Interview with Anno Dracula Author Kim Newman

Critically acclaimed novelist Kim Newman is well known, not only for writing great storylines, but also blending together a wonderfully imaginative cast of characters for his books. For Dracula Cha Cha Cha, the third book in his Anno Dracula series, you’ll see all of this in full view in a world intertwined with fictional characters and real people in history, such as Ernest Hemingway, Michael Corleone, Audrey Hepburn, and Tintin. Mix them into 1959 Rome where Count Dracula is set to marry the Princess of Moldavia and what you get is a fun read for fans of horror, fiction, and parallel worlds.

Today, we’re honored to have author Kim Newman to take the time out and answer questions on the reissue of the Anno Dracula books, who his primary influences, and what we can expect in Johnny Alucard, the fourth book of the series.

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RTNDR:  Anno Dracula: Dracula Cha Cha Cha is actually the third book in your very imaginative Anno Dracula series. With the Count marrying Queen Victoria in 1885 in the first book, then next, in The Bloody Red Baron, he became a powerful figure in Kaiser’s Germany during the first World War, and now Dracula is in Rome during the late 1950’s, it seems each book can be considered a self-contained novel – was that the original intention when you first started the series or did that come about naturally during the writing? 

Kim: I see-saw between seeing all the books as self-contained and thinking the whole series is one long, episodic novel.  Certainly, with The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha, I was concerned with making the novels standalone – simply by skipping decades and countries between novels, and allowing the world to change, it became easier to give each book its own distinctive tone and mood.  However, I’ve now done a couple of novellas to fill in gaps – published with the reissues — and the fourth book takes place over a much longer time and on a larger stage.  I knew when I started that I’d probably explore the world further – I had the WWI notion in the back of my head from the start – but I didn’t quite realise how big it would be.  If I’d known, I might not have tackled so much material in Anno Dracula, saving a few things for later.

RTNDR:  Which novels, authors, movies, or film directors do you feel are your primary influences for the storylines in the Anno Dracula series?

Kim: Obviously, we couldn’t be here without Bram Stoker.  The series spins off from, bounces against and keeps wrestling with Dracula.  Each novel/novella has had different other influences – Arthur Conan Doyle and RL Stevenson for Anno Dracula, WE Johns and other WWI air ace books and films for The Bloody Red Baron, Ian Fleming/Fellini/Patricia Highsmith for Dracula Cha Cha Cha.  Structurally, I think the books are influenced by Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate – the use of a conspiracy plotline to explore a huge, predatory society and the mix of satirical elements into genre fiction come from him.  Raymond Chandler, who is explicitly evoked in a section of Johnny Alucard, is another touchstone writer for me.

RTNDR:  For someone who writes in alternate fictional versions of history, you include many, many characters from different works of fiction. In this book alone, a reader will come across Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard), Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes), and Edgar Allan Poe just to name a few. We wanted to know, due to copyright restrictions, do you have a difficult time finding out which characters you can or cannot place in your novels? Were there any characters you would have loved to have added but were not able to because of these restrictions?

Kim: I’ve been slightly leery of a few characters who are still in active franchises, distancing my Hamish Bond from James Bond for instance, but assume satire gives me a license to play with other people’s toys.  The books take place in my own world, so any borrowed characters have to be altered to fit in.  The problem, as the series gets closer to the present day, is finding contemporary characters with enough resonance to be of use in Anno Dracula.  In order to qualify, a pre-existing character has to have had several previous incarnations to give me the leeway to come up with my own take on, say, Dr Moreau or Tom Ripley or the Shadow – recent creations, like (say) Harry Potter, just don’t have that stature yet (not that I could think of a way of using Harry Potter, who doesn’t interest me much).  The borrowed characters are usually secondary or tertiary in the books, or so completely worked over – like Lord Ruthven, or the much more obscure Caleb Croft – that they are essentially new.

RTNDR:  Dracula Cha Cha Cha was originally published in 1998 as Judgment of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959 – what led you to the unique title change (we heard the new title is inspired by a song) and are you surprised to see, not only, an updated re-issue of the Anno Dracula series by Titan Books, but to also have the opportunity to continue the story with a fourth book?

Kim: Dracula Cha Cha Cha was always my preferred title, and the UK edition had it; my American publishers felt it was too humorous.  It is indeed taken from a pop song (so is The Bloody Red Baron, of course) – an Italian novelty song from 1959 which can easily be found on Youtube in several versions (Bruno Martino had the hit).  I always knew the books would continue, and have been working on the fourth off and on for a long time (I started it before Dracula Cha Cha Cha) – but dull publishing business made for the hiatus.

RTNDR:  Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard is the title of the fourth book in the series and will be released here in the States in June of 2013 – can you tell your fans how the upcoming installment ties in with the previous one? 

Kim: It’s set between 1944 and 1990, mostly in Romania and the US.  It follows the spread of vampirism in America and various manifestations of Dracula in the movies.  It incorporates a couple of previously-issued novellas (‘Coppola’s Dracula’, ‘Andy Warhol’s Dracula’) and visits several interesting places – Ceausescu’s Romania, New York during the punk/disco wars, Hollywood in the 1980s.

RTNDR:  You are a prolific fiction writer and a great film critic (we are fans of your Video Dungeon segment in UK’s Empire magazine). Having written multiple horror fiction novels, cult film criticism books, and numerous short stories, is there anything else you would truly like to dabble at? Graphic novels or screenwriting perhaps?

Kim: I’ve just had a play on in London (The Hallowe’en Sessions) and have written a bunch of radio things in the last few years.  I have a couple of comic book and film/TV things in various stages of development, but nothing much I can announce at the moment.  I try to do something every year that I’ve not done before, to stretch myself.

RTNDR:  For our last question, since your novels and short stories are set in numerous times and decades, if you had a time machine, which era would you visit first and why?

Kim: I think I’d rather visit parallel worlds as opposed to the past or future.  Probably not the ones I’ve made up, though.

— The Retrenders staff is very grateful and want to give thanks to author Kim Newman for taking time out for the interview!

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Paperback:  Anno Dracula – Dracula Cha Cha Cha

Author:  Kim Newman

Publisher:  Titan Books

MSRP:  $14.95USD

Available:  Now

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