Thanks for hosting us today for the Vampires Gone Wild book tour, our Supernatural Underground anthology with Avon Impulse. Kerrelyn Sparks, Pamela Palmer, Amanda Arista, and Kim Falconer here to hopefully illuminate the thoughts and processes that go into creating the worlds that our characters inhabit.
What inspired the setting for your short story? Have you written the world before or is this brand new?
Kerrelyn Sparks: My characters. Mikhail is Russian, and he’s helping a friend, Zoltan, who’s Hungarian. So some of the scenes are set in Russia and Eastern Europe. Lady Pamela is British, so there are scenes in London. My novella is a continuation of the Love at Stake series, so if you follow that series, you will be familiar with all the characters.
Pamela Palmer: When I first came up with my Vamp City world, I’d been playing with the idea of a dark urban fantasy vampire otherworld. I knew I wanted this place accessible from our world (the vampires can come and go as they please). So I played with ideas, at first thinking I’d set it in Florida, or some place different from my Feral Warriors and Esri series, which are both set in my hometown of Washington, D.C. Then I realized that if I set it in D.C., Vamp City would be Washington, V.C., and I loved that, and knew I had my place.
Since Vamp City was created in 1870 by a powerful sorcerer on the exact spot where Washington, D.C. sat, I ended up doing a ton of research on post-Civil War D.C., learning things like the streets weren’t yet paved, but still dirt; the Tidal Basin and National Mall west of the Washington Monument didn’t exist; and the Washington Monument itself was only half-built. I also researched what might happen to the city if it was left to decay for 140 years. Not only aren’t vampires the most industrious lot, but Vamp City is a place where the sun never shines.
Amanda Arista: I cheated. I live in Dallas so I set my first series, Diaries of an Urban Panther in Dallas so research would be easy and adventurous. Since “First Dates” was an extension of that world, I took the opportunity to explore some neighborhoods that might attract the characters I was writing about. Valiance is older and quiet, so he wasn’t going to live in the uptown area that the other books were based in. I found a really awesome area in town that was converted old houses into shops and wineries. Definitely places that might house a vampire or two.
Kim Falconer: A painting by John Waterhouse titled ‘The Siren’ started me on the journey. I had an idea, and wanted to tell the story of these vampire-esque ‘Mar’, the god-like race of beings who live beneath the sea. It’s been brewing in me for years! At the moment, I’m working on three different projects in this world – a contemporary paranormal romance series, a historical paranormal romance series and a young adult fantasy series. It’s wonderful, seeing this come to life.
Once you settled on a place, were there any particular challenges in writing the environment?
KS: Sometimes there are, but not this time.
PP: Yes! Many. Vamp City is a world created by magic, a world where the sun never shines. Logic says that without sun there would be no plants, trees, grass, etc. But as I was finishing up the first story in the series, A Blood Seduction, I saw the cover art for the book and it had all these wonderful, atmospheric trees. At the time, there wasn’t a tree in the book. So I changed that, and added a lot of trees to Vamp City—dead trees. They grow that way. Gotta love magic.
AA: I write about real places in the real world sprinkled with magical people. My universe for my Diaries of an Urban Panther series is Dallas, so I wanted to stay authentic to that for “First Dates.” But I needed a new place. Sure I threw in the department store that I worked at and the coffee shop that was integral to the first series, but I wanted to make sure that the setting matched the character’s story. It took me a while to find a part of Dallas that matched Valiance age with
Esme’s fresh take on the world. Bishop Arts was perfect. It’s an older neighborhood that some visionaries have turned into a lovely little shopping/eating/collecting neighborhood. And I got a few great meals out of the search.
KF: The challenges were two-fold. “Blood and Water” takes place in 1906 and of course, part of the story unfolds beneath the sea. Neither ‘place’ is that convenient to visit. I’m a closet marine biologist and history buff though, and I feel compelled to get my facts correct, as well as allow for imagination. A nice challenge!
With all those challenges, what kind of research did you have to do for Vampires Gone Wild? Is this the mode for all your novels?
KS: I looked at a map of Eastern Europe and Russia to figure out where exactly they were. For one scene, I needed a port on the Adriatic Sea, so I chose Dubrovnik. I also picked out Mikhail’s last name by studying the names of small towns in Russia. A few of my characters have last names I found on maps. Draganesti is a small town in Romania, so I picked it for Roman. And Vesto is a town in Hungary, so I used it for Laszlo.
PP: Since I’d already done so much research for the Vamp City series in general, the only additional research I needed to do for “A Forever Love,” my Vampires Gone Wild novella, was look-up the boundaries of Georgetown in 1870, and drive the street where the heroine, Elizabeth, walks to work in our world. Though I live in the D.C. area, Georgetown isn’t a place I frequent often and I wanted to make certain I had the details right.
AA: Fun Story time: I’ve always preached that you should write about what you know. For, Diaries, the main character needed to shoot a gun, so I went to a gun range. In the second, I needed to know about biker bars, so I went to a few around town, complete with tight jeans and a top I hope my mother never, ever finds. For this story, the Vampires in my universe can only be killed by having their heads cut off by an iron sword. So, not to drop spoilers, there is a sword fight in the story. Being a normal person, I don’t usually wield a sword, but like a normal person, I do have foam swords and a really great husband. So my husband and I choreographed the fight scenes so I could write about it. After a few bruises, we finally worked it out and voila, fight scene.
KF: I did extensive research on San Francisco 1906, the earthquake, cars, ferries, women’s suffrage, female photographers of the time and the proposals for the Golden Gate Bridge. It was fascinating, and I got lost in it all daily. Fortunately, there is an abundance of historical data, maps and images online to pull from. Fifteen years ago, I would have had to take up residence in a major library to manage it. I also researched the underwater region beneath the Golden Gate and in the Bay. Fortunately, I’ve done hundreds of dives up and down the California coast and have met that world, face to face. My novels have thus far followed this MO. It makes it all the more stimulating to write them!
Once the settings and worlds were built, were there any personal experiences that made it into the book?
PP: Not really, no. Thank goodness the events aren’t anything I’ve experienced in real life! : )
AA: I have to admit, my heroine Esme works the same job that I worked for a while, house wares of a department store. However, a tall Viking hunk never asked me out on a date!
KF: I WISH! If Stellan pops up in my life, no one may hear from me for quite some time . . . but authors can only bring to a work what’s inside of them, so unconsciously I’m guessing there is a great deal of my life in the story that I’m not even aware of. We think we make these things up from scratch, but most likely our characters are composite people we know, scenes are bits of memories forgotten, and feelings aspects of our longings and desires. Like in a dream . . .
Well, there you have it. Some insight into the how the worlds in books are created. If you have a question about world building, please feel free to post. We’ll be checking in all day to comment. And a lucky commenter will win a digital copy of Vampires Gone Wild!
Vampires Gone Wild brings together four paranormal romance novellas by Kerrelyn Sparks, Pamela Palmer, Amanda Arista, and Kim Falconer, authors and bloggers at Supernatural Underground. Kerrelyn Sparks’s demure Pamela and sexy vampire sidekick battle the Malcontents in “V is for Vampwoman.” Kim Falconer’s aqueous San Francisco vampires in “Blood and Water” want nothing from “landers” — unless it’s dinner, but that’s until Stellan meets Angelina. Pamela Palmer carries readers to Vamp City in “A Forever Love” where trapped Lukas pines for his lost love. When she appears, Lukas will fight to keep her alive. It’s been a hundred years since Valiance has dated; all is great until they’re attacked, but quiet Esme will shock Valiance in Amanda Arista’s “First Dates Are from Hell.”
Supernatural Underground: We’re a group of HarperCollins authors, writing Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Sci-Fi for adults and teens under the Avon, Eos and HarperTeen imprints. Call it what you like, if it lurks in the shadows, and there’s fur, fangs, fins, phantoms or faery wings involved, we write it!
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