Interview with Rebekah Armusik, author of The 13 Gothic Memoirs
Firstly Rebekah, tell us about your book/series.
The series is difficult to summarize even under the most ideal circumstances – I always find this question to be terribly daunting. How do you simply describe an epic adventure without ruining the surprises and allure of the story? However, I never feel comfortable describing it as a vampire series because that is not the sum of the story – just a fraction. My vampires are fallen angels and not the stereotypical vampires that most expect. Though these angels fell during the first celestial war, some still remain loyal to God in hope of returning home. The contrast in the beliefs of the fallen, either their loyalty to God or to themselves, is a constant struggle that upsets the cosmic balance – therefore requiring a government to maintain the peace. Though it’s deeply romantic, that is not the primary focus either. The novels are so layered it’s difficult to give one clear explanation.
I have always been fascinated by Jewish mysticism, Catholicism, and witchcraft – and not necessarily in that order. All of these passions shaped the novels and somehow, I was able to make it all work.
My tale begins before time was recorded, during the first celestial war when God threw Lucifer into hell and separated his army. Some remained neutral and God felt that He could not trust these angels to remain in heaven and serve Him well, so He banished them to Earth as punishment. The fallen had to adapt and because they were not born, but created, their bodies adjusted and mutated – hence the need for blood.
I also have incorporated the legends of Lilith, the first wife of Adam. Throughout history, Lilith has been demonized; she has been called the first vampire, a succubus, and sadly, the cause of stillborn deaths. But, I never liked or bought that patriarchal nonsense. She simply didn’t dig Adam and in my opinion, that’s not a sufficient reason to make her the origin all things rancid. So, taking some artistic license, I rewrote the story of creation. I kept Lilith as the first wife of Adam but when she rejected him and his boorish behavior, God released her and she then caught the eye of Samuel- the Arch Angel of the elements. They fall in love and have 7 daughters with angelic blood and gifts. Thus, the Guardian race is born to the chagrin of God. Because Samuel disobeyed God and physically came to Lilith, they are punished for their relationship and separated. Their daughters are marked and can never enter heaven and Samuel and Lilith are put into a deep sleep until they are forgiven. The story is told in first person by Nadija who is one of the descendants of Lilith and the active Guardian Queen on council. This of course, is just a snippet of the complex tale.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on book 5 “In the Shadows of Eden”.
What inspired you to become a writer?
My grandmother – she was the best story teller and coolest chick I have ever met. Up until her death this past December, she was telling stories and being an “itch”. She loved to tease and laugh and though she was 95, you could laugh with her about anything. I deeply miss her devilish ways but through her character in the book, I still get to argue, laugh and spend time with her. Through my work, she became immortal.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing all my life – it is my favorite and most healthy addiction.
What is your relationship with your characters? Do you have a favourite? Is there one that you find a bit more difficult?
It will always be Nadija because I know her best – her voice is from my heart. In her, I have impregnated my soul – she reflects my life experiences.
Because most of my characters are based on people I know, I never have difficulty writing any of them. I’m the sort of person you want to be nice to because no wants to be immortalized as a villain or jerk.
Is there anything that you find challenging about being a writer?
No. For me, it is a comfortable state of being who I am. I am always the one at the dinner party entertaining people with a story about my crazy family or something stupid I did.
Do you write freehand at all or straight onto your pc?
I write on my laptop – this way, I can read it the next day. My handwriting tends to be too flowery and even I have difficulty deciphering it.
Do you have a strict writing routine/word count per day?
I try to write every day when I feel inspired and when my 3 children are not trying to kill each other. Some days, it is first thing in the morning and other days, it is late at night. I try not to be rigid with my schedule because I want the work to be organic and not forced. I write all day in my head regardless so when I feel inspired to sit down, I’m on autopilot.
Is there one question that you wish that you would be asked in an interview? If so, what is it and what’s the answer?
I suppose it would be how the novels mirror my actual life. When I began writing this series, I was 20 years old which seems like centuries ago! At first, it was an autobiographical tale about my eccentric Slovak family and all their tales and antics. As the work progressed and the idea germinated, I kept coming back to the vampiric and supernatural theme of all the stories. To my family, vampires were not fictional beings but real – they were feasible explanations for the pain and suffering in the world. They were blamed for some villager becoming depraved or the reason that someone saw a loved one after death and burial. But also, they were infused with a sense of sexuality and romance – they echoed unrequited love and possible immortality that always seemed to usurp the fear.
So again, in order to create a plausible world – one that was neither fantastic nor cheesy, I put myself into the story and used my family and friends as inspiration. I created a point of origin loosely based on my life’s experiences in order to ground the novels with an authentic and relatable voice. Nadija exists because I know her – I know her fears, her desires and her myriad of faults that she obsesses on. Because of this, her reaction to people, places and things are genuine – I stop and think when writing, “How would I react to that?” and then by placing myself there, retrieve the answer that is most realistic. Most of the conversations between Alexei and Nadija are based on conversations I’ve had with my husband – it is our relationship that inspired theirs
The most common comment I get from fans is that the series is so believable and unique – that the characters and dialogue are so natural; they feel they really know these people. My retort is simple – there is nothing fancy to it – it’s just me being honest and through that honesty, I can relate to my reader in a natural way. I am not afraid to put myself out there – I refuse to be vain or withhold my deepest fears or most embarrassing faults. When writing, I am emotionally naked and 100% there and uninhibited – I let others judge Nadija because that is not my job.
What do you think causes people’s enduring fascination with vampires?
I think it’s the romanticism of immortality – the idea that there is some way to maintain youth and vitality.
Do you have any plans to write in a different genre in the future?
Never! The key to great writing is write what you know – not for money or fame but because it compels and ensnares you. There is no other subject matter that appeals to me, no other world that I feel moved to create. In this series, I have invested my life, my dreams and myself. When I finish these 13 novels, I have 13 more planned that will start from the very beginning – form the affair between Lilith and Samuel and first celestial war that started it all.
Are you also an avid reader? What are you reading at the moment?
I am a voracious reader – always have been. Remarkably, I never read paranormal, romance or supernatural novels. I fear that reading them would taint my work. I fear templates and repetition – the best art; the best writing, is done from the heart and is inspired by one’s own experiences and imagination. I have no desire to re-write someone else’s work.
I love and greedily devour any book on serial killers, forensic pathology, religion, mythology, English/Russian monarchies or politics. The novel I am reading now is “Elizabeth and Mary” by Jane Dunn. It is a dual biography of these two remarkable monarchs’ and their relationship.
Doctor Who has just arrived in his Tardis. He puts you charge of the time machine, what would you do?
I have a scandalous and salacious affair with Napoleon. I have such a crush on the emperor! I have read every book written on Napoleon and just swoon at his humor and intelligence. And despite common beliefs, Napoleon was not a short man but of average height. There is just something intriguing about a smart, charismatic guy wielding absolute power that is just super sexy. I like a man that can keep me on my toes intellectually and hold me accountable for my antics – my husband thankfully excels at this task.
The vampires are attacking! Grab the first thing you see to your right and hit them with it! What was it? And how do you think you did in the ensuing fight?
Well, it’s a hard cover book. I am as good as dead unless they want to have an affair or dinner.
The afore mentioned vampire attack didn’t go so well and you were bitten by the vampire…now what?
According to my novels, nothing happens unless I willingly partake in the vampire’s blood and accept the gift of immortality. If that is the case, I’m pleased it happened before I became an old hag.
In the event of a zombie apocalypse what item would you make sure that you took with you to your underground safety bunker? (we will presume that your family are already safely in the bunker!)
Holy hell, I am so zombie illiterate! I know absolutely nothing about zombies other than some danced in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. In other words, I don’t survive but I hope I’m wearing something nice and my make-up is fresh.
You are planning an awesome dinner party. Which 3 celebrities/fictional characters/historical figures (past or present) would you add to your guest list?
I love dinner parties – it’s my other passion besides writing. I would invite Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth and President Lincoln. Imagine the passionate political debates and awesome attire!
Can you give us five random facts about yourself?
I hate Disney movies – I find them misogynistic and creepy.
I never leave the house without make-up and a dress/skirt.
I have more male friends than female friends.
I have a very deranged sense of humor – I often find the most irreverent things hilarious.
I wish that smoking was healthy and that water tasted like vodka.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write what you know and what makes you excited. If your only motivation is to be rich and famous, you will fail. If you had millions of dollars right now, what would you write? When you have that answer that is what you write about. Purpose without passion is garbage and disingenuous.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Approach my series with a different frame of mind. Dismiss everything you know about vampires, religion, and creation and allow the story to unfold. The first novel is an introduction to a rather complex and involved world and do not dismiss anything as filler or frivolous – I am not the type of writer who looks to satisfy a page count. There is a purpose for every character, a reason for every action and reaction so pay attention! And most of all enjoy the journey!
From a young age, Rebekah Armusik was a gifted and dramatic writer. By the tender age of ten, she was writing poetry and short stories that were inspired by her grandmother's tales of Slavic folklore. Even then, her poetry was rich and romantic, and it was soon apparent that Rebekah had a unique insight into the human condition — along with a style all her own. Surrounded by a culture with rich tradition, colorful family members, and a mother who was also a talented author, there was never a lack of inspiration or encouragement. Following private school, she attended King's College, where she majored in literature. Shortly after graduation she began writing Memoirs of a Gothic Soul. At first, the novel was more of an autobiographical project that centered on her eccentric Slovak family and her experiences in Northeast Pennsylvania, but soon her grandmother's stories of vampirism became the focus of the book. Before long, Rebekah's love of the romantic vampire began to change the direction of the novel and the series. At the same time, Rebekah met Eric Armusik, a romantic realist painter who had just returned from studying in Italy. The courtship was fast, and after several dates, the couple announced they planned to marry. And so, for love, the series was put on hold. After several years remodeling their Victorian home and starting a family, Rebekah went back to work on her novels. Working from the original layout of thirteen books, she began feverishly re-working the tale. In August 2010, Memoirs of a Gothic Soul was released on the independent publishing label Lady Noir to great reviews, and she quickly established a loyal fan base eager to read more. Her second novel, Mariposa, opened to rave reviews on Halloween 2011, and the pressing sold out in the first week. In 2012, Rebekah will do the unthinkable by putting out two releases in one year. You can expect Book 3: Lucifer Rising this May 2012, and Book 4: Vlkolak King on her usual Halloween release date in 2012. And the story gets even better… Rebekah has been featured in numerous publications including The Weekender, Victorian Homes Magazine, Old House Journal, The Reading Eagle, and the Republican Herald.
Enter the giveaway below to win a set of of the first 4 books from The 13 Gothic Memoirs by Rebekah Armusik in paperback, personalized by Rebekah – the giveaway is international!