Susan Griffith on pulps, vampires, and more

Susan Griffith, half of the writing team behind the Vampire Empire series, talks pulps, classic horror, and what’s coming up next for the series.

Byrt: So tell me a little bit about vampires. Why vampires?

Susan: Why vampires? Well Clay is a super horror buff. When we started dating I had never seen a horror movie – well, I saw the black and white ones, which were my favorites. I liked the older classics. And so he took me on a date – I think our second movie was to see Aliens, which I had never seen. I remember like gripping him – I left bruises on his arms. But after that, I liked the thrill of it – and so after that, every Friday night we’d be doing horror movie night, just lots of little horror movies. Nothing bad – I don’t like slasher films or anything – but I love the classic monsters. I love werewolves. Werewolves were my huge thing; Vampires – but I like the classics. I love the old black and whites, Béla Lugosi, Peter Cushing, those particularly. I loved all those. So we got to watch a lot of those, and Clay led me through the whole process. And so it became an infatuation, something that we always, always talked about. And that became one of the ideas. We drew that out –  we got married in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Greyfriar takes place. And as we were there, looking at the city, we decided this would be a great setting for the book. So that’s where that came from. And then he was, you know, “Wouldn’t it be great if there were vampires who lived here?” and after that it just took off. So that’s where the idea came from – from his love, and I love pulps, and I like little bits of romance (nothing huge, just enough to sort of bring the characters into some 3D dimension), and that’s where Greyfriar came from.

Byrt:  Did you feel kind of beholden to the classic vampire, or did you feel- How much did you want to adhere to the classic and how much did you want to add your own twist?

Susan: Well we wanted to definitely pay homage to the classics, but we also wanted to do something different because it’s a genre that’s done so much. So we wanted to do- Clay was adamant about bringing something new to the page, and so we decided to do the parasite — that they’re not dead, that they’re basically another species. And once we started talking about that, it sort of blossomed into, what kind of bits can we change, and what can be explained scientifically. And that worked. We were kind of surprised that there was so much that we could play with in that regard.

Byrt: So as a fan of the classics and the pulps, would you also call yourselves science fiction fans? Do you watch the old-

Susan: Absolutely. I mean, there was no doubt that we were science fiction fans before horror. I was a science fiction fan – science fiction/fantasy fan – way before horror, and so was Clay. We watched Things from Another World; we watched any of the old space movies – all the 1950s giant bug movies, giant monster movies, that was Clay. We were mergers – when we met each other, it was kizmet because we loved so many of the same genres. And so, we kind of just – it was easy to merge. There were a couple that I liked a lot more than he did, and a lot that he loved, and we just started playing with them. We both loved pulps, we both grew up on pulps. I lived next to Maxwell Grant, who was the author of The Shadow, so that was a big influence for me. I met him – we would talk all of the time; he always put little books into my hands, of his stuff. So I got to read some of the great stories from him. So all that came into play. And Clay was a big fan of Doc Savage, and The Avenger, and all those. And so it was just natural that we would infuse some of that action and drama into that.

Byrt: Now if someone, having read and loved the Greyfriar, wanted to go back and read some of the pulps that inspired you, would you have any top 5 you could tell people to go back and read?

Susan: My top 5 – The Shadow, number one, it has to be. The Phantom. I loved — it’s not really considered pulp, but I loved some of the Lost World from – I’m blanking for the moment…

Byrt: So you’d tell everyone not to watch the Hollywood movies, definitely to go read them?

Susan: No, go read them! The Lost World is hilarious! I’m sorry, I got more enjoyment out of reading those books – and the dialog, the dialog especially was so crisp in The Lost World and all the Challenger stories. I never read Sherlock Holmes because I was infatuated with The Lost World characters. I loved Lost and I loved Challenger. I loved Malone. The movies, the tv shows, meh… 

Byrt: I know, it’s like the Shadow movie – did you see that?

Susan: Oh, it was – cringe. But you know, it was the only Shadow movie so… Except for the old pulp. I mean, I listened to every radio show –  that’s where my love came from, is those old radio shows. I used to listed to those – I still have some on cassette, those were great. The Phantom, The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger. We just did some short stories for The Avenger, about a couple of years ago, and they were so much fun –  we wrote stories for The Phantom! I am just so thrilled we got some of those great pulp stuff, pulp characters, out there.

Byrt: Fantastic…So tell us a little bit about Greyfriar 2 (coming out soon).

Susan:  What can I say? It’s a whole new adventure, just in terms of the weights that are bearing down on them. From the politics, from her family and the crown (becoming Empress), and those who work against her because she’s a woman trying to take on a man’s role. There are so many in that particular area that do not want her on the throne, and she’s fighting against that. Greyfriar’s fighting against his own people and still trying to do what he thinks is right to save humanity and stuff.  So there’s a lot of pressures on both of them coming from their own families. And it’s that stress – they’re both trying to get together, but they’re trying to do what’s right for their families. They’re torn between duty and love, basically. And which one is going to win out. It’s the cusp of the war, we’re right on the cusp of something tragic, and yet, you know, good for humanity but very bad for other people.

Byrt.  Now last question Because we are at BEA, is there any book you’re going to run around and snap up, that you’re dying to read?

Susan: Oh my gosh. There are so many on this wall right here, at the Pyr booth, that I’d like to read. There are a lot of possibilities here. This is my first BEA so I’m kind of just in awe of everything that’s going on. I had not realized it was quite so huge as this. So it’s been really exciting. I know we’re trying actually to look at some of the comic book stuff. We want to try and see if we can do something with getting Greyfriar animated in some way.

Byrt: That would be fantastic.

Susan: We’re looking at that, but so far we’re just kind of gawking. 

Byrt: Agog?

Susan: Agog at all of the different books! I know, I have two bags and I’m ready to start picking up books. I didn’t realize so many authors would be here. I’m still honored to be in their company.

Byrt: You have to circle like a shark.

Susan: Or a pilot fish at a light.

Byrt:  Absolutely! Well thanks so much for taking the time, and I’ll see you at your signing.

Susan: Thank you.

Thanks again to Susan for letting me steal her away at BEA!

For more on all things Griffith, check out their website here.

And for more on The Rift Walker, check out Pyr’s website here.