At my first Thrillerfest in New York, I was perusing the table in the booksellers’ room when this juicy title caught my eye: X-Rated Blood Suckers, with a cover that was strikingly reminiscent of a 70s Grindhouse flick. In my opinion Mario Acevedo has, hands down, the best titles and covers in the biz. (He also has the best book trailer, see it here). And his stories, featuring vampire detective Felix Gomez, deliver all the fun and excitement those covers promise. The Kill Zone is thrilled to have him join us today for a walk on the wild side of thrillers: paranormals and the supernatural.
While I’m known for my vampire-detective stories, I like to think of myself as a mystery writer. What I like about the mystery genre is that there is no equivocation about the story question. We know what’s at risk and what motivates the protagonist. Saving his ass!
In mystery stories we writers can wallow in the dark underbelly of society and call it research.
We love asking questions such as:
“What’s the best poison given these circumstances?”
“Where’s a good place to hit a skull with a sledgehammer?”
“How can I use cross-dressing autoerotic asphyxiation as a plot device?”
At mystery writer meetings we can sit through dinner when the presentation is a medical examiner’s PowerPoint of autopsies. “May I have another slice of cheesecake and could you go back to the picture of blood spatter on the headboard?”
We can say with a straight face, “Honest Mr. Police Officer, I was only asking the price of a blow job from this woman as research. I need authentic details.”
In mystery literature we can show the complex relationships between characters. Lying. Infidelity. Betrayal. And that’s among the good guys. We can play with the motives for crime: Jealousy. Lust. Greed. We explore lives ruined by humiliation and murder. That’s entertainment!
In any novel, what keeps a reader turning pages is tension and conflict. And no genre does tension and conflict better than a good mystery. What keener source of tension than begging for your life while at the wrong end of a gun?
Since I write vampire-detective mysteries, I have to layer in the supernatural elements. Until recently, vampires were the monsters fanging humans, an act that resulted in murder, or at least assault and battery. Now vampires are the good guys and we could have them be all nice and not drink human blood (or worse, go vegan), in which case, what’s the point of being an undead bloodsucker? My challenge is weaving the supernatural with the gritty noir of a mystery.
The keys to a mystery are the committing of a crime and the threat of a bigger crime if the hero doesn’t persevere. But a crime according to who? A werewolf gnawing on your dismembered torso doesn’t regard himself a criminal anymore than does a senator whoring himself to the rich. It’s simply his nature.
So while supernatural beings might disregard human laws at will, they must abide by their own code of conduct. What are the no-no’s? Zombies don’t regard noshing on human brains as murder so what would be considered taboo for revenants? Perhaps you can only eat Catholics on Fridays.
In supernatural mysteries we have a strong story question that braids the natural and the supernatural. Our hero must solve a crime affecting not just one world but two. It can be a mystery we can all love to read.
So here’s a question: if you created a paranormal character, what would their special power be? And what would they fear? Garlic, water, easy-listening jazz?
Mario Acevedo writes the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series for Eos HarperCollins. Mario travels the astral plane (using frequent flyer miles) to research the world of vampires, zombies, and alien gangsters. He lives and writes in Denver, CO.
Check out book 4 in the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series: Jailbait Zombie (Eos HarperCollins). Vampires vs zombies in the ultimate undead smackdown. Available Feb 25 at better bookstores everywhere.
SPECIAL BONUS! You can download a copy of my first book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, through Feb 24 by clicking here