times (of which there are plenty).

Publishing is a hellish business. Being an introvert by nature, it's taken me a long time to get a grip on how it really works. If I had known before I wrote that first novel in 1975 that nobody would even want to read it in whole or in part for fifteen years, I might not have written it. But the beauty of life is that you don't know until you do it, and then you're hooked and you want to see what's over the next hurdle. It's only depression that makes us think we *know* what's ahead. Because even if we guess right, it's never right in exactly the way we imagine. And then there are all these weird little things that happen so that you get books published because of flukes. And then you realize that publishing is like the rest of life. It's an illusion to think there are rules. Life is made up of the exceptions. Or, as John Lennon said so succinctly, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." The same can be said about publishing.

I asked Nancy if she could give any tips on *how* to write a publisher to support vampire titles or a particular author's work. Her response:

If someone wants to just write to a publisher, they can send a letter saying something like, I really liked this book [specific name], can we see more by this author, more like this one, etc.

Editors' names may appear in market guides, but editors frequently change at publishing houses. If you're willing to spend the dough on a phone call, you can call and ask which editor(s) handle horror (or fantasy, or romance, or whatever the book is listed as). This is hit or miss but better than nothing. One problem with this is that receptionists don't always give the names anymore. Very frustrating.

The best approach might be to write to the author through the publisher. *If* the mail gets forwarded (not always the case), then the author can send a copy to their editor -- whoever that happens to be at the time. If I have letters, I can take them to another editor or even another publishing house.




These are available at $14.95 postage-paid per set of three, or separately at $5.95 + $1.00 each, from Tal Publications, P. O. Box 1837, Leesburg, VA 22075. (These are U.S. prices: each book has a "foreign" cover price of $7.00.)

The Vampire Trilogies is a set of three chapbooks (saddle- stapled, about 50 pages each). Each contains three related short stories. These are signed, numbered limited editions, with interior artwork by Roger Gerberding. The titles are:

_Shrines & Desecrations_ by Brian Hodge - Introduction by Poppy Z. Brite

_Sex & the Single Vampire_ by Nancy Kilpatrick - Introduction by Nancy Holder

_Sex & Blood_ by Ron Dee

_Sex & Blood_ has not yet been released, as far as I know (delays at the printer), but the other two are available.

Source: Originally posted to the VAMPYRES list by Cathy Krusberg (CKBERG@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU)

Fanged Films

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?