Today I have something a bit different from the usual book promo. I’ll be asking the author, Shane O’Neill, a few questions and he’ll offer us a peek at the prelude to the series I am very curious about.
The Dracula Chronicles
Is living in Norway very different from life in any other part of the world? And would you ever want to live in a city that never sleeps?
It is certainly different to what I was used to. I have lived in several countries, though mostly in Ireland and the UK. The culture in Norway is very different and so, of course, is the language. And like in any country where English is not the first language, you need to learn the language of the natives to truly get on. I still have a long way to go in that respect, but I am getting there slowly but surely. On the outside the Norwegians are quite cold. They don’t smile and say hello in the street, or thank you for holding a door open for them. But once you get to know them they are generally warm and friendly people, and very obliging. When I first moved here I struggled with the food, as it is very different to what I was accustomed to. Now my palate has changed completely and I find the foods I used to love in the UK not so much to my liking. One real plus of living here is the work ethic and environment. In almost any job in the UK it is high pressure and high-performance oriented. Even the process of getting a job is high intensity. Here it is so different and so much better. In Norway, the interview process is so much more relaxed and your employers treat you like a human being and look after you. I cannot underestimate how important this is. Even though it is the most expensive country to live in and it has some negative aspects, I would say it is a good place to live; it is a wonderful place to raise your child; and it is probably the most beautiful country in the world. It can just be a little lonely at times if you’re a foreigner living alone.
No, I could never live in a city that never sleeps. I have lived and worked in London and although it was great socially, I didn’t like it. I am a country boy. A suburb in a quiet city like Trondheim is fine.
How did you get into writing fiction?
I have always been a writer. Even at school my essays were long-winded and far more than my teachers were ever looking for. Looking back now, I’m sure it must have amused them greatly. I have been living with the concept of The Dracula Chronicles for the best part of thirty years and began writing them over twenty years ago. I have dreamed all my life of being a writer and as unromantic as the reality is of actually being a writer in the modern age, I still love it. I love this world I have created and, thankfully, a lot of other people are beginning to love it too.
When you are old and you and your wife are sitting in your rocking chairs, what is the thing which will be most retold?
It will be an achievement for us to ever make it that far, but if we do then it will probably revolve around my past game addictions. I recall a time when I wanted her off the pc so I could use it to log into a game called Café World. I made the grievous error of saying, “My lobsters have been cooked for two minutes and I’m losing valuable cooking time.” She has promised me that one is going on my headstone. But, we are pending a divorce now, so it invalidates that question I suppose.
What do you prefer, a leisurely stroll through a well maintained really old castle, or a ‘dangerous’ discovery scramble through a derelict ruin of which the story goes it’s been haunted or a vampire lair?
Oh definitely the latter. I’d much prefer roaming the ruins of Pompeii than a tour around Windsor Castle. I have a deep love for all things historical and love to explore all types of buildings and sites of historical interest, but yes, a ruin is much more exciting.
With the personal questions out off the way, let’s do a few of the yada yada questions before we move on to the fun. And by yada yada I do not mean boring, or in any other way stupid questions, but just the traditional ones. You know? The ones we secretly all want to know the answer to.
First, what is the title of the book you would like to talk about?
I am writing a series called The Dracula Chronicles. It is a concept based on the real historical Vlad Dracula and my own idea of Dracula the vampire. I hate associations made with my work and Bram Stoker’s because my character resembles his in name only. My books are historical novels of dark Gothic horror set in a brutal age and often in a brutal context. They are stories of religious corruption; political intrigue; violence; deep romance and erotica set against the vast historical backdrops of 15th and 16th Century Europe. My premise is centred on the First Great War of the Angels, following the divide in Heaven caused by Lucifer’s extreme jealousy of the creation of mankind. To end that war and the destruction of his angels, God agrees a truce with Lucifer whereby Lucifer can contest the soul of every living being as long as he never interferes with an individual’s free will. Should he control more souls than God at any time then he can ascend again to Heaven and destroy the human race. When the Crucifixion erases man’s sins it leaves Lucifer back to square one. Because the Catholic Church is representative of God’s great victory over him, he sees the destruction of the institution of the Catholic Church as the way to turn man against God once more, and win the battle for souls. For that reason, he searches for over a millennium for a candidate to bring about this end and identifies the young Vlad Dracula as the one. It is why he creates the first vampire in Dracula when the mighty warlord is dying from his wounds at Snagov in 1476.
My first release began with this actual event and even though Bound By Blood – Volume 1 is actually Chronicle #6, I wanted to give my reader the vampire first. I have two releases coming in November and December, For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Path To Decay, which will also be Chronicle #1 and Chronicle #2. There are no vampires in these two books although they remain dark Gothic horror stories. They begin with the story of the First Great War of the Angels and the Crucifixion before telling the story of the birth of Vlad Dracula and his brother, Andrei. Both are sons of the great Vlad Dracul, though born to different mothers and in very different circumstances. Andrei will grow to be God’s weapon against the eventual evil of Dracula and the balance to him. These first two books follow the stories of their lives up to the age of twenty and to 1452 in the series. In them I re-create the world of the real historical Vlad Dracula in its entirety and bring to life all the major players of the day while following the loves, triumphs, tragedies and heartbreaks of the two main characters.
Wow! No wonder you’ve been working on them as long as you have! After just reading this I’m already hooked. Any of the readers here now feel the same?
Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?
No not on this occasion. I am a real lover of heavy rock/metal and more recently of Goth metal. For that reason I like to name my book titles after songs I love in this genre of music. For Whom The Bell Tolls I took from Metallica, and The Path To Decay I took from the Norwegian Goth metal band, Sirenia. That song by Sirenia will feature on the awesome book trailer that will be accompanying the release of the two books. I take all my titles from heavy metal songs, as long as they are fitting to the content within.
If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?
No, I will never do that…not for anyone or anything. This is one reason I previously didn’t follow traditional publishing. If I wanted to conform to the market then I’d be writing gushy vampire stories for 13 year-old girls. That will never happen in my books. My vampires are dark and brutal. They are monsters in every sense of the word and one of the greatest evils in the world, even though their humanity still shows through. My vampires will not use hair products; they will not sparkle; they will not walk in sunlight; and they will not date teenage girls. They are very sexual creatures yes, but generally they will look on humans as a source of food as opposed to a love interest. Their outlook on humans follows on from that of their master, Lucifer.
Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?
I have often deliberated long over a scene or a chapter. Even though my books tend to be long, people have no idea how much time I take to trim it down and take away anything unnecessary to the story. As much as I love the writing of Stephen King, I used to be critical of how he could take ten pages to say what I might try to say in two. I often thought he dragged things out and was a page-filler. But then, he is above criticism as he is the true leader in this genre. I work hard to keep my stories concise and as to the point as possible, so I deliberate a lot over it. And I will often re-write a scene as many as ten times to make sure it is perfect. I wanted my reader to be there always: stood in the room with my characters; smelling the blood and opened bowels on the battlefield; feeling what my characters are feeling as they make love. To achieve this I have to choose my words very carefully and work to make it real. To celebrate this I will read it several times and then sit back and smile and say to myself, “Shane, you are fcking awesome.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the book and how it came to be? Or can we take the alternative route now?
As I stated previously, I wanted to write a book or series of books that combined the real historical Vlad Dracula with Dracula the vampire. I have had a longstanding love affair with Dracula the man and had a deep yearning to do this. I also wanted to be the first. There is another writer out there who has made the same claim, but he is not the first. He has called his series by the same name and even bought my .com domain when I let the renewal lapse. This just served to spur me on more. I have also read novels written about Dracula the man that failed to capture what I believe is the true essence of who he was. I feel I have captured that in my books and, in For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Path To Decay, I shall reveal this to the world. There are no vampires in the first five books in the series. It is the story of Dracula the man, and a fictitious brother, set within my premise of Lucifer trying to ascend again to Heaven.
There is a prequel available of these two books called, The Lamb Of God. It is a sample of For Whom The Bell Tolls, the first three chapters, so anyone can have a taster to see if they’d like to read on. I have also produced an audio version of The Lamb Of God, narrated by myself. I will make it available when I can figure out how.
What don’t you like about writing?
The hundreds of hours of editing that are necessary, and the many re-writes I do over time.
What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?
Marketing is not my great strength and I’m sure I would sell more books than I do, if it was. I use Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook mostly and work on building relationships with readers and potential readers.
Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?
Blood. To my characters it is both. In life, coffee is the most important food or beverage for me. I just could never get by without it.
What is your most favorite dish? Can you give me the recipe?
I love Italian food and since I got married, Mexican food. I was once a chef and rate myself as a pretty good cook, but my estranged wife is an extremely good cook. Some of the meals she has made are too good for words. The one thing in particular she used to make that is to die for, is her pizza. I miss it. Sadly the recipe cannot be shared and even more sadly, I’m not likely to taste it again. But the memory will live on.
The least I can do then is show you a picture of a most delish pizza, since I love them too.
Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!
I had to dispose of a body?
Hahahaha, shouldn’t be too hard around Trondheim? I imagine Norway to be mostly vast, empty expanses of wild country.
And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?
It is our art and it is what we do. Only a writer knows what it is to be a writer. There is no romance in what we do, or very little anyway. It is hard graft and a hard slog. But at the end of the day, when you hold your book in your hand in the knowledge it was you that wrote the words between those covers, it is all worthwhile.
Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want to blab about. But please no cats, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something no one has ever heard before from you. Hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂
Nah, I don’t like to share any of my dirty secrets, though there are many. They’re all fodder for a possible book one day. I’ll just leave you with an excerpt from The Path To Decay.
Transylvania. A quiet tavern on the outskirts of Brasov.
Late October, 1452.
The streets were quiet in Brasov in late October. The people sensed trouble in the air and stayed in their homes, well out of the way.
For three weeks, Nicolae’s agent searched through the towns and cities in the south of the country. He sought the man they called Buzan.
No one knew much about him, but for his ability to kill. Some people thought he did not exist at all, but enough legends did. The most famous of these said he was born outside the Gates of Hell. And that he learned his trade from the Devil himself. Another version claimed he was born on the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year. This one added that his mother pushed him out under a blood red moon. By its light, she could see the Devil’s mark on him, the three sixes. She went mad and killed herself soon after. It left him to a life of misery where his Turkish father sold him as a slave.
The agent did not know how much of this was true. What he did know was that Buzan was a deadly killer. The real facts remained few. People said he never failed a mission, and with just cause. If Buzan came after you, it was only a matter of time before you were dead. He had killed many and always left his trademark on the body. A cross carved on the victim’s forehead. Every job he did, he took on as a personal vendetta. To that end, he liked to do the deed up close.
Many of the trees were already bare and the brown leaves cluttered the quiet streets. After the rain, they made the surface tricky for a horse’s hoof and filled the air with a pungent, rotten smell.
The trail led him to a quiet tavern on the outskirts of the city. It had been an exhaustive search. A good number of people he met on the way would not talk about Buzan. The ones that did, just added another story to his legend. He hoped now he had the right information after so many false leads.
He walked into the tavern and took the time to look around. It was quiet inside, with only a few tables occupied. One man eyed him suspiciously for a moment before returning to his tankard of ale.
The landlord looked him over the same way. “What do you want to drink?”
“I am looking for someone, a man.”
“Take a look around you. Do you see anyone here?”
The agent threw a gold ducat down against the bar. “I am looking for one man in particular. I was told I could find him here.”
He picked up the coin and bit it with rotted teeth. “Who are you looking for?”
The landlord stopped and eyed him with real suspicion. He threw the gold ducat back down on the bar. “There is nobody by that name in here. Be on your way.”
The agent picked up the coin and flicked it into the air with his thumb. He caught it and returned it to an inside pocket. “Thank you for your time.” He then turned and left.
Once he had walked out, the landlord nodded to the few men in the room. They left their tables and followed the stranger outside.
The agent had sensed danger while in the tavern. A first glance on entry told him he would have trouble. He wanted to face it outside where he had room to move about. Even before the three men came out after him, he had his sword in hand.
One of them grinned at him with real menace. He rubbed a hand against his unshaven jaw as he moved closer. His companions both brandished knives. “Give me your coin,” he said, his voice cold and threatening.
“Go to Hell,” the agent told him.
“It is where you shall be going if you do not throw it here.”
The agent smiled at the threat. He brandished his sword for the man to see. “It is yours if you can take it from me.”
And with that we say goodbye for now to Shane. Don’t worry, he’ll be back in November with more news about this series. If you would like to ask him more questions do so in the comment section, or stalk him on … Erm, I meant follow him, yes! Follow, Like, become a fan! Because you can find him on his website, his blog, Facebook, on Twitter as @ShaneKPONeill, Goodreads, and Amazon.