An Interview with Cassandra Pierce

Author Image 2Cassandra Pierce has been a fan of Gothic literature for most of her life, even studying the origins of the genre in college and graduate school. Before long, she got the urge to create paranormal romances of her own and is now hard at work on several new projects. When she is not writing, she teaches English at a small New England college and is active in a charity that rescues and rehomes abandoned pets.

Q: Chase, one of the heroes in Chasing Shadows, is struggling with his transition into the vampire lifestyle and finding his place in the world now that he’s been turned. What was the inspiration for Chase’s character and his transformation during the book?

A: I’ve read a lot of vampire books in my day, but most of them either start when the guy has been a vampire for hundreds of years, or, if they deal with the transformation, show it as a sort of mentoring relationship between the established vampire and the ex-human (who might even be lovers). I started thinking about how a new vampire would react if he was turned without any knowledge of what was happening and without anyone to help him adjust. I figured he’d be pretty angry and might even want revenge against his sire. That was where the idea for Chase’s investigation into Jonas, his suspected sire, came from. He is driven to find out the truth.

Q: Dalton and Chase are investigating the famous television actor, Jonas Herring, who is the quintessential celebrity diva. What did you enjoy about writing Jonas’s character, or was there anything challenging about bringing him to life?

A: I’ve been a great fan of many vampire shows and movies since I was a kid in the early 1970s. Vampires have changed a lot since then, now that we have on-screen dreamboats like Mick St. John and Eric…who are definitely human actors once they take off the makeup. I started to wonder what it might be like for a real vampire to play a vampire on screen. I figured he’d be campy, larger than life, arrogant, and demanding of other vampires’ attention and adoration. Jonas was a hoot to write about and I might even bring him back in a future installment of the series. That tilted lavender fedora he wears says it all.

Q: Jonas and his vampire costars weren’t always able to be captured on film until the modern advancements in technology. This is an interesting twist to the vampire mythology that they don’t show up in photographs. What first sparked this idea?

A: I used to write for a glossy newsstand photography magazine, and at the time the shift from film to digital was just starting to take hold. As part of my job, I would interview professional photographers over the phone, and they always had plenty to say about both the technical and the artistic features of digital photography. I guess it stuck with me, because suddenly there that memory was, ready to use in my story! After all, if the cable show starred real vampires, they would have to show up on film. It kind of makes sense when you consider that people in Victorian photographs had to stand still for hours while the film was exposed—digital is the opposite of that, being lightning fast, so it stands to reason it might be able to capture different sorts of beings.

Q: The vampire resort, Anarchy, caters uniquely to its privileged vampire guests, with moonbathing and all the perks an undead visitor could want. How did you come up with the concept for the series’ setting?

A: Like a lot of my fellow Siren authors, I tend to have vivid dreams that suggest plots and storylines all the time. One night I had a clear vision in my mind of a beach covered with gorgeous half-naked vampire guys stretched out under a huge full moon (yes, it was a very pleasant dream). I suppose I was also recalling a trip I took with my late father once to a “compound”-type luxury resort in Jamaica. Inside the walls it was like a different world where all we had to do was eat and hang out on the beach. Vampires probably have trouble traveling, and they wouldn’t like the tropical sun, but I would think they would like a change of scenery just like humans. Anarchy is off the coast of Greece, too, which has a long and honored association with vampire lore and literature dating back to Lord Byron, who set his own homoerotic vampire tale there.

Q: What’s the most memorable sex scene from one of your books? Why?

A: In the first Anarchy book, Raphael and Ethan’s love scenes presented a unique challenge. Raphael had lost his memory, and is fearful of his new surroundings. Meanwhile, Ethan suspects that he isn’t an ordinary human, though he isn’t sure what Raphael is. He has no idea if the man he loves might turn on him and destroy him. At the same time, Ethan has not been a vampire all that long and worries that he’ll lose control and kill Raphael by accident. He also has to adjust to certain physiological changes that make vampire love a whole new experience. That undercurrent of mutual fear and curiosity made their love scenes sizzle, at least to me.

Q: What’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned about/from writing that you didn’t know when you first started?

A: Well, I am almost ashamed to think of all the mistakes I was making at the beginning compared to what I know now. I have learned a lot from Siren’s editors over the past few years. Though I’d been published before, I think I was clueless about the nuances of point of view before they started working with me. Maybe the most important thing I’ve learned, though, is just to keep going on the draft, even when it seems like the story is going nowhere and every word I use is the wrong one. If one can just get to the very end of the story, all the problems fall into place and are easily solved with another draft or two…most of the time, anyway.

Q: What do you do to relax or get the creative juices flowing when you are struggling to meet your writing goals or deadlines?

A: I am addicted to movie soundtracks, especially the classic 1980 Conan the Barbarian soundtrack by Basil Poledouris. I went to a horror/sci-fi convention once and began talking with a group of other writers, and it turned out we all wrote like mad with this same album blaring in the background. Recently the Prague Symphony did a remastered version of this on CD. Heaven! All I have to do is pop it in and I am flying! For me, the right music is the trick to getting started and keeping on the path to completion.

Q: What qualities do you think are important for the hero in a romance? Are there types of men you prefer to write about?

A: I like a strong, dark alpha guy who has a vulnerability of some sort. I always say that Wuthering Heights was my first and best literary inspiration, and of course that’s because of Heathcliff. There’s a little Heathcliff in every successful romance hero, I think, and mine are no exception. They have to be larger than life and a little dangerous. Maybe that’s why I am so into vampires.

Q: Even in today’s world, men who are romantically involved with each other can face discrimination, violence, and bullying. What are some conflicts your heroes have faced, and how did they overcome these obstacles?

A: I suppose vampires face slightly different problems, whatever their orientation, but of course those who prefer men might already be familiar with having to hide who they really are. If they are from earlier centuries, when being gay was punishable by imprisonment or even death, they are bound to have some hang-ups they bring with them into the 21st century. Hopefully, being powerful, immortal, and in most cases above human laws, gives them the confidence to express their love in ways they didn’t dare to as gay medieval or Victorian humans (just to name two fairly repressive periods in history).

Q: One of your books is going to be adapted into a film. Which one? And who plays the main characters?

A: I think the Anarchy books would make a great cable series, maybe a bit like Shadow Bay, the fictional show in the newest book. I’d like to have Richard Armitage as Simon, the resort owner, and Tony Shalhoub as Izzo, the faithful and long-suffering bartender. The guests can come from a rotating cast of hotties…I can keep writing as long as there is a steady supply in Hollywood. And as we know, that is never going to be a problem. Any producers out there, get in touch pronto!

2 comments

  1. This sounds like an interesting series, Cassandra.studying Goth lit must have been interesting and a great staging ground for your paranormal romances.

  2. Cassandra Pierce /

    To this day, I am totally and thoroughly addicted to Gothics. I still scour yard sales for the old ones (castle in the background, woman running away in her nightie on the cover!!) and I don’t see why they can’t come back bigger & better than ever in the modern world! ( I know I am doing my part). Gothics have also traditioanlly provided a literary venue for LGBT themes, making the genre even more relevant to today’s literary scene!