Genre: Urban Fantasy
Number of pages: approx 450.
Word Count: 120,000
The 19th century's most infamous party-girl is undead and on the loose in the Big Apple.
When 23 year-old Parisian courtesan, Marie Duplessis succumbed to consumption in 1847, Charles Dickens showed up for the funeral and reported the city mourned as though Joan of Arc had fallen. Marie was not only a celebrity in in her own right, but her list of lovers included Franz Liszt – the first international music superstar, and Alexandre Dumas fils, son of the creator of The Three Musketeers. Dumas fils wrote the novel The Lady of the Camellias based on their time together. The book became a play, and the play became the opera La Traviata. Later came the film versions, and the legend never died.
But what if when offered the chance for eternal life and youth, Marie grabbed it, even when the price was the regular death of mortals at her lovely hand?
In 2014, Marie wonders if perhaps nearly two centuries of murder, mayhem, and debauchery is enough, especially when she falls hard for a rising star she believes may be the reincarnation of the only man she ever truly loved. But is it too late for her to change? Can a soul be redeemed like a diamond necklace in hock? And even if it can, have men evolved since the 1800′s? Or does a girl’s past still mark her?
Blood Diva is a sometimes humorous, often dark and erotic look at sex, celebrity, love, death, destiny, and the arts of both self-invention and seduction. It’s a story that asks a simple question – Can a one hundred ninety year-old demimondaine find happiness in 21st century Brooklyn without regular infusions of fresh blood?
Her bathroom was en-suite, but could be accessed through a second door from the living room. Rosa, who came in the mornings to clean, routinely filled the bath. There was a timed heater that kept the water warm. Alphonsine slipped into the oversized tub.
She dove under the bubbles. While her kind needed to breathe, they could control respiration and stay under for hours. She enjoyed soaking this way in very hot water, allowing herself to think and dream. Her morning kill had been so unusual, so exciting, she wanted to relive every detail.
She hadn’t been planning to feed that night, though it had been almost four weeks. She could go five, even six in a pinch, but after that long she felt so fatigued it was hard to distinguish day from night. Pierre and she were planning to get out of town to feast together. He often chided her for her recklessness, pointing out it was not like the old days. Trains, planes, and automobiles made it easy to place distance between oneself and one’s prey. No reason to kill where one lived, but sometimes, one couldn’t help oneself.
She had left the party feeling a particular restlessness. At first believing sex alone might be enough to stave off the hunger, her plan had been to head downtown or back to Brooklyn to find some pretty thing to hook up with. Then she caught a scent, felt something unique was waiting. Violent images flooded her mind as she entered the bar. It was coming into focus – a mortal who killed, not in war, but for fun. While her telepathic powers were weak – she was after all still quite young, she could sense emotions, especially strong ones, and he had been a seething caldron of barely suppressed rage.
Under the warm water, she could still taste it on her tongue, his blood, his essence – all of that delicious hate, and yet in the intimacy of the death-grip, she felt more, his humanity, as though they both were spiraling backwards in time to a moment when even he was innocent.
She’d given him peace. It had been a good death for him. True, she had frightened him when she jumped out. They said in the best hunts the prey never suspected, never felt a moment of unease, but allowances had to be made. After all, he believed he had killed her. She couldn’t let him go to his grave thinking that.
Blood was more than nourishment. It was a sacrament. Some said the blood itself contained the very soul. She doubted such a thing existed. She only knew it had something – a power, a magic like nothing else. Strange how easily satisfied beings like her were, hardly the monsters depicted in myth. As pleasurable as it might be to hunt and feast every night, like the noble lion, they only did so when hungry.
No two people tasted the same – not father and son, nor brother and sister, not even twins. This she knew from her own experience. Children’s blood had a sweetness like the candied grapes young men once brought her as tokens between acts at the opera. There was a freshness to young blood, like apples picked in the summer at a perfect moment of ripeness. Teenaged girls tasted of secrets, and boys of lust. Women, pretty ones, whose hearts had been broken had a certain tenderness and resignation, especially if you came to them when their looks were fading, and there wasn’t much hope. There were men who had an edge like a wine with a bitter after taste, while others were warm and smooth. The old, whom she wasn’t fond of, tasted of sadness, disappointment, and defeat, though they would certainly do when convenient. Human blood, like the human voice, had different timbres. Some had the richness and depth of a bass-baritone while others were light but agile like a coloratura soprano.
A killer, however, especially one who dispatched his own so remorselessly, this was a rare treat indeed. The essence would hold within it all whom he had taken. For her to act so boldly, to take so many chances to have him, was a risk, but what would be the point of immortality without gambles? And she had always loved games of chance.
When she walked in and saw him, saw those thick arms, the sandy hair, could already feel what it would be like to fuck him, to take him perhaps when he was inside her, she knew she had to go through with it. The combination of lust and hunger made her almost giddy, barely able to contain herself.
Still immersed, Alphonsine began to touch her thighs, working up to her pussy, replaying the night.
As soon as she sat down at the bar it became clear he had picked her, imagined her as his next victim. It was too delicious! A chance for play-acting. Something different and rough.
Alphonsine lifted her head above the water, feeling the urge to breathe. Her breaths became quick as she felt her release, the first taste of his blood a vivid memory. Her kind not only felt everything more strongly than mortals, but could recall in full sensory detail.
It had been everything she hoped. Feeling him draining, feeling his life force leaving his body, merging into hers. That final beat of his cruel heart. A rush of something – all his anger, perhaps? It overwhelmed her for a second and then was gone. And he had looked so tranquil – transformed by death – beyond the desire to hurt and kill, beyond it all, finally at rest – a gift she had bestowed on him.
She had closed his eyes, and kissed him once softly on the lips before beginning the task of clean up.
The act of remembering left her not hungry for more blood, but still unsatisfied.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I wanted to be EVERYTHING. But I always made up stories and writing came naturally.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
Probably when I was eight and my second grade teacher accused me of plagiarizing a poem because she thought it was too good. My dad basically told her I was born writer and she needed to deal with it.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
I've had more distinct careers than anyone I know. Honestly, my resume is human resources disaster. Most jobs have involved writing in some way. Certainly, being able to tell a story has made it easier for me to get hired, again and again and again. I'm serious about this. Parents worry about their kids majoring in or getting graduate degrees in creative writing, and it's true that most people who do that won't make a living as a fiction writer, but knowing how to create a narrative and string words together is important in so many fields, and it's often essential in getting through the door.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Title: Blood Diva. Pitch: 19th century Paris' hottest party-girl is undead and living it up in the Big Apple.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
Blood Diva is self-published. For anyone interested in that process, I've created a blog (http://www.blooddiva.com) detailing my publishing journey.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Blood Diva is over 120,000 words and took around a year and half from concept to publication. If I had attempted to go the traditional route, I'm sure I'd still be looking for an agent.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
More books for sure, but I don't know about the genre. This was my first novel dealing with the undead. The book was written to be enjoyed as a stand-alone, but if it catches on, I have some ideas. A couple of people have already written begging for a sequel.
What genre would you place your books into?
I'd describe Blood Diva as genre-fluid. By definition it's "urban fantasy" -- that is, it takes place mostly in a city and their are vampires. Obviously, there's a strong paranormal element. There's some erotica. There is a romance that acts as a catalyst for the heroine, but genre-wise it's not really a romance either. It's like a sexed-up Anne Rice on drugs.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
My other work is more literary, but I read almost everything. I wanted to let loose and have fun, maybe even reach a wider audience. I've long been fascinated with Marie Duplessis -- who was the real person on whom I modeled my heroine. She has lived on long after her death as a legend, so turning her into a vampire seemed like a natural step. I loved the idea of allowing her as an immortal to ponder her own myth.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
At the moment, the protagonist of Blood Diva, Marie Duplessis, aka Alphonsine, aka Camille St. Valois, is my favorite. I still haven't disengaged from her. She's a cold-blooded predator, but there's vulnerability as well. Once you get her whole story, you have to sympathize. Besides, vampires are total psychopaths and that can be very appealing. Who wouldn't want to live without a conscience at least for a little while?
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I've always loved reading and really getting lost in stories. I think books just hit your brain in a way that's different from movies, television, or even music. The characters move into your head. Reading is a great way to travel through time and space. Creating stories is my drug. I used to get anxious about writing, but now it's the best cure for my nerves. I think self-publishing helps -- knowing I will be able to find an audience, that no official-type is going to stop me.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I really need a keyboard. I hate writing in long-hand. If I can, I prefer an airy-room, by a window, and I like having my feet up. The music may vary depending on what I'm writing, and sometimes any music is too distracting. While writing Blood Diva, I listened to the opera La Traviata A LOT. The story is based on Marie Duplessis' life, and the music captured her spirit.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
It's very hard NOT to read reviews. It's heartening when someone really "gets" it. It feels awful when they don't. I don't engage with negative reviewers. That doesn't mean I agree with them.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
In the case of Blood Diva, the title came to me pretty early on. The word "diva" is often used in connection with opera, and the main character is connected with opera (having inspired one). Adding the word "blood" in front of "diva" was a natural. The character is a vampire, and sucking the life out of mortals isn't just something she does, it's her art.
What I didn't realize was that there was a Japanese vampire anime series called Blood+ with a character named Diva, and also a product made for holding menstrual blood named a "diva cup." I found all that out when I first started to google my title! By then it was too late.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Some of the characters were based on historical figures, so that was easy. Others just came to me. I don't think I have a particular talent for naming characters. I can't think of many contemporary authors who do. Dickens was great at it. I'm no Dickens.
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
You have to call your characters something when you start writing them, but I have sometimes changed character names for various reasons. Initially, my heroine's love interest was named Damon. Honestly, I'd never watched The Vampire Diaries. Then I realized it would be impossible for readers to see the name Damon and NOT immediately picture Ian Sommerhalder as Damon Salvatore. I changed it to Dashiell. The character's father is a writer, and probably the type who would have named his son after the writer Dashiell Hammett, so it made sense.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I had a sense of the main character's traits, as she was not only based on a real person, but on a person who has been portrayed fictitiously in movies and on stage. I knew she'd have a great sense of humor and irony. She'd be impetuous, but sometimes guarded, especially about her true feelings. There had to be vulnerability as well. Without that, readers would just be turned off. Other characters developed more as I went along.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
As a writer, I'm thrilled to have readers discover my work in any format.
As a reader, I will always love print. Print books use a lot of different fonts and formats. They feel very individualized. I love that they are solid three dimensional objects that can be borrowed or given away, that they can be personalized with notes and messages. (I know you can "highlight" or write a note in an ebook, but it's not the same.) I love actually being inside a brick and mortar bookstore and discovering bargains (including used books), finding authors I've never heard of before, asking clerks for recommendations, talking to strangers about great reads. I find paperbacks even more attractive than hardcovers. Usually, hardcovers have a paper cover that slips off or can easily get torn. Beneath that, the covers are pretty generic. With a paperback, the unique cover is part of the book itself.
On the other hand, ebooks are easier for traveling. You can take a whole library with you wherever you go. You can download all kinds of public domain classics for free. If you decide you MUST read something that instant, you can download it anytime, anywhere. That's pretty amazing!
I don't think this is like digital music. I truly believe we will always have print, but we may think of print differently -- maybe save it for the books we love most. We might do most of our reading digitally, but still give print books as gifts, or display our favorites on real shelves in our homes.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
I like complex big books. I'd rather not pick just one. I enjoy all sorts of genres and go through a lot of reading phases.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
You have to accept that film is more visual and movies need to be different than the books on which they are based. You have to accept that the actors playing the parts might not be the ones playing the part in your mind. Some books seem to be written for the screen and transfer really well. I thought they did a very good job with both the Swedish version and the American remake of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. I'm still waiting for the sequels! Classic worst -- Queen of the Damned.
Your favorite food is?
Your favorite singer/group is?
Gotta go with opera here, not pop. Natalie Dessay is spectacular.
Your favorite color is?
Red, like blood.
VM Gautier is a pseudonym. This is not the author's first book, but it is his or her first book in this genre. You haven't heard of him or her.