Last month, I had the chance to read Awake: A Vampire Tale by Amara Kopakova. This was a book that reminded me why I absolutely adore a well written vampire story! This month, she has allowed me to interview her. Have a peek below for the interview.
Thank you to Amara for allowing me the chance to read her novel, as well as a thank you for participating in this interview. It’s always interesting to see the author’s point of view of their novel as well.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Absolutely! I am the artist AmarA. I was born and raised in the same neighborhood as Rod Serling (not at the same time, though). As a teenager, I studied acting and hung out at a local coffee house and played Vampire: The Masquerade with a band of misfits that collected around the cafe and around a strange boy that I had a crush on. (he disappeared enigmatically into the night). I discovered the fascinating workings of back stage in theatre and apprenticed as a scenic painter while I studied theatre design. Theatre is always so amazing to me – the way it brings together all of the arts and all of senses and I always find myself back in theatre, no matter where I end up and what other creative paths I am following. The boy I fell in love with as a teenager reappeared and we have walked the same path together ever since. He is a philosopher and artist and, in fact, designed the cover of AWAKE: A Vampire Tale as a surprise for me right after I finished writing it.
We live in an old converted livery barn near the Twilight Zone and travel whenever we can. We just got back from a great 10 days in Chicago designing the costumes for Jerusalem at Profiles Theatre to jump into this book tour.
What inspired you to write AWAKE: A Vampire Tale?
I had a job for a while that was an hour and half driving commute, each way, five days a week. One day when I was bored of the audio books, all my music, any talk or news radio, even the music radio, I started telling myself the story that would eventually become AWAKE. What if you woke up and discovered you were a vampire? I started asking myself questions and answering them: Where did you wake up? Why can’t you remember what happened? Where will you go? How will you get the blood you need before the Thirst decides for you? I started going through it step by step from first waking. When I got home, I wrote the story in my journal. It kept being fun and interesting and I kept writing down what I had imagined until that job ended and I could spend whole days in my imagination and at the keyboard.
What is the genre?
I didn’t write it as a genre book, but it fits in with Urban Fantasy best. It has aspects of historic fiction. One reader told me it has a real “feel of the transition of coming of age.”
I just call it a vampire tale.
What draws you to this genre?
I have always loved vampires. The idea of living, unaging, for centuries, but with the capacity of all humanity to grow and change mentally is fascinating in its facets. At the same time, having the Thirst driving you, having to sate it night after night for all eternity is terrifying. Ultimate freedom and the ultimate cage. I wasn’t writing AWAKE to make statements or as an allegory, but when I read it for the first time after putting it on a shelf for three years, I could certainly see themes emerge. I think that is a power of the genre: With all of Eternity and the Thirst, truths about humanity emerge.
What inspired your protagonist?
One of the most interesting things about my protagonist as I wrote was that it did not really matter who she was before the story begins. Even her name, Titian, she adopts after awakening. She isn’t based on anyone in particular. It is almost like she is someone in another dimension whose mind I can slip into, see out of her eyes and hear her thoughts. Which makes me sound a little insane when I explain it, but that’s the creative process, isn’t it: Capturing insanity in words and pictures.
How did you develop your plot and your characters?
When I started writing, I thought I knew what was going to happen and that it was just a matter of telling the story. But as I wrote, each decision took me down a new path and it became a very different tale than I imagined the first day. Now that I am working on the second book, I am finding the same thing. It is like looking at a map and then actually walking the road and finding that the uncharted side paths are more interesting.
Almost all of the characters are based on folks I know – at least in appearance and manner. I started writing this just a few years after working on the film Fat Kid Rules the World in Seattle, where I got to know Matt O’Leary and Leigha Kingsley and Lili Simmons. That whole experience was very intense and each of them was very confidently themselves, it is little wonder that when it came time to cast the characters, they came to mind.
How did you get in touch with your inner villain?
It is kind of terrifying to let yourself go into those realms – even only in your own mind – and I think that recognizing that fear in myself was a big part of getting into Adam’s head because he is a complex and intelligent villain, so there is no ignorance to hide behind. Starting from the beginning, discovering how he developed into the terror that he is, step by step and decision by decision made it easier to go there. Because – to him – what he is doing and why he is doing it makes perfect sense.
What was the hardest part to write in the book?
I really love all my characters, so any time one of them dies it is really really hard to write about.
What was your favourite part of your book to write?
I loved working out the fights. My belovedest, jk, is skilled in kung fu and we would get really into the details of attack and defend, then we would slow it down so I could figure out how to describe what was happening. (That is really cool! I definitely enjoyed the fight scenes, now that has made it more life-like. – Leticia, Shh I am Reading.)
Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?
I am not a full-time writer. I have such fascination with people who write full-time, day after day for years and years. I am a full-time artist, by trade and by passion. jk & I collaboratively design sets for Ithaca Shakespeare Company and Tri-Cities Opera, and we recently returned from our first costume design in Chicago. We got to visit the Van Gogh Room exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Art while we were there, which was like an afternoon lesson from the master for me. I have been exploring landscape paintings in oil for a while and recently started painting them on dysfunctional computer screens. Studying the texture of Van Gogh was incredibly freeing for me, somehow.
A lot of the illustrations in AWAKE are digitally altered versions of paintings I made when we lived in Seattle along with more recent sketches of the characters that I would work on when I got stuck in writing. (Whereas, I have a lot of respect for people who are full-time artists! – Leticia, Shh I am Reading.)
What are you currently reading?
Speaking of textures: I have just finished Pastwatch the redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. It was the first book of his other than Ender’s Game
and it was quite an amazingly woven together story of future and past. I have also been slowly working my way through a book of 100 Ray Bradbury stories. I have been working on it since ripping the Christmas paper off and I think I am on #14 or #15. His short stories pack a lot of punch and really leave you stranded in that world. Amazing.
Who would you say are your favourite authors?
I really particularly adore Neil Gaiman’s work. I’ve learned a few of his poems and the short story The man who forgot Ray Bradbury by heart. I like to recite them in the car and on empty stages in empty theatres. I loved the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Lamb by Christopher Moore. Anne Rice was my first real brush with vampires when I was a teenager and I love her books, particularly Queen of the Damned and Pandora. Terry Pratchett. Ray Bradbury.
How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Anne series by L.M. Montgomery
Hannibal by Thomas Harris
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Dune by Frank Herbert
What are your future projects, if any?