by David Wellington
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Three vampires walk into a bar and are asked by the waitress what they'd like to order.
The first one says, "Nothing for me, thanks. I just fed on an elk."
The second orders a bottle of imitation blood.
The third rips her head off and drinks from the stump of her neck.
Which one is David Wellington's vampire?
Awww, you guessed it, but that's about all you'll guess from here on out about his book.
If you are like us, before you read a book you study every aspect of it you can find on the lovable, brain-sapping Internet. We were intrigued by the fact that people either loved it (majority) or were only lukewarm about it (minority)...
...but everyone was compelled to read it in its entirety.
That in itself is high recommendation for any book.
As we have ever so subtly hinted there is some rather graphical violence. How much? Well it gave our editor nightmares. Now that's an achievement.
Laura Caxton is a Pennsylvania State Trooper. Efficient, dedicated and pursuing life as normal. Right up until a traffic stop opens her eyes to a dark world. Caxton is not a gratuitous sex object or fantasy in this book . We mention this in passing as the reader is not beaten over the head with graphic sex themes and the few sexual situations in this series are much more subdued than most books of this genre.
Oh, and she is a lesbian. Just a fact of life that is part of the character development and that character is both well rounded and an excellent yin to the yang of...
...Jameson Arkeley. Special Deputy Arkeley, is rather frightening in his own right. How frightening? If given the choice between being locked in a room with either a vampire or Arkeley I would have to say, "Give me a few minutes to decide."
He's a bit like the Jack Crow character (played by James Woods) in the Carpenter movie Vampires. Only older and without a sense of humor. Sigh...okay, imagine Hannibal Lecter with a badge. His bane of existence is...
...Justinia Malvern. Vampire, cute, well mannered, misunderstood...
NO! No way.
This character is the essence of evil, make no mistake. Vampires in Wellington's world are immortal, next to impossible to kill and EVIL. The older they get, the more blood they require; right up to the point of diminishing returns. Malvern is interred in an asylum to keep her safe from the world and the world safe from her.
Just didn't work that way because her evil cannot be contained by such mundane methods.
*As we note Wellington's accuracy we know somebody is going to jump on the bandwagon for his mentioning the smell of Cordite. Yes it has not been used for decades and never for loading in a .40 pistol cartridge. It has, however, become the literary standard to describe the smell of gunpowder. Let's face it...if he had said, "the smell of HiSkor700X," where would that leave the reader?
Review: In 13 Bullets we noted accuracy in several areas. You wrote accurate descriptions of things such as Special Deputies with the U.S. Marshals and Pennsylvania law enforcement. I mean not everyone knows the standard magazine capacity of a Glock 23 in forty caliber. Do you perform a lot of research, delve into things you have a personal knowledge of, or both?
Wellington: Research is probably the most time-consuming part of my writing process, but it's also potentially the most fun. I know more about the Civil War now, after writing 99 Coffins, then I ever imagined I would--it just wasn't a topic that interested me, until I started doing the research. Then I just couldn't get enough. I devoured every book I could find and went on a research trip to Gettysburg. Usually my research starts from things I think I have personal knowledge of. The vampire books are set in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. But I've learned never to trust my own memory, so I research all the things I thought I knew--and usually I discover that I had most of it wrong, or that the subject is actually far more complicated than I believed. That's a great moment, for a writer, because suddenly the light bulbs start popping in your head like an old-fashioned telephone switchboard. Research is where I get all my best ideas.
Review: In a day and age where most vampires either sparkle, or hang out in bars, you went with the Nosferatu types which are truly monsters and frightening. Why?
Wellington: Well, where's the fun in doing what everybody else is doing? Plus, I grew up with scary vampires. Dracula was kind of sexy--but he was also a lot scary. To me a vampire is a monster. It's not somebody I want to date.
Review: On a web site we found the most amazing, short, U-Tube clip called 13 Bullets - The Evolution of Horror.
Whoa! That clip was better than most movies. Speaking of which, what are the chances of a movie?
Wellington: Hey, thanks! Well, the book has been optioned and there are people working on it right now. They don't tell me what they're doing, and I don't pester them. It's a good relationship in that way.
Review: Now, of course, an obligatory question that everyone seems to ask (and for good reason.) Any words of wisdom to aspiring writers?
Wellington: If you're going to make it, if you have what it takes, stop asking other people for advice. Or ask everyone you meet, but take what they say with a grain of salt. Seriously, the only way to improve as a writer is to write, and the only way to succeed in writing professionally is to submit. If you don't think you're ready, you're not. If you know you're ready, you're probably wrong, but go ahead and try. If you really need advice, then the best thing I can say is: keep writing. Every word you type makes you a better writer, whether it works on paper or not. Learning from your mistakes is crucial, and to do that, you have to make the mistakes. So write. And keep writing. It took me thirty years to get published, but it was worth it.
Review: As a writer, you have much work on the web. What do you envision the future of E-Zines and the electronic devices, such as Kindle, to be?
Wellington: I think we'll move to a model where most fiction is only available electronically. Books will sell for ninety-nine cents, like songs on iTunes do now, and people will buy them if they look vaguely interesting. If you can keep their attention, people will come back for more. If you bore them, well, that's ninety-nine cents they lost, instead of twenty-six dollars (for a current hardcover). Paper books will always exist, but they'll actually increase in price--you'll pay fifty dollars for a book you truly love, one which inspired you to change your life, right? We'll probably go back to leather bindings and nice endpapers for those, and if you have ten books on your shelf, people will be impressed. But everybody will have a thousand books on their telephone. As for the Kindle and the eReader and such, I've seen them, and I liked them quite a bit--but I wouldn't want to carry them on the subway. They're just too big. I'm reading Jules Verne right now on my iPhone and have no trouble with the screen. I'd gladly read more books that way.
Review: The character, Arkeley, is at times almost as scary as the vampires. Were you ever tempted to make him more, um, warm and compassionate?
Wellington: No! I actually had to tone him down! Arkeley represents what human beings have to become if they inhabit the same world as the vampires. Tough, committed, and unsentimental. He's a fighter, a killer, and he'll sacrifice anything to get the vampire he's after. As the series evolves, Laura Caxton has to decide how much of her own life she's willing to give up. Fighting monsters isn't for nice guys.
Review: People are always comparing your vampire stories to your zombie stories. Seems like apples to oranges at times. What I, personally, would like to know is…which did you have more satisfaction in writing?
Wellington: The zombie stories were written in real-time, that is, I put each chapter online as soon as it was written, three times a week until they were done. That made for anarchic books with an incredible amount of energy. A blast to write, but exhausting, and not very deep. The vampire books I took my time with, building atmosphere and character until I was almost too scared to write what happened next to Laura Caxton. So the zombie books were more fun, but the vampire books were more satisfying.
Review: The book design is dark and foreboding, with that theme following through in dividers inside the book. Very effective. Who came up with that idea?
Wellington: That was all my publisher. I had each section separated with a quote, and named (usually) after the vampire Laura Caxton is currently chasing--I wanted to give a sense that she was closing case files, or perhaps that each vampire was deadly enough to warrant his/her own book. The art department at Three Rivers Press is fantastic, they totally got that, and so each new section starts with a black page--like the black page in Tristam Shandy, which marks a very significant death. I love the way these books look.
Review: In your opinion who was the best actor to ever portray the ultimate vampire on the big screen?
Wellington: There are so many facets to the vampire, you'd have to pick one for each. I'd say that Bela Lugosi will always be my favorite, since he invented a whole new kind of vampire for the movies. He's based on Stoker's character, but he adds so much aristocratic charm and privileged evil. But then I have to say my favorite vampire movie right now is Let the Right One In, which even if it's the most recent "real" vampire movie, is one of the best ever made. The actor who plays Eli in that movie is absolutely perfect.
Review: Ah, now to slip in a curiosity inquiry, thinly veiled as a technical question. When you write is it in a rigidly controlled setting (set time, place and duration), the three o’clock in the morning – underwear and cold cup of coffee, or something in between?
Wellington: I can write anywhere, anytime. I can block everything out and just work. That comes from years of living with bizarre roommates or in noisy neighborhoods, in cheap little apartments. When I have the choice, I like to write in the morning and then have all afternoon for research and outlining. After dinner I usually want to relax.
Review: In your books you have to accept the curse and commit suicide to become a vampire. If this is the case how was the first vampire created?
Wellington: Well, we haven't seen that yet in the books, have we? So maybe I have a nice surprise waiting for my readers...
Review: We know what Malvern is like now, but how do you envision her before she became a vampire?
Wellington: She talks a little about herself in 23 Hours. She ran a gambling house in 18th century England. She ran in fashionable circles and spent a lot of money, but was neither rich nor titled herself and therefore ran up some pretty serious debts. She was an extremely intelligent woman, and one who thrived in a time and place where women were considered second class citizens. She was a very sophisticated and cunning opponent, even when she was alive, and vampirism just made her more like how she saw herself in her mind's eye.
Review: This is the “stack the deck” question, where you get to say, “why didn’t those dip wads ask a neat question like, ____________________?” Now you get to answer the question you wished we had asked, but didn’t.
Wellington: Ah, the infamous 13th question. Well, I'll tell you the answer, but not the question. The answer is, "It was a little uncomfortable at first, but once I got used to it, I couldn't remember living without it.".
Review: And so our review of 13 Bullets and its author, David Wellington, with the final 13th question and answer is finished.
Is 13 an unlucky number?
A resounding "NO."
We consider ourselves lucky to have been granted an insight into the mind of such a remarkable writer.
With that we thank David Wellington, author of 13 Bullets and thank YOU, the reader, as well. Remember, if you have a recommendation for an on-line short story or print book...drop us a line.