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Interview with Richard Arbib

Author Richard Arbib
Author Richard Arbib

Congratulations on the publication of your first novel Richard!

Your biography tells us that your background is in English and creative writing and you have previously published short stories and articles. What made you decide to write a novel and why did you choose the vampire theme?

Yes, after many years, I eventually earned a master’s degree in English and creative writing at San Francisco State University in 1989.

But I’ve liked female vampires ever since I was 13 and saw the movie, Kiss of the Vampire. I’ve always found them sexy and romantic. I recently realized that my writing category is paranormal romance, not really horror. The romantic relationships in my writing are the central focus and there is less blood and violence in my fiction than what occurs in most fiction categorized as horror. However, it’s not in the “young adult” category. The characters are all adults and there are some risqué scenes

The Vampire Girl Next Door takes the standard format of many vampire novels and presents a gender reversal. Mark is a regular guy who all of a sudden finds himself surrounded by horror and mystery, centred around the seductive Sylvia. Can you tell us about where this idea came from?

You’re exactly right that The Vampire Girl Next Door seems to present a gender reversal compared to more recent novels such as those by Stephenie Meyer or Charlaine Harris. In mine, Mark, the narrator, is human, and falls in love with Sylvia, not realizing that she’s a vampire. However, I wrote the original draft for my novel between 1979 and 1982, so my novel was not influenced by any current vampire fiction. I rewrote the novel about five years ago, changing the tone by adding more humor, but not altering the plot at all.

As to where the inspiration for the story came from, I was influenced by three stories I read in 1978: “Clarimonde,” by Theophile Gautier (1836), “Carmilla,” by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu (1871), and “The Spider,” by Hans Heinz Ewers (1915). All three have beautiful female vampires who are seductive, seemingly sweet and innocent, yet dangerous. All three are narrated by the actual victim, who has fallen under the spell of the alluring vampire.

Book Signing at Grassroots Books, Reno, Nevada, December 2, 2012
Book Signing at Grassroots Books,
Reno, Nevada, December 2, 2012

Where did the inspiration for Sylvia come from? She has a diverse background and varied interests. How did you pull it all together?

Both the name and the facial description came from a very real woman, Sylvia, whom I met way back in 1973—40 years ago! We had a brief romance, but the memory of her always stuck with me. When I first saw her in real life, I had the same reaction that Mark has when he first sees Sylvia—an intense attraction like love at first sight. (See Chapter 4. This scene is in the free reading sample on my website.)

While Sylvia’s name and physical appearance is based on this real person (whom I haven’t seen in 30 years now), the personality of the character is not based on any specific woman I’ve known. I let my imagination run wild and created what I considered to be my own fantasy woman who would be perfect in every way. In my original draft 30 years ago, this created a lack of conflict, so I had to make changes so that there would be some conflicts between Mark and Sylvia, but those conflicts are humorous. As the book cover states:

When Mark first meets Sylvia, he tells her, “You’re the girl of my dreams!”

Sylvia smiles and responds with a warning—“Be careful what you wish for.”

How are the vampires in your novel different than others in the genre? You mix in some interesting religious elements to the story and character development. What was your inspiration for this?

Every vampire story has its own rules. In my novel, Sylvia is able to go out in daylight, just like the vampires in “Carmilla,” “Clarimonde,” and Dracula. This whole idea of vampires dying from sunlight basically started with the silent movie, Nosferatu, back in 1922. Many modern vampire stories feature vampires who can’t go out during daylight. But Sylvia is able to go out during the day and even attends a church wedding. Because of this, she seems much more human and is less detectable as a vampire since she doesn’t fit some of the stereotypes.

Regarding religion, Sylvia is a Satanist, which makes sense in her situation. Since she already has eternal life as a vampire, she doesn’t need salvation for a life in the hereafter. She is also bitter about how her family was murdered by villagers wrongly accusing them of witchcraft. There are some amusing religious conflicts Sylvia has with Gail, the born-again Christian fiancée of Dave, Mark’s best friend. Since Sylvia is not bound by typical religious guilt and shame, she is sexually uninhibited, which proves to be quite a challenge for Mark in a couple of funny bedroom scenes. She turns out to be more than he had bargained for.

I lived in the Richmond district of San Francisco, where the apartment building is located in the novel. As my novel mentions in Chapter 1, (also in the free reading sample) this was the same neighborhood where the original Church of Satan had their house. When I went shopping at the Cala Foods supermarket on Geary Blvd., I sometimes saw high priest Anton LaVey there, and we had a conversation once where I told him about my novel. I did a lot of reading and study regarding the supernatural and magickal groups from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. I also lived in London for nine months in 1990 and visited Highgate village and the famous Highgate Cemetery. Sylvia is from Highgate and that’s the setting for the sequel. So while my novel is clearly a work of fiction, some of the supernatural elements are taken from history and real experiences.

Book Signing at Sundance Books, Reno, Nevada, March 3, 2013
Book Signing at Sundance Books,
Reno, Nevada, March 3, 2013

Without giving away details I will say that the book has a satisfying ending that brings completion to the plot of the book. Do you have a sequel in mind or is it intended as a stand alone novel?

Oh yes, there is definitely a sequel! I planned that from the very beginning. Just like the original novel, I wrote the sequel many years ago. I am now rewriting it and updating it so that the tone completely matches the original. The Vampire Girl Next Door takes place mostly in San Francisco. The sequel is set in London, Sylvia’s city. Although the first novel concludes with what you described as a satisfying ending, the sequel starts at the exact spot where the first one ends and there is a major crisis within the first two pages. But I don’t want to spoil the plot of the first novel by revealing what happens at the beginning of the sequel. I think the sequel will come out sometime in 2014.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

I mentioned some of the classic writers such as Theophile Gautier, Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, Hans Heinz Ewers, and Bram Stoker. For modern writers, one of my favorites is Anne Rice. I read Interview with the Vampire in 1979, the year I started writing The Vampire Girl Next Door. When I was a creative writing student in 1979 at San Francisco State University, I met Anne Rice. Her husband, Stan Rice, was chairman of the Creative Writing Department there, and I was a guest at her house several times, including a party where I met my first literary agent.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for us, I wish you success with this novel and your future work!

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk to your readers about my book. There’s more information on my website: www.thevampiregirlnextdoor.com It has a 4-minute video book trailer, book reviews, a free reading sample, and interesting links to things mentioned in the novel (such as Mark’s kung fu style and his sports car, Sylvia’s harpsichord, samples of the music she plays, and a video about Highgate in London). The links are in the chronological order of the novel and can be read or viewed while reading the book. They enhance the reading of the novel and don’t spoil the plot.

View Richard's novel The Vampire Girl Next Door at The Vampire Library


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