Dante's Awakening by Devon Marshall
Vampires of Hollywood #1
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Number of pages: 194
Word Count: 65,898
Cover Artist: Ginny Glass & Untreed Reads
Dante Sonnier is a successful Hollywood agent. She is also a friend to the secret community of vampires living in Los Angeles, and occasionally she assists them when they have a problem that requires a human to handle it. The vampires are led by Voshki Kevorkian, a gorgeous, sexy female vampire, who has made it clear that she would like Dante to be her human. Dante, although attracted to Voshki, is wary of the possessiveness and jealousy involved in being a vampire’s chosen human lover and resists.
When the Children of Judas, a two-thousand-year-old sect of murderous, rebel vampires shunned by the main community, rise up under a new leader and threaten to topple Voshki’s leadership and expose the whole community, the vampires turn to Dante for help. Dante travels to a small town in upstate California where the Children seem to be active, in the company of Ellis Kovacs, another vampire sired by Voshki, and Voshki’s "right-hand woman."
There, whilst investigating the Children and their leader Robin Shepherd, Dante succumbs to being seduced by the alluring Ellis. When Dante is kidnapped by the Children, Voshki decides it's time to take matters into her own hands.
Hell hath no fury like a vampire scorned.
- Where did you get the idea for the novel?
I’ve always loved vampires. Even as a child, I had a thing for the be-fanged ones! I’d had an idea to write a modern take on the lesbian vampire novel for some time, but it just didn’t seem like it would be accepted by readers who still wanted the dark, high gothic vampires of the Bram Stoker tradition And then people such as Stephanie Meyers, LJ Smith, and Charlaine Harris came along and completely turned the vampire genre on its head! They opened up the doors for others like me to take the genre in different directions. I set it in Hollywood because I also love Hollywood - I’m a sucker for the biographies of old movie stars and studio heads. And well, Hollywood and vampires, with their blood-sucking ways and immortality, just seemed to go together so perfectly!
- Your title. Who came up with it? Did you ever change your title?
Lol! I changed the title and a good-sized chunk of the narrative about halfway through my publisher’s proofreading! Fortunately, they were very understanding of my artistic need to tinker. I tend to come up with titles myself - I’m a bit of solitary worker all around. But I do have a couple of trusted people whom I will run ideas by and take on board their suggestions.
- Which came first, the title or the novel?
Usually it’s the novel comes first for me, and ‘Vampires of Hollywood’ was no different in this respect.
- Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
The first time someone told me that they’d read my books and enjoyed them! That was just so lovely and exciting. It made it seem ‘real’ to me at last. I like communicating with my readers!
- What book are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?
I tend to have at least four books on the go at any time, a couple fiction novels and something factual. I’ve just started a very in-depth tome on Ancient Greece ( I’m a history buff ) and I recently finished reading ’Spirit of Lost Angels’ by Liza Perrat, a historical novel set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, and which I thoroughly enjoyed. My go-to genres are horror, dark thriller, and hardboiled detective, but sometimes I like to stretch my reading wings!
- What was your first book that you ever wrote (very first one you wrote, not published)?
It was a horror novel, about a thousand pages long, set in a small town very like the one I grew up in. I wrote it in my teens. There were bits of it which were pretty good and which I may yet cull for something else, but mostly it needed a big pair of editing scissors!
- What is your writing process?
Hmm, I don’t have a particular structure for writing - I’m a very un-structured person in general! The idea will come to me and usually I’ll jot it down - like many writers I have hundreds of notebooks stuffed with random jottings and partial writings! Sometimes I’ll write it as it comes and then rearrange it into a cohesive narrative, and at other times I’ll start from Chapter One and work in a rather more linear fashion. It’ll usually be a story idea comes to me first…those can be inspired by a news story or any number of things, or it may just pop into my head at random…but occasionally it might be the character who develops first and demands to have their story written. I like to edit as I go along, then once I’ve finished the first draft, I’ll got back and edit again. Then I’ll do the first rewrite. By then I’m usually working on something else and so I’ll leave the completed first draft alone for a week or so before I do a second edit and rewrite. Then I’ll leave for another few weeks before I do the final draft for the editors. That’s the ideal, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way!
- Who are your favorite authors of all time?
Oooh, so many…Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, and James Lee Burke all rate very highly indeed with me. I also love John Saul, Edgar Allan Poe, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, Stuart M Kaminsky, Bram Stoker, HP Lovecraft, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz, and Richard Laymon.
- At a book signing, do you just sign your name or do you write a note? How do you come up with stuff to say?
I haven’t done any book signings yet, that’s something I still have to look forward to. I imagine that I’ll handle it as I do most other things in my life - by taking it as it comes and ad-libbing as necessary!
- What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Folks see my zombie figurines, books on everything from poisons to criminology, collection of 80s horror DVDs, and they get surprised when they find out that I’m a sucker for 1930s/40s Hollywood melodramas! I love nothing better than curling up on the couch on a rainy afternoon with a mug of coffee and watching Bette Davis play the neurotic Southern belle or Joan Crawford in ‘Mildred Pierce’.
- How do you react to a bad review?
I don’t react to them. As a writer, getting reviews - good or bad - are part of putting your work out there for public consumption. If someone pays their money to purchase a copy of your book they’re entitled to form an opinion of it, which is really what a review is, an individual’s opinion. Of course every writer would love for every reader to like their books, but that’s a bit unrealistic. You just have to take the rough with the smooth and if a bad review does make some fair technical points about your writing, you quietly learn from it and improve on it next time, but don't brood on it.
- How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
I bought a box of Stella Artois Cidre and some fancy foods and myself and my housemate - who has the patience of a saint at times to put up with my artistic weirdness - had a quiet celebration. Our dog also got a new toy out of it. Can’t forget the fur kids, eh?!
My name is Dante Sonnier and I am not a movie star. I’m an agent. I’m not paranoid, I don’t think the entire world revolves around me, and I know my clients are too savvy to their own careers to even think about stalking me. Therefore I don’t live behind high fences and locked gates. Most of the time I don’t even bother to close the gates to my Hollywood Hills property. There are, however, certain events that could make me rethink this open-living policy, such as being dragged out of bed by a vampire at six o’clock in the morning.
Don’t get me wrong—waking up to Ellis Kovacs is not entirely unpleasant either, since she is rather attractive. For the Undead, I mean. I’m just so not a morning person that having anyone—even the gorgeous vampire Ellis—drag me out of my bed at six a.m. is annoying.
The reason for the disruption of my (much needed) beauty sleep was Voshki Kevorkian. Voshki is the vampire community leader. She wanted a meeting with me.
“At six a.m.?” I demanded.
Ellis shrugged. “It’s important.”
It had better be. There I was, attired in boxer shorts and a scruffy NYU t-shirt that some ex or other had left in my closet maybe a million years ago, my hair going every which way to Sunday, trying to claw the sleep from my brain and make sense of what was going on, and what wisdom does Ellis impart to me?
That my t-shirt has seen better days.
Well, shit, hold the front page. I shook my head at her crap and wandered off toward the bathroom. Over my shoulder I yelled, “I’m taking a shower! I don’t care if Vosh has to wait an extra fucking five minutes! Am I making myself clear?”
“Crystal,” Ellis replied dryly.
I stood under the hot jets of water, letting them massage my body and brain into wakefulness, and rested my forehead against the cool wall tiles, all the while trying to ignore the fact there were two vampires making themselves at home in my house. Ellis had brought Samson with her, Voshki’s driver and occasional enforcer. Or something. There are vampire affairs into which
even a curious person like me just will not poke her nose. Slowly I felt myself come to resemble something actually belonging to the human race and not the Undead, and at that point I turned the water cold on and let that shock the last dregs of nighttime from my system. A cup of extremely strong black coffee and I’d be good to go.
As I stepped out of the shower, eyes closed because my hair was running rivulets of water down my face, I put out my hand to grab my towel only to have it thrust into my groping fingers. My eyelids flew open. Water blurred my vision and I swiped the towel across my face. Then remembered I was naked. I hastily wrapped the towel around me, fumbling because my fingers had become as useful as bananas.
“For Chrissakes, haven’t you guys heard of knocking?” I demanded.
Ellis gave me a devastatingly sexy smile that also somehow contrived to be innocent. It made me want to run away and throw myself at her feet, both at the same time. I’ve known Ellis for a while, and the whole time I have noticed that her smile can make my knees turn to water. And I hate her for that. Vampires confuse me much of the time. “Sorry,” she said, sounding like she really wasn’t. She jerked her chin toward the open bathroom door and the upstairs hallway beyond. “Samson is in the kitchen. He’s making up some juice for you. And there’s a pot of coffee on.”
I raised an eyebrow. “No bagels?”
“Get dressed, Dante. We don’t want to keep Vosh waiting that long,” Ellis told me.
No. That would never do.
* * *
I should explain. First of all, yes, vampires do exist. Secondly, no, I don’t know whether this means other supernatural creatures also exist. I certainly never have met anything remotely resembling a werewolf or a fairy or a troll, although how would I know, right? The vampires don’t look like vampires, and they have been living amongst humans undetected for millennia, so there should be no reason a werewolf or a fairy or a troll ought not be able to do the same. If the vampires know about any supernatural cousins, they are keeping it under their collective hats.
And thirdly, I don’t really care if the world is teeming with werewolves, fairies and trolls—I had a hard enough time just wrapping my head around the fact that vampires are real when I found that out. Occasionally I still have trouble with it.
Vampires are very little like their media portrayals. Sorry, but the fiction-mongers have been way off for decades. All of that not being able to go out in sunlight, being allergic to garlic and crosses and running water, being able to turn into bats—it’s all moonshine. Most of it perpetrated by the vampires themselves. The very reason they have been able to coexist with humans unnoticed for thousands of years has been a fortuitous mix of their own ability to adapt and blend in, and the limitless capacity of we humans to be deluded. Of course, there have always been some humans in the know, since the vampires do need us for things beyond the obvious feeding requirements. A vampire’s genetic makeup is somewhat different to that of a human—shocker, huh? Having people in strategic places to keep things like this from coming to light is a necessary evil for them. They are choosy about who they let in on their existence. I suppose I am honored then—not that it often feels much like an honor.
About the Author:
Devon discovered at an early age that she had a fertile imagination and a profound love for words which together led to her writing stories. She has published numerous short stories and articles in the LGBT and mainstream small presses.
Dante's Awakening is her first published full-length novel and spent a week in the Amazon Top 100 in Lesbian Fiction #58
Her second novel, 'Voodoo Woman' is available in PB and on Kindle, and the novella 'The Lives and Loves of The Modern Goddess' is also available on Kindle.
s on a windswept and remote Scottish island where the 'rat race' is an event at the annual County Fair and the daily view includes boats, birds, and the occasional bottlenose dolphin. When she isn't writing, Devon enjoys reading, watching TV, and spending as much time as possible with her dog. She is currently working on the next book in the Vampires of Hollywood saga and a stand-alone horror novel.