JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag. With me today are Clay and Susan Griffith, the authors of the “Vampire Empire Steampunk” series, available in audio from Buzzy Multimedia, and the new “Crown and Key” series of three novels, all released in the summer of 2015. Hello, folks and welcome.
Clay Griffith: Thank you.
Susan Griffith: Great to be here.
JMW: Great to have you. Three books released in three months. How did that happen?
Clay Griffith: It happened because the publisher, Del Rey, wanted it that way. When they came to us with the original idea for the project, they said we want this from the get-go. We want to release them boom, boom, boom. Three months, or two months, literally, early June, late June, late July. And so they wanted all three in the can before they would release any of them. It was just, I assume it had something to do with the Netflix mentality of binge consumption media, where people want things immediately. And now, someone can go in the bookstore, and you can buy all three books. And you don’t have to wait until next year for book two.
JMW: And still have them on the shelves when you come to buy the second volume, the third volume. The first volume’s out there already.
Clay Griffith: Absolutely.
Susan Griffith: Readers really gravitated towards that. Even with the “Vampire Empire” series, that was a year apart. So to have “Crown and Key” come out consecutively was a great boon for the readers that they were able to get their fill immediately and not have to wait.
JMW: To get their fix, and so Del Rey approached you, not the other way around.
Clay Griffith: Yeah, this was a project that they had conceived the origins of, and they came to us based on the “Vampire Empire” series, and they said, “We’ve got an idea for kind of an historical steampunk thing like “Vampire Empire.” Would you be interested in taking this idea, and developing it into a project?” And we said, “Yes, we would love to do that.”
Susan Griffith: It was very much up our alley with the same themes of the supernatural, the occult, historical, a little bit of romance. All that was in the same vein as the “Vampire Empire” series. So we were thrilled to try something in a different slant. This was a more earlier period 1830s versus the 1870-ish
JMW: Yeah, because it was a very alternate world in “Vampire Empire,” and I’m gonna get back to that in a minute, but I did want to ask you guys. You work together as a team, as a writing team. Does working collaboratively make it easier to write fast? Because I know you didn’t write three books in three months, but still getting three books ready to be put out in that kind of schedule means you have to put in a lot of work very fast. So does working together help with that?
Susan Griffith: Actually, no in some ways.
Susan Griffith: People think that, “Oh, double the team, double the output.”
Susan Griffith: And it really doesn’t work that way, because you still have to discuss every aspect of those books and we are planners. So everything has to be planned out from the get-go. And it was a lot of work, but we enjoyed it. But it did kind of put us off the map for a year and a half, if not longer. And, but it was well worth it because we were able to take those stories, and before “Vampire Empire,” once you did that book, it was gone. It was already published, and you had no chance to go back and fix something that would’ve been really cool. In “Crown and Key,” we did, and we were able to really form the whole theme throughout the whole series, and really bring it to fruition.
Clay Griffith: I used to think that working as a team was faster because two hands double…
Clay Griffith: Well four hands collaboration doubled production, but you have to coordinate so much between you. It actually is slower, I’ve come to realize. But the fact is, we both have different strengths and different weaknesses, so the books we end up producing, I firmly believe, are far better than anything we would write individually. So it’s worth the effort and the trouble.
JMW: Do you write different parts of the books? Or do you alternate chapters? Or do you just, one person writes a draft and the other person goes over it?
Susan Griffith: We write alternating chapters, basically. We don’t go too far ahead of each other, because we don’t want to…Just in case somebody comes up with something really cool, we could really screw up the other person writing. But we try and…He’ll take three chapters, and I’ll take three chapters. Or if I think he’s got a better feel for a particular section of the story, I’ll fling it to him, and he’ll do the vice versa for me.
Clay Griffith: There’s certain characters we like better than others, so I’ll write most of someone’s bits and she’ll write most of someone’s bits. Different books get divided different ways.
Susan Griffith: Yeah.
JMW: Yeah, we touched on this briefly, but could you give our viewers an idea of how the world of the “Crown and Key” compares to the world of “Vampire Empire,” and basically how they’re different?
Clay Griffith: Sure.
JMW: Because they’re both steampunk. You—
Clay Griffith: They are. They’re both steampunk and they’re both historical fantasy. “Vampire Empire” is an alternate history. The world changes in the year 1870. The book actually takes place in 2020, but it’s a Victorian-esque future. “Crown and Key” is a secret history. It takes place in the year 1829, 1830, the real world, but there are things that exist, magic, monsters, that the average person doesn’t know about and that impact the course of history in secret ways.
JMW: And the secret goes back to the storming of the Bastille? Is that it?
Clay Griffith: It goes back, actually way before. It goes back to almost prehistory. Magic has existed in the world forever. The Bastille occurs, is important in the book, because in the French Revolution, or prior to the French Revolution, the Bastille is built as a prison to hold the worst sorcerers and monsters that exist in the world. The French Revolution cracks open the Bastille and these things get out. And then the story involves rounding them back up.
JMW: And your heroes have to deal with the worst of the worst?
Clay Griffith: Yeah.
JMW: Going back to “Vampire Empire,” though because obviously Buzzy has a vested interest in that and I really liked the books, besides. Did I hear correctly that there might be a fourth volume coming out?
Susan Griffith: Not might. There will be a fourth volume coming out. It’s going to be a new starting point for the series. We will be calling it “The Geomancer.” It is called the Adele and Gareth adventures, so it will basically still deal with the first three books, but you do not have to have read the first three, the first trilogy, in order to start “The Geomancer.” It’s a new starting off point for readers, so they can just jump in. There will be some references, of course, but most of it will be…
JMW: It’ll be stand-alone for…
Susan Griffith: Stand-alone.
Clay Griffith: It’s a stand-alone book with elements that can continue down the line, and it will be out in November of 2015.
JMW: Oh. Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. But you’ve been doing so many novels together, the three of “Crown and Key,” the new “Vampire Empire”, “Geomancer.” Does all this novel activity mean you’ve given up writing comics?
Susan Griffith: Oh, no. Well, let’s just say, someone wants to get back into comics.
Clay Griffith: Well, we haven’t written comics in many years. I’d love to go back to comics and I’m been actively poking around. We went to Comic-Con this year in San Diego and talked to some people. And I love the actual style of writing a comic book script. I just think it’s a fantastic way of writing and I’d love to do more. And hopefully, some of these contacts from the Comic-Con, something will come up.
JMW: Oh, very cool.
Clay Griffith: Yeah.
Susan Griffith: It’s an incredible exercise in editing to take a story and basically, boil it down to just the highlight, the most important dialogue, the most important sections of the story. For me, I’m very verbose, so I love the novels, but there is a nuance to being able to edit those concepts and bring them down into a word balloon, or six panels per page, and be able to tell a story in such a concentrated medium. So to me, it’s always a great practice to play in the comic book world. So I have no problem going back to it. And actually the “Vampire Empire”, “The Greyfriar” was supposed to be a comic book, originally.
Susan Griffith: In it’s original format, but it became so big, the world and so much to tell, that I convinced him to make it a novel instead, because I think it was just too much to boil down to just a couple of, 30 pages.
JMW: Yeah, it would’ve been way too big for that. Well, speaking of somebody who really enjoys novels as much, if not more than comics, I’m glad you made that decision.
Clay Griffith: We are too.
JMW: Yeah. What are you working on now?
Clay Griffith: We..
JMW: With “Vampire Empire” coming in November…
Clay Griffith: Well, we are in the planning stages of various things. I was telling someone the other day, this is probably the first time since about 2009, that we haven’t had an actual book contract we were trying to meet. I feel like we’re unemployed.
Susan Griffith: Which is scary.
Clay Griffith: But we are, yeah, we’ve got a couple of things we’re playing with, and we’re plotting out some pitches to make to publishers. We’re obviously working on another “Vampire Empire” idea that hopefully will come as the fifth book in the series. We don’t like to think of them as a part of the series anymore, as a stand-alone.
JMW: Yeah, a fifth book in the world.
Clay Griffith: Exactly.
Susan Griffith: Exactly.
Clay Griffith: So we’ve got a lot of things we’re working on, not being that anyone is tapping. There’s no editor tapping their foot waiting for something right now, but we hope that will change very soon.
Susan Griffith: So with that some people showed some interest in chatting with us, so we’re getting ready to do some pitching, and hopefully, something comes up, whether it be comics, whether it be novels. It’ll definitely be a novel. Like I said, we’ll be doing another “Vampire Empire” book after. Now that “Geomancer’s” out, I’m sure Pyr will be excited to continue the series, so that’s always a possibility. But keep your eyes open. We’ve got some things just on the horizon.
JMW: Oh, cool. On that note, is there anything you’d like to add?
Susan Griffith: We are still hoping to bring the audio of “The Geomancer” to fruition, so we’re still hoping with Buzzy to keep that in the works. So if everybody can hold on, and keep our fingers crossed, and other than that, I think we’re good. Right?
Clay Griffith: Yeah.
JMW: Well, thank you, Susan, and thank you, Clay. And thank you for Buzzy Magazine. Okay, we’re coming up on the end of the video and I just want to open it to you. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Susan Griffith: We just want to say thank you to the fans for buying the books, both of the “Crown and Key” series and the “Vampire Empire” series. And basically, to the fans of “Vampire Empire” series, thank you for wanting another book. That’s why we wrote “The Geomancer.” The interest was continuing, and we wanted that, to be a part of that again.
Clay Griffith: Yeah, we really appreciate you guys. It means a lot that people are still interested in these books that have been out for five years now. And we hope people will like “Crown and Key” just as much. And so thank you very much.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.