I read an early draft of Michael Ventrella’s new novel BLOODSUCKERS some four years ago. We were both students of Jonathan Maberry’s Novel in Nine Months Class and BLOODSUCKERS, a story of a vampire who runs for president of the United States, was his project. Having followed his progress on the novel in the time leading up to its publication through Double Dragon Press, I feel a personal connection to BLOODSUCKERS. The book is also a lot of fun. It manages to be many things at once. It’s both thrilling and humorous. Both politically charged and poignant without being preachy.
I asked Michael to stop by and talk a little bit about BLOODSUCKERS, some of his other projects and writing in general. Check it out below.
LM: First, tell us about BLOODSUCKERS: A VAMPIRE RUNS FOR PRESIDENT.
MV: I was intrigued by the idea of having a politician who could charm anyone into doing their bidding. Vampires fit the mold perfectly. Imagine the power you could have! Meeting with your political rival and having him come around and support your bill — going to foreign countries and having them agree to treaties that benefit everyone. So it’s not as much about the vampires as it is about power! Power is fascinating. And then the question becomes: If we can get these great advances, is it worth it? Are they honestly obtained? Do the ends justify the means?
Here’s a brief synopsis, from the back cover blurb by writer Ryk Spoor: “Washed-up reporter Steve Edwards can’t believe what he sees when a Presidential candidate is gunned down by a man who then disappears before his eyes, apparently transformed to a bat. But that’s just the beginning as Steve finds he’s been framed for the crime and what he’s seen is just the very tip of a blood-drinking iceberg. Ventrella’s quick, bright dialogue punctuates the adventure with dry humor even as he ratchets the tension up towards an ending that might just surprise even the jaded reader.”
LM: When you were shopping the novel, were you worried that its politics would make it difficult to place?
MV: Well, you should never hesitate from writing what you want based on whether it would sell or not. If you’re aiming for a specific market, I think it will show in your work. You need to love your own work if you ever expect anyone else to.
So no, that didn’t worry me. Did it keep me from getting Super New York Agent and the big book deal? Probably not. I did get agents saying “We like politics but not with vampires in them” and other agents saying “We like vampires but not with politics in them” so that was frustrating. And a few big agents asked to see the manuscript but didn’t bite. So you never know why that is…
But the politics aren’t really what the book is about. You don’t have to agree with my politics to like it. The main vampire character may share my politics, but he’s a bloodsucking killer, too. The good guys aren’t all liberal and the bad guys aren’t all conservative.
I’m not trying to write the Great American Novel or preach to anyone — I just want people to have fun. Since I do write about politics all the time on my political blog (VentrellaQuest.com) and since I do have my bachelors’ in Political Science, I clearly have an interest and that shows, but it’s not a treatise. It’s a thriller that takes place during a political campaign. With vampires.
LM: In the novel, you have the opposition trying to expose presidential candidate Norman Mark as a vampire. It’s hard not to draw the parallel between that plot element and the “birther” conspiracy theories surrounding our current president. What other events in the current political landscape inspired the novel?
MV: That definitely did — I liked the idea of conspiracy theorists that no one believes because they’re so outrageous, but it turns out that they’re right. But I don’t want people to think you have to care about politics to enjoy this book. It’s about a guy who is being framed by a vast conspiracy and he has to prove the conspiracy in order to clear his name. It just so happens the conspiracy involves vampires and politicians! This book is closer to a Dan Brown plot than an Ann Rice one.
LM: What was it like making the transition from your epic fantasy novels to what’s essentially a mainstream thriller with both satirical and supernatural elements?
MV: It was easier in many ways, because I didn’t have to make up the history and politics of the world. And I could use real people in it (current journalists and comedians show up often). Better yet, I could make reference to things that I knew readers would get in order to make the world more real and believable.
LM: Do you have a favorite passage from the book you’d like to share here?
MV: Yeah — it’s not the most important scene but I like the dialog. Steve has been saved the very sarcastic Hannah, who belongs to an organization that believes vampires are real. Ealier that night, Steve had believed them all to be crazy. Now, after the assassination attempt, he isn’t too sure. Here’s the scene:
Steve halted on the edge of the driveway and surveyed the dilapidated home. “This is your secret hideout?”
“Right, but only the chosen one may enter by incanting the magical password.”
“I don’t know …”
“You want to go back? We can split the reward I’ll get for turning you in.”
“No. Lead the way.”
Squinting at the light, Steve followed the woman to the front of the house. The two followed a path of slate stepping stones barely visible through the weeds and tall grass. They mounted the creaking wooden steps of the front porch, and the woman opened the rickety screen door.
Several tables and chairs, all covered with piles of musty-smelling newspapers, furnished the porch. Insects flew in and out between gaping holes in the screens.
The woman knocked and then stood silently.
“What does Mr. Hillman do?” Steve asked.
“Take a long time to answer the door.”
“No, I mean—”
The door swung open. A short man with gray hair poking out above his ears—and from his ears—squinted at the two on the porch. His white skin hadn’t seen much sun, and his dark grey sweater had seen too many moths. He appeared to be in his late sixties, and his face held a kind of serene acceptance of his current position in life.
“Hannah? What are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hillman, but we have a bit of an emergency. Can we come in?”
Hillman’s expression changed and he scowled at Steve with sudden suspicion. “No,” he replied. “No, I do not give you permission to enter my home.”
Steve furrowed his brow and stared at the man. Hannah, however, walked right past her host into the house. She turned back to Steve, rolled her eyes, and gave him a signal to enter.
Steve shrugged and, keeping an eye on Hillman, followed her in.
They stood in a wood-paneled foyer with a doorway to each side. A flight of stairs along the right-hand wall led to the second floor. More newspapers overspread the two chairs and small table beneath a dusty mirror.
Arms crossed over his chest, Hillman looked Steve up and down. He gave a short harrumph. “Right, then, who are you?” he asked as he headed into the room to the left.
LM: Any interesting fact you’d like to share about yourself?
MV: I’ve lived a busy life. In my adult life, I’ve earned money as a college professor, actor, puppetteer, disc jockey, musician/songwriter, cartoonist, lobbyist, record store clerk, writer, journalist, game designer, and renaissance faire performer — but mostly as a lawyer. My web page is www.michaelaventrella.com
You can check out BLOODSUCKERS and Michael’s other books right here.