July 22, 2014

Midwestern Monstrosities: an interview with Scott Burtness, author of "Wisconsin Vamp"

About Wisconsin Vamp“Midwestern nice” is hard to pull off when you’re a bloodthirsty monster.

Poor Herb isn’t even sure how he got vamped in the first place. With no one to guide him, Herb fumbles into his newfound abilities, courting disaster with each bumbling step. Sure, there are some perks. The local stripper wants him, he can do this whammy mind-control thing, and he is getting a lot better at bowling. But he can’t drink beer, the bodies are piling up, and his best friend Dallas is getting suspicious. When Herb and Dallas go for the same girl, keeping his dark secret becomes the least of Herb’s concerns.

Booze, billiards, babes, blood, bake sales, bowling, bar fights and karaoke. Who would’ve thought that being undead would make life so interesting?

Gef: Writing horror effectively is challenging, but writing humor effectively may be even more so. So, imagine blending the two. What was the biggest challenge for you in writing Wisconsin Vamp?

Scott: Humor is all about timing and pacing. The set up and delivery of a joke has to flow. When writing a humorous moment, trying to get the timing and pacing right was definitely challenging. Too much description of the moment, and the timing would be too sluggish. Too little description, and the reader wouldn't be able to really 'get' the joke. There were many scenes that I wrote and rewrote countless times, hoping to make the humor of the moment flow for the reader.

To help get the flow of the humorous sections right, I would skim Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett novels, or imagine that what I had written was being read out loud by John Cleese.

Gef: Vampires have been around the block a time or two and yet folks keep finding new little spins on the genre. When you came up with Wisconsin Vamp, were you a bit daunted by all the vampire novels already out there?

Scott: I'm not sure I would've come up with Herb Knudsen if there weren't a gazillion different takes on vampire lore already in existence. I think that all the variations, from Nosferatu to Buffy to Lost Boys to Japan's hopping vampire craze to sparkly Twilight, all help keep vampires relevant and interesting and endlessly enjoyable.

What I really enjoyed about Wisconsin Vamp was writing about a newly-turned vampire that didn't know what he was supposed to be. A significant part of Herb's journey is plain old self-discovery. Turning to the only 'instruction manual' he can think of, Herb watches a stack of vampire movies on VHS. Comparing what he sees in the movies to what he can actually do becomes an adventure for Herb unlike anything he's experienced before.

Gef: After Twilight, the backlash by vampire fans seemed to be to try and make them scary again. You're opting for the comedy route. Heck, it worked for Whedon. What is another monster that could use a laugh or two?

Scott: Personally, I'm writing the classics. The Monsters in the Midwest series will feature a werewolf novel and a zombie novel for sure. Beyond that? Who knows? The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Loch Ness Monster, Godzilla (and of course, Mothra)... the sky's the limit when it comes to funny monsters.

Gef: Zombie comedies are called zom-coms, so what's a vampire comedy called? And can you trademark that?

Scott: Suck-larious? Fang-sterical? Vamp-camp? I better stop before I hurt myself...

Gef: What was the biggest eye-opener for you when you finally published Wisconsin Vamp?

Scott: Writing a book was relatively easy. Getting people to know about the book... exhausting. I had this naïve idea that a catchy title and a fun, unusual cover would drive sales. If my book was on the shelf of the local bookstore, that might have been true. When I finally published Wisconsin Vamp, I was stunned by how many books their are in the world, and how hard it has been to get on people's radar!

Gef: Setting is a great way to set a book apart and you went with Wisconsin. If I may be bold, not exactly an exotic locale. What was the lure to base it there?

Scott: A lot of vampire pop-culture happens in big, exotic cities. It makes a certain degree of sense. If you need to eat people, it's best to be somewhere with a large population so you can 1- never go hungry, and 2- get lost in the crowd, so to speak.

Vampires also seem to, more often than not, have impeccable taste, an endless checking account, and really swank pads.

When I decided to write about Herb, I didn't want him to have any of those things. Having spent a lot of time in rural Wisconsin growing up, I decided a little town in the northwoods would be the perfect spot for a socially awkward vampire of little potential and even less ambition.

Another question that I get asked by friends is, "Your a Minnesotan. Why didn't you set it there?"  The honest answer is... I liked the way 'Wisconsin Vamp' sounded.  It just rolls off the tongue a little better than "Minnesotan Vamp." (IMHO)

Gef: You have a sequel scheduled for later in the year. Any tidbits you can divulge on that one? Is Herb sticking to Wisconsin?

Scott: The core trilogy will stay in (or at least very close to) the fictitious town of Trappersville, WI. The sequel will feature many of the characters introduced in Wisconsin Vamp, and center on a werewolf. As to whether or not Herb will be there... that'd be a spoiler, and no one likes a spoiler!

Gef: Where can folks keep up with you and Herb?

Scott: For folks who want to follow my minute-by-minute ramblings: www.Twitter.com/SWBauthor.

If you'd like to get less frequent brain dumps: www.Facebook.com/SWBauthor.

I'm also on Goodreads, where I intend to start blogging about something, someday: www.Goodreads.com/SWBauthor

Win one of three autographed copies of Wisconsin Vampire, each will include a Wisconsin themed postcard from the main character, Herb. This giveaway is restricted to USA only, please! Enter through Goodreads.


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Wisconsin Vamp by Scott Burtness


          Wisconsin Vamp


          by Scott Burtness



            Giveaway ends July 23, 2014.


            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.


      Enter to win

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry that the raffle has closed. When I set the dates for the raffle and Wisconsin Vamp book tour, I was off by one day :-(

    Feel free to follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/SWBauthor) or like my FB page (www.facebook.com/SWBauthor). I'll do another raffle for the paperback in a month or two.