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Interview: May 2011

May 2011

Rachel Caine is the author of more than 30 novels, including the immensely popular series Weather Warden andOutcast SeasonBITE CLUB, the 10th installment in her bestselling Morganville Vampires series, introduces a new extreme sport: bare-knuckle fights pitting captured vampires against each other, or against humans. Morganville resident Claire soon discovers that what started as an online brawl is threatening to harm everyone in her town.

Teenreads.com's Usha Rao spoke to Caine about her personal passion for vampires and the unusual characters, like Frank and Myrnin, who populate her fictional town. She also muses about society's vampire obsession and chooses her very favorite vamps --- from Angel to Nick Knight.

Teenreads.com: BITE CLUB is the 10th installment in yourMorganville Vampires series, which kicked off in 2006 with GLASS HOUSES. What has inspired you to write these novels? Did you know you had a series on your hands as you were writing the first one?

Rachel Caine: I actually did know I was getting into a series, but only for three books at the time. I initially was at a loss for what I'd write about, but on the phone with a friend, I started talking about vampire urban planning, and the next thing I knew, Morganville had taken shape in my head! It was a very memorable phone call.

TRC: Myrnin is the most unpredictable and enigmatic person in the series. How did you come up with his character? Does he represent any danger to Claire?

RC: Myrnin definitely represents danger to anyone he comes in contact with, but it's not that he's violent --- he's just extremely unpredictable and not always in control of his reactions. I wanted to have someone in the series who was charming and endearing, yet also had some serious issues…and Myrnin developed very naturally out of that idea. He's quirky and interesting to write, but he also has dark streaks and clearly can't be trusted all the time!

TRC: Shane is a very angry and wounded young man. What makes it possible for him to be so protective of Claire, in spite of all he endures in BITE CLUB?

RC: I think Shane is trying so very hard not to be his father, and yet he is so afraid that the violence in his past will shape his future that he really clings to his role as protector. Especially for Claire because she represents a gentleness and hope that he desperately craves, after growing up the way he did and suffering such losses. He's a very strong and resilient young man, and he's extremely aware of his own tendency towards acting out. I think BITE CLUB is a turning point for his character. He understands himself better now, and he'll be more at peace with his nature.

TRC: Glory has a tremendous power to draw people and vampires to her and have them do her bidding. What does she ultimately seek for herself?

RC: Glory is a mixer. She enjoys being in control, and she uses that ability to enrich herself financially, emotionally, and in any other ways she can manage. I think that she's quite the sociopath --- other people, even other vampires, simply don't matter to her, they're a means to an end. She doesn't seek to rule the vampires, because that's too much responsibility, and she doesn't like that. She just wants as much fun and financial support as she can get from those around her, and then she'll walk away and do something else.

TRC: Eve is in love with Michael, who is a vampire. Do you see such relationships as sustainable given the tense vampire-human politics of Morganville?

RC: That's a question that begins in BITE CLUB, and certainly occupies a lot of the plot in LAST BREATH as well…it's not just that humans disapprove of their relationship, it's also the vampires, who have serious concerns about Michael's ability to manage it without bloodshed. Michael himself is hyper-aware of the risks, which comes across sometimes as reluctance, but he's really just afraid to commit and hurt Eve.

TRC: Frank has almost God-like powers in Morganville, given that he can hear and know so much of what goes on in town. Yet he is a prisoner, and without a body of his own. Do you see him as a powerful figure or a piteous one?

RC: I think he's both. Frank can do and see a lot, but ultimately, he's a brain in a jar, as Myrnin likes to cruelly remind him. There's no future for him at all outside of the machine (not that he ever really wanted to live as a vampire, either). I think he's going to begin to enjoy his power, and that's a bit dangerous. Frank is NOT a nice man --- human, vampire, brain in a jar, he's still a bit of a psychopath.

TRC: Frank has caused a lot of damage in his past, especially to his son Shane. Can he ever redeem himself, and has he already begun to?

RC: I think he'd like to redeem himself, but Frank will never change that much. His relationship with Shane is flawed and badly damaged, and I don't think Shane will ever fully trust him. Frank may work hard at it, though!

TRC: Vampires are a hot commodity in fiction and the movies at the moment. In your opinion, what is it about vampires that especially speaks to people right now? What do you find interesting about vampires?

RC: I think vampires have always fascinated people since they moved out of the realm of real and terrifying creatures in the dark and into the pages of fiction --- even before the massive success of DRACULA in the late 1800s, vampires had been appearing in stories, poems and plays, and were popular. Since the rise of film, vampires got a huge boost --- and also a bit of a makeover, because no matter how monstrous they seemed to be, there were human actors portraying them, and it gave them a human side that vampires had lacked before.

I love the gigantic range of characters available to writers who want to use vampires --- anything from mindless, ruthless predators to creepy night stalkers that would terrify the hardest ghost hunter, to romantic characters who just want to make up for the wrong they've done in their afterlife. There's a lot of scholarly analysis about what vampires really mean to us, but it changes from generation to generation. One thing I love about them is that they are always the outsider characters, the ones who don't conform to the rest of the world, and who either have to hide or change the world to fit. That loneliness and alienation is something that is extremely powerful in YA fiction, because who hasn't felt like an outsider as they were entering adulthood?

TRC: There is a very detailed scene involving fencing in BITE CLUB. I got the distinct impression that you must be a fencer yourself. Do you fence, or have you ever considered taking it up?

RC: Actually, I have fenced, and I really enjoy it. I'm not a competition fencer, more of a stage fencer, which is more free-form, less padding, and more art. Competition fencing is incredibly fast and very violent when you're on the strip. It's not a spectator sport at that level, because it has to be very fast indeed. I enjoy stage fencing because you can slow it down and actually do the kind of fencing you see on stage and screen.

TRC: You have had many different careers and occupations. How did you get started writing?

RC: I've been writing since I was 14. A teacher gave us an assignment in English class that really sparked my imagination, and I think she saw a little talent in me because she started asking me to keep a writing journal and turn it in every week for a grade. Once I got into the habit of writing a story a week, I kept doing it. I continued all through college and afterward, until a friend discovered my secret and forced me to attend a writer's conference…where I sold my first novel!

TRC: Who or what inspires you to write?

RC: I would definitely write now whether I was a professional or not. It's a great stress reliever and very relaxing to me. I tend to draw my inspiration from all kinds of things --- sights, sounds, random odd ideas, overheard things that trigger an entirely unlike chain of connections in my head. It's all very chaotic!

TRC: You have other successful series that you write in addition to Morganville Vampires, such as Weather Wardenand Outcast Season. As a writer, how do you switch gears between so many series and characters? Is that easy or hard for you?

RC: I don't find it too hard, curiously. Each series has its own voice and rhythm. Cassiel, in Outcast Season, has a definitely formal tone (she's an ages-old Djinn who's become human), while Joanne Baldwin in the Weather Warden series is funny, snarky and often flippant even as she faces deadly challenges. Morganville has a different kind of mood and style again. I find that it's a bit like changing clothes --- you put on a new outfit and you're ready to go!

TRC: Who are your favorite vampires from fiction or TV/movies?

RC: I still love Barnabas Collins from "Dark Shadows," but also Nick Knight from "Forever Knight," and of course I love the vampire characters in "Buffy" and "Angel." I thought that the movie adaptation of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (by John Ajvide Lindqvist) was amazing and very dark, too. Oh, and I can't miss endorsing two often overlooked vampire novels: THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT by Barbara Hambly (which features Don Simon Ysidro), and FEVER DREAM by George R.R. Martin (which features Joshua). Both ASTONISHING!

TRC: When can we expect the next installment in theMorganville Vampires series? Do you have any other projects in the works you'd like to tell us about?

RC: Book 11, LAST BREATH, will be out in November 2011, and there will be at least one more to come in May 2012 in theMorganville Vampires series. As far as any other projects, WORKING STIFF will be out on adult shelves in August, and the last Outcast Season novel, UNBROKEN, will be out February 2012! Also, be on the lookout for a wide variety of anthologies coming up, including HEX SYMBOLS (which features a new Holly & Andrew short story, for those who loved them in the STRANGE BREW anthology), and also a new anthology I co-edited called CHICKS KICK BUTT! Also, the ENTHRALLED young adult anthology will feature a new Morganville short story, too.