A chat with Freda Warrington, author of A Dance In Blood Velvet

I’m thrilled to have Freda Warrington on the site for the first time, and today, she’s here to talk about the lovely reissue of A Dance in Blood Velvet (Titan Books), vampires, and much, much more (including the scoop on a brand new Blood Wine book)! Please welcome her to the blog!

fredawarringtonThe gorgeous reissue of the 2nd book in the Blood Wine Sequence, A DANCE IN BLOOD VELVET, just came out! Will you tell us little about it?
Aren’t the covers lovely? Wait until you see the third! Well, the first book, A Taste of Blood Wine, told the story of Charlotte and Karl, a tale of forbidden love between human and vampire, which first I wrote in the 80s and 90s, long before such romances became a staple of vampire fiction. It’s a story complete in itself – never occurred to me to stretch the “will-they-won’t-they” over several books! – so I didn’t know there was going to be a sequel…

Then a character appeared in my head one day, a beautiful ice queen with pale skin and jet black hair. I knew she was a ballet dancer named Violette, and that she had some connection to the goddess Lilith. I couldn’t stop wondering about her and the next thing I knew, I was writing A Dance in Blood Velvet… In brief, things are fine between Karl and Charlotte until Karl’s old flame Katerina reappears on the scene, determined to reclaim her old life – and Karl. In despair, Charlotte becomes obsessed with the dancer Violette Lenoir, little guessing that her connection with Lilith is going to precipitate chaos. In addition there are two feuding occultists – the story’s set in the 1920s, when such figures as Aleister Crowley were notorious – who think they can use the vampires to their own advantage. It’s quite a complex, interwoven story full of passion and jealousy, blood-letting and moral dilemmas.

Each of the three (soon to be four) books tells a separate story, with the same core characters. And there’s a lot more going on in the narrative than the sex and blood lust!

A Dance in Blood Velvet is the book I’ve had the most plaintive emails about, because it originally went out of print and became very hard to find, a collector’s item. So do grab the brand new version now it’s available again – it’s been a long wait, so I’d like to thank my readers for their patience.

dance_in_blood_velvet_cvWhat do you enjoy most about writing the Blood Wine series, and why vampires?
Always the relationship between Charlotte and Karl – the forbidden love between a shy human girl and the dark, mysterious, irresistible stranger. Of course, when the truth comes out, that he’s a vampire, all hell breaks loose! Charlotte is faced with a lot of difficult decisions, most of them not exactly moral. Neither of them is the person they appear to be on the surface. And they don’t get an easy ride – their love comes at a very high price. As the series goes on, their relationship continues to evolve in interesting ways. I’m also totally in love with Violette, who’s crazy and impossible and wise and powerful, not to mention a genius – a spellbinding prima ballerina. Their complicated relationships are what I love.

Why vampires? Well, back in the mists of the 1980s, I wrote an early version of A Taste of Blood Wine as escapism during a difficult period of my life. I’d always found vampires fascinating, probably because my mum let me watch the Hammer Horror films starring Christopher Lee at an impressionable age! I saw them as enigmatic, intriguing outsiders, rather than as monsters, so it drove me nuts that they always had to be hunted down and staked at the end. I loved the JS LeFanu story “Carmilla” with its weirdly needy, vulnerable yet disturbing female vampire. I read “Interview with the Vampire” in the 1970s, before it became huge – I just happened to notice it in a bookstore – and loved Anne Rice’s portrayal of vampires as real people, so to speak, but I was still frustrated by the insurmountable barrier between humans and vampires. I kept wondering, what would it be like if you could break through the barriers and come to know this enigmatic creature, not as predator and prey, but as equals? So I did what I always do when I can’t find the book I want to read – I wrote it myself!

Vampires intrigue me because they are so paradoxical. They represent things we fear, like the dead coming back from the grave, but also things we might desire, such as eternal life and power. They can be frightening, sexy, complicated – anything we want them to be, really.

Why did you decide to set the series in the 1920’s and what kind of research did you do for the books?
The 1920s is a fascinating period. It was a time, overshadowed by the First World War, when the Victorian/ Edwardian world was becoming the modern world. You have that wonderful blend of old clashing with new, in fashion, society, technology, everything. The period was perfect for the story because it has atmosphere, glamour, history, modernity, women striving for equality – all of which mirrors Charlotte’s struggle to escape her family’s stifling expectations and to find out who or what she really is. Research-wise, I did lots of reading, and also visiting some of the settings, such as Cambridge and Salzburg and Boston.

tasteofbloodwineWorldbuilding is a big part of your writing, and of fantasy in general. What are a few of your favorite literary “worlds”?
Every novel, even straight fiction set in reality, creates its own world – the landscape of the writer’s imagination. You can’t beat Middle Earth for complexity and grandeur, and Narnia for magic, and Discworld for satirical chaos. I loved Ray Bradbury’s Mars, and the “Buffyverse” of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, Jacqueline Carey’s Terre d’Ange, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea. Justina Robson’s weird partially man-made worlds in Natural History and Living Next Door to the God of Love, Linda Nagata’s Memory where the planet is overcome by a dangerous silver mist every night. There are so many! I’ll think of more as soon as I send this off, I know. And I like my own otherworlds too, of course! My Blood Wine world, my Aetherial world in Elfland, and the Earth of Three Planes from my Blackbird books, which were my earliest published novels. Creating atmosphere is vital.

In your bio, it says you began writing at age 5. What is one of the first things you can remember writing?
I remember writing fairy tales, and stories with talking animals – which had to be illustrated with little pictures in coloured crayon, of course! My parents kept them in a scrapbook, so they’re probably still around somewhere!

What is your writing process like? How long does it usually take for you to complete a book from start to finish?
It varies hugely. A couple of times I’ve written a novel in three months, other times (due to life interruptions) it’s taken three years. On average, about a year – it’s not the physical writing that takes time, but the thinking and planning and rewriting. I try to plan out the plot in advance, and this helps to a limited extent, but generally I work in jigsaw fashion, writing a scene here, a chapter there, until a picture starts to emerge.

You’ve undoubtedly influenced many writers with your work, but who are some of your biggest literary influences?
Some of the books we studied at school made a lasting impression, such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles – oh, the suffering! – and Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. As a child, I went through a phase of reading and writing pony stories – remember My Friend Flicka? – and then moved on to the obvious fantasy writers such as CS Lewis and Tolkien, Alan Garner, Joy Chant. Bram Stoker, of course. But writers who had more influence on me tended to be the more off-beat ones such as Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, Michael Moorcock. ANYTHING could happen in their worlds, and usually did!

Have you read any good books recently?
Quite a few! I caught up with The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), a great read about survival and heroism, and was impressed by how closely the film had stuck to the story. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, just because I kept hearing how good it was. You think it’s a disappearance/ murder mystery, but it turns into something much more sinister and complicated about the marriage breakdown of two highly unreliable narrators. Then Six Years by Harlan Coben – my husband is a big Coben fan so I always get passed the book when he’s finished it! For something completely different, How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, a narrative mixing her life experiences with her reflections on modern feminism. It’s so funny, I kept bursting out laughing in public places (we were on our travels at the time). It’s hilarious, and true. Next up was Case Histories by Kate Atkinson – a series of interwoven family mysteries that’s more a literary study of characters and family relationships than any kind of thriller. And I like that – I love a psychological thriller, but I can’t be doing with stories that are just problem-solving, car chases and shoot-outs. At the moment I’m reading a short story anthology by Kelly Link, Magic for Beginners. What a fabulous collection of utter weirdness. Nothing is ever explained, and you don’t want it to be – here is this surreal set of happenings, like a dream, and an explanation would spoil it! Logic becomes superfluous.

darkbloodofpoppiesI’ve read that you enjoy traveling to the US and Canada, but is there anywhere else that you would really like to go someday?
I’d like to see more of Europe. My husband was sent to work in Slovenia once, and I joined him for his last ten days there – it’s the most beautiful country. We took a day trip to Venice, which wasn’t long enough, so I’d love to see Venice again. Also Switzerland – I’ve never been there, but fell in love with it while doing research for my new vampire novel, The Dark Arts of Blood. As much as I admire people who go backpacking through jungles or climbing mountains, I’m not that adventurous!

What’s next for you?
As mentioned above, there will be a brand-new fourth book in the Blood Wine sequence, The Dark Arts of Blood, which comes out from Titan in both the UK and the US in May 2015. The manuscript is with my editor, but I’m looking forward to doing some “tweaking” as I tend to do a lot of editing before I’m totally happy with the story!

All 20 (so far) of my novels have just been issued as audio books by Audible, so that’s exciting. I’m also looking at options for reissuing my older titles in e-book and in print form, particularly my alternative history take on the story of King Richard III, The Court of the Midnight King. I’m not sure yet what I’ll be writing next that’s new, though. I’m juggling a number of ideas, but I’ll have to wait and see what happens. I’m using the break to catch up with zillions of neglected everyday chores, and jotting down ideas which tend to spring up while I’m doing something mundane, like gardening… I post news and info on my website, www.fredawarrington.com, and on Facebook.

Keep up with Freda: Website

For the love of her vampire suitor, Karl, Charlotte has forsaken her human life. Now her only contact with humans is when she hunts them down to feed. Her thirst for blood repulses her but its fulfilment brings ecstasy.

The one light in the shadows is the passion that burns between her and Karl. A love that it seems will last for eternity – until Karl’s former lover, the seductively beautiful Katerina, is rescued from the Crystal Ring. For nearly fifty years she has lain, as dead, in the icy depths of the Weisskalt. Now she wants to reclaim her life … and Karl. In despair, Charlotte turns to the prima ballerina Violette Lenoir, an ice maiden who only thaws when she dances. Charlotte is fascinated as she has been by no other human, longing to bring joy to the dancer. But her obsession opens the flood-gates to a far darker threat than the vampires could ever have imagined. For Violette is more than human and if she succumbs to the vampire’s kiss it could unleash a new terror …

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