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Q&A: ‘Blood Oath’ author on his vampire, movie & what part of the novel is true! May 19, 2010

Posted by Diana McCabe in Authors, News.
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Chris Farnsworth

Nathaniel Cade. He’s a man’s vamp. A killer in a world of twisted and freaky monsters — but you want him to succeed because he’s all that stands between you and evil. Cade is the creation of Chris Farnsworth, a journalist turned screenwriter/novelist who this week released his political thriller BLOOD OATH. Cade is a very special secret agent — a vampire who has protected every U.S. president for the past 140 years. The novel is a fast read, full of action, grisly deeds, political intrigue — and even a tiny bit of vamp romance. (OK — in full disclosure, I received a reviewer’s copy of the book and also worked with Chris as a business reporter a zillion years ago.) We asked Chris to talk about his vampire, movie deal and some of the intriguing characters in his debut novel.

Q. OK — First off, how does it feel to be living your dream? Because it’s been a long road from journalist to screenwriter to novelist!

A. It’s all still very surreal to me. The book is on shelves, and people are actually buying it, and I still have trouble believing it’s actually happening to me. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 5 years old, before I even knew what that meant. Now it feels real, even though I’ve been writing for publication for almost 20 years.

Q.  What was the inspiration for your vampire?

A. According to an obscure newspaper clipping, President Andrew Johnson — the man who followed Lincoln into the White House — pardoned a sailor accused of killing two crew mates and drinking their blood in 1867. I read about this in the excellent (and well-titled) THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE byRobert Schneck. It got me wondering: what would the president do with a vampire. And suddenly, the idea of a vampire secret agent, working for the Oval Office for more than a century, opened an entire world of stories to me.

Q. The vampire hero has been hot in movies and books for quite some time. What concerns — if any — went through your mind as you were writing your vampire story and why did you think it could succeed?

A. I worried about vampire fatigue. It’s easy to be seen as someone just leaping on the bandwagon  to make a quick buck. That’s partially true, of course, but I also wanted to honestly tell an interesting story. Cade and his world are fascinating to me. I was pretty sure other people would find it fascinating as well.

But I can’t deny that the movie poster didn’t appear to me in my wildest dreams. There’s something very appealing about an idea like this — one that can be summed up so perfectly: “There’s a vampire working for the president, and he’s been fighting the supernatural for over 140 years.”

Q. What part of the novel is true?

A. President Johnson really did pardon that inmate, and the papers really did call the inmate a vampire. Aside from that, it’s all fiction. (Of course, if I’m in on the cover-up, then you’d expect me to say that.)

Q. Why did you make Cade such a stand-up vamp? (He only drinks animal blood etc.)

A. Cade was raised Christian — specifically, Calvinist. It’s a very unforgiving theology, and at the time he was human, it made fundamentalism look like New Age peace and love. He knows he’s damned. There’s no way to change that. He still believes that this is the plan, and he will do whatever he can to save others from the same darkness that claimed him. It’s this self-loathing that continually battles with his own arrogance, along with his oath, that keeps him stuck so fast to his principles.

Q. Ghouls, vamps, spies, terrorism, traitors, politics — all of these threads run through the novel. Do you have a fave genre?

A. I really don’t. I spent most of my school years reading literary fiction, but I’ve always kept a stack of genre books by my bed, too. For a few years, as a reporter, I read nothing but non-fiction. My favorite books range from spy novels to domestic dramas to sci-fi to fantasy to journalism. More and more, I subscribe to the idea that you should read everything that strikes you as remotely interesting. It’s the only way to keep your mind active and alive, and to find new ways of telling your own stories.

Q. What creeps you out the most in the book?

A. I am surprised how creepy I find the inner workings of my own mind when they come out into the light. I’d probably have to say, the section where Konrad deals with his sometime-girlfriend Nikki. I’m somewhat troubled at being able to imagine a person that cold and apathetic about the horror he can inflict.

Q. In your vampire world, vamps usually don’t have sex, but Cade is the exception here. Ever think about him hooking up with a human down the road?

A. Cade will probably never hook up with a human. He remembers the good parts about being human — which is why he and his sometime lover, Tania, still engage in sex and other human activities. But he can’t escape the contempt of a predator for his prey. Even though he’s sworn off human blood, humans are still food to him — not love. As he says in the book, “You eat steak. Does that mean you want to have sex with a cow?”

Q. Ever read any of the other vamp books out there, such as the Anita Blake series, Sookie Stackhouse or even Lestat? If so, what’s your favorite?

A. I’ve read a ton of the vamp novels, even though I try to avoid them while actually working on my own manuscripts. I’m impressed with many. I liked Anne Rice’s series, laughed a lot at Christopher Moore’s BLOODSUCKING FIENDS, and enjoy most of the other fang-based books, too. But my favorite has to be the Joe Pitt books from Charlie Huston, about a deliberately amoral vampire living in New York, making his way between the rival vampire clans.

Q. How did you come up with the character of Zach? (Why make him so young/a guy etc?)

A. Zach is the guy I could have been if I stayed on the path I started back in college. Political junkie, hard-working, dedicated, more concerned with results than motives. Also, kind of a prick. I have friends who stuck to the political trenches, and many of them are brilliant. But I realized I was more comfortable watching the game than playing it. Still, it made sense to me that a young cynic like Zach would be the ideal set of eyes to view Cade’s world. He thinks he’s seen it all, and he’s forced to realize he doesn’t even know what’s under his feet.

Q. Why do you think vampires resonate with readers?

A. Simple answer: they’re cool. Stay up late, never age, never die, and all you have to do is drink blood? Sounds like a pretty good deal to most people.

The more complicated answer: we’re scared. Whenever we have trouble facing our fears head-on, we call out the monsters. In the 50s, it was the alien invasion movie. In the 80s, it was the relentless, unstoppable serial killer. And now, we’re dealing with the War on Terror with vampires and zombies. I think we want vamps on our side — again, they’re cool — to deal with the threat represented by zombies — unstoppable hordes of hungry, hostile invaders.

Q. Will this be a three-book series or are more planned?

A. I’ve got ideas and outlines for 10 books in the series. I’m not sure how much further I’ll go after that, but as long as people keep buying them, we’ll get at least to number 10.

Q. There’s lots of talk about a movie. What’s the latest?

Christian Bale

A. Lucas Foster’s Warp Films has optioned the rights to the first two books in the series, BLOOD OATH and BLACK SITE. I will be an executive producer and consult on the scripts. Lucas is an amazing guy with a great track record — Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Crimson Tide — and he really gets the material. He doesn’t like to waste time, so with luck, we’ll be going into production soon.

Q. And if had a say in who could be cast, who would you put in the roles of Cade and Zach?

A. For Cade, I would love to see Christian Bale. He’s a chameleonic actor who can portray the best and worst in people. For Zach, I always saw Justin Long (The “Mac” in the “Mac and PC” commercials from Apple.) But really, we’re a long way from casting. Anything could happen.

Q. If Cade, Bill, Eric and Edward faced off, give me order of finish — with the winner listed first!

A. Cade, of course. He’s simply meaner than all of them. Cade is only really happy when he’s killing something, and he’s a dirty fighter. He’s contemplated moves even other monsters would find unthinkable. Eric would probably put up the most fight, since he’s also got a mean streak, and he’s older. Cade would probably play Bill against him, and then lock them outside during the day before they realized they’d been duped. Edward? I suspect he’d be distracted by some pretty teenage girl.

Q. What’s next for you? I hear you’re already working on or done with book No. 2. When can we expect to see that?

A. BLACK SITE, the second book in the series, is off to my agent, and should be with my editor at Putnam within a week. If all goes well, expect it in 2011.

Q. Finally, you’ve mentioned before that your wife, Jean, kept pulling you back to the computer when you were ready to give up. For aspiring authors, who don’t have a Jean, what advice would you give them when they feel like hanging it all up?

A. If you don’t have a Jean, you have my sympathies. I would not have made it without her. And as I keep saying, I’m the luckiest man I know. If you’re not that lucky, you can stick to this: it’s possible. Remember, you’re taking a million-to-one shot. That means you might have to miss almost a million times before you hit the target. The path you have chosen is hard. Make it look easy.

Related links:

  • To read the Washington Post’s review of BLOOD OATH, CLICK HERE.
  • BLOOD OATH makes the New York Post’s “Required Reading” list. CLICK HERE to read.
  • Great profile of Chris and more about the book by The Orange County Register’s Peter Larsen. CLICK HERE to read.
  • Author’s site is HERE. And CLICK HERE for the book site.
  • You can follow Chris on Twitter  @chrisfarnsworth.
  • Finally, check out his book tour. It starts in Southern California but he winds his way through a couple of other states. CLICK HERE for book signing info.


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