Marta Acosta is the author of the successful, darkly humorous Casa Dracula series, featuring smart, sexy, Hispanic heroine Milagros, an outsider in the world of vampires. Marta also keeps a blog, Vampire Wire, offering the latest news about paranormal and urban fantasy books.
Thanks for this interview, Marta. It's a pleasure having you here today to talk about your books. Tell us about your Casa Dracula novels and your inspiration for this series.
My Casa Dracula books follow the adventures of a smart, funny, sexy young woman, Milagro, who becomes infected by a condition some would call vampirism. She’s an outsider in a family of vampires and has to deal with their secretive and dangerous world and their enemies. Milagro always attracts lunatics and extremists, so new problems continually arise. She has eccentric methods of resolving them, as well as a tendency to get distracted by parties, degenerates, and her own curiosity.
She’s continually in conflict with the powerful Vampire Council, who would be pretty happy if she disappeared forever.
I was inspired to write this story when I was watching a sci-fi movie with a bunch of guys running around in lycra jumpsuits. In the future, I’m pretty sure everyone will be wearing t-shirts, jeans, and flip-flops, not gray uniforms. Anyway, I was thinking about the clichés of some genre stories, and I decided to spoof them.
What compelled you to use vampires in your stories?
I’ve always been a fan of paranormal stories that have a strong humorous component as well as a quasi-scientific explanation for oddities – like the great seasons of “The X-Files.” But I don’t like angsty, whiney vampires, especially the rich ones. I think rich, sophisticated vampires would probably be pretty pleased with themselves, so I came up with my snobby, accomplished vamps.
What is it about vampires? Why do you think they're such die-hard, fascinating fiends?
Many people find the combination of blood, sex, and eternal life to be very exciting. As part of my research for a young adult gothic, I read vampire poems and stories that go back hundreds of years – and they’re still really marvelously creepy.
“The Vampire,” from 1748 by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, expresses the dark seductive theme that is still carried out in today’s vampire stories.
- And as softly thou art sleeping
To thee shall I come creeping
And thy life's blood drain away.
And so shalt thou be trembling
For thus shall I be kissing
And death's threshold thou' it be crossing
With fear, in my cold arms.
And last shall I thee question
Compared to such instruction
What are a mother's charms?
There’s an amazing range of vampire fiction now: graphic books and manga; comics; horror novels; historical novels; paranormal romance; sci-fi interpretations; comedies; and urban fantasy. So no matter what your take on vampires, whether you like them horrifying and undead or urbane and charming, you can find it.
Do you do special book signings for Halloween? Have you ever dressed as a vampire to promote your books?
Last year I participated in a special Halloween reading with other authors, which was really fun because the master of ceremonies was dressed and talked like a pirate. Who doesn’t love pirates and pirate talk? I don’t know if I’ll be doing anything for Halloween this year. I’ve been too busy trying to meet my next deadline to think about it. I’m practically under house arrest.
What don't you like about the horror genre these days?
I don’t like it when a horrible, ugly thing happens just to advance the plot, without any reason, but that’s not exclusive to horror. It’s common in thrillers, crime fiction, mysteries, and literary fiction. There’s a technique I call Gratuitous Child Endangerment. It always gets an emotional reaction, but it’s cheap and easy to do.
What I do like in horror these days is all the interesting cross-genre writing – so we’re seeing horror elements in literary fiction, or sci-fi elements in paranormal stories. Then there’s steampunk, which is sort of a historical cyperpunk, and there’s a steampunk horror subgenre.
Nathan Barker of Kayleighbug Books told me that he checks through romance books because so many good horror novels are being sold as romances.
My own novels are shelved in general fiction, because they’re primarily comedies. With vampires. And romantic entanglements. And other paranormal characters. And cocktail parties. And murder attempts. I’ve given up trying to figure out what to call them.
What is the scariest book you've ever read? Scariest movie?
I made the mistake of reading William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist when I was young. It scarred me for life.
In terms of film, I really like John Carpenter movies, which have a great combination of horror, humor, and fast-paced action. I think The Thing is really under-appreciated. Carpenter’s now filming L.A. Gothic, an anthology of five horror stories.
I can’t wait to see Let the Right One In, a Swedish vampire flick that is getting worldwide raves.
I think the single scariest exchange in a movie is in the classic The Haunting (1963), which has a twisted psycho-sexual subtext. The lights go out in a house and there’s shaking and terrible things happening, and then it all stops and the lights come back on. One character says, “I’m glad you were holding my hand.” The other character says, “But I was across the room.” You don’t see anything – it’s all suggestion.
What are your plans for this Halloween?
We have family birthdays on Halloween and November 1, so there are usually family celebrations. I’d like to try to make it to some of the Dias de Los Muertos (Days of the Dead) events in San Francisco.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
If they like humor and paranormal stories, please read my novels! Those interested in paranormal and urban fantasy fiction can visit my blog, Vampire Wire, and I’m always happy to get emails from readers.
Thanks for the interview, Mayra!