The Eternal Tomb, the fifth in the Oliver Nocturne series, was released on April 15th. Kevin Emerson, looking appropriately spooky in this picture from his web site, is here for an interview!
Ms. Yingling: Were you a big reader as a teen? What books did you like?
Mr. Emerson: I was a big reader as a teen, but there wasn't the kind of YA market that there is now. I moved from mystery series like The Three Investigators up to Stephen King in middle school. I wasn't a fan of "classics," until I took a class in high school about utopian fiction. I loved Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and then I found Kurt Vonnegut, and read just about every one of his books.
Ms. Yingling: Oliver is a bit scared, and lives in a scary world. What scares you?
Mr. Emerson: The thing that scares me the most is close-mindedness, or extremism. What I mean by that is when people firmly believe that they are right and therefore others must be wrong. This is happening everywhere in our world. An obvious example is terrorism, but it's also occuring in governments, religions, organizations, and individuals. The older I get, the more I feel like both sides of any issue have a point. People should listen to each other. If you have a strong opinion or belief, you should express it in such a way that you're leaving space for your friend or neighbor to feel safe expressing theirs, too. And under no circumstances should violence be used. Oliver and his family are dealing with close-minded beliefs in their vampire worlds, mainly with the plans of the Half-Light Consortium, and their extended families. Oliver is pretty open-minded, not that he thinks about that much.
Ms. Yingling: You introduce your own “rules” for vampires. What is your favorite “rule” from traditional vampire lore? Least favorite?
Mr. Emerson: The rule that I was happiest to work into the books was the idea that vampires are compulsive about organization and counting. There's a scene in book three where a vampire drops his cup of gambling money and the entire casino has to stop and count it. This is based on the traditional idea that you could thwart a vampire by throwing rice at their feet, because they would have to stop and count the grains. I had a ton of fun with that idea.I don't know if I have a least favorite rule. I felt like, the more rules the better, because then I had to think up answers for how the vampires would deal. But I had the most fun thinking about what a vampire didn't have. Like, they wouldn't have or need a working immune system, but then how would they deal with bacteria and decay, like a dead body would? Or, if they can think, then their brains must still work, so what kinds of food are best for brain function? Or like, if kids couldn't eat human blood, what would meals and such look like? Stuff like that was fun to me.
Ms. Yingling: Why do you think vampire fiction is so popular now?
Mr. Emerson: I don't know. I just read an article that zombies are the new 'it' genre. A few years ago it was pirates. What will the next one be? Gnomes? Our culture moves as a herd, I think, in the sense that we collectively get excited about a genre, probably because of the state of the world, and so that idea gets explored en masse for awhile. Then we move on. Also, some people smell money and so they write a book in the popular genre cause they know it sells. I swear I didn't do that. I was/am a big fan of Buffy and Angel, and so Oliver was actually the end output of ten years of vampire enjoyment. The timing was fortunate.
Ms. Yingling: What’s your favorite part of writing a book?
Mr. Emerson: Well, I love just about all of it. Each stage has it's cool parts. One of the most fun things about working on Oliver was that as I would be writing one book, I'd be having these thought bubbles about what could happen in the next book. I had this file on my computer of brainstorming for the future books, and some of the ideas would be so crazy, but they were really fun. Another cool moment would be when I was around 2/3 finished with the draft of a book, and the prologue for the next book would start coming together in my head. I'd stop and bang it out, and be so psyched after.First drafts are fun, except when they're not, like when you're stuck for what should happen. For me, first drafts are mainly for plot and momentum. Oh, and also about dialogue. Most of my dialogue comes in the first draft. Second and third (and fourth) drafts are for teasing the character journeys and themes to the surface and then strengthening them. That's also when the really good sentences come together. Part of this is shortening the story, too. My drafts are always too long. I had to chop 50 pages off of book 2, and 30 pages off of book 5. Sometimes, people think, "oh no, but what about those scenes?" but it's not that simple. Anything that I am cutting is being addressed in some other place. I appreciated having to be concise. But don't hold me to that.
Thanks, Mr. Emerson. Since Scholastic publishes this series, I am going to see if they will send me a box of the titles for my spring book fair. I can't keep these on the shelves!