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Exclusive Interview with Sherrilyn Kenyon

I’m honored to have a discussion with Sherrilyn Kenyon, one of the most successful writers of vampire fiction of all time.  In an age where blog hosting allows the creative spirit an outlet on the web, Sherrilyn has been able to put her dream of being a writer in action in the publishing world and has been a prolific source of vampire fiction in print form. Sherrilyn, the original Gothic goddess, has over seventeen million copies of her works in print.  Her books are sold in over thirty countries and have been translated into twenty-six languages.  This literary powerhouse has authored several series including The Lords of Avalon, Brotherhood of the Sword, The League and The Dark-Hunters and the eagerly awaited Nevermore and Chronicles of Nick.   Her books always appear at the top of the best-seller lists of the New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today and her website,, averages over 1.5 million hits per month.

Sherrilyn’s road to becoming a professional author was a difficult one and her career was born out of tenacity. Born in Columbus, Georgia into a family of five children plus seven cousins they inherited, she overcame dyslexia and the death of a beloved brother to follow the path of a writer, something she knew was her destiny since childhood.

VF:  You’ve written extensively about your early love all things Gothic. What authors did you read as a child?

Everyone. My faves though as far back as I can remember were always Stephen King, Anne Rice, H.P Lovecraft, EA Poe, Isaac Asimov, C.J. Cherryh, Dan Curtis—I still have all the Dark Shadows novels, Clive Barker, and I loved the Tales from the Crypt comics.

VF: You are one of the few living writers whose works, with the exception of your sci-fi series, Born of Night, Born of Fire and Born of Ice never go out of print.  Those three works were revered collectors items but luckily for your fans this series will be re-released in 2009. It must be thrilling for you. Can you talk about how it happened?

Technically Born of Fire was never in print LOL. It was one of the first ebooks ever published and I was the first New York published author to have a book in ebook format. The series was originally split apart and put out by three separate publishing companies and was in print for many years.

When I sold the Dark-Hunter books, I asked for the rights back from the New York houses (the ebook publisher had gone out of business some years before and my rights for BOF had already reverted). They graciously released the rights back to me and I then sold them to St. Martins who does the Dark-Hunter series. They’ve had them for quite sometime, we’ve just been waiting for my publishing schedule to open up enough that we can rerelease them.

The books themselves have all been rewritten back to my original manuscript—they suffered heavily under an editorial knife and by standards of what could and couldn’t be done back in the early 1990’s. Plus, since they were published by different houses, they had to be broken apart so that the reader couldn’t tell it was a single series. Now they will read like a connected/cohesive trilogy and the reader will finally understand who is related to whom and how their lives unfolded.

VF:  Some people with dyslexia speak of it as a gift.  You are part of a select group of authors with dyslexia that includes Yeats, Flaubert, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Agatha Christie.  Can you tell us how it affected your process?

It kept me out of Journalism school LOL and for that I’m grateful. I probably wouldn’t have had time to work on my books if I was writing for a paper. I don’t think it affects my process as much as it does my syntax. I have to have two people go over my manuscripts to put the words in proper order. It also slows me down and it does aggravate me when I’m tired and I can’t get any word to go down on paper the way I want it to.

VF: Your first novels were historical romances with a paranormal undertone published under a pseudonym, Kinley MacGregor.  What first attracted you to the romance as a literary genre? 

Actually, my first novels were all published under Sherrilyn Kenyon and they were paranormal and science fiction. I’ve also done short stories in horror, SF and fantasy under a plethora of pseudonyms.

I had an involuntary four and a half year hiatus from publishing when no one would offer me a contract. When I was finally able to sell again, my editor was concerned that it might confuse my paranormal and SF readership to use my real name. She asked if I would consider a pen name for the historicals. Since I was then convinced my real name was cursed as my initial foray into publishing had failed, I agreed and Kinley MacGregor was born.

All of my fiction, regardless of genre, is about relationships between the characters and they all have romance in them. It’s human nature. We all want to be accepted by our friends, family and significant others. That whole pesky Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs. All of my books are an exploration of the character and all the gamut of human emotion and conditions, including love, hate, anger, vengeance, struggle, triumph and serenity. And especially about discovering the ability to find the beauty within all of us, no matter how bad or scarred we are and to come to peace with ourselves and the world around us or as we seek to destroy the earth around us.

VF: Both the romance and vampire literary genres have been dismissed by literary critics and academics who, in my humble opinion, are extremely unenlightened.  How do you answer those who don’t consider vampire fiction serious literature?

I quote H.G. Wells who, when asked about his own writing, said “I write romantic tales of adventure.” And let’s face it, no one wrote more romantic or more commonly than Shakespeare and Chaucer. If it was a good enough genre for them, then I’m honored to be counted among it. Plus I still say, Dracula stands tall in the literary world as a benchmark for what timeless literature should be—and at the heart of it was a love story. So go ahead and dismiss it if you like. I’ve never been one to shape my opinions or live my life based on what other people think. I write what my muse tells me to and am very happy doing it. Besides I always default back to my mother’s philosophy about broccoli. “How do you know you don’t like it until you try it?”

VF:  Mathew Fox, Charlaine Harris, Poppy K Brite and Anne Rice are noted writers of vampire fiction.  All are Southerners.  Why do you think so Southerners are so drawn to the vampire genre?

Have you ever asked a Southerner for directions? We can take the most mundane thing and turn it into a moral lesson and horror tale with a whole history lesson that gets into emotions and keeps you captivated. You may not get where you’re going, but you will definitely enjoy the trip.

As for why vampire fiction per se, Southern writers write in all genres and vamp lit is written by many others outside of the South such as Stephen King and let’s not forget, Bram Stoker. So I think it’s just an individual choice we all make.

For me personally, I write it because when other kids were scared to look under their beds, I was unlocking my windows and making sure my neck was exposed, trying to lure a vampire in to bite me. My first crush as a girl wasn’t on Leif Garrett or Sean Cassidy. It was on Frank Langella and David Peel.

VF: You’re a very feminine woman who loves swordplay and boxing.  Unlike many female writers of the historical romance/vampire genre, you have a large male following (40%).  Why do you think you have so many male readers?

I don’t really consider myself feminine. I’m an award-winning markswoman and I work on cars for fun—specializing in the rebuilding/restoration of classic American muscle cars (mostly Mustangs). I don’t really like boxing as I have a temper and don’t really like to be hit, but I was the sparring partner for two Golden Glove champions for many years.

What the men who read the series tell me is that they like the way my male characters seem real and that I have a lot of action and car chases and shootings in the books (I also really like to blow things up). This most likely stems from the fact that my father was a drill sergeant (and he was my more sympathetic parent) and that I was raised in the middle of eight boys who grew up to be construction workers (who now fight over every new release I have). I didn’t even know I was a girl until I was five years old and a boy I wasn’t related to rudely pointed it out. I just thought my mom dressed me funny. After I beat him up for calling me a girl, I asked my brother why he’d said that. I was shocked by the truth.

Ultimately, I did learn to embrace my female side as the guys shot ahead of me by junior high and I had to hang up my cleats because it hurt to get sacked by people who seriously outweighed me. But I still play sports, games, work on cars and computers (I’m an MCSE and used to train others for their certification) and do other things that are usually thought to be male.

So long story long as I am Southern, I write what I know and since I was raised in the middle of eight boys and am now currently raising another houseful of boys with no daughters, what I know best is how men really act when they’re at home and in public; how they think and all the beauty that is the male of the species. It’s that love and respect for them, and their constant adventure quests, that I always try to bring to my books and I think that’s what my male readers connect with most.

VF: Your readers adore you to the point of idol worship: some over enthused admirers even kidnapped you once.  Your conventions and books sell out in minutes and you return their affection.  Can you talk about your relationship with your fans?

I don’t really think it’s idol worship. It’s more we have a great time whenever we’re together. Any time I’m with my fans, it’s a celebration. We laugh, tell jokes and visit with each other. It’s like one big family coming together to share experiences and party. I come from a large extended family where, to quote my brother when he saw a crowd gathered at a signing once said, “People? Why are you here? I wouldn’t cross the street to meet her if she had $50 she owed me.”  So it thrills me to see fans show up, especially in the numbers that they do.  They touch my heart and I always let them know that. I never take them for granted and I’m grateful for every one of them.

VF: We noted your sell out convention, K-Con but didn’t mention that it takes place in New Orleans.  You knew the city before Katrina.  Can you talk about your connection with the city and your feelings about the building effort?

I first visited New Orleans in 1988. My college roommate and I had been up for three days working on finals. Unable to take another moment of it, we looked at the clock and it was midnight. Rebecca looked at me and said, “Road Trip!” I agreed and we decided that New Orleans it was since the beach and Goth don’t really go together. Within twenty minutes, we were on our way for the eight and half hour road trip.

We got there early in the morning and I can still remember the way the sunlight glinted off the city as we came over the water. The smell, the feel. I was home and no matter where I live, New Orleans is always my home and I have to go back there at least once a year (usually more) to recharge my batteries. It’s like I survive in other places, but I live and only thrive in New Orleans. I did live there 1989-1990, but finances forced me back to Georgia. My goal is to get back there one day and to never leave it again.

I applaud the reconstruction efforts and support them any way I can. It breaks my heart to see so much of my past forever closed, such as my favorite bakery and café. But New Orleans is a great lady and she will be back even stronger and better than before.

VF:  With the success of the feature films, Twilight and Let the Right One In and the large fan base for True Blood or television, do you see more vampire offerings coming to the big or small screen?  Your books have cinematic scope - will we ever see Dark Hunter on the screen?

Vampire movies have always been a staple of Hollywood all the way back to Nosferatu in the golden Silent Age. And I’ve always, pardon the pun, been a sucker for them. My mother raised me on Hammer films and zombie movies. So yes, I think we’ll definitely see more of them.

As for Dark-Hunter, I’m open to it, but it has to be the right offer from a team I feel comfortable with. My fans would never forgive me if, again pardon the pun, a movie came out and it bit. I keep that in mind always.

VF: Sherrilyn, what are your future projects?

To live life to its fullest, LOL. I’m currently working on the Chronicles of Nick which we contracted for several years ago when my adult fans started clamoring for Dark-Hunter novels they could share with their children. It’s taken me a little bit of time to get to them, but finally they’re coming out starting in February 2010.

Then it’s back to my next Lords of Avalon novel which is Arthurian fantasy with a twist and then more Dark-Hunter novels. I can’t wait!


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