“Not in My City”
– Henry Fitzroy
I’ve just had a wonderful interview with Tanya Huff, author of the Blood Series, the source of Blood Ties. It was enlightening and just plain fun. Tanya lives in a remote area, so we planned to do the interview via Facebook. Today the weather was wonderful so we almost fell back on phone so you could enjoy her voice, but my move to a remote area of Wyoming and my of foresight in living with just a cell phone made it so I couldn’t get a trap to record at the last minute. Sooo, what I am saying is “Please forgive me. There is no audio, but Tanya’s wonderful personality definitely comes through. Enjoy our chat!
Jeannie: I am chatting with Tanya Huff today, author of the Blood Series. Welcome Tanya, and thank you so much for joining me.
Tanya: Hi! Happy to be here.
Jeannie: I love to research historical things and I love books based on little known facts that could have been. You came across a treasure in the form of Henry Fitzroy. Now, Victoria Nelson has a history minor. How did you come across the interesting history of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond?
Tanya: I was reading a history of Tudor England and there was – to my surprise – a chapter on Henry VIII’s illegitimate son. (I hadn’t known he existed.) He’d gone from being hale and hearty to wan and dead in three months, and there was some suspicion about his burial – his father-in-law smuggling his body out and burying him in an unmarked grave – and that sounded like a vampire to me.
Jeannie: lol. I loved that I was able to check him out and come to the same conclusion. It was so elegant.
Tanya: For what it’s worth, I’ve read that forensic pathologists think it was probably TB.
Jeannie: What do you think? Cover-up?
Tanya: Works for me. 🙂
Jeannie: Mwhahaha. You’ve said that you wrote the Blood Series originally because you noticed that readers of vampire books were very loyal. However, you made the daring choice to make your protagonist an early middle-aged, disabled woman rather than the vampire. What brought you to that decision?
Tanya: Stories where the vampire is the protagonist seemed limited to me. They’re really very basic sorts and everyone thinks they know everything about them. Seeing the vampire through Vicki’s eyes – as bad as her vision is – made more sense to me. Made for a more interesting story. It’s interesting though the “early middle age” thing – she’s 34, the age I was when I was writing them and from my perspective now, that seems very, very young.
Jeannie: lol – When you are my age, she is a baby. I guess I used early middle-aged as an attempt to show she wasn’t a “Charley’s Angels” type of Hollywood stereotype but a real woman and older than Henry looks. Someone the audience would see in their minds as interesting for this teenage man to fall for.
Tanya: Her disability allowed her to mirror Henry – he was denied the day, she was denied the night.
Jeannie: I love that. The mirroring Henry, I mean.
Tanya: I also needed something that would keep her from doing the job she loved but didn’t keep her from being an action hero of sorts.
Jeannie: It seems like you really thought out her character. I think she was one of the things I loved most about the books. All of your antagonists were supernatural creatures. With a wonderful protagonist like Vicki, why did you go with only supernatural baddies?
Tanya: The whole idea of the series was to use the old horror movie tropes as bad guys – demons, werewolves, mummies, Frankenstein’s monster, ghosts… if I could have come up with a plot to go with the creature from the black lagoon, I’d have used him too. It was sort of… once the door to the supernatural cracked open a bit for Vicki, it kept opening wider and wider.
Jeannie: There is still time. Which brings up a question. Is there any more life in the series?
Tanya: Oh, no. Not a book length. I was done back in the ’90s. There are continuing short stories though. I just finished one about a month ago. Sigh… not at book length.
Jeannie: Really? And, where might this story be found? I had not seen any since Blood Bank.
Tanya: It’s for an anthology that we don’t have a publication date for yet. There’s been five… I think five since Blood Bank. Eventually I’ll eCollect them.
Jeannie: You will have to let me know when. Blood Debt was the ultimate ending of the Nelson/Fitzroy duo but it is fun following their separate lives. I don’t know if I should say that. It is a little bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t read. I’ll leave it for you to decide.
Tanya: I think that after 24 years, the statute of limitation runs out on spoilers.
Jeannie: lol. Henry has a strong personality. He is quite refreshing for a vampire. He is neither a psychopath nor self-absorbed in guilt. Can you describe the process of coming up with his character?
Tanya: I don’t do angst. I really don’t. I don’t even read it. Angel [from the Buffy franchise] was about as close as I could come and I wanted to slap him on occasion. So, when I was developing Henry, I took the immortal words of the Lost Boys: “Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old, never die…it’s fun to be a vampire.”
Jeannie: But look what happened to them! Sorry. Loved that movie.
Tanya: Okay, admittedly there were flaws in the philosophy. 🙂
Jeannie: Henry is refreshing. I get really tired of morose.
Tanya: Thank you. Me too.
Jeannie: The fourth book in the series ends the question of who gets Vicki. Did you have that decided while you were writing the first book?
Tanya: I actually see it as who Vicki gets – and yes, the scene in book four where the decision is made, that was where I was aiming from the beginning. And it was set up that in this mythos two apex predators can’t share a territory (could you imagine the loss of Human life if vampires were pack animals?) so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. It did. I got more response from that than anything else in all five books, but it shouldn’t have.
Jeannie: I really liked that aspect of your books. There has to be some loss. With Henry, becoming a vampire meant losing his love. Saving Vicki meant the same thing. I thing a good story has to have loss. I thought that was a genius move because everyone else thinks, “Yay, eternal love together.”
Tanya: After a few decades, Vicki’d probably stake him herself. 🙂
Jeannie: lol – oh, yes. I can see that. Why do you feel people are interested in Vampires?
Tanya: I think it may have something to do with fear of death. Both in that vampires live forever and that they’re remarkably easy to kill under certain circumstances. They become both what we want to be and what we want to defeat. From a romance standpoint, trust is sexy and there’s no greater trust than a vampire who lets you know where they sleep, given that they can be killed by a sunlamp or a number two pencil.
Jeannie: lol. Is there a small part of you in love with Henry?
Tanya: I can’t see Henry now without seeing Kyle – who played him brilliantly – and that makes me feel like a dirty old lady, so no.
Jeannie: lol – I think Kyle looked older in my mind than Henry, but at least you knew in your heart that Henry was, what, 450.
Tanya: He’s in his 470s now. Doesn’t look a day over 325.
Jeannie: He uses good moisturizer. Speaking of which, I noticed that, in the artwork on the paperback, Henry really reminds me of Kyle, whereas Victoria doesn’t remind me much of Christine. Was that artwork done before they were cast? The publishing dates listed imply they were.
Tanya: Is that the trade edition? They’re a recent reprint. The original art didn’t look like either actor. Of course, there was also the show edition, which used promo shots OF the actors.
Jeannie: That just reminds me of Kyle.
Tanya: Yes, those are the recent trade editions. The idea was to remind people of the actors but not to tie the books to their actual images.
Jeannie: It worked. Other than Henry, who is your favorite vampire?
Tanya: Chelsea Quinn Yarbo’s Saint-Germain.
Jeannie: Oh dear, I have to check that one out now. Most authors would give their non-dominant hand for the opportunity to have their book picked up as a TV series or movie. You had that opportunity with Blood Ties. I personally worry about that happening because of loss of control. I believe you wrote “Stone Cold,” but how much input did you have into the rest of the series?
Tanya: Not much. The writer’s room would contact me if they were unclear on a detail and Kaleidoscope Productions were very good about keeping me in the information loop but when you sell a book to another media, unless you negotiate an executive producer position, you give them the right to do what they want. If the book is your child, the show is your grandchild and every grandparent knows that if you want a good relationship with your grandchildren, you don’t complain about how they’re being raised. My books weren’t changed. They’re still on the shelf, exactly how they were. Their universe has just gotten a little broader.
Jeannie: Did you feel any sense of loss over changes that the producers made in your characters?
Tanya: No. I wish I’d thought of using Colleen as a reoccurring character.
Jeannie: In your books, there is a love relationship between Victoria and Henry, which only reaches a level of tension in the TV series. Do you feel that the missing aspect hurts the story?
Tanya: We were hoping for more than one season so the emotional arcs were set up so as not to spend it all in season one.
Jeannie: Ah, but at the end of season one, Henry was getting ready to switch cities. Were there any plans for him to remain?
Tanya: I honestly have no idea what Peter Mohan, our showrunner, had planned, but I’m fairly confident that Henry would have been back fairly quickly had he actually left.
Jeannie: I do understand though wanting to spread it out. It is too bad it wasn’t picked up for another season. Do you have any idea why it was cancelled?
Tanya: The ways of networks are mysterious to mere mortals.
Jeannie: And apparently to vampires as well. Did you get to work with Christina Cox, Kyle Schmid, Dylan Neal, and Gina Holden at all?
Tanya: I was on set when they shot “Stone Cold,” and went back to Vancouver for the wrap party but writers don’t work with the actors. They’re tucked in a dark room writing two or three episodes ahead while shooting is going on. I was thrilled to meet them all though. I think they did an amazing job and I was very, very lucky with the casting.
Jeannie: Yes, it did have great casting. Which episode do you feel was most true to the characters you created?
Tanya: I loved the episode with the incubus – although it’s been 8 years and I can’t remember what it was called.
Jeannie: I know the one. I loved that the incubus wasn’t the murderer. I think that was “Love Hurts.”
Tanya: It had a great sense of humour.
Jeannie: And fantastic tension between Mike and Henry. On April 8, 2010, The Hollywood Reporter announced “New vampire series based on books by Canadian Tanya Huff,” stating that Fremantle and Kaleidoscope were shopping “Smoke & Mirrors” as a possible Canadian-European co-production. Did that happen or not? If not, any idea what occurred?
Tanya: It didn’t happen but I don’t know why. Lots of stuff gets shopped that never gets made. The Blood Series were under option for years before Kaleidoscope picked them up.
Jeannie: I had never heard of the Smoke Trilogy before, although I knew about Tony from the Blood Series. You learn lots of interesting things when you get ready for an interview. At least I do.
Jeannie: Have you ever co-authored books?
Tanya: No. I don’t have the temperament to work well with others.
Jeannie: lol. I saw your name connected a couple of times – must have been with anthologies. I thought, “If I had to co-author, I’d do a Henry.” In “Heart of Ice,” he said, “every once in a while, somebody’s going to die.”
Tanya: I co-edited Women at War with Alex Potter. That might have been what you saw.
Jeannie: That was it.
Tanya: Women of War? It’s been a while.
Jeannie: Hey, I’m worse that a security check. Did you check my website for you books? lol. Living with another author can be difficult. My next-door neighbor says she never sees me and has to knock occasionally to make sure I am still alive. And, I am not published yet. You are a prolific author living with another busy author. How does that work?
Tanya: We each have our own offices. I work from one to six every afternoon – more if I’m deadlining – and the beloved works around her day job. She’s a lot more social than I am so needs to be out of the house. If it weren’t for her though, people would definitely be checking to see if I was still alive.
Jeannie: Haha. Do you ever find yourselves comparing each other’s careers?
Tanya: No. We’d like to stay married.
Jeannie: lol – Love it. Are you each other’s beta readers?
Tanya: Only for short stories. Novels take too much time.
Jeannie: I kind of thought that. You are both so busy. As writers, we are told to do a lot of our own publicity, so I have a few questions on that. Do you have a website? I couldn’t find one although I did come across a blog.
Tanya: No. I have an lj that I blog on occasionally and a Twitter that I’m on fairly often and Facebook that picks up my Twitter feed. That seems like enough of me on the internet.
Jeannie: lj? Live Journal?
Tanya: Yes. I’m old school.
Jeannie: lol. Do you do book tours?
Jeannie: Oh, that was quick. Has your publisher ever tried to talk you into one?
Tanya: No. If they wanted me to do one I would, but they’ve never mentioned it.
Jeannie: Do you go to Comic-Cons or other fan-based conferences?
Jeannie: See, you have an active social life. Looking at your timeline, you have worked on more than one series simultaneously. How do you do that? I cannot imagine it!
Tanya: Ish. I’ve never written two books at once so what happens is I finish a book, tell the story I have to tell, and move on to the next one. It’s just worked out that sometimes those stories shift from series to series.
Jeannie: How do you keep the worlds and the characters separate?
Tanya: I’m very good at compartmentalizing. Not good enough to write two books at once, mind you…
Jeannie: I guess! To jump from one world, to another, write that book, then jump back to the first world. It boggles my mind. Do you have to re-submerge yourself?
Tanya: I have to research my own series, yes. But, I make lots of notes as I go.
Jeannie: Do you ever catch yourself crossing worlds?
Jeannie: I bow to you.
Jeannie: You have had many books translated into foreign languages. Which country are you most popular in other than Canada, Britain, or the United States?
Tanya: I suspect, probably Germany. I’m fairly popular in Sweden but they read the US editions.
Jeannie: Really? Interesting. Do you have any idea what sort of readership you have in these countries?
Tanya: No. Other than loyal.
Jeannie: Loyal is good! I’ll have to check your hits on the interview. I get quite a few visitors from Europe, so it will be interesting. Have you traveled to any of these countries for conferences?
Tanya: I’ve been to Germany, Italy, England, and Scotland.
Jeannie: So you have been able to meet some of your foreign fans.
Jeannie: That is fantastic. Did you have a translator?
Tanya: Only in Scotland. Kidding. Most people outside of North America speak more than one language so I had very little difficulty. In Italy, the translator for my books also translated my presentation for the benefit of anyone in the audience who didn’t speak English but there was only about half a dozen of them. One on one with fans was, well, one on one.
Jeannie: You weren’t kidding about Scotland. I used to live in England and the one friend I had problems understand was a Scot. When I visited the country, I just shook my head a lot. Although the Blood Series take place in our world, other books of yours are in very different worlds. Can you describe your process of world building?
Tanya: I pick a technology level, and a geography – everything else stems from that. How they live, what they eat, what they wear.
Jeannie: An organic, logical flow then.
Tanya: Everything else is there to support the story.
Jeannie: I notice we have something in common. We both served in the military. Did that serve as a base for constructing the world of the Valor Series?
Tanya: I was Canadian Naval Reserve (RCNVR) and yes. Facts can be picked up in a number of places, but I think having served helps get the attitude right.
Jeannie: Do you use any writing tools other than Word?
Tanya: Actually, I work in Open Office. I also write all my research notes by hand on the backs of old galleys because I type too fast for them to make it out of short-term memory. Oh. And recent galleys are PDF so that’s something else.
Tanya: And I talk to myself. A lot.
Jeannie: For anyone who doesn’t know, Open Office is a great, and free, substitute for Microsoft Office. Can you remember what you tell yourself? lol
Tanya: Does everything Microsoft Office does.
Jeannie: Yep. And again, free.
Tanya: There’s occasional profanity…
Jeannie: lol – on bad days, huh?
Tanya: Okay. Sure. 🙂
Jeannie: Do you have any advice to new authors about getting agents and/or becoming published?
Tanya: Read. Read in genre and out. Read critically. And then write. Eventually you’ll write something that other people want to pay for. It sounds facetious, but it’s really as simple as that. Don’t give up. Someone on my Facebook list just posted he sold a story that had been rejected nine times. Be polite. Be professional. It’s not that big a business, and most of the players know each other.
Jeannie: That is a great point. One last question, Tanya. Who is your least favorite vampire? And why?
Tanya: I honestly haven’t read much of the recent stuff and if I don’t like something, I don’t keep reading it. It strikes me that most of the recent, popular vampire fiction isn’t aimed at my demographic.
Jeannie: You know how to treasure your time.
Tanya: Lots of books, so little time.
Jeannie: Tanya, do you have anything you would like to add, anything you would like to say?
Tanya: Hmmm… well, I could make a pitch for the new books (the Quarters series in ebooks beginning Aug 4th & a new Torin Kerr book in October) but that seems a little commercial. Or, I could say how great my readers are but they all know that… so, no. I’m good.
Jeannie: lol. A pitch is, of course, fine. And, it is not a pitch. It is exciting news to your fans. The new book is a spin off and the beginning of a new series, isn’t it?
Tanya: Yes, it’s technically book six of the Torin Kerr books because the emotional story arc works better if you start from the beginning (Valor’s Choice) but as it’s definitely not a Valor book. It’s the beginning of something new. The Peacekeepers. There’ll be three of them. I’m working on book two now. Literally now. Well, while you’re typing I’ve been flagging research pages in Valor’s Trial. Oh, I should probably mention that the first Peacekeeper book is called An Ancient Peace.
Jeannie: lol – multitasking! And it is due in October. I’ll put in the link for advance sales at Amazon. Right?
Tanya: Thank you. That would be great.
Jeannie: Or is there a better link I should include?
Tanya: No, Amazon is fine. They’re the biggie. Although, I’m highly in favour of people supporting their local independent bookstores. They’re just harder to link to.
Jeannie: So true. But, do support your local bookstores. They are our treasuries. Thank you so much for being such a gracious and fun guest. I have been talking with Tanya Huff, author of the Blood Series and many, many other delightful books including the upcoming An Ancient Peace. Thank you so much for having joined us.
Check out the upcoming Kindle Releases of Tanya’s Quarter Series as well as her brand new book An Ancient Peace. They can be pre-ordered through the links below or through your bookstores.