A Vampire Novel Like No Other: E.E. King on Mixing History and Dark Fantasy

Reading Time: 7 minutes
MetaStellar editor Sophie Gorjance interviews Gods and Monsters author E.E. King for the MetaStellar YouTube channel.

E.E. King is an artist, naturalist, and all around creative dynamo, and one of the hosts of the Long Lost Friends author interview segment for our MetaStellar YouTube channel.

She’s been published in over a hundred magazines and anthologies, including Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction and Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s published several novels and has been nominated for a Rhysling and several Pushcart awards. Ray Bradbury called her stories, “marvelously inventive, wildly funny and deeply thought-provoking. I cannot recommend them highly enough.”

This serialization is a first for MetaStellar, of, we hope, many more to come. If you would like to support us in this project, and in helping us publish science fiction and fantasy authors, please donate to our Patreon. All proceeds to go paying for original fiction — our staff is all-volunteer and the hosting and technical support is all donated as well.

The first installment of the Gods and Monsters serialization is now available on our website for free. Successive installments will post every Tuesday morning. To be sure you don’t miss any of the installments, please subscribe to our MetaStellar Reader Newsletter, which goes out once a week on Friday afternoons and includes all of the week’s new fiction, our Free Friday book recommendations, and the Writing Advice of the Week column.

Plus, the recording of E.E. King reading the first installment is live on YouTube.

On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to sit down with E.E. King and get the scoop on her new novel, Gods and Monsters, which is being serialized by MetaStellar!

Read on for her insights and some insider info about the book.

Sophie Gorjance:

What was a major influence on you as you were working on Gods and Monsters?

E. E. King:

This was a really interesting book for me to write because at the time, I was actually living in a magic town in Mexico. They have to have unique architecture, and customs that have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. I think there are 42 magic towns in Mexico that are actually designated by the government. The one I lived in was San Miguel de Allende, and there really is magic, like you’re thinking about someone you haven’t seen in years and you round the corner and there they are. I was in the square and I saw this big church and I had done a painting of it years before and I had no idea. Just, there it was. What had happened was, years ago in LA I was dating a guy and he had gotten these old black and white photos from his roommate and one was of the church and I did a painting of it. Then I looked up in San Miguel de Allende years later and there it was. So I was writing this book. None of it takes place in Mexico, though it goes all over the world. Some of it’s in China, and a lot of it takes place in San Francisco during the 1980s. But I would say the magic influenced me because there is a sense of sort of casual magic. Everything’s a little magical in the book.


Can you tell us a little about your process as a writer?


Usually I at least know the beginning and the ending of a book and the middle has to take care of itself. Sometimes it’s a lot more plotted, especially if it’s a murder mystery or something like that. Whereas this one, I just started writing and it just wrote itself. Then I started having extreme doubts and taking parts out and putting them back in. But it was interesting because characters merged and that kind of thing, in ways that were totally unplanned but turned out really well.


You incorporate a lot of real history into this book, so could you tell us a little bit about that?


I really like using fact in fiction for a number of reasons. First of all, you don’t have to think about ideas. You’re already there. I remember the first time I did it, and I actually wrote about it in a series called Write Now, often I will use real history, real places. It’s interesting, you know, to find stuff you wouldn’t come up with on your own. And then there’s social commentary. I never really think about social commentary, but it’s always there when I reread my stuff, and I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I guess I do have the social commentary thing that I’m not necessarily thinking of.” So using the history of real people in real places is something I love to do and look for, and then I just get into the research. It’s fun! I don’t always use all of it, but sometimes I do. There is—I don’t know if this is a spoiler alert. It’s such a slight spoiler. Alright, here goes: there is a San Francisco madam in the book whose history is pretty much real, except for her kids. And she found Napoleon tremendously sexy. So she had busts of him all over her “house of ill repute.”


Since we’re talking about characters, what are they up to? No spoilers of course, but who are your main characters and what we can expect from them?


That was really interesting because as I said, I just started writing and in fact the first character you meet… Well, I don’t think this is a spoiler because it comes right at the beginning, but The Fates narrate the book. They’re weaving together all these stories, these lives together. The very first character you meet, and this was such a cool thing because she does come back in the book, but not until way, way later, so you could almost not realize it’s her, and that wasn’t a planned thing. And then it switches to these characters that are intertwined, and one of them is good, and one of them is bad. But it’s also about what Fate gives us, and what can we make with it? What is determined by our fate and what can we change? The quotes at the beginning of the book are, “The destiny of man is in his own soul,” which is Heraclitus and “Anatomy is destiny,” from Sigmund Freud. So it’s saying, “Well, take your pick, which is it?”


So, why vampires? It’s such an interesting choice for a novel of this structure in this type.


This is a literary novel, a more literary novel than most vampire novels, except for maybe Interview with a Vampire. But I was a bit influenced by Gaiman’s American Gods, that kind of feel. But I sometimes wonder about vampires because it’s such a cliché, and there are so many vampire novels. The bodice ripping vampire novel kind of thing, which this isn’t at all. And I guess it’s just like I said, it just started writing itself, and then other creatures came in, including werewolves, but also Greek gods and monsters from all over the place. And so I was thinking of that, of how people bring their gods and their nightmares with them wherever they travel, and share them. So if you go to Hawai’i, there are some Japanese monsters or ghosts that are very prevalent that people brought with them from Japan. People don’t just bring their belongings; they bring their beliefs and their fears. It started me thinking, there’s a monster kind of like a vampire in most cultures. Whereas werewolves? No. Not so much. It’s just interesting. I mean, shapeshifters yeah, they’re all over, and sometimes the vampires are shapeshifters. But that interested me, the universality of certain kinds of fear and monsters and nightmares, and the specificness of others.


A bird features quite heavily in the book as well, and you have experience with corvids yourself, so could you say something about that?


I love—I love—talking about birds. If you get me on birds, I’ll never shut up. I’ve always been interested in animal rescue and I like animals, any kind of animal, except human animals sometimes. It actually started when I started rescuing egrets, which was super cool. They’re these big white seabirds and they are amazing because they really bond to you. So when you’re coming home, you see this egret circling your house way, way up and then coming down. But interestingly enough, like I said, I was in this magic town in Mexico as I started writing this, but it wasn’t until a few years later when I was in Utah that I started doing any rescue with corvids. I did have a couple of crows, though I hadn’t been very, very close to them. But magpies, I have raised from baby to adult, and especially one magpie stayed around with me all summer, so I’d be gardening and a magpie would be next to me doing magpie things. Corvids are so smart and so interesting.


We’re going to be serializing your novel like I mentioned at the top, which I think is pretty unique and special these days. I was wondering if you wanted to talk about how the process has been and what you’re looking forward to about this?


Yeah, I think this is really interesting. In fact, I was talking to Dave, an editor from the reviewing magazine Kanji, and he was like, “Wow, it’s a long serialization, like it’s gonna go on for a while. I’m really interested to see how that works.” Now, also, if you come in in the middle, you can go back and start at the beginning. This works well for serialization because it has so many different stories woven together, so some of them almost work as their own bits. Now, my chapters are always like, either they can be like a page or they can be, you know, more normal chapter lengths. And especially in this book, because it switches character points of view, and some are told in the first person and some in third person. Like I said, I just let it happen. And so that, I think, makes it good for serialization. I did it in 44 sections of several chapters each for the serialization to make them more even. They aren’t too long because I’m narrating them, so you can listen while you’re doing chores and say “Oh my gosh.” Actually, that kind of division is something I really am very, very bad at: the first time I did, I realized I had somehow omitted a whole section and I had to go back and divide it again!


What is something that you want to entice readers with, something to draw people in?


Well, you asked me about vampires, and I think people that might like this book might be turned off by the idea of vampires. That’s kind of a dangerous thing to play with in a way. So I want to say it is more literary than your average vampire novel, and it deals with a lot of topics that aren’t usually in vampire novels. There’s a little part that, well, it horrified me anyway, when I wrote it. I was like, “Oh no, this is happening!” But there’s gods and monsters and birds and a lot of San Francisco history as well as history of the land, including the Lenape Indian tribe, which really fascinated me. And then interesting facts about not just corvids, but pigeons.

Watch the full interview in the video below:

YouTube player

Sophie is the deputy fiction editor of MetaStellar, and sometimes write book reviews too. She has her MFA from Emerson College and spends her free time reading and writing science fiction and fantasy. Her work can be found on MetaStellar, PageTurner, and on her website: https://sophiegorjance.wordpress.com/

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