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Today, as part of the Bewitching Book Tours, I am excited to welcome the dynamic writing duo, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall, authors of the very original Cowboy and Vampire series. With the release of the second book, Blood and Whiskey, they are here to discuss their unique partnership, their brand of vampire, and why Natalie Portman would be the perfect Lizzie Vaughn.
SHE-WOLF READS INTERVIEW
SWR: You two have a unique story and writing partnership. Can you tell us a bit about how you met and started writing together?
You bet. It’s a two-part story.
Chapter one: The origins of eternal love
We met working in an organic veggie restaurant in Portland. We were both married to other people at the time. Sparks flew, but that was the extent of it. Several years later, both our marriages had independently cratered and we reconnected, hard. Cue the romantic music and sexy montage of compromising positions, candlelight and falling rose petals. That lasted about a year before imploding. After a bitter break up, we spun off into decaying solo orbits and spent two years moping around in dual self-isolation. We came to the near-simultaneous realization that we were perfect for each other — our neuroses fit together like a twisted hand in a demented glove — and that we likely had made a near-terminal mistake.
Chapter two: The origins of undead buckaroos
We decided to try again, this time with ground rules (similar to the Marquess of Queensberry rules for boxing, only hitting below the belt was allowed). Rather than letting the heat between us burn everything to ash, we decided to write a novel together, figuring we could bleed off the destructive energy into a creative pursuit. We arranged a meeting on neutral ground — a truckstop in Madras, Oregon; equidistant between our homes. There, over veggie burgers and soggy fries, we came up with the concept of The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance. We wanted a topic that combined our interests — Clark is into the West and Kathleen is into the intersection of spirituality and science — and we sketched the plot out on the back of a paper placemat in crayons. The rest is still-unrealized history.
SWR: As partners, what is your writing process? Is there something that one person is better at than the other and vice versa?
Our process is pretty simple. Whichever one of us is the least exhausted takes the lead. Aside from that, we are methodical “plotters,” working out the story line and character development in advance. Then we “assign” ourselves chapters, hunker down and crank out the words. We both work in communications, and Kathleen was a journalist, so we are good at deadline writing. Of course, we manufacture our own deadlines, but so far we haven’t disappointed ourselves.
In terms of styles, Kathleen is better at the emotional side of things, capturing the inner landscapes of our characters and their motivations. Clark is better at the dialogue and physical plane, the landscapes the characters move through. Between the two of us, we make one decent writer.
At heart, The Cowboy and Vampire Thriller Series is a simple love story. When you strip out all the vampires, the kinky sex, the pants-wetting horror and blood draining, the racial tensions between vampire species, the quirky, good-hearted people inhabiting the modern west, the gun-blazing action, the dark humor, the spiritual and religious elements, family sacrifice, friendships tested, an ode to anarchy and questions about food choices, it’s a classic love story.
And also a vehicle to introduce the world to Rex, the sweetest, most loyal, longest-suffering cattle dog of all time.
SWR: What makes your vampires different? And what were some of the vampire tropes you wanted to avoid or embrace in these stories?
Our first book came out in 1999, well before the current crop of angsty northwest vampires and sexpot southern vampires. To be clear, we owe them mightily for the resurrection and re-release of The Cowboy and the Vampire, and for the success of Blood and Whiskey, but before the field was quite so crowded, we came up with a take on vampires that blended religion and science with some of the more familiar elements. Specifically, our vampires:
- aren’t affected by holy water or any religious symbols
- are terminally allergic to sunlight
- don’t have fangs
- do need blood to live
- die — full biologic and neurologic shut down — every dawn
- are resurrected each night
- spend the time in between death and life residing in The Meta, at least their souls do, which is a giant energy field, an external consciousness, where life begins and ends
- are much stronger than humans, and death-resistant when it comes to normal sources of trauma (guns, knives, clubs, garden shears, etc.) — they’ve been around longer than humans and evolution has favored their kind
- can be killed with wooden stakes
- are locked in a brutal civil war between the two species
Thanks so much. We are very pleased with them and more importantly, they seem to really catch the eyes of potential readers. A designer on staff with our publisher (Midnight Ink) came up with the cover for The Cowboy and the Vampire re-release. It replaced the original cover which was more “artsy” with an embossed cowboy boot. We liked them both, but the new cover has served us well so when Blood and Whiskey was in the works, our new publisher (Pumpjack Press) wanted to keep it in the same artistic family.
We were closely involved with book designer Brett Lloyd who no doubt was thrilled by the constant, nagging role we played in the design. Seriously though, he’s good at it and we can hook you up.
SWR: You released the second book, Blood and Whiskey, this year. Do you already know the arc for the series and how many books it will take to complete it?
We have two more books planned in the arc and hope to release book three early next year and book four after that. Both are plotted out and we’re in the process of “assigning” the chapters for the next in the series, tentatively titled Undead Asylum. All the books will fit together into a connected arc, but each will stand on its own.
SWR: I couldn’t help but picture Grace Kelly as Lizzie. What would be your dream cast for The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Movie (or HBO series)?
Wow, Grace Kelly would be AWESOME! So would a series.
Here’s our casting call for Blood and Whiskey:
Lizzie: Natalie Portman; pretty, tough, and able to move from scared to resolute quickly.
Tucker: Ryan Reynolds; he’s the right combination of funny and handsome, but we’d have to “Western” him up a little.
Lenny: Jim Parsons (from Big Bang); a quirky survivalist is a little bit typecast, but he’d be hilarious.
Dad: Viggo Mortensen; but he’d have to promise not to steal the show.
Rurik: Chris Hemsworth; can he do a Russian accent? Who cares. He shares his bed with Elita and Virotte.
Virote: Minka Kelly; she has to beautiful and doomed.
Rex: We’d like to hold auditions for Rex with our new pals at Texas Cattle Dog Rescue.
SWR: Who are some influential writers that have inspired you and what’s the last book you read that you would recommend?
We are both rabid readers but, not surprisingly, we read from opposite sides of the coin. Kathleen prefers fiction, Russian fiction, specifically. Clark sticks with mostly nonfiction, using it to feed his creative work. For example, he just finished The Oyster: The Life and Lore of the Celebrated Bivalve and is now pondering a vampire-like creature similar to starfish with slow, inexorable, suction-tipped arms that never let go and the ability to extrude it’s stomach to digest victims wherever they may be hiding (yep, that’s what happens to oysters). As far as a recommendation, however, he suggests Design in Nature, a fascinating look at the constructal law which may govern everything from how rivers meander to social evolution.
Find us both on Goodreads to see our other favorites and to get connected. We love to see what others are reading and check out their reviews of favorite books.
SWR: Do you have any upcoming projects that we can look forward to?
We’re hard at work on two more books in The Cowboy and Vampire Thriller Series, and we have plans to start a paranormal detective series in the noir tradition (para-noir!), and we each have solo projects in the works. But don’t worry, we rely on each other so completely, there’s really no such thing as a solo project any more.
SWR: I am a big fan of Game of Thrones where every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” What is the Hays-McFall motto?
Our rallying cry is probably “To the liquor store!” But our family motto is something along the lines of “Stronger together,” which recently edged out “Writing isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
SWR: Thanks so much for the interview!
Our pleasure. Thanks for having us on today.
MEET THE AUTHORS
You can stop by and visit Kathleen and Clark at their favorite spots: