An Interview With A Vampire Guy – Rich Davis

My Interview with RICH DAVIS!

I know you are a very busy man.  The fact it is the holiday season only adds to an already hectic schedule – thank you so much for taking time to allow me to introduce you to my readers.  It is a pleasure!

  • I always kick off my interviews with the same question.  Therefore, please tell us how you’d describe yourself?

“I’m just a kid from a small town in Middle Tennessee who worked hard and got really, really lucky! Seriously, there’s nothing special about me. It’s insane to me that so many people all over the world are reading my comics. People treat me like I’m something special, but it wasn’t so long ago that I was just a nerdy kid geeking out at comi-con just like them.”

  • I’d like to take a moment to share who you are.  You have done some amazing things in your life.  You’ve booked concerts and worked on presidential campaigns, as well as been an actor (including forming a performing arts theatre), radio personality, and film producer.  In addition, you are a writer – both a screenwriter and now, of comic books.  There are a lot of questions 😊
    • I don’t care about politics, and I prefer to avoid a political discussion, but I’d love to know what you did for the campaigns you worked on.  Were you a writer?
      • I’ll leave the candidate names out so as not to pull this into a political discussion. I agree that there’s a time and a place for politics, but it doesn’t need to consume every aspect of our lives.
      • On my first campaign, I served as campus coordinator. I was responsible for community outreach on campus. The second campaign I held the paid position of volunteer coordinator. I recruited volunteers, organized them at events and made sure they always knew what they needed to do. When that candidate lost in the primary, I took the same position with the opposing campaign.
        • How do you feel this experience benefited you as a writer, if at all?
          • It opened my eyes to a whole new world. Observing a campaign from the outside is interesting enough. Being sort of on the inside…I was NOT high up or anything…but seeing it from that perspective was really interesting. I think it has definitely informed the way I write the political intrigue in Rise of Dracula.
    • Clearly, you have a knack for coordinating and organizing projects with your background.  How did this help when it came to transitioning to the publishing world?
      • What similarities are there between working on a theatrical or film production and bringing a comic book to life?
      • The artist and the writer often get the lion’s share of the credit for a comic book. But there are so many more people who work just as hard to bring these things to life.
      • My background as a producer has really helped me get this comic off the ground. I’ve had lots of practice pulling creative people together to do creative things. It’s taught me to trust those people to do what needs to be done. I don’t micromanage. I don’t need to. I work with professionals who are always on their “A” game. We work together to create the best book that we can.
        • What about the writing – what challenges did you face changing gears from screenwriting to the medium of comics? Did you have aspects that made the transition easier than you expected it to be?  If so, what, and how?
          • Writing for the stage is dramatically different from writing for the camera…but…writing for the camera is VERY similar to writing for the page. In a play script, there’s a lot more telling than showing. You’re limited to what you can actually do on stage. You don’t have nearly as much flexibility. You have to be very creative with staging. You might need one set piece to transform into ten different scenes. Or you may not have a set at all.
          • With comics, as with film, it’s show rather than tell. Nobody wants to watch a movie or read a comic that tells us about a bad ass battle between super gods. They want to see it! So whether you’re writing a screenplay or a comic script, you’re writing in pictures.
          • In film, you’re writing for the director of photography. In comics, you’re writing for the artist. In those mediums, the work I do as a writer kind of takes a backseat. The audience will never see most of the details, research references, etc… that I put into the script. Dialogue and exposition take a backseat to the art most of the time.
    • Have you written a lot for your radio shows?  How do you feel this has aided in developing you as a writer, if at all?
      • I was a talk radio host. I wrote a little monologue to use at the start of each show, but it was more conversation driven.
    • I tend to see the story play in my mind when I write.  With a background in theatre, I often verbally act out the story to get a feel for the flow, as well.  How do you write?  Does your experience as a film producer and actor influence the way you approach writing projects?  If so, how?
      • Believe it or not, I’m not a visual thinker. I don’t see those vivid, detailed images in my head like Puis does. I think in words and rhythms. I’ve never had any musical talents, but I like to think that there’s a music to my writing. Each character has their own cadence. Their own beat. Thinking of it like that helps my dialogue to develop naturally.
      • Being an actor/director/producer has been probably my best ace in the hole. It’s given me an understanding of how to develop a character with complexity and depth. They had lives before they stepped onto the page and those lives have great influence over what they do and why they do it in the comic. I like to think that my characters feel like real people. I like to think their dialogue could be taken from any number of real conversations with real people.
  • I’d like to learn more about your muses.  Obviously, Bram Stoker is a HUGE influence on you.  I’d like to explore this more, if we may.
    • What inspires you most about Bram Stoker and his writing style?
      • Stoker was ballsy as hell! In a time when dissidence wasn’t encouraged and in a nation without the guarantee of free speech, he ripped the aristocracy apart with Dracula. He put the hypocrisy of high society condemning “immoral lifestyles” in the houses of parliament while dressing up in drag and engaging in debauchery at Molly Houses by night. He rebuked the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for being a homosexual. I love his courage during a time when there was danger in being courageous.
        • When did you first fall I love with Dracula, and what made it so powerful for you?
          • It wasn’t the first time I met the character, but I believe the 1992 Coppola film Bram Stoker’s Dracula is where I fell under the vampire lord’s spell. It was such a daring film. The pomp and bravado in the presentation. Coppola wasn’t afraid of anything. He took risks. He did things people said couldn’t be done. His cast went with it whole hog. Brilliantly bombastic performances by Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman. Sadie Frost deserves so much more credit for Lucy than she ever receives. Tom Waits as Renfield.  Monica Bellucci in an easily overlooked role as one of the brides.
          • That film was the first time I really saw what was possible with visual storytelling. I think that film and Pulp Fiction have had the greatest influences on me as a writer. I would never put myself on Coppola’s or Tarantino’s level, but they certainly inspired me.
        • Do you read dark fiction with a sense of “good and bad,” or do you see the creatures/characters more in terms of survival?  I mean, a vampire must drink blood to live.  That, in itself, isn’t evil, or bad.  However, one doesn’t need to kill to acquire the blood, either.  Do you see what I mean?
          • No one is the villain in their own story. Snidley Whiplash isn’t a relevant character today. He’s a caricature. I think audiences today respond to more complex characters that walk in the grey areas of life.
          • When I approach the characters in Cult of Dracula and Rise of Dracula, with a clean slate. Some of them are going to do some very bad things. Rise of Dracula begins with the genocide of Washington DC. Even still, I don’t present Dracula, the Ordo Dracul or the vampires as villains. The Templar Hunters aren’t “the good guys”. Each has their own agenda. They make choices and they deal with the consequences of those choices. Just like in real life. Everything needs context.
            • Do you prefer characters that are darker in nature, one’s who would rather kill to acquire the blood they desire?  Why, or why not?
              • I am drawn to the darker sides of my characters.
              • Something that often gets missed in Jekyll & Hyde, for example, is that Dr. Jekyll actually enjoyed being Mr. Hide. He leaned into his darker self. He didn’t hide it. He embraced it. That’s always been interesting to me.
              • The Joker has a great line in The Killing Joke about Batman being one bad day away from being him. I adore that complexity and that synergy between them. Yin and Yang. Duality. These concepts have been around since the dawn of literature.
            • What makes a character interesting for you?
              • Depth and complex relationships with other characters. Littlefinger from Game of Thrones is a great example. He’s so complex. Aiden Gillen gives such a deep performance. Shifting alliances. Complex/difficult choices. Inner and outer turmoil. That’s way more interesting to me than claw hand guy beating up beast dude for 20 pages.
    • I am curious about the people who touched you as a reader and encouraged you as a writer:
      • Which author(s) helped to develop your taste in reading and writing?  What impressed you about them?  Was there anything they did that you tried to emulate, and why?
        • Anne Rice had a profound influence on me. Stephen King as well.
        • Anne Rice taught me a lot about moral ambiguity in my characters. She made me question whether our morals and taboos were based on relevance or just a bigoted need to control others.
        • Stephen King taught me what it means to write what you know. When you share a story, no matter how fantastical, rooted in your own experiences, it will ring more true than when you’re just talking out of your ass.
        • It’s not popular to say right now, but Joss Whedon inspired the way I write dialogue and create characters. Quentin Tarantino too. They both have a music to their writing. I strive to emulate that.
      • What book(s) have you read that stayed with you?  Were there any titles that made a lasting impression on you?  What was special about them?
    • Is it safe to say that horror is your favorite genre, and if so, what do you enjoy most about it?
      • I LOVE horror. I love how it forces us to confront our darkest thoughts and our most uninhibited selves. What could a human being do to another human being if no one was watching and no one would know who did it? Horror explores what our dark passengers are capable of. It’s enlightening.
  • I’d like to discuss the CULT OF DRACULA series.  This is your debut into comic books, which you funded yourself.  If that doesn’t scream “story,” I don’t know what does!
    • In your opinion, what’s the difference between comics and graphic novels?
      • In my opinion, the only difference is the number of pages. A graphic novel, to me, is just the story from a comic series collected into one book. I don’t quibble over academic/technical definitions.
    • What made you decide to pursue this medium?
      • What made this medium the best format for telling your stories?
        • It was honestly an act of desperation. My wife had become very ill with a chronic condition that ultimately claimed her life. I’d actually given up on Cult of Dracula. My original intention was to develop it as a screenplay and produce it as a low budget film. When Amber was diagnosed, I quickly realized that I couldn’t invest the time, energy and resources necessary to make a movie. Amber convinced me to change gears and rework the story into a comic book. She was right! As always.
      • What appealed to you most about comics versus novels or short stories?
        • I’ve tried to write novels. I struggle to find the characters’ voices in that medium. My writing in that style always seems stilted to me.
    • How did you decide to self-fund your work – what made this necessary?
      • I’ve never been a person content to wait for someone to open a door for me. I’d rather kick it down myself.
      • There are ten thousand people pitching ten thousand ideas to publishers every single day. “I have this amazing idea. Give me money to do it.” That’s the mentality some people have. Ideas are cheap. Show me a product. Nothing is free. There are no handouts. Nobody cares about what you want to do. You have to invest in yourself. Show me what you CAN do.
      • If you’re not willing to risk your own money to bring your great idea to market, why should a publisher risk theirs? Plus, doing it on my own gave me the freedom to tell the story I wanted to tell the way I wanted to tell it. I think that’s what made me attractive to Source Point Press.
    • What is the process like to create a graphic novel/comic book?  There are so many aspects to coordinate.  It’s more than just writing the story.  How do you go from concept to publication?
      • I’ve learned that there is no “right” way to create a comic. There are lots of ways that get the same result. You have to find the one that works for you. I begin by drafting an outline of the base story. This is where we start. This is where we need to go. We need to visit these places along the way. Then the characters get involved. Someone needs to stop to pee so we take a detour to find a rest stop. Of course, something crazy happens there. That’s how the story is born. I talk to the characters. I listen to where they want to go and what they want to do and I try to put that down on paper in a way that makes sense to Puis.
      • Puis and I have to have a synergy. We have to be drift compatible. It just doesn’t work if we’re not seeing the same thing.
      • Then the colorist and the letterer get involved. Alex sets the tone with her lovely palette. Dave puts the music in the character voices by the way he arranges the text.
      • I deal with some sensitive concepts…religion, politics, different cultures or interest groups… I hired a cultural consultant to advise me on how to share the impressions certain cultural ideas have made on me and how they influence the story without appropriation. It’s a difficult task, but I think it’s necessary. Tokens, stereotypes and refrigerators don’t belong in the world of modern comics. I try my absolute best to avoid them.
    • I read that Sure Pictures has opted to bring Cult of Dracula to film – congratulations!  Can you tell us more about this amazing venture?  When can we expect to see this come to fruition?
      • Developing a film project is a very long process. We’re probably looking at 2023 at the very earliest. We have some very good people attached to the project. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how things continue to develop.
  • What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?

I have several projects coming down the pike. Rise of Dracula is the six issue sequel to Cult of Dracula. I realized about midway through writing Rise that I couldn’t tell this story in just six issues. We’ve decided to extend the saga to four volumes from the previously announced three. There are some others that haven’t been announced just yet.

  • What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and your books?
    • We’re very active on social media. You can follow on Facebook and Instagram @cultofdraculacomic

Again, thank you for sharing your time with me and my readers.  Happy holidays and may you continue to have great success!

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