Friday, July 20, 2012

Interview with Lee Rudnicki Author of My Immortal: the Vampires of Berlin

My Immortal The Vampires of Berlin
By Lee Rudnicki

Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  23 House
Date of Publication:  March 9, 2012

ISBN-10: 0984645810
ISBN-13: 978-0984645817

Number of pages: 306
Word Count:  56,000


Blurb/Book Description: 

A supernatural adventure set in present day and 1945 Berlin. Our heroine is Eva, a shell-shocked young vampire who is found wandering around in the ruins of Berlin Cathedral on the last day of the war by soldiers.

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Author Bio:

Lee Rudnicki is an entertainment lawyer, producer, and writer in Los Angeles. Lee has a law degree from the University of San Francisco, a music degree from San Jose State, a Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA and studied international law at Trinity College, Ireland and Charles University, Prague. Before law school, Lee was a world-class rudimental drummer and drum corps instructor.

Lets get to Know Today's Guest Author on a More Personal Level

Hi Lee.  Welcome to The Seraphine Muse. 

Hi there.  Thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m excited to tell you a little bit about my novel, and the journey of how it came to be.

What is My Immortal about?

It’s a supernatural action adventure, set in present day Berlin and also on the last day of World War II. Structurally, the book is like Titanic; the present day scenes serve as bookends to a tale from the past.  The 1945 adventure begins in Berlin Cathedral, where the sole survivors of a German tank crew find a dazed young girl wandering around in the ruins.
I should say one thing up front. My Immortal is not a teen vampire romance, or anything even close to that genre. The book contains intense depictions of supernatural violence and adult language.  This is not a book for kids or the faint of heart. Reader discretion advised.

What inspired you to write My Immortal?

Writing My Immortal wasn’t really a product of inspiration, I think of it as more the mysterious journey of a novel that brought itself to life. The creative process was backwards, if not accidental, and broke every rule there is about writing a novel along the way. I never intended to be a novelist, but at the end of the day, it has been an amazing journey. I highly recommend it.

How did the novel come about?

A few years ago, I was in the UCLA professional screenwriting program.  Day 1 or so, Professor Hal Ackerman told us to get out a notebook. “Write down the main characters and first 15 scenes of your movie. Ready go.” Hal was teaching a fast and furious writing technique he calls “snowplowing.”
I was stunned.  Movie? I had no idea what to write. I didn't even know where to start, in fact. That didn't matter, we were off to the races, and everyone else was writing.  Ready go. Seven seconds of panic later, I brainstormed scene #1 … German soldiers stuck in a church as the Russians closed in. You see, I had just finished a book by Anthony Beevor about the Battle of Berlin (history buff), so this made perfect sense at the time.  Or so I thought.

Then came more panic. I had just chosen two German soldiers in WWII as the protagonists, aka typically the most evil and vile characters in any war movie since 1939.  Possibly the worst choice I could have made.  Unfortunately, Hal didn't give us time to change anything.  Ready go. It was time to write the inciting incident. Ready go. Oh brother. Inciting incident?? Ummm.  They find a young shell-shocked girl wandering the ruins. She’s a vampire.  Then ..  

Once I got past the panic, the supernatural element came into play and I figured out how to make the protagonists work. The screenplay took on a life of its own, and then won the best screenplay award at the Terror Film Festival, the first contest it was ever entered into.

I was feeling great about my vampire project, but months later the reality of getting a World War II screenplay read in Hollywood set in. Frankly, sight unseen, My Immortal was viewed as just another expensive period piece.  In fact, the first literary manager and agent I spoke to about the script literally laughed in my face when I said “World War II.”  Even though My Immortal was different than anything I had ever read or seen in the genre, there was a wacky barrier to entry based solely on the time period, and people were not reading it. 

Plan B. I had to find a way to introduce the concept of the film to people that did not involve putting it under a stack of 700 scripts and hoping for the best. 

Long story short, I decided to write the novel. Frankly, the reality took longer and was far more difficult than the theory.  In fact, I would never had started had I known how [bleep] hard it was going to be. 
You see, in a screenplay, you can write, “Character A enters room.”  And then you're done as the writer for that scene.  With a novel, you’re not done. You didn't even start. You have to describe the room, what the character is sensing or feeling, what he/she is wearing etc. It's a completely different game, moreso than I expected.

The good news is that writing the novel transformed the My Immortal story (and screenplay) into something much better, more vibrant and dynamic, and writing a novel turned out to be a fantastic creative experience, albeit a grind when it came time to edit.

So, as the story goes, last year, I self-published My Immortal: The Vampires of Berlin.  It sold well, and I was lucky enough to get a book signing at the horror bookstore Dark Delicacies, paired with famous author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.  

Kaboom. Lightening struck in Burbank that day.  Entertainment Weekly Magazine surveyed Dark Delicacies, and ranked My Immortal #3 for best selling horror fiction in their April 11, 2011 issue. Shortly thereafter, I signed with 23 House, the one publisher that really understood the creative direction of the project.

And here we are.  The book is out, the movie is in development.

Do you have a specific writing style?

For My Immortal, I do. My writing style in this book features short, fast-paced machine gun chapters with relentless action, adventure and violence.  My friends, I don't want to bog you down with hundreds of pages of character development and inner thoughts, that’s not what this story is about.  I want you to follow Sebastian and Eva down the tunnel and go on the literary adventure of your life.  This is not your typical book, and it is not written like your typical book.  When you’re done reading it, I don't want you to feel like you just read a great book.  I want you to feel like you survived.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Even though it was only for one book signing on one day, I’m going to mention the time I spent with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro again.  I learned a ton in only a few hours from her.  She has been around a long time, and has written and sold more books than most of us will ever read.

What are your current projects?

Book-wise, I’m working on the sequel to My Immortal, which is set in Japan. I also recently published Tale of a Drum Line, which is about a drum corps I taught, the Santa Clara Vanguard.  My final literary project right now is Tales of Man, a horror anthology by the author Patrick Christian that I’m producing.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Eleven Arts

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

In the horror genre, it’s Dean Koontz.  He has an incredible volume of work, and has been around for awhile, but his books never feel formulaic or dated to me.  His writing is consistently great, and he has a few surprises in every story.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book?

Before writing My Immortal, I travelled to Berlin and Prague to research the story and retrace the steps of Sebastian, Wolf and Eva as they escaped from Berlin. 

I wanted to make sure the historical context was accurate, and that the scenes I was writing in Berlin and Prague correctly captured the essence of each city.  It took a ton of time, travel and research, but the My Immortal story fits within the historical framework of the war.  It could have happened. Maybe it did.

Do you have a song that you'd consider the theme for your novel?

We released the first song from the My Immortal soundtrack on iTunes, As The Blood Flows, buy the San Francisco band Trip Device.  That song actually contains dialogue from the novel, performed by a vampire.  True story.

Can you give us an excerpt?

Eva sat on the riverbank as the sounds of battle resounded in the distance. She didn’t say anything when Sebastian sat down next to her. Nor did he expect her to.
Guten Abend,” he said. “Not the best time for a picnic on the riverbank, is it?”
Eva didn’t respond.
Sebastian didn’t believe in vampires until he met one. Until one bit him. Now, the sight of blood excited him and his strength was growing by the hour. He knew what the other men only suspected. Eva was a vampire and he was turning into one himself. He also instinctively knew that their survival depended on Eva, for reasons known only to God—assuming that God was still in Berlin. Somehow, he needed to get through to her. He tried again.
“Eva. Do you understand me? Do you know where you are? Please, talk to me.”
If Eva heard him, she didn’t show it. Opening the lines of communication with the young vampire was going to be far more difficult than Sebastian had anticipated. Discouraged, he turned her towards him. “Look at me. That Luftwaffe pilot over there…”
Axel,” Eva said softly.
“Yes. Axel is about to die from burns he got when a vampire torched his face. He got hurt saving you.”
Eva blinked hard and then pointed to the sky. “It’s in the stars, Sebastian.”
Sebastian looked up. There were no stars, only a dark gloom lit by the flash of sporadic explosions. Before he could ask another question, an artillery shell exploded in the river. The freezing water that cascaded over them brought him crashing back to reality.
Sebastian got up and took Eva’s hand. It was time to go…

Thank you Mr. Rudnicki for taking time to stop by and visit with the Seraphine Muse. We'd like to welcome you back anytime you're in the area.

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