For the first time at Literary Escapism, I’m really excited to announce our very first interview and contest. We begin with Lynda Hilburn, author of the Kismet Knight series – The Vampire Shrink and Dark Harvest, which is due out in October.
First off, I would like to thank Lynda for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk with Literary Escapism. Make sure you stick around for the end of the interview as there is a contest for a signed copy of The Vampire Shrink and Dark Harvest. So make sure you stay tuned.
Now, on with the questions…
Literary Escapism: For those of my readers unfamiliar with The Vampire Shrink, can you give us a brief look at your novel and what readers can look forward to?
Lynda Hilburn: The Vampire Shrink is the first book in a series about Denver Psychologist Kismet Knight’s discovery of a hidden underworld of vampires and vampire wannabes. Her story definitely falls under the heading of, “be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.” Her desire to have more excitement in her life – to take more risks – even to have a little fame and fortune in her field, causes her to open a paranormal Pandora’s box which pulls her into a world of nocturnal creatures, mystical experiences, professional chaos and emotional madness. Finding herself attracted to a self-proclaimed, gorgeous, 800-year-old vampire and an irreverent FBI profiler definitely thrusts her out of her relationship comfort zone. On top of all that, someone – or something – is leaving a trail of blood-drained bodies. Yikes!
LE: Where did the inspiration come from for your vampire world? Did you have a specific goal or feel in mind?
LH: I knew that I wanted my vampire world to be hidden. I’m more intrigued with the notion of paranormal creatures existing – unknown – alongside the “real” world. That just seems scarier to me – and more emotionally complex. One of my favorite comments from a reader so far came from a Denver woman, who said, “I live downtown near the club you used as inspiration for The Crypt (the club Devereux, the main vampire owns in The Vampire Shrink), and since reading your book, I’m nervous about walking near there at night. Thinking about a group of vampires hiding in the building’s cellar is too frightening for me to deal with. Your story seems so real!” That’s the feeling I wanted to convey with the book. The vampires are enticing, but they’re not human – not held to mortal rules and morals.
LE: Where did the idea of having a vampire being a wizard come from? In some novels, a magic user loses his talent when he becomes a vampire, why did you allow your vampires to keep their magical abilities? Other than Devereux, can we expect to see other vampires with similarly unique talents, maybe not as a wizard, but something else?
LH: In my vampire universe, the vampires are extensions of who they were as humans. After an adjustment period, which can last decades or centuries (during which time the newborn is quite primitive), the vampire once again begins to exhibit the characteristics, talents, abilities, etc. that he/she had while mortal. The power level of the vampire who performed the turning determines how quickly the offspring “remembers” him/herself. Devereux isn’t a standard vampire. He comes from a long line of Druids, wizards and witches, and was a gifted seer before he chose to become a vampire. Plus, he is one of the oldest undead on the planet, which confers its own benefits. Devereux has a quest for knowledge and wisdom, and he has spent his eight centuries sharpening his skills. Readers will discover more about his history and his family as the series unfolds.
In Dark Harvest, we learn about other wizards, healers and witches (all vampires) that Devereux calls upon to help him in an emergency situation. Dark Harvest’s main bad vampire, Lyren Hallow, has many unique talents and abilities (I don’t want to give away too much, here!!), which he uses in negative ways. Since I’m interested in metaphysics and higher consciousness (in addition to the paranormal), as my vampires age, some of them tend to manifest mystical and magical abilities. But in order for a vampire to have magic skills on the level of Devereux’s, he/she would have had to come from a similar background. All the mature vampires in my world can move through thought, read minds, and mesmerize humans (and sometimes other vampires). All of them, regardless of age, enjoy the taste of blood. There is a new character in Dark Harvest who has her own unique abilities.
LE: Kismet is a very different heroine than in most urban fantasy novels, and even some paranormal romances. Did you develop her this way on purpose or did she just sort of pop out that way? What are your thoughts on Kismet’s personality and her interaction with the vampires?
LH: Kismet’s personality and characteristics were chosen on purpose (because we write what we know!). The series is based on Kismet’s experiences, and I wanted her to be very real. As a psychologist, she’s cerebral and introspective. She has lived most of her life in academia, so her physical side is under-developed. Since she has a tendency to stay in her head, she has a bizarre sense of humor, which saves her from taking herself and her work too seriously. She’s not used to all the male attention she gets after she meets the vampires! Unlike a lot of the vampire-slayers or warrior women popular in a lot of urban fantasy (which I also enjoy), Kismet’s first inclination is always to think about things – to analyze. It would never occur to her to attack a client – especially one she believes is suffering from the delusion that he/she is a vampire. Letting go of her scientific framework is very difficult for her, and she struggles with facing the surreal truth of the existence of vampires through most of the first book. Because she views herself as a psychologist – a healer – above anything else, Kismet is able to connect with her new, alien clients in spite of her fears of the unknown. Her discovery of the vampires’ emotional vulnerability changes everything for her. She will continue to grow professionally and personally throughout the series.
LE: Your site says you’re also a licensed psychotherapist – how much of yourself is reflected in Kismet? How strongly does your experience in psychotherapy influence your characters?
LH: Kismet is absolutely an idealized version of myself. She’s the “fantasy” me. She’s thinner, younger, prettier and has a much more exciting life than I do. I always write about what I know – whether it’s Kismet the psychologist, Tempest Moon (the heroine of another series) the musician, or the professional psychic I’m going to write about in the future – all these characters come from aspects/memories of my life. As far as my experience as a therapist, it absolutely influences my characters and my writing. Like Kismet, I’m cerebral, introspective and intuitive. I have spent my life reading between the lines of people’s personalities, actions, beliefs, thoughts and fears. I am an empath, so adding emotional depth to my characters comes easily to me. I think being a therapist is why all my stories are character-driven.
LE: You have some fairly interesting characters – Bryce, Devereux, Lucifer/Brother Luther, Luna, Kismet, Sgt. Bullock: what were your inspirations when developing their personalities? Were any of your characters inspired by anyone in particular?
LH: As a psychotherapist, I’m comfortable with the idea that we are all a series of “parts.” Sub-personalities. That we don’t have one “self,” but rather various aspects – some stronger and more dominant than others. All my characters come from my unconscious: male and female aspects, childhood memories of real and imagined people, the self I desire to be, the self I fear I am, the self I resist being, my versions of standard archetypes: good dad/bad dad, good mom/bad mom, victim, child, wild woman, wise woman/crone, teenager, super hero, perpetrator – the wide range of voices we all have and their various shadings. I believe all characters written by all authors come from conscious and unconscious material inside ourselves. Since we attract people in the outer world who reflect our dominant inner aspects (and our unconscious patterns), it isn’t hard to find outer symbols for our various parts. Writers are able to flesh out all the shadow elements lurking inside our psyches. I can say that Brother Luther is a composite of several people I’ve attracted throughout the years.
LE: Without having to delve into confidentiality issues, have you ever come across any cases that made you question whether or not the individual’s delusions were real? That there could be something there? Do you sometimes feel the need to leave the light on, ‘just in case’?
LH: Absolutely! I can freely admit that I’ve been creeped out on occasion. I’ve encountered individuals in counseling whose “vibe” was so darkly negative, I could barely be in the same room with them. In general, I work with lots of clients who believe they’re having a non-ordinary experience – whether it’s alien abduction, demonic possession, visitation by succubus/incubus, vampirism – you name it. I tend to view symptoms metaphorically as well as literally, and I hold a dual connection with each client – keeping one aspect of my consciousness focused in the compassionate witness position while another part of me joins their world. No matter how strange or frightening that world is. It’s fascinating work.
LE: Do you have a particular scene in your novel that stands out because it was fun or difficult to write? Which scene is memorable to you? What about any scenes that may have given you trouble?
LH: I really enjoyed writing the scene where Kismet wakes up in the old mausoleum in the cemetery. That was fun! I made it so real for myself that I couldn’t get the imaginary smell out of my nose for days! Another of my favorites is when Kismet goes to The Crypt with Alan and Tom and Devereux joins them in the booth. Kismet asks him to show her his mesmerizing abilities, and he does. Yum.
LE: Do you have a favorite quote from your book?
LH: Well, I don’t have a favorite, but I’ve gotten lots of positive emails about the paragraph where Kismet notices that Devereux likes to have his fang sucked on (I’ll just leave it there!!!).
LE: Do you have any authors you look up to? Are there any authors you look to for stylistically writing tips? Who do you enjoy reading when you’re not writing?
LH: I hate to waffle, but there are just so many authors I enjoy. Early favorites were books by Tom Robbins, Carlos Castaneda, Richard Bach, and Bram Stoker. I’m a great Anne Rice (vampire and witch books) fan. Many paranormal romance, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, psychological thriller, psychological mystery and horror books are on my shelves. I think it was Tom Robbins’ quirky style that initially influenced me most.
LE: What other activities do you enjoy doing and how do they affect your stories?
LH: Singing! I was a professional singer/musician for many years and I tend to use a lot of musical terms in my writing. That’s just the way I perceive the world. I also study the Tarot and various psychic interests, so those skills show up in most of my books. My stories are also colored by my psychology and hypnotherapy training and experience. I think that’s why I love writing paranormals – I can give my characters all kinds of unusual supernatural and metaphysical skills!
LE: According to your website, the second novel in this series, Dark Harvest, is due out in October. Is there anything you can tells us, to tease us with, about the next novel? Have you already starting working or planning on a third novel?
LH: Dark Harvest picks up about 5 months after The Vampire Shrink. Here’s a blurb:
Denver Psychologist Kismet Knight counsels vampires. Her life changed forever when she discovered a preternatural underworld, met Devereux, the powerful leader of a vampire coven, and was forced to rethink her notions of “reality.”
Still adjusting to her new role as an expert on all things paranormal, she schedules what she believes is simply another radio interview. She couldn’t be more mistaken. Not only does the radio host behave very strangely, but an ominous, on-air call from day-walking vampire Lyren Hallow turns Kismet’s world upside-down — again.
Shortly thereafter, Maxie Westhaven, a tabloid newspaper reporter in search of a juicy story, befriends Kismet, leading her into a bizarre world of role players, lost souls and death. Enter Victoria Essex, Devereux’s building manager and resident witch, who discloses a startling secret of her own.
Meanwhile, Luna, Devereux’s hostile femme fatal personal assistant, recognizes a perfect opportunity to throw a wrench into her boss’s blossoming relationship with the human psychologist, and, to complicate matters further, Kismet’s old boyfriend, self-absorbed Psychologist Tom Radcliffe, shows up with his own outlandish request.
I am working on the third book in the series. In that book, Kismet joins Victoria’s witch coven and begins to strengthen her own abilities. She’ll also be dealing with a little jealousy . . .
LE: You mentioned that in the third novel, Kismet begins strengthening her own abilities, are these new abilities described in more detail in Dark Harvest or did I miss her discovery of them in The Vampire Shrink?
LH: Kismet raises this issue several times in Dark Harvest. She finds it annoying that so many vampires keep talking about her “special abilities,” when she sees nothing unusual or exceptional about them. To her mind, since everyone has intuitive/psychic skills to some degree, she doesn’t understand what the fuss is about. In The Vampire Shrink, she continuously asked, “What abilities?” She had no idea what Devereux and others were talking about. Near the end of Dark Harvest, Kismet finally discovers there might be more to her talents than she consciously realized. Victoria, Devereux’s office manager and resident witch, fills in some of the missing information, and Kismet comes one step closer to understanding why Devereux was immediately attracted to her.
LE: Are you currently working on any other projects besides the Kismet Knight series, or is that keeping you busy for the time being? If so, can we expect to see any of them in print soon?
LH: I’m completing a short story for an anthology, The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, which will be published in February, 2009. In between Kismet stories, I’m turning my novella, Undead in the City, into a novel. That book (series, hopefully) is about a Detroit musician, Tempest Moon, and what happens when a drop-dead gorgeous bloodsucker comes into the bar her band is playing at.
LE: You mentioned that you’re turning the novella, Undead in the City, into a full novel. When can we expect to see that released?
LH: Well, that depends on how long it takes me to expand it into twice its current length, and when I find a publisher interested in buying it! Both those things can take quite a bit of time!
LE: According to your website, you have also written under the name Hera St. Aubyn. Are you still publishing under this name and do you have any new works about to be published?
LH: I used the name Hera St. Aubyn (one of my favorite goddesses and the street I lived on in Detroit when I was small) to write what I thought was erotic paranormal romance. LOL. I was so innocent! I worried that my clients would be upset if they discovered that I was writing spicy/juicy vampire stories, so I decided to use a pen name. I sold 2 shorts and a novella under Hera’s name. Turns out I needn’t have worried. My version of erotic paranormal romance doesn’t begin to touch the heat level of most erotica today. In fact, all I have to do to transform Undead in the City from “erotica” to just sexy urban fantasy is to change a few key words (we all know what those words are). Most likely, everything I write from now on will be under my own name.
LE: Do you have plans, or are there ideas in your head, to write a different series sometime in the future?
LH: I’ve been a vampire fan for years and years and I hope there’s enough ongoing interest in vamps so that I can write all the ideas I have for series. I’ll just keep writing my vampire books and hope I can sell them! I also want to develop a series about a psychic (I have to give that part of myself a voice!) and I have an idea for a book about a hypnotherapist who solves crimes.
LE: For my readers unfamiliar with your work, what would you say to convince them to pick up a copy of your book?
LH: I think my books (The Vampire Shrink and Dark Harvest) are unique in that they blend several genres: dark contemporary fantasy, vampire chick lit, mystery, romance, humor, horror and a little spicy sex thrown in. Kismet is a memorable character who shares her vulnerability and fears with the reader in an unusual way. Many people tell me they enjoy the humor in the books. (And I hear Devereux is very appealing, too!)
LE: One last question…some authors instill their own fears into their characters, is there any psychosis that you especially fear and will we see it in your novels?
LH: All my neuroses are in my characters!! The scene in The Vampire Shrink where Kismet shares her fear about being buried alive is mine. Her explanation about seeing the movie is true. I still give myself nightmares about being locked in a coffin and buried before I’m dead! I can’t stand being in small, tight spaces, and the idea of running out of oxygen makes my stomach hurt. And then there’s the bug thing. I’m sure that will show up in the books at some point!!
Thank you Lynda for spending some time with us.
Contest time: In the Kismet Knight series, Kismet is a licensed psychologist. She has seen it all – from UFO abductees, demonic possession, satanic cult survivors, religious cultists, attached entities, etc. and now she’s going to be dealing with the problems of the undead as well. Even the undead can fear something, but what do you fear? What psychosis/problem would make you seek help and why?
In order to enter the contest, you have to answer the question, just commenting “enter me in your contest please” won’t get you anywhere. I want to hear what you guys have to say. For me, right now, for some reason, I’ve been having fears of death. Not the dying part, but what comes after. Is there a heaven above where we can watch our survivors carry on? Or is there just nothing? I think my fear is coming from the fact that I have a 17 month old son and I want to be there to see him grow up. I’m not really sure why this came up, but something tells me all mothers have this fear at some point in their lives.
Post links to today’s interview on your blog or any other social network and you will be given an additional entry to win. Just make sure you leave a comment with a link to the post so I know you have done it.
One lucky commenter, chosen by a random number generator, will win a signed copy of the Vampire Shrink and Dark Harvest. Although the winner will have to wait until September to receive Dark Harvest since Lynda won’t have her copies until then.
The contest will run until August 4th at 10am EST, so get your entries in.