30 October 2011

Guest Blogger-Julia Phillips Smith

I'm honored to have Julia Phillips Smith on the blog here today. She's been a long time friend and advocate of all things author. She's been my cheering section for as long as I can remember and now I have the absolute pleasure to cheer for her.

Julia has a book coming out November 11, 2011. A self-pub title involving Vampires and since tomorrow is Halloween it's fitting to interview an author who writes in the genre.

Thanks for coming here, Julia!

Tell us about your upcoming release.

SAINT SANGUINUS is my debut novel which combines vampires with a Welsh Dark Ages historical setting, and a superhero origin story woven throughout for good measure.

What gave you the idea to write SAINT SANGUINUS?

If I go back a little ways, I've been a fan of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Count Saint-Germain series since I read my first taste of them, TEMPTING FATE (original publish date 1982,) when I lived in Toronto in the 90s. All of her books center around the constant need for an eternal being to relocate before the locals realize that the count never ages. The books are filled with all of the hassles of moving house, making arrangements for the house to be left to a faraway nephew in the future - which will be himself in a few generations - and I always loved the practical problems that Saint-Germain had to deal with, which get brushed aside in most vampire tales.

So my own story began with me wondering how it would feel to be a brand new vampire asked to consume the blood of men, when he'd been a man himself only days before.

Rather like the post-accidental-shooting car clean-up scene in Pulp Fiction, I love scenarios that aren't addressed as often.

Is there a sequel planned?

Definitely. In the superhero origin story category, SAINT SANGUINUS sets the stage for my main vampire character, Peredur, who will be called upon to use these new powers in upcoming showdowns. But Peredur isn't the only new vampire to rise from these pages. There's another one who many readers may feel takes them into the POV of a vampire in a way they've never encountered before.

Why Vampires?

I've been a fan of vampires since I was a small kid. I used to try to watch Dark Shadows, a gothic soap opera featuring vampire Barnabas Collins, although my mom would always switch it off. But I know I used to see it somehow.

When I was in junior high, a BBC version of Dracula completely captivated my cousins, my sister and me. It inspired us to write a script for our own vampire movie, for which we scouted locations and rehearsed without having any equipment to shoot it, whatsoever.

Then following high school I was the assistant director for a community theatre production of Dracula here in Halifax, where I got to audition child actors and direct my own transition scene pieces which held the audience's attention away from set changes on the main stage.

Meanwhile, I've been reading vampire tales, watching vampire films and TV series steadily all along.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey writing this piece?

My cousin used to urge me to write a vampire novel when I was working on gritty historical stories. She knew I had a vampire tale inside me, waiting to emerge. But nothing ever really came to me until I first decided to take up the challenge of doing NaNoWriMo.

I just started with that simple premise of going through the mental progression of being a human to being a vampire, and when the virtual starting pistol went off for the writing marathon, Peredur was born.

Also, I've always had a real affinity for the archetype of the Unknown Soldier. Perhaps having my birthday fall on Remembrance Day has something to do with it, I don't know. But just thinking of fallen warriors laying on their last battlefields really wrings my heart into shreds, so I used that as my jumping off point for Peredur and went from there.

What made you decided to pursue self-publication?

Two things. The simple advance of technology making it possible for writers to viably self-publish, along with the eruption in the popularity of e-readers is the greatest reason.

The second reason is my own personality. I'm someone who never watched Friends, but watched Hercules and Xena Warrior Princess religiously. Although people who know I went to film school assure me that Under the Tuscan Sun has gorgeous cinematography, I've still never seen it. But I have watched Bubba Ho-tep in a packed theatre with other cult film enthusiasts. I've always known my writing would never fit into the mold being purchased for the Big Six publishing houses. I had no idea there would ever be such a thing as indie self-publishing, but in retrospect, it's almost as though I've always been waiting for this development. I embrace it with joy.

You did an amazing trailer for this release, how did that come about?

I've always been a big reader, but my first love has definitely been film. I graduated from Ryerson University's film program in 1995 and was more focused on screenwriting and gathering film credits. However, financially I couldn't afford the whole apprenticing stage of gaining those credits. I really needed to keep my day job, so to stay in the telling-stories game, I switched over to novel writing, which turned into a decade-long learning curve. The way to tell screenwriting stories and the way to tell prose fiction stories is radically different.

In the meantime, I worked on several film and TV projects over the years, never losing my passion for my original medium of choice. I have several film projects rumbling around in the old noggin, and I used to say to myself, "I just need to find the right producer."

Meanwhile, who should show up at my writers' group but a woman who has her own production company. At last year's writers' retreat, we really hit it off. She suggested we do the book trailers, and I have to tell you - when she said that, I hadn't realized how much I'd protected my heart over the years from the longing to work in film. Inside my chest I felt the Grinch-heart-grew-three-sizes thing, I was so happy.

So from January of this year Tara MacDonald of Charlie Mac Productions and I did pre-production on the trailers, which we shot in one day at the end of April, and I worked in post-production with Doug Woods of 902 Post to edit the trailers in time for the New York RWA conference, which I attended.

Tara blogs @ http://taramacqueen.com/
Charlie Mac Productions @ http://www.charliemacproductions.com/
Doug Woods @ 902 Post http://www.902post.com/

How much research did you have to do for SAINT SANGUINUS?

Quite a lot. I've always been very picky about authenticity, so personally I want to get it right in my own work. I've been attracted to the time period of Dark Age Britain since I was a girl and read Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, and I've got a personal library of Arthurian research nonfiction books that I've devoured over the years. Recent discoveries about that time period always loom large on my radar, and I find it thrilling that we've been able to learn so much more about a time that wasn't well understood until the past few decades.

However, the very murkiness of the time period makes it a perfect setting for a vampire tale, as who's to say they weren't roaming the countryside back then? Also, the following witch hunts that swept Europe in the middle ages makes a writer surmise that maybe there was a reason for such fear...

What made you decide November 11th for the release?

Because that falls on Remembrance Day, and because the brotherhood which my vampire joins then acts as a peacekeeping force between humans and vampires, I felt that this particular date held good resonance for the story.

And on this particular Remembrance Day, it will be 11 - 11 - 11. That certainly doesn't happen every day.

Also, November 11th will be my birthday, and for me this is a major milestone present to myself.

Do you have anything else in the works?

I've been writing a dark fantasy series for a while, part of which is posted on Wednesdays on my blog as serialized fiction. I'm seriously in love with that main character. I can't wait to send him off into the world.

I've also got a Victorian convict story, a Scottish gamekeeper story and a Jacobite post-Culloden story in various stages of development.

I've also got a few film projects that I'm looking to pursue, as well. And don't forget the day job.

Where can we find out more about you?

You can visit me at my web site, www.juliaphillipssmith.com or at my blog, A Piece of My Mind. I've been blogging since 2007 and I've made many wonderful friends there over the years.

I'm also on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=550188924

and on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/intent/user?screen_name=apieceofmymind

Now for some fun! What is your favourite colour?

Is this going to come as any surprise? Red and black.

What is your favourite drink?

Prosecco, pinot grigio and Glenfiddich. Oh, I had to stop at one...?

What is your favourite food?

I realize most people wouldn't say this. But rice is my favorite food ever. Especially the way my family does it - cooked in chicken or turkey broth with a little bit of butter, salt & pepper and several large glugs of ketchup. But I'll take stir fry, rice in casseroles, plain old rice just steamed, you name it. Just not rice pudding. I don't want it to be dessert.

Trapped on a desert island what three movies would you take with you? What three books and what three fantasy men?


Kate & Leopold with Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan

The Turning Point, mainly for the ballet pieces danced by Mikhail Baryshnikov, but the whole film is marvelous

Gladiator with Russell Crowe



DEVILISH by Jo Beverley

BLOOD GAMES by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Fantasy Men:

Dean Winchester from Supernatural

Wolverine from X-Men

Horatio Hornblower from the PBS series of the same name

Here are Julia's amazing book trailers:


An elite brotherhood stands between humans and vampires, preventing one side from annihilating the other. Who are called to this service? Only those warriors who curse God with their dying breath.

Welsh warrior Peredur falls to a spear before he can claim Tanwen for his bride. Raging on the battlefield, Peredur utters the curse that seals his fate and leads him to another life. Using the power of a saint whose bone makes up an amulet, Peredur takes on the trials to become a true member of the brethren. Yet his need for the chieftain’s daughter Tanwen still burns.

Tanwen resists her father’s command to take a husband. The only one who understands her sorrow is Cavan, the wise woman’s son. When he promises that he can reunite her with her beloved, she agrees to his terms. But does Tanwen truly understand the depth of the price that must be paid?
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