Today I feel honored to present an author and artist, whose novel explores the mysteries of the soul.
1. Krisi, I am fascinated by anyone who can create in several media—which came first for you, writing or artwork?
Writing, or I should say, On the Soul of a Vampire in particular, directly inspired my art. At least, it inspired attempting to do art in any type of professional capacity. My experience with art previous to the book was making cards or Christmas decorations for my mom, things like that. It never even entered my mind that I could or would be an artist of any kind; I never had aspirations for an art career. When I restarted seriously looking for a literary agent for On the Soul in 2006, however, I got it in my head that I wanted to make a book cover for it. Not that I imagined it would ever actually be the cover of a published book, but just so the manuscript would look attractive and maybe stand out a little as I sent it on its rounds. Completely dissatisfied with my first attempt, I decided to try doing “copies” of the masters to help me improve and I guess the artist I didn’t know was in me awakened. (laughs) I found I absolutely loved drawing, and the creative release I got with art was a much more calming, peaceful type than I get with writing. I moved on to pastel painting in 2007 and did my first acrylic and oil paintings in 2008. I added digital art painting in 2009, right around the time I opened a store on Zazzle.com.
2. Are you currently working on another WIP? If so, what can you share about it?
I wrote the first draft of On the Soul of a Vampire back in 1995 and within a short time after that, I started its “prequel” or a second book that covers the main character, Valéry’s, 800 years of history. I absolutely cannot remember in what year, but sometime between then and 2006, I also started a third book which picks up where On the Soul leaves off. Fiction writing and any attempt to get the stories published were both interrupted though when I went back to school in 1997, first for foreign languages and linguistics and then to get my degree in theology, all inspired by writing that first draft of On the Soul as well! In any case, I’m now working on rewriting/editing the two follow-up books simultaneously, trying to decide whether readers would like to know more of Valéry’s history or whether, wanting to know what really happened at the end of Book One, they’d rather I just go on with the story from that point. Because there are a lot of events that take place in 800 years however (laughs), and some of that history and a character or two only briefly met or mentioned in On the Soul, figure more prominently in the third story, I’m trying to determine if that next story can be told clearly if I were to not publish the prequel. In addition, I was honored to be asked by another speculative fiction author, Ellen C. Maze (Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider, The Judging) to have an excerpt from On the Soul included in an anthology that features 25 short stories from 9 different authors, called FECKLESS: Tales of Supernatural, Paranormal and Downright Presumptuous Ilk. That anthology was just released on January 31, and I’m presently working on a short story to submit for a possible second anthology.
3. Do you do research before you write, or do the ideas spring from your “soul”?
Well, with On the Soul, the idea definitely sprang from my soul and the research wound up being retroactive! (laughs) I saw the movie version of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (in 1994) and the story was born almost full term in my head over the next few weeks. I wrote it down over the next six months or so after seeing the movie. But I consider it divinely-inspired more than anything, because I’d never had more than a 9th grade education in religion when I wrote it, yet when I started taking classes for my theology degree in 2000, I discovered that the ideas I’d used as the basis of the plot were actual Catholic theology on subjects such as the Incarnation, the Trinity and dual nature. I did rewriting on the original 1995 draft before publishing in 2010, of course, armed with quite a bit more understanding of those ideas, but the basics were all there in the original draft, which still “weirds me out” a little to this day! The second story, Valéry’s history, I did do research on as I was writing, to make sure I was being as accurate as possible regarding the time, place and historical events. I’ve also been doing some research for the third story, although many of the biblical references and theological ideas included there are ones I already have at least some familiarity with from getting my degree.
4. What can you tell us about your creative journey?
Unplanned and unexpected are the two best words to describe it. (laughs) I never planned to be a fiction novelist any more than I planned to be an artist. My first childhood goal was to be a veterinarian, until I discovered, though I can write backwards like Leonardo da Vinci, that was about the extent of the resemblance! I’m no Renaissance woman and am most assuredly not gifted in math or science, so that ended hopes for becoming a vet. I did write a little novel at eleven years old, but receiving “no unsolicited manuscripts” letters from a few publishers was enough to discourage a kid and I never thought to writing a book again until I wrote On the Soul’s first draft at 26. For a long time – through most of my teen and early adult years, I wanted to be a rock singer/lyricist and I wrote hundreds of lyrics/poems, joined the school chorus, took vocal lessons and drama, etc. But, it started to become more and more obvious I just didn’t have the extroverted personality for that kind of career. I was and still am one of those shy, contemplative types. So when I sent out the original manuscript of On the Soul back in 1995-96, it didn’t take a lot of “it’s too deep and/or soul-searching” from literary agents before I figured it wasn’t meant to be. Then, like I said, getting further education intervened and I began studying foreign and classical languages in 1997, my intention being to become a linguist/translator. God apparently had other plans, as He often does, and in 2000, I felt strongly called to study theology. I didn’t really think about the book again until 2005, after I graduated, when I decided to translate some chapters into French to use as examples for a translation business. Rereading it for that, I got interested in it again and went about rewriting it and incorporating more of the in-depth theology I’d learned getting my degree. I started sending it out to agents again in 2006, but although I did get some great feedback about my writing style, the character development and uniqueness of the story, the overall feeling they seemed to give me was that they weren’t sure what to do with a genre-bending theological vampire novel or how that would sell in a commercial market. In 2009, when life circumstances, including me needing to care for my disabled father, demanded that I find work from home, I chose to publish the book with CreateSpace just to see how it would do. So that’s how I became a novelist in 2010, with no real plans at all for ever really being one and by way of an ongoing string of unexpected events! Unplanned and unexpected has definitely been my creative path.
5. I notice that you have books in different formats (print, e-books); what led to these choices?
I chose to put On the Soul into as many different formats as possible because, although self-publishing is becoming more and more popular, with the publishing industry being in flux these days, there is still a lot of stigma involved with doing so, and it is much more difficult to get a self-published work into standard brick and mortar stores. E-books have really been taking off and they allow an unknown author to price his or her book at a much lower price than most books released by big publishers, so that helps with getting one’s work out there to a wider audience – to readers who may be willing to try out an unknown if they don’t have spend a lot of money to do so.
6. What is your writing space like?
I don’t really have an assigned writing space, per se. I jot down ideas whenever they pop into my head and I tend to do large portions of writing freehand, before typing it into the computer, so I could be lying in bed and I have to grab a copybook and write right there. When I do put those ideas into the computer, I sometimes continue typing directly from what I started in handwriting, but it’s a bit shameful to discuss that “official” writing space where my computer resides; it’s a disorganized mess with multiple copybooks, scraps of paper, a buried computer drawing pad for digital art… an embarrassing absent-minded professor’s type desk, piled high with all the things I’m working on and one which elicits constant grumbles when I have to dig through to find what I’m looking for!
7. Can you describe your typical writing day?
I don’t actually have one of those either! (laughs) I tend to do a lot of the story building in my head before I even attempt to write down more than a note or two and then after I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going to go with something, I may write for hours, either the basic draft in a notebook or typing in what I’ve already written and then adding, subtracting or otherwise tweaking as I type. I guess since I never really planned to be a writer or an artist, I never learned how to organize my day for an assigned time to do a given thing and I do everything as it strikes me or when I have the free time to do it around regular life responsibilities – whether that be just jotting down ideas, whole chapters of writing, a design idea or a full painting. I’ve been learning the hard way since On the Soul was published in May though, that I really do need to get more organized and learn how to multi-task in a more structured way.
8. Thanks for sharing about your creative process. Can you tell us what individual(s) most inspired your creative life?
That’s actually a really hard question for me to answer. Since my creative life was such an unplanned thing, I never really studied anyone’s work in particular. I would say that all the authors whose books I’ve loved and all the artists whose artwork has touched me, are my inspiration. But also, theologians, philosophers, religious leaders, musicians, actors, directors, humanitarians and so on that have produced works or accomplished something that is meaningful to me inspire my own way of thinking and how I express that. And, of course, there are family members and teachers who gave me more confidence than I otherwise would have had that I had something of worth to say and a unique way of saying it. I consider all of those people an inspiration to me. And since On the Soul of a Vampire is, essentially, both the product of and the reason behind my desire to understand God and my faith better, I consider the Lord the absolute foundation of anything creative I do.
9. Who or what inspires you today?
All of the above more than ever, and also all those other authors I’ve met since publishing my first book, who work so hard and with such passion to live their dreams and share that love of their craft and of the written word with others.
10. Can you share any tidbits about your life aside from writing/art?
Hmm, I’d say I don’t have much of a life aside from writing and art. I spend most of the day doing one or the other of those or things related to them, whether that be updating my website or making a blog post, that type of thing. I love to read and I try to read at least a little of another author’s work every day! I still love languages and I try to make sure I don’t lose all I learned studying them, especially when it comes to French, so I usually try to read a French language novel every couple books I read. I love movies and watch as many of those as I can. And like I said, I’m home to care for my dad, while my brother works to take care of us all financially.
11. It sounds like you are a very generous and loving person. I’m sure your books reveal some of that, too. What can you tell us about the plot and characters of On the Soul of a Vampire?
Well, the very basic synopsis of On the Soul is that it’s the story of an 800 year old vampire, named Valéry (Valérien), who discovers that a young mortal woman, Angelina Lacroix, somehow knows who he is and everything about him. Although he is drawn to her like he’s never been to any other mortal, he finds himself incapable of both taking her as a victim and making her immortal. He becomes obsessed with trying to figure out the reason why and how she can have the knowledge she does, and after he learns that she’s been dreaming of his entire existence since her childhood, he confronts her. This meeting leads to him discovering that a vampire is not at all the cursed and simply evil creature legend has made of them and his relationship with Angelina forces him to face the truth he’s always searched for. It’s not a horror novel, but a very human story about the pain and sense of abandonment that causes a person to lose faith in God, about forgiveness and, essentially, about God’s love for us – a love so strong, it will go to the ends of the earth and the end of time to bring the beloved back to Him. So I’d suggest it’s only a vampire story on the surface. Behind that story, both symbolically and outright, this is humankind’s story. It’s a theory about what the soul really is and how it is connected to the divine, it’s about the things all human beings want and why we want them. There’s a big parallel between Valéry’s lust for life, so to speak, and human desire, and if you were to forget that he’s a vampire and needs to kill to fulfill his desire, the similarity between his inability to sacrifice this “bodily” fulfillment and the human tendency to consider physical gratification the ultimate goal and good, no matter the consequences, becomes much more evident. And Valéry’s struggles to answer questions about what is justifiable in preserving one’s own life, about judging other people, rather than their actions, as evil and his demand for material “proof” of the spiritual are struggles and demands all human beings must deal with. It’s a human story whose main character and narrator just happens to be a vampire, and one meant to offer a sense of hope and a view of all human beings as sacred and uniquely loved creations of God. And this is only Book One, in which Valéry gets just a first glimmer of understanding and a glimpse at the mystery of God’s plan. He’s still got a ways to go, like we all do.
12. Wow! This is a story that sounds like one many of us could enjoy. To segue into another plane, the Dames enjoy pets. Do you have any, and if so, what can you share about them?
Yes, I definitely have pets! We have eight dogs – seven Rotties and a Foxhound mix. It’s a bit too long a story to explain how we wound up with so many dogs, but suffice to say the Rottweilers are all related – mom, dad and five of their pups – and the “little” 65 lb. Foxhound is honorary Rottweiler and King of the clan, despite the fact that the smallest of the Rotties outweighs him by 30 lbs.! They’re my precious babies and the apples of my eye. They’re big, sweet lapdogs – 100 lbs. of affection who seem to think they’re Chihuahuas – and they’re pretty much attached to me at the hip all day! They are also some of my most frequent art models.
And now I just want to say, thank you so much, Laurel-Rain, for the interview and I hope I wasn’t too verbose. I have a bit of a wordy problem whenever I write! I really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of your wonderful Dames of Dialogue site and I wish you and all the Dames the very best with your own writing and many other projects.
Thank you so much, Krisi. You have opened up the windows of your soul here, and I’ve enjoyed your inspirational journey. Thank you so much for joining us here.