Before I go any further I need to ask if you like vampires? Yes? Good. How about laughing? Do you like to laugh? I mean grab your sides, you need to pee, lung collapsing guffaws? You do? Then you must read Joe Vampire by Stephen Luna aka ‘Mantacore’. (Don’t ask me how he got that nickname. I haven’t been invited into the cool club to find out why yet. Soon as I learn the hi sign and secret hand shake, I’ll let y’all know!)
Joe is an under achiever. He’s lazy and sub-handsome with not the best track record of girlfriends. I won’t give anything away, but his nicknames for them are some of the most hilarious in history. If you’ve ever had a broken heart, Joe has your back…and quite possibly your neck too.
Luna and I recently became friends over the digital ones and zeroes. He’s intensely funny and a terrific writer. Don’t you love it when you can tell your friend you loved their book and really mean it? For instance, I’m reading Joe Vampire for the second time now and laughing just as hard as I did the first pass. It’s liters of fun. (See what I did there? Liters? Ha!)
I recently interviewed the soon to be too big to remember me author, about words, characters and the pursuit of groovy tuneage. Check out how cool this dude is…
Where did you find Joe? Is he based on you or anyone you know in particular? He’s such a great character.
Thanks, Alex! Joe came to me after a comment was made by a Twilight-loving co-worker…she is a Team Edward-er or however you say that. Can’t remember what her original statement was, but my reply was: “Not all the vampires sparkle, you know; some of them are just average Joes.” It struck me that this would be a fun topic to blog about, how a work-a-day dude would deal with the challenges of being stuck with vampirism. And it was originally a blog only, sort of a conceptual art project where the character would chime in with observations, advice and information about his daily doings. After nine posts, I saw a story emerge and decided to plot it out as a novel instead, and from there Joe just started speaking out and telling the story himself. Makes the work so easy when it happens like that.
How would you describe your relationship with writing? What drives you to do it?
Writing is a constant in my life…I’m continuously composing something in my head, all day long. Sometimes I even edit my to-do lists because I don’t think they’ve been worded properly. It’s habitual for me. But it took a long time for me to evolve “writing” into “storytelling”, because I realized how huge and daunting a task it is to get everything connected properly and have it all make sense. I had to train myself one paragraph at a time. Now, storytelling has become my default mode of thought, a way of organizing information in the world around me regardless of the situation. As for writing novels, I used to want what I write to be transcendent and to reveal some grand insight about the human condition (don’t we all, though?) That did nothing but block me, until I realized entertaining my readers is the greatest manner of transcendence my work could possibly provide. It all made sense after that.
How does your fictional world interact with your real world?
Wow…good question. Everything I write has some fantastic element or, at the very least, a touch of magical realism, so the interaction is primarily in the character voices and the compositional details. Several scenes in Joe were based on real-life experiences – the details of the Halloween costume thing is 100% true, for example, right down to the costumes and parade described. In the book I’m working on now, the main character is a rock star abducted by aliens, and I’ve been fascinated by both forever, so all of my casual data collection over the years is flowing out into it. That’s a different sort of interaction, for sure. And most recently, I’ve started incorporating cameo appearances by friends into my work, as a fun inside joke (with their approval, of course). Sometimes they’re mentioned by name; sometimes their characteristics are encoded into a figure or descriptive passage. In every instance, it’s a way for me to show my gratitude for their friendship. It’s a lot of fun to work them into the madness.
When you write, how do you block out enough of the stresses of daily life to submerge yourself completely into the story?
I almost always compose the story in my head during “white noise” moments – sitting in traffic, doing yard work, in between day job tasks – which makes for a totally thought-consuming day. But it also makes the moments when I sit down to write it all down much easier…so much ends up being there for me from the get-go, even if it’s just a series of major plot points that I can start connecting, and snippets of dialogue or descriptive passages. I also block out early morning time to get as much finished as I can, knowing that evenings are prone to hectic activity. That doesn’t keep me from pushing bedtime back by a few hours if needed, though. And yeah, it hurts in the morning, but the feeling of having accomplished something is entirely worth it.
How important is music vs. silence when you write? If you do listen to music, who are some of your go to artists?
Music is a total must-have when I write. Generally I find plotting/planning/note-taking can be done to anything, so I’ll let Pandora or my own collection roll with a mix of all my artists and stations. It’s a diverse mix – singer-songwriter stuff and electronica, metal and classic rock, Rat Pack standards and rap all coexist and make for a satisfying blend. But I noticed when I was writing the sequel to Joe Vampire that the true writing process smoothed out completely when certain songs came up on the player. All of them turned out to be related in some way to Sleepthief, an ambient-electronic project by a talented guy named Justin Elswick that features the voices of Jody Quine and Coury Palermo. Something about that music in specific balanced out my brainwaves, and the storytelling just flowed. I appreciated the effect of their work on my work so much that I wrote the three of them into the sequel.
If you could think of one moment in your life that led you to being a writer…
Several years back, my wife asked me what she thought I could see myself doing as a long-term career. I told her “painter”, since at the time I was knee-deep in illustration as a hobby. She told me she saw me being a writer. So I picked up some story ideas I had put down long before in favor of painting, and I just kept running with it. Turns out she was onto something.
Head on over to grab a copy of Joe Vampire You’ll laugh so much your sides will ache, your heart will go potter pat!
Here is a small bit of bragadociousness from the Mantacore his own bad self…
Steven Luna was relatively quiet when he was born; that all changed once he learned to speak. Now? Good luck getting him to shut up. He’s also known for not giving straight answers, but those around him are accustomed to ignoring him anyway, so it all works out. He’s currently writing another book…really, though, aren’t we all?
And now run, don’t walk, RUN to one of these places to pick up a copy of Joe Vampire. It really is a great book.
You can always check in for more of Joe’s exploits on his very own blog here… http://joevampire.blogspot.com
He’s on GoodReads here… http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5757470.Steven_Luna
The prototypical Vampire Facebook master here… www.facebook.com/thestevenluna
And if you are a twitterer, he likes his 120 characters fresh and preferably Type O Negative… @joevampireblog
Incidentally, I summoned enough courage to enter into the Mantacore’s lair and let him ask me a few questions too. Check it out HERE. Fortunately for me, I was able to escape with only small visual scars!