Saturday, December 7, 2013

Interview with Eleanor Keane Author of The Breathing Ghosts

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

A little bit about myself: I’m a graduate in English, a committed feminist and an ardent fan of The Lord of The Rings. When I’m not busy writing you can generally find me either browsing my local record store or plotting fervently to bring down the patriarchy.

As to what inspired me to write in this genre- which I would class as paranormal YA fiction- I suppose it’s because I read a lot of paranormal/supernatural YA novels and- though many of them are great- as a young writer I soon became tired of seeing the same old tropes, particularly in vampire novels: i.e. the endless heterosexual love triangles, the ‘dark and brooding love interest with a dark and brooding past,’ the ‘girl who’s magical but just wants to be normal’, the lack of sexual relationships, the needless angst, etc. Although the majority of the genre features magic, vampires, witchcraft and a host of other fascinating things, they all tend to be about the same thing- a normal ‘boy meets girl’ plot with lots of added sexual frustration.

To me, ‘normal’ is just a hollow illusion- as Morticia Addams said, ‘what’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.’ Instead, I wanted my own work to reflect the strength of truly being yourself- especially if that doesn’t fit into the straight/white/middle class norm. 

Rather than writing a narrow heterosexual plot which I think has been done to death (no pun intended,) I wanted to explore diverse relationships- particularly LGBT ones, which never seem to be featured in YA fiction-and characters who were proud to be different.

As a result, I included a range of LGBT characters, as well as a relationship between two older adult characters that meet after a long, long time apart and fall in love. I also wanted to explore the themes of bullying, discrimination and what makes a person ‘unique’ or special- whether they are vampire, mortal, werewolf or teenager.

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

I think it’s the allure of so much tangible physical and metaphorical difference within them that inspired me to write about vampires. Despite being arguably de-fanged and de-clawed in a lot of popular novels (glittery vampires spring to mind,) vampires are still very much ‘Other.’ They still exist on the sidelines of humanity, and exude not only mystery but also a dark and decadent power. They speak to the darkest and most different parts of ourselves- the parts of us that arguably feel drawn to the outsider and the outcast. I wanted my own vampire characters to be confident, contrary, brutal and bloodthirsty. They don’t glitter, they don’t hesitate to drink human blood and they don’t take prisoners.

Many of my ‘supernatural’ and vampire characters are also proudly LGBT-identified, which-as I said before- is rarely seen in YA fiction. Lesbian vampires within popular culture tend to be presented as beautiful, corseted, leather-wearing, dominatrix styled archetypes with no real personality, whilst gay vampires are just a muddle of Freudian metaphors. I wanted to strip away that veneer and present LGBT vampires as three-dimensional thinking, feeling, loving, living characters with minds (and fangs) of their own.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to present an ‘alternative’ YA novel for kids who were perhaps struggling with their sexuality, or bored with the Twilight phenomenon, and seeking something a bit edgier. I also wanted to present alternative role models who weren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and be unconventional. As I began writing The Breathing Ghosts, the plot became deeper and darker than I had first anticipated, and became less about vampires, vampire hunters and werewolves, and more about the secrets they were hiding from others- and from themselves.

Please tell us about your latest release.

My latest release is the sequel to The Breathing Ghosts. It is called The Blood Witching, and it is available to buy on Amazon and from the Kindle Store. It is influenced by the dark, twisted fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and Angela Carter. It mainly follows the trials of Nerissa Naughton, an über powerful and somewhat damaged lesbian vampire. Nerissa is desperate to find her ex-lover Angelica, a vampire sorceress responsible for a slew of bloody murders.

 As it says in the blurb: Nerissa Naughton may be powerful, but confronting Angelica could cost her everything-even with the help of an unusual alliance of vampires, werewolves, mortals and the vampire huntress Rowan Oakwood (who is the heroine of The Breathing Ghosts.

With Angelica desperate to win Nerissa back, only three things are certain: hearts will be broken, blood will be spilled, and nothing will be the same again...

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?

Aha! That’s an interesting question, because I think names are vital to fleshing out a character. If the name isn’t right for the character, I will change it until I feel it fits. I’m a very visual person, so I imagine the character in front of me and try to think of a name that would fit their personality, appearance and background, (for instance, if they are a vampire who was born in the Victorian period, it would suit them to have a Victorian name.) Sometimes I think of the name first, and then construct the character around it. I also like Gothic, meaningful, and highly unusual names. After all, what’s the point in being a vampire or a werewolf if you’re going to have a boring or obvious name? Some of my favourite names from The Breathing Ghosts are Nerissa Naughton, Rowan Oakwood (used as a girl’s name) Virgil Valvayne and Albert Wintergrave.

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

In The Breathing Ghosts, the character I found the most challenging to write was that of the heroine, Rowan Oakwood, because for some unknown reason it took a while for me to picture her in my mind. (One of the perils of being a ‘visual’ thinker.) Then I realized that I wanted her to be outwardly different, as well as inwardly different, and so I gave her a love of wild, exuberant clothes. After that, she became a lot easier to write, because whenever she walked into a room she’d always be wearing some crazy- and no doubt amazing-outfit!

For the sequel, The Blood Witching, I found it most challenging to write about a male vampire who was struggling with his sexuality. (He’ll remain unnamed as I don’t want to give too much away!) I persevered though, as I think many teenagers and young adults struggle with their sexuality, and I wanted to show that this can happen to anyone, and that anyone can cope with it, and learn to love who they are- even if they are an ancient, powerful vampire.

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

I love writing about my anti-hero, Nerissa Naughton, because she’s just so damn bad. She’s a whip-smart, cold-hearted, lesbian Goth girl who loves The Cure and hates anything she terms as ‘happy clappy.’ She is, of course, also a fearsome fighter, which makes for some fun fight scenes. Nerissa is like the Lisbeth Salander of the vampire world- only less laid-back and easy-going.

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?

Nope! I find the whole process very ‘organic’, in that I don’t plan, I don’t write reams of extensive notes, and I don’t sketch out attributes or personality traits. Occasionally I write a couple of ideas down in my Hobbit-themed Moleskine notebook (a Christmas present that I love,) but otherwise I literally just sit at my computer and type. I’m constantly going back through my draft and making changes, but that’s just the way I write. 

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

That’s a challenge, but I think one of my favourite scenes from The Breathing Ghosts is a scene set within the time of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, in 1692. As a feminist I’ve always been fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials (from a young age,) as I think it is a really interesting historical example of misogyny and the power of collective hatred and fear. I wanted to honour and respect the legacy of those times, whilst exploring it through my own imagination. I wondered what would happen if I placed a vampire into that cultural cauldron (pun intended,) and what the fall-out would be. In The Blood Witching, my favourite scene is where Angelica, the vampire sorceress, enacts a brutal revenge against Nerissa. You’ll have to read it though, to find out how!

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

Earlier this year I published a short story collection to accompany The Breathing Ghosts, called The Ghosts’ Feast. One of the stories traces the life of Vikram, a Hindu transformed into a vampire in the Sixties. I was interested in investigating different religions and cultures other than Christianity- especially as writers such as Anne Rice are well-known for exploring Christianity within their own vampire novels. Because I wanted to do justice to Vikram’s character, I therefore had to do a lot of research on the history of Hinduism and its customs.

I’d originally named Vikram after Vikram Seth- the novelist and poet-but funnily enough there is a tale of a legendary king named Vikram or Vikramāditya, who is set riddles by a vampire spirit, known as a vetala. The story is part of a series known as the Baital Pachisi.

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?

Of course, obviously I’d suggest that readers read the whole series to get the most out of the characters, but I still think that the first novel and the sequel could be read as stand-alone pieces. To find out more about my characters, readers can also check out my blog ( where I do a ‘Character Of The Month’ feature.

Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?

Oh yes! Rowan shares a similar- if more exaggerated- taste in clothes to me (in the first novel, she actually wears a green velvet skirt that I own!) whilst Nerissa expresses my secret love of Goth culture, and Bruce is a result of my love of rare books and London’s Watkins Bookshop (which is a fantastic independent bookshop for anything related to vampires or the supernatural.) Violet also gnaws her lip, just like I often do, and Camille is, of course, a die-hard feminist. (She also shares my love of the feminist author Kate Millett.) Although it’s important to note that my characters are also fundamentally different from me in many various ways- after all, where’s the fun in just writing about yourself?

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?

Hmm…I usually drink hot chocolate whilst writing, does that count?

When did you consider yourself a writer?

My love of writing is so fundamental to me as a person that I probably considered myself a writer in the womb.

What are your guilty pleasures in life?

Starbucks coffee and browsing New Age spirituality shops. I refuse to feel guilty about my fervent consumption of chocolate, as I strongly believe that easy access to chocolate should be a human right.

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

As I previously mentioned, I am a die-hard feminist, so I often go to feminist conferences, demonstrations and protests- which is a lot more fun than it sounds. I’m passionate about women’s rights, and have been from a very early age. I also love to collect vinyl records, go to the cinema (although I have a pathological hatred of horror movies) and go to gigs. The last gig I went to see was Fleetwood Mac- they were amazing. I also love to read, and have been known to get through a novel a week at least. Apart from Tolkien, I love the work of Dorothy L. Sayers, Michael Moorcock, Angela Carter, Joanne Harris, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Poppy Z. Brite.

What was the last amazing book you read?

Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris- a wonderfully gripping, unusual and magical book.

Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?

I like to read on the bus, and also in an armchair in my sitting-room. It also helps that it is in front of the TV too.

What can readers expect next from you?

The third book in the series, although as The Blood Witching has just come out I haven’t got round to writing it yet I’m afraid! Please check my website and blog for more details.

Where can readers find you on the web?

I have an official website at:, and a blog at The Breathing Ghosts Series is also on Facebook and on Twitter (follow me at EleanorKeane1.) The Breathing Ghosts, The Ghosts’ Feast and The Blood Witching are all on GoodReads as well, and available to buy from Amazon. (Please also feel free to write reviews on Amazon!)

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

“He used to call vampires ‘the breathing ghosts’- for, as he put it, we existed in a kind of limbo-land between the living and the dead. We breathed, but we were not alive. We flitted through the air, but we still left foot prints on the ground. We were, and are, neither one nor the other, but something else entirely.”- Extract from The Breathing Ghosts, copyright Eleanor Keane.

“Not all fairytales have happy endings, my dear...Not all witches burn in ovens, not every princess wakes up, and sometimes the trail of breadcrumbs doesn’t lead to a safe place...I should know.”- Extract from The Blood Witching, copyright Eleanor Keane.

The Breathing Ghosts 
Eleanor Keane

Eighteen year old Rowan Oakwood isn’t quite like other girls. She’s a lesbian, a loner, an orphan and the first and last female vampire hunter of her line, forced to hunt vampires with a magic she can barely control. 

But when the cold-hearted and cunning vampire Virgil Valvayne sets out for a brutal revenge, she soon finds herself a target. 

Rowan knows she has no choice but to kill Virgil, so why is she so drawn to his beautiful and reclusive sister? And is Violet Valvayne really all she seems? 

Soon boundaries are crossed, loyalties shift and dark alliances are forged, until Rowan doesn’t know whom to hate, whom to hunt, or whom to love… 

The Breathing Ghosts is a dark fantasy for adults and young adults.

About the Author Eleanor Keane

I am the author of The Breathing Ghosts- a dark vampire fantasy aimed at young adults and  the accompanying short story collection, The Ghosts’ Feast. Both are available to buy as ebooks from Amazon and

I have also written for  For Books’ Sake,, Vampire Review and for the Feminist Library, London. (Please see my Portfolio for more details.) I have given readings from The Breathing Ghosts at Westminster Reference Library, London (with the poets and authors Sophia Blackwell and Roz Kaveney)  the Courtauld Institute of Art Literature Society and Freedom Press Anarchist Bookshop, London. I have also been interviewed for Nyx Book Reviews and Dark Gothic Resurrected ezine (Summer 2013 issue.)

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