By Ethan Cross
Hemophage (n.): One who subsists on blood; a vampire. Also, strigoi.
Made strigoi against their will, Robin Bradford and his lover Naomi Paris confront a series of threats from other vampires dedicated to destroying them both. Author Stephen M. DeBock’s narrative begins in 1600s England and carries forward to the present, weaving actual historical events into the chilling story of two star-crossed lovers.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with DeBock to talk about HEMOPHAGE, the thrilling conclusion to The Pentacle Pendant trilogy.
Tell us about HEMOPHAGE in one line.
Made vampires against their will, Robin and his lover Naomi must confront a host of enemies dedicated to destroying them.
What kind of research did you conduct for HEMOPHAGE?
The novel spans some four hundred years, with settings in 17th Century England, colonial America, the Pacific theater in WWII, Vietnam, inner city Newark, NJ, Washington, D.C., and environs. I did extensive research on the Internet, also in books relating to the eras and events described, and further used my own experiences when writing about some of the contemporary venues. As the third book in The Pentacle Pendant trilogy, it incorporates characters found in at least one of the first two books and necessitated the making of a gigantic spreadsheet incorporating names, dates, and events in the first two novels—and then slotting in the newest characters and their narratives to ensure the integrity of the entire scope of work.
Describe your typical writing day. How do you balance your writing with marketing, editing, plotting, and all other commitments?
I’m a retiree, so my writing day can begin at any time inspiration strikes. This is a blessing. At times, I’ll wake up and head straight to the computer and write for two to three hours; at others, I’ll detour on the way to bed and write for another hours-long stretch.
For plotting, I use a three-panel display board favored by students for their science fair projects. Each panel is labeled, Act I, II, or III, and each is covered with Post-it notes carrying plot points, exposition, character traits, etc. The sticky notes are perfect for rearranging elements as the creative process progresses.
As for editing, I’ll write a chapter as fast as possible first. If I find a word repeated in a paragraph, I’ll change it, but usually I just let the thoughts flow. Next day, I’ll review it for revision. And at random times after that, I’ll return for more tweaking. Finally, I’ll read the entire manuscript at least twice, as if I were my worst critic, and make any necessary adjustments.
Marketing is a weak point. I don’t do more than the occasional book signing and plugs on my Facebook page. Perhaps if I changed my last name to King …
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Seeking a vampire’s longevity, I work out four days a week. My eight-year-old granddaughter’s soccer, track, and softball games will find my wife and me perennially cheering from the sidelines. I’m a fan of 3D motion pictures (keep ’em coming, Amazon) and photos (I’ll take stereo landscape shots and view them on an antique Stereopticon) and own a 3D TV with surround sound. And, of course, I read. A lot.
As a reader, what are some of your personal pet peeves? In other words, what’s your list of writing dos and don’ts?
I’m old school when it comes to grammar and usage. I don’t like hearing or reading “different than” instead of the correct “different from,” especially from people who should know better. (Claire, the protagonist of The Pentacle Pendant series, is also a grammar freak. Appropriately, she’s a book editor, as well as a werewolf.) I hate to see “alot” and “alright.” (The latter shouldn’t offend me that much, as I’m okay with “altogether” and “almighty,” among others.) “Till” is either a cashbox or a verb associated with plowing a field. The proper contraction of “until” is “’til.” “Your/you’re” and “their/they’re/there” aren’t interchangeable; this is basic stuff.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books/authors and who has had the greatest influence upon your own work?
Favorite authors include Robert E. Howard for horror and fantasy, Robert A. Heinlein for sci-fi, Edgar Rice Burroughs for sci-fi/fantasy. With a grad degree in media studies, books of that ilk have a place on my shelves. I’ve read all the C.J. Sansom novels about Matthew Shardlake, a 16th Century London lawyer in thrall to Thomas Cromwell. Also read the two Hilary Mantel novels on Cromwell. James Bradley’s books on the battles of Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima are very moving, as is Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. Reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s Stonewalled is more frightening than any Robert Ludlum conspiracy novel. Carl Hiaason’s comedies never fail to provoke belly laughs.
In short, I’ll read just about anything, any genre.
The person who has had the greatest influence upon my writing was my high school and college English teacher (multiple courses), Mr. Gerald Rich. As a mentor, he inspired me to write, and his own skill and compassion for his students inspired me to follow in his footsteps.
What’s something that you’ve learned about the publishing business that you weren’t expecting?
I didn’t know what to expect, so everything was new.
Do you have any advice for aspiring (or struggling) writers out there?
James Patterson’s father presented him with a manuscript of a novel of his own. Patterson gave it back unread and advised him to write another one. I’ve heard other authors tell me they wish they’d written their second novels first. It’s good advice. Further, you can’t go wrong reading Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently collaborating on a zombie novel with horror writer Ralph W. Bieber, co-author (as H.R. Howland) of Ashes and The Epicure. Uniquely, it’s not about an apocalypse.
Stephen M. DeBock is a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Presidential Honor Guard during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. A private pilot and former liveaboard boater, his nonfiction has appeared in American Heritage, AOPA Pilot Online, and Living Aboard magazines. A children’s Halloween story was printed in Spider, and a short piece of tongue-in-cheek vampire fiction appeared in BTS Book Reviews magazine. He wrote the text for a coffee-table book titled The Art of H. Hargrove and for 20 years has written the artist’s quarterly fan newsletter. He gives the artist cameo mention in each of the three books in “The Pentacle Pendant” series. Two of Stephen’s stories have been voted among the best in the horror category in an online readers poll. Stephen and his wife Joy live in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
To learn more about Stephen, please visit his website.