Happy Manic Monday to you all. I have a guest for you today. I am honored to have Nathan Squiers "AKA The Literary Dark Prince" Here to talk about Crimson Shadow.
Hello Nathan, or should I call you The Literary Dark Prince and thanks for being today’s “Pick”.
Please share a little about yourself, your works and what got you into writing.
~I was birthed in the decrepit and long-since abandoned ruins of an old church to a jackal mother set to a chorus of eerily harmonized men in pitch-black robes wielding sacrificial daggers!
Or so I wish…
To tell the truth, I was an overly-sheltered child (both a benefit and a handicap, I suppose) and, as a result, I studied a great deal and avoided anything and everything "scary". This avoidance gave way to morbid obsession, which gave way to further research (I suppose I thought knowing more about monsters would save me from them). All that research shifted the focus of interest, and I went from fearing and loathing darkness to loving it. A great example of this shift was one day when I came across a magazine at a barber shop that Marilyn Manson had done a guest article in. Now, prior to that day I'd been terrified of Manson (though I'll admit now I'd never even HEARD his music before that point [yea, I want to slap my inner child, too]), but, as I read the words that The Antichrist Superstar had graced this particular publication with, I suddenly found that what I'd passed off as a mindless monster was, in fact, a brilliant and philosophical mind! With a new curiosity, I further delved into the abyss and found it quite to my liking. Because I'd always loved making stories (I've never been good at drawing or painting but I love to create characters and developing their legacies) writing just became the most convenient outlet for my insanity to spill on.
From there, a few body piercings, some tattoos, and a great deal of purity-warping horror films turned me into The Literary Dark Prince we all know and love.
I see Xander is a bit suicidal at first until he meets Marcus and Sophie and learns a bit more about what he has the potential to become. Why the extreme with a suicidal character?
Book #1 of Crimson Shadow was written so I could vent my own aggressions safely. Xander, in the early developmental stages, represented who I wanted to be, but he had to start where I was, and, at that time, suicide was our common ground.
With another death in the family and his last real friend gone and the aftermath, did Xander’s anger only help bring out his hidden powers more?
Xander's always had a foot unknowingly dipped in the paranormal pool, and his emotional instability certainly didn't help to keep them in check. As he grew older and more psychologically destructive, the magic within him responded accordingly. The problem with this being that the paranormal world can easily hone in on that sort of "spill-over".
I was really intrigued by your idea of the sangsuigas (blood-drinkers) versus the Aurics (Psychic Energy) in the world you wove. Where did those names stem from and can toy tell more about each?
The foundation for the two breeds of vampire derived from my research into various types of life-feeders. While the list can go on forever, it all can be narrowed down to four types: mortal blood-drinking, immortal blood-drinking, mortal psychic, & immortal psychic. The concept of "mortal" vampires comes into play lightly with my work, but since they're all basically humans and we see those tired things day-in and day-out I figured I'd give readers a little more excitement.
Sangsuigas ("sang" being the Latin root for "blood") is a common global term for immortal blood-drinkers (mortal blood drinkers being sanguinarians--essentially translated to "thirst for blood").
For my immortal psychics, I wanted to shy away from the term "psychic"--because of the implications to mystics sitting over crystal balls--I decided to work off of their connection to their auras and using them to both feed and fight. I wanted to give the creatures in my books a diversity that mimicked human society so that there was a greater sense of complexity in an unknown "community" of non-humans.
Which one would you be?
If I had a chance to pick, I'd say an auric. Because of their nature of using their minds to alter the reality in their victims' minds would tie in nicely to my enjoyment of planting images in peoples' minds. Sangs are pretty gnarly and I love the idea of the ferocity and being all fanged and gnarly, but all that running and jumping just ain't for me. lol.
When Xander accepts the clans offer to become a true vampire he eagerly jumps, knowing he’s becoming the man he thinks he was supposed to be. Did he find some resolution to everything that had happened in his life prior knowing that he found a place to fit in?
I'd certainly say so. By that point--after five years of trying to put a bullet in his brain, multiple cutting sessions, and self-destructive magical practices--he was aching for any sort of escape from his life. The promise of an escape from humanity AND the idea of acceptance and familiarity made the choice a pretty obvious one to make.
We got a brief glimpse of Estella in the book. I have a feeling she knew more then she let on about Xander from the beginning. Can you share a little about her and her developing powers.
Estella is what we in the business call a "nerd" (of the book-nerdus variety). As such, she's spent her entire life reading and growing in intellect. By a young age, she was reading college-level material with ease and, never one to settle and easily bored, she'd pursued newer and more complex reading materials. Having always been interested in the stories of witches, the concept of magic and witchcraft enticed her and encouraged a desire to study the realm of magic for herself and, like everything else, she excelled at that rather quickly, as well.
Did the plot and characters work out as you wanted or did they shape the book as you were writing?
The general plot for book #1 of Crimson Shadow has, for the most part, remained solid (certain elements have changed here-and-there--Xander had started a bit more volatile and, as a result, a few too many innocent people died for my liking [he'd never killed anybody on purpose, per se, but the idea of him being directly responsible for the death of an innocent struck me as making him a villain before he even had a chance to be a hero]). There were also some changes made to certain character developments to better suit the interaction with other characters.
I'm proud to say, however, that enough time was spent in character development that their personalities were powerful driving forces in shaping the overall piece.
This is the first in a potential series, what can readers expect from the next book? Without spoilers please if possible.
The series is going to be seven books in total (all of which have already been planned to some extent or another) that unfolds into Xander's legacy, but he still has some personal affairs to settle. Book #2 (working title "Sins of the Father") puts the spotlight on the other half of Xander's family, and some of the secrets revealed will change how some perceive book #1.
As the first book implies, Xander and Estella's relationship becomes more intimate, and Xander's new ties to the paranormal world introduce him to some new creatures.
Also, as always with the Crimson Shadow series, Xander's psyche comes into play (in any CS book there is always AT LEAST two antagonizing forces: whoever Xander is pitted against and himself) and, of course, over-the-top stylized violence (if The Matrix has taught us anything, it's that something should be intelligent and complex, but NEVER without eye-candy and excessive violence).
It was so devious to see the way Xander found how to finally be free of Kyle *shivers thinking about the demon he was* How did his teachings help him figure out how to overcome the rage he had to find a way to make things work in his favor?
I think it's safe to say that everyone has had a "Kyle" of some sort or another in their lives (I know that some have suffered through similar endeavors of their own, but I would never wish that exact situation on anybody). It's not always a matter of being beaten or abused or tortured, but, rather, being shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that decency is a blessing, not a privilege and certainly not commonplace behavior in the world.
There's no end to the types of bullies that people will encounter in their lives--no end to the soul-crushing crap that day-after-day weighs down on the hearts of so many (not just people like Xander, but EVERYONE)--and there's only two ways to receive that constant barrage: by succumbing to it and letting it destroy you in one way or another, or to adapt and evolve into a stronger self that is capable of overcoming the mundane and transcending into a better person. In Xander's case, that evolution included a blood-red eye and a gnarly set of retractable fangs that he enthusiastically uses to rip into people, but the metaphor applies all the same.
Those that fall under the pressure should be mourned, because it is ALWAYS a tragic loss, but for those that can overcome their attackers--that can overcome their fear--they come to a conflicted realization that their strength is, in fact, a gift. Those that dedicated their efforts to hurting those they deemed "weak" are often the architects of their own defeat, because inevitably there will be the one victim who finally overcomes them.
What did Kyle teach Xander? The same thing any victim eventually learns:
You either stand for something, or fall for anything.
Lastly the fun questions:
Plotter or pantser?
~Compulsive & habitual plotter.
Early Bird or Night Creature?
I am a man who loves his naps during the day, and as such I am a man that is usually not tired at night. I have to say that I'm a creature of the night, but only because I succumb so eagerly to a beckoning mattress!
Are you more like Marcus, Depok or Stan?
I wasn't sure how to answer this, so I resorted to asking my fiancé, Megan Parker (another of CH&BB's authors as well as their video-editor). We both agree that I'm not a Depok, but to side between Stan and Marcus is a bit of a challenge. The two represent two sides of the supernatural world that Xander must master and, therefore, gifted in those areas… but which can I associate more strongly with…?
Many may see me as being a great deal like Marcus--sort of a jerk, but with his endearing qualities and strengths. But I also think those that know me and have seen me in my "element" will admit I'm like Stan--aware of himself and others, but capable of an unseen darkness when crossed.
Truthfully, I'd be honored to be compared to either.
White, Milk or Dark chocolate?
Ordinarily I'm not a lover of sweet things, but I do LOVE a white-or-milk chocolate-covered pretzel (if I had to pick I'd say a salty-sweet combination with milk chocolate is about as close to Nirvana as a living person can get).
Coffee Tea or other?
Both are great for their own reasons (I LOVE tea as a means of relaxing, but I am obsessed with coffee). However, my obsession with coffee has made it VERY difficult to keep me awake with any amount of caffeine (I tend to peak at about eight-shots of espresso in my standard beverages and can still fall into a deep sleep thereafter). Because of this, I've found that my perpetual exhaustion can be wavered with energy drinks (guarana and taurine work wonders).
Music or quiet while working? The Literary Dark Prince loathes silence (it's too damn eerie). I can't start slinging words 'til I've thrown down a gnarly beat.
Favorite place to sit and write? Wherever my butt fits and I can consume caffeine for a prolonged period of time (I do get a lot done at Starbucks, though [yea, I'm one of THOSE authors]). *Snickers*...Coffehouse author
• Computer or good old pen and paper?
Computer (my hands cramp if I scribble too long and I can type faster, anyway).
Pick your poison (alcoholic drink of choice when going out)
None (I'm straightedge; no drugs or alcohol).
Thanks for stopping in Nathan, it was great to be able to pick your mind and talk about Xander and what is to come!
By Nathan Squiers
Xander Stryker wants to die.
Ever since witnessing his mother's murder at the hands of his abusive stepfather when he was a boy, he has spent every day trying to reach that goal. But every night he's denied the death he craves.
When his eighteenth birthday approaches, an unforeseen chance for change is offered when his life is plunged into chaos and he's dragged into a supernatural world of vampires and other creatures of darkness. Caught in the depths of this new reality, mysteries of his supernatural lineage begin to unravel and Xander is given the ultimate choice:
Continue on with his wretched life or begin a new one as the vampire he was always meant to be.
Unfortunately, the supernatural world can be just as unforgiving and brutal as any other and Xander's choice is met with disastrous consequences. Now, with the chaos of the new world pressing down on him, his past reemerges and once again threatens to crush him. Will Xander be able to use his new strength to conquer his fears, or will he succumb to his own bloody darkness...
... and allow it to finally destroy him.
"I'M NOT YOUR GOD DAMN SON!" Xander shrieked, bracing himself for the familiar agony of Kyle's belt. His eyes flew open as he shot upright. Sweeping some strands of hair from his sweat-soaked brow, his panicked heart finally settled in his chest as he saw that he was not at the mercy of his stepfather.
Instead, his entire first period class stared at him.
Somebody up front snickered as others turned to whisper to their neighbors. Feeling his face redden, Xander did his best to ignore his peers and took a deep breath.
Xander cringed and watched as Mister Nimbe navigated his way from the chalkboard towards him. In a lot of ways seeing the portly teacher calmed him. Letting out a slow breath, he reassured himself of the truth:
Kyle was dead.
". . . enough, Stryker!"
Hearing his name, Xander snapped out of his thoughts and looked up at Mister Nimbe.
The teacher's jaw shifted before he slapped a heavy palm down on the desktop. Xander stared at him, continuing to ignore his peers as they gossiped and laughed.
He didn’t want this kind of attention.
"Don't play games with me, you little punk!" Mister Nimbe's voice was hard though he spoke softly, "The next time you decide to act up in my class, it's your funeral!"
A girl sitting nearby cackled, "That’ll be the day!"
There was another bout of laughter.
Xander forced himself not to look away from Mister Nimbe, who seemed to bask in the approval of his class. Unable to handle another moment of the humiliation, he snatched his backpack by the strap and pulled it with him as he stood from his desk and hurried for the door. Behind him he heard Mister Nimbe yell after him, but he was already too far out the door to hear it or care.
"Fucking assholes!" Xander spat. The burning in his cheeks had spread and now his entire body felt hot with his growing rage. You need to calm down. Trepis said.
Xander shook his head at the advice. He let out a growl and threw a balled fist into a nearby locker; a jolt of magical energy following through. Withdrawing his hand he saw that he had nearly torn the metal off its hinges. He smirked at the results and started walking again.
Trepis sighed, Was that really necessary?
"Is any of this really necessary?" He retorted.
Trepis, after an airy sigh, went silent.
Xander nodded to himself, satisfied that the voice in his head was finally done criticizing him and continued down the hall. Gripping the pack of cigarettes in his pocket, he turned onto the East Wing, dragging the fingers of his left hand across the rows of lockers as he walked.
Going to see Stan?
"You know it." Xander said as he turned another corner and stopped just before the cafeteria, pushing open the door labeled "TEACHERS LOUNGE" without hesitation.
An old coffee machine to his right gurgled and belched its greeting as a fresh batch of sludge dripped into a carbon-stained pot. Nearby, a wild-haired woman who Xander recognized as one of the English teachers sat with a crossword puzzle while an over-caffeinated math teacher grunted something about a failing sports team. Reaching blindly for his cup of coffee, he knocked it onto his crotch and swore as steam rose from his pants.
As expected, neither noticed Xander as he walked in.
Unable to wait any longer, he retrieved a cigarette and began working to light it. The worn-out lighter sparked uselessly.
"Damn it!" Xander said, scowling at the lighter before tossing it into the trash.
"Need a light?" Stan's voice emerged from the corner of the lounge.
Xander smiled, "Would you?"
"Hey!" the coffee-stained teacher frowned at Xander, "You're not supposed to be in--"
The man's eyes went dull, followed soon after by the woman's, before both stood and walked out the door, closing it behind them as they did.
Once they were alone, Xander turned towards his friend and smirked, "You're going to have to teach me how to do that." Stan's dirty-blonde hair shifted as he shook his head. "Xander, Xander, Xander... it's not even second period." he scolded as he held out his hand.
Xander watched as the cigarette sparked and magically ignited and he was rewarded with a rush of flavor. He smiled and took a long drag before taking it between his fingers and sitting beside his friend.
"Had the dream again."
Stan nodded, his blue-green eyes going solemn, and leaned his head back.
Xander thought for a moment that he might offer Stan a cigarette as a joke, but thought better of it. Stan always said that the things were a poison and putting those substances in your system was like allowing your own personal Trojan horse into your body time and time again.
Scowling, Stan turned his head towards him, "What are you going to do with your life, Xander? I see the potential, but..." he sighed then, shaking his head.
Xander didn't take his eyes from the floor, "Maybe Yin will take me tonight. Then I won't have to worry about where I'm going, right?"
Stan rolled his eyes, "I doubt you're going to find your escape in the barrel of that old revolver tonight. Or tomorrow... or even the day after that." He chuckled, "I mean, if I seriously thought you were in any danger I'd have had you put away long ago."
"So why haven't you?" Xander allowed his eyes to shift in Stan's direction.
Stan shrugged, "It's that whole potential thing I was talking about. You're not worth much to the world in a padded cell."
Xander scoffed, "Wouldn't say I'm worth much to the world at all!"
"Or maybe you just don't see that potential yet." Stan curled his lip.
Xander frowned, "Then can you tell me what's going to happen?"
Stan shook his head, "I’ve told you before: the future can't be seen. It hasn't been written yet."
"But you must know something!" Xander did what he could to hide his aggravation, but his lingering rage and growing confusion became too much and the wall groaned against the magical energy and cracked under the pressure.
Stan sighed, "I know that I'm tired of mending this damn wall!"
Xander nodded, "Sorry."
He had lost count of all the times his friend had used his magic to fix what he had broken with his own. This time wasn't any different:
Stan focused on the wall; his eyes narrowing with the same intensity they'd shown when lighting Xander's cigarette. After a silent moment, the pieces of cracked plywood shifted and cracked as they bonded together and the drywall reformed, leaving the wall looking good as new. When it was done, he went back to staring at the ceiling. "How's Trepis?"
"He's... still Trepis."
Stan tilted his head and gave him a skeptical look, "Trep?"Doing fine. Trepis answered in Xander's head, Kid's just being a brat.
Both Stan and Trepis laughed.
"Oh, stop being so sensitive!" Stan gave him a few hard pats on the back; his energy stinging like lightning under his skin before it spread like a sweet drug through his system. "You can't take everything so seriously!"
Xander smiled against the bizarre sensation and leaned into the couch, "Yea, right." He tried to mask the sarcasm in his voice.
Stan, ignoring Xander's attitude, stared back up at the ceiling, "So what do you want for your birthday?"
Xander sighed and took another long drag, not stopping until he'd burned up the cig to the filter and blowing the smoke out slow. "I want freedom, Stan."
About Nathan Squiers
Nathan Squiers (The Literary Dark Prince) is a resident of upstate New York where he lives with his loving fiancé and two demonic beings that have, for the time being, chosen to disguise themselves as cats (incredibly demanding and out-of-control cats).
Living day-by-day on a steady diet of body modification and potentially lethal doses of caffeine, he often escapes reality through novels, comics & manga, movies, and (of course) his own writing. When he's not immersed in the realm of fiction (be it his own or someone else's), he can be found in the chair of a piercing studio/tattoo parlor or reacquainting himself with the real world.