Julia Phillips Smith, Interview by Michelle M. Pillow (Originally published in Paranormal Underground Magazine)
Julia Phillips Smith, Interview
Michelle M. Pillow, www.michellepillow.com
Horror novelist, Julia Phillips Smith (juliaphillipssmith.com) is celebrating the release of her debut paranormal book, Saint Sanguinus: A Dark Ages Vampire Novel (November 2011). A graduate of Ryerson University’s film program, Julia’s previous writing credits include scripts for radio and television. She has donned various creative hats, including stage manager (theatre), 3rd Assistant Director (independent feature film), and editor (TV documentary).
Saint Sanguinus is currently for sale at Amazon and Smashwords with print-on-demand coming soon. “A dark, dramatic take on the vampire genre,” writes Anna Campbell, Publisher’s Weekly’s Top 100 Books pick for Captive of Sin. “This book kept me awake into the wee hours.”
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Q: In your book, Saint Sanguinus, you delve into the world of vampires. What inspired you?
JPS:I’ve been enamored of vampires since childhood. I used to try to watch Dark Shadows, but my mom would always turn the channel if she walked in and found me sitting there enraptured by Barnabas Collins, and me all of five years old.
Since then, I’ve fallen for the Big Cheese himself, Count Dracula, and for another count—the Count Saint-Germain, written by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Currently Eric Northman from True Blood most definitely commands my attention.
Q: When world building, did you base your story off of known myths throughout history?
JPS:I really started with the caution, ‘be careful what you wish for.’ I was thinking about soldiers and warriors laying on their final battlefields, and what would happen if one of them cursed God with his dying breath instead of praying to be welcomed into heaven. Or Valhalla.
That led to supposing that God might have a use for a man so attached to life. What if the life offered back to these men became exceedingly lengthy? And who did I know with long life spans?
Q: How is your world different?
JPS: Vampires have morphed in the past few years into a type of bad-boy character. The vampire qualities which I love were slowly frittering away in favor of gloomy, Goth types more interested in striking a pose than plunging fangs into anyone’s necks.
Saint Sanguinus takes readers back into a world where vampires remember who they are.
Q: What myths or legends inspired you?
JPS:I’ve been a fan of Dark Age Britain since I was a girl, devouring Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave. This led to a lifelong love affair with all things Arthurian.
I love everything about the Arthur legends, including the more mystical aspects like the Lady of the Lake, Merlin and the Isle of Avalon. But nothing beats the origin of Arthur’s kingship—the sword in the stone itself, Excalibur.
This in turn led to another devoted attachment–to swords.
Q: Why do you think readers, and society in general, are fascinated by the paranormal?
JPS:Earlier societies like the ones featured in Saint Sanguinus believed in the paranormal world as a matter of course. Although we have a lot for which to thank the Enlightenment period, the resulting trend toward scientific theory really managed to crush the non-measurable aspects out of respectable life.
However, privately people still believe. Or at least want to believe. The American Film Institute’s Top 20 Hollywood films list includes four with paranormal/fantasy elements: The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, 2001 Space Odyssey and It’s a Wonderful Life, while TV Guide’s list of the Top 50 shows of all time includes The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, Star Trek Next Generation and Bewitched.
Q: Do you have any paranormal pet projects?
JPS:As a graduate of Ryerson University’s film program, I do have some film projects in mind, including one that features a small town, its tourism industry and the undersea creature which feeds the economy while feeding on the inhabitants.
Q: What are your favorite paranormal shows, movies and books?
JPS:Supernatural—I pretty much watch one episode per day!
Sleepy Hollow by Tim Burton
The Harry Potter series
The Count Saint-Germain series of books by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
Q: Do you believe in the supernatural?
JPS:A definite believer. For example, I’m descended from the Mi’kmaq First Nation of eastern Canada, and as often happens within this cultural group, I receive animal totem messages regularly.
These come to us when the spirit world wishes to communicate. For example, if you live in a city suburb with a wide assortment of neighborhood cats and dogs, you wouldn’t count sightings of these animals as totem messages unless there was something odd about them.
However, if you were heading out your front door on your way to work, and a cat slipped off the roof to nearly land on your head and scare you out of your wits, looking up the message from Cat Totem would be a good idea. Then you would find out that the Universe is reminding you to trust in your own instincts.
Q: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
JPS: Many. In fact, here in my apartment we have a spirit who likes to communicate with my husband and me through our Mo’s Tavern Simpson’s alarm clock. There are four characters who speak, and if you press a button on the bar, you can make them randomly say things. But you can’t control what phrase comes out.
The spirit here likes to make the Duffman character call out “Duffman!” It’s always in response to something I’ve just said, or a thought I’ve just had. For example, one time I called Hope For Wildlife animal rescue to report an injured seagull, on a night when I was singing in a choir concert and a snowstorm was brewing. When I got back from the performance, I checked my phone messages and heard one from Hope For Wildlife. I said, “I wonder if I should call them back?”
“Duffman!” rang out.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” I said, and called to find out they’d successfully located the seagull, who was then in care.
Q: How would you react if you came face to face with a ghost?
JPS:Since I do seem to bump into spirits regularly, I’m not afraid of these meetings. When my dog Xena was still with us, she would sometimes follow an unseen presence with her gaze and then look at me meaningfully. I learned to say, “Is there someone here with us? We’ll just say hi.”
Q: What does the future hold for your Dark Ages vampire series?
JPS:Saint Sanguinus is book one in a trilogy, and is really a superhero origin story as well as a vampire tale. One of my writer friends assumed I was going to write a book for each member of the vampire Brotherhood , which is made up of six warriors plus the main character. So we’ll see where that takes me.
Q: Have you ever been to a psychic or a past life regression?
JPS: I’ve been to both.
The psychic predicted I was “very near” my soul mate, who would be wearing a uniform, even though I was new to the city and still getting set up there. I left the reading, and 20 minutes later I was putting in my application for a job as a box office/popcorn counter attendant at a movie theatre. That’s where I met my husband, who was wearing his usher’s uniform when we met.
The past life therapist worked with me over several years, whenever I would get a strong urge to make an appointment and do some clearing out of old energies. The lifetimes that came up were a mix of male and female, took place in Scotland, England, Eastern Europe and Tahiti, and addressed issues of imprisonment, execution, suffering the consequences of forbidden love, pregnancy issues, sexual assault and being at the mercy of a killer cyclone.
To learn more about Julia Phillips Smith and Saint Sanguinus: A Dark Ages Vampire Novel visit www.juliaphillipssmith.com.Interview by Michelle M. Pillow, www.michellepillow.com