Today I had a chat with Len Handeland about his enthralling vampire paranomal romance.
It’s great to have you here, Len! Please tell us about your newest release.
The Darkest Gift it was released in April 2021. I felt no other author had written an enthralling vampire romance novel since Anne Rice, which was a breakthrough in featuring two vampires of the same gender as a couple. Being a life-long fan of vampires starting when I was a small child and into my adult years, I wanted to write a compelling and enthralling book where the characters are complicated (both humans and vampires) and that the same-sex couples are far less ambiguous about their sexual orientation than in vampire books of the last century.
Where the emphasis is on love, whether human and vampire or two vampires (of the same gender), it was vital for me to avoid anything graphically sexual, but instead, the focus is on the sensual aspect of two men together. Also noteworthy was addressing stereotypes regarding vampires and some of the gay men in my book. That all vampires are evil and unfeeling creatures, that all gay men are effeminate, couldn’t be further from the truth.
I utilized the classic tale of good versus evil (in this case, vampire against vampire) and how one of the human characters, Jack, despite his struggles with sexual orientation, finally learns to accept and embrace who he truly is. The message I’m trying to deliver is: do what is right and be true to yourself. In my novel, that applies not only to humans but vampires alike.
The locations in my book are places I have an affinity for, having spent time in each over the years. They are rich in history and culture, and each has an exquisite beauty of its own. The settings include Paris, Haiti, and New Orleans, which all share a French connection.
I feel my work stands out from other “gay vampire books” that may be too graphic sexually and reduced to being dismissed by most by being just that. At the same time, writing about the same-sex couple, whether that be two vampires or a human and a vampire, I wanted the focus on each character, feeling as if they had met their soulmate and were meant to be together forever.
I believe, and some have shared with me, including two published author friends, that my book would make a unique mini-series or motion picture. My work took me five and a half years to write; I worked with an editor for six months to ensure grammatical and historical accuracy for several different periods, including 17th & 18th century Paris, and Haiti, and New Orleans in the 1980s. It was indeed a labor of love.
That sounds great, thank you for your detailed answer! What’s the first book you ever remember reading?
It depends on the genre, and at what age? I remember reading Curious George, The Cat in the Hat, and other children’s books at a young age. Later in my teen years, I became interested in the genre of horror. I read many of Stephen King’s novels, Christine, It, Thinner, but no author captured my attention like Anne Rice (I would say she inspired me to write my vampire novel). I read all of her vampire chronicle books (Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire LeStat, The Queen of the Damned, and so many others!)
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and drawn to being creative—as far back as I can remember. Back in middle school, when my classmates and I were assigned a book report, and the others groaned, I cheered—not only being given an exciting novel to read but also to compose the essay assignment as well. Everything had to be perfect, the spelling, grammar, and accuracy regarding the subject matter.
I understand that completely! Who is your main inspiration?
Of course! Aside from writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m quite a good billiards player; I love the outdoors and like to hike and go on bike rides. I used to train in martial arts; I stopped due to COVID19, but I may resume. In addition, I enjoy cooking (vegetarian specifically, as I’ve been a non-meat eater for twenty-seven years).
Great! Please tell me about your writing space. Where do you usually write?
I like to write in my office at home. When I first start writing an outline of my book, I need quiet. Once I’ve written it, I go over what’s been written and sometimes enjoy listening to music while I proofread; it sounds odd, I know, but every writer has his or her method.
It doesn’t sound odd at all! The outlining part of the novel is important, so it makes sense that you’d want silence. Are you a morning or night person? What time of day do you prefer to sit and write?
I’ve never been a morning person (I guess that’s why I wrote a vampire novel!) I’m nocturnal; I can stay up very late.
Many people say their imagination comes to life at night; maybe you’re one of those people. Do you plan out your stories or are you a pantser (making it up as you go along)?
I like to outline; doing it any other way will have the story disjointed and not have an even flow.
I agree! What’s your favourite book genre? Do you write in that genre?
I have two favorite genres, vampire and paranormal, and yes, I write about both.
I wonder if you’ve ever read the Darren Shan saga? Though it may be a little young as it’s aimed at teens. That was a great series. Tell me your top three favourite books of all time.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.
I suspected Interview would be in there! Have you ever read a book that changed your life?
Anne Rice’s vampire chronicle books inspired me, so I think that would qualify. In a way, it also changed my life, as I wanted to write a vampire story of my own.
Definitely! Who is your favourite book character who you’ve created?
I would have to say Laurent Richelieu, a two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old vampire who is in my recently released book, The Darkest Gift. He’s kind, trustworthy, a gentleman, extremely loyal, resilient, and can be forceful when he needs to be. He is one of the good vampires doing battle with the evil one known as Stefan.
I’m sure your readers love him, too. What’s your latest book about? You talked about it earlier, so how about you show us the blurb?
When a self-loathing gay man, Jack, meets elegant yet incredibly mysterious Laurent Richelieu, he thinks his stroke of bad luck with men and women has come to an end. Or is it the beginning of a nightmare?
As the two begin their courtship, Jack encounters horrifying experiences involving the paranormal, vampirism, and possible reincarnation, making him question his sanity. The more time Jack spends with his mysterious European love interest, the more revealed about the dark secret awaiting him. Are they destined to be together? Does Laurent honestly care for Jack? Or is there a much more sinister plot involved?
Can the help of a self-described voodoo high priestess named Queen Raphaella alter Jack’s predestined future, or is his fate already sealed?
Sounds fab! OK, something unrelated to writing! If you could go on a date with any celebrity, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Edgar Allan Poe. I would love to have gotten to know him personally, he seemed so dark, so tortured, not to mention such a gifted writer!. It would have been a fascinating date!
Great choice! Please tell our readers where we can find out more about you.
Thank you for the fascinating interview, Len!