Hi Lee. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Hello, thank you for having me on Fang-tastic Books. My name is Lee Rudnicki, I’m an LA-based writer and film producer. I’m also an entertainment lawyer, drummer, music producer and rabid 49ers fan blah blah blah.
I also have little to no ability to cook, I think I’m better at video football than I really am, and I recommend against fighting wild chimpanzees without body armor or at least a really big stick. I also reserve the right to put a ridiculous statement or two in this interview, in the interest of making it fun and informative for your readers.
Fair enough. So, what is My Immortal?
My Immortal is a supernatural action adventure, set in present day Berlin, and also on the last day of World War II. Structurally, the book is like Titanic; present day scenes serve as bookends to a tale from the past.
I should say one thing up front.
My Immortal is not a teen vampire romance, or anything even close to that genre. Nobody is going to the prom. This particular vampire story is filled with intense violence and adult language and situations, and most of it takes set in the middle of one of the most terrible and bloody wars the world has ever seen. This is not meant for little kids or the faint of heart. Reader discretion advised.
What inspired you to write My Immortal?
My Immortal wasn’t really a product of inspiration, the creative process was more the mysterious journey of a novel that brought itself to life.
What do you mean? How did this inspiration come about?
Well, let's start from the top. In the case of the My Immortal, the screenplay came first. Which is the reverse of the usual creative process in the rest of the Free World, and most of North Korea.
You see, a few years ago, I wrote the screenplay in the UCLA professional screenwriting program. When the program was over, I entered the script in the Terror Film Festival, and promptly won the best screenplay award. I was feeling great about it, but months later, the reality of getting a new World War II screenplay read in Hollywood set in.
Sight unseen, My Immortal was perceived as just another expensive so-called period piece. In fact, the first agent I spoke to about the script literally laughed out loud when I said “World War II.” Even though My Immortal was different than anything I had ever seen in the genre, there was a wacky barrier to entry based on the time period and mistaken assumptions, so people were not reading it.
Plan B. As a producer, I had to find a way to introduce My Immortal to people that did not involve putting it under a stack of 700 scripts and hoping for the best.
Long story short, I decided to write the novel. Frankly, the reality took longer and was far more difficult than the theory. In fact, I probably never would’ve started writing a novel had I known how [bleep] hard it was going to be. Those of you have written a novel know exactly what I’m talking about.
The good news is, writing the novel unexpectedly transformed the My Immortal story (and screenplay) into something better, more vibrant and more dynamic than the original, and it also turned out to be a fantastic creative experience that helped the development of the film immensely.
As the story goes, I self-published My Immortal last year. The novel took off, and I was lucky enough to get a book-signing event in Burbank, CA, at the horror bookstore Dark Delicacies, paired with famous author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.
Kaboom. Lightening struck. Entertainment Weekly Magazine surveyed Dark Delicacies and ranked My Immortal #3 for best selling horror fiction in the April 11, 2011 issue. Shortly thereafter, I signed with 23 House, the publisher that really understood the creative direction of the project.
Voila. Here we are.
Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?
I tend to go by a rule of screenwriting pragmatism; each character’s name should start with a different letter. That way, readers will tend not to confuse characters during a quick first read (which is all you may get). For this novel, the challenge for the 1945 portion was to find German names that were time-period appropriate, but also not be so strange to American ears. Sebastian and Wolf turned out to be great solutions. And of course, there is Pig Face. Most people’s favorite character names are Rodika, Zina and Dumitra, the seductive but murderous vampire assassins who were sent to rescue Eva from the Nazis.
Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?
Eva, our heroine. When Sebastian and Wolf find her in Berlin Cathedral, the young vampire is delirious; the Gestapo drugged her with garlic serum. Eva’s character evolves over the course of the escape from Berlin, as the drugs wear off. The challenge was making Eva a compelling character, especially in the early scenes when the powerful drugs in her blood are at their most potent, when she can barely speak.
Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?
These characters in My Immortal wrote themselves. Every night, I would sit down and join them on the journey in Berlin. I simply wrote down what happened. I know that sounds odd, but this was a very different creative experience for me.
What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research?
I travelled to Berlin and Prague to research the story and retrace the steps of Sebastian, Wolf and Eva as they escaped from Berlin. I wanted to make sure the historical context was accurate, and the scenes I was writing correctly captured the essence of each city. It took a ton of time, travel and research in Europe, but the My Immortal story fits within the historical framework of the war. It could have happened. Maybe it did.
What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?
I wrote a few surreal it not bizarre dinner scenes. One of them takes place in Prague Castle, where a renegade vampire reveals the identity of Eva, and the men suddenly find themselves in a position to win the war for the Nazis. That’s the exact moment when the tale gets out of control.
Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series? How does this world differ from our normal world?
The premise behind My Immortal is that there is, and has been for a very long time, a shadow vampire government in Europe.
Vampires preyed on humans for thousands of years, but they took only what they needed. For centuries, the humans remained blissfully unaware of the existence of the vampire nation. That equation changed when the Gestapo captured Eva in the woods just outside of Brasov, Romania.
At first, the war seemed like all of the wars that preceded it. But the vampires soon found that the Nazis were different. They came to understand that Hitler’s thirst for blood would not be quenched until all life on the planet was extinguished. The vampires viewed the Nazis as the embodiment of true evil; a crime against the Earth…
When did you consider yourself a writer?
I learned about structure at UCLA, and was able to finish my first full-length motion picture screenplay. That’s when I finally felt as if I had written “something.”
What are your guilty pleasures in life?
The designers of the computer game Civilization V should all be thrown in a jail, and every copy of that game destroyed. Well, not really. But 1% less will power and self-control on my end, and I’m dropping out of life and focusing 24/7 on to ruling the virtual Earth with the French Empire. Or maybe the Egyptians. Or … maybe … You get the picture. The game is evil.
Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?
I really enjoy spending time with my wife Rumiko and out miniature Australian Sheppard, Buzz the Dog. If you want to see Buzz do his amazing cookie-on-nose trick, here it is.
Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?
I believe that where you when you write dramatically affects what and how you write. So, whenever I travel, I try to carve out some writing time. I actually finished the final draft of My Immortal on a balcony in Cannes.
What can readers expect next from you?
I’m working on the sequel to My Immortal, which is set in Japan. I also just published Tale of a Drum Line.
Where can readers find you on the web?
The book is available on Amazonand Barnes and Noble, and the best place right now to get information on My Immortal is our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/vampiresofberlin
If you are interested, you can check out my blog at http://leerudnicki.wordpress.com/or find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/drumlaw80.
Do you have a theme song for your novel?
Actually, we do. We have released the first song from the soundtrack on iTunes, As The Blood Flows, by Trip Device. That song contains dialogue from the novel, performed by a vampire.
Can you give us an excerpt from the book?
Eva sat on the riverbank as the sounds of battle resounded in the distance. She didn’t say anything when Sebastian sat down next to her. Nor did he expect her to.
“Guten Abend,” he said. “Not the best time for a picnic on the riverbank, is it?”
Eva didn’t respond.
Sebastian didn’t believe in vampires until he met one. Until one bit him. Now, the sight of blood excited him and his strength was growing by the hour. He knew what the other men only suspected. Eva was a vampire and he was turning into one himself. He also instinctively knew that their survival depended on Eva, for reasons known only to God—assuming that God was still in Berlin. Somehow, he needed to get through to her. He tried again.
“Eva. Do you understand me? Do you know where you are? Please, talk to me.”
If Eva heard him, she didn’t show it. Opening the lines of communication with the young vampire was going to be far more difficult than Sebastian had anticipated. Discouraged, he turned her towards him. “Look at me. That Luftwaffe pilot over there…”
“Axel,” Eva said softly.
“Yes. Axel is about to die from burns he got when a vampire torched his face. He got hurt saving you.”
Eva blinked hard and then pointed to the sky. “It’s in the stars, Sebastian.”
Sebastian looked up. There were no stars, only a dark gloom lit by the flash of sporadic explosions. Before he could ask another question, an artillery shell exploded in the river. The freezing water that cascaded over them brought him crashing back to reality.
Sebastian got up and took Eva’s hand. It was time to go…
My Immortal The Vampires of Berlin
By Lee Rudnicki
By Lee Rudnicki
Publisher: 23 House
Date of Publication: March 9, 2012
Number of pages: 306
Word Count: 56,000
VAMPIRE BLOG – (SIGNED COPIES) -- http://www.vampiresofberlin.blogspot.com/
A supernatural adventure set in present day and 1945 Berlin. Our heroine is Eva, a shell-shocked young vampire who is found wandering around in the ruins of Berlin Cathedral on the last day of the war by soldiers.
Lee Rudnicki is an entertainment lawyer, producer, and writer in Los Angeles. Lee has a law degree from the University of San Francisco, a music degree from San Jose State, a Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA and studied international law at Trinity College, Ireland and Charles University, Prague. Before law school, Lee was a world-class rudimental drummer and drum corps instructor.
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/Drumlaw80
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