I recently read and reviewed Blood for Blood, debut novel from author Ben Wolf. It is one of the best novels I have ever read. Due to this and it dealing with a very unique topic, "What if a vampire go saved?", I felt it would be worth getting to know this new author better and also let other readers into some background behind this compelling edgy speculative novel.
So sit back and enjoy more about this up and coming author and his novel, Blood for Blood.
What if a vampire got saved?
Calandra, an evangelist's daughter, is amazed to watch as Raven, a century-old vampire, develops faith. As Raven ceases to drink blood and becomes more human with each passing day, Calandra cannot deny her growing attraction to him even though she is being courted by another man.
Raven's newfound salvation is both a relief and a burden, as he encounters multiple vampire taboos and must overcome them. Just when Raven begins to get the hang of his new lifestyle, Calandra is attacked by bandits.
Will Raven revert to his old vampiric ways to save Calandra from certain death? Or will he rely on his faith in God to help him ransom Calandra from a new brand of evil more horrifying than he ever was as a vampire?
What inspired you to become an author and has it always been a desire of yours to write?
Okay Ben, how about we start with you telling us a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me, Peter. I’m both the hero and the villain in my own story, which makes for some interesting sword-fighting duels in my sleep. I’m the founder/owner/Executive Editor of Splickety Publishing Group, your source for the best flash fiction in the world. When I’m not working on Splickety stuff, people pay me small fortunes (emphasis on small) to freelance edit their writing, whether it’s nonfiction, fiction, or just about anything else.
I’m also the author of Blood for Blood, a story that explores what might happen if a vampire got saved.
Tell us more about Splickety Publishing Group and your involvement in this.
I founded Splickety Publishing Group (SPG) in 2011. Back then we were beginning production on our first flash fiction magazine, then known as Splickety Magazine. Over the years, we developed as a magazine, then as a company, and then we launched two more magazines (Havok for speculative flash fiction and Splickety Love for romance flash fiction). Now we’re venturing into nonfiction publishing as well with our forthcoming how-to book on writing great flash fiction (due out sometime in spring/summer of 2015), and of course, publishing my own fiction as well.
What inspired you to become an author and has it always been a desire of yours to write?
I realized early on that I loved stories. Authors like Frank Peretti wrote wonderful, imaginative tales that swept me away, and one day I decided I was going to write a book at some point. Since then (when I was just a kid), I’ve been writing goofy stories and I finished my first novel in college.
What tools have you found most successful in advertising/marketing yourself and your books?
I’ve found that reader reviews and the years of personal relationships that I’ve built have contributed to the sales I’ve made thus far. Also, speaking/teaching at writers conferences and other venues has helped me move copies and get myself out there a bit more.
What has surprised you the most about becoming an author?
It’s a lot harder than I thought. Anyone can tell a story (and I really do believe that), and a lot of us can write those stories down and have them make sense, but writing them in a way that achieves that “easy” criteria and is entertaining for readers is another matter altogether. It’s hard work to make everything work the way it should, and even then I don’t think I can ever make a novel perfect. That doesn’t stop me from trying, though.
How has writing and being an author impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ?
Writing has both brought me closer to and separated me from Christ. I’ve come closer in that when I’m writing a story like Blood for Blood because it forces me to recognize and grapple with deep spiritual questions, and so that challenges my faith. On a practical level, I’m prone to being busy and staying busy 95% of my waking hours, so I struggle to make the necessary time to spend growing my relationship with Christ. It’s a double-edged sword, and I’m still trying to find a workable balance there.
Obviously becoming an author has been a huge accomplishment for you, but can you tell us what a major goal of yours is outside of the world of writing?
I have dozens of goals for my life, writing-related and otherwise. Outside of the world of writing, I’d love to travel more, I think. I visited Australia when I was a kid, and I’d really like to go back. I’d also like to visit Italy, England, and Japan in the near future, in no particular order.
So we know you like to write, but can you divulge to your fans out there what’s something that you like to do in your downtime, when you're not writing?
To probably no one’s surprise, I love to sword fight. No, that’s not a typo, nor is it untrue. I made a bunch of swords with PVC, pipe foam, and duct tape back when I was a volunteer youth pastor and I got pretty good at sword fighting. I recently moved, so I’m looking for new challengers.
Do you think there is anything significantly different about Christian fiction, as opposed to secular fiction?
This is a loaded question, and I could probably write an entire book on the subject. When it comes to almost every genre of fiction besides speculative fiction, I think that Christian fiction is fiction written for Christians, by Christians, and Christian values are highlighted in such stories. With regard to speculative fiction, I think those lines are much blurrier. A lot of Christian speculative fiction authors are Christians who write fiction, but not necessarily Christian fiction. This is, in part, because Christian speculative fiction doesn’t sell very well in the marketplace, but speculative fiction (without that Christian qualifier) does.
Your first novel, Blood for Blood, is very edgy and speculative. This is a relatively new, evolving, not very well accepted or understood Christian fiction genre (and one I love and read the most in). How did you come to write in this genre first and not in the safer, mainstream Christian fiction genres?
This hearkens back to my early influences in life, particularly Frank Peretti. I’ve always loved and enjoyed speculative fiction in its many forms, so it made sense to create in that genre. What’s more, the stories that have come to me have been primarily speculative in nature, or at the very least, edgy, like you said. I don’t often get ideas for romance novels or historical novels, but I think up speculative ideas all the time. And as far as them being edgy goes, for me that’s a must because it makes the story more interesting and in some ways more realistic.
How did B4B come about?
I actually didn't come up with the concept for Blood for Blood. At a writers conference several years ago my friend and fellow writer Matt Sheehy mentioned how hilarious it would be if a vampire got saved. Maybe a Christian vampire could help out with a tent revival, and maybe he'd have to use a hammer and big wooden stakes to secure the tent to the ground. The juxtaposition of the vampire using tools traditionally used to kill his kind to secure a tent to advance the Kingdom of God struck me, and the entire plot for my novel (well, almost all of it) blossomed in my head. I asked Matt for permission to write the book and he gladly granted it.
What kind of reaction were you hoping to receive from readers of B4B?
I had hoped for readers to do two things: 1. love it and 2. buy lots of copies. Fortunately the readers have loved it. Now I’m just waiting for the hundreds of thousands of book sales to follow.
I noticed that Luco, the pastor, is Italian. That stood out for me and I wondered where that came from? Not that it makes any difference to the story, but for some reason it stood out to me. I also then realized if he is Italian, why you did not portray him as Catholic (seeing Catholicism is the main denomination in Italy and of those who migrate to other countries). To take this further, do you think B4B would have been just as successful if you had portrayed him as a Catholic priest and had the Biblical response from the Catholic perspective?
Vampire stories typically involve some sort of Catholic influence because both vampirism and Catholicism are rife with symbolism. I chose not to make Luco and his family Catholic for several reasons: 1. the vampirism/Catholicism mashup has been done several times. 2. Catholics aren’t known for their tent revivals, and that was a central plot point for the book and for the vampire’s development, so I wanted to keep that in the story. There are mentions throughout the book as to why Luco and his family wouldn’t be Catholic in the story despite that being incredibly unlikely given his Italian heritage, but from what I can recall I never outrightly explain why. Some things in fiction are better left unexplained.
As to B4B’s success if I’d made them Catholic, I think it could have been successful, but it has been done and overdone before, like I said. I’m not from a Catholic background, so I chose instead to use my evangelical background to inform their characters instead, and I think it worked out well.
Why did you set this novel in the 1800s? Was it to add to the mystic of the whole idea of vampires?
I set the novel in the late 1800s primarily because I had just finished writing a historical western novel set in 1850, so I knew the time period, the terrain, and the type of people of that era pretty well. The other contributing factor was that other more recent vampire stories have taken place in modern times, and I wanted to present B4B differently. I think the added mystique of the vampires was a benefit of the time period choice for sure.
I am not sure if vampires exist or if this is just part of centuries old mythology. From researching vampire lore for B4B, has your research convinced you of their existence or made you consider that they could exist? The Bible seems to be rather silent on their existence.
In all of my research I didn’t see any evidence that suggested that actual bloodsucking undead vampires existed. There are some interesting coincidences, yes, but I believe they (vampires) reside squarely in the realm of fiction along with zombies, werewolves, and anything else that counts as undead. I don’t believe they exist, but I do believe in supernatural forces both good and evil. I also have a degree in pastoral studies and I’m pretty familiar with the Bible, but like you I haven’t found any indication that vampires exist in real life.
After reading B4B, it seems to me that Luco’s and Garrett's attitude toward the question of whether a vampire can be saved most likely would reflect what most Christians would feel. Some would believe like Luco that God can and does restore a human's soul and make them a new creation while others like Garrett believe they are unredeemable and cursed for eternity as a vampire/demon. From your point of view, do you think that this is a valid assessment?
I’m so glad you asked this question. Yes, I believe that Christians typically respond in one of the two ways you mentioned to people who aren’t Christians: either they accept them and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us, or they reject non-Christians on some level. This rejection can range anywhere from ignoring or distrusting non-Christians to outright telling them that they’re going to Hell and the like.
Jesus taught us to respond to and approach people with love, not with hate, disdain, or negativity. Lucy did an excellent job of trying to show Christ’s love to Raven (the vampire) and to everyone around him. Garrett takes a far different approach, but he has his own set of reasons for responding that way. These two characters take different stances and arrive at very different places regarding Raven’s salvation, but more importantly they show us the two basic paths that we can take when interacting with anyone: love or negativity.
Choose the former, not the latter.
I was expecting a novel of this topic to have created some controversy, especially among Christians, but from what I have discovered so far, this is not the case. Were you expecting this? If so, did this make you question whether to continue or were you prepared for this?
Actually, yes. I secretly hoped the book would inspire some controversy and really make some people angry—angry enough to tell people how angry it made them. That said, I’m elated that the book has received such solid reviews, and it has really validated me in that I know I can and should keep doing this.
As I said, I had hoped for some controversy, but it hasn’t generated much. I think it just comes down to the belief that vampires don’t exist, so why should this be something we talk about? Had this book been about the transformation of a person of another religion, perhaps, or a type of person with a lifestyle radically different from that of a Christian, then yes, maybe that could have happened. I think people just understand that it’s fiction and thus there’s not much debate on it.
Your fans, I’m sure, want to know if there is more to come. Would you mind giving an exclusive glimpse of what is to come? Does this include any sequels to B4B? I can see how there could be 3, but will need to discuss that with you privately so as not to spoil the plot for those who have not read B4B.
I have tentative plans for a sequel (and I intentionally left the door open for one) but if I do write one, it won’t happen for quite some time. I tend to work on projects that are close to my heart and gnawing at me first, and the sequel isn’t doing that yet. As far as what I’m working on next—I can tell you that it will have paranormal elements similar to those in Blood for Blood, but the approach will be very, very different. I’m going to attempt a crowdfunding campaign for the next book I’m writing which will include opportunities for readers/fans/anyone interested to appear as a character in the book—and if they want, to die a gruesome, bloody death at the hands or jaws of a monster. Beyond that, I can’t really go into more detail, unfortunately.
From what I have elucidated from authors, fight scenes can be one of the most difficult scenes to write and develop. You developed these very realistically. Did you have any difficulty achieving this? I must say that because you achieved this so well, it really did contribute to a wonderful ending to this novel.
Thanks so much, Peter. Action runs in my blood. I’ve seen hundreds of action movies, studied a few different forms of fighting including sword fighting and stage combat techniques, and I’ve done a lot of research through the years on how fights work. I doubt that I’d last very long in a real fight (unless swords were involved) but I know enough to write fights well.
The trick (and the hard part) about writing a solid fight scene is threefold: 1. You have to know what you’re talking about on some level; 2. you have to write everything so that causes happen before effects (ex. a guy can’t fall down before he gets punched, etc.), and 3. you have to write it in such a way that it flows well. For me, it’s a challenge to blend these elements together, but it’s one I enjoy quite a bit.
What message do you want readers to obtain from reading B4B?
It really depends on the reader. If you’re a non-Christian reader, know that God loves you and has provided a way for you to live a better life now and have relief in knowing your eternity is sealed via your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you’re already a Christian, it’s a reminder to all of us that we need to be careful how we treat people who are different than us because our actions, right or wrong, affect non-Christians’ perceptions of who Jesus is. So endeavor to treat everyone with love, be they vampire or not.
Did you need to conduct extensive research on vampire lore to create the type of vampires you have portrayed in B4B? I would not know where to start if I was doing this, what type of resources did you use?
Believe it or not, I used Wikipedia as a starting point. It used to have a reputation as a hack site where everyone could just update pages, but the vampire page seems cohesive and may have even been written by one person who really knew his/her stuff. It had a good flow to it and seemed encyclopedic in its approach, so it was very informative. Beyond that, I consumed a lot of vampire media, ranging from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Twilight. (Don’t judge—you have to know what people are getting wrong, too.) Couple that with the 20+ years I’ve had of watching/reading vampire media in multiple forms and I had a pretty good basis of knowledge to write this book. For what it’s worth, I also played Dracula in my senior year of high school in the fall production of, you guessed it, Dracula.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
Stick with me. I intend to thrill you more and more with each successive book. And by all means, tell your friends. I’ll thrill them too.
Do you have any words that you’d like to leave us with?
Vampires or otherwise, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Where can readers find you?
Website: http://www.benwolf.com (sign up for my newsletter in the lower right corner and get a bunch of free stories)
Amazon Author Page:
Thank you, Ben for such a very informative and educational interview, you have certainly shown us the depth you went to in creating such an entertaining, well constructed novel, giving a biblical approach to such a controversial topic.
I will certainly stick with you and I encourage readers to do the same. Your future books are eagerly anticipated, especially the sequel to Blood for Blood. You have piqued my interest regarding the crowdfunding project and being a character in the next book!