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By L. Dean Murphy

In Blood Prophecy, by Stefan Petrucha, sixteenth Century Puritan farmer Jeremiah Fall is turned into a vampire-like creature when his father disturbs a burial mound. Fall wants to destroy himself, but his grandfather convinces him his mind can be his salvation. He endeavors to find a way to return to being human. Legend of a cure takes him to Napoleon-occupied Egypt. There he uncovers an ancient obsidian stone that could be a cure for himself—or final curse for mankind.

Publishers Weekly summarized it nicely, by describing Fall’s journey as a quest for understanding and redemption,” Petrucha said.

Fall has been fighting his own war for centuries, ever since the beast in him was born. Immortality for this “senior citizen” isn’t all it’s made out to be, man and monster are in his blood, informative and entertaining, the most realistic vampire story since ‘Salems Lot. Desperate to restore his lost humanity, Fall discovers a lost city off the coast of France, in search of the stone’s secret. Shunning daylight, he shares the Jekyll/Hyde secret with no one, not even the woman he starts to love. She is the only human who grasps the mysteries possessed in the stone as old as Genesis. Your fingernails will crimp canyon-sized creases into the pages, when reading this thriller.

Stefan Petrucha took time from Comic Con, with more than 80,000 attendees, to answer questions about his career and Blood Prophecy for ITW readers. “Fall’s initial grappling with his newfound hunger (reminder: Fall has morphed into a vampire) and abilities makes for a nice sequence, as does the Battle of the Pyramids, where he fights alongside the Mamluks, against Napoleon. Perhaps the most powerful scene is where, after decades of keeping his hungers at bay, he gives in to them. Big time! Saying more would ruin the story.”

Fact meets fiction, as Petrucha explains the bases of his characters. “As a historical novel, Blood Prophecy has some characters who existed in real life. French scientist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, a Darwin precursor, makes an appearance, as does Egypt’s Mamluk co-ruler, Murad Bey. Then there’s Napoleon. As for Jeremiah himself, no. But he was inspired in some ways by several fictional characters, a cross between Indiana Jones and Barnabas Collins.” Petrucha added: “There’s a lot of genuine history to be had, including King Philip’s War, Napoleon’s Invasion of Egypt, and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.”

Many writers read voluminously. Petrucha said, “It’s rare for me to read anything for pleasure. I’m a hyper-critical reader and have a difficult time shutting that part of myself off. That said, I became totally enamored of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). By the third book, I grew weary of knowing what characters ate for each meal, but I really enjoyed having those books to relax with at the end of the day.”

Petrucha offers advice for aspiring writers. “Don’t just write what you like. Develop great taste, then write what you like. The industry is undergoing a massive revolution due to the economy and the rise of eBooks. Don’t quit your day job, but hang in there.”

Petrucha wisely counsels writers. “I always outline, but roughly, sketching out the shape of the book, working the plot points like puzzle pieces. I know some don’t, but it strikes me as an abdication of a powerful tool, allowing me to develop themes, and work with foreshadowing. As I get deeper into things, I have better ideas. Once I’ve finished a draft, I set it aside and look at it with a fresh mind. I enjoy revising, there’s less pressure, more like working a crossword puzzle, and I like to go through the manuscript at least three times to get it right.”

Petrucha has an interesting outlook as to what aided his writing career. “Stubbornness. Insane stubbornness. Some lucky breaks, but mostly pig-headed stubbornness. If medication for this was developed, I doubt I’d be a professional writer.”

Had Petrucha not chosen to be a writer, he has an interesting outlook on what may have been. “Realistically, I like computers, so something technical may have been natural. I’d like to say teaching, since I think it’s so valuable, but I lack the patience young minds require and would wind up screaming at my students. Perhaps a mad scientist….”

Authors get comments from readers. Petrucha shared a few. “I’m always thrilled when a reader ‘gets it’—asks a question or writes a review that tells me the ideas I was trying to get across actually do appear in an understandable manner. A series of reviews by Jason Henderson of my X-Files comics comes to mind—he was aware of every cagey reference I used. It’s what writers live for.”

Readers can look forward to another Petrucha thriller. “I just handed in Dead Mann Walking, about a zombie detective, to Ace Books, first in a two-book contract. It’s my best writing to date, but there’s no publication date yet.”

The multi-talented author spoke of people who influenced his writing career. “There was no single person who inspired me to write, but several authors and teachers provided that. I was originally enamored by comic books, Stan Lee and Alan Moore. Then, science fiction and horror, Ellison and Lovecraft. From there, I moved into surreal literary fiction, like Kafka and Samuel Beckett. I owe much to professors from my college days, Richard Stack and Lee Schlesinger.”

It’s “open mike” at ITW’s The Big Thrill. Please enchant our readers with anything you care to add. Thank you for sharing information about your thrilling career.

“Well, for heaven’s sake, buy Blood Prophecy and check out the cool promo video! I’d also like to invite folks to watch for me on Paranormal State, an A&E reality series. I co-wrote a non-fiction book with the show’s star, Ryan Buell. It first aired on October 17. That’s all I got!”

Born in the Bronx, Stefan Petrucha spent formative years moving between the city and suburbs, both of which made him prefer escapism. A fan of comic books, science fiction and horror since learning to read, in high school and college he added a love for all sorts of literary work, “eventually learning that the very best fiction always brings you back to reality, so, really, there’s no way out.”

A master of paranormal and horror fiction, Petrucha wrote 18 books and countless other works. (Including my personal, lighthearted favorite, Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring.) Author of the TV-based best-selling X-Files comic book series, his novels include Timetripper, The Shadow of Frankenstein, and The Rule of Won. Other recent works include Split and Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife, fellow writer Sarah Kinney, and their two daughters.

Dean Murphy
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