Monday, September 28, 2015

Gangsters and Vampires: A Chat With Brian McKinley

Today I'd like to introduce you to Brian McKinley, an author from New Jersey who's written a novel with an interesting take on the vampire genre.

In Drawing Dead the world of the gangster is written very well. The two worlds (gangster and vampire) merge seamlessly. Had you done a lot of research on the gangster culture of the time?
Thank you, first of all. To answer: yes. I’ve always been a fan of gangster movies and novels, and had wanted to write a gangster movie about the 20s/30s that was more reality-based and factual than most were. Faolan was actually going to be the main character in that story as a human mobster.

Which came first: The desire to write a vampire novel using gangsters or a gangster novel using vampires? In other words, were the two separate interests that merged or did one inspire research on the other?
Well, Faolan began as the antagonist of another novel called The Chermasu and, the more scenes with him that I wrote, the more I liked him and didn’t want to kill him off. So I started changing the plot to allow him to live, but that still wasn’t quite enough. Then a friend of mine suggested that I write a novel about Faolan and I decided that I wanted to start from the beginning. That started the idea of making a series about his rise to power. So I suppose the vampire came first, but the attraction of telling Faolan’s story lay in his gangster roots.

When/how did you become interested in vampires?
Wow, probably back when I was very young. I used to watch the classic Universal movies on TV and loved them (though at the time my favorite was Frankenstein’s Monster). I don’t think it was until I read Interview with the Vampire in high school that the idea of a vampire protagonist really hit me. I still didn’t start writing about vampires for many years later, when I started being inspired to use some of my roleplaying characters in my fiction.

In terms of the genre, what book do you consider over rated and what book do you think should have more popularity?
I’m going to avoid the obvious Twilight, because that’s too easy. I actually don’t think that much of Dracula as a novel, considering the cultural impact that it’s had. The characters are iconic, but the book itself is badly-paced and episodic. As for which book I think should be more popular (aside from my own!)...

Who are some of your favorite authors?
George R.R. Martin, Jim Butcher, P.N. Elrod, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Thomas Harris.

When/how did the writing bug bite you?
I remember writing stories for my grandparents from the time that I could put sentences together. I always loved making up stories and creating worlds.

Anyone else in your family interested in writing?
Not really. I have a few relatives who read, but I seem to be a bit of a rarity.

You have in the past mentioned your battles with depression. Can you explain how this has affected your writing (alternatively, if writing has helped with the depression)?
It’s definitely effected my writing, but mostly as a detriment. My depressive episodes tend to sap my energy, focus, and motivation, so I might think about my story, but I don’t get any writing done. Occasionally, I’ve managed to force myself to write while depressed and I usually feel better afterwards, but that never makes it easier to get started.

Would you ever try writing outside the vampire genre?
Absolutely. I started off writing psychological thrillers, but I’ve always had an interest in historical fiction as well as sci-fi. I have an idea for a sci-fi series, but I’ve been sticking with the vampire books for the moment because I feel like I need to establish myself in one genre before expanding into others.

Is Drawing Dead the first book in a continuing series or only one in a set number of sequels planned?
As I mentioned, I plan it as the first in a series that will span the 20th Century and up to the present with each book taking place in a different decade. I want to try to reflect what’s happening in America with what’s happening with the characters.

What is Drawing Dead about?
In essence, it’s about a terrible human being who, by turning into a “monster”, actually becomes a better person. That’s contrasted by his quest to be a success in the vampire society, despite tremendous odds against him.

You have another novel out there, don’t you? What's the title and plot of that one?
Well, Ancient Blood is only out there as an audiobook currently, but I’m planning to re-release that one. AB takes place in the same universe as Drawing Dead, but in the modern day. It’s the story of Avery, a vampire fanboy who becomes a real vampire, and is forced to deal with the ruling council and their politics.

Do you have any sort of routine for when you write: Favorite music you listen to, a particular time you prefer to write?
I try to make myself write whenever I have time, but it seems to work best if I isolate myself away from TV or the internet. I do a lot of writing in restaurants, especially a truck stop near me that has a good buffet and no internet. I also like music and I tend to create playlists for different characters that help me get into their headspace. I don’t have any real writing rituals, though.

What are some of your favorites in books, movies and TV?
I’m watching a lot more TV shows than I used to, since it seems like the quality of cable and even network dramas are improving. "Penny Dreadful," "Game of Thrones," "Hannibal," "Walking Dead," "Rome," "Boardwalk Empire," "Blacklist," and all those CW super-hero shows. Most of my favorite movies are older now, things like "Goodfellas," "The Godfather," "Silence of the Lambs," "Princess Bride," "Young Frankenstein," "Pulp Fiction," and such, but I like a lot of the new Marvel movies, too.

Have you ever written anything that afterward surprised you? Perhaps after a reading it you recognized a hidden subtext that you didn’t realize was there?
I can’t really think of anything, because I tend to obsess and struggle over every scene as I write it so everything in there is usually deliberate. However, I have still been surprised sometimes by things that other people will see in my writing. Sometimes I see what they mean afterwards and sometimes it baffles me because it wasn’t at all what I intended.

Who would you like to see play the characters in a movie.
Is it ridiculous that I think about that stuff a lot? It’s kind of a difficult decision because I know enough about the movie business to understand that who I’d want and who would actually be possible to cast are very different. A lot of the actors I originally pictured in these roles are now way too old to be appropriate. Then there are certain actors who might perfectly capture the essence of a character but not look anything like what I describe in my novel. I may open this up as a contest in the future and see what others think.

What do you like best and like least about the marketing process?
You’re kidding, right? I enjoy doing interviews like this and talking casually about my work, but I absolutely hate trying to “sell” it. Even though I believe in what I’ve done completely, I’d much rather have other people say good things about it. I’ve still never done any sort of ad or post about my books that didn’t make me feel a little cheesy.

Any future projects you can tell us about?
Sure. Right now I’m working on the sequel to Drawing Dead which will probably be called Drawing Thin. I’ve got a bunch of pages written for the sequel to Ancient Blood, but I still have the second half of that to write. I’d also like to revisit The Chermasu and try to make that work.


  1. Fun interview. I WILL be adding your books to my list Brian.

    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm always worried about giving boring interviews.