The fan favorite vampire series Anno Dracula returns! Author Kim Newman recently released his latest Anno Dracula novel – Johnny Alucard that takes place from 1976-1991. And our favorite vampire vixens are back too – Kate Reed, Geneviève Dieudonné and Penelope Churchward. We interview author Kim Newman about the new book – Johnny Alucard and what the future holds for this popular Dracula series.
RTNDR: The universe of Anno Dracula and the characters you’ve created is very popular and many fans enjoy this series, so with this new book Johnny Alcuard, did you set out thinking, “Well, the fans might enjoy it if this character or that character goes through this plotline or this journey” or did you already have your own ideas and had everything mapped out?
KIM: I plot books – and, in this case, series – by a method known as ‘feeling your way in the dark’. I usually know where I’m going with a story but not the exact route I’ll get there. I hope readers enjoy where I take the characters (and them) but tend to think of what the story needs rather than what people want – indeed, sometimes you have to go against expectations or wishes. In this case, the book was written piecemeal over decades – the first chunk of it was done before the third novel in the series – and I always knew the spine was where a particular character went, though the details were developed during the composition and I think I surprised myself.
RTNDR: I had a great laugh when reading the first half of the book of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula film production moments like Harvey Keitel’s fits of rage on set and Marlon Brando trying to figure how to say his dramatic line “I am Dracula.” When writing alternate fiction and mixing real people, where do you get the ideas or inspirations from?
KIM: Reality, mostly – filtered through my own imagination and, with this series, a kind of Anno Dracula red tint that shifts what really happened in our world into the way things might have panned out in the world I have established and been building up. In writing this section, I had sometimes to remember to try to make the story weirder and the characters more extreme than the accounts of the making of Apocalypse Now I consulted.
RTNDR: I think Francis Ford Coppola would get a kick reading this, so I have to ask, did you send Francis Ford Coppola a copy of the Johnny Alucard book?
KIM: This is the first novel in the series to feature a great many folk who are still alive – and some whom I have either met (Quentin Tarantino) or know quite well (Adam Simon). I’ve never met Coppola – the novella version of this section has been around so long I’d be surprised if it hadn’t come to his attention somehow. I’ve not woken up next to a horse’s head, so I assume he can’t be that displeased.
RTNDR: In this new book Johnny Alucard, our favorite Anno Dracula characters are back, the female vampire trio of Kate Reed, Geneviève Dieudonné and Penelope Churchward. For fans that haven’t yet picked up the book yet, what can they expect from these ancient vampire femme fatales?
KIM: In Dracula Cha Cha Cha, the previous novel, the three women lost Charles Beauregard, with whom they were all involved, and Dracula, obviously a big figure in their life. So, in the 1970s and ‘80s, they’re on their own again, and trying to find roles to play in a more confusing world … Kate is still a journalist and political activist who makes questionable decisions about men … Penny finds several unusual positions, including running Andy Warhol’s Factory in the ‘70s and working in covert ops in the ‘80s … and Geneviève goes to La-La land and becomes a private eye, though she retrains as a medical examiner at one point.
RTNDR: The 1980s was the MTV/Cold War/Reganomics/Thatcherism-Era, did you have a fun time writing and placing these characters in this timeline?
KIM: I enjoy writing these books, doing the small detail work as much as the big set-pieces. I think this entry is appropriate to its eras … if Anno Dracula was a Hammer Film, The Bloody Red Baron a Biggles air ace story and Dracula Cha Cha Cha a Fellini movie, this has different modes … from languid, sunstruck 1970s private eye (think The Long Goodbye or Night Moves) to hard-edged 1980s high-life thriller (think Michael Mann, Oliver Stone and Basic Instinct). I think I most enjoyed the section set in Baltimore which is a homage to The Wire and Homicide Life on the Street, with a little Blacula and John Waters stirred in. Of course, having fun doesn’t mean I’m not serious.
RTNDR: Just throwing this out there, it would be funny or strange if Dracula had a Twitter, Instagram and Facebook account, wouldn’t it?
KIM: Anno Dracula has its Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/132578110095/) and I’m on Twitter as @AnnoDracula … I can guarantee that there are FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts in Dracula’s name, though I hesitate to look them up. Looking back at Stoker’s novel – he uses journal entries, telegrams, newspaper clippings and letters to tell the story, so if he were working now I assume he’d use social media to the same end. However, one of his canny strokes is to give everyone in the book a voice and an outlet except Dracula – whose presence is confined to a few impersonal notes. So I suspect the Count would be monitoring Dr Seward’s blog, Mina’s Twitter feed, Lucy’s Facebook photo albums and Van Helsing’s blood diseases Tumblr but seldom posting himself.
RTNDR: After fans reading this Johnny Alucard novel, what can fans expect more of in the future and where can fans find you for your latest updates and projects?
KIM: Next up is An English Ghost Story, another long-in-the-works novel. After that, I have a school story (Kentish Glory) and a Phantom of the Opera tie-in to do, plus another as-yet-unformed Anno Dracula and several simmering projects in many media. Regular updates can be found at my website, Johnnyalucard.com.
Retrenders would like to thank Kim Newman for taking time from his busy schedule to answer our fanboy questions. Look for the latest book – Johnny Alucard over at Titan Books.