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When I was younger, I was fascinated by beasts, both real and mythical. As a teenager, discovering werewolves and vampires was a natural progression, but I found the more classical representation of vampires…wanting. Lestat and his crew were all too Fae, and the abominations that followed were so much worse that I checked out with vampires for a while. Then, when I was 16, a co-worker handed me a bag full of books at my desk where I was working as a receptionist in a Nursing Facility. At the top of the pile was a thick, weathered book called “Midnight Blue: The Sonja Blue Collection.”

 

I cracked it open first, and quickly forgot about the other books in the bag for a very, very long time. The chronologically ordered compilation includes the stories, “Sunglasses After Dark,” “In The Blood,” and “Paint it Black.” I cracked the book, and honestly don’t remember the next week, which was how long it took me to devour the book around my work schedule.

 

 I’d never seen such unique and aggressive characters, such a new and addicting spin put on such an old creature. Sonja Blue was an interesting character in that her body never properly died, rendering her an anomaly in her world. I find it interesting that her still being technically ‘alive’ in parts serves as a tidy metaphor for a character that breathes new life into such an archaic monster, the vampire.

 

Missing is the usual morose self pity, the pathetic grappling with the nature of their thirst, the ache to be human again that overwhelms any potentially interesting dialogue in the story. In its place, insert a healthy dose of self loathing in place of self pity, homicidal rage (complete with another personality to handle the REALLY dirty shit,) in place of whining, and savage efficiency and resilience in place of, oh, I don’t know, sparkles?

 

Not that Ms. Collins is limited to vampire tales! In fact, one of my favorite stories of hers is a short story from her collection entitled, “Avenue X.” It’s a particularly gruesome tale of revenge called “Furies in Black Leather.” It is NOT for the weak of stomach. I also highly endorse tales like, “Tender Tigers,” (an ogre Drama,) and “The Nonesuch Horror,” (a supernatural Western thriller.)

 

I have a category reserved for artists like Nancy Collins, one I call, ‘Buy on Faith.’ The list is tiny, less than five, and is comprised of artists (music or author,) whose work I can always trust to be so good I don’t need to know anything else about it before I gladly buy and devour it.

 

 I hope you all enjoy reading this interview as much I loved doing it! If you haven’t yet, do yourselves a favor and snag any one of her amazing stories, you really can’t go wrong, and she’s got something for everyone. 

 

EM- How much of you exists in Sonja Blue?

 

NC- I’d say there’s a fair amount—my rather dark sense of humor, for one, and my low tolerance for BS is readily on display in her personality.

 

EM- The ‘Other’ is a fascinating creature, what inspired her? Is she meant to be a reverse conscience?

 

NC- The Other is an ambiguous character. While it most definitely ‘exists’ within Sonja, the question is whether it is a separate being—a genuine vampiric/demonic entity—or her own id given voice and awareness. Or perhaps it is a combination of both? As for what inspired The Other, probably my childhood and teen-aged viewings of such classics as The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil.

 

EM- Where did the ‘proper’ species names for the Pretending races come from?

 

NC- A lot of the names come from ancient mythology, foreign languages, etc. The term vargr, for example, comes from the Norse and refers to not just wolves, but a supernatural species of wolf, so I thought would be a natural name that werewolves would call themselves. The term ulfr, which refers to werewolf/natural wolf hybrids is a Proto-German word meaning ‘wolf’ and can be found in various forms in Scandinavian and Germanic languages today. The term esau, which refers to human cannibals of werewolf heritage who are incapable of shapeshifting, comes from the Bible. In particular Genesis 27:11 ‘And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man.’ The kitsune come from the Japanese folktales of magic, shape-shifting foxes of that name, and the enkidu, the name for the vampires, comes from the story of Gilgamesh, where Enkidu was a lesser version of the epic hero. I picked it in order to suggest that vampires are not actually the person whose body they walk around in, but a corrupted approximation of humanity. The vampires calling their psychic minions Renfields, as fuck-you to Dracula, was my personal sense of humor, as it’s obvious in my world that the Pretenders aren’t above enjoying a joke at humanity’s expense.  And as for fire elementals being called pyrotics, I completely pulled that one out of my ass.

 

EM- In the short story, ‘Knifepoint’, you reveal the origin of Sonja Blue’s infamous blade, and in doing so, paint an amazing, bloody picture of Gods and Devils at war. When did you first take interest in ancient cultures, and where do you think the Sonja Blue saga would be without the influence of Kali?

 

NC- I’ve had a lifelong fascination with folklore, legends and myth, thanks to my Great Aunt Lucille, who I never met (she died a few months before I was born), but who bequeathed her personal library of Greek and Rome literature to my mother (my great aunt was a Latin teacher  and ancient history scholar). I grew up reading her copy of Bullfinch and other books on heroes and gods. If I had never heard of Kali, then Sonja Blue would probably would have been an avatar of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet (the lioness-headed warrior-goddess who got drunk on the blood of her enemies), the Greek goddess of divine retribution known as Nemesis, the Norse battle-goddess Sandraudiga (She Who Dyes the Sand Red), or the Celtic goddess of fury, Badb. 

 

EM- What are some of your favorite songs to listen to while you write?

 

NC- I don’t normally listen to music with lyrics when I work, as it distracts me. I tend to listen to soundtracks and instrumentals instead. I particularly enjoy listening to Robert Rodriquez’s original soundtracks to Sin City and Planet Terror, as well as Bernard Hermann’s assorted scores and compositions by Philip Glass. I also enjoy listening to jazz by Cal Tjader, etc and atmospheric classical music.   

 

EM- You’ve written both Comics, and Novels, do you have any preferences for either medium, and if so, what are they?

 

NC- I enjoy working in both mediums. Each has their strong points and drawbacks. I’m just now getting back into comics after nearly two decades away, and I’m enjoying the change of pace. Of the two, although both rely on the author’s ability to plot & pace  a story and create believable, interesting characters, I would say the writer does a lot more heavy-lifting in novels, as you are 100% dependent on creating the mood, scenery, etc. through descriptive passages, where in comics the artist shoulders that responsibility.

 

EM- What are your top five favorite old horror movies?

 

NC- I’m not exactly sure what qualifies as “old” anymore, but I’m going to assume that means ‘not-made-in-this-century’.

 

1. The Haunting (1963)

 

2. Santa Sangre  (1989)

 

3. Curse of the Werewolf  (1961)

 

4. Psycho (1960)

 

5. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

 

EM- I also see a lot of western influence in your work, how much of that was shaped by environment, and how much by pop culture influence?

 

NC- It was both nature and nurture. One of my ancestors on my mother’s side of the family actually ran off from home as a kid to join up with Butch Cassidy and the Hole InThe Wall gang, and his father had to ride out and bring him back. The kernel of that family story was the basis of The Tortuga Hill Gang’s Last Ride

 

When I was a kid cowboys and westerns were still king, and were as popular and prevalent as zombies and Star Wars are now. I grew up watching John Wayne movies. Hell, my father was *named* after John Wayne. My maternal grandmother was related to Jesse James. My Great Aunt Verna’s husband was a half-Cherokee rodeo rider, and there’s Native American blood on both sides, albeit strained through a hell of a lot of Scotch-Irishmen.  My family religiously watched Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Big Valley, etc. And I also enjoyed the genre-bending stuff, like Wild, Wild West and Kung-Fu. But where my father’s generation was into the Lone Ranger, Red Ryder and Roy Rogers, I cut my teeth on spaghetti westerns and revisionist westerns like Little Big Man, Jeremiah Johnson and Lonesome Dove. One of my favorite horror novels is a western by Cormac McCarthy called Blood Meridian.

 

EM– Who has been the most influential person in your life?

 

NC- My Grandfather Willoughby was a huge influence on me, as he pretty much introduced me to horror cinema and fantastic fiction. He was a huge fan of Boris Karloff, as well as Lon Chaney Sr. One of his best friends was the manager of the local Malco Theater, who also happened to be the vice-president of the chain. Because of that, he had the ability to run old movies during the week nights. One night would be old westerns, another musicals, etc. One night was always old horror movies, and my grandfather would take me with him to watch them. So, unlike most Americans my age, I actually saw Frankenstein, Dracula, etc for the first time on a big screen. My earliest memory is of watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and being so scared during the scene where Lou Costello is strapped to a gurney and being spun around between the Monster and the Wolf Man I hid behind the seat in front of me. I was probably 4 at the time. My grandfather was also a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and he made sure I got copies of Tarzan and the John Carter of Mars series when I was 10.

 

EM- What’s up next for Sonja Blue?

 

NC- I’m working on Kill City, the first Sonja Blue novel in well over a decade. I had an Indiegogo campaign for it last year that didn’t quite make its goal, but I’m currently working on it between paying gigs. I hope to have it finished by mid-late 2014 and plan to release it myself via my Hopedale Press imprint.  Also, IDW will be releasing the revised & re-colored Sunglasses After Dark graphic novel sometime in Spring 2014. I wrote it and it’s drawn by Stan Shaw, who also went back and digitally recolored his original art. This will be the first time it has been collected as a graphic novel, as it first appeared as a 6-issue mini-series from Glenn Danzig’s Verotik Publications in 1995-1996. It looks amazing, and Stan has really outdone himself. 

 

Thank you so much for your time and amazing, inspiring stories, Ms. Collins! It was an honor and a pleasure!

 

Erin…

 

More information (including bibliography! Happy hunting!!);

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_A._Collins

 

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