I'm usually blessed enough to see Nancy at least twice a year: firstly when I get out to Toronto's FanExpo in the summer and secondly, if she makes it to U.K. shores for FantasyCon in the autumn. Those times at FanExpo and the hangouts with the HWA's local (Ontario) chapter drove home to me what experience and game she has.
1. For those who don't know, who are you?
Nancy Kilpatrick. Earthling. Writer of novels, short stories, editor of anthologies, all in one of these genres: dark fantasy, horror, fantasy, mystery, erotica, literary. I'm a lover of what some call the macabre that this planet has to offer, so when not writing, and not cloistering due to world pandemics I travel to hunt down cemeteries, ossuary's, mummies, Danse Macabre artwork, and my latest obsession, jewelled skeletons. I live in lovely Montreal and am currently catless.
2. Game talk – how do you organise and manage your game? How has it evolved?
I'm not particularly organized. But I have an abundance of self-discipline so my projects are usually completed. I'm an emotional writer, meaning, I go with my emotional flow and write as the spirit moves me. Fortunately, the spirit moves me frequently. Some projects require more day-and-night dreaming than others, of course, but I generally spend a lot of time mulling.
3. Talk us through one of your biggest achievements in your game – give us the story behind it. How did it play out?
I'll give you two because my first published novels were two novels for different publishers and it's hard to know which came first.
- Near Death was from Simon & Schuster's Pocket books, a vampire novel.
I had a story in an anthology from Pocket Books and received the galleys to proofread and called them in to the editor, as requested. This is before email was the norm. While talking with her, I mentioned I had a novel and she said to talk with a different editor and put me through. That editor asked to see the novel so I mailed the paper copy to her. I heard nothing and phoned after about 8 months, only to discover that she had left the company. A guy had taken over her work. He searched and couldn't find the manuscript and asked me to re-send it, which I did. This was all back in the day when the submission process was photocopying and then mailing the roughly 300 pages, paying postage there, and back! Old school publishing was expensive. This time, I only about 2 months, called, and...wait for it...that guy had left the company too. I remembered Rebecca Todd, the anthology editor and my story and fortunately, she was still there. I told her what happened. She was mortified, said she'd look for the MS. She called back to say she couldn't find it and please send it a third time to her. She promised to read it over the weekend, and did, and wanted to publish it. That's how my first novel saw the light of day.
- The Darker Passions: Dracula was from Masquerade Books, an arm of Crescent Publishing in NYC.
I sent a proposal to the editor for a single novel, The Darker Passions of Dracula. He called me about 3 weeks later. Apparently his then girlfriend, later wife, had read it to him as they drove down to Florida for a vacation. She loved it, he loved it, and he asked me if I'd consider a series of erotic horror novels, so I said yes, and ended up doing 7 novels. The series title is: The Darker Passions. The individual books are: Dracula; Frankenstein; Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; The Fall of the House of Usher; The Picture of Dorian Grey; Carmilla; The Pit and the Pendulum.
That's the overview of my 2 novels. Near Death was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award in the First Novel Category and a finalist for the Aurora Award. It's been reprinted by 4 print publishers and one eBook publisher and is part of what turned out to be a 4 book series called Power of the Blood. It was optioned twice for film.
The Darker Passions series has been reprinted by other publishers both print and eBook, including a signed, limited-edition hardcover. There is an audio book of 2 of the Darker Passions titles and 1 audio book of one of the other titles in the Power of the Blood series.
My luck has always been strange, and outside all 'rules' for how things are done. One learns to live with weirdness.
4. You mention how Near Death has been optioned twice for film. Given that screen horror is more accessible to audiences now, especially with the likes of Netflix, how would you feel about writing for TV/film?
I'm up for writing a treatment or script or whatever, WITH HELP. Meaning, I haven't written for film or TV though I have scripted comics so I get the limitations of spoken words and actions, as opposed to written and oral fiction formats which allow a lot of description, and interior life of characters. I also understand that what works in a book might need alteration for a film. In other words, I'd need help, as in a co-writer.
5. It's great if things go according to plan. Tell us about when it didn't; how did you handle it? What were/are those challenges?
Oh, so many. It's hard to pick a catastrophe. Here is a series of catastrophes for the same books and it had to do with the third publisher of the Power of the Blood series.
A publisher in the UK wanted to reprint Near Death and Child of the Night, the first two books of the series that existed at that time. He also wanted me to write a third book, Reborn, which I did. Sounds great, right? There were several mishaps along the way but I'll just mention three.
The cover of Reborn was done by the amazing artist Les Edwards and it's lovely. The publisher told me that Les wasn't available for books 1 and 2 but sent notes or sketches and another artist was commissioned to create the covers for books 1 and 2. When they arrived, the artist's had worked with his preferred medium, wood. Wood that was 6 feet by 4 feet! The publisher photocopied those 2 book covers section by section, pasted them together and formed two covers that are not anywhere close to the one Les did. I only knew about everything that went wrong much later when it was out of my hands and 'resolved'.
Next catastrophe was distribution. Somehow, the 3 books were in their boxes going to the warehouse in a truck that had an accident. The way it was described to me is that the boxes flew out the back doors and were run over on the highway. They had to be reprinted.
I was still breathing at this point.
After the reprinted books had been out a year, I was getting a lot of people asking me where they could buy them because everywhere they went (no online yet, just bookstore days), they weren't available. I, in my naivety, thought, gosh, they've sold out! How wonderful! And every time I mentioned this, the publisher said they were distributed.
I was at a convention in the UK, probably a World Fantasy or World Horror convention, and the publisher was there also. We had a meeting and this is what he told me (paraphrased):
There were some issues with the printing and told the printer he had to reprint the books. This was in the very early days of a file being sent to a printer. The printer reprinted. I guess they didn't exactly work out the arrangements beforehand because the printer had the books ready to ship to the warehouse but wanted to be paid for the reprinting. The publisher argued that the printer screwed up and should have reprinted for free. The printer blamed the publisher's file. All this led to a law suit which was going on for most of the year.
When I met with the publisher at the convention, he told me all this and then said: 'There's good news and bad news.' The good news was that they had worked out the money issue. The bad news? The printer said he would not pursue payment provided the books were pulped, to which the publisher agreed.
Yes, I sat there stunned. Now it was clear why the books were hard to find. I said, "Well, you're going to reprint them, aren't you?" No, he wasn't. He went out of business and left England for parts unknown shortly thereafter.
But, back at the convention... After that meeting with him, I had a meeting with the top editor at Ace/Berkley for whom I had edited 2 anthologies. I wanted to pitch another anthology to her but ended up babbling about what just happened and crying in the bar. I was a mess, the meeting was awful, I was so embarrassed. Fortunately, though, I was able to edit a 3rd antho for her down the road.
The whole experience was such a low point but, eventually, I bounced back. One has to.
6. Give a pep-talk to someone on game in your field.
My pep talks are always the same. From the I CHING (The Chinese Book of Changes): Perseverance Furthers. You've got to keep going if you want your work out there and read. It doesn't matter how big or small the work is, just write, keep at it, keep going. Writing is within your control, publishing and distribution are not, even if you self-publish. You'll win some and lose some but if you keep going, there's a progression. The more you write, the more you'll know how to write, the more savvy you'll be about this industry. The more you publish, the more you'll learn how publishing works. And that includes both trad and self-publishing. You need to wear a bunch of different caps, more so today. Writing is a business and if you want to succeed, persevere.
Latest works in HC, trade pb and eBook. Recently optioned for film and TV:
Thrones of Blood 6 book novel series:
Revenge of the Vampir King
Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess
Abduction of Two Rulers
Savagery of the Rebel King
Anguish of the Sapiens Queen
Imperilment of the Hybrids (coming soon)
Vampires: Darker Desires - 2 novellas "Wild Hunt" and "Vampyre Theatre"
Recent Short Stories:
"Trogs" in Apostles of the Weird, PS Publishing
"Always a Castle?" in Lovecraft Mythos, Flame Tree Press
"The Promise" in The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 2 , Alchemy Press
"Vermiculture" in The Pulp Book of Phobias 2, Lycan Valley Publications
"Alien Lover" in A is for Aliens, Red Cap Publishing