Today I’m pleased to introduce our guest—an author who has brought us delightful paranormal tomes.
Meet Denise Verrico.
1. Welcome, Denise. One of the first things I noticed on your website was your reference to Dark Shadows, the TV series that broadcast during the sixties. I loved that show! What remnants, if any, inspired your current writing?
The character Barnabas Collins was the first sympathetic vampire character I’d ever seen. He was very complex. Of course as a child, I wouldn’t have said that. To me he was just really neat. I can’t say anything specific that inspired me, but it sparked a lifelong interest in dark stories and vampires. I did meet Jonathan Frid, the actor who portrayed Barnabas, when I was living in New York back in the eighties. A friend was his personal assistant. My husband and I were invited to Mr. Frid’s home to see a preview of a one man Shakespearean show that he did for libraries and colleges. At the time he lived on Gramercy Park, a charming old neighborhood situated around a gated park. As a tribute to Mr. Frid, I have Mia living on Gramercy at one point in the novel.
2. Your interest in the Beatles resonates with me. What, if anything, in their music inspired your writing? I love the Beatles, but there isn’t anything in the first two books.
You must be clairvoyant, because the POV character in the third book, Cedric MacKinnon embodies my love for rock music. In the fourth novel he and Mia are brought together, and he does sing Across the Universe to her. I chose that song because it’s one of my favorites and it has the mantra Jai Guru Deva Ohm. Cedric is an adept of the ancient arts, a temple artist in service to the Immortyl Tantric cult of Kali.
3. Can you share your experiences in the theater, and what, if anything, contributed to your current writing style or trend?
I majored in theatre in college, starting out in musicals but becoming much more enamored of classical theatre. I love Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ibsen, Shaw, Wilde and Chekhov. You’ll find lots of references to Shakespeare in my work. Here’s a guy who lived over four hundred years ago and the characters he created are still relevant today. The problem is that some teachers tend to treat it as dry text when it’s meant to be spoken and performed. If good actors who can convey the emotion perform the plays in an accessible way, the text comes alive. I’ve seen nine year olds completely captivated by The Tempest. Here’s a story with spirits and monsters, romance, intrigue and betrayal. Kids totally get it. Cara Mia uses Ibsen’s Master Builder as a thematic motif. My theatre training has given me a lot of insight into character. I create a character much in the same way I would flesh out one I’m acting. I do a lot of homework and create complete back-stories. Playwrights have a very short period of time to tell a story and only dialogue in which to do so. A story is boiled down to its essential dramatic elements. I think like a playwright and actually sketch out dialogue before writing any descriptive passages.
I was a strange child. I played court dramas with my Barbie dolls and liked to dissect grasshoppers and catch snakes. Adults always said I had a vivid imagination. I loved to read and I always have a movie going on in my head. Observation of the world and people around me has always been important in my life.
5. How do you see your vampire stories, in terms of how they compare or contrast with the popular “Twilight” books?
Twilight is a young adult romance. My stories are definitely grown up and although they have romantic elements they can’t be really called romance because they don’t have a relationship as the main plot and they lack a “happy ending.” I don’t want to knock the Twilight books because obviously the writer got something right, but I prefer a darker story and more complex situations and relationships. Even my good guys have their darker moments. My villains have agendas that make them act as they do. They just happen to be in conflict with the heroine and hero’s agenda. My vampires drink human blood. It has to be human, just as a human can’t get a transfusion from an animal. They can survive on donated blood, but they get off on the thrill of taking it from a living victim. Mia is not a character that waits around for a man to save her. She’s a tough woman, who has suffered a lot and has strong passions and opinions. My hero isn’t an “alpha male”. I’m tired of that stereotype. Kurt is five six and a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet, but he’s a genius and a born leader. Ethan, Mia’s master, is the stereotypical alpha male punched full of holes. My vampire society is based on ancient ones and the characters in my books are for the most part bi-sexual. I’m more like Anne Rice here. I love the complex world she created, but I wanted mine to be different. I like science and wanted a scientific basis for the vampirism. I just read about a book called The Passage that is getting a lot of press that also deals with sci fi vamps. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is an early example. Most sci fi vampires are either genetically engineered or caught a virus, mine harbor a symbiotic organism.
6. What can you share about your book Cara Mia, and what inspired you to write that particular story?
The task I set out for myself was to create a plausible cause for vampirism and the subsequent immortality. I’m a sucker for a story about the little guy or gal fighting the forces of evil. My heroine and hero are underdogs. Mia and Kurt find they’re in sympathy because they find the strictures and cruelty of their society too much to bear. They become outlaws who rebel against their masters and give the secrets of immortality to science. Mia and Kurt are survivors who have suffered a lot, but her narrative reflects her irreverent humor and spunk. Within all this science and intrigue, there is a love story.
7. In your lifetime, who were the important people who inspired you?
Wow, first I’d have to say my parents. They always encouraged me to learn and get an education. There were always books to read when I was a kid. I’m inspired by anyone who fights injustice from Rosa Parks to Mahatma Gandhi. I grew up in a time when women didn’t have many heroic role models. My confirmation name is Joan after Joan of Arc. I’ve always found the image of a woman in armor fighting for what she believes in to be compelling. When Princess Leia picked up a gun in Star Wars and started shooting, I cried, “At last!”
8. In your second book, Twilight of the Gods, your excerpt fascinated me. Can you share a bit about what led to this particular story?
Kurt has always been my favorite character. He was imprisoned in Dachau at fifteen and his entire family killed in the Holocaust. While in the camp, he was sexually abused by an SS officer. There’s something so inherently decent in Kurt. He struggles with his vampirism and when he lapses he does so in a bloody way. No one understands quite like him how easily a person can become a monster. He’s driven by a desire to right wrongs, both in his past, the Immortyl world and in the world in general. For the downtrodden among the Immortyls, Kurt becomes an almost messianic figure when he rebels against his masters. This book focuses on Kurt’s rise to leadership and his war with Gaius, the elder of a rival house who wants to harness the power of immortality for nefarious purposes. Kurt, however, isn’t immune to the pitfalls of power. To his distress it’s often Mia who is hurt.
9. Are you currently working on another book, and, if so, what can you tell us about it?
Fearful Symmetry is book three and it tells the story of the beginnings of the revolution from the POV of an observer within the ruling class. It’s set mostly in India at the court of the Chief Elder, Kalidasa. Cedric MacKinnon is the hero and as mentioned before, an adept of the ancient arts. Immortyls practice a unique form of Tantrism and an adept is a devotee of the goddess, Kali. They sing, dance, play instruments and are witty conversationalists, but they are also trained to take part in sexual rituals. These artists are exploited as a courtesan and used by the Chief Elder to woo supporters. I like to say it’s the story of a boy who becomes a vampire and then fights to become a man.
10. Can you describe for us your typical writing day?
Usually it begins after work, when I sit down on my sofa with my laptop. I read through what I wrote the previous day and either edit or continue on for about two hours. On my days off, I try to write at least four hours or more.
11. What can you share about your family and the setting where you live and write?
I live in a rural town in Ohio. I’m such an urban creature, but I love nature. We have a big back yard with all kinds of birds and wildlife visiting. My husband and teenaged son live with me. We all love roller coasters and are writing a roller coaster guide. My husband is an actor and director who co-founded The Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. My son is a punk rocker about to enter his senior year of high school. He’s into music and taught himself to play bass and guitar. He also plays the tuba. I work in the school year as an instructional aid to a child with special needs, and I do marketing jobs sometimes on the weekends and in the summer.
12. The Dames love pets, and on your website, parrots are mentioned. What can you share about them and any other pets you may have?
I have seven birds in the parrot family. One Timneh African Grey named Gromit, three cockatiels, Pippin, Galadriel and Toby and three budgies (parakeets) Wacko, Yacko and Dot. All were adopted except for Pippin, who we bought when he was a baby. I love parrots because they are such intelligent creatures. African Greys have the innate intelligence of a five-year-old child. Gromit knows when it time to go to bed, no matter what time of year it is or how dark. Promptly at nine he starts saying, “Night-night the bird!” When I sweep and vacuum the house he scolds, “Messy bird!” All he has to do is hear me pick up my car keys and he yells, “Bye-bye, Mom!” Gromit carries on extended phone conversations with my deceased lovebird Ziggy and they’re never the same twice. Pippin and Toby both speak and whistle Eine Kleine Nacht Musik and Yankee Doodle back and forth.
Denise, thank you so much for joining us today. In the links below, you can explore some of Denise’s sites.
Denise’s Presence on the Web: