Interviewed by Ann Wilkes
EE Knight has your basic rags to ... well, pro writer ... story.
And now he's definitely on a roll with his meal ticket, the Vampire Earth
series. Here's what the Vampire Earth
website has to say of the series:
Our World is Under New Management.
A legendary terror has reentered Earth, establishing a New Order
built on harvesting human souls. They smashed our society, altered our climate,
and enslaved much of the population that survived their apocalyptic takeover.
Vampire Earth is a series of novels by E.E. Knight. They follow
the life of David Valentine, from his youth as a young soldier fighting against
the evil which has stolen humanity's future. Valentine grows to manhood
defending the embattled freeholds, the remaining islands of sanity from the
madness of the grotesque Kurian Order.
When he's not writing, EE Knight is gaming, reading, traveling,
listening to good tunes or watching movies. He also digs speaking at
conventions and libraries and teaching here and there. Now, let's get to know
him a bit better...
Wilkes: "The market is flooded with
vampires, zombies and werewolves. What makes your vampires special? What is
your vampire canon?"
Knight: "by canon you mean books that I
drew on for my mythos, some of my favorite books include the Lumley Necroscope
series, [John] Steakley's Vampires, and
works by Richard Matheson and Stephen King.
With my vampire canon, I took the traditional powers of the
creature and divided them into physical and mental. All the mental powers went to my ancient,
virtually-immortal (thanks to their vampiric lifestyle) aliens - the
Kurians. The Kurians look like an
octopus combined with a bat, or maybe a living, misshapen umbrella with a lot
of eyes at the top. They can appear to
shapeshift (it's an illusion though; they might be able to make themselves look
like a wolf, but they can't bite like one).
They also have a psychic link with their subordinates. Physically, they're weak -- if you or I could
get it on the floor we could stomp it to death fairly easily.
Each Kurian animates a handful of "Reapers." These are
the physical side of the creature. They
come out at night because sunlight interferes with the mind-to-mind
communication of the Kurian and their Reapers (sunlight doesn't kill them; they
just aren't as effective and can go stupid without their master puppeting
them). Reapers are tall, bony,
human-looking, with nasty fangs and long, clawed fingers. When a Kurian wishes to speak to a human he
does it through a Reaper. They're fast,
tough and wear thick robes of bullet-proof material. They live off the blood of humans, whereas
the Kurian connected to the Reaper gets psychic energy from the fear and agony
of the victim -- soul sucking, if you will.
Sometimes a Kurian will torment a victim for a while before killing it,
as a chef might add spice and sauce to a dish, the human's emotional state adds
flavor. The system's rather like a
James Bond movie, you know how Bond always has to deal with the villain of the
movie, plus the villain's tough "Oddjob" type indestructible
Wilkes: "What does military life look like
in your Vampire Earth series?"
Knight: "It varies from region to region,
as you see in the books. My hero, Val,
comes from one of the larger, better-organized freeholds fighting the vampires
(I loosely based it on Tito's anti-Germans in Yugoslavia, a partisan army which not only had
military formations but functioning hospitals, schools, and so on)."
Wilkes: "Have you served in the military
Knight: "No, I was lucky enough to be the
first male in the family to turn 18 without his country being in the middle of
a war. My dad and the other veterans
said I'd be better off going to college."
Wilkes: "I love Daphne DuMaurier too. What is your favorite book by her and why?"
Knight: "I like Rebecca a lot, but the one
I read more than any other is "The Birds" in the Don't Look Now
collection. It's darker and lonelier
than the Hitchcock version. I admire
DuMaurier for her perfect pacing, the stories seem to really move along, but
she takes her time, if that makes any sense."
Wilkes: "How about Stephen King?"
Knight: "I started reading him in the 70s,
I was one of the first generation "The Stand" fanatics. Even his minor characters seem so real, it
makes everything in his books seem possible."
Wilkes: "How has Louis L'Amour influenced
Knight: "He knew how to create a hero. They were almost always tough, competent,
intelligent men, and through much of the story they were using all their skills
to avoid trouble and reduce conflict.
Bad actors and events would finally overtake them, and they'd do what
they had to do to survive."
Wilkes: "What do you mean by bad actors
Knight: "With Louis L'Amour, like a lot of
great classic westerns (think Shane),
the hero often goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid conflict. By "bad actors" I mean the villains
of the piece. Events could mean anything from a range war spiraling out of
control to the Indian War the hero's been trying to prevent starting
anyway. For example, in L'Amour's Shalako, Shalako Carlin has found a
party of rich, treaty-breaking upper-class hunters on Apache lands and is
trying to get them out to preserve the treaty -- if the outraged Apache's kill
Senator so-and-so and Baron Von Whoozis and Lord Whatever, it means another
Apache war. The twist is the hunters are
actually hoping to start a little dust up with the Apaches, they're sure their
skill with guns and the superiority of their rifles will allow them to prevail
over a handfull of Indians.
Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven
is in this vein, but with a twist, that being Clint's character was one of
those villains in his youth."
Wilkes: "What kept you going when you
doubted your ability to make it as an author?"
Knight: "As I was trying to get published,
I was working in a series of not-too-interesting jobs. The way I looked at it, writing, even with
zero chance of getting published, was an outlet for my imagination and
creativity. Otherwise I might end up just drinking my nights away in a bar
slumped in front of the TV."
Wilkes: "Are your books easy to get into if
we start in the middle of the series? Or
should readers only start with the first book?"
Knight: "The first book, Way of the Wolf, gives the most
background to the world. I write in
little three book mini-cycles with like titles, so it'd be best for a newbie to
jump in with Wolf, or Valentine's Rising, or Fall With Honor."
Wilkes: "What do you think is the appeal
for a long genre series?"
Knight: "In sf/fantasy, it tends to be
either a character or set of characters that the readers love and want to see
in new situations, or a world they enjoy returning to because it's alive in
their minds. I try and do both."
Wilkes: "Does a day ever go by when you're
not thinking about one or another of your characters -- not including during
your writing time."
Knight: "Yeah, that's just it. When you're a storyteller, a line of dialogue
or a situation or a character might pop into your imagination any time, so you
have to be ready to drop whatever you're doing and jot it down while it's fresh
in your mind. I'm not one of those
authors who has conversations and arguments with my characters. To me, they're
more like historical figures and I'm trying to get the biography right."
MilSciFi: "Thank you both for your time"