Saturday, 29 August 2009
Author Interview! Jasper Kent
'Twelve' was one of those books where not only was I left wanting to read the sequel but I also had a few questions to ask Jasper Kent himself. Without further ado, here are my questions and Jasper's answers...
Hi Jasper, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions!
Would you hire a team of vampires to defend your country in its hour of need?
Well, I voted Labour in 1997...
That's a good point (I did too). I guess the question should have been whether you would hire a team of vampires to defend your country from another team of vampires...
What led to the inspiration for working vampires into Napoleon’s war with Russia?
As far as I recall, it came from looking at Baron Gros’ portrait of Napoleon on the Pont d’Arcole, of which I’d just put up a print in my flat. In my copy at least, the general has a lean, wan look that struck me as being somewhat vampiric. My first thought was to place the story in the Peninsula War, thanks to over exposure to Sharpe, but once the image of the cold retreat of 1812 came to me, Russia seemed the obvious location. It’s also worth mentioning that somewhere at the back of my mind was the 2000 AD story Fiends on the Eastern Front, which I read in the 80s and was about vampires on the Russian front in World War Two.
Which came first for you, the setting or the vampires?
I’d certainly been thinking of writing horror first – not necessarily vampires, though they were an obvious option. As mentioned above, the idea of Napoleonic vampires came pretty much as a single concept, and the Russian side of it seconds or minutes later.
There are many different types of vampire in fiction and on the screen; did you base yours on any in particular?
I think I did more avoidance of existing fictional vampires than basing on them. I loved the historical setting of the Hammer Films, and so that’s another thing that led to my historical story, but the actual vampires in the films are by and large pretty uninspiring. I’m also a big fan of Buffy, but with that, and with Anne Rice, I wanted to move away from the idea of morally ambiguous vampires and make them simply bad. I took quite a bit from Dracula itself, but even then I wasn’t religious in following what Stoker wrote. Interestingly, although I was absolutely trying to avoid lace-cuffed vampires like Lestat, there is a section of Interview with the Vampire that was, I think, a clear inspiration. In the book, but not the film, Louis and Claudia travel to Romania to find the ‘original’ vampires and discover them to be merely feral creatures. While the Oprichniki are not quite as inarticulate as that, it struck me as an interesting way to go.
Would you ever consider bringing other well known vampires into your own work? The fan boy in me wants to see the Oprichniki go up against Dracula...
Consider the etymology of the name Zmyeevich.
I hadn't, but I will...
What’s the recipe for a good vampire story?
Make sure it’s not just about vampires.
My knowledge of this period in history is weak to say the least! Can you recommend a good book that would get me up to speed?
The trick is – as I’m finding with researching later Russian history such as the Crimean War – to find history books written from a Russian point of view. 1812 – Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow by Adam Zamoyski gives a pretty good balance. War and Peace is essential for getting a feel of the period. Also read Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes; it’s not specifically about the period, but it gives a superb and enthralling view of Russian culture.
What are you reading at the moment and why should we be reading it as well?
I’m reading Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. I’m tempted to say it’s a little slow to get going, but that would be akin to strolling into the Crystal Palace with a wheelbarrow full of bricks. What’s important (and in contrast with a lot of much faster-paced books) is that prose style is solid and engaging and enough to keep me interested.
‘Twelve’ is the first book in a five book series. Can you give us any clues as to what’s in store in the future? Are you focussing on vampires or do you have plans to bring other supernatural creatures on board?
At the moment, I don’t know too much. The second book, Thirteen Years Later (due out in March 2010), is set in 1825 and is pretty much put to bed now. Beyond that I know the basic dates of the remaining three books (1855, 1878 and 1917) and the major characters, but I don’t have much detail. As for the supernatural – I think vampires are enough, aren’t they?
I'm tempted to say that zombies are always good but vampires are probably enough!
And finally, writing about vampires must have you planning for the inevitable vampire infestation in real life. How would you tackle such an event...?
I hadn’t really been worrying until you mentioned it. I think my best bet would be to live near a windmill (there are plenty here in Brighton). Then as the evil creatures approach, I can swing the sails round to form the shadow of a gigantic cross over them, which would kill them instantly. It works! I saw it in Brides of Dracula.
Read my review of 'Twelve' over