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Interview with Harris Gray, authors of Vampire Vic

By T Gleichner
Posted May 13, 2013 in Entertainment
Harris Gray finish their third pint and mull over their next writing project, simultaneously deciding on a vampire book. Because the women in their lives eat up every vampire story on the shelves. And for the gratuitous T&A. But hunky, smoldering vampires are beyond their grasp; and dammit, T&A should mean something. Deciding to write what they know, Harris Gray return to their wheelhouse: An aging, uncomfortable man, not so happy with his lot in life. A man bitten by a vampire, unsure what to do with his new…skillset. Vampire Vic – VV – is born. Perfect.
Why was writing Vampire Vic so important to you?
It started with us goofing around, pretending we were going to jump on the vampire bandwagon – you know, the thousand year vampire phase we’re in. Next thing you know we had a vampire we could relate to, Victor Thetherson, fat, balding, accounting manager, gets queasy at the sight of blood, avoids confrontation to a fault, won’t bite anyone. A guy who gets walked on at home and the office, who thinks vampirism is his ticket to respect, the change he’s been waiting for, only to find out life doesn’t work that way. We got excited to tell a human tale, about a vampire.
What was the writing/creative process like?
Remarkably smooth, for a writing duo. We really have become Harris Gray, singular. When we started writing together years ago, people who knew us could tell who wrote which part. As we progressed, our styles started to converge. In some ways we couldn’t be more different, which has allowed Harris Gray to create characters and scenes that neither Allan nor Jason could have created on his own. But what we find funny, and important, are very much in sync. We probably made each other laugh and cry more than two guys should.
How did you come up with the title?
We started with “VV” – we liked the sound of it, the look of it (with blood dripping off the points of the V’s), and the fact that everyone would subconsciously assume it was twice as good as that alien invasion TV series a while back. And then we had one of the many contributions from the Colorado writers community that meant everything to our ability to publish this book – Anne Eliot got excited about the cover, Peter Freedman executed her vision, and the title became “Vampire Vic”. Which was better – that’s the derisive moniker Vic’s slacking staff lays on him, and the name Vic embraces as he begins to change.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When we finished our first book. While Vampire Vic is our first release, we’ve both been writing for years. We have a big fat pipeline—
Jason: I’d say it’s longer than it is fat.
Allan: I like to picture it bulging, like a python after a big monkey meal.
Jason: I like that, except what comes out is not going to look like a monkey. No one’s going to read what comes out of that python.
Allan: Good point. Our pipeline is long and relatively uniform, and what pops out next will entice most folks to pick it up and give it a read.
Jason: Closer. If nothing else, that’s a good example of our collaboration.
What books do you believe influenced you in your life?
Allan: This is crazy for fictioneers to say, but my world was rocked by two nonfiction books: First Light by Richard Preston and Richard Rhodes’ Making of the Atomic Bomb. It was like reading the novelization of astro- and nuclear-physics. They drove home the absolute necessity to tell a good story. Less insane, two novels stand out, Stephen Dobyns’ The Church of Dead Girls, for the style, spare but beautiful, and Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, for the plot construction. I wanted to design it like Tom, and write it like Stephen.
Jason: High Infidelity by Nick Hornby. I read it after we had been writing for awhile – and it hit me, “Hey, we write a lot like that guy. And people seem to like that guy.” That was going to be my answer to the previous question.
How much influence did you have in the cover of your book? Did you initially have a different idea of how it would look?
Thank goodness we had very little influence on the cover. For the first pass we dressed up as Victor and his buddy Tripp, in the alley behind the blood bank where Tripp works, Vic skulking about, eager to receive a few bags of expired blood for his bloody Bloody Marys. The scene says a lot about Vic, but our reenactment left a lot to be desired as cover art. That’s when the professionals stepped in.
Can you describe a typical day for you?
That’s actually pretty easy, because we’re creatures of habit. Big bowl of cereal, ton of coffee (free for the half of Harris Gray who owns a coffee shop, Crowfoot Valley Coffee in Castle Rock, CO), tweet a bit and see what’s happening in the writers’ community, perhaps a post to, then take care of business for our full-time (paying) jobs while waiting for the opportunity to write. If opportunity doesn’t come, we find it, at the expense of our wives, kids, pets and even the Broncos.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
We both moved to Colorado years ago for the mountains. The skiing, hiking, fishing, rock climbing, biking. It’s great. We don’t get to do any of that, because if we’re not writing, the full-time jobs are always calling. But it’s great to know the mountains are there, just in case.
Jason: We do write in the mountains – Allan’s sister-in-law has a house on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park that we like to call our own.
Allan: I have to pretend I’m skiing or rock climbing or hiking, because my boss doesn’t know about my writing career.
Jason: He must think you’re a mountaineering expert by now.
Allan: I’m dreading the day he asks me to teach him to rock climb.
What do your family and friends think of your writing?
Our wives are incredibly supportive, even when we’re sacrificing time with them to write. The hardest for them used to be explaining to their brothers, sisters and parents when we failed to show up at family gatherings. But we’ve been writing long enough, and we’re now actually publishing books, so that the in-laws know we’re not just blowing them off. Or they’ve realized it means more beer and hot dogs for them at the gatherings.
What do you think is more important – a good plot, or good characters? Why did you choose the one you did?
Jason and Allan, talking over each other:
Jason: No question, the characters drive the story. Our favorite characters are wonderful and awful, full of potential but constantly undermined by their flawed choices. The story arc, conflicts and plot twists just flow naturally from the creation of great characters.
Allan: We’re all about the plot. The story’s theme is what inspires us, the journey to an elevated place, unleashing the conflict and building each scene with that end goal in mind. Once you’ve dreamed and designed the plotline, you can just plug in the characters.
Jason (to Allan): I heard you say “characters”.
Allan: We’re so in sync we hardly need to listen to each other anymore.
Jason: That’s why we’re a great team.

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