She has taught literature and composition courses at various colleges but presently works as a part-time proofreader for the Maryland General Assembly. (Sic transit gloria!)
She has published several works on vampirism in literature. Her stories have appeared in several of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthologies, and her "Voice from the Void" appears in THE TIME OF THE VAMPIRES, edited by P. N. Elrod and Martin Greenberg. Each January (from 1990 on) Carter produces a vampire fiction bibliography update. Carter also edits a semiannual fanzine of fiction and reviews, The Vampire's Crypt.
Welcome to our Vampire author spotlight of Margaret L. Carter and her work.
Below is an interview I had with Margaret L. Carter on AOL Instant Messenger. You will be able to read about her and get to know a little about her through this interview. At the bottom of the page you will find a copy of the cover of one of her books and a list of all her books published and soon to be published. Click the title to find a review of that book. Below you can also read a few quote written about Margaret's books.
CarolCastellanos: Hi, how are you?
CarolCastellanos: What genres do you write?
MLCVamp I write fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance.
CarolCastellanos: When will your next book be released?
MLCVamp My "horror" often uses SF premises, such as the idea that vampires are another species, or lycanthropy is inherited genetically by predictable rules.
MLCVamp Mid-2001 -- SEALED IN BLOOD, from Dark Star Publications, is the one I know for sure. It's a light romantic suspense vampire novel.
MLCVamp Also, Nocturnis Publications, a small press in Massachusetts, is supposed to be releasing a collection of my stories before the end of 2000, but I don't have anything firm about that yet. We still need to come up with a title, in fact!
CarolCastellanos: Is there anyone who helped you get your start?
MLCVamp It will contain a selection of my paranormal romantic and erotic short stories, mostly reprint, with one original story and one original vampire romance novella.
CarolCastellanos: That sounds great.
MLCVamp Well, my first publications, other than 2 paperback horror fiction anthologies I edited in the early 1970s, were all lit-crit pieces on the supernatural in literature, especially vampires.
MLCVamp I had encouragement and some help in getting published (an introduction to an edition of VARNEY THE VAMPYRE that I wrote) from Dr. Devendra P. Varma, one of the great 20th-century scholars of Gothic fiction.
MLCVamp Varma edited this edition of VARNEY and invited me to write a preface.
MLCVamp As far as fiction is concerned, the single person I owe the most to would be Marion Zimmer Bradley, for accepting my first professionally published short story and thereby encouraging me to believe I could really accomplish something as a fiction writer.
CarolCastellanos: What authors do you read?
MLCVamp And my ambition, all along, was to become a novelist, though I do enjoy the lit-crit stuff. Like (I suspect) many Ph.Ds in English, I started as a frustrated novelist -- wanting to get paid for reading!
MLCVamp Bradley, Stephen King, Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters,
CarolCastellanos: When did you get started writing?
MLCVamp Mercedes Lackey, Dean Koontz, the Harry Potter series --"classic" favorites include C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle.
MLCVamp More -- P. N. Elrod, Laurell K. Hamilton, Suzy McKee Charnas, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro -- I have lots of "can't miss" authors.
MLCVamp I started at age 12.
MLCVamp I wrote a couple of little skits, a few pages long, about an alien visiting Earth.
CarolCastellanos: I like a lot of those authors too. I love P.N. Elrod's Jonathan Barrett series.
MLCVamp At age 13 I really got going, with ghost stories and my first vampire story, which was over 30 single-spaced typed pages and was told in the first person by a man who was being changed into a vampire and didn't realize it.
CarolCastellanos: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years.
MLCVamp I was inspired by DRACULA (which I read at 12) to get interested in the whole field of fantasy, horror, and SF.
MLCVamp In 10 years I hope I will have quit my part-time day job so I'll never have to get up early again (except for church on Sunday)!
CarolCastellanos: I think I feel in love with vampires between Dark Shadows, Christopher Lee and Jack Palance.
MLCVamp Seriously, in order to accomplish that goal -- so I can stay home with my husband (who will be retired well before then) and have time to write a lot more -- I would like to see myself getting at least one novel published per year.
MLCVamp I fell in love with vampires through print fiction first, but my favorite on the screen was Christopher Lee -- until Frank Langella came along. I thought Lee was absolutely ravishing.
CarolCastellanos: Well I was like 5 or 6 when I saw my first vampire so couldn't read them yet. Wasn't he? For some reason I just loved Jack Palance's Dracula
MLCVamp Fortunately, with a husband soon to be retiring as a Navy Captain, I don't have to LIVE on my writing. My goal is to achieve a nice little second income for us, so that I can devote my time to writing with a clear conscience.
MLCVamp I never saw a vampire movie until I was well into my 20s. (I did get to watch the TV Shock Theater now and then as a teenager, but somehow the vampire films were never shown when I was able to catch them.)
CarolCastellanos: I used to beg to stay up and watch the horror movies. That is one thing mom did do. As long as I didn't have nightmares. I had them anyway but not related to the movies.
MLCVamp I consider myself lucky to have acquired a firm grounding in the classic 19th-century and early pulp-era written works before I ever saw any great number of movies. And of course up to the time I got married (1966) there were no TV shows.
MLCVamp Hardly any, anyway. I think THE ADDAMS FAMILY and THE MUNSTERS appeared shortly before then.
CarolCastellanos: Well I started reading when I got old enough. I read a lot as I got old enough to read.
CarolCastellanos: Do you pattern your characters after anyone special?
MLCVamp I got DRACULA and a few anthologies of classic stories from the local public library. I started buying paperbacks (which were just becoming prevalent then) -- what little I could afford -- as a teenager – the early Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, and Theodore Sturgeon, plus H. P. Lovecraft, were the authors I adored.
CarolCastellanos: Do you feel that as an e-book author you have more creative freedom?
MLCVamp More often than not, they are inspired by characters in the books I enjoy. I read something that excites me and think, "I'd like to write something like that," and characters of my own who fit into that kind of "world" gradually come to me.
MLCVamp Oh, yes, for sure. It was a great thrill to receive the bound proofs or DARK CHANGELING and realize the editor had not proposed changing a single thing! And this is a very long novel with a rather odd structure. SEALED IN BLOOD, the novel that was just accepted by Dark Star, was rejected by several print publishers (years ago), and a couple of them said the writing was good but they were uneasy about cross-genre.
MLCVamp I never thought of it as cross-genre, but as urban fantasy -- fitting into the same category as "The Compleat Werewolf" by Anthony Boucher and CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT by Mercedes Lackey.
MLCVamp But to the print publishers, it was a mixture. Dark Star, OTOH, thought it was fresh and original, which was nice to hear!
CarolCastellanos: Do you feel there is any prejudices you face as an e-book author?
MLCVamp I don't know about prejudices, but I do notice that awareness of e-books is still limited to a small proportion of the reading public. Most people have heard of Stephen King's experiments with the form, but otherwise they have no idea what e-books are.
MLCVamp I can't give a fair answer as to whether being e-published stigmatizes me in any way, because I had 7 traditional print books published previously, plus a selection of stories and articles.
CarolCastellanos: How do the sales compare from the print to the e-books
MLCVamp My own impression is that most people are more unaware of the field than biased against it.
MLCVamp E-books have much lower sales so far (except for a few authors who are very well known); however, sales figures go up every quarter, and I have faith that as the field grows, sales will catch up. And royalty rates (percentages) are MUCH higher in e-pubbing.
MLCVamp One thing I hear from people when I tell them about e-books is that they don't like the idea of reading a whole novel on a computer screen.
CarolCastellanos: Do you plan to stay and e-book author or go back to paper print?
MLCVamp That should be less of a problem with the youngest generation, who are used to spending whole days staring at a screen anyway, for both work and recreation. Also, when the e-book readers such as Rocket become as cheap and plentiful as cell phones, --
MLCVamp -- Readers will realize they are as easy and pleasant to read as a regular paperback, and they'll catch on.
MLCVamp I would like to do both. Print and e-book publications reach different (although overlapping) markets. The ideal would be to have books available in both electronic and print formats, to reach all readers' tastes.
MLCVamp Hard Shell Word Factory is inaugurating Print on Demand, so that DARK CHANGELING will soon also be available as a trade paperback. And Dark Star is going to put all its books in POD format as well as electronic format.
CarolCastellanos: Print on Demand does seem to be the way things are going.
CarolCastellanos: Do you ever see yourself not writing?
MLCVamp I would still like to sell to mass market publishers, because "regular" paperbacks reach larger numbers of readers, esp. those impulse buyers browsing in bookstores. And print publishers pay substantial advances, whereas most e-publishers pay no advances.
MLCVamp OTOH, there are many advantages to e-publishers, such as higher royalties, getting paid once a quarter without having to wait to earn out advances, and getting personal attention from the editor.
MLCVamp No, I can't see myself ever not writing. If I knew for sure I would never sell another thing for money, I would write for fun and self-publish on the Web (which is becoming easier now than ever before). However, I would exhaust every possible paying market before self-publishing.
CarolCastellanos: So you feel you get a better quality of treatment from e-publishers?
MLCVamp Except in special circumstances, such as the piece being something that has an appeal to a very small niche market.
MLCVamp Oh, yes, in general I would say e-publishers give authors a degree of personal attention and consideration unheard of in mass market publishing. I even got to make cover suggestions and write my own blurb.
MLCVamp Some small press editors are equally considerate of the author, but I have never heard of one that invites so much direct participation from the author.
MLCVamp Design Image Group, which published my werewolf novel, SHADOW OF THE BEAST (trade paperback, 1998), is wonderful about communicating with authors and keeping them informed. They even asked my opinion about the cover. But e-publishers are even more "hands on" with the author.
CarolCastellanos: Thanks. I really appreciate you coming.
MLCVamp I always like to mention that my recurring theme in my fiction is the Ugly Duckling motif, which I think of as the primary personal monomyth for fantasy and SF fans (and writers).
MLCVamp I noticed after a while that I write this story over and over, probably because (like many fans) I felt like an alien in the world as a child. So I write about characters who discover their true origins and find that their "flaws" are actually signs of their special, hidden talents.
CarolCastellanos: Alot of readers do like those themes also.
MLCVamp "I'm really an elven changeling" or "I'm really an alien, and my people will come and get me someday" -- James Tiptree has a terribly poignant story on that theme called "Beam Us Home."
MLCVamp So DARK CHANGELING is about a man discovering he is really a vampire, and SHADOW OF THE BEAST is about a young woman discovering she's a werewolf.
CarolCastellanos: Which gives them an understanding of who and what they are?
MLCVamp Exactly. They thought they were "weird" or handicapped by these flaws, but when they learn about their true selves and learn to use these special traits properly, they find fulfillment.
CarolCastellanos: Sense of belonging?
MLCVamp Always ethically -- I like to write about "good" vampires and werewolves. Roger Darvell, the vampire psychiatrist, is a practicing Catholic. Yes, they find a sense of belonging; they come to understand why they felt like misfits, and now they know who their true "people" are.
MLCVamp At the same time, it isn't necessarily simple, because the people they've discovered might not have the same ethical standards they (the protagonists) have. They have to work through the conflicts between their old and new ways of seeing the world.
CarolCastellanos: A sort of have to give a little to get a little?
MLCVamp Sort of. For instance, Roger looks at issues as BOTH a vampire and a human being. On some things, being a vampire gives him a fresh perspective, but on some vital issues, he finds the vampire world-view unacceptable (for instance, their belief that human beings are inferior).
CarolCastellanos: How did you come to meet Jacqueline Lichtenberg?
MLCVamp I heard about the Kraith series somewhere and wrote to her (I don't remember how I got her address) and asked her how I could get some of the Kraith stories. It was a long time after that before I met her, though.
MLCVamp I'm pretty sure I actually met her first at a Darkover con.
MLCVamp I first heard of her when I was at an event in Los Angeles in the early 70s and happened to turn on a local TV talk show where she was promoting HOUSE OF ZEOR. She said it would appeal to people who liked Star Trek and vampires.
CarolCastellanos: Cool. How do your vampires compare to hers? Are there any similarities?
MLCVamp I thought, oh, boy, my kind of book! I was enthralled by the novel and eagerly read all the other books in the series when they came out. Originally I saw the Sime~Gen universe as an example of a sort of symbiotic vampirism, and that's still its main appeal to me.
MLCVamp Oh, and I went to a writers' workshop where she was one of the instructors. I can't remember whether that was before or after I had met her at Darkover -- probably before, come to think of it. Her writing instruction is extremely helpful -- she gets right down to the essentials and gives no quarter!
MLCVamp My vampires, as they developed over the years, acquired some influences from Sime~Gen -- mainly, I see the "intended" relationship between vampires and ephemerals (us) as being symbiotic; the predator-victim pattern is second-best, a natural relationship gone wrong (like killing in the S~G universe).
CarolCastellanos: I must say you have given me a great interview. Thanks so much.
MLCVamp The ideal situation for my vampires is to have a single human donor they are bonded with, in a strong relationship based on friendship or erotic love (usually the latter), like Companions and Channels. (They don't need much human blood, so there is no health danger -- they drink a lot of animal blood.)
MLCVamp Thank YOU.
CarolCastellanos: The interview will be one of my best. It's really great.
MLCVamp Thanks, that's very kind.
CarolCastellanos: It's true.
MLCVamp Bye then.
CarolCastellanos: I do thank you for coming.
Margaret L. Carter titles:
CURSE OF THE UNDEAD paperback anthology
DEMON LOVERS AND STRANGE SEDUCTIONS paperback anthology
SHADOW OF A SHADE: A SURVEY OF VAMPIRISM IN LITERATURE
DRACULA: THE VAMPIRE AND THE CRITICS anthology
THE VAMPIRE IN LITERATURE: A CRITICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY.
SHADOW OF THE BEAST
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