Writer’s Corner

Colleen Gleason

February 21, 2008

I think of Colleen Gleason’s Gardella Vampire Chronicles as Regency Buffy. Though the author takes some exception to that characterization it’s safe to say that fans of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (and, hey, who isn’t?) will likely be just as intrigued as I am by the author’s fabulous series featuring the adventures of a young vampire slayer called to the task by the generations of female slayers before her. It’s fresh. And Smart. And a vampire series for those who think they’ve had enough of…well, vampire series.

–Sandy Coleman


So, to be honest, Colleen, I thought I was all vampired-out, if you know what I mean. And then I read The Rest Falls Away. I don’t think anybody would argue that your Gardella Vampire Chronicles series is High Concept that can be described in two words – Regency Buffy – but it’s also about terrific writing and great storytelling. What do you think makes the series work so fantastically in a market that is…well, pretty glutted with vampire stories?

I do know what you mean about being “vamped out”! Thank you for giving the Gardella books a chance. I’m delighted that you’ve enjoyed them, and appreciate the compliments!

To answer your question…I think there are several elements of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles that make the series different from other vampire books.

First, they’re set in a historical time period – and there aren’t many other authors doing this. Kathryn Smith and Susan Squires, along with a couple by Teresa Medeiros, are the only ones that I know of. The setting itself makes for different storytelling, different plots, and a different direction.

I think another reason the books are different is because, though they are described by many as a Regency Buffy, they really aren’t. There are no Angel or Spike (ie, “good” vampires – although we know that it’s debatable about Spike <g> ) characters. All of the vampires are villainous, demonic creatures while the main characters in the books are mortals. And while Buffy was a reluctant heroine, Victoria is far from it…at first.

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Another reason the books are different is because they’re very much on the line between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The romance isn’t the focus of the books, although it is very much a part of them, and a part of what drives Victoria Gardella Grantworth. I’m first and foremost a romance reader, and as I can never imagine writing a book without some sort of love story attached to it, there is definitely a romantic arc to the books.

But the operative word is books. As in, plural. These books do not have a traditional happy ever after…yet. However, they will. I promise. So I look at them as a five-book romance novel in which the heroine, Victoria, gets to grow into her HEA.

You’ve done a terrific job of creating in Victoria, the centerpiece of the series, a real Regency-era young woman confronted with some pretty startling paranormal realities, not to even mention that she’s an ace at kicking vampire butt. Is the juxtaposition of a 19th century woman dealing with all those paranormal issues what interested you the most?

Thank you! Victoria has been a joy to write. And you’re exactly right about what inspired me to write the series. I love characters like Sydney Bristow and Buffy, and I thought it would be very interesting to see what it would be like if a character like that were to be set in historical times.

The historical setting also makes it more challenging and intriguing. After all, it wasn’t all that difficult for Buffy to find a place to hide her stake (up her sleeve), or for Sydney to head out on a mission without anyone asking…but for a woman in 1819 London, it was fairly impossible for her to do those things. Part of what makes the series fun to write is that juxtaposition of Societal expectations and historical constraints with the character’s requirement that she act differently than her contemporaries.

There’s a quote that reminds me of Victoria – something along the lines of “well-behaved women never make history.” And although she is a product of 19th century London Society, she has special abilities that allow her to push beyond the boundaries of what a woman of that time could reasonably do or think. She has been given a freedom – and a responsibility – that gives her permission to act more like a modern woman than her contemporaries. She is, in short, able and willing to adapt to who she is – not who society (and her mother!) expects her to be.

The Bleeding Dusk is just out now and it’s the third in the series. Without revealing too many spoilers, could you tell us a bit about the plot?

The Bleeding Dusk is the centerpiece of the five-part story of Victoria Gardella Grantworth. I’ve always planned for five books about her, and five books only, so I guarantee a happy ever after for us romance readers by the end of the fifth book.

In The Bleeding Dusk, Victoria and Company spend the entire book in Rome, trying to find the missing keys that will unlock a mysterious Door of Alchemy. This door actually exists in Rome, and the backstory about it – that it was the door to a secret alchemical laboratory, and that it was locked after some mysterious happenings (described in the book) in about 1650 is all true. I was elated to find something so fascinating to build my story around.

While she’s trying to find the missing keys, Victoria does, of course, have to manage the two main men in her life – Max and Sebastian – as well as a seductive vampire and her match-making mama and friends. During this book, secrets are revealed, decisions are made, and there is that Up Against the Wall scene that some people really seemed to enjoy. <g>

I know exactly the scene you’re talking about and count me in as one of those who especially enjoyed it. And more about Sebastian and Max later. What came before The Rest Falls Away? Were you always interested most in writing paranormals? And, as a follow-up, do you ever see yourself writing a different kind of book?

The Rest Falls Away was the ninth book that I wrote, and my first foray into vampire stories. I had written two ghost stories some years before, in the vein of Antoinette Stockenberg (remember her?), but other than that, there were no other paranormal elements in my books. I’ve written straight historical romances (set during Henry II’s Medieval England), and also contemporary female action-adventure novels, and some of them are still up for grabs. (However, others will never see the light of day or a printer again.)

I could certainly see myself writing more female action-adventure books. I find that I like the combination of suspense/action with romance, as long as there is a smart woman at the helm – and at least one hot guy to give her a hard time.

The problem is that far too many of those female action-adventure books out there have gotten very clichéd – complete with a stiletto-heeled, leather mini skirt-wearing, ass-kicking (demon, vampire, human, otherwise) heroine and a laconic, human, vampire, demon, or ex-SEAL hero now in the private security business. It’s not about the formula or the genre, it’s all about the writing, right? (Because in case you haven’t noticed, I really am vampired-and ass-kicked out except for you and Charlaine Harris.)

I could never figure out how Buffy managed to save the day in mini-skirts, or with high-heeled boots on. My female action-adventure heroines tend to dress more appropriately, unless they’re undercover or something like that. Although, I must confess that one of my action-adventure heroines is in the PI business. ;-) But she never loses her gun at the bottom of her purse.

Colleen, I have an 11-year old friend who is, perhaps, the biggest fan out there of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, so naturally, I asked her to contribute a question or two. Becca would like to know if the story arc has turned out the way you initially planned. Also, do you have an end date in sight?

Bring it on! I have an 11-year-old daughter myself, and although she hasn’t read the books yet, she’s been bugging me to do so.

Has the story arc turned out the way I expected it…well…yes and no. I’ve always known, since the very first book, who Victoria’s Mr. Right will be. That has not ever changed, nor have I wavered on that. So in that sense, yes, the arc has turned out as planned.

However, since I tend to have only a vague idea of what’s going to happen in a book when I sit down to write it, I must admit that there were several things that surprised me. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t know Max would do what he did at the end of Rises the Night, or that The Bleeding Dusk would end the way it did…but I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get there.

And as of right now, as I’m currently writing the fifth and final book about Victoria, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the Big Bad, Lilith the Vampire Queen. Will she be vanquished? Will she scuttle off into the underworld? Will she poof into a burst of ash? I don’t know. And that’s part of the fun of the way I write: the story is revealed to me in a way that’s not so dissimilar to the way it’s revealed to a reader.

Of course, the difference is that I know what Sebastian and Max are thinking, even if the reader (and Victoria) doesn’t.

Okay, something that is unusual to me about the series is that usually I pick a hero to root for – certainly by the completion of the third book. But I haven’t managed to choose between Max and Sebastian, something that is a real tribute to your talent for characterization. Would you throw us a bone – or maybe just a hint or two – about where you’re going? Because, believe me, I’d be okay either way. Really.

So you know, I’m going to be making t-shirts that say Team Max or Team Sebastian. Are you saying you don’t know which one you’d want????

Thank you for the compliment again. It is telling that you can’t decide between the two – or that you can’t tell which one I have planned for her, whether you agree with it or not.

Okay, a hint. Let’s see. The one Victoria ends up with is the one who really is right for her. He fits her, and they complement each other. It makes sense. All in all, he’s the only one she could really spend the rest of her life with.

Too vague? Okay, how about this: you’ll find out in August. In When Twilight Burns, by the end of the book, you’ll know which one it is. The romance won’t be wrapped up at that time, but you’ll know who it is.

Rumor has it out there on the Internet that you are Colette Gale, the author of an erotic retelling of Phantom of the Opera. True? And, if so, do you see yourself writing more erotica?

Hmmm…if I were, I’m not sure I’d admit it here at AAR. <g>

If I were Colette Gale, though, I would be very excited about my upcoming release, Master: An Erotic Novel of the Count of Monte Cristo…due out in May.

Would you now? Well, fair enough. So, what’s firing your creative juices these days? Books, TV, music?

It depends on the day. I do read a lot, but I stay away from the paranormal genre so as to keep my own ideas as fresh as possible. I also like to watch DVD’s of TV shows that are popular and are well-done – a recent fave is Veronica Mars, along with Friday Night Lights. (I do love some shirtless, angsty Tim Riggins.)

My latest favorite movie was The Bourne Supremacy with His Hotness Matt Damon in it. All of these different mediums fire my creativity in different ways, and in different times. And often in unexpected ways.

And I just got addicted to Suzanne Brockmann and read the first five or so books of her SEALs series in about a week, then had to go to rehab so I could tear myself away from them and get back to my own book.

Thank you so much for having me on AAR, Sandy. I appreciate it, and especially am delighted that you’ve enjoyed my books so much. I look forward to hearing from you in August, when Victoria’s Mr. Right becomes known.


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