Vampires have been done to death, right? Well, perhaps in some cases. With the rise of Twilight and other paranormal romances like it, vampires have a completely different stigma and appeal than they had in the days of Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, and even Anne Rice’s penned Lestat. But if one searches enough, authors who are keeping some of the old vampires alive can be found, and Freda Warrington is among them.
With over 20 novels under her belt and several nominations and awards (Including Dracula Society and Romantic Times), Warrington continues to successfully write stories with characters that remain appealing to many readers. Her series, Blood Wine, originally published in 1992, has recently been republished for a new generation of readers. So read on to find out more about the woman behind the books (and check out the books afterward!).
RavMon: Well first, please tell us a little about yourself. What would you call your genre and tell us about your novel, “A Taste of Blood Wine”?
Freda Warrington: Hi and thank you for asking! I’ve written all kinds of fantasy – twenty and a half novels so far – but if I have to label A Taste of Blood Wine I think “gothic romance” fits the bill. I’ve long been fascinated by vampires, since being allowed as a child to watch the old Hammer Horror films starring Christopher Lee as a very compelling Dracula. To me, vampires are the most interesting of monsters because they are intelligent. They look human, but aren’t. They represent paradoxes such as our fear of death, or of the dead coming back from the grave to haunt the living, but also things we may desire, such as eternal youth, beauty, power over others and so much more. They can serve as a compelling metaphor for the temptations and potential dangers of sex, and also as a challenge through which the characters gain strength and self-knowledge and all sorts of weird, mysterious experiences.
I know that vampires – please excuse the pun – have been “done to death” so to speak, but when I first started A Taste of Blood Wine, as escapism from a difficult time in my life, it was in the early 1980s. My influences were old school – Dracula by Bram Stoker, Carmilla by J.S. LeFanu, the early Anne Rice novels, and a mass of classic vampire stories.
However, I’d lost patience with the stock storyline that the vampire must always be destroyed! I loved the portrayal of vampires as thinking, feeling beings with their own stories to tell, but I was still frustrated that relationships between human and vampire were shown as virtually impossible. How would it be if you could break through the barriers and come to know this alluring, mystical creature as an equal, without becoming his or her victim? Well, if I couldn’t find the novel I wanted to read, the only thing to do was write it myself! So, in A Taste of Blood Wine, my shy heroine Charlotte meets Karl – the most drop-dead gorgeous vampire I could devise…
Clearly vampire-human love affairs are commonplace now! But when I worked on my series (first published the early 1990s) it was long before the recent explosion of paranormal romances. I set out to write characters who were passionate, grown-up and not afraid to be vampires… So much passion went into that novel and its sequels that I lived Karl and Charlotte’s adventures for months, years on end. I chose the 1920s for the setting because, as a time of social upheaval and glamour, overshadowed by the First World War, the period suited the story perfectly. The transition from Edwardian to modern times is mirrored in Charlotte’s journey from the shadow of her controlling family into becoming her true self. I find my vampires offer all sorts of levels of psychology and sensuality and big life questions about good and evil to explore.
RavMon: Take us back to your very first published work. How long did it take to complete and was there anything learned that was applied to later works?
FW: Short answer, ages and lots! My first published novel was A Blackbird in Silver in 1986, the first of a sword n’ sorcery series. I’d had a couple of short stories published before that, and I’d been writing since I was five years old – it’s not as if I suddenly wrote and published a novel out of nowhere! A Blackbird in Silver had quite a long history before it saw print. It wasn’t the first novel I’d started by any means, but it was the first one I actually finished. I wrote it in my spare time while I was studying graphic design in the 1970s, then it took me a couple of years of letter-writing to find an agent, and it took him a few more years of false starts to find the right publisher. However, that was a very useful learning period because one book became four, and I did a ton of editing and rewriting and generally learning how to write better. And I’m still learning now! I also wrote the early version of A Taste of Blood Wine in that time. So, there was probably a run-up of ten years between finishing the first Blackbird novel and seeing it in print… I know that’s a daunting thought to new writers, but the other big and useful lesson for any would-be author is to be patient, be willing to keep improving your craft, and don’t give up.
RavMon: Do you have a specific writing process or is it more spontaneous?
FW: That’s hard to answer – I try to be organized and plan out the whole book, especially as publishers often require a synopsis before you’ve even written it, but it’s only when I sit and put one word after another that the novel actually lets me know where it’s going. I tend to work in a kind of jigsaw fashion, first sketching in the scenes I’m sure about, then working out how it’s all going to fit together, then having fresh ideas and going through the whole thing several times over until it forms a cohesive story. This means that on the first draft, my working day tends to be rather slow and haphazard. Once I’ve got a draft to work on, though, I can get stuck into it and work much more intensively until the text is fit for my editor to see.
RavMon: Who are some of your writing/storytelling influences?
FW: So many I can’t remember them all. I love the children’s classics like the Narnia books and The Secret Garden – both held the idea of going into a hidden, magical world – and books we studied at school such as Wuthering Heights, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and Shakespeare. I loved The Lord of the Rings, but as far as writing fantasy goes, I was more influenced by writers such as Tanith Lee, Alan Garner and Michael Moorcock. They have such wild and wonderful imaginations.
RavMon: Are there any challenges you face when you write and if so, what do you do to move through them?
FW: Recently I’ve been having a discussion with a number of published authors about this very subject and I was surprised yet reassured that virtually everyone suffers the dreaded writers’ block at times! You tend to get the impression that every author is bursting with creative energy and powering out several thousand words a day, but they’re really not. Everyone reports going through creative bursts and fallow periods, when the stresses of everyday life put a brake on your energy levels. This seems to be normal, which is a relief. With me, it’s not lack of ideas, but trying to pin down which particular ideas I want to work my story around… my characters often have different plans! If I find myself staring at a blank screen and no words want to come out, I find a change of scene helps. I might need to do something different, go for a walk, read a book for research, or just have something to eat. I’ll sit somewhere different with a notepad and write longhand instead, and that generally helps. I’ll have a sudden insight, a fresh idea to get the story moving again. Also, it helps if you have friends who write, so you can bounce concerns and ideas off each other.
RavMon: What would you say has been your most rewarding moment or greatest accomplishment as an author?
FW: It would have to be when I first held a copy of A Blackbird in Silver in my hand – it arrived in the post and I remember taking it into the garden to show my dad and just staring at the cover, thinking, “I’ve had a book published!” That was my dream come true – just to be published! (It’s only later you start worrying about sales figures and markets and all that serious stuff…) But if I can name three runner-up moments: winning the Dracula Society’s “Best Gothic Novel” award for Dracula the Undead in 1997, winning the Romantic Times “Best Fantasy Novel” for Elfland in 2009, and seeing A Taste of Blood Wine back in print again – especially with Titan’s gorgeous cover art.
RavMon: What advice would you have for an aspiring writer?
FW: Write what you feel excited about, and write lots. It can help to join a writers’ group for mutual support and criticism, as long as you find the right mix of people. Don’t be afraid of criticism – always be willing to go back and rewrite and learn how to improve your work – and don’t take it personally. If you find yourself becoming dispirited by too much negativity, you may simply need to find a more supportive group! You need to write for the love of it, because there are thousands of authors and millions of books out there. However good you are, your chances of being published are minimal, and only a tiny fraction will ever become bestsellers. You may have to be prepared for a lot of disappointment. If you remain cautiously hopeful, rather than wildly over-optimistic, it will help you stay sane!
On a more positive note, there are opportunities for self-publication now that there never were in the past. You can go it alone and find an audience for your writing. Even many published authors take the self-publishing route because it’s a great way to keep backlists in print. I think the “stigma” of self-publishing has gone now, although it helps if you can put your work through the quality control of a copy-editor, of course. There are masses of advice sites on the web now. Just don’t spend hours reading them INSTEAD of writing! Not that I ever do that, ahem. As I said, I never stop learning.
RavMon: Where can those wishing to check out your works find them (and you)?
FW: www.fredawarrington.com. That has information on all my work and links to my Facebook pages, booksellers, extracts from the Blood Wine series, cover images, biographical info… everything.
RavMon: And finally, what do you have coming up?
FW: Titan is republishing books Two and Three in the Blood Wine series – A Dance in Blood Velvet has just appeared in the UK, and will be out in the US in May 2014, and The Dark Blood of Poppies will be published in May 2014 in the UK, and October 2014 in the US. (You can see the covers on my website, they’re gorgeous.) Right now I’m working on a brand new Book Four in the series, called The Dark Arts of Blood. It’s fun to be spending time with Karl and Charlotte and my beloved vampire characters again. I’ve repeatedly been told that “vampires are over” for the last 20 years – yet they still keep rising from the grave! I think the popularity of vampires is timeless, and every author has their own angle, so we can tell limitless stories about them – exactly as we do with human characters.
RavMon: Thank you, Ms. Warrington. And keep your eyes out for my forthcoming review on A Taste of Blood Wine coming soon.