Interview with Denise K. Rago, author of “Immortal Obsession”

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I have always been fascinated by the paranormal, especially vampires. I enjoy writing about the intersection between what we mere mortals believe to be real and the unreal. I also enjoy creating characters who despite being immortal are also very human. Characters who grapple with the same issues and feelings as human beings. The resolution of problems may be different for the vampires as opposed to their mortal counterparts, but the process is the same. I feel there is always room for new novels which add to this genre and keep it fresh and thought-provoking.

Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

Immortal Obsession was inspired by an otherworldly experience I had in a New York City diner one night many years ago, when my path crossed with that of a beautiful, unusual stranger who sat down at a table behind my husband and I.  Even by New York standards he was different. He was very tall, with waist-length blond hair and he dressed entirely in black, including a long black duster. When I turned around he said hello and as I fell into his dark eyes he felt very familiar to me.

That weekend I began writing Immortal Obsession and the mysterious stranger was the inspiration for my protagonist, vampire, Christian Du Mauré.  When my husband and I talked about our experience with this mysterious stranger, I realized we saw two very different people that night.  The experience was unnerving, yet exciting.

I have had a few other encounters with him, though we have not spoken since. I must also explain that I have always believed in reincarnation, past lives and soul connections.  I learned that the man I saw in the diner was spirit and is someone I have known from a past life.  I also discovered that there are many more life times we have shared together and that he continually guides me from the other side as his role in my writing and my life continues to unfold.

What inspires you to write?

Aside from my muse whispering in my ear? He is quite the task master! I have a story to tell and I need to finish it. I find writing a vehicle for my continued self-discovery and so I write to learn more about me. It may sound strange but it’s true. Reading good writers inspires me to become better at my craft. I read a lot and I am continually amazed at the author who crafts a good story, especially if it is well written. I also write for my readers, especially when they ask when my next novel is coming out. I am honored and so grateful to have a fan base. They make this all worthwhile.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

Writing is a solitary activity so I can understand how the conclusion could be drawn that writers are solitary people but since I can only speak for myself I cannot generalize. I am no way a solitary being! I am very social and I cannot imagine spending my days alone in a room writing. It is not my nature but I am sure there are a lot of writers who would consider themselves loners. When I write I only spend a few hours and then I need to move onto other activities. It’s just y nature.

Do you have a day job other than a writer? And do you like it?

Yes I do have a day job. I have worked for many years in the business office of a small, private, non-profit school for children with special needs. I did briefly leave to pursue a career in museum studies but I returned to the same school where I have spent most of my adult life. What started out as a part-time job has captivated me for a long time and I am proud of the mission and philosophy of the school and the hard work of the staff. It is my second home and I consider the staff my family.

Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

Since my job is full-time I write when time allows. I would never say my job gets in the way of my writing but at present I work full-time so I write when time allows. As a self-published author, I am under no pressure to produce a novel under a deadline. I can take years to publish a book, and I have; no joke.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

Both.  When I finish a novel I generally put it down for a few weeks.  Then I go back and reread it and make edits. I will do this several times until I feel it is ready to be sent to a professional editor. I have to stop myself because I am a perfectionist and I will continue making edits so I have to limit the amount of times I will reread my manuscript. We cannot be objective with our own work, therefore we hire proofreaders and editors to help us craft a better tale.

Each of my novels has been professionally edited who have turned my stories into what you see in print.  This is what you pay them for and the key is to trust them.  No I may not implement every one of their suggestions, but they are the professionals and they ask questions and raise issues which are pertinent because they do not have an emotional attachment to the work.  Writers have an attachment to their writing.

How realistic are your books?

Although I write about vampires, most of the locations in my novels are real places and accurately portrayed.  I studied museum professions and interned at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  It is a place I know like the back of my hand and along with Central Park I portray them accurately and honestly.  The Louvre in Paris along with the Catacombs are places I love and although I have never been inside the Catacombs I have done a lot of research, then use my imagination to conjure up world below the city.  Even for some of the vampires in my novels, the Catacombs are a distasteful place to live.

The houses in my second novel, Blood Tears, and my newest work, Eternal Hunger, are mostly imaginary.   I take images or interiors I like and create a world around them.  The Chateau des Singes in France is a real place which I use in Eternal Hunger. I take major liberties which is what authors are allowed to do to bring a world to life.

Have you ever designed your own book cover?

Yes!  The cover of my first novel, Immortal Obsession originated as a photograph of the angel atop of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park in New York City.  It is one of my favorite places and integral to the novel.  Createspace, the company which published my novel took my photograph and turned it into the beautiful book cover image.  Although the subject matter of my novels is vampires, the cover, like the novel is about so much more.

For Blood Tears, I took an idea and was able to find a cover image to use which is disturbing yet compelling.

Can you tell us about your current projects?

My current novel titled Eternal Hunger is the third novel in The Enchanted Bloodline Series.  It would be ambitious for me to say it will be out this fall. More realistic, fall of 2017. Eternal Hunger continues the saga of vampire, Christian Du Mauré and his plight which revolves around living in both the mortal and vampiric worlds.  He struggles with both.

Do you have a specific culture you like to write about?

Not really a culture, but a period of time and a genre. I am fascinated by eighteenth century France and the French Revolution. I read a lot about this time period both because I want my novels to be as authentic as possible but I need to understand how and why this revolution took place. What factors came together to cause such a bloody revolution and why did Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette have to be executed? Why could they not be exiled? I am perpetually intrigued by it and of course, there are my vampires, who live and love in the middle of this bloody revolution.

How much of yourself do you put in your books?

Christian Du Mauré is French and was made a vampire in eighteenth century Paris, one of my favorite cites and time periods. He now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in a townhouse full of antiques. He is an avid reader. His passion for art and culture mirrors my own. His mortal lover, Amanda Perretti, works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I did my Museum Studies internship in this museum and I have been going there since I was a child.
Christian’s mortal lover in the eighteenth century, Josette Delacore, kept diaries and I use diaries in both novels as a vehicle to impart information to both the character and to the reader. They generally are as surprised as the reader! Josette is also very psychic. She reads Tarot cards and has a sixth sense about people. I too have a passion for all things paranormal.

Do you keep a diary?

Most definitely! In high school I wrote a lot of really bad poetry but I also kept a diary. I now call my diary “my journal” and I write almost every day. I have boxes of them and I can never toss them out. Writing is therapeutic for me and helps me to decompress after a stressful day.

What do you do in your free time?

When I am not journaling or working I read. I am a voracious fiction reader.  Like writing, I must read every day.  I am on Goodreads and every year I take the challenge to read x number of books and I up it every year.  Reading is like breathing to me.  Generally I read before going to bed and I read both physical books and I use a tablet as well.  Heaven for me is reading on the beach.

I also recently became a grandmother for the first time to a beautiful little girl. I have a large family and enjoy spending time with them too.

Whose work do you enjoy reading the most?

I have my favorites but I am always looking for new authors to read.  The list is quite extensive but I will list some of these authors here and perhaps you will be interested in looking them up.  Most are writers of murder mysteries or paranormal mysteries.  Some of my favorites are:

Anne Rice, Stephen King, John Connolly, Sharon Bolton, Jo Nesbo, Louise Penny, Elly Griffiths, Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn Liane Moriarty, Linda Fairstein, Diane Chamberlain, Steven Dunne, Angela Marsons and Ronald Malfi. Many of these authors write series which I love and others; standalone novels.  Some are British and others, Canadian, Irish and American.  There are many others but I don’t want to bore you.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  The novel is not only brilliant but it is a classic in American literature and is the second largest selling book of all time.  Plus, the author shunned publicity and let her novel stand on its own. Need I say more?

They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

I recently saw the movies Carol, The Revenant and 45 Years, which are all based on books. I must admit I enjoyed the movies more than the novels. In this instance, the films were rich in capturing the characters, their subtle nuisances, their clothing and the landscapes. In other instances, for example, the movie The Interview With The Vampire, I thought was less appealing and less rich than the novel. The characters were flatter although the clothing and the interiors were beautiful. It really depends on personal taste.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I love psychological thrillers and murder mysteries. Once in a while I’ll toss in a light romance to balance all the dark novels!

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

Dare I admit I tend to do both?  I may think I know the direction I want a story to take but once I get into writing, the characters tend to take over.  They know what needs to happen and sometimes I will writer chapters then later decide not to use it.  I keep everything I write but I believe that there is an arc that all stories must take and sometimes the characters leave me no choice!

I don’t feel time is wasted if I write something I do not use because I may use it in another novel.  It’s important to write and let the muse take over.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or can you just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I can write anywhere when the spirit moves me. I wrote my first novel listening to loud music under headphones. At that time I need loud music to focus, as strange as that may sound. For Blood Tears, it was just the opposite. I needed silence. When I am inspired I can write anywhere which I am grateful for. Each writer has their own ritual and comfort zone.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block?” How long does it usually last?

Yes of course. Who hasn’t? I generally put down the piece and pick up my writing at another place. I would never beat myself up or put a time limit to my block. That generally makes matters worse. As I mentioned, writing is not linear for me and so a block in one place does not have to slow up the entire writing project.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

I am very active on social media with pages on Goodreads, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I welcome book reviews and I love to engage with readers and other writers. I generally post a lot of my writing on my blog, which answers the question do you blog? I use my blog as a vehicle to get more of my writing out there for readers because I do not use everything I write in my novels and my characters all have such intriguing back stories. Blogging is a way to introduce characters or reveal more about my novels in a more cohesive manner. I also have a page titled Bookshelf where I post my favorite books with a catchy sentence explaining why I love the novel. Please visit my website at www.denisekrago.com

How do you think concept such as Kindle and e-books have changed the present or future of reading?

I can only speak for myself.  Generally books are less expensive in an electronic format and for me this means I can take more of a chance on an unknown writer.  If I am spending $6.99 rather than $15.00 and I am not too thrilled about the book I can justify the expense because I only spent $6.99.  On the other hand, if I discover a writer I really enjoy I am apt to down load all of their books rather than buy them in a physical format.  It’s easier to store them and the process to buy them is so easy.

One of the questions in this interview is do you have a library at home?  I did until I moved from a house into an apartment and I had to give away boxes of books.  This makes e-reading so much easier though I do miss the walls of bookshelves I had in my home.  I had books stacked on the floors, etc.  I took comfort in see all these books around but Kindles and e-readers are here to stay. There are certain authors whose books I collect and will only buy hardcover first editions.

I find reading a hardcover or paperback book is easier when I am outdoors.  It’s hard to see the Kindle screen so I balance reading physical books with e-books and keep both forms in business with all the books I purchase!

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

The story, the story, the story.  I may not even like the writing much but it is how I am drawn into the tale and how the author reveals the inner world of the characters.  I may not even like all the characters but if I am drawn into the world the writer has created, I feel the book has succeeded. I also love a good twist or two but I don’t want to see it coming.  I rarely cry at the end of a novel but if I am that emotionally moved then the author has truly done their job.  Some novels which made me cry: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Euphoria by Lily King, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Did you ever have a rough batch in writing, where nothing in the story seemed to fit or make sense?

Again, I can only speak for myself.  Of course and my guess is any writer would agree.  Sometimes passages I write do not make sense at the moment. So when this happens, I put the writing aside and move one.  Later I may go back and incorporate the passage in my writing.  I guess what I am trying to say is that writing is not linear for me.  It jumps around and some days I will sit down at my computer and write a dialogue between two characters.  I know this is a part of the novel and I know it is inevitable so I begin to craft it.  I then stop and may go back to it later.

When I was working on my first novel, Immortal Obsession, my writing was almost stream-of-consciousness writing.  Some of it I still have and other passages were integrated into Blood Tears.  Again, because the process is not linear for me I may use some material in my current project, titled Eternal Hunger.