For all the Twi-hards in town, "Eclipse" is less than a week away. But for those who don't think vampires can have a heart of gold or should woo teenagers, Christopher Farnsworth has something different for you. The Los Angeles screenwriter will be signing copies of his vampire tale "Blood Oath," at Russo's Books on Saturday.
Farnsworth's first novel, which has been described as "24" with vampires, follows the adventures of Nathaniel Cade, the "president's vampire," who, much like Jack Bauer, operates using any means necessary to protect the United States, along with the help of his new handler, Zach Barrows.
Although it has only been out a month, the book has generated quite a buzz, especially locally. Russo's Books manager Jason Frost read an advance copy and says he "was smitten like a teeny-bopper is with Justin Bieber."
He convinced Farnsworth to include Bakersfield at the end of his cross-country book tour.
In advance of his visit Saturday, Farnsworth answered a few questions about vampires, his book and Bakersfield.
Vampires are everywhere right now -- movies, books, TV -- and although you've said you don't like vampires, is there anything vampire-related out in pop culture now that you've thought was inventive or interesting?
While I don't like vampires -- the first nightmare I ever had was about a vampire and they still scare me -- I'm still fascinated by them, and always looking for new twists on the genre. I love the Joe Pitt books by Charlie Huston, which looks at vamps through the lens of a crime novel. I've just started "The Passage" by Justin Cronin, and I'm fascinated by both his elegant writing and the idea of a vampire-themed apocalypse. I love the HBO series "True Blood," which just gets better with each episode. And I'm reading "American Vampire," a comic-book series by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, which has the intriguing concept of a unique strain of home-grown vampirism.
So you've admitted you're scared of vampires and that yours, Cade, should never be thought of as "the good guy." Why do you think other current tales have tried to make vampires more warm and fuzzy?
We're scared of so much in the world right now that I think we find it comforting to have monsters on our side. It's hard enough dealing with the thought of terrorism, biological weapons, swine flu, and rogue nuclear states. We need to tame our fears in order to get through the day.
Have you been to Bakersfield before? If so, why?
Aside from one memorable traffic stop -- for the record, they found nothing when they searched the car -- I've never been to Bakersfield. But that's changing now that I've connected with Russo's Books. Most of my sales have come from independent booksellers, and it's because of stores like Russo's and booksellers like Jason Frost. He got in touch with me as soon as he read the advance copy and showed an almost bloodthirsty zeal for the novel. Faced with that kind of response, I had to visit.
Do you have any local plans before or after the signing?
I'm going to buy Jason the biggest steak he can consume. Suggestions for a good steakhouse are always welcome.
You say it's key for aspiring writers to get out and "get a life." With an eye on Bakersfield, what would you recommend they go out and do?
Pretty much anything. Any experience can become grist for the mill of writing, but the first and most important thing to do is to get out the door and experience it.
The Internet makes it easier than ever for writers to stay inside at recess and avoid the playground, and I'm as guilty of that as anyone. But it can also give you good ideas for a place you've never been -- like Bakersfield, say. I had no idea there was a stealth fighter that crashed near town in the 1980s. (Or maybe that's just the cover story.) Or that the whole town is apparently haunted. Or that Ronald Reagan saw a UFO in the sky there. (All according to online reports.)
Every place has a story. You've just got to find it.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished "This Will Kill You," which is a compendium of all the ways human beings can die, and "The Ark," by Boyd Morrison, which is a thriller about an engineer who gets entangled in a conspiracy surrounding Noah's Ark. Next up is "Stories," edited by Neil Gaiman, and "The Whisperers" by John Connolly.
Random question: Would you rather be a zombie or a vampire?
Vampire. No contest. Zombies are brain-dead, shuffling, decaying, mindless consumers. There's nothing at all attractive about that. Whereas, vampires have almost no downside any more.
You mention among your inspirations many in the comic book/graphic novel world. Have you considered an illustrated version of "Blood Oath" or future tales?
I hope to do something with one of the comic companies, and I'm talking to them. As a kid, I wanted to grow up to write comics. I've been a reporter, screenwriter and now novelist. It's been a long way around, but I'm getting closer.
We're the last stop on this tour, and we're honored. Is it because we're so close to home or is there a more exciting reason?
It's because Bakersfield is close to home and because of Jason at Russo's. I'll go almost anywhere they'll have me, but he made me feel like Bakersfield would really welcome me.
You wrote this during the writers strike, when you couldn't write it as a script. Now that's it's completed, what are you plans to take it to the big screen?
The novel and the second book in the series have actually been optioned for film by Lucas Foster, who produced "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "Law-Abiding Citizen," among many others. I like Lucas, and I think he's going to turn it into a great movie. It's still very early, but I'm really looking forward to it. (Farnsworth has said he'd be interested in Christian Bale as Cade and Justin Long as Zach.)
You're working on a follow-up now. Are you envisioning this to be a long-running series? What is your favorite book series?
I've got ideas for the first 10 books pretty well fleshed out. After that, I have scraps of paper with some random notes. So we'll see how far I can get.
As for my favorite series, John Sandford's "Prey" books still manage to knock it out of the park regularly. I hope to have as long and productive a run as his.
Is the second book your next big project or is there something else in the works?
The second book in the series, "Black Site," is taking up all my time right now. After that, I need to get to work on book number three. I'm on a pretty tight schedule. But I'm lucky in that I really enjoy playing around in this world. I have a lot of fun with these stories, and I can see living with these characters -- so to speak -- for a long, long time.