Author Interview: Chris Davis – Writer of ‘Takers’ (Part three of three)

Welcome back, you Eyeballers. here I present the final section of an exclusive interview with published author Chris Davis, who released an awesome vampire novel called ‘Takers’ last year and is preparing to release its sequel in the next few months.

This interview was released in three parts.

Part One : Writing Process

Part Two: Inspiration and Publicity

Part Three: Today!

Takers Author Chris Davis, vampires, blood, Kel, Interview, writers, Hawaii-Five-Oh

Chris Davis is back for more. Part three of her interview begins today!

Chris Davis resides in Memphis, Tennessee with her cat, Ramses. She has a Master of Science degree in Project Management and is a novelist, aspiring screenwriter and currently stretches her journalism muscle working for Hawaii Five-0 Online. Chris’s first published novel, a bloody twist on traditional vampires called “Takers,” is now available on Amazon and Smashwords and her personal blog can be found here.

Following yesterday’s discussion about inspiration and publicity, today Chris Davis talks about her vampire novel Takers and the challenge of making the urban fantasy arena her own:

Takers Amazon Chris Davis, Urban Fantasy, urban horror, vampires, undead, creature of the night, homoerotic vampires, blood suckers, soul suckers, monsters, fedora hat

Chris Davis' 'Takers' out now!

Takers

Did you have an audience in mind when you started or did it just come to you?

Oh, this is a fun story. My whole life, I never was into vampires. Not at all. Then – once again because of my work with Hawaii Five-0 Online – I sat down and watched the television series “Moonlight,” which starred Alex O’Loughlin. It was good. And it was the first time I actually thought, “Hey. Vampires. Sexy!”

Then I found out it was based on a book called “Angel of Vengeance” written by an insanely imaginative and very nice man by the name of Trevor O. Munson, who also co-executive produced “Moonlight.” So I got the book from Amazon.com, read it in one sitting, and that night, my main character Detective Kel Langston showed up with his black fedora and hand hiding his face going, “Finally. Now come on, let’s write a book.”

So did I have a particular audience in mind? No. Not really. The story is one that wants to be told, and it will find its audience. Of course I think about vampire fans as I’m writing, but it’s not like what’s happened to the vampire genre recently with sparkly soap opera-like characters that happen to have fangs and be undead. My arena in “Takers” is much more noir-like, and based more on mature adult realism than it is on teenage angst. Also, my vampires don’t stop with your blood. (grins)

How do you handle the homoerotic elements? Did you expect it to be a strong element of Kel’s struggle against his inner potential evil? Do you think he’s in denial?

My first, and simplest answer to this is, “What? I like to watch guys get it on.”

But I’ll back up and be serious for a moment. One of the things that I personally find most alluring about vampires as I see them is how erotic they are or can be. To me, the act of sinking your teeth into your victim and drinking their blood – something which of necessity requires some form of physical contact – is a very intimate act regardless whether it’s actually done in a sexual context.

Many authors have swung toward making vampires be all about sex, while others have minimized that aspect and still others have struck a balance between the two ends of the spectrum. While homoeroticism may be frowned upon in broader circles, my goal is not to please the majority of anything or anyone. My goal is to be true to the story Kel wants told and by default, be true to all the characters he introduces us to.

I don’t have any hang-ups about sexuality one way or the other, so writing about men getting turned on by other men – vampires or not – is never something I’ve had to struggle with doing. It’s not like I put it in there just because I thought readers would like it. I do know that from the feedback I’ve gotten so far that they do, which is really awesome since it’s a part of what the “Takers” world is about.

Yes, one of the things Kel fights so hard in the war between his human half and his Taker half – having both sides is what makes him a Half-Turn – is the fact that it takes very little to turn him on, period. This makes him feel more like an animal or a monster than a human being. Anything from the fabric of his shirt sliding across his skin to simply being in the physical presence of his sire puts him into sexual overdrive. It’s one of the many things he has to learn how to deal with and control and, unfortunately for him, sometimes he learns he can’t no matter how hard he tries. In the second book of the “Takers” series, which comes out this May, there are several times he finds that he can’t control his physical reaction, and in one case he acts on it deliberately – and foolishly – much to his later chagrin.

I don’t think Kel is secretly gay or in denial, no. He’s very much the man’s man who loves women and wants women, unlike his Half-Turn buddy Levi, who’s always been gay from the get-go, even before he was half-turned. But Kel is facing the effect his sire has on him, the effect any Taker has on him, the effect that Feeding and being Fed from has on him and the fact that every sense is heightened beyond reason. Being a Half-Turn is like being one big raw bundle of nerves: it doesn’t take a whole lot to make their sexual side want to take over. Along with having to deal with being a cop who swore to serve and protect, but now has to kill to survive, Kel’s got this inner animal who just wants to – basically – screw and kill, and I think it will always be a fight for him to maintain his humanity in the face of what being a Half-Turn does to his body.

Fedora, Takers, Vampire, Chris Davis

The man with the hat. Kel from Chris Davis' novel, Takers.

You write Kel in the first person, was he a strong character to start with?

He’s an insistent bastard. Am I allowed to say that? (laughs) Well, he is. As I mentioned before, he’s the one who showed up telling me we were going to write a book, and when I say “showed up,” I mean it in the same way any writer does who sees and hears their characters. This guy comes around on his own schedule, and boy, when he does I’d better drop everything and get my fingers on that keyboard. “Takers” is Kel’s story. That’s what it was always meant to be, and it’s his thoughts and feelings, his journey through this nightmare of being changed from a normal human cop into a creature who lives off souls and blood. Everything that happens is through the Kel Filter, which is great fun but also a challenge in that I have to make sure the reader finds out enough about all the other characters through Kel, rather than him being so self-absorbed or introspective that you never get much of a clue about what Ray or Levi or Francisco are all about, or what their motivations are.

Which part of Takers was most fun to write? Which was toughest?

Here, this will give you some insight into me: the most fun parts of “Takers” to write are the homoerotic scenes. (grins) As for the toughest, well, I’m trying to remember if I really had any trouble either in the first or second book with any particular part of it. I think the hardest thing to get used to doing in the first book was making certain that Kel described his surroundings well enough from his first person point-of-view that the reader could get a sense of where he was and what he was seeing.

It’s something my editors had to work with me on, because when you become a character, so that you can write in his voice, you don’t always remember that the reader isn’t inside the character with you, seeing through his eyes. So you have to think to yourself, how would Kel describe this, being a man, a cop, a guy in his thirties, a hard-boiled egg, a Half-Turn? You know he’s not going to get flowery or overly descriptive, but you’ve got to make sure the reader knows that the alleyway is covered in all manner of nasty fluids, or that Marta’s house is made out of brick, or what Kel’s Barracuda looks like bumper to bumper.

I think I found that process a little easier in the second book, but one of my editors has clued me in that I still am struggling with that a bit, so here come the rewrites!

How did it feel to finish that first draft?

“It’s done? Seriously? No freakin’ way.” That about sums it up. Once the shock of it wore off, though, I was very happy that I’d actually finished it, and very anxious to know what my editors thought of it because it’s radically different from anything I’ve ever written before. And believe it or not, I was all about, “Okay, when do I get to write my next one?” (laughs)

What can we look forward to in Takers 2?

Kel’s going to find out more about who his sire Francisco is, and why he (Kel) was half-turned to begin with. Questions are going to arise about who’s really in control of the Los Angeles-based Takers, and Kel’s relationship with Ray becomes really complicated. The title of the second book is now officially “Takers II: Family,” and that’s what it’s all about: family, in the many different forms that can take. There are lots of twists, turns and surprises and…of course…more eroticism – homo and otherwise!

Are there already plans for Takers 3? Do you think it will be an ongoing series or a trilogy?

I know with one hundred percent certainty that there is a Takers III. I have a feeling that Kel’s not going to let me off so easy as to leave it at a trilogy, though. I guess that remains to be seen!

And finally…

Any message you’d like to send out to the lovely readers of the Eyeball?

Listen to Jo. She knows what she’s talking about. If she says something’s good, then it’s good. And she’s a damn good writer herself.

Oh, you wanted some sort of witty personal message from me? Well, all I can say is this: I love writing “Takers” and I hope your Eyeball readers will enjoy reading it just as much. And keep your eyes open. One of these days you might actually see my name up on a movie screen somewhere! (grins)

And on those words, space folded in on itself and Chris disappeared leaving only a flurry of printer ink, flashing red lights and strongly smelling coffee splatters. She will return, though, you can be sure of that! Keep an eye out for Takers 2 and thanks for reading.

That was the last part of the interview with Chris Davis, so please check out her book and her blog, and remember you’re always welcome here at the Haunted Eyeball.

The links to the other two parts of the interview are here (part one) and here (part two)

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Review: When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

When Dead Gods Dream: A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories
When Dead Gods Dream: A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories by James Pratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A classy collection of well-crafted horror stories. Inspired by Lovecraftian nightmares, these five stories take some wonderfully twisted liberties with certain famous icons.

Cthelvis

The one and only King of rock is trying to make a comeback, but his star is fading and even his manager has lost hope. Things look up for Elvis when a group of supporters appear with a big offer, but as he reads their ‘good book’ some revelations slowly make the King deeply suspicious. Should he risk the world just to make it back to fame and glory? This was a great story that also filled in a lot of information about Elvis’s life, and painted ‘the King’ in a very sympathetic light. A superbly judged blend of sinister cultish intrigue and reimagined real life history.

Black Goat of the Hundred Acre Wood

What happens when little children grow up? Sometimes they move on to bigger, more monstrous dreams. So what happens to the innocent icons they once dreamed of? In this case, a certain famous bear of very little brain soon discovers a few things have changed, and finding hunny (sic) is no longer his biggest priority. This was a successfully eerie take on a well-loved story. Spot-on descriptions made it possible to imagine certain famous illustrations recast in a terrifying new light. This was a strangely affecting tale about the loss of childhood innocence of a Lovecraftian source. Sadder than a sad donkey, perfectly sweet yet bitter.

Jonas Bell Presents “The King in Yellow”

A past-it actor gets his mitts on a forbidden manuscript and the fabric of reality is suddenly in mortal danger. But, the show must go on, right? Lots of surprises in this take on the King in Yellow. It’s amazing anyone manages to say the lines at all before ripping off their own head. Inescapable throes of utter madness aside, this was a really great play on the notorious production.

A Pilgrimage to Carcosa

Dealing with the complex politics of the Dreamlands and beyond, a dreadful deal and revenge is sought. Epic in scope, this was an intriguing glimpse of the cruel inter-dimensional rulers in the Dreamlands, and a lesson in how to negotiate through the King in Yellow (or not), although it seemed just a little disconnected compared to the other stories here.

Sanitarium

A low key but effectively creepy tale. The new guy at the local sanitarium learns they have some inmates with a certain ‘look’, who must be kept asleep at all costs. Everything hinges on potential human error, so we’re not all screwed – yet – are we? Fun characterisation in the conversations with the other orderlies, too. Great piece.

James Pratt’s ‘When Dead Gods Dream’ deserves a read by any Lovecraft fan, and any horror fan who appreciates tales told with tongue firmly in cheek. Capturing eons of dread and suspense, cutting through the dark with a sharp sense of humour, these rise above any cheap parody and make this a highly recommended collection.

When Dead Gods Dream – A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories – as available on Amazon.co.uk

View all my reviews

Author Interview: Chris Davis – writer of ‘Takers’ (Part one of three)

Greetings, Eyeballers. Yes, that’s what you’re called now. I am extremely happy to present an exclusive interview with published author Chris Davis, who released an awesome vampire novel called ‘Takers’ last year has a sequel to it coming very soon.

This interview is being released in three parts.

Starting Monday 5th March: Writing Process

Parts Two and Three please follow links.

Takers Author Chris Davis, vampires, blood, Kel, Interview, writers, Hawaii-Five-Oh

Author of "Takers" Chris Davis

Chris Davis resides in Memphis, Tennessee with her cat, Ramses. She has a Master of Science degree in Project Management and is a novelist, aspiring screenwriter and currently stretches her journalism muscle working for Hawaii Five-0 Online. Chris’s first published novel, a bloody twist on traditional vampires called “Takers,” is now available on Amazon and Smashwords and her personal blog can be found here.

Today, Chris shares her opinions about the creative process and explains what drives her to write:

H.E: Welcome to my Haunted Eyeball, Chris! So, when did you first start writing?

C.D. I’ve been writing since I was a pre-teen. I’ll go out on a limb and say I was maybe about ten years old when I first put pencil to notebook paper, back in the dinosaur days when we actually had to write longhand.

Do you have a writing routine? How do you fit it in with the day job, etc?

I can’t say I have a routine, per se. Unlike many writers, I don’t do the thing where I say, “Between the hours of X and Y I’m working on Project #1 and then I’m doing this and then I’m doing that.” My schedule in terms of day job doesn’t keep me from writing when inspiration hits, which is very lucky for me. Instead, I have enough writing projects going at any given time that if I open up one document and don’t feel it flowing; I simply go to another project until I find the thing that feels like I should be working on it. I very much let the Universe flow in, around and through me and guide me to what I should be working on, what’s the right thing to be doing in that moment, rather than trying to force square pegs into round holes.

How do you start writing? Do you listen to music?

Funny you should ask me this question, because it occurred to me a few weeks ago that when I really started hitting the ground running in terms of producing profusely (around a decade ago), I always had to have music playing, whether via headphones or stereo. These days, I find that sometimes it helps to be playing my music, but other times I write like gangbusters in complete silence. Still others, you’ll find me able to produce multiple chapters of a book with so much noise occurring around me you wonder how I can think. Again, I go back to the fact that I just allow things to happen as they’re meant to, and if that means I’m supposed to write four chapters of my next novel today, then a twister could be spiriting me off to Oz and I wouldn’t be aware of it until those chapters were complete!

Where’s your favourite place to write?

I find that I’m most productive sitting at a desk, whether it be in a corporate workplace type of environment or my own home office. I have successfully written sitting up in bed, but for the most part I guess me being seated at a desk tells my brain “time to work,” and so that’s usually how I do it.

Does Writer’s block ever hit? How do you deal with it?

Absolutely. But I always know it will pass. I’ll go back to how it is I work: if something isn’t flowing in that moment that I think I should be doing it, I close it and come back to it. Generally speaking it always works out so that I’m not missing deadlines or getting something done too late. If I planned to write something for a writing challenge, and it’s simply not coming and becomes clear it’s not going to happen, I take that as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be written and I either see about writing something else for that challenge, or simply don’t enter it. There have been times when I’ve tried to force myself through a block moment, but I find that when I do that, what I produce is crap, so it’s literally not worth it for me to do it. If it’s meant to be then it happens, is how I live, while at the same time doing everything in my power to keep up my end of the bargain – which is to keep writing, no matter what it is that’s getting written!

Is there anything you wouldn’t consider writing about, and why? 

I have never been fond of politics in any way, shape or form. It’s simply a subject which holds no interest for me. Admittedly, my interests are skewed much more toward what you might term the supernatural, or fantasy worlds, but over the past year I’ve challenged myself to write in more “realistic” arenas as well, so that I have to practice abiding by the laws of what’s accepted as “real life,” instead of skirting around them by writing in arenas where I can make up my own laws and rules. Hence my screenplay “Fractured,” which I’m intending to enter into the Nicholl Fellowship competition. “Fractured” is about as far away from my ‘normal’ fare as you can get. It’s much more the real life independent film sort of thing, whereas my novel “Takers” (urban fantasy) and my first screenplay, “The Healer” (supernatural) are worlds where I made up my own rules. To get back to your original question, however, I think that other than not wanting to write something with too much political content, I’m pretty open to anything from G-rated fare all the way to stuff that would curl your grandmother’s hair, on any topic.

How long do you allow for research?

I have to make a confession here: the majority of the time I research as I write. Now, I know I have to have some modicum of understanding of my subject matter prior to coming up with a story outline or diagram, but more often than not I’ve already got that hammered out in my own mind because it’s just there. However, in a recent story I wrote, which focused on two men climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska, I had to do lots of research prior to even starting the story, because I haven’t got a clue about mountain climbing! By and large, though, as I’m going along writing, when I hit something where I say, “I don’t know this,” that’s when I stop and research for as long as I need to until I’m confident I’m writing with some authority, and then just keep going. It’s sort of a pay-as-you-go feel rather than spending weeks doing research and taking notes and then writing the story. For me, that’s far too mind-numbing. I need to be “Action, now, do, write!”

Whose writing advice do you really listen to?

My friend, editor and publisher, Jaimi Sorrell, who runs Plotfish Press. While I do listen to the opinions of a handful of others, for the most part she’s the one whose word I trust implicitly (though I’ve been known to fight her on stuff now and again). She’s been working with me for…holy cow, I think it’s been something like eight or nine years now? Over that period of time you develop a mutual trust and respect, and you see that when you put something into practice, it either does or doesn’t work for you. Nothing I write professionally gets out the door until she’s satisfied with it, whether novel or screenplay, because as she always says, “If you can get it by me, you can get it by anyone,” and I think that’s true!

Are there any books on writing and creativity that you’d recommend?

Okay, another confession for you: I don’t read about writing and being creative; I do it.

For me, the best way to learn and grow as a writer is to actually keep writing, keep putting your stuff out there, keep asking for feedback, and then incorporating what you get. The two hours I spend reading a book someone’s written telling me how to get characterization right, I could’ve produced two or three chapters of my own book, which I find much more productive than reading someone else’s opinion about how I can improve. I commend people who can quote “helpful” books left, right and center, really, I do. But for me, personally (and this is no judgment of anyone else), reading about being creative or reading about writing is a waste of my time, because it means I’m not actually writing.

The thing I think lots of people don’t quite get is that writing is very, very personal to each individual writer. What works for Joe Cool in his four hundred-page book about how to plot out your novel before you write it, may be more painful than being skewered and raked over hot coals for someone like me.

Can I tell other people how I do what I do? Not really, because I am blessed in that it just sort of…happens. It makes me think of all those books people write about how male/female relationships work and how to be successful at them. I’m sorry, but blanket statements drive me bananas. Telling me that “all men think this way” or “this is how all women feel” is such a load of you-know-what because it is empirically impossible for every single man in existence to think precisely the same way about Subject X. Similarly, if a writer has found something that’s made writing an easier or more fulfilling experience for him, that’s wonderful and I’m very happy for him! However, that doesn’t mean that what he talks about will necessarily have any bearing on what I do, will work for me even if I try it, or is going to be of any use to anyone other than him.

I find my own path, and if it’s not there I keep whacking at the undergrowth until I’ve made one.

Your golden rule of writing? Tips for new writers?

Write every day. I don’t care if it’s 100 words on what your water bottle looks like or the next bestseller. I don’t care if it’s fan fiction, biographical, a TV series script, a feature-length screenplay, a book, a short story, a poem or song lyrics. Write something every. Single. Day. Period.

For new writers, I’ll put it to you this way: anyone can read all the books they want about surfing. About how to catch a wave. How to stand on the board. How to balance. What to do when you wipe out in a barrel. They can learn what the backdoor is, how to carve and how to make a cutback. In theory.

But until that wannabe surfer picks up a board, paddles out into the ocean and takes the drop, do you think they’re going to actually be able to stay upright and mimic the lifelong surfers you see in almost every opening scene of Hawaii Five-0 just because they read a book? Of course not! Reading about it does not equate doing it. Actually writing is exercising your brain the same way lifting weights is exercising your biceps.

So I’ll say it again. My golden rule, my tip: Write every day.

To be continued….

Hope to see you Eyeballers here again tomorrow, when Chris discusses Inspiration and the challenges of Publicity for ebook authors