My guest today is Denise Verrico, author of the Immortyl Revolution series.
From her web site:
Denise is an East Coast native. She has loved vampire stories since she was a little girl and a fan of the Dark Shadows television series. She is an avid reader and fan of sci fi and fantasy of all genres. Denise also enjoys anime, manga and graphic novels. She is a big movie buff. Her favorite TV series of all time are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. Her favorite rock group is Queen, but she also loves The Beatles, The Who, and David Bowie. Her background is in the theatre and she was a member of the Oberon Theatre ensemble in NYC for seven seasons, with whom she acted, directed, wrote plays and designed. She attended Point Park College in PGH PA. She currently resides in Ohio with her husband, teenaged son and flock of seven parrots.
I interviewed Denise by email. If I had read her bio first, I would totally have asked her about the parrots and the theater. But I didn’t. Maybe she’ll talk about them in her response to comments. Now let’s hear from Denise.
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At what point in your creative process did you know you wanted to use India/Kali? Was that the starting point, or were you writing and suddenly realize–You know what? This is like Kali!
I don’t remember exactly when I hit upon the idea of incorporating Kali into the Immortyl mythology. The luxury of having three and a half books written before selling the first gave me a lot of time for world building. I thought a lot about where my vampires might have started. India kept coming up in my research. Kali is often associated with vampirism because she’s known for drinking the blood of demons that she’s slain. When I created Cedric MacKinnon, the POV character of the third book, I conceived the idea of the adepts of the ancient arts. and Kali became a central figure in the mythology of the Immortyls. The adepts are devotees serving in a tantric cult of the goddess.
With the Mother Kali as the basis for the society/worship, why do males have all the power and status?
Interesting that you would ask that, because my next thought was how Kali is exploited by the chief elder. He was once a priest of the goddess, and he claims that she gave him immortality. He passes himself off as having a direct line to her will. The chief rules over his subjects by instilling them with the fear of divine retribution. The adepts, temple servants of the goddess, are exploited as courtesans to further his ends. There is a historical precedent that I found in my research to support this idea of temple artists being prostituted. Real devidasi were sometimes thus degraded. In Book Three, Cedric MacKinnon is a novice in the adepts’ ashram. He quickly figures out that the chief elder is manipulating the religion to suit his needs. The boy also observes how badly women (and men in a traditionally female role like Cedric) are treated. One of the things that I like about Cedric’s character is the duality of his nature. He understands how tough it can be to be a woman in a man’s world. My Immortyls may give lip service to a female deity, but they are patriarchal. Inside the adepts’ ashram, a woman is in charge, but in the chief elder’s household they are subordinate to the male servants. In my research, I learned that Tantra is a form of worship that dates back to before the Aryan migration into India. At that point beliefs started to become more patriarachal and the goddess (Shakti) became the consort of a male god (Shiva).
Did you know from the first that this would be a series?
When my first draft of Cara Mia came in at 700 pages, my husband suggested that I had a series, and the ideas began to flow.
Do you have a story arc? If not, do you see endless possibilities for books in this “world”, or do you see an end to stories to explore?
The sewer rats gave me the idea of a slave uprising and their revolution and the Mia and Kurt’s mission to find the biological cause of vampirism (The Forbidden Science) became the over arching conflict. I definitely see an end to this series. I have it mapped out over nine book with three different POV characters, but that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t want to explore the Immortyl past. I have an idea to write books about earlier times.
Are there other “worlds” calling to you, or does the world of the Immortyls satisfy your storytelling needs the way the “real” world satisfies the storytelling needs of mainstream writers?
I’m working on another urban fantasy, one that is magic based. Immortyl Revolution has a science fiction component. Vampires are only minor players in this new book and they are more the traditional undead variety. I love world building. I’ve always been interested in mythology and like to create new myths. I’m also kicking around a paranormal romance parody and a historical fantasy. I’d love to write a historical novel someday, when I have more time for the research. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. I love Mary Renault, Robert Graves, and Gore Vidal in particular. Maybe someday, I’ll get back to writing plays.
Do you write short stories? Are they set in the Immortyl world?
I was a playwright first, and plays are similar to short stories in that you learn to be economical in storytelling. I don’t write short fiction pieces as a general rule. Life is too busy at present. I’m adapting some deleted chapters that I hope to put together into a free e-book of character stories from Immortyl Revolution. Readers have told me that want to know more about Kurt and Brovik’s back stories.
If the series were made into a movie or television series, who would you cast in any role? Not just the main characters–Do you have a character actor in mind when you write a particular bit character?
Since I’m an actor this is always fun for me. For Mia and Kurt, I see Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood. I had both of these actors in my head when writing these books. I’ve got pictures of Elijah tacked all over my inspiration board. It’s those eyes. I totally stole them for Kurt. Cedric would have to have been inspired in part by Nicholas Hoult, the talented young British actor. He’s very tall and very lovely. Nicholas is also pinned up in Denise’s gallery of muses. Can a man be a muse? At least this is how I explain all the pictures of pretty young men to my husband. A younger Viggo Mortenson would have made a great Brovik. I think Billy Crudup could do justice to Philip, but again, too old now. I had Jabba the Hutt in mind when creating Kalidasa, the chief elder, but I guess that doesn’t count. Sometimes I have an actor in mind, but most often I’ll have the character in mind first. Of course there is Ethan, the ghost of boyfriends past…
Could you imagine a humorous story set in the Immortyl world?
Why not? I’m such a complete goofball myself. Philip, the former Elizabethan actor, could star in a funny story, perhaps about his romantic conquests of the past. All of the books have humor. I love that witty repartee. Mia is a wisecracking smartass. Cedric can be silly and whimsical. That’s one of the things I love about him. Even Kurt has a dry wit.
How intricate are your character studies? Do the backgrounds change if you need a different quality in order for the story to work?
I love to create characters. My acting training comes into play here. I do a lot of character work, and it can evolve during the process. I like to get under the skin of the character. I have to know everything about them, tastes, habits, how they dress, what they like to eat, their attitudes and deeply held beliefs. They begin to speak to me and take on a life of their own. I find that their weaknesses and quirks help humanize them.
How do you come up with your titles?
The titles have to reflect the theme of the book for me. Cara Mia (my darling in Italian) is the endearment Mia’s father uses for her. Her master Ethan also uses it, but with him it takes on a sinister connotation, conveying ownership. The title also reflects the thing Mia does not possess. The book is all about her fight to regain her soul. Twilight of the Gods is from Norse mythology. Kurt’s master, Brovik was a Viking. Kurt’s revolutionary followers begin to call him, Loki, after the Norse mischief maker, who brings on the Ragnarok or Twilight of the Gods. The story is the beginning of the end for the old Immortyl power structure. Book Three, My Fearful Symmetry, is the story of a boy who becomes a vampire and fights to become a man. The title reflects both sides of Cedric the hero: the extraordinary grace and beauty that made him an adept of the ancient arts and his warrior nature. It’s a play on a line from Blake’s poem Tyger, Tyger. The chief elder gives the boy the name Shardul, which means tiger. Book four will be Ratopia. It’s the name of the nightclub Mia is opening, but it alludes to Kurt’s Utopian vision of a free Immortyl society that can one day live openly the mortal world. Of course, we all know what can happen to Utopias.
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Leave a comment for Denise here, and she’ll enter you into a drawing for a TWILIGHT OF THE GODS T-shirt. Kewl!
WRITING PROMPT: Would you like to be immortal? Give reasons why or why not, then write a character with the opposite opinion.
p.s. I’m at Fatal Foodies today, posting about turnips.