Kim Newman is a novelist, critic and broadcaster. His fiction includes Anno Dracula, Life’s Lottery and The Man from the Diogenes Club. His non-fiction includes Nightmare Movies, Horror: 100 Best Books and BFI Classics studies of Cat People and Doctor Who. He is a contributing editor to Sight & Sound and Empire. He wrote and directed a short film Missing Girl. And here we’ve had a chance to ask him a few questions as The Bloody Red Baron, the second installment of his Anno Dracula series is released.
1. Before we jump right in, why don’t you tell us a little about the upcoming release of the next installment of your Anno Dracula series, The Bloody Red Baron.
Newman: As with Anno Dracula, I’ve included quite a bit of extra material in the new edition from Titan Books – I think about a third of the book is new stuff. Besides a scattering of footnotes, I’ve added an outline I wrote for a Red Baron-related monster movie for Roger Corman (intended for the SyFy Channel, who weren’t keen) and restored a chapter which was cut in the original edit (which, among other things, features the only onstage appearance of a certain famous Victorian hero in the series so far).
The most substantial new thing in the book is Vampire Romance: Anno Dracula 1923, a novella (about half the length of a novel) which fills in a gap in the series (it’s a 1920s Old Dark House weekend mystery, which draws on the work of Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse and others) but also gave me a chance to engage critically with recent developments in the field of vampire fiction. In the real 1920s, the word vampire changed meaning and was most used to refer to seductive, debatably immoral women – in my imagined 1920s, I envision a similar pop culture phenomenon analogous to the contemporary rise of sparkly/self-pitying romantic vampires and overlapping with the vision of sexy, predatory, inwardly sensitive dominant males as epitomised by Rudolf Valentino in and as the Sheik. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula arguably rises out of this stereotype anyway, so I’m just making connections that are already there.
2. Is it the mix of history with the vampire mythos that make the Anno Dracula series stand out from all the other vampire fiction out there?
Newman: It’s not for me to say that it does stand out – though obviously I hope it does. My intention was to encompass a whole sub-genre (which may be why it’s turned into a multi-volume work), and to give space for everyone else’s idea of the vampire. I was influenced by Brian Stableford’s The Empire of Fear and John M. Ford’s The Dragon Waiting, which are alternate history stories which include vampires – though I took a different approach by rooting the story in Dracula, the novel, rather than real history.
3. Are you already working on the next installment? And how many books do you foresee in the series?
Newman: I’m currently writing Aquarius: Anno Dracula 1968, a novella which will be in the new edition of Dracula Cha Cha Cha this Autumn; then, I have to polish the fourth book in the series, Johnny Alucard, which takes place mostly in the 1970s and ‘80s (and includes several sequences that have seen print in earlier drafts as novellas, Coppola’s Dracula, Castle in the Desert, Andy Warhol’s Dracula and The Other Side of Midnight). There will be a fifth, perhaps final book – bringing the series into the 21st Century – but that’s in the very early planning stages.
4. You’re an editor, a novelist, a critic and a broadcaster. Is writing fiction your primary passion?
Newman: I don’t tend to separate out the things I do – obviously, the fiction is the most personal work, and the arena where I have the most freedom, but I know that the criticism I do feeds into it often. And I enjoy getting away from the desk to do radio and television too.
5. You wrote The Vampire Genevieve and Orgy of the Blood Parasites as Jack Yeovil. Any reason for the pseudonym?
Newman: The specific reason is that when I started writing for GW Books, who put out the novels collected in The Vampire Genevieve, all the other writers working on the Warhammer line were using pseudonyms so I thought I should too. Later, Ian Watson put out Warhammer books under his own name and in retrospect I wish I’d done that too. Though they were written to fit into worlds other people had created, and (perhaps more important) I don’t control or own the publishing rights to them, the books are pretty much mine and I remain pleased with them. Having built up a parallel career as Jack Yeovil, it’s occasionally been useful to have the name for other things, like Orgy of the Blood Parasites (a gruesome paperback horror novel written in a week). The name comes from the main character in Dreamers, my first published story – there, it was ‘John Yeovil’.
6. Any thoughts on the zombie craze? Has it burned out? And any ideas about what the next big horror craze might be?
Newman: As a critic, I could do with zombies taking a nice long rest – I saw Ozombie this week, which didn’t do anything to dissuade me. I certainly think there have been so many zombie film/books lately that it would take something really amazing to have any impact. I quite liked Pontypool, which was a sort of zombie story. I’m not one for predicting crazes – and I suspect the way to start one is to do something off the wall and original rather than, say, to guess that mummy or werewolf or ghost pirates are going to be big next week and get one of those out.
7. Do you have a writing routine? And if so, what is it?
Newman: I mostly write fiction in the morning and do reviewing in the afternoon, but that’s not hard and fast. I think I get my best work done early in the day.
8. Any advice for new writers?
Newman: If you can do anything else, do so. No one who doesn’t absolutely have to be a writer could put up with what you have to go through to do good work and get it read.
9. What are you currently working on?
Newman: As I said, Anno Dracula 1968. I’ve other novel projects in development – a ghost story, a school story, a Phantom of the Opera story – and I’m also fiddling with some stage, TV and film ideas. There are several non-fiction projects I want to fit in as well.