Interview with Denise Verrico
Denise Verrico is the author of the Immortyl Revolution series, an adult urban fantasy series about vampires who are intriguingly different. This week she is releasing Annals of the Immortyls, a collection of three short stories based in the same world. Denise is also a member of my critique group, so I have read and enjoyed her work!
Can you tell us more about the short stories you’ve put together in Annals?
Thanks for having me here, Anne Marie. I wanted to put out a sampler of short tales for readers new to my work, as well as those who have read the novels published by L&L Dreamspell. The three stories each feature one of my three main characters in the series, Mia Disantini, Kurt Eisen and Cedric MacKinnon.
I always wanted to delve into some of the events in Kurt and Mia’s backstories, but they would have been too much of a digression from the main action of the novels. For instance, it’s understood in Cara Mia that Ethan uses Mia in schemes to bilk money from wealthy men, but I never really show in the novel how they go about this. Mia’s story in the collection is called A Gentleman’s Wager and it deals with Mia seducing a mortal man named Michel Barrault. However, Mia finds herself the one being seduced.
Readers have asked me a lot about Kurt’s background and how he meets up with his progenitor, Brovik. In Special Treatment, I explore Kurt’s origins in Nazi Germany. When Kurt is fifteen, his family is rounded up and shipped to Auschwitz. Kurt is taken to Dachau for “special treatment”, where he basically becomes the property of an SS officer, Ubersturmfuhrer Friedrich. Kurt makes a Faustian bargain to survive. Oddly enough, Brovik, the vampire elder who “rescues” Kurt, proves to be less of a monster than the humans that held Kurt captive.
Special Treatment was a difficult story to write because it deals with an uncomfortable subject, sexual abuse. It’s tricky trying to convey what is happening to Kurt without becoming graphic. I would never choose to describe the actual rape of a teenaged boy. The object is to show the sense of horror and despair in the victim with taste and sensitivity.
The third tale is more of an action story, featuring Cedric MacKinnon, a devotee of the Goddess Kali and vampire courtesan turned assassin. Yes, a male vampire courtesan, you read it correctly. In my novel, My Fearful Symmetry, I tell of Cedric’s journey from London street kid to Immortyl celebrity, who learns that his dreams of fame and fortune come with a price. His tale in Annals of the Immortyls is The Path Diverges. In the story, Cedric fights an old foe and discovers that he still has a lot to learn before he can complete his mission of toppling the old regime.
How are your vampires different?
Well, they don’t sparkle, but Cedric is pretty flamboyant and does on occasion glitter. However, that’s simply make-up. His idol is David Bowie. My vampires aren’t for the faint of heart. There is blood, lots of it, and the odd disemboweling or beheading. There is loveless sex for political ends. People and vampires often treat one another abysmally. But there is humor, the gallows variety. Romance? Hmm…in a twisted way perhaps.
The series is dark urban fantasy. Some reviewers have called the novels “supernatural political thrillers”. The overarching plot of Immortyl Revolution deals with a rebellion among the vampire slave class and a race between rival vampire clans (and eventually the US government) to capture the secrets of immortality.
I guess you might say Immortyls are more “sci fi” or “viral” vampires, because they’re biologically muted by a symbiotic organism. They have no “magical” powers like flying or shape shifting, although Cedric believes that Kali directs his actions. They are stronger, faster and immune to disease. They don’t age. They heal quickly, but are still vulnerable to serious injury and blood loss. My vamps don’t go out in the sun because ultra violet light causes a necrotizing effect that turns them into vampire soup.
Your stories are usually firmly based in some historical period or culture. What makes you choose a certain time and place for your stories?
Immortyl Revolution is set in the 20th and 21st century, but Immortyls live in a complex underground society, based on ancient cultures. Slavery is widely practiced. My three characters were all slaves, who rebelled against their masters. The novels are set in present-day New York and India, although Mia tells her tale in Cara Mia starting in the 1950s. I chose that time, because it was a time where women lost gains made during WWII, reflecting Mia’s situation with her master, Ethan. It was the beginning of the sexual revolution, the time when DNA was discovered and the eve of the social upheavals of the 1960s. The modern world comes crashing down on the heads of the Immortyl elders.
New York City was a natural place for Kurt and Mia’s domain. I lived there for several years and love the unique character of various neighborhoods. Museums, parks, ferries, subways, rooftops and parking garages offer opportunities for settings. It’s the ultimate urban jungle for my predators. I’d love to write a prequel someday about Ethan and Brovik during the Civil War era, using some of the seamier locations in historical NYC like Five Points.
I’m fascinated by Eastern cultures and religions, so I chose India as the center of the Immortyl culture. I wanted an exotic, mystical setting for the chief elder to hold court. Also, India has many vampire-like spirits in their mythology. My Indian Immortyls practice Tantra (not Hindusim) and worship Kali. She’s associated with blood-drinking and haunting places of death like battlefields and graveyards. However, Kali is often misunderstood in the West. She is Kali Maa, defender of her earthly children, the fierce aspect of motherhood, the embodiment of Shakti, female power. She’s creator as well as destroyer and sets the universe in motion when Shiva sleeps.
You’ve created some memorable characters in the Immortyl Revolution series. Do you have a favorite? And, why?
Well, I’ve always liked Kurt the best because he’s the least like me. He’s quiet, contemplative, cool and methodical to a fault, a diplomat, never one to act impulsively. In short, he’s Mia’s opposite. Kurt is this small, angelic-looking man with nerves of steel and blue eyes to die for.
Hmm, sounds like a role for Elijah Wood.
The other two main characters are too close to me. They remind me a lot of my faults. Mia embodies my grumpy, somewhat impetuous nature and sense of justice. I actually based her attitude about her place in Immortyl culture on my experience as the production coordinator of a theater company. She does all the grunt work and feels she never gets the glory. Cedric is the diva of my theatrical past, the one who craves attention. He’s vain, often self-centered, must be stroked and made much of, but he’s loyal and has a heart of gold.
What authors have influenced you?
I’ve always loved reading historical fiction by authors like Robert Graves and Mary Renault. These authors imbue stories with intrigue and historical detail, yet they tell them in an accessible first-person. The Persian Boy by Mary Renault inspired me to write a book featuring a male courtesan. Renault wrote a series of novels about Alexander the Great. The Persian Boy is seen through the eyes of Alexander’s lover, the eunuch Bagoas.
I also have to give a nod to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. She was one of the first to explore the vampire’s POV. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is my favorite “viral” vampire story.
What are you working on next?
I’m polishing up an urban fantasy called Prophetess, then finishing an 18th-century-inspired fantasy, Shards of Obsidian. I’m also trying my hand at a Steampunk short story. There are some non-fiction projects in the works as well. Eventually, I hope to be putting out Cedric’s further adventures in a serialized format.
Thanks for having me here, Anne Marie.
Denise’s novels are available in trade PB and ebook on Amazon, B&N, Omni lit and other online retailers or can be ordered through local bookstores. The Annals of the Immortyls ebook can be found at Amazon, B&N and Alliteration Ink and the paperback at Denise’s website or on Amazon.
For signed paperback copies click on this link to go to Denise’s website.
Denise is currently offering an exclusive sale at her website store for signed trade paperbacks of My Fearful Symmetry for $10.00 and Annals of the Immortyls for $5.00.
About the author
Ms. Verrico is an Urban Fantasy author and New Jersey native who grew up in Western Pennsylvania. She attended Point Park College and majored in Theatre Arts. For seven seasons, she was a member of the Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. Denise has loved vampire stories since childhood and is a fan of the Dark Shadows television series. Her books are published by L&L Dreamspell Publishing and include: Cara Mia (Book One of the Immortyl Revolution Series), Twilight of the Gods (Book Two of the Immortyl Revolution Series), and My Fearful Symmetry (Book Three of the Immortyl Revolution Series). She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, son, and her flock of spoiled parrots.
For excerpts of the Immortyl Revolution Series, character profiles and the Immortyl Lexicon visit www.deniseverricowriter.webs.com.