"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Margaret L. Carter
Reading DRACULA at the age of twelve ignited Margaret L. Carter's interest in a wide range of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Vampires, however, have always remained close to her heart, beginning with her first book, CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, an anthology of vampire fiction. Her dissertation for the University of California (Irvine) contained a chapter on DRACULA, and its publication in book form was shortly followed by DRACULA: THE VAMPIRE AND THE CRITICS and THE VAMPIRE IN LITERATURE: A CRITICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY. Her fiction includes stories in small press magazines and in anthologies such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover and "Sword and Sorceress" volumes; a werewolf novel, SHADOW OF THE BEAST; a vampire novel, DARK CHANGELING, which won an Eppie Award (presented by EPIC, an e-published authors' organization) in 2000 in the horror category; CHILD OF TWILIGHT, its sequel, an Eppie finalist in horror in 2004; and other horror and paranormal romance novels.
Her first mass market novel, a vampire romance entitled EMBRACING DARKNESS, was published in March 2005 by Silhouette Intimate Moments. Her monograph DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN was a 2005 Eppie finalist in nonfiction. She has had several erotic paranormal romances released in the thriving e-publishing market, most recently two novelettes, an undine story, "Aquatic Ardor" (Amber Quill Press) and a humorous Lovecraftian tale, "Tentacles of Love" (Ellora's Cave).
An Interview with Margaret L. Carter
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
Margaret C.: After reading DRACULA at the age of twelve, I became excited about horror fiction and, later, fantasy and SF. I started writing at the age of thirteen because I wanted to create stories like the ones that thrilled me. The public library (my main source of reading at the time) didn't have enough horror and fantasy to satisfy my appetite, and it was hard to find any of the kind I really wanted to read—sympathetic to the “monster” and from his or her viewpoint. One of the first of that type that I read was Ray Bradbury's classic story “Homecoming.” Until I started producing my own ghost and vampire stories at age thirteen, I had never thought of becoming a writer.
PNR: Could you tell us about your writing routine, how do you balance writing and personal time? What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Margaret C.: On a good day, I try to put in three or four hours of writing, but the “good days” are usually only one or two a week. Other days, if I'm actively engaged on a project I try to work at least an hour or so. I have started training myself to accept that half an hour is better than none at all. It was very hard to break free of the attitude that I needed a large, uninterrupted block of time or it wasn't worth trying to write. Aside from the part-time “day job,” household chores eat up time, and little errands and obligations keep popping up. Holding out for that solid block of time is, for most writers, a recipe for frustration. When not writing, I spend most of my free time reading. Books go well with the stationary bike and with meals, unless eaten with other people. I have several favorite TV series, and I can read and watch TV at the same time (although the reading goes slower that way because it's limited to commercials and the duller parts of the show). I also enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons with my husband and youngest son on the rare occasions we can all get a couple of consecutive days free at the same time.
PNR: What is the best part about being a writer? The most frustrating?
Margaret C.: The best part, for me, is seeing the finished book. The most frustrating is facing the blank screen at the first-draft stage. I love outlining (strange as that may sound to some people), and I don't mind line editing. It's the first draft in between that I have trouble with. Second on that list of frustrating elements would be waiting for replies from editors. E-publishing is nice that way because editorial response usually comes pretty fast.
PNR: Which author(s) is your favorite? And who has most influenced your work?
Margaret C.: I have too many favorites to list, but I'll try. C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Ray Bradbury (his older works), Robert Heinlein, Madeleine L'Engle, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Among currently active writers: Mercedes Lackey, Suzy McKee Charnas, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Jean Lorrah, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Spider Robinson, Susan Conant, Sharyn McCrumb, Diana Gabaldon, Barbara Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters), J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germain series, etc. And I've recently read through J. D. Robb's entire “In Death” series of Eve Dallas mysteries and am looking forward to the new book in the fall. Influences: The author whose style I'd most like to emulate is Barbara Michaels; her narrative draws the reader in right away, evokes immediate sympathy for the viewpoint character, and infuses suspenseful and terrifying events with touches of humor (like real life, in which nobody is melodramatically serious all the time no matter how grave the situation). Authors who've taught me the most about the craft of writing in a mentor capacity—Marion Zimmer Bradley and Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Main influences on the development of my vampires have been Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA and sequels, Suzy McKee Charnas' THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, Elaine Bergstrom's SHATTERED GLASS, George R. R. Martin's FEVRE DREAM, and Jacqueline Lichtenberg's THOSE OF MY BLOOD as well as her quasi-vampiric Sime-Gen series. All except for Yarbro, these authors write about vampires as a naturally evolved humanoid species, a fictional thread I explore in detail from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1990s in DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN.
PNR: What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
Margaret C.: Sympathetic characters, a plot that tests them and forces them to discover their strengths, and a focus on emotional intimacy. Go to www.simegen.com and read Jacqueline Lichtenberg's essay on “Intimate Adventure” for a description of the type of story I love.
PNR: You have had a long career writing about vampires, both in fiction and non fiction. Could you tell us about what influenced your interest in vampires? And how this interest has fueled your research and produced your many published articles?
Margaret C.: I became interested in vampires because of reading DRACULA at age twelve. Actually, though, I'd been enthralled by the idea of vampires for years, ever since another girl in the neighborhood told me about DRACULA (she had seen a movie, I guess). I never saw a vampire movie until my early twenties, an accident I consider lucky. Before then, I sought out every vampire novel and short story I could find, and in the 1960s and early 1970s they weren't abundantly available the way they are now. So I gained a thorough background in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century prose classics before being exposed to film images. I submitted my first book for publication, the anthology CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, because I didn't know any other vampire anthologies existed. (Indeed, there weren't many in print at the time.) Anthologies must have been easier to sell then; Fawcett accepted my proposal when I was a complete unknown. At the same time, I started working on a survey of vampire fiction from about 1800 to the (then) present. Although a rather amateurish production, it was fueled by intense enthusiasm, and nothing like it had been done up to then. Compiling a vampire bibliography just naturally went along with the survey project. As for fiction, I started writing vampire stories in my early teens, as mentioned above.
PNR: For readers who are not familiar with your breed of vampire, could you give us an overview?
Margaret C.: In my anthology CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, I included a science fiction vampire story my husband had written with a little help from me, called “Vanishing Breed.” It postulated that the creatures we call vampires actually belonged to a different species, which had originated on a distant planet. (This was one of the first pieces of fiction to use that premise.) Soon after CURSE OF THE UNDEAD I started to transform my existing fictional vampires in my unpublished stories into a naturally evolved species, inspired by “Vanishing Breed.” The first book published in this universe was DARK CHANGELING (Hard Shell Word Factory, 1999). My vampires are long-lived, immortal unless killed by violence. They drink animal and human blood, as well as milk. (Some legends attribute the drying up of cows to vampire predation, and the vampiric creature in Guy de Maupassant's “The Horla” drinks milk. I thought it made sense for vampires to get nourishment from another body fluid as well as blood.) They need small amounts of human blood on a regular basis because they also feed on emotional energy, which can only be absorbed from a human donor. They get their emotional and erotic fulfillment from their human blood donors. Reproductive sex is very rare among them, because of their long lives, and not emotionally important. Female vampires are fertile only on the rare occasions when they go into heat, and male vampires are potent and fertile only in the presence of a female in estrus. Fathers have no part in the upbringing of children, who go from the mother's care into a mentor's (often an uncle or aunt) after weaning. Vampires control their victims with their hypnotic powers, which they can also use to make themselves “invisible” or cloak themselves in some other visual illusion. Their psychic powers also include changing into a winged form. The biology of my vampires is covered most extensively in DARK CHANGELING and the erotic novella “Night Flight” (which is about a young female human-vampire hybrid going into heat for the first time).
PNR: Can you tell us about the challenges you face in world building and making it work with the ideas you have in mind for the progression of your characters and the story? Do you write your characters to fit the world you have created or vice versa?
Margaret C.: The traits of my vampire species were firmly established in detail by the time I wrote DARK CHANGELING in its final incarnation (it went through many variations before reaching the form in which it was published). Since then, whenever creating new characters in that universe, I have their background ready-made. I've incorporated a lot of miscellaneous biological facts from real-world creatures to enhance the plausibility of my vampires. The Animal Planet series THE MOST EXTREME is an invaluable source of neat factoids about little-known animal traits. With Roger Darvell, the protagonist of DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT, I developed the character and the universe simultaneously over many years. In later vampire stories and novels, in a sense I created the characters to fit the world. For my werewolf novel SHADOW OF THE BEAST, I worked out my theory of lycanthropy in connection with developing the heroine. Any future werewolf fiction I've written or will write follows the main outlines of what I decided would be the “truth” of lycanthropy in that novel (an inherited mutation—the concept that people become werewolves through being bitten [on the vampire model] comes strictly from movies, not folklore).
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Margaret C.: Certainly DARK CHANGELING and SHADOW OF THE BEAST are character-driven, because the character and his or her nonhuman traits came to me first, with a plot to challenge him or her gradually developing later. In other works where I've started with the seed of a plot and constructed a character to fit that situation, the stories still end up being character-driven in the sense that the characters' growth and interaction are the most important factor for me; a plot is only a device to facilitate that “intimate adventure.”
PNR: Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Margaret C.: The core traits of a character “just come” to me, as I imagine they do for many writers. A character tends to appear in my head with her basic situation already attached to her, e.g., Jenny in SHADOW OF THE BEAST came to me as a young woman who discovers she is a werewolf and seeks knowledge of her beast nature and where it arises from (inherited from her father who disappeared many years earlier). Then I have to do conscious work to decide on the character's appearance, environment, education, job, etc. My favorite character to write was Dr. Roger Darvell, the vampire-human hybrid of DARK CHANGELING. He is the most real to me of all my characters. I could show you exactly where his office is and approximately where he lives. A common thread for many of my protagonists is the “Ugly Duckling” archetype, the person who feels like a misfit because of characteristics that look like handicaps—until they're eventually revealed to be gifts in disguise. Most challenging character? Whichever one I happen to be wrestling with in the latest work-in-progress, I guess. :) In general, I have a harder time with the villains than the protagonists, because it's difficult for me to give them a plausible motivation and yet keep them convincingly menacing. Revenge, for example. I know people in real life act out of a drive toward revenge, as the antagonist in CHILD OF TWILIGHT does, but it's nearly impossible for me to identify with that attitude. Lashing out in rage against an attacker at the moment he/she hurts me, sure, but spending years plotting in cold blood to get back at someone? What a waste of time and energy.
PNR: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the love/sex scenes?
Margaret C.: Sensuality level varies. The two sword-and-sorcery fantasies my husband and I collaborated on, WILD SORCERESS and BESIEGED ADEPT, are rated G, or at most PG for a few brief references. Most of my vampire novels include highly sensual but not super-graphic love scenes that don't take up too high a percentage of the text. “Aquatic Ardor” (my Amber Quill Press Amber Heat story) and all my Ellora's Cave works are, of course, graphically erotic. The main challenge in writing love/sex scenes is to avoid being repetitious. Unless a writer is ever-vigilant, it's all too easy to slip into the familiar images and phrases we've all read over and over in other people's erotic romances. Another challenge is to integrate the sex scenes into the overall plot development. Each encounter must advance the story, another reason why it's important not to fall into easy repetition. It's vital to keep in touch with the characters' emotions and make this particular encounter individual to this couple.
PNR: Why do you feel the vampire is such a popular character in books, movies and television?
Margaret C.: The sensuality and intimacy of blood-drinking was the first element that attracted me to vampires. The sharing of blood, the essence of life, is the ultimate intimacy. In connection with that principle, many authors portray vampires as sensing and feeding upon emotions and able to use their hypnotic powers to give their donors incomparable pleasure, a motif I use in my own fiction. The concept that vampires can give their lovers endless life and youth is also attractive to many people. (Since my own vampires aren't supernatural, they can't do that, of course.) I later realized that one of the major reasons the vampire appeals to me is that he or she looks almost human yet isn't; the vampire provides a skewed angle on the human condition, like Spock in STAR TREK—my favorite theme of the “vampire as alien” again. Many readers enjoy vampires such as Yarbro's Saint-Germain because they provide an immortal's wide perspective on a long span of human history. Still another source of appeal is the “bad boy” syndrome, the idea that this character (almost always male in this case) needs redemption, and the heroine's love alone can save him. The vampire is the most versatile of all the traditional “monsters.”
PNR: Paranormal romance is experiencing an incredible surge in popularity, what do you feel accounts for the sudden interest in the genre? What is it about the paranormal genre that captures your imagination?
Margaret C.: I'm not so sure the interest is sudden. The roots of paranormal romance go back to myth and fairy tale (e.g., Cupid and Psyche, Beauty and the Beast). Many older novels and plays would be marketed as paranormal romance or fantasy/SF romance if they were released now, such as DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, BELL BOOK AND CANDLE, THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, Andre Norton's YEAR OF THE UNICORN, Marion Zimmer Bradley's FORBIDDEN TOWER, and of course Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA. Some of the Gothic romances so popular in the 1960s had supernatural elements. With vampire romances in the lead, the marketing category labeled “paranormal romance” took off in the early 1990s. Then for some reason major publishers decided the subgenre's heyday was past. Luckily, small presses and e-publishers continued to feed the audience's hunger. Why the “sudden” revival of interest in the field by mass market publishers in the last few years? Because they finally caught on to the devoted readership that's been here all along, I suppose! :) Paranormal romance appeals to me because the theme of intimacy bridging the gap between two characters who are different from, even “alien” to each other enthralls me. I always enjoy a well-written interspecies romance. Also, not-quite-human characters may have fascinating magical powers, and they often make love in intriguingly unusual ways.
PNR: What is your favorite genre to write? Is there any style or genre of book that you would like to try but haven’t yet?
Margaret C.: My favorite genre to write is paranormal romance. I think I'd like to write YA fantasy someday. (I've tried it once or twice in the past but never completed anything of publishable quality.) The genre I fantasize about writing but have never tried is mystery. A detective story requires such intricate plotting skills.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months? A sneak peek perhaps?
Margaret C.: I've written a lighthearted erotic romance about a contemporary wizard who gets changed into a St. Bernard, which I hope to get published later this year. Nothing settled yet. I'm starting a new werewolf novel at the moment. In short works, I'm going to write a cat story for a Christmas anthology to be published by the Jewels of the Quill, a writers' group I belong to. This fall the Jewels are putting out a Halloween anthology called SHADOWS IN THE HEART, in which I have a ghost story called “The Unvanished Hitchhiker.” Also, I've sold a story titled “Vanishing Village” to the Marion Zimmer Bradley estate for the forthcoming anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS 22. My husband, Leslie Roy Carter, is working on the third installment in our WILD SORCERESS series.
PNR: Thank you Margaret, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?Margaret C.: My website is www.margaretlcarter.com. To subscribe to my monthly newsletter, which includes news, mini-book-reviews, excerpts from my books, and guest author interviews, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/margaretlcartersnewsfromthecrypt. Readers can send e-mail to me at MLCVamp@aol.com. Buy it now! Amber Quill Press
August 1, 2003
Paperback Read the Reviews! The tales in this collection span the past ten years of my writing career. Most can be described as romances, and all involve love and passion in some form. Here you will encounter vampires, elves, ghosts, and at least one human-monster hybrid. Buy it now! Hard Shell Word Factory
June 1, 1999
e-Book Read the Reviews! A successful, middle-aged psychiatrist tormented by an unquenchable lust for blood.... A vampire serial killer on the rampage.... At the age of forty, Dr. Roger Darvell discovers that he is no ordinary man. He also discovers that vampires exist, and that a few of them kill as wantonly and cruelly as any monster in a horror film. When a renegade vampire follows Roger from Boston to his new home in Maryland and attacks one of his patients, Roger must come to terms with the newly discovered truth about his heritage. And he must find a way to destroy the killer before his newfound lover becomes the renegade's next victim.
Margaret L. Carter
When horror actor Claude Darvell agrees to produce and star in novelist Eloise Kern's vampire movie script, they feel a powerful attraction upon their first meeting. Eloise doesn't suspect that Claude is a real vampire, using his film roles as "hide in plain sight" camouflage...until the ecstatic "dreams" she enjoys under his roof become too vivid to ignore.
March 1, 2005
After the brutal murders of her niece and her niece's lover, Linnet blames their deaths on the strange woman whose blood-fetish cult the young people belonged to. The police don't believe her, but Max, brother of the murdered boy, does. Together Linnet and Max set out to track down and punish the real killer. Little does she suspect that both Max and the woman they're chasing are real vampires. When Linnet discovers the truth about Max, sensual fascination clashes with the horror of having her world-view thrown into chaos. Can their growing love triumph over bloody violence and inter-species alienation?
Amber Quill Press
April 1, 2004
Non-Fiction Different Blood surveys the literary vampire as alien from the mid-1800s to the 1990s, analyzing the many uses to which science fiction and fantasy authors have put this theme. Their works explore issues of species, race, ecological responsibility, gender, eroticism, xenophobia, parasitism, symbiosis, intimacy, and the bridging of differences.
An extensive bibliography guides the reader to numerous novels and short stories on the "vampire as alien" theme, many of them still in print.
Amber Quill Press
December 1, 2003
The summer when Heather was eighteen, her dream beast's nightly visits warded off loneliness and swept her away in flights of ecstasy. Now, returning to the mountains to sell her dead parents' vacation cabin, she finds her "beast" again. But he turns out to be more than a dream, and she is not the only woman who craves his kiss. Devin's first love, centuries in the past, died horribly because of her devotion to him. Does he dare to expose another mortal woman to that risk?
Amber Quill Press
September 1, 2003
Science fiction conventions attract some strange people, but Sherri Hudson never expected to spend a con weekend helping a sexy man in a cape steal photos of a winged alien. When the photographer is murdered, and Nigel Jamison reveals to Sherri that the "alien" is actually his sister, the situation gets intriguingly complicated. Unwillingly swept up in Nigel's quest to rescue his sister, Sherri can't help being fascinated with him. By the time she finds out he's a vampire, the fascination has become mutual...
Hard Shell Word Factory
August 1, 2003
Dark Changeling Series: Book 2 Gillian, a vampire-human hybrid in the throes of adolescence, panics at the unfamiliar urges and powers surging through her. Overwhelmed, she runs to the half-human father she has never known. Psychiatrist Roger Darvell has come to terms with his vampire half and built a good life, with a satisfying career and his human partner, Dr. Britt Loren, who is also his lover. Gillian's sudden appearance out of a December night throws him into turmoil. Can he teach her how to live as an ethical vampire without violating either side of her nature? Before they have much time to learn to trust each other, a specialist in folklore kidnaps Gillian to study her. She is soon rescued--not by Roger, but by Camille, a vampire woman determined to avenge her brother, whom Roger killed in self-defense thirteen years earlier. Camille's wild, fierce lifestyle proves seductive to Gillian. Can she resist Camille's attempt to make her a "real" vampire--one who treats ordinary mortals as mere prey? Can Roger save Gillian before her human side becomes completely submerged in lust for the kill?
Margaret L. Carter
Featured in this issue:Interviews with: L. A. Banks Margaret L. Carter Nathalie Gray Chris Marie Green F E Heaton Doreen Orsini Jaden Sinclair
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