Today I'm interviewing Tony-Paul de Vissage. Please tell us about yourself?
Tony-Paul: My people came from France; some were Huguenot and fled to Great Britain where they anglicized their family name before coming to the colonies. The others were from Alsace-Lorraine when it was part of France. Eventually, both sections of mon famille settled in the South, so I’m a Southerner on both sides. I was born in Georgia but I consider myself a Creole and New Orleans my spiritual home.
I graduated from a private denominational college and have a degree in English, Art, and Drama. When I was in college, I was active in drama and always got the “outré” roles, such as “Death” in The Thracian Horses and assorted dead bodies and such which were important to the script but didn’t have any lines. I once spent an entire act on stage pretending to be in a coma!
Janice: Too bad about the death and comma scenes, but I guess someone had to play them?
So do you feel close to your French roots?
Janice: When did you start writing?
Tony-Paul: When I was in college, I handled the “theatre beat” for the campus paper, and contributed to the literary magazine. Once I got an opportunity to get a look at a novel one of the professors was working on. I thought to myself, “I can write better than that,” so I gave it a try. Immodest as it may sound, I think I was right!
Janice: Good for you.
Please tell us who was the biggest influence on your writing?
Tony-Paul: I had two college professors who made literature so exciting, I loved going to class! One taught Shakespeare and Chaucer and he made us think about what they wrote. He was always assigning me to research things, such as how to tell male devils from female devils in Dante’s Inferno and whether or not the Wife of Bath was really a black widow serial killer. Oh, want to know how to tell the devils apart? Male devils have horns and tails and females have hooves. Does that make Satan a hermaphrodite?
Janice: Lol, I guess it does.
Tony-Paul: I also had a cousin who liked to read my manuscripts. I’m now estranged from mon famille but I’ve often wondered if she sees my stories listed and thinks, “I remember reading that one.”
Janice: That's too bad, but I bet anything your cousin does wonder and I bet he/she is happy for you.
How do you go about your writing? Do your prefer pencils to pens or is it all straight computer work?
Tony-Paul: Mon Dieu, for an auteur, I have the terrible handwriting. I marvel at how beautiful people used to write when they used quills but even with a gel pen, my scribble is tantamount to a poulet scratching in the dirt looking for something to eat. After it gets cold, even I can’t read it. So I go straight to the keyboard, pound away for as long as it takes, save it, then come back later and edit, edit, edit!!!
Janice: Ah, yes I do that too. And there is no writing without editing.
What influences you in your writing? Music, movies, reading, or straight research?
Tony-Paul: Since I write horror, I’ve been influenced very much by horror flicks, novels, and lately, TV series. I do like a good horror movie…not necessarily slash/dice/blood/gore but one with a non-run of the mill storyline, a neat twist, a couple of memorable characters. I like to take an old story and make it different somehow. As for research, I usually get the story and then do the research on it. I’m a stickler for accuracy and try to have all my facts verified if possible because I have this fear that there’s some nit-picker out there who’s just going to be looking for a mistake.
Janice: That's great, and all that attention to detail will make your writing stand out, too.
When do you write morning or evening? Or are you a late into the wee hours of the morning person?
Tony-Paul: I've always been of the opinion that the hours from 6 AM to Noon should be outlawed (and many of my characters espouse this same belief), so I’m definitely an afternoon and evening person. I’m lucky if I’m conscious before 11 AM!
Janice: Ah, a writer after my own heart, lol.
Who's in charge you or your muse?
Tony-Paul: Moi! I’m the boss! La Muse and I arm-wrestled for the title and I won. The winner and still champion. Of course, when you consider that a Muse is a delicate and temperamental little creature, that may not seem like such a victory but I have it on good authority, those little mademoiselles can be fickle if you don’t show them who’s boss upfront!
Janice: Good for you. I had to lock mine in a bird cage because she ran off so much.
Use only one word to describe your writing style? Or at least what you want your readers to take away from your writing.
Tony-Paul: That’s easy: Que fait reflechir. Sorry, I mean thought-provoking. (Are hyphens allowed?)
Janice: For you I'll make the exception.
What influenced your recent book, the one you are promoting here today?
Tony-Paul: My new book hasn’t been released yet but it’s one I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Have you ever heard of PMLE or XP? Those are two genetic diseases in which a person’s DNA can’t repair the damage to the skin done by ultraviolet light. There’s no cure for it and the afflicted can never go out in the daytime unless they’re covered from head-to-toe in many protective layers.
There was a recent episode of CSI: Miami in which the killer had PMLE and couldn’t go out in sunlight. They lured him to headquarters and the next day, he looked as if he was cooked and that was how they caught him.
My mother had PMLE and would get second –degree burns if she was touched by the sun. I remember once, she stepped out on our back porch at 6 PM with the sun on the far side of the house and was burned by the heat radiating off the sidewalk.
She used to joke that she was a vampire and that got me to thinking: What if the vampire legend was started back in the superstitious, ignorant past when someone suffering from PMLE or XP, someone who couldn’t walk in daylight and had to hide away, was believed to be an evil spirit cursed by God? In a minute, my imagination was up and running, and the Second Species was born.
I made my “vampires” have human characteristics. They eat food, drink wine—none of that “I neffer drink…vine” business for them—live, love, suffer jealousy, fear, and want revenge. They have a government and a religion just like everyone else but they hide themselves away because they fear the First Species—Mankind. Those who live among humans have to do it in disguise; always afraid they’ll be discovered and killed. They do have some of the characteristic of vampires and they have extended lifespans but they never make anyone like themselves because that is against their Laws and anyone who breaks the Law pays the price.
The premise behind The Shadow Lord, the first volume in the series, is that the Prince’s assassin—the one sent to punish those who break the Law—is murdered and his children kidnapped. His eldest son seeks revenge, leaving Transylvania to track the killer across 18th-century Europe.
Janice: That is too bad about your mother. But I find it interesting that you took her condition and turned it into an idea for a book. Good for you.
Okay, now that Tony-Paul has peaked your interest let's have a peek at The Shadow Lord. By the when I read this excerpt it made me shudder. *shudder*
Though the sun had been down for many hours, Elsabeta Suvoi was still abed. Her lover liked it that way, wanting his woman where she was convenient whenever his lust seized him.
Elsabeta was slavishly in love with Mircea Ravagiu; he was violent and insatiable, as cruel in bed as out of it, but she worshipped him. It had been so from the moment they'd met. With the greatest reluctance, her father had invited him to a banchet and she'd taken one look at the darkly handsome, black-eyed warrior, saw the lustful gleam in his eyes, and left with him that night against her parents' wishes, sullying the Suvoi name to become his iubita.
He never spoke aloud that he loved her, though often he praised her body for the satisfaction it gave him, said straightaway she should never expect marriage or offspring, but Elsabeta was from a family of women who were mere chattels to their males so she accepted his domination without argument. Running away with Mircea had been her one independent act.
At first horrified by the bloody orgies and attacks upon the deomi--the humans who lived on the edges of his estate--she now ignored his rapaciousness, letting his prowess in bed and his brutal little games distract her. When her lover and his soldati returned from one of their hunts, she would lock herself in her bedchamber to drown out the screams coming from below.
It was the cries of the children which cut most into her soul, and at those times, she thanked the Oracle that Ravagiu had sworn he'd never get her with child, for it came into her mind that--had it happened--her own infant might become one of those shrieking out its life in the castel banquet chamber.
To Elsabeta, Mircea Ravagiu was like one of the dreadful Ancient Gods who ate its own offspring, and she believed he wouldn't hesitate to rip out his own child's throat and drink its blood should the thought come to him, and yet--with that perversity Nature renders some--she loved the man and never thought to leave him.
She was jerked from her semi-slumber by the chamber door being kicked open, sat up to stare at the figure in the doorway...Mircea, upper body bare, wings hovering around him. They were still quivering, evidence he'd flown rapidly and had just landed. From where she sat, she could hear his harsh panting.
He held something in his arms.
"Get dressed." No words of greeting or love. Just an order.
"Why? What's the matter?" A crash of sound came through the doorway, voices crying. "What's that noise?"
"My men are disposing of the vanjosi." He answered as calmly as if he were merely announcing that the moon had risen. "Strigoi's freak is on his way here and we have to go."
"You should've expected this." She dared to remind him of what he'd done, though she knew it might jeopardize her own life. "Did you think you could slaughter his family and he wouldn't retaliate?"
She's been horrified when he returned from his brother's castel announcing they'd been executed by the Prince's Taietor, didn't believe it when he said he planned to kill the Shadow Lord and his family. She hadn't thought he could succeed and waited to be told he was dead--resigned to losing him and living the rest of her days as an outcast for the choice she'd made...and then, he'd returned, bloodily triumphant...and Janos Strigoi and his wife were dead and their children carried away, to be tortured before their blood nourished their father's enemy.
"I never thought that book-bound scholastic would have balls enough to take a sword in his hands!" He stalked into the room. The sounds from below got louder, women screaming, men shouting, voices abruptly cut off to be replaced by others just as terrified. "Get up or you'll join my servants!"
Sliding from the bed, she hastened to obey but as she reached for her chemise and overskirt, he said, "We're flying. Make certain your wings are unhampered," and the bundle he held suddenly moved.
It began to squirm, kicking itself out of the swathing blanket--a plump little leg, an arm...
...a baby, a little girl-child.
She looked so tiny and out of place in Mircea's deadly embrace.
"Dear one!" Elsabeta stopped with the garment in her hands. "W-who's that?"
A sick dread twisted inside her.
"My daughter." His answer was as short as if he'd bitten the word. "Now."
Daughter? How could he have a child? Hadn't he told her he wished no brats, that the only thing he wanted from them was their sweet, immortality-laden blood?
Shrugging her wings out of their concealing pouches, she peered at the infant who turned her head and held out her hands with a little whimper. The child was blonde and blue-eyed, not quite a year old.
This is Janos Strigoi's child.
Elsabeta's heart felt as if it had been wrung dry.
"What are you going to do with her?" Even as she asked the question, she knew she had to prevent it. If she had to risk her own life and finally brave Mircea's wrath, she couldn't let him harm this child.
"'Twill be fitting, don't you think?" His laugh was harsh. "Raising the Shadow Lord's brat as my own, teaching her how to be a Ravagiu and some day...letting the survivors know--"
"No! Please--" A woman's scream floated up to them, dying away to a bloody wail.
"Are you ready?" He thrust the child into her arms. Elsabeta cuddled it against her naked breast, holding the little body tightly. All she could think was that she was going to do her utmost to protect this baby.
If it kills me.
He held out his hand.
She placed her own in it, asking, "Where are we going?" as he led her toward the window.
"I'm fortunate my brother saw fit to have holdings in other countries and I've traveled to them." One fist struck the shutters, sending them flying. He stepped upon the sill. "We're going to Budapest. Hold tight to the brat. If you drop her, I'll kill you!"
He flung himself through the window into the air and Elsabeta followed, clutching the child.
Releasing her hand, Mircea circled and rose swiftly upward, his body completing a graceful curve as he aimed himself over the trees, Elsabeta trailing after him.
Below them, the killings continued for another hour.
(The Shadow Lord will be released by Red Rose Publishing. Date to be announced.)