Readers of borg.com will be familiar with Kim Newman. For years he has been a favorite horror and fantasy writer of millions of readers across the globe. I have reviewed two of his novels in his Anno Dracula series here in the past two years, Dracula Cha Cha Cha (the re-release made our Best of 2012 list) and Johnny Alucard, reviewed here this month. The Anno Dracula books describe a detailed and complex parallel world where Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a biographical account of a real vampire and vampires were integrated into our culture over the course of a century. Kim graciously agreed to an interview with me recently about the latest book in his Anno Dracula series.
CB: Kim, thanks for chatting with us here at borg.com today about your new release Johnny Alucard.
KN: Thanks for having me.
CB: Were there any real world people or fictional characters from early drafts of Johnny Alucard (or in prior Anno Dracula novels) that were left on your “cutting room floor”? Any that you still want to find a home for in the Anno Dracula universe?
KN: The novel features various real filmmakers/artists who talked about – or got quite far on with – Dracula projects that didn’t happen, or who made Draculas that aren’t the ones I imagined. Ken Russell (whose Dracula script has been published) and Ingmar Bergman (who talked about being interested in the book) were on the list, but I couldn’t see a way of including them. I do cast around for some key players – when I needed a fictional Los Angeles cop for a part, I could have selected several 1970s TV characters though the one I went with is the best fit. That whole section of the book is informed a lot by 1970s TV shows, especially The Rockford Files – but I didn’t see a way of including Jim Rockford as a character since I’d used another LA private eye in an earlier chapter and he’d just have repeated the lesson. I tend not to list characters I’d like to use and then find excuses for them – I think of the situations, the story points, or where my main characters are, and then look around for real or borrowed fictional or amalgamated characters who suit the purposes of the set-up.
CB: What kind of feedback have you received from living people who have ended up in your Anno Dracula series?
KN: None, so far. Of authors whose characters I’ve appropriated, Charlie Grant, Les Daniels, Paul McAuley and F. Paul Wilson have been appreciative.
CB: You’ve spent a great deal of time now with our tour guides in the Anno Dracula world: Kate, Genevieve, and Penny. Do you have a favorite? Do you feel you know everything about them after all this time documenting their travels?
KN: I like writing them all – probably each is my favourite when I’m with them, which may say as much about me as them. I do know more about them than has been in the books so far, but I also know there are gaps and grey areas that I might or might not pay attention to in the future.
CB: As a reader it’s exciting to see what you do with your densely packed world of real and fictional characters. Have you considered taking the structure of the universe building in Anno Dracula to delve into any other parallel worlds—not based on Dracula–but based on other characters that interest you?
KN: I did something similar with Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d’Urbervilles, which riffs on Conan Doyle’s characters, and ties in slightly with an upcoming book, Angels of Music, which takes The Phantom of the Opera as a source text. My novella “A Drug on the Market” takes an Anno Dracula-like approach to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, though it’s a sequel rather than an alternate universe – considering the effects on society if Dr. Jekyll’s serum were to become a commercially available patent medicine. I’m interested in playing with my own toys as well as other folks’, though.
CB: You’ve said in interviews before that you enjoy low-budget 1970s films like Quentin Tarantino has used as inspiration for his own film creations–Any thoughts on venturing into other genres, maybe creating your own grindhouse, or even science fiction, steampunk, etc. worlds, outside of the horror realm, like more of your Hound of the d’Urbervilles?
KN: My Diogenes Club collections, which are a very loose series, essentially do this, sometimes using my Anno Dracula characters in a world that more closely resembles ours … I think all my books hook together in an evolving multiverse I don’t really want to codify too much for fear of tying myself down.
CB: Your references to characters, some real, some fictional, some passing, some in key scenes, all show a broad knowledge of books, TV and film. Do you have any favorites or recommendations for your fans as we approach the Halloween season?
KN: Lately, I’ve been looking at Sergeant Cork, a forgotten 1960s Victorian detective series which is out on DVD (six volumes, from Network). It’s a remarkable show, with an interesting mix of history and gothic-melodramatic crime stories and a rigour and toughness that compares favourably with contemporary TV.
CB: What projects are you currently engaged in and what’s next out for publication?
KN: Next up is An English Ghost Story, a novel I’ve been promising for ages. In the meantime, Titan are reissuing my novels The Quorum and Life’s Lottery, in smart new editions.
CB: An English Ghost Story–sounds right up my alley. Can’t wait to read it!
Thanks to Kim Newman for being with us today.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!