Indieview with VM Gautier, author of Blood Diva

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There’s some explicit content. I think it needs to be there. After all, this is a romantic-vampire story with a character based on a woman who was a famous prostitute. But one person’s erotica is another’s snooze-fest, and some readers are easily offended. And there are only so many words for the same thing!

VM Gautier – 25 December 2014

The Back Flap

The 19th century’s most infamous party-girl is undead and on the loose in the Big Apple.

When 23 year-old Parisian courtesan, Marie Duplessis succumbed to consumption in 1847, Charles Dickens showed up for the funeral and reported the city mourned as though Joan of Arc had fallen. Marie was not only a celebrity in in her own right, but her list of lovers included Franz Liszt — the first international music superstar, and Alexandre Dumas fils, son of the creator ofThe Three Musketeers. Dumas fils wrote the novel The Lady of the Camelliasbased on their time together. The book became a play, and the play became the opera La Traviata. Later came the film versions, and the legend never died.

But what if when offered the chance for eternal life and youth, Marie grabbed it, even when the price was the regular death of mortals at her lovely hand?

Now Marie wonders if perhaps nearly two centuries of murder, mayhem, and debauchery is enough, especially when she falls hard for a rising star she believes may be the reincarnation of the only man she ever truly loved. But is it too late for her to change? Can a soul be redeemed like a diamond necklace in hock? And even if it can, have men evolved since the 1800?s? Or does a girl’s past still mark her?

Blood Diva is a sometimes humorous, often dark and erotic look at sex, celebrity, love, death, destiny, and the arts of both self-invention and seduction. It’s a story that asks a simple question: Can a one hundred ninety

About the book

What is the book about?

The premise is that Marie Duplessis, the woman whose life inspired the story Camille, and the opera La Traviata, did not die of tuberculosis at age 23 in 1847. She’s undead and on the loose as a vampire in present-day Brooklyn.

She’s a girl-about-town, working at a chic gallery and frequenting the hottest spots. But after more than a century of murder, mayhem, and debauchery, it’s all getting old.

She falls hard for a mortal — an up and coming writer/actor/singer, but would he love her if he understood her true nature? Is love worth any sacrifice? Those are the questions with which she struggles.

When did you start writing the book?

I started writing the draft in March of 2013, but I was probably writing it in my head a little before that.

How long did it take you to write it?

It took me around a year to get to “the end” and then it took half as long to revise it and get it ready for publication.

Where did you get the idea from?

I grew up on classic cinema, and have seen the Greta Garbo movie Camille countless times. I’m also a big fan of La Traviata. I was thinking of writing a historical novel based on Duplessis’ life, a more modern take on The Lady of The Camellias — something that wouldn’t sentimentalize the heroine and would tell the tale in a new way. Making her an immortal allowed me to set the book in the present day. How does a 19th century demimondaine deal with the modern world? And what does she think of her own legend?

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

There’s some explicit content. I think it needs to be there. After all, this is a romantic-vampire story with a character based on a woman who was a famous prostitute. But one person’s erotica is another’s snooze-fest, and some readers are easily offended. And there are only so many words for the same thing! I hope readers who don’t find the erotica sexy, will at least find it entertaining.

The historical flashback was also a challenge. There was no way I could write about Marie Duplessis without actually showing her pre-vamp life, but I’d never written historical fiction before and wasn’t sure how to approach it.  Once I started, it was actually a lot of fun.

What came easily?

There were some parts of the story I couldn’t wait to get to. I enjoyed putting in references that fans of La Traviata would get, and coming close to parodying scenes from the opera and the book, The Lady of the Camellias. At one point, she meets her lover’s father, who bears a certain resemblance to Alexandre Dumas père — with maybe a little Norman Mailer thrown in. That was a delight to write.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

No one is consciously based on anyone I know. There are historical people used fictitiously.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

There are a ton of writers who’ve influenced me. For this particular work, I’d have to credit Anne Rice as an influence. I haven’t actually read anything she’s written in years, but anyone writing vampire fiction post Interview with a Vampire, owes her a debt.

Do you have a target reader?

Based on the beta-reader response and the reviews, people who liked it were moved by the protagonist’s search for meaning in her life, and her willingness to sacrifice even immortality for love. As one beta-reader put it, ultimately it’s a “redemption story” and who doesn’t like a good redemption story?

I hope it appeals to a wide readership, including people who aren’t necessarily fans of vampire books. Certainly, open-minded opera fans are a potential audience, and there was a very enthusiastic review at the Opera Candy blog. One beta-reader who is NOT a vampire fan, told me he thought the main character was an almost clinical depiction of a psychopath, so readers who enjoy serial killing anti-heroes might like it. It’s not exactly The Lady of the Camellias with vampires, but people familiar with the “Camille” story or the life of Marie Duplessis would be interested.

I’m figuring I’ve got certain columns checked off. If you like reading about vampires, high-end hookers, or serial killers — this book is for you.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

My process is to sit down and do it. I’m a big believer in Hemmingway’s idea that you stop at a point where you still want to go on, so you’ll have something to come back to the next day. You don’t let the well run dry.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

 I usually start from notes and have some kind of outline, but I don’t really follow it I’m the same way when I cook. I start with a recipe and wind up with an accident.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I generally look at what I wrote the day before, make some changes, and go on from there. I think anyone writing with a keyboard makes changes as they go. However, once a draft is complete I go back to the beginning and make much more extensive changes.

Did you hire a professional editor?

There were numerous people who played distinct roles in preparing this manuscript for publication. Some of them have professional editing and/or proofreading experience. I’ve been professionally edited in the past. The process for this book was every bit as rigorous.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I often listened to music while writing Blood Diva. Mostly, I listened to instrumental jazz and classical. Sometimes, I had on opera or American songbook — Gershwin, Porter et al, but eventually I’d wind up listening to the lyrics, and even when they were in languages I don’t speak, it was a distraction.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

I did not submit this work to agents.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

Based on previous experience, I knew even the search for an agent could take years, and that if an agent took it on, it might be years before it was sold, or it might never sell at all. I didn’t have the patience for the process. I wanted to get Blood Diva out to readers.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I had an idea for a cover — a statue of a woman on a pedestal. I guess I was thinking of the myth of Pygmalion. Galatea come to life.  I was looking for “statue” pictures when I stumbled across a George La Barbier print of a woman standing in front of a fountain with a statue. This was different than what I’d had in mind, but it looked perfect — the doll like face, the young woman who might be innocent or a schemer or both.  But there was one thing that needed to be changed for my book.  The water flowing from the fountain had to be blood. I turned to a tech-savvy friend who is not a graphic artist but has experience putting together web-based presentations. It took forever to get the red right — to paint it onto an image. But I’m very pleased with the result. So to answer the question — no book cover professionals were involved.  I’m very proud of the fact that on NetGalley the cover got an overwhelming number of thumbs up.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

I wouldn’t say winging it. I had done some research since my last book, and I had some ideas. I released electronic advanced review copies on NetGalley. I went on a blog tour through Bewitching Books. Net Galley led to the review and a giveaway on Persephone Magazine, which certainly increased the book’s “web presence.” I also requested reviews on my own, set up a website, a twitter account, etc.  However, there’s no “magic bullet” to achieve sales. Or if there is, I’m clueless.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Frankly, I think people should only write fiction if they feel they absolutely have to. (Like singing in the shower.) They should only publish their fiction if they have reason to believe that others will enjoy reading it. They should only charge for it if it’s up to a professional standard, which may vary depending on genre. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

If you are planning to be your own publisher, it behooves you to learn as much as you can before you push the publish button. Do you need an ISBN? What are ARCs and how will people find yours?  DRM or not? Those are just a few issues you’ll be dealing with. So take a breath, and take your time.

About You

What would you like readers to know about you?

VM Gautier is a pen name. Anyone who wants to play detective could probably figure out my “true identity” but you might be disappointed. I’m enjoying wearing a mask, and convinced we are never more ourselves than when we put on a disguise.

What are you working on now?

I’m busy trying to sell Blood Diva. I might consider working on a sequel if enough readers are interested.

End of Interview:

For more, visit Ms Gautier’s website, follow her on Twitter, or friend her on Facebook.

Get your copy of Blood Diva from Amazon US (paper or ebook), Amazon UK (paper or ebook), or Barnes & Noble.

5 responses to “Indieview with VM Gautier, author of Blood Diva

  1. Thanks so much for posting this. Awesome. Curious readers should check my twitter feed listed above as there’s a photo of me at a reading.

  2. This is a fabulous book. I imagined the writer knowingly smiling the whole time she was writing. My favorite part is hard to say…there’s just too much going on. It was either the world building, the genre bending, the dynamite writing, the speculation, the spectacle, the sex, or the thoughtful love- and life-affirming humanity and quest for destiny that only a 2000 year-old courtesan vampire could explore. The premise, the work, the execution…just fabulous. And I don’t know jack about opera, Marie Duplessis, Dumas fils, or any of it.

    • I agree, Frank. I probably know less about opera than you and had never heard of Duplessis, but thought it was a great read for all those other reasons.

  3. Jason Denness

    Great interview, I am definitely interested in a sequel, the first book was fantastic and I need to read more about my favourite vampire.