Shades of Vampires: An Interview with Anne Barwell

This blog post combines two things I love — Anne Barwell and vampires!

January 2014, I had just completed the first draft of Thorns and Fangs and had no idea what I was going to do with it. Was there a market for M/M romance involving vampires? I did a search and the very first book I found was Shades of Sepia. It looked cool and it had a kiwi MC. I was sold.

As I read, I found myself getting nostalgic. The writing had a familiar feel, one that I couldn’t put solely on Ben and his appreciation of Dave Dobbyn. It reminded me a lot of a friend of mine, who I hadn’t talked to in years. I dropped her an e-mail. Hey, I said. I read this amazing book that made me think of you. Did you write it? Yes, Anne said. I did.

Shades 200x300Shades of Sepia is the first book in The Sleepless City series, written by Anne Barwell and Elizabeth Noble. Featuring vampires, werewolves, ghosts and a New Zealander, it is a great addition to your Halloween reading. The 4 book series has just been completed, and with things getting spooky, no better time to talk vampires with a fellow enthusiast, right? Hi, Anne!

Anne: Thanks for the invitation to be interviewed on your blog, Gillian. I love the way our paths have crossed again because of our vampires.

Speaking of vampires, the genre has come a long way from Bram Stoker’s day! With all of the changes to vampire lore over the years, what is it that attracts you to write about vampires?

Anne: I’ve always loved vampire stories. The attraction for me is that while a vampire has a very long lifespan, those they love do not. How do they deal with a world around them which changes when physically they don’t? They’ve also experienced history rather than just read about it, which gives them a unique perspective.

You touch on both of those things in a really lovely way in Shades of Sepia and Family and Reflection. No spoilers, but those aspects were what made both novels so moving to me. Building on my above question, how have you and Elizabeth Noble built the vampire lore in the Sleepless City series? What changes and innovations have you made? What have you kept?

Anne: One of the big differences is that instead of our vampires being ‘undead’, vampirism is the result of a virus. Our vampires can also walk in sunlight but they definitely don’t sparkle 😉 Garlic and crucifixes aren’t a problem, but silver burns and can be deadly. They can digest food but still need to drink blood to survive. Most drink animal blood as human blood is addictive, and drinking it is not a good idea. Although the characters have a dark side, they’re the good guys and solve crimes rather than perpetrating them.

FamilyandreflectionThe Sleepless City vampires manage to hold down regular jobs and keep up with modern city (to varying degrees of success, admittedly – looking at you, Simon). How have they overcome the difficulties posed by modern technology? How has their long-life changed them?

Anne: Varying degrees of success sums up Simon’s experience with technology well. While technology brings with it some advantages—for example it makes it easier to source their supply of blood—it also makes a vampire’s life more complicated. Vampires in this universe don’t show up on camera, but there is a way around the need for photographic IDs. A network exists that uses a variety of skills such as photographic standard artwork and computer graphics programmes so that older vampires can still obtain what they need to live in the modern world without others becoming suspicious.

Life changes most people, and vampires are no different. I think they all approach their long lives differently, in ways that reflect their personalities. Simon clings to what he knows which in part is the reason for his issues with technology, although his relationship with Ben is dragging him more into the 21st century. In contrast, Declan enjoys his life as a thief and conman, and embraces technology as it helps, in part, to keep the risk of becoming bored at bay.

We can’t have Declan getting bored! What makes the Sleepless City series unique amongst M/M Vampire Romances?

Anne: I haven’t read a lot of M/M vampire romances—there are several of them on my to-read list—so I’m not sure I can really say what makes ours unique. Our characters come from very different backgrounds and they are a mix of nationalities. There’s a sad lack of New Zealand characters in urban fantasy and I wanted to do something about that. I also like the fact there is a mix of age and experiences amongst our group, and that not all of our supernatural taskforce are vampires.

Who is your favourite fictional vampire? Was this the first vampire you encountered, or one that made a big impression for other reasons?

Anne: That’s a difficult question as I’ve been reading/watching this genre for a very long time. Two that stick with me are Nick Knight from the Forever Knight TV show, and Henry Fitzroy from Tanya Huff’s Blood books. I liked the fact that Nick holds down a regular job—he is a police detective but works the night shift—and that he is trying to atone for what he has done in the past. Henry’s attitude is a little less angsty, and he’s more comfortable with who and what he is. In the books he writes bodice rippers, but that was changed for the TV show—in that he wrote and illustrated graphic novels. Henry is also bisexual and is a character in the spin off Smoke series with Tony Foster.

What are your favourite vampire stories?

Anne: That’s a difficult one, and a mix of TV and books. I’ve already mentioned Forever Knight and the Blood/Smoke series. Other TV shows are Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Ultraviolet, Black Blood Brothers, and Moonlight. I want to watch Vampire Diaries and The Originals, but haven’t got that far yet.

Book-wise, I’m working through Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld, and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. Although vampires aren’t the main characters in these, they are interesting side characters. I’ve recently discovered Christopher Farnsworth’s President’s Vampire series and quickly became hooked on it. Another favourite I read some time ago was Bite Club by Hal Bodner. I’d love to read the sequel but sadly it’s not available in NZ as yet.

I am adding all of these to my to-read list. Thank you, Anne! Do you have any plans to write in the vampire (or paranormal romance) genre again?

Anne: Yes! The Sleepless City series is finished, but the characters still have more stories to tell. Elizabeth Noble and I are both writing spin off series. Mine is called Opus, and continues the adventures of Simon and his partner, Ben, in the fictional town of Flint. The cast includes some familiar characters, and some new ones. I have to finish my WW2 series, and write the next Dragons of Astria book, but Double Exposure, the first Opus story will be written after that. I already have at least three books planned for Opus, one of which will take place in Wellington. I figured it was about time Ben introduced Simon to his family.

Yes! I am so excited! I think it is beyond obvious that I have a super soft spot for Ben and Simon. And I hope that the Vellington sign features in Opus at some point! Thank you for sharing your time and vampire thoughts with us, Anne.

Shades of Sepia and Family and Reflection as well as Anne’s other books are available from Dreamspinner Press and on Amazon. Anne also has a Halloween freebie coming up! Reported Lost will be available from the Dreamspinner Press blog on October 31st.

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.

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