Pat Brien ... Interviewed by the vampire.
Pat was interviewed by a very special "character" from his novel Denied. The interview took place in Paris, France, 2010... at night. What follows is true:
M. What's special about your take on horror and vampires?
P. I read too many stories that shaved off too many classic elements. I wanted to go back to the classic vampire and go deep. I wanted to know what they are, what they think they are, what their evolution was and what they may be becoming.
M. Bit nosy. The seduction of victims is crucial here. Why?
P. Too much obscurity. All that 'Is she hypnotised? Is she willing?' stuff in so many movies annoyed me. Early on, I perceived all that nonsense about vampires having to be invited into a home to be a sexual metaphor. I saw it as the key to understanding the vampire. Denied is part lust, part love story. After all, being a vampire means never having to say you're sorry.
M. I can't believe you just said that.
P. Neither can I.
M. I found the first part of the novel, set in Lancashire, England, and the second part, set in Paris, France, to be different. The first is a delicious tragedy; the second more epic, very quick paced, and full of dark humour. I laughed out loud in several places. Did you plan the evolution of the story that way?
P. No. It's more a matter of following the characters. I had a story mapped out, but the characters let you know their fate, in a way. The power of the vampires took over; the sickness of their narcissism; the way they find corrupt elements in even the most radiant souls and play on them; just the way all the characters express themselves colours so much, particularly with regard to the dark humour you mention.
M. Sivan is a psychopath, isn't he? Maria is a "Sadist" and utterly wonderful. Bachell a narcissist, yes. And Edward! Edward is so adorable I believe I'd kill anyone who denied he has the best 'devil-may-care' attitude in modern literature! Dare I ask if any of these characters are based on real people? (Laughter)
P. They're all based on me.
M. (Laughter) Have those combined traits had a negative or positive effect on your life?
P. Well, I was unemployed for ten years, but other people get the worst of it.
M. Your hairstyle suggests that you can't see your reflection in the mirror. Are you a vampire?
P. No, I'm a werewolf.
M. Subject change, darling. Dean Vincent Carter is a horror writer with Random House. He gave you a wonderful review. How did that come about?
P. Dean was assigned to write an analysis of the novel after I signed up for a professional edit with 'The Writers' Workshop'. His analysis turned into a rave and he has supported the novel every since. Dean really represents the positive side of the publishing industry and he's incredibly talented.
M. Have you met with him?
P. No, I've never met Dean. I hope to at some point.
M. The novel deals with questions of evolution - human as well as Vampire; it also deals with spirituality and throws up a lot of confused feelings and ideas on the part of the characters in the novel. Was this personal to you, or just something that fitted the story?
P. Both. I had very strong religious beliefs in my late teens and early twenties. That and other problems. My beliefs ended painfully, all at once. I believe in evolution, but I accept that I don't understand the science and take it on faith. I found that the questioning of these matters fitted perfectly with the psychology of the historical periods. Maybe I'm a throw-back, in that sense; or a sign of the way things are evolving, or deteriorating, generally.
M. Do try not to bore people, darling. The word 'evolution' isn't used in the novel, is it? I don't think.
P. That word wasn't really used back then. It became known as evolution.
M. The research is rather in-depth and enriches the story. Did it give you a headache?
P. I wrote the novel while unemployed after a back injury. I went on long walks around Paris, along with a book showing early photographs of the city, comparing them to the modern city. Bottom line, I did a lot of research, but I went to pains to make sure it complemented the story, rather than getting in the way.
M. You grew up in Lancashire, England, sweeping chimneys probably. Why did you come to Paris? And when?
P. I came to Paris in late 1999. I saw a pretty photograph and responded by selling everything I owned, which wasn't much. I gave the keys to my apartment back to the council and bought a one-way ticket.
M. What spunk! Did you have friends here? A letter of introduction? Anything set up in advance?
P. No. I didn't speak the language. I didn't know anybody. I didn't even think to try and pre-arrange a hotel room. I just came.
M. Had you travelled a lot before that?
P. I travelled to the South of France earlier in 1999, after signing up with a campsite company for a few weeks, testing the waters before heading out alone. Apart from that, I'd barely ever left my home town.
M. What were you thinking? Were you scared? Like a little rabbit?
P. No. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world. It shouldn't have, but it did.
M. How did you cope?
P. I didn't, particularly. I wandered around, wondering what I was going to do when the money ran out. It turned out I had enough for a couple of months in what was probably the cheapest hotel in Paris. In the end, I stumbled across a free magazine called Fusac, placed outside Shakespeare & Co. There was an ad in there for a removal operative. I called the number, an angry sounding Scottish man answered, and I had a job.
M. I do hope you'll forgive this, but the decisions you make don't seem at all rational. You sound like one of those people who eventually find themselves covered in a big net.
P. I do forgive that, but only because of the way your eyes twinkled when you said it.
M. Subject change, darling. The novel ends with a brilliant twist. It cries out for the adventure to continue. Will there be more?
P. That depends. I self-published. If people who enjoy it recommend it to their friends, then eventually I could turn a profit. If I turn a profit, it's possible. If I don't, it isn't.
M. Why did you self-publish? Did you get a lot of rejections? You look rejected.
P. No. I got a handful. Some from agents, some from publishers. Some experts tell you that publishers aren't interested in people who don't have agents; others that agents aren't interested in people who don't already have a deal. It's a Catch-22 situation, lost in a fog of confused opinions. It annoyed me.
M. Did you feel you would never find an interested party?
P. I did get my hands on a contract from a small publisher in the states. That's when I got cold feet. Selling a novel means selling it. I know that sounds stupid, but...
M. That does sound stupid. Continue.
P. Thanks. The publisher controls everything, including content. My narcissism took over. Just because you need a doctor to help deliver your baby, doesn't mean you let him name it. That was that. My novel was off the market.
M. What an awful metaphor. Or is it a simile? Anyway, then you found Matador?
P. Yes. Recommended in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, no less; offering full distribution and sales reps; press kits; online presence; and all the control that comes with self-publishing. It was perfect for me.
M. You have previously published a lot of squirrelly little things, though, haven't you? For money, I mean. Articles and other things that help waste paper?
P. I started getting published at the age of twenty-three. I wrote articles in various magazines, had a dramatic monologue and short stories on BBC radio. Various things. In Paris, I had the title 'Senior Correspondent' for a Francophile Internet magazine. The payment didn't match that grandeur, but the experience was fantastic.
M. How did you end up being a copywriter, working on the Champs-élysées, no less?
P. After writing the novel, I was getting dangerously low on money. I answered an ad in Fusac; actually, I answered virtually all of the ads, more out of panic than expectation. I had no CV, no qualifications, just a badly self-built Web site with writing samples on it. The lady who received it was an American. She didn't care that I had no qualifications. She saw ability. She gave me the job.
M. Has she been fired yet?
P. No, she's highly respected in the industry. I worked there for two and a half years before leaving for personal reasons.
M. What if the novel is successful commercially and a publishing house decides to debase itself by offering you a deal? Would you accept it? Would your tongue hang out?
P. The writing of a novel is all in the edit; the signing of a contract is all in the small print, if you see what I mean.
M. It's about control, then? You're like an angry little puppy! It's wonderful!
P. For me, it's about integrity.
M. Does that mean control in your foggy little world, my darling?
P. Yes, Maria.
Bio: Pat Brien is British and has published countless articles in England and France, as well as having short-stories and a dramatic monologue broadcast on BBC radio. He has also been published in the USA. He is a full member of the Society of Authors. He lived in Paris, France, for ten years, but recently moved to Dorset in the UK, where he lives and shirks, I mean works.