Nowadays it's easy to find hundreds of blogs about paranormal and urban fantasy fiction, but one of the first -- and still one of the best -- is Patricia Altner's Patricia's Vampire Notes (PVN). Patricia was a librarian and she's also reviewer for professional literary publications, so she brings high standards to her sites. She also brings enthusiasm and her thoughtful in-depth reviews make her a bloggers' blogger: someone we respect and admire.
Patricia is the author of Vampire Readings: an Annotated Bibliography, a book that internationally renowned vampire scholar Dr. Derek Tatum calls "one of my key reference texts when researching vampire books." Her publisher describes her book as: "an annotated bibliography of 779 entries divided into five sections: Novels; Anthologies and Novellas; Young Adult; Additional Readings; Unread Undead. The largest section is Novels and here, besides a summary of the plot (without spoilers), the author indicates where each novel may fit into other genres... Works by such writers as Anne Rice, Tanya Huff, Christopher Pike, Tanith Lee, Barbara Hambly, Kim Newman, and, of course, Bram Stoker are discussed ..."
True to her librarian training, Patricia also maintains the Vampire Readings website, a comprehensive bibliography of both fiction and nonfiction books about vampires and a great place to go hunting for new authors and novels. And I've always recommended that fans of the genre subscribe to her excellent PVN email newsletter (info on her blog).
I'm so happy to have Patricia here because I really wanted to know how she keeps her love of the undead alive and where she thinks paranormal romance and urban fantasy are headed. Take notes because she mentions a lot of interesting writers and books!
MARTA: Hi, Patricia, and welcome to Vampire Wire! Would you please tell us the book that first sparked your passion for vampire and paranormal fiction?
PATRICIA: Hi Marta, thanks so much for inviting me here.
Actually my passion for paranormal fiction came first when I read a collection of stories by H. P. Lovecraft. I think I was about 10 years old at the time. His stories terrified me and kept me from sleeping at night and yet I found them so fascinating. I was hooked!
As for vampires, I first became enamored with them when watching "Dark Shadows" (guess I'm showing my age). Around the same time a friend loaned me a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I could not put it down. That was one scary book! Still, I found the connection between Mina and the Count very intriguing, even romantic. It wasn't until much later I discovered I was not the only one who felt that way.
MARTA: Your book, Vampire Readings: An Annotated Bibliography, was published in 1998, a full 12 years ago. Did you have any trouble then convincing a publisher that there was and would be an audience for these stories? If you published a revised edition today, what changes, if any, would you make?
PATRICIA: I was very lucky. I sent a proposal to a small publisher, Scarecrow Press, which publishes mostly academic books including many bibliographies. The editor liked the idea of focusing on vampires and told me to give her the full manuscript within a year. I was surprised and elated and then wondered what I had gotten myself into.
For a revised edition I would first need a collaborator! Really! I have been compiling titles since turning in the manuscript for Vampire Readings. There is no end to the number of publications in this genre coming out virtually every day - including ebooks.
In fact an ebook would probably be the best format for a revised Vampire Readings. Then additions could be made more easily. Another possibility is a database with lots of search functions so that people could put together there own mini bibliography or reading list and print it out or send it to their mobile.
Sorry, I'm starting to fantasize here :)
MARTA: Now there are a zillion paranormal and urban fantasy blogs, but you were one of the first to use the internet to share your interest in these genres. Did you ever expect it to become so popular? What do you think drives the trend?
PATRICIA: I have to thank my husband who is a computer wizard and helped me get started with using the internet. At first I put together an irregular ezine called Undead Updates and after several iterations I ended up on Blogger with Patricia's Vampire Notes.
Thank you for calling it popular! I do have many faithful readers and I truly appreciate their support.
Most urban fantasy has a splendid blend of the paranormal and romance which deftly combines two popular genres. With the internet and platforms like Blogger and Wordpress it is very easy to start up a blog and these services are free. Now readers can easily express their opinions and spread the word about all the excellent reading material.
MARTA: You were a librarian, so you bring a lot of historical knowledge about the genre. How have you seen paranormal/UF change over the years and do you have any predictions about the future of these genres?
PATRICIA: Most of my professional library experience has been as a reference librarian in technical libraries. A big part of my job included research and compiling subject bibliographies. So my take on the genre comes from being a reader with a librarian's eye - Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, and Locus are favorite reading materials.
In 1995 when I began compiling notes for Vampire Readings there were several series and stand alone books that were clearly just about vampires. Many fell into the horror category but there was also a definite growth within the romance genre. Often the vampire was a brooding hero who loathed his undead status and more than anything wanted to be human.
There was the sense that by becoming a vampire he had been touched by evil and probably damned for eternity, even if he really was a good guy. That attitude is not so prevalent anymore.
I first became aware of what is now termed urban fantasy with first Tanya Huff's Blood Books series and then Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter books. Here vampires share the stage with other paranormals- werewolves and other were animals, fairies, ghosts, ogres, zombies, succubi and incubi, witches, angels- fallen or otherwise. I'll stop here but you get the idea. Writers have a huge menu to choose from, and I like the idea of worlds where so many varieties of the paranormal mix it up.
Now it seems zombies as heroes or heroines have arrived. I admit I have not read any of these books. First I have to get over my instant image of a zombie as an animated rotting corpse. When zombies need to be slain, I can deal with that although it's usually rather messy.
Biblical references to creation, the apocalypse, angels and demons are also showing up more and more. And well known personages literary and historical are entering the paranormal universe - Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange, etc.
As for the future. I think I'll take a pass. I admit to being a really bad prognosticator.
MARTA: Can you share any favorite new discoveries?
PATRICIA: Here are four recent entries that come to mind.
-The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks This is a classified as a YA book but I didn't realize it until I had finished, having thoroughly enjoyed it.
Here's the premise: Being a vampire definitely has it's drawback. A small group of them meet weekly at a Catholic Church mostly to whine about aches, and pains, and boredom. Of course all of that is about to change when the newbie detectives have to solve a murder.
-Love Fang by Susan Blexrud (April 2009)
The first is a series of short stories about this sweet young couple - he's a vampire and she's a dentist - who find true, extremely passionate love.
-Casting Spells and Laced with Magic by Barbara Bretton (Berkley Trade, August 4, 2009)
Heroine Chloe Hobbs is a sorceress and owner of a popular knit shop. The setting is the charming town of Sugar Maple, Vermont where all the inhabitants appear human, but of course they're not.
-Succubus series by Richelle Mead
Not new to many, but new to me. So far I've read Succubus Blues, and Succubus on Top. I love the world and the characters that Mead has created.
MARTA: Can you tell me a few undiscovered gems that you wish more people would read?
PATRICIA: Sure! There's a Casa Dracula series I would like to see on the NYT bestseller list!
These are gems and I would definitely like to bring to readers' attention.
- Fear Me by Stephen Laws
- Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin
- Sunshine by Robin McKinley
- Gideon Redoak by Anne Fraser
- The Society of S by Susan Hubbard
- Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert
- The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas
- Vamped: A Novel by David Sosnowski
- Those of My Blood by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
MARTA: What’s your guilty pleasure – a book that you constantly go back to?
PATRICIA: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman. It's a historical novel set in the time of the infamous King John. But the binding thread throughout is the love story of Joanna (John's illegitimate daughter) and Prince Llewelyn of Wales.
I'll mention one more. The Lions of al Rasson by Guy Gavriel Kay. This is an alternate history/fantasy set during the time of the reconquista of Spain.
MARTA: I love your book reviews because you take them seriously, aware of the author’s effort and intentions. What advice would you give a new reviewer?
PATRICIA: Thanks, Marta. When I review a book I put a lot of work into it even if that doesn't show in the final product :) I want readers to know not only the plot but also about the characters and how they interact. I truly admire authors and want to show readers what these wordsmiths have accomplished. If I get that across I'm happy.
I would advise new reviewers that while reading a book think about what the author is trying to accomplish, and how is s/he doing it. Ask yourself how this book fits with other books by the author and with other book in the same genre. Take notes even if it only means writing down a few words about an important event or your own reaction to something in particular. Read the type of books you enjoy.
Eventually everyone comes up with their own way of doing things.
MARTA: What’s the most rewarding part about being a reviewer, author, and blogger?
PATRICIA: I started blogging as a way to let readers know about what was being published in the vampire/paranormal fiction world. I think it was my librarian soul wanting to get out the word about all the neat books to choose from.
Over the years I've reviewed for Library Journal, Fantasy Review, some smaller publications (no payment involved). By writing for my own blog I felt free to make up my own editorial rules, which may not always be for the best, but I was more comfortable.
As a blogger/reviewer I get to introduce readers to books and writers I believe they will enjoy - that's the reason for PVN. Having an author do a guest blog or an interview is another way to get the word out. All of this brings me a lot of satisfaction!
For now my life as an author is writing about the paranormal fiction world and that's fine with me.
MARTA: Where can readers find out more about you and your sites?
- My blog site: Patricia's Vampire Notes
- Vampire Readings: The Online Bibliography ( a bit out of date, but still with useful information)
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
MARTA: Okay, tell us, what’s your idea of reading heaven? Where do you best like to read, what do you want to be reading, what’s the setting, and do you have a cup of tea, coffee, or a frozen daiquiri in hand?
PATRICIA: Reading Heaven: A comfy chaise lounge and umbrella on a white sandy beach that stretches for miles in each direction. Blue ocean with soft waves. A steady supply of pina coladas (with extra maraschino cherries). I would be reading Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead.
Reading Reality: Sitting in an armchair in my office. On a side table - coffee, a notebook, post-it flags, maybe a cookie. I would be reading whatever is next in my to be reviewed pile.
MARTA: Thanks, Patricia!
Patricia: Marta, it has been a pleasure!
CONTEST INFO: If you'd like to win a copy of Patricia's Vampire Readings, just leave a comment for Patricia and/or tell us where you go for reviews. Do you get a newsletter, check out Amazon, have a favorite review blog, or just like to go to the bookstore and choose for yourself? (I'm the "wander around a bookstore for an hour" type.) The contest runs through Wednesday, February 3, and is open worldwide. A winner will be selected by random draw.
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