Kristin Battestella is the author of the Fate and Fangs series, Tales from the Vampire Family as told by Professor A. James, published by MuseItUp Publishing. She also writes for her hometown newspaper, The Cumberland County Reminder, in New Jersey. She's been writing non-fiction, speculative fiction, dark fantasy, paranormal, and horror for fifteen years. She enjoys being at home with her family, collecting records, and creating web pages in her spare time. Along with numerous sports articles, online reviews (Her review of the film 300 earned 11,000 hits and crashed the Fire Fox News server!), the South Jersey Books Column, and fiction work, Kristin's first eBook was published in 2005. She's a member of EPIC, the Friends of the Mount Laurel Library, and has her eyes set on joining the Online Film Critics Society. Kristin's first full-length work, The Vampire Family, has been re-released with Eternal Press.
Q. Welcome to TwoLips Reviews, Kristin. We're so happy to have you with us this month. Apart from your writing, please describe who Kristin Battestella is in three sentences.
Kristin: Thank you for having me! I’m not too good at boasting. I don’t do short sentences well, either. ;0)
Q. I'm curious, with all the different types of writing you do, why do you write dark paranormal romances? What makes this genre so appealing to you?
Kristin: It’s not just romances or paranormal to me. I like all types of dark relationship mirrors. I enjoy the exploration of the evil underbelly and its positive or negative consequences on their goods, their bads, each other, and us. I don’t like it fluffy. I like the psychology and heavy studies of why fear is appealing to us today. One hundred years ago, if you believed in mysticism and were attracted to bad things, people thought you were looney and locked you up!
Q. All your current titles delve into the world of the vampire in historical times. What draws you to the historical period for your dark paranormals? And why vampires specifically?
Kristin: I do a lot of historical research into vampirism and it isn’t all just Transylvania widow’s peaks or defanged dreamboat teams. I enjoy placing vampires in relatively obscure or unusual settings to explore their ills, our ills, and the time period’s ugly. Fate and Fangs 4: Debauchery is particularly naughty, as it deals with vampires and slavery after the Civil War, but Tale 5 Lust I find equally juicy, as it will have mid-century America vampires running a saucy speakeasy. I like exploring the notion that vampires are our ugly reflection in the mirror, and they pop up all over the place, even when we thought things were so pleasant and dandy.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your Fate and Fangs world?
Kristin: Fate and Fangs follows up on my 2008 novel with Eternal Press, The Vampire Family. The 7 tales here chronologically move from events before that novel, to tales within it, and the consequences after. One of the best things about doing vampires is that time is of no matter, the dead don’t have to stay dead, and nothing is off limits. The Welshire Family became vampires in the 12th century and are going strong into the 21st. Sure, there’s been a few bumps in the road with their rival Lilith and her Lilithan coven and a few setbacks thanks to the giver and taker of vampirism, Mestiphles, but really, what coven hasn’t had its back up against the wall a time or two through the centuries?
Q. Why do you think your Fate and Fangs series is so popular?
Kristin: Is it popular? Why yes it is, of course! But we aren’t as big as glitter you know who, right ;0) We ended up released around the same time as a lot of other vampire material, which is both good and bad. Some people rolled their eyes like ‘oh another vampire series?’ but other new fans expecting something lightweight have commented how surprised they are by the heavies and historical details. I do find some of the same readers follow me on virtual tours and come to real world events. It is amazing to have such loyal people reading your work! I do, however, have to keep turning away kids at book signings! We’re a little too juicy for the younger set, indeed.
Some of these were first person vignettes excised from The Vampire Family because the first person narrative didn’t fit, and the novel mainly follows two concurrent past and present storylines, so tossing in more individual vampire encounters really didn’t work. I did however, want these smaller, novella Fate and Fangs tales to come between the full-length novels in the series, that way we can have the personal time with these vampires. Get to know how some were made, lost, or had loves lost and gained before we proceed with all the big coven wars and action blood battles again. Though the ideas are very tempting. You read about Viking vampires touring the high seas in Love or live with the Kiowa for a while in Struggle and you wonder about staying there for a little bit! I personally would like to know more about what goes on behind that red door in The Sundowner in Lust, and what really are Mestiphles and his freaky void in Punishment all about? There are lots of vampires in the family that perhaps the Professor has documentation on, so you never know.
Q. The Vampire Family, the novel your short stories are based on is some 57,000 words long. Do you see any of the releases in the Fate and Fangs series being novels?
Kristin: In the next few years, the two full-length follow ups to The Vampire Family should be ready: Requiem for The Vampire Family and The Vampire Family Forever. Resurrection will set up the events for Requiem. It just keeps getting bigger so I may have to split it in two again! I’m particular, hand write, and move very slow is all.
Q. If you could be a paranormal creature other than a vampire, which one would you be and why?
Kristin: I don’t know that I’d want to be any paranormal creature! But I like being an abnormal human. I do write other stories about ghosts, mysteries and werewolves, but they always end up on the shelf, as I don’t think they are very good, and I always have these series that keep calling me back to them. Although people often do think I’m a vampire. If it’s not the right time or place I correct them, but if someone is a little scared and moves out of my way, well, that’s okay, too.
Q. How do you balance family life with writing? How important is your family's support to your writing?
Kristin: My family doesn’t support me any less, but they are abstract support, enjoy the idea of me being a creative individual who does something artistic they cannot. But they are upstanding, incredible and wonderful people who don’t always get the scary material at hand. My sister couldn’t get past The Vampire Family but she loved a little ghost mystery I wrote called Mrs. Murderer, that’s one of those ones buried in my drawer. My niece tried reading Vampfam, and then called me up to say ‘Oh my god, I’m on page 28 and there have been 4 murders and a rape!’ Um, yeah. My wonderful, wonderful husband is incredibly tolerant of the nighttime writing binges and the occasional lack of groceries in the house. It’s nice to know people love you no matter how freaky your work gets or how abnormal it makes you. When I have to be away from writing and do real world junk, I try and keep the writing mindset alive. You cook dinner and think, oh this character would never eat that! Or you do the laundry and think about what clothes they would wear, or who would have a maid to do it. Writing and family are actually relatively separate things, but the trouble is, they are both in your head at the same time. Tough then, to keep one sane, isn’t it?
Q. Which of your stories was the easiest to write and which the hardest and why?
Kristin: Debauchery was probably both the easiest and the toughest. Most of it was already written in a rough draft from my original Vampire Family writings, which began way back in 1998. So revising and expanding was easier with all the foundation work already there. However, again, it has some iffy subject matter and language. I’m reading and revising and rewriting, thinking, ‘Damn this is good stuff!’ then ‘Damn, I can’t write that!’ That happens a lot when writing Victoria. She has no censor of herself. I woke up one night last year and wrote of scene of hers for Requiem and it kept me up for days after. Really, I can’t believe some of the things she has done! Love was fun to write, because it isn’t very often we see Ann so happy.
Q. What dictates the “heat” level in your writing?
Kristin: I don’t try and write vampires for a sexual heat rating as in erotica, but I have readers tell me they find the Welshires damn steamy nonetheless. I was thinking that today when reading over the final galley for Resurrection. I’ll be damn if there isn’t a very fine line between sex and the vampire bite. And I like that – the old fashion symbolism of the bite and penetration. I don’t know why we ever got away from violent predators and scary sensuality for vampire virginity and maladjusted teen love. Vampires are evil, exchanging fluids with them is going to be very painful. You will be the victim, make no mistake. You are going to loose blood and be beholden to them for your life, so you better damn enjoy pain and get turned on by being a victim because otherwise you are dead! Caine Peters is only in the last section of The Vampire Family and he makes a brief appearance in Fate and Fangs Humanity. He’s a murderer and a rapist, and as much as it bothers me, he is a dang cool character. He makes no airs or deceptions about what he is, and is somehow yet disturbing and sexy. I feel creepy saying that. Reading and writing vampires is very creepy indeed, so I think we automatically go in the heat gutter with them. I think if these boy pup vamps don’t take you into the naughty corner, then something’s wrong with them!
Q. Which of your books is your favorite and why? Do you have a favorite character from your books and why is he/she your favorite?
Kristin: Choose?! I suppose it might be Lust. In the midst of all this supposed 50s happy America, here is brooding 800-year-old James getting pouty with the vampire life. I like James a lot, and perhaps Samantha, too, as they are the good kids in The Vampire Family. Can one born of evil ever be good? They struggle with their identity for quite a long time!! Where James is sort of quiet and takes the vampire punishment, Samantha becomes a leader and rallies against Mestiphles. I like how there is a human parallel between them. We’d like to think we’d be a badass vampires living it up, but after awhile, we would probably be very unhappy about the costs of immortality. The question then is, what would you do? Accept your fate or contest the fangs? I’m very pleased that each of the Fate and Fangs novellas uses its theme to explore these angles of human nature and vampire consequences. I love them all!
Q. Which of your characters is most like you, and in what way(s)? If different from your favorite character, which one would you most like to invite to dinner, and why?
Kristin: I don’t know that any one of them is like me. I hope I’m not like them! I use pieces of myself or others as a character develops, but no one character is any one particular person. I think making a character too much like any source or base cuts it off at the knees, there is no room for the fictional person to grow and separate into something more. I love when one of these vampires goes on a ride and takes me with them – no matter how much I ended up cringing along the way!! I also would not want to invite any of them to dinner. I mean, I’m the dinner!! It might be nice to work for the Professor though, get into his vault and sneak a peak at all these fantastic historical documents!
Q. You're such a multi-versed writer, it makes me wonder what your ideal career would be if you couldn't be a writer. What draws you to this particular vocation?
Kristin: You know, I’d like to finish school and become a minister someday. Otherwise, I have no idea what my profession would be. I’ve worked in retail and in offices, both of which made my heart so sick. I remember sitting in a cubicle just trying not to cry because I was cutting checks and doing payroll software and it just made me ache because I knew I was absolutely where I wasn’t supposed to be. I really enjoyed the time I spent working in senior healthcare as an Activities Director. You have the chance to bring zest into someone’s life where it was once forgotten. I remember going to an interview and telling the guy there that I wasn’t about the bottom line at all, I like getting to know the person and sincerely want to help them. I didn’t get the job and the guy probably thought I was the biggest bullshitter out there. I felt like going back and telling him that I meant every word I said and don’t you dare ever think differently! I consider whatever job I have and my writing work as the same – for me they are both about the soul, the person, the humanity whether it be real or fictitious. I want to know what makes people tick, why we do the things we do, what makes us who we are, and why we sometimes read a book and how that experience can alter one’s life forever. I much enjoy humanity and the art and inspiration of which we are all very capable of creating. We only need to listen to the little voice inside to find it! Unfortunately, my little voice just never shuts up!
Q. If you were to do your career as an author over again, what would you do differently and why?
Kristin: It’s easy to say I wouldn’t do anything differently. Part of being a published author are the bumps and bruises you get along the way, the lessons learned – both of the business and the craft – that help shape your work and define your writing person and platform. But of course, I imagine I might have been smarter on a few contracts, or would have liked to make a lot more money and be magically rich and famous! We’d all like that I’m sure. However, I’d much rather think forward than behind. There is nothing I can do about what has already been done, but I can keep writing. Stopping and bemoaning the current changes in the industry won’t get you anywhere. I’d like to live comfortable because of my writing someday, but the only way that will happen is to keep writing more stories, tearing down literary walls and writing, writing, writing. I try to live my life without any regrets. But heck, if one has regrets, why not write about it?
Q. Do you read reviews of your stories? If so, do you pay enough attention to them to let them influence your writing?
Kristin: I do read reviews, simply because I like posting the press all over my blogs and websites! Sometimes you read one that doesn’t seem like they read the book at all; most read more like book reports where people give a poorly written summary attempt to prove they did read it. Others just spend a lot of time picking out all the things wrong. I’ve only had one really negative review for The Vampire Family amid dozens of good ones, but you have to put a lot of it out of your mind. You can take some of the criticism with you – this was rushed, this character was poorly drawn, etc – but if you get too built up on the fawning or too crushed by the insults, how does that help your manuscript any? That is kind of the trouble with the Internet today, there are a lot of textspeak half comments that can praise or insult but don’t really say anything constructive. As a reviewer myself, I try not to be so scathing, or if I love something, I must back it up with facts. I’m much more interested in critical conversation and human exploration, and in how a book effected you rather than, ‘this sucks!’ Having said that, it is nice when people say you are awesome. :0)
Q. Do you think of yourself as a storyteller or storybuilder? Are you a plotter or a “panster?”
Kristin: I’m a storyteller first I think, then a builder. Even before I wrote things down- or could write for that matter, I was interested in imagination and entertainment. You have to enjoy seeing a tale develop to fruition in order to be a writer. Once you have that id ready, then comes the worldbuilding and recreation on the page that brings the story to life for others. Though they are totally different mediums, I try and think of a book the same way as a play or film. Would you be swept away by this story if you saw it on stage being told by one person just as much as if it were an onscreen spectacle? Can you see that same spectacle or hear that reading as you read the words yourself? You have to craft your story enough for the telepathy from writer to reader to be achieved, but you don’t want to pull the curtain down, shine all the lights, build up the fog and blare the orchestra so loud that the story itself cannot be heard.
As to the second question, you can plot all you want, but sometimes you just have to go where the story takes you! I outline, but it is not set in stone, I have notes and pictures that go into the research, and ideas of where I want things to go and what is supposed to happen, but when something changes go with it. Again, close your eyes and let the story and world be at play without worrying about the physical time and medium. Just go with it, I mean, you can always edit and shape it later. But first and foremost, as they say in Dune, ‘the spice must flow.’
Q. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve discovered about the writing process?
Kristin: What’s surprising is how surprising it is every time! I love that moment when you are transported somewhere else, when you are reading and writing your own story and you are so caught up that you don’t even know what is going to happen next. That moment you are there and then the phone rings and you realize hours have past. I love the teleportation, the telepathy. The joy in knowing that somewhere, sometime, somehow, another person will be reading this and have the same experience as you. Even if you know it is going to happen, it is still divine every time. Sure, there are days you are stumped, don’t want to work today, or are so sick of edits or revisions, but then that one thing happens, that aha, where everything is completely in tune in the universe. The entire writing process is a surprise and a delight. The journey, the destination, all of it. The idea alone of something in your head become a story well told for all to read. Hot diggity dog!
Q. Where do you story ideas come from? Do you have to do a ton of research into the historical aspect?
Kristin: Ideas are everywhere, one but has to look. Sometimes dreams, something I read or little things people say or do. I sit in a waiting room and wonder about the people around me. You see new people move into the apartment across the courtyard and yet no one ever comes out. Is it something sinister? Probably not, but if you sit back and open your mind to the world around you, the possibilities are endless. Take the earbuds out and put the texting away and take time to look at the person beside you. I do research and watch historical documentaries (one) because I enjoy it, but again, because there is so much to see, explore, and learn. Really, anyone who says they want to be a writer but doesn’t know what to write about is in the wrong profession. I have an idea notebook full of things that I don’t know that I will ever get to. It is amazing to have an idea, then read about something else, and then wonder, what if I put the two together and this happens? Uh-maze-ing!
Q. Do you do anything special to celebrate when a new book comes out?
Kristin: Besides the usual promote promote promote? Not really. Most of the time I find myself holding my breath. You think something is going to go wrong even up until it’s released, and you don’t want to go spending before the royalties come in! We go to dinner sometimes after a book show. I always say I’m going to have a big Halloween party, and I’ve accumulated an entire closet of decorations and costumes, but I am never completely satisfied with what I want or have and never do it. Actually, I spend more time wondering if I missed a comma or how stupid something is going to sound, and then I think about what I’m going to write next.
Q. Please tell us where we can scope you and your books out on the World Wide Web.
Q. What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries? What’s your most guilty pleasure?
Kristin: I sleep. A lot. Usually during the day. I don’t like coffee, caffeine, even soda. I like being au natural and not so dang espresso hyper. Writing both relaxes me and drives me batty. My guilty pleasures include really bad movies and lots of old, zany tv shows. Really, The Bob Newhart Show is just now back on the air? Who dropped the ball, people?
Q. What do you find sexy in a man?
Kristin: A mind. Talent, drive, dedication, passion. I like that moment when you see a guy doing something and then it hits you, like Whoa, uto, I liked that! When it’s warm and fuzzy inside, you just know it!
Q. Is there a sex scene you have always wanted to use in a book but have never had the nerve to use?
Kristin: I write a lot of what I think are sex scenes, but they never seem to work and I always end up just fading to black instead. My first big trunk novel is a science fiction opus called The Centaurians, and it has several scenes with scientists getting to know a few new species or mixed aliens having a good time, but it just never works out. I think I’m more down with the steamy symbolisms rather than the mechanics.
Q. What would be your perfect romantic evening?
Kristin: Pizza at home on the couch, Game 7, Stanley Cup finals, with the Flyers winning in overtime. Glizty romance does not impress me so much as action and the fulfillment of one’s desires, whatever that may be ;0)
Q. If you could go on a date with a man other than your husband, who would it be and why?
Kristin: I know how my husband would answer that for me: a hostel with Sean Bean and Michael Fassbender and butter ala Last Tango in Paris. But no. I’m much more mentally naughty than real world juicy. I’m too lazy for that.