What inspired your story?
The origins story for The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection goes something like this: We (Clark and Kathleen) fell in love, and it was overwhelming and passionate and fiery and amazing and self-combusted within six months (no surprise there). After two years of living apart and thinking and drinking and not-talking and trying to be with other people, the jagged edges of our hearts began to heal. Independently and more or less simultaneously, we both lurched toward the conclusion that life would be better together, if — and it was a big if — we could find a way to contain and redirect the energy in positive ways.
Once we agreed on that point, we met on neutral territory — an isolated truck stop in Madras, Oregon — where we cautiously decided to give it another go, only this time with ground rules: a shared focus on creative writing. It was the only strategy we could come up with that gave us a fighting chance to harness and refocus some of the destructive energy that burned us down.
And so, The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection was born — sketched out on the back of a placemat in crayon over cigarettes (we’ve since quit, mostly) and black coffee, and featuring the travails of romantic protagonists who mirrored our own opposites-attract and gloriously dysfunctional relationship. What is more opposite than a cowboy and a vampire?
Read more about the “origins story” on our webpage, along with a cool poem called “The Ballad of the Cowboy and the Vampire” written for our wedding day.
Is the setting to your story important?
Yes, the setting is hugely important. Our first goal was to dig into the opposites-attract narrative arc in our books but we wanted to hyper-charge that dynamic, and that meant setting the books in a place that was unfamiliar to most of the characters (a technique that provides lots of opportunities for meaningful revelations along with humor). We love the west, so the books are set largely in the extreme rural west where whiskey is more plentiful than jobs, sagebrush is the perfume of choice and news of a stranger in town spreads like a grass wildfire in August.
LonePine, the setting for the books, is based on a real town in Wyoming where Clark’s dad was the engineer on an oil drilling rig (shhh, we’ve never revealed the name of the real town, here it comes, Big Piney). The setting is further enriched with details drawn from parts of Clark’s actual Montana upbringing on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch (yes, he is a real cowboy which makes Kathleen, well, you know). What results is a loving and accurate portrayal of the people and small towns and landscape of desolate Wyoming.
And the fun starts when we plop Lizzie — a street-smart urban reporter — down into LonePine and experience her take on the modern rural west, not to mention the horror-hilarity that ensues when vampires come to town in search of her special blood.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
Clark says it was fourth grade when he illustrated his own wacky monster stories with crayon; or perhaps it was when his first poem was accepted by a (now long-defunct) journal. Kathleen says she has always felt like a writer since she first figured out how to write. But she only felt confident announcing that fact after the first time she got money for writing from a (now long-defunct) magazine.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
This series has an unusual publishing history. The first book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection – An Unusual Romance – was picked up after an exhausting and soul-crushing year of querying publishers and agents. Llewellyn, the publisher, flew us to St. Paul, and wined and dined us. It was fun. Another year and a half passed and the book was released in 1999. The book did very well and we felt satisfied that we had helped put in place a brand new way of thinking about vampires, in the exceptionally good company of Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and sat back waiting to see what would happen with the unleashing. Nine years passed. Midnight Ink (an imprint of Llewellyn) announced it would release a second edition of the book, after vampires reached new heights with the success of the Twilight books, which were also set in rural America.
The gears of Midnight Ink ground slowly, as most do in the traditional publishing world, and the second edition came out about two years later in 2010. Since then, we wrestled back the rights to the first book, established our own imprint (Pumpjack Press) and now publish the full collection under our own banner. We are excited about the Pumpjack Press publishing collaborative, and are currently open to submissions as we move into an expansion phase. Send us your queries! We promise we won’t take two years to respond.
What were your goals as an author and have any of them come true?
To write and connect with readers. And yes, these have both come true. We are both thrilled by that. We’d also like to see the collection made into a film or television series. That would be awesome. We’re working now on a new mystery series that involves a road trip, the shooting of a sheriff (but not the deputy), geology, pent-up about-to-explode lust, and national parks. More to come on that soon! Send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org for updates.
What genres do you normally write in?
We write, thus far, in Western Gothic (but see above, that’s about to change). So, what is Western Gothic? It is a style of fiction that transplants the moody, death-obsessed themes of classic gothic fiction (think Castle of Otranto or, of course, Dracula) to the wide open, inspiring vistas of the modern west (Riders of the Purple Sage, or All the Pretty Horses). We’re pretty sure we invented the genre with The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection, with it’s modern west setting that features sexy, brooding vampires bent on world domination.
The Last Sunset, like the first three books in the collection, explores the tension and connection between opposites: life and death; mortality and immortality; love and lust; urban and rural; thought and action; strength and decay; good and evil; and country music and whiskey.
Western Gothic is a fairly narrow field, given that we might be the only authors working in it (ever), but it’s certainly entertaining. Not only do we get to explore huge, archetypal themes about human consciousness, love and death, and more, we get to move our characters across stunning natural landscapes with deconstructed shootouts and heart-pounding action. Add in the quirky humor natural to small towns and a long-suffering cowdog (Rex!) with the soul of a poet — and some pretty steamy undead erotica — and we think it makes for an unforgettable reading experience whatever the label (hint: it’s Western Gothic).
About the books:
First published in 1999, The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection is a genre mash-up. Critics and readers praise the four books as witty, outstandingly entertaining, authentically western, existential, provocatively sensual, thrilling, and more. The series navigates the darkest sides of human nature while celebrating the power of love, blazing a trail to its own new genre: Western Gothic. Let ‘er buck.
Connect with the authors:
· @cowboyvamp (twitter)
· @cowboyvampire (instragram)www.facebook.com/cowboyandvampire
The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset
The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection
Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Genre: Horror, Western, PNR
Publisher: Pumpjack Press
Date of Publication: June 9, 2016
Number of pages: 357
Word Count: 83,000
Cover Artist: Aaron Perkins
The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset is the fourth book in award-winning The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection, a series called everything from cult classic to trailblazer in a new genre: Western Gothic.
Take one long, last look at LonePine, Wyoming, population 438. It’s been two years since the vampires quit the quirky little town and things are mostly back to normal — broken dreams and never enough whiskey. But that’s about to go to hell.
Hold on tight for a midnight showdown when a psychotic religious order takes the entire town hostage — including Tucker's long-lost brother — to lure Lizzie from her frozen exile in Russia. The mad monks know Lizzie’s murder will strand the ruling vampire elite in a disembodied afterlife so the cult can impose their twisted beliefs on the living and undead alike. It’s a rip-roarin’ stampede as a cowboy and a vampire try to round up the shattered pieces of their unusual romance.
With the fate of the world on the line yet again, can Tucker and Lizzie put aside their broken hearts to face one last sunset together?
Slap leather or reach for the sky.
This is the fourth book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection.
The first few months were anguish. But then she threw herself into bringing order to her inherited chaos. If she was to run this vampire shit show, she would run it right. And she had, intensely, ruthlessly, for the first year.
Now, everyone knew the rules, knew the consequences for breaking the coda, and—if grudgingly—understood the wisdom behind the annual allocation. She kept her word, showing no favoritism. Nine turns picked by the Council, followed by one pick for Lizzie, with nine nights of rest. By the end of the first year, a fragile trust in her leadership was established.
By the beginning of the second year of her self-imposed exile, as the intensity of the work began to wane, she realized something had shifted. The full weight of her future lodged permanently, sadly, in her soul.
Rurik, forever circling like a handsome vulture, sensed the change.
“Finally, you admit to yourself he is not coming for you,” Rurik said.
“I knew he wouldn’t come,” Lizzie said, more sharply than intended.
“I’m not the one who requires persuading on this point,” Rurik said. “But no matter the reason, I am pleased. Stop working so hard. Amuse yourself with the privileges and pleasures your position affords. You can have anything you want, with no punishment.”
“From the society you once valued, or from yourself,” Rurik said. “You are free from guilt, free of all constraints, free to act upon your desires and to assume the glorious existence that awaits only your assent.”
Rurik felt something akin to compassion as he watched Lizzie struggle to control her emotions, mistaking liberation for captivity. He was right in one sense, though; she was coming to the same realization all vampires faced at some point in their long, undead existence, even those whose turning was consensual: there was no going back.
Yes, Lizzie thought, defiantly, as the first year passed into the second. If she was no longer ever to be a human, she might as well have fun. Why the hell not? She submerged herself into her passions and found that although not exactly fulfilling, it was diverting, covering her nightly routines with a shroud of hedonistic numbness that prevented any feelings at all—other than immediate pleasure—from surfacing.
She would never admit it, ever, but Rurik was right on another point. She had waited. She had hoped he would come for her, but why would he? She made it clear by breaking his heart that they would never be together. That he believed her ruse broke her heart.
Such a sad and dusty little tragedy, she thought, clutching the railing. A shadow by the lake’s edge caught her eye—Rurik, out with his dogs.
He felt her gaze and looked up, taking in her nude body and letting his senses wash over it, the closest—it seemed—he would come to possessing her, at least for the time being.
She could feel his heart stuttering, but held her own body in perfect check until he averted his eyes and continued his walk.
Lizzie once again considered whether it was time to move. Rurik’s home was spacious and lonely and safe and remote, and while he had been a good host to her, he enjoyed the power of proximity over the other tribes, and she understood he was motivated by a hope of his own.
“It is inevitable that you and I come together,” he once told her. “You have known this since we first met in that godforsaken American outpost.”
“Nothing is inevitable,” she said. Thwarting his passions had become a habit.
She wondered if Rurik ever missed the man he had once been, the brilliant military strategist who helped turn back the crusaders all those many years ago in a battle for Russia’s soul. “Ironic that you lost your soul in the process,” she said aloud and in his direction.
Her private cell phone buzzed on the bedside table. Lizzie padded back into the room, the wolfhound in tow.
Elita. She picked up the phone.
“My queen,” Elita said, managing to sound both sarcastic and reverential. Was there a difference, Lizzie wondered?
“My loyal subject, my lovely maid-in-waiting,” Lizzie replied. In all this madness, Elita was her only certainty.
“Whatever that means,” Elita said. “How’s the frozen tundra treating you?”
“Still frozen. Have you wrestled the American Royals and the Reptiles into peaceful coexistence?”
“We’re making progress, one corpse at a time.”
“When will you visit?” Lizzie asked.
“I’m on my way now,” Elita said.
Lizzie paused. That was not a good sign. “That’s a welcome, but unexpected surprise.”
“What I must tell you may not be so welcome.”
“Tell me now,” Lizzie said.
“I’ll save the details until I can tell you face to face, but in brief, I’ve heard rumblings, screaming really, that you have a new enemy.”
“Why would that concern me?”
“Keep your guard up until I arrive.”
“My guard is never down,” Lizzie said, breaking the connection.”
About the Authors:
Between the two of them, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall have worked in writing jobs ranging from cowboy-poet to energy journalist to restaurant reviewer to university press officer. After they met, their writing career took center stage when they wrote the first book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection as a test for marriage. They passed. Clark and Kathleen now live in Portland, Oregon.