Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Elizabeth Guizzetti is an author and illustrator best known for her demon-poodle based comedy, Out for Souls & Cookies. She is also the creator of Faminelands and Lure and collaborated with authors on several projects including A is for Apex and The Prince of Artemis V. She loves writing and podcasting about vampires in the Paper Flower Consortium.
Guizzetti lives in Seattle with her husband and dog. When not writing or illustrating, she loves hiking and birdwatching.
Accident Among Vampires (Or What Would Dracula Do?)
Issaquah, Washington, USA
My name is Norma Mae Rollins. I’m fourteen and an illegal vampire. I miss my mom, but new ghoulish appetites force me to remain with my creator.
Bill didn’t mean to transform me. At least, that’s what he claims. His frightening temper, relentless lies, and morbid scientific experiments makes it hard to know what to believe. However, someone snitched about Bill’s experiments to a nearby Coven. Now both of our corpses will burn.
Bill won’t run. He is curious what happens to a vampire after final death. I don’t want to die again. It hurt so much the first time. Bill thinks his vampire boyfriend might shelter me. I must brave an eternal existence with elder vampires and other monsters who don’t think I ought to exist. Oh and figure out who I am allowed to eat.
A vampire’s reality is nothing like the movies.
Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
Firstly, I want to ensure your readers knew that Accident Among Vampires (Or What Would Dracula Do?) is a stand-alone novel in the Paperflower Consortium Universe which has six books so far and a podcast which tells stories of several vampires or enthralled humans within the coven.
Norma Mae Rollins, the protagonist of Accident Among Vampires or What Would Dracula Do?, was transformed at 14 years old in the summer between 8th and 9th grade in 1951.
She was first introduced in the 2018 novella, Immortal House, as Norma of Norma’s Cleaning Service. And she has her own books, Norma’s Cleaning Service Mysteries, which show her as an “adult” vampire cleaning up messy hunts and solving murders.
However, listeners of the podcast voted for Norma’s origin story to be the next story told. Someone told me they wanted to know how this child vampire did not become a tragedy which is the case of many child vampires in literature. When I thought up Norma, that was my goal!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I LOVE research and can easily go down rabbit holes which is why I don’t do a lot of inquiries before I begin writing. For most books, I look up common names for the time and place of the setting, basic etiquette, and rules of that society. Then I start writing a skeleton draft. It’s the skeleton draft that really lets me know what I need to research.
Since Accident Among Vampires (Or What Would Dracula Do?) is part of a greater universe, I already had the names of most characters and the “rules” of being a vampire, but I did some special research before I began to write. I watched (or rewatched in some cases) several vampire films of the 1930s and 40s, because I had to know what the protagonist, Norma, would know about vampires before she became one. Like many kids of the era, she spent a lot of times at the movies.
Of course, I also had to recheck the “Bill” and “Norma” sections in Immortal House and Chapters 9 and 10 in Death Pulls a Stake Out to ensure I did not contradict myself in any major events and small contradictions are simply due to point of view changes.
Subjects I researched: appropriate use of shall/shan’t, Victorian Idioms, Beat Generation Slang, Effects of WWII on US society, Movie theaters and movie technology of 1950’s, Invention and widespread use of ballpoint pens, Recording equipment of 1950s, Cars of 1940s, air-conditioning, Victorian etiquette (For Derrik), Invention and widespread use of nylon, Sheep, 1951 Sears and Nordstrom’s catalogues, 1950s parenting techniques, Postwar foster care, 1950s mental health treatments, Postwar names and treatment for PTSD.
Beyond all the classic movies, I watched, I also listened to old classic radio programs and watched SO MUCH Perry Mason!
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Yes. All writers have strengths and weaknesses. Fictional characters must act in certain ways for the plot to continue. While sometimes, this is the way people act in real life, it isn’t always. Real life has real consequences, ultimately fictional books do not.
Every writer can research. Every writer can read first-hand accounts or interview people who go through what your characters are going through. If you need to describe a facial expression, look at photos or look at yourself in the mirror.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I look up top 100 popular names for characters by gender and nationality in the year or time period, they were born. For surnames, I look up top 100 names in wider cultural groups. I sometimes use angelized names if the characters immigrated or were enslaved during a time when names were angelized. I often use the spellings of names, which are from the country of origin, thought they are often the less popular spellings. I will even use phonemic spelling, if someone’s parents were illiterate.
Norma Mae Rollins was born in Issaquah, WA, USA in 1938. A third-generation immigrant, she is an American of Italian descent on mother’s side, mixed European/French on father’s.
Norma was the 34th most common name in the States for a girl’s name that year, plus generally considered to be originally an Italian name – came from an opera. Her Italian heritage was covered up by Mother’s married name. (Her mother’s maiden name is Rici, both grandparents came from Italy before the unification.) Since her first and last names were two syllables, I wanted a single syllable name for the middle.
Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
William Thomas Caruso aka Bill. It is hard to write a character who makes evil choices, some bad choices, yet still has some good qualities – but ultimately is not the antagonist. Like Norma, I first introduced Bill in Immortal House. It was obvious Bill is a bully. However, as the protagonist of that book is another man and willing participant in Bill’s sadism, it was much easier to gloss over what he did to Norma with a few lines of dialogue.
But I had to show Norma’s transformation and the months she existed with Bill as his daughter in Accident Among Vampires (Or What Would Dracula Do?). Sometimes, they got along. Sometimes they didn’t.
In Bill’s journal, he defends physical abuse as a reasonable response to disobedience. He claims it is a father’s duty to correct his children. In 1951, society agreed with him to a certain extent. As the author, I was juggling the need to ensure I didn’t sound like I was justifying Bill’s violence which is hard when the characters rationalize the violence.
Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?
It isn’t one scene, but several scenes which loop together. As an author, I felt like I was preforming a balancing act of Norma learning what a true immortal existence is while focusing on domestic matters and intense isolation and homesickness in her first weeks at the coven. She is terrified if she makes a wrong move someone will throw her into the sun or Derrik (the vampire who created Bill) will beat her.
To be in the thick of Norma’s distress, the reader needed to sit in the terror of powerlessness of being a without money, freedom, family, or friends so the book lingers there. There are snippets of relief, but nothing intrinsically changes from one scene to the next.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
What’s funny is my very favorite chapter – Chapter 21—is in these loops.
Bill’s former enthralled human, Aldo, now donates his blood to Norma on Sundays. (I make it clear early in the novel vampires can eat meat and blood of any animal, but to keep their supernatural strength and healing they need about a pint of human blood a week. Human flesh is even better.)
One day, Aldo is exhausted, anemic, and his arm is covered in bite marks. Norma is terrified she will be blamed as this is against the rules of bleeding humans. Derrik is afraid Norma will be blamed too. Norma thinks up a way to prove her innocence. This is the first time in the book that the reader gets to see her kindness, actual intelligence and creativity without a foil character.
And Derrik not only calls it “an excellent idea”, he ensures her plans are followed through which is the first step in establishing trust between the two characters.
Of course, as I said above, this is a “two steps forward, one step back” situation. By the end of the night, she has a tantrum due to a panic attack. Bill haunts her dreams. Someone opened her window so sunlight hits her coffin, but she may have been dreaming or sleepwalking.
How often you read?
I read a book every two weeks or so. I like to read in the bath and a full-length novel is 3 or 4 baths. But after I finish a book, I also like to take some time to think and chat with my friends about it which is why I don’t start the next book right away.
Thanks for having me!
Categories: BookView Review Interview