Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Interview with Shane KP O’Neill Author of The Dracula Chronicles Bound By Blood

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?

My name is Shane O’Neill. I am originally from Ireland, but live now in Norway.  My project is The Dracula Chronicles, an epic new angle on the Dracula legend.  Remembering back to when I was a teenager, my friends and I were always reading and passing around books written in the horror genre.  This would include works by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Herbert, John Saul, Shaun Hutson etc.  It followed then that this was the genre I wanted to write in as well.  The horror genre has always captured people’s imagination, be it in book form or on the big screen.  Girls like to be scared and have a reason to lean into their guys.  Their guys like the chance to be there to protect and comfort them, as well as being scared themselves.  There will always be a market and a great interest in this genre, and I love it.

What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much?

Of all the different elements in the horror genre, vampires are easily the most exciting.  I am certain the majority of us that love this genre are all equally turned on by the vampire.  For me personally, I was captivated by Christopher Lee’s Dracula, mesmerized by Gary Oldman’s portrayal, I was terrified by Stephen King’s vampires and Anne Rice’s vampires left me breathless.  I am not so excited by some of the modern trends directed more towards the YA audience, but it leaves me hoping something better will come along again.  While I wait for that to happen I give you The Dracula Chronicles.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have been interested in and loved Dracula for as long as I can remember. When I used to baby-sit my kid sisters and was not restricted by my parents as to what I could watch on TV, I got to see quite a few of the old Hammer horror movies, and loved those with Christopher Lee as Dracula. Then in my late teens I discovered the real historical Vlad Dracula.  I always felt it had been my destiny to write, and therefore I wanted to write about him.  But I did not want to write anything that resembled the known images of Dracula and opted to do something more grandiose and epic in scale.  That is the goal I set myself with The Dracula Chronicles series.

Please tell us about your latest release.

I am releasing Book 3 first so that I can give my reader the vampire from the very start.  The story begins with Dracula’s final triumph on the battlefield.  He is mortally wounded and as he lays dying in the nearby monastery, Lucifer comes to claim him, but instead of harvesting his soul he creates the first vampire.  So Dracula gains his immortality through having Lucifer’s own blood coursing through his veins.  Lucifer sets him the task of turning man against God by destroying the institution of the Catholic Church.  This leads Dracula on an epic journey through the ages and sees him involved in every situation throughout the 16th century where the Vatican’s influence is harmed.  Therefore, he propagates the Reformation in 1517, ensures a Spanish victory over France in the Italian Wars of the 1520’s, the split between Henry VIII and Rome, and so on.  But this is just the vaguest of outlines.  The book involves so much more.

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?

Actually, most of the characters in my book are real people, and people known to many of you who will read the book.  Only a few are fictitious, and with those I give them names to correlate with their location or country of birth.

Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

They were all challenging to a degree, especially the real historical characters, as I had to give them all personalities and have them interact with each other and the vampires, and be believable.  The fictional characters were the easiest to build.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

In the first two books I, of course, most enjoyed creating Dracula the man and giving my readers a true picture of the man I believed him to be. In Bound By Blood the two characters I enjoyed the most were Varkal and Ruxandra.  Varkal is a fictional illegitimate son of Dracula’s.  He is absolutely despicable in every way and I enjoyed working on him, and building a character I expect my readers will loathe.  Ruxandra is Dracula’s real granddaughter and I convey her to be the exact opposite.  Despite still being a monster created from Darkness, she is sensitive, loving, sensual…essentially everything that Varkal is not.

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?

I have a picture of many of my characters in my mind before I even start, from various historical texts I’ve read and, of course, from the big screen.  Naturally, I try to impose my own stamp on them.  Wherever possible, I try to let them develop as I write yes.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

Sure, I would love to though I will cut it off before the best part.  The scene comes from Chapter 58 – It is 1528 and Dracula has sent his granddaughter to meet with Anne Boleyn at her residence outside London, to convince her to warm to the advances of Henry.

Ruxandra arrived at the house where she saw just the one guard outside.  From within she picked up only the thoughts of a young woman.  It let her know there was nobody else in there.

When the guard sloped off to relieve himself she stole inside.  She closed the door quietly and walked into the house.  Anne had just stepped out of a bathtub.  The two of them froze.  It was an awkward moment.  Ruxandra found herself staring at the naked girl.

Anne stood there without a care in the world.  Suds dropped from her breasts and onto her stomach.  She did not speak, but looked the stranger in the eye.  The look on her face betrayed her thoughts.  Her expression said, “What are you looking at?”

Ruxandra fell victim to a fit of laughter.  It prompted Anne to do the same.  She answered the younger woman’s thought.  “I was looking at you.”

Anne looked puzzled.  “Did I say that out loud?”

“I can see why the King is so taken by you.  Who would not be?  You are a dish.”

“Why, thank you,” Anne smiled.  “I am glad I meet with your approval.”

“I am only telling you what I see.”

“Are you looking to have your way with me as well?” she teased.  “Do you want to do all manner of wicked things to me, just like the King?”

Anne waited, curious as to the response her question would yield.  Ruxandra just blushed.  She dismissed it with a smile.

“That is a yes then, is it?” asked Anne, not letting go.

“It was not,” Ruxandra assured her.  “I was a little surprised.  That is all.”

“Surprised?  Why?”

“No woman has ever tried to flirt with me before.”

“Really?  I find that hard to believe.”

Ruxandra laughed again, though this was more of a nervous one.  “Why do you say that?”

“Well, you really are quite the beauty.  I am not sure if I have ever seen a woman as beautiful before.  Not in this country at least.”

She blushed even harder.  “Oh stop.  That is silly talk.”

Anne shrugged her shoulders.  “Fine.  But if you think I look good, you should take a look at yourself.”

She toyed with one of her nipples, as she spoke.  Ruxandra watched her for a moment and then turned her head away again.  Anne showed no desire to conceal her nakedness or to dry herself off with a towel.  “Why did you turn your head?”

Ruxandra found it hard to breathe for a moment.  “So I cannot see what it is you are doing.”
“Does it excite you?” Anne probed.  “Knowing that another woman finds you desirable?  An attractive one such as myself no less.”

The truth was that it did excite her.  It embarrassed her that the advances of another woman could make her feel like this.  She sighed and turned to face Anne again.  This was not why she was here.

It annoyed Anne that the woman did not respond to her question.  She began to wonder why she was there at all.  Who is she?  She stepped back into the tub.  How did she even get in here?  Where is the guard?  The bubbles reached up to her neck as she lay back.  “So why are you here?”

Anne sat and waited for her to answer.  She began to wonder if her visitor was prepared to satisfy any of her curiosities.

Ruxandra walked up to the tub.  She leant against it with both hands.  “I have come here to talk to you about your future.”

“Why do you have an interest in my future?”

“There are many that do.”

“And that includes you too?”

“Yes it does.”

Anne grinned at her.  “Then you had better climb in,” she said.  She indicated with a nod of her head to the spot in front of her.

“You want me to climb in there with you?”

She nodded with a smile.  “That is if you want me to talk to you.”

Her visitor looked down at her.  Anne sat there with her knees together and a smile still etched across her face.  Ruxandra paused and wondered what to do.  She looked down at Anne a second time, fighting the temptation to get involved with her.  But at the same time she felt aroused.  The first traces of moisture leaked from between her legs.

She took a deep breath.  Biting her lower lip, she undressed slowly.  Anne gasped when she saw her naked.  The woman had the most perfect body she had ever seen.  Her smile changed to a look of wonder, as her lips parted.  There and then she knew she wanted her.

This was not lost on Ruxandra.  She held Anne’s eyes with her own and placed one foot into the tub.  The water still felt warm.  She pulled her other leg over and then sat down opposite the English girl.

There was not much room in the tub with the two of them inside it.  Ruxandra had the much longer legs.  For her it was even more awkward.  To be able to relax properly she knew she would have to place her legs over Anne’s.  She did this.  The action brought the two women much closer together.

For a time the women looked into each other’s eyes.  They did not speak.  Both of them just sat and enjoyed the moment.  A great excitement raced through them.  Eventually Anne picked up a cloth from beneath her legs.  She squeezed the warm soapy water over Ruxandra’s breasts.  Ruxandra found the sensation electrifying.  She closed her eyes and groaned.  The warm water washed over her nipples, making them tender, but erect.

She trembled slightly.  Her every instinct told her Anne was going to kiss her.  But she wanted her to.  She waited with expectation until Anne brushed against her lips with her own.  When the moment came it touched every delicate nerve in her body.  She responded hungrily, pulling Anne close in the most intimate embrace.  Their lips melted into one longing kiss.

Their tongues touched.  It triggered the same ache in both women.  Without a word they left the tub and rolled onto the bed nearby.

Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book?

Yes, absolutely.  The book/s needed extensive research to maintain full historical accuracy even though I was already well versed in much of it.  I discovered many legends throughout the course of my research, which I am not sure how much of relate to true historical fact.  Some examples of these would be Old Mother Shipton and her prophecies about Cardinal Wolsey, the soothsayer Dracula’s father met prior to the Battle of Varna, Dracul Litovoi and the feared Vlach tribe that fought on the side of Dracula’s father, and even the way his father met his death.  Another one might be the account given by the old boatman from the Schiavone who is said to have witnessed the dumping of the body of Giovanni Borgia, and some of the events I write about concerning the death of his father, Pope Alexander VI.  It all makes for good reading though.

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 world I create begins with the world in which Vlad Dracula lived, the 15th Century Balkans.  I was meticulous in my approach so I could convey, to the best of my abilities, what that world was like in its truest sense.  But it was a brutal age where the value placed on life is not what it is today.

With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones?

I would like to say these books can be read as stand alones.  The first book I wrote is now Book 6 in the series and could stand on its own, the same as my first release could, and that is Book 3 in the series.  To aid this process I sometimes use a prologue.  Whereas many people in the industry frown on prologues, I feel they are a necessity at times, especially for a series such as mine.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

In all honesty, no I don’t.  In 2006 I wrote The Gates Of Babylon and Bound By Blood, which together, total over a half a million words.  Any time I have sat down to write, I can write.  But then again, I have taken extended breaks from writing by choice… and breaks for as long as 3 or 4 years.  I have read recently that some surveys conducted believe that 80% of writers suffer or have suffered from depression and that science has identified a direct link between a depressive state and a creative state of mind, that our brains focus more on creative aspects when we are depressed.  I believe this to be true.  When I have had my happiest times in life I have written very little.  When I have been miserable I write volumes.  But I have never sat down to write and not been able to do so.

Do you write in different genres?

That is one of the best things about The Dracula Chronicles.  On the surface my series appears to be a dark Gothic horror.  I have to tell you it is much more than that and much more than just another vampire series.  My books cross over into several other genres such as historical adventure, paranormal fantasy, romantic tragedy and erotica.  There is something here to appeal to most tastes, so most importantly it is a fusion of many genres that come together in one lengthy, but fast and exciting novel.  It may appear to be a man’s book, but is definitely a woman’s book too.

In other projects away from The Dracula Chronicles I will stick with the horror genre.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

You are a writer from the very first time you put pen to paper, whatever the quality of the piece.  Many people have varying ideas on this, but to me it begins the moment you write something.  I started writing stories and poems around the age of 8 or 9, long before computers or laptops and even when a typewriter might have been considered a luxury item.  So for me it was my first musings with a pen and paper as a kid.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?

The older I get, the more I have grown to appreciate my family and I love time with them whatever we are doing.  They are my real passion in life and that which I love the most.  I did play scrabble on the international stage for a few years, but gave that up after participating in the 2007 World Championships.  Mainly now I love to read, cook, visit places with an historical significance or even just take a break somewhere hot with my family.  I love various sports and follow my teams religiously and with the greatest of passion.

What was the last amazing book you read?

Actually it was a book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  It fell into my hands in a time of great crisis in my life and helped me really understand myself, and also the person I love.  Such an insight is priceless and for that reason I would definitely call it an amazing book.

What can readers expect next from you?

Following the release of Bound By Blood there will be a series of horror shorts and then an anthology called Tales Of The Black Sabbath, which will have variant endings from the originals.

The next volume from The Dracula Chronicles – The Gates Of Babylon – will surface in 2013.

Where can readers find you on the web?

In many places actually…..
Website & Blog -
Twitter - @ShaneKPONeill

Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

Sure, I would love to.  Thank you, Roxanne, so much for having me and for asking me so many great questions.  I’ll leave you with the moment Lucifer bites into Dracula’s neck.
Before Dracula could respond Lucifer lifted him up by both his arms.  He raised his protégé high into the air.  The pain was intolerable, but paled in comparison to that when the Devil bit hard into his neck.

The pain was more concentrated than the blade or arrowheads that had left him near death.  Lucifer’s breath was like fire upon his skin.  His eyes bulged from their sockets and he fought hard to breathe.  As his throat muscles spasmed he felt like his face was about to melt.

He managed one loud scream.  Inside his body he felt the little blood he had left emptying from his veins.  The sound alerted the boyars.  Their efforts to force open the door of the chapel finally paid dividends.  They burst into the chapel and made for the altar to see what ailed their master so.

The sight that met their eyes left them both horrified and stunned.  They saw Dracula suspended two feet above the ground.  A vicious wound showed on his neck.  They could see blood there, but it did not trickle down.

The boyars ran up to him.  They drew their swords and cried out to him for direction, not knowing what to do.  Lucifer continued to drink.  At the same time he absorbed the fear of the men around him.  When he had drunk enough he discarded Dracula on the steps below the altar.

He licked his lips.  The taste satisfied him.  He took a moment to savour it, and the smell.  It was good.  He smiled, having wanted to do this for such a long time.

The boyars felt a presence as he walked among them.  They tried to put it out of their minds.  The sight of their master on the floor concerned them more.  They attempted to resuscitate him.  But there was no need.  He was not yet dead.

Dracula clutched at his stomach with both hands.  The movement was so sudden it scared the men half out of their minds.  He emitted a cry that was almost inhuman.  His men stepped away.  The presence amongst them grew more apparent.  They turned their focus to it and scanned the empty air around them in an attempt to locate it.

Their master’s body shook violently on the steps.  His arms and legs flailed wildly.  Foam and vomit streamed from the corners of his mouth and his eyes rolled up inside his head.  They watched until only the whites of the orbs showed.

A second animal-like cry filled the chapel.  It echoed off the walls around them.  Outside the abbot dropped to his knees in prayer.  Every other man and woman that had not done so, did so now.  Lightning raged across the darkening skies.  The thunder bellowed after it, as a prelude to the downpour that followed.

The Dracula Chronicles: Bound By Blood
Shane KP O’Neill

Genre: Gothic Horror

ISBN:  978-0-9556701-0-7
Word Count:   261,281

Cover Artist:  David Evans – GraphicStudio4

Book Description: 

The Dracula Chronicles is the brilliant and terrifying new concept of Dracula. It is an epic journey through the ages where the forces of Light and Darkness struggle for supremacy until the Second Great War, as foretold in the Book of Revelations. This bitter feud began after the creation of mankind. Lucifer’s jealousy leads to the First Great War of the angels. Hundreds of thousands of years on the feud simmers beneath the surface. It plots the course of history as we know it today. Both sides manipulate the major players through the centuries to seek an advantage over the other.  

On a cold night in December 1431 in Sighisoara an old gypsy woman delivers a prophecy to the great Vlad Dracul. She tells him he is about to sire two sons, one an angel and the other a devil. He returns to his fortress just as his wife bears him a son, whom he names Vlad. In the very same moment across the country on the border between Transylvania and Hungary a gypsy girl gives birth to another son, Andrei. The die is cast. The twin souls are born. The young Vlad Dracula becomes the instrument of the forces of Darkness. To balance this, the baby Andrei is blessed by the angels and bestowed with awesome powers. These chronicles are their story.

Book Trailer:

 About the Author: 

The author developed a fascination with Dracula from an early age.  Like many others he was enthralled by Christopher Lee’s portrayal of him on the big screen.  It was in his late teens that he discovered Dracula the man and the love affair began from there.  An avid historian, he studied the period in which the real historical Vlad Dracula lived, 15th Century Balkan, for many years.  It followed from there then that with his love of writing he would always choose Dracula as his subject.

Away from writing, the author has a wide range of interests.  He has lived and travelled all over the world.  He has a love for all things historical, with a particular fascination for medieval Europe.  Anywhere he travels he likes to search out locations with an historical interest.  He is well read and in recent times has a preference for the work of James Patterson, Carlos Luis Zafon, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer and Stephen King.  He also keeps his library well stocked with historical texts. 

For a time he played scrabble on the international stage and represented Wales at the 2007 World Championship in Mumbai, India.  He has a real love of sport, most notably football, rugby union, cricket and boxing.  His great loves in the football world are Manchester United, Glasgow Celtic, Internazionale and lowly Luton Town.  His sporting heroes include George Best, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ian Botham and Muhammad Ali.  His only other activities away from these are long country walks and time spent with friends and family.

@ShaneKPONeill   Twitter


Roxanne Rhoads said...

Thank you for joining us today Shane

Shane KP ONeill said...

Thank you, Roxanne, for having me here.