Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?
“Pinecones” is the story of the first American vampire — at the very beginning, at the Roanoke colony, before Jamestown, before the Puritans, before the colonists even thought of themselves as Americans. It’s also about what it’s like to be in a strange place with no one to rely on but yourself, and just how scary that can be.
What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?
Believe it or not this comes out of an old bigfoot story, about a guy camping in the woods who thought he heard something out there. He grabbed whatever he had at hand, socks, protein bars, whatever and threw it out into the darkness to try to scare off what he thought was just an animal. Whatever it was started throwing things back. He never actually got to see what was out there, which I thought made the story that much more terrifying.
Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?
I had to study a lot of period documents to get a sense for how people wrote at the time. The prayer at the end is actually taken from one of the earliest written forms of that prayer in English. I considered writing the whole thing in that dialect, but it would have been next to impossible to read. Giving a feel for the period’s speech patterns while at the same time keeping the story moving, keeping it entertaining, was a real challenge.
Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?
American history fascinates me, especially the early parts, from Roanoke through the Revolution. I’ve spent years researching the period and trying to come to grips with who our ancestors were, and how we evolved from them.
What kind of research did you have to do for the story?
I had a bunch of great books about the colonists, especially Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer. He’s probably the best American historian working today and his work always tries to go beyond just reporting the facts and dates and names — he gets you as close as possible to understanding the way people actually thought at the time, what their image of themselves was and how they saw the world around them. So much historical fiction reads like modern people dressing up in costumes, which is fine, and I honestly don’t see how you could do a historical novel any other way. But a short story lets you be a little more flexible, a little more free.
What is the appeal of vampire fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?
Vampires to me have always been the ultimate predator. We have no predators in our human world anymore — the only people who are ever attacked by bears or tigers are people who are doing stupid things to start with. But for a lot of human history we were prey animals. It’s why we got so smart and so adaptable as a species, to survive in a hostile world. The vampire is the metaphor for what that must have been like, when there was something out there in the dark, stronger, faster, and far more deadly than you were. Something that only wanted to destroy you. So many modern vampire writers seem to miss this point, that vampire are supposed to be a threat, an enemy.
What are some of your favorite examples of vampire fiction, and what makes them your favorites?
Well, Stoker’s Dracula, of course, and Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, and Fred Saberhagen’s The Dracula Tapes. I like the 19th century stuff quite a bit, and F. Marion Crawford’s “For The Blood is the Life,” which was probably the high-water mark of the last big vampire fad. I really enjoyed the first few volumes of Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, before they turned into erotica. Oh, and Interview with the Vampire was just genius. I guess I just like vampires, plain and simple.