A while back, I reviewed L.X. Cain’s Bloodwalker novel and liked it enough that I wanted to do more to help her promote her work. So we decided to do an interview around the official release date. Bloodwalker was released on October 4th. You will find a link to my review of the book at the bottom of this interview.
Author Interview with L.X. Cain
S&S: Bloodwalker was an interesting novel to read for a couple of reasons. What initially drew me in was how ‘real’ the Skomori clan seemed. Real enough, in fact, that I actually googled around to see if some sort of Bloodwalker clan existed that you might have based them off. So, I have to ask, where did the idea for Bloodwalkers come from?
L.X. Cain (LXC): I wanted to show an isolated community with very different morals and beliefs than those of the developed world, one that, by our standards, was repressive toward women. I studied the Roma (gypsies) and the Amish, researched strange beliefs, weird wedding rituals, and odd superstitions of the world, and also did historical research on the Black Plague. Then I let my imagination run wild! And I came up with the Skomori Bloodwalkers and their Bloodwalker Book, which is sort of a macabre Farmer’s Almanac for bloodwalker women who prepare bodies for burial.
S&S: Your writing of the Zorka Circus family was also very realistic. You didn’t paint them to be heroes or villains, but a believable mix of (extremely insular) characters. Was this something you researched? Were there any interesting tidbits you found out about Circus life you didn’t put in the novel if so?
LXC: I did a lot of research on circuses! I read every article I could find on performers, life in circuses, and traveling carnivals. I also watched a number of videos showing how traveling circuses set up, move from city to city, and what type of acts they employ.
Things I didn’t put in the book were detailed accounts of Freak Shows from the 1700s to the mid 1900s. I found info on how the performers couldn’t find work outside the circus and considered themselves lucky to be employed there. There were also histories of certain performers and what happened to them after they left the circus. None of this went in the book, but it helped me understand the psychology of people who work in contemporary traveling circuses.
S&S: According to your Goodreads page, you definitely like to write horror (though Bloodwalker is definitely more mystery/thriller than anything else). So, what drew you to writing horror? If it was a particular book or author, mind sharing the details with us?
LXC: I’ve loved Horror ever since “Dark Shadows” came on TV when I was a child! Since then I’ve obsessively watched every Horror movie I could find, from great ones like “Psycho” to awful ones like “Them!” (about giant ants) – makes no difference, I love them all. As soon as novels like The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror came out, I devoured them. Then Herbert, King, and Koontz became popular, and I read many of their novels. I still prefer Horror novels when I’m reading for pleasure.
S&S: What was the most difficult part of writing this book for you?
LXC: Two things were hard for me.
1) The large number of action scenes. I’m pretty good at writing them, but I’ve never had to write so many. The hero, Rurik, is always fighting or chasing someone!
2) The hero’s characterization. I’d never written a man protagonist before. I love Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Agent Pendergast series. I wanted my hero to have the same enigmatic persona and dark background as Pendergast. Easier said than done. My female crit partners kept saying, “More emotion!” My male ones said, “Cut the inner thoughts and get to the action!” Luckily, I managed to walk the tightrope between the two opinions and am very pleased with the reaction Rurik is getting from readers.
S&S: From start to final draft, how long did it take you to write Bloodwalker?
LXC: It took me almost two years. I started researching the summer of 2014, and then wrote from December 2014 to December 2015. (Yes, I write at the pace of a geriatric snail.) Interestingly, I then subbed the novel to the hybrid publisher Booktrope. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Then they announced they were closing! So I quickly subbed to a new hybrid (Freedom Fox) and they immediately accepted. I did a final line-edit for Freedom Fox’s editor in April 2016.
S&S: Taking a break from the serious for a moment: What does your primary drinking mug say about you? (Mine informs people that I hate morning people. And mornings. And people.)
LXC: Haha! I love yours! I’m afraid all my mugs were bought long ago and only have pretty pictures on them. Boring, huh?
S&S: Have any of your books ever been inspired by a dream or nightmare that you had?
LXC: I sometimes wake up thinking I dreamed the most brilliant novel idea! Later in the day, as I contemplate important things like character goals and plot, I realize my idea makes no sense and is basically random chaos. So no, I’ve never had a dream that remained coherent and clever in the harsh light of day.
S&S: How many editors/proofreaders/beta-readers did your book go through before you felt it was ready for publishing?
LXC: I have six excellent CPs, two who got agents (and I had one too) and three who are multi-published in horror, fantasy, or paranormal. After several revisions, I went to Absolute Write to find beta readers. I found four for Bloodwalker. Then my publisher and I had a round of line edits. Content-wise, the novel is done, but there are still some copy-edits/proofs to do before the publishing date, October 4, 2016.
S&S: Tell us about the primary location in your novel. What made you choose it?
LXC: The book’s main location is an abandoned town in the mountains of Romania. It’s based on a real town called Copşa Mică that I turned up in my research. It has a derelict carbon black factory along with a smelter that are responsible for dangerous amounts of pollution in the air, ground, and water. There are many real locations in the novel, like Istvantelek (a train graveyard), Obudai Island in Budapest, Hungary, and Mestsky Park in Slovenia. Almost all the cities where the action takes place are real, and I researched them using satellite maps and images from residents and tourists.
S&S: What’s the most constructive criticism you’ve ever been given?
LXC: When querying my first novel (an MG fantasy that’s unpublished and rightly so!), the authors on Verla Kay’s Blue Boards offered critiques of the query and warned me that the character goals and main conflict weren’t clear. My reply: “What are character goals? And what do you mean by ‘main’ conflict?” I was clueless. They explained things to me, and since then I write a “query blurb” before I start any novel and make sure the basics are covered by using Nathan Bransford’s query template:
[Protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist’s quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist’s goal].
S&S: What are your taboo topics? Things you refuse to write about in your works.
LXC: I have a closed door policy when it comes to sex. There may be a kiss or two. No more than that.
For your information: There are awesome pictures of the real Istvantelek Train Graveyard here:
Find my review of Bloodwalker HERE.