Carrie Clevenger is the author of the brilliant vampire stories Crooked Fang. She writes sharp polished horror and urban fantasy that keeps you wanting more. She has recently brought out a collaboration with author Nerine Dorman, a regular at The Slaughterhouse. Blood And Fire includes Xan, from Crooked Fang, and Ash, Dorman’s character. I reviewed it here and recommend it highly.
Carrie met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about Maynard and branding.
What do you think people find disturbing in horror fiction and how does it cross the line into reality?
Before I answer your question I want to make a confession: I was terrified of all things horror as a child, including the dark itself. While all my playmates were watching Freddie Kruger and Jason hack away at shrieking campers, I was watching fantasy shows like The Princess Bride or The Neverending Story. Horror didn’t come until much later when my determination to fit in overcame my fear of things that made people scream. To this day I still yawn at outright gore unless done right. I’d say the creep factor is something that resonates with me. Think The Ring instead of Nightmare on Elm Street.
How would it cross the line into reality? When it rings true as something that could happen to the reader, or better yet–the reader has had the thought jog through the mind before? Triggering guilt or the hidden fear aspect is a bonus, because then the material really has you.
Final word on this is: horror has many faces. Some of them are familiar.
Do you have to make a mental adjustment as a woman author when writing a male character and what does it involve?
To be frank, no. Let me explain.
I’m a tomboy and always have been. When I was a kid, I played with boys. It wasn’t until they started getting into full-contact sports (like football) that I felt less than equal among them. I preferred Hot Wheels over Barbie, except when I realized that having Barbie would mean getting bigger cars to play with.
Writing Xan is just a natural extension of that male part of me, at the risk of running pun. I’ve always had an easier time writing men rather than women. I know it sounds really typical, and is actually less true these days, but I’ve never identified with the female gender as well. My mind is split. My parents still joke that I was supposed to be a ‘Gary’ not a ‘Carrie’, and that throughout my in utereo duration I was believed to be a boy.
I don’t regret being female. Being a woman definitely has its advantages. Fewer than men, but more substantial.
Tell us about Crooked Fang.
Crooked Fang is the name of my upcoming novel, and is the name of my character’s band. The main character is Xan Marcelles, a bassist live-in at a tavern-lodge called Pale Rider, and who also happens to be a vampire. Before the collective sigh catches around the room, let me advise he’s very human, and encounters many problems in the story, both mundane and extraordinary. Xan was the first character I ever wrote in a story and has been around since about 2000. That means he’s been mooching off me for over a decade. It’s okay. He’s an easy muse to handle. Most of the time.
I get a lot of questions about where he comes from, and where I get my inspiration from. To be honest, I’m not really sure. Bits and pieces of people and situations I’ve found interesting over the years, perhaps. The rest was all growth and opportunity to evolve. The colors of his website should clue you in that he isn’t your run-of-the-mill bloodsucker. They’re white and blue. He’s a good guy, as much as he doesn’t believe in it.
I once had a dream of him where he said to me, “Stop being disappointed in my humanity.” There’s a reason for this. I started out like any other Anne Rice fan girl to write a vampirey-vampire and Xan has bucked the system to be his own person. It’s a good singularization of what he is: A monster with a human heart.
Why do you think Maynard is such a great artist?
Short answer: Maynard James Keenan is a great artist. That’s an easy thing to just spew out, but the fact is he is an accomplished artist. Those accomplishments are done well. That’s why he’s a great artist.
His music has shown growth over the years. He’s not recycling old ideas, over and over. He’s always moving ahead.
Long answer: People ask me why I admire him. Look at all he’s done: Fronted Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, started a vineyard, and bottled his own brand of wine.
He’s not a drug addict falling down into a pit of despair like so many other musicians. His lyrics are filled with words you might need a dictionary to define. There is math in his music.
He has something for everyone, and I say that only now because I’ve converted my father, aged 67, to Maynardism. “Why didn’t you ever tell me about this before?” He says. Well dad, I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about Tool, to be honest. “Fucking excellent!” Dad says. Yes. Yes it is.
Do you think a woman would adopt a different style of murder to a man?
I think that any human is capable of violence with the proper trigger. That said, there might be physical limitations between a man and a woman, i.e.: fist-fighting versus use of weapons. Women tend to be more cunning, but that’s not always the case. I refuse to believe that a woman is any inch more compassionate than a man for her victim.
Do you think there is still an inherent prejudice in publishing against online writers and if so why do you think this exists?
No, I don’t think so. I think there’s an inherent prejudice against self-published writers which should be eliminated. You can compare a self-published author to an independent shop versus a large corporation. I find that the more I explore self-published works, the more I like them. I think the biggest problem with independent authors is the distinct lack of polish (I hate to say this, but it’s true). Almost every book I get that is self-published has numerous problems, whether it be misspellings, lack of punctuation, or poor formatting. It seems to come with the territory of doing everything yourself. I think that if you’re going to self-publish, if you can’t edit well yourself, that you should hire an editor. Or make really good friends with one so you can trade services. I’d love to see that sort of community set up. Everyone would benefit.
Why do you think vampires have such an enduring appeal?
Now that is a good question, and I don’t think it has just one answer. For the world, I honestly have no idea. Some people find them sexually appealing, from the primal biting activities, to the mortal threat, to the strength, finesse, etc.
For me, I’d say my interest lies in their longevity. I like to toy with the idea of a person from Ancient Rome having a discussion with a fellow from the 80s. I like that they can’t be killed easily, so I can torture them more than a normal human being. I like the remorse at lost chances, the separation of themselves from mainstream society, able to participate in, but not be a part of the world they live in.
Two sides of a man: the monster, and the human. Torn between wanting to do very bad things and wanting to help people as much as he can. That’s my vampire at least.
What are your branding plans for Crooked Fang?
Ah, trade secrets. I’ve gotten my cue from bands, actually. Most bands have a distinct logo and with strongly associated merchandise. I’ve had a Crooked Fang logo created, which was incidentally thought up by my husband while in the bath one evening. In between him and our friend James Zuniga, the concept turned into the Crooked Fang logo of today. It’s all mine, and I love it.
As for appearance, I don’t like changing things up any more than I need to, so I’ve mainly stuck to the white and blue color-scheme, with the alternative of black and silver. The black scheme came about by popular demand from my readers, whose opinions I do hold very dear, especially the earliest ones that have witnessed the entirety of my journey.
Being what boils down to a small-press author, my particular challenge is to create a master style guide to be applied to each and every related item, from the book cover, to the merchandise I have planned, to the website. It’s taking a little bit of time, and I’ve had some variations to my general plans, but all-in-all, I’ve remained true to the original concept.
What are your thoughts on the rise of the eBook?
It’s a curse and a boon. Let me explain why. I fought allowing an ereader into my home for years, even scoffed at those who had, but when all of my independent author friends began releasing their works in only electronic format, I had no choice but to bend, as reading a novel on a computer screen is rather tiresome. I love the eBook, I hate the eBook. I love that I can grab an impulse buy and have it in seconds. I miss the joy of discovery at having to hunt down a particular book I’ve got to have. Having an ereader has turned me into a book hoarder, with a TBR pile a mile high. But I love my ereader. I love the ease of toting one item along, as opposed to a couple of precious hardcover books. I’m torn, but as my novel will initially be released in only e-format, again I’m forced to embrace the new age.
Do you think there is an element of romance in your fiction?
If you’re writing about people, there’s a hint of romance, unless there’s simply no opportunity offered. In Crooked Fang, Xan does develop feelings, regardless of how much he denies them. But as far as traditional romance, where the story itself revolves around the boy gets the girl? No. When I set out to write Crooked Fang, romance was the farthest thing from my mind. I like stories with action, deep introspection, and well-defined obstacles in which the main character has to overcome. I admittedly enjoy most in fiction, character-driven stories, rather than plot.
Considering that the story Crooked Fang is written from the vampire’s point of view, the reader is able to see just how torn the character is between ‘frilly love feelings’ and doing what needs to be done to help the needy, or even to survive.
Thank you Carrie for a great interview that is a perceptive introduction to you and your work, and which I hope gains you new readers.
This is our invitation to share with each of you, the separate worlds of Inkarna and Crooked Fang brought together in a crossover collaboration.
Crooked Fang is my own novel, due to be released August 2012 from Lyrical Press, along with a self-printed version that will be available around the same time.
Here are more of my links:
Carrie Clevenger – @carrieclevenger
Nerine Dorman – @nerinedorman
Xan Marcelles – @crookedfang