INTERVIEW FOR THE ILVN WEBSITE. MARCH 21, 2014

To coincide with the launch of THE PATH TO DECAY, on Friday I gave an interview on the I Love Vampire Novels website. You can see it here.

ILVN. Firstly, tell us about your book/series.

Shane: My series is The Dracula Chronicles. It is a sprawling, expansive new concept that combines the real historical Vlad Dracula and an entirely new version of Dracula the vampire, also based on the real man.

The books are historical novels of Gothic horror; religious corruption; political intrigue; war; tragedy; paranormal fantasy; and deep romance. The premise goes all the way back to Creation, and the First Great War of the Angels, and the concept built around Lucifer trying to ascend again to Heaven through the destruction of the institution of the Catholic Church. As per the truce he agreed with God, Lucifer can contest the soul of any living being, as long as he does not interfere with their free will. Should he control more souls than God at any time, then he can ascend again to Heaven and signal the end for mankind.

I’m currently releasing the books in two arcs. Books #1 to #5 are the Vlad Dracula arc, and set during his real life from 1431 to 1476. This arc re-creates the world of Vlad Dracula in its entirety, with all the great historical characters of that period, all the political machinations, and many of the great battles fought. There are no vampires here, but it is dark and Gothic, with plenty of angels and demons, and a new vision of Hell.

Books #6 to #10 are the vampire, Bound By Blood arc. Here, you will meet Dracula the vampire, as created by Lucifer. He begins life as the instrument to execute Lucifer’s great plan and bring down the Catholic Church, in the hope he can turn man against God and win the battle for souls. In this arc, I bring in a return of the dark, evil vampire. The books encompass many of the greats in history: the Borgias; the Tudors; Machiavelli; Martin Luther; as well as many of the great kings, emperors, and popes of the day.

ILVN. What are you working on at the moment?

Shane: Currently, I’m re-writing the two vampire books. I’m adding an extra 70k words to the existing books and converting them into three. That means new edits, too, and there will be new covers, to replace the outdated covers that readers can see at the moment. It is a very expensive process, but worthwhile. Lovers of the vampire genre will still greatly enjoy the two books in their present format, as reviews should attest.

Then I am straight into the final re-write for Book #3 The Gates Of Babylon before sending to my editors. After all amendments are made, that book should be available around September, 2014.

ILVN. What inspired you to become a writer?

Shane: You know, all my life I have felt it was my calling to write. And even as a child, I believed one day I would become a famous writer. I was always writing something, even before my teens, and in the essays I wrote at school I always went way beyond what my teachers were asking for. So, I guess I am living my dream. Aside from my family, nothing gives me greater pleasure than an email from one of my readers telling me how much they loved one of my books. I want to entertain and give people the WOW factor when they read something of mine.

ILVN. How long have you been writing?

Shane: I wrote the first 50k words of The Dracula Chronicles all the way back in 1984. What exists of that will appear in a much later book. Then, in the late 80’s I wrote a couple of horror novels, which are tucked away in a drawer somewhere. I began The Dracula Chronicles in earnest in November, 1992. I spent 13 years writing the mammoth Reckoning Day (over 400k words) and of course researching the material I would need for the other books. My research notes alone are larger than that book.

ILVN. What is your relationship with your characters? Do you have a favourite? Is there one that you find a bit more difficult?

Shane: I have a deep relationship with every one of my characters, especially the ones I created myself. I put a lot of myself and my life experiences into my characters, which is tricky because I remain true to history always and have to weave my concept in amongst that. I have lived with these characters for over twenty years, so they are a big part of who I am.

In the first arc, I especially love the main character, Vlad Dracula. As a historian and student of his life for over 20 years, I have read countless historical texts and many novels written about the great man. Naturally, I developed my own image of who he was from these very many sources, but in the novels I have read about him, none have ever captured the essence of who I believe him to be. Therefore, I felt compelled to convey to the world Dracula as I see him, and perhaps help people understand why he did the things he did. He was certainly a brutal man by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel he is much maligned, and unfairly so. I want to give people an insight into who he really was, and why he was the way he was.

In the vampire arc, my favourite character would have to be Dracula’s granddaughter, Ruxandra. She is a deep, sensual creature in every sense of the word and I love who she is within the context of my books. The character I find most difficult to write is Dracula’s illegitimate son, Varkal. He is a hideous, despicable man who does the most despicable things. He is the true epitome of evil. It has been difficult to write his character as he bears no resemblance to me in any way, and because of the terrible things he does in the books. He is so bad. Even though Dracula becomes the antagonist in the vampire arc, my readers seem to love him regardless.

ILVN. Is there anything that you find challenging about being a writer?

Shane: There are three things mainly.Firstly, my greatest challenge was to weave my concept and my characters in amongst true historical events. I am a stickler for accuracy and was careful not to alter any historical event in any way. At the same time, I had to ensure my novels did not resemble historical text books and worked very hard to avoid that. I have used many legends in the body of my work too, though I feel all legends have substance and originated somewhere around some actual event. Also, during my extensive research, I found often that some situations have never been properly explained in the historical texts, so I have filled in many of these holes, which in turn, have added extra spice to the books.

The second real challenge I had was to do with the length of my books. Reckoning Day (in its first and only draft) is 400k words, Bound By Blood was 260k words, and The Gates Of Babylon was 250k words. These are the 3 original books I wrote. In the modern age, people do not want books of this length, especially in digital format. The norm now is for books to average 90k-100k words. The challenge this posed me was to break my manuscripts up into smaller books without taking away from the quality of the story. I had to find the right places in the text to make the split, cut some material out and in some instances, write fresh material so that I could balance the books better and leave enough to leave my readers wanting the next one.

The third real challenge, and the toughest for many, is the cost involved. Publishing is a very expensive business. Proper editing; correct book formatting; professional cover design; book trailers; developing and establishing your brand; and even the smallest advertising; add up to a lot of money. Many writers today cannot afford to follow this correct process, and it has been extremely difficult for me too, but I feel to stand out from the rest then it is necessary. And I want to stand out.

ILVN. Do you write freehand at all or straight onto your pc?

Shane: In the early days I didn’t even own a typewriter, so I did everything freehand. These days, everything is done on my laptop. It is much easier and so much quicker.

ILVN. Do you have a strict writing routine/word count per day?

Shane: Not really. Sometimes I might only write 500 words in a day, but I have been known to write as much as 12,000 or 15,000 in a 24-hour period. I just write as the mood takes me.

ILVN. Is there one question that you wish that you would be asked in an interview? If so, what is it and what’s the answer?

Shane: That is a really tough question actually, and I had to give it a lot of thought. Amazingly, the one question I have never been asked in all the interviews I have done is, “What sets your novels apart from other Dracula or vampire novels?”

My answer to that would be… In an age where the genre has been seriously diluted with books and movies aimed at a teenage audience, I bring a return to the dark, evil vampire. I have created an amazing concept and set it within true historical events, with some of the most famous characters in history. It is a concept that goes from Creation all the way to Armageddon, one that explores every aspect of the human psyche, one that examines the shortfalls of the institution of the Catholic Church, and one that not only entertains but also educates my readers in areas of history they may never have become familiar with. In the words of people who have read and reviewed my work, my style is cinematic and makes you feel as though you are there in the middle of it all, and my writing is powerful and evokes many emotions and reactions in my readers. They have told me my writing has made them cry, it has scared them, it has shocked and abhorred them, and it has aroused them too. Therefore, my claim is: The Dracula Chronicles, once read, never forgotten.

One person even told me I have created a world far more expansive than that of Tolkein or C.S.Lewis. Another, thinks my books could one day be as big as those about a certain young wizard. I guess time will tell. I hope he was right.

ILVN. What do you think causes people’s enduring fascination with vampires?

Shane: I think everyone has their own unique perspective and relationship with vampires. They terrify, they excite, they arouse. From a personal perspective, nothing terrified me more than the vampires in Salem’s Lot when I was a kid. It hooked me forever, despite all the many bad dreams I had. I think people enjoy being scared, as an escape at least when they indulge fantasy. That is why the horror genre has enjoyed such enduring success both on screen and in books. It taps into the primal aspects of who we are, and gives that instant rush of adrenaline. Vampires, in my opinion, are easily the most attractive and terrifying of all entities in the horror genre. They are superhuman and have incredible abilities; they are predatory, and hunt us humans for sustenance; they are often erotic and sensual. I wonder if women, trapped in what they feel are mundane marriages or relationships, long for an encounter with such a creature. By the same token, I wonder if men would like to be the vampire in such an encounter.

I worry the current trends have harmed the essence of what a vampire is. Many young people today have little clue what vampires are really about. Fortunately for us more mature folk, we know exactly what they are or, at least, we can remember what they were.

ILVN. Do you have any plans to write in a different genre in the future?

Shane: It’s stupid to never say never, but I don’t envision any such projects in the near future. I have many books to get out in The Dracula Chronicles series, and now I have a growing demand from readers who often ask when the next book will be available. I also have a neglected second series of horror shorts entitled Tales Of The Black Sabbath, and need to produce a few more of those, too. I would like to write some purely historical books or screenplays, probably using the Romans as my subject matter. I have many other ideas for horror books in my “ideas” folder so any foray to another genre is very unlikely for a long time to come.

ILVN. Are you also an avid reader? What are you reading at the moment?

Shane: Yes, I’m always reading, and my kindle is loaded. At one time, I read only horror and writers like Stephen King; Dean Koontz; Shaun Hutson; James Herbert; John Saul; Robert McCammon; and Anne Rice. Then I progressed to people like Conn Iggulden and Carlos Ruis Zafon (who are my favourite writers) and Jeffrey Archer. I have read very many books by Indie authors. Currently, I’m reading The British Billionaire Bachelor by Maggie Carpenter, who is a friend of mine. It is far-removed from my normal reading material, but I won’t know if I like it unless I read it.

ILVN. Doctor Who has just arrived in his Tardis. He puts you charge of the time machine, what would you do?

Shane: Oh, that’s a tricky question. I can think of three things I might do if I was in control of a time machine. I’d head first to Ancient Greece to the location of Helen of Troy. I have to see what she really looked like, and if I could charm her into bed.

I would probably kidnap Maria Callas and refuse to release her until she had sung for me.

And then I’d head over to Dallas on November 22nd 1963 and rescue JFK from his fate, regardless of the consequences.

ILVN. The vampires are attacking! Grab the first thing you see to your right and hit them with it! What was it? And how do you think you did in the ensuing fight?

Shane: It was a refrigerator. I gave myself a hernia and ended up as someone’s dinner.

ILVN. The aforementioned vampire attack didn’t go so well and you were bitten by the vampire…now what?

Shane: I get to seduce even more beautiful women without having to try too hard.

ILVN. In the event of a zombie apocalypse what item would you make sure that you took with you to your underground safety bunker? (we will presume that your family are already safely in the bunker!)

Shane: I would take Justin Bieber’s entire catalogue of umm… music?? I would play it very loud. That should be enough to scare off any zombie.

ILVN. You are planning an awesome dinner party. Which 3 celebrities/fictional characters/historical figures (past or present) would you add to your guest list?

Shane: Lol what an awesome question. Definitely Ludwig von Beethoven. He wouldn’t be offended by my brand of humour as he wouldn’t be able to hear me. And we might even get him to play one of his sonatas on the piano. I would invite my good buddy, Vlad Dracula, should anyone misbehave. He could just impale them and be done with it. Oh, and of course, Helen of Troy. You can use your imagination on that one.

ILVN. Can you give us five random facts about yourself? (optional)

1.In 2007, I represented Wales in the World Scrabble Championship in Mumbai, India.

2. I am a father of eight; seven girls and one delicious little boy.

3. I turned down an offer once from a Big 6 publisher. Did I say I was stupid?

4. I watch CSI Las Vegas just to see Marg Helgenberger. Schwing Schwing.

5. When I write, I listen mostly to Goth Metal or dark Celtic music.

ILVN. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Shane: Absolutely, and this advice I will give from my own personal experiences. Learn to be patient. Your chances of overnight success are as remote as Richard Burton winning that elusive Oscar, and he has been dead almost thirty years. Writing is a slow process. After that first draft, don’t look at it again for another two months. Do something else in the meantime. Then, write it again. Write it again, and again. Do your research and get your facts right, and then write it again. I would recommend at least five drafts before submitting it to an editor. And you must submit it to a copy editor. NO ONE CAN EDIT THEIR OWN WORK. That is a golden rule. It doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, or if you are qualified yourself as an editor. You cannot edit your own work. Editors are expensive, oh yes, but save the money so you can pay one, no matter how long it takes. Do your homework, and find a good one. Once you have your manuscript back from your editor, do that re-write, and then send it to proof readers. I use three sets of eyes even after I have made the amendments suggested by my editor.

I learned one very valuable lesson in my early days as a writer. I had a direct line of communication with an editorial director of publishing at a second of the Big 6 publishers. He told me in as clear a way as he could, “Make sure it is the best it can be before you give it to me.” Of course, I did not heed his advice and rushed my submission. He knows the publishing process is a slow one, but I didn’t. Needless to say, I never heard from him again.

So my advice to anyone who wants to write is this. Publishing is a very slow and expensive business. Anyone these days can write and publish a book through Amazon. But if you really want to stand out and be a success, you have to behave like a real publisher. You have to follow the process correctly. Do this, and your hopes of success will increase substantially.

Once you have done this, and published your book, be prepared to put in thousands of hours building your platform and your brand. You have to give it your all, and never give up.

One other thing, and perhaps the most important of all. Don’t neglect your loved ones. No book will ever compensate you for losing them.

ILVN. Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?

Shane: If you are looking for something new to sink your teeth into, then The Dracula Chronicles will be worth your time and attention. As I have said previously, the series is running in two separate arcs, so I have provided you with two stories to lose yourself in. Though they are primarily historical novels of Gothic horror, they contain so much more and cross so many genres. There is something in them for everyone. The Dracula Chronicles may shock you; arouse you; offend you; scare you; or even make you cry; but they won’t disappoint you.

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