Harris Gray finish their third pint and mull over their next writing project, simultaneously deciding on a vampire book. Because the women in their lives eat up every vampire story on the shelves. And for the gratuitous T&A. But hunky, smoldering vampires are beyond their grasp; and dammit, T&A should mean something. Deciding to write what they know, Harris Gray return to their wheelhouse: An aging, uncomfortable man, not so happy with his lot in life. A man bitten by a vampire, unsure what to do with his new…skillset. Vampire Vic – VV – is born. Perfect.
The latest book is Vampire Vic.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Jason: It started with us goofing around, pretending we were going to jump on the vampire bandwagon.
Allan: You know, the thousand year vampire phase we’re in.
Jason: Next thing you know we had a vampire we could relate to: Victor Thetherson, a fat, balding accounting manager who gets queasy at the sight of blood, avoids confrontation to a fault, and won’t bite anyone. A guy who gets walked on at home and the office, who thinks vampirism is his ticket to respect, the change he’s been waiting for – only to find out life doesn’t work that way.
Allan: We got excited to tell a human tale. About a vampire.
What books have influenced your life the most?
Allan: Series like the Hardy Boys’ mysteries, and Louis L’Amour. Louis didn’t necessarily write series, but his format and characters were consistent in the same wonderful fashion. After awhile (it only took me fifteen to twenty books, I’m a fast learner), the plot structure emerged, the how and why Louis wrote it that way. To find the blueprint for telling a great tale, was magical. I’ve been plotting ever since.
Jason: Unfortunately he’s not just referring to the writing process.
Allan: I’ve always wanted one of us to be knocked out like one of the Hardy Boys. I plot ways for that to happen.
Jason: For me it was High Infidelity by Nick Hornby. I read it after we had been writing together for a few years, and it hit me, “Hey, we write a lot like that guy. And people seem to like that guy.”
What are your current projects?
Jason: We’re writing the Vampire Vic sequel. In the meantime we’re going to unleash our other finished books, starting in September with the release of Java Man.
Allan: From our stable of books. Like wild ponies, champing at the bit.
Jason: That’s the author’s job, to get a bit in the wild pony-story’s mouth.
Allan: And then hand the reins to the reader.
Jason: We want you to get off our pony exhilarated, and only slightly queasy.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Allan: More sex. People are accusing us of being prudes, for the lack of sex in Vampire Vic.
Jason: Honestly, we like sex as much as the next person. The plot just didn’t call for it.
Allan: But that’s no excuse. Authors who write a lot of sex scenes shouldn’t be able to claim it was necessary as a plot device. And we shouldn’t be able to get away with not writing sex scenes, just because it has no place in the story.
Jason: There is always room for a sex scene, that’s what we’ve learned. You’ll find one in Java Man.
Allan: I just wish you wouldn’t have made it so freaky.
Jason: I just wish you would admit that you wrote it.
Allan: I only wish I could be so creative.
Jason: I only wish you had made it up.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Jason: “Stop writing such short books.”
Allan: They could end up as novellas if we’re not careful. That’s where the superfluous sex scenes come in handy.
Jason: We have actually been slapped around a little in the book clubs we’ve hosted for early versions of our novels. After composing ourselves and coming back in the room, we end up realizing the feedback is valuable.
Allan: The criticism has made our books better. Even if we can no longer be that person’s friend.
Jason: They also of course now receive decaf in my coffeeshop.
Allan: Jason owns the Crowfoot Valley Coffee shop and Crowbar here in Castle Rock, Colorado. It’s like having a writing den in my house.
Jason: Sorry about charging you $3.95 for a latté and $6 for a specialty beer on tap, in your writing den.
Allan: It’s still way cheaper than actually building a writing den.
What has been the best compliment?
Allan: A reader of an early version of Java Man said to Jason, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know one of you had cancer.”
Jason: I was flattered, horrified, and emotional for our friends and family who do have cancer, all at the same time.
Allan: Jason has a small problem with internalizing our character’s problems. While we were writing Java Man, I had to continually reassure him that he did not have cancer. On the plus side, we were able to use one of Jason’s actual nightmares in the story.
Jason: Which of course made it even harder to separate fiction from reality.
Allan: In Vampire Vic, vampires live among us – as we say in the book, they’re about as common as movie stars, sports heroes and rock’n’roll gods. We’d like to think that if we had written Vampire Vic in that world, somebody would ask us, “So which one of you is a vampire?”
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Allan: Write for years and years, one novel after another, rewriting and editing and polishing them, until you have ten or so ready for prime time – but do not, we repeat, do not land a publishing deal. That way, when you finally decide to strike out on your own, you will have a nice pipeline of finished novels.
Jason: This is important, because marketing and social networking will take up all of your time, and you may never write another novel again.
Allan: Also, we would like to ask more writers to become readers, and stop writing.
Jason: Or join us, so that we could become a writer monopoly racking up giant sales.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Jason: Our split personality. Something less than Sybil and more than Siamese twins. We are two halves of the same brain.
Allan: But only if left and right brain had gone their separate ways for a few years before hooking back up to the corpus callosum. Which means double the life experiences, a two-fer, a BOGO.
Jason: That’s slightly overselling it; our overlapping experiences require a small discount. A 1.8-fer.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
Jason: Making bad choices.
Allan: But your bad choices have given us so much great material. That was going to be my favorite quality about you. I’m always encouraging Jason to take hikes or rafting trips into the wilderness. He has no regard for consequences, or his safety. So far he’s always returned alive, and with great stories we can use in our books.
Jason: I only pray I live long enough to crawl back to civilization and whisper my tale to Allan with my dying breath. My wife and kids will have to be satisfied with whatever I told them before I went into the wilderness.
Allan: You are a good writing partner.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Allan: So much of our success is due to the efforts of our publicist, Jennifer Halligan. Jen’s talent and energy have put us on the social media map. We also want to thank DeAnna Knippling, writer and super-editor, Peter Freedman, graphic designer, and the artist now and forever known as Christine Rose Curry.
Jason: We owe a huge debt to Anne Eliot and Cindi Madsen, successful writers for young and romantic adults. Anne and Cindi pushed us to publish.
Allan: Anne and Cindi ignored our every excuse—they kept encouraging us, sometimes with a sharp tone, and connected us to all the aforementioned experts, hiring them for us when we were slow to respond, until the train was moving too fast for us to hit the brakes. And then we realized we didn’t want to stop.
Jason: I wanted to do a Denzel Washington and take that sucker off the tracks before we crashed into a densely populated urban area, but Allan said no.
Allan: And we are grateful for you, for providing the opportunity to connect with your audience. Please visit our site, HarrisGray.com, where we do our best to entertain you.
Jason: If we have pleased you today, we would love to come back when we publish our future books.
Allan: And if you are insufficiently pleased right now, we promise to work even harder next time around.