Author Christopher Farnsworth's series of Nathaniel Cade books falls into the why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-before categories. Cade is a vampire who is bound to protecting the president and America. The first Cade novel, Blood Oath, was optioned and is currently being adapted into a screenplay. The President's Vampire, the second Cade novel and Farnsworth's latest, sees Cade hunting down a worldwide invasion of human/lizard hybrids. We chatted with Farnsworth just a few days after Osama bin Laden was killed - eerie timing, since Farnsworth turns Osama into a lizard-man and kills him in the first chapter. Naturally, this is where our conversation began.
Let's get the obvious question out of the way. You kill Osama bin Laden in the first chapter of your book. Less than a week after your book is released, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden for real. What was your first reaction?
I was blown away. At first I just thought my friends were screwing with me. But my mother-in-law called and asked what we were doing. We were watching TiVo, and she told us to put on regular TV. Sure enough, the news was reporting it. My phone didn't stop buzzing all night. The best comment came from a friend of mine, who said "Boy, you really know how to launch a book." I knew eventually bin Laden's story in the real world would end. This was just my Captain America punching Hitler on the cover of a comic book. I wrote this scene a long time ago, for catharsis - to release a lot of the anger I felt over 9/11. It was just remarkable timing. I felt a little weird about it at first, but if you can't dance on bin Laden's grave, whose can you? He means more to us as a villain.
Is this stuff, for you, pure fiction? Or are you a conspiracy theorist who believes we have vampires in politics?
I believe the world is far weird, far stranger, and far wider than we generally take the time to see. I like to believe there is still the capacity for the unbelievable and the unexplained. I grew up reading cryptozoological and paranormal stuff. My skepticism has only grown as I have gotten older, but I think that's normal. I was a reporter for a long time, and have learned that eye witness testimony is not always reliable. People are pattern-seeking animals. A lot of conspiracy theories can be explained away by people using fiction to make sense of the real world. The conspiracy theories about bin Laden appeared on my radar within 25 minutes of the announcement [that he was dead]. There were people who were already saying they had his reptilian corpse on ice for over a decade. It's always fun to me whenever reality leapfrogs over my fiction. But at the same time, this is how people have always tried to understand the world around them through legends, folklore, and myths that reassemble the world into bite-sized pieces they can digest.
Do you consider yourself a political person, or did this idea spring up from the great combo of vampires and politics?
Well, I definitely think that vampires fit very well into politics. They just have so much in common. I was very politically active in high school and college. Every period in history has its apocalyptic moments, its own end-of-the-world struggles. Every period in history assigns total evil to one side or another. In the broad scheme of things, it is easier for me to see that this is a relatively peaceful time in history. It may just be rationalization, but it allows me to spend a little less time being outraged by politics and move on to just telling stories. Which is not to say that our politics aren't horrifically broken.
What inspired this installment of the Nathaniel Cade series?
At first, I was feeling very heartsick over the stuff that was coming out of Abu Ghraib and Bynum Air Force Base, and all the other dark corners of this secret war. War sucks. War is vile, and it brings out the vilest parts in us. I have friends who are in the military, and I have nothing but respect and awe for them because they pass a test that I know in my heart I would have failed miserably. I would just rather have them in positions where they are not being shot at.
There is this great documentary called Taxi to the Dark Side where a bunch of soldiers are interviewed about a guy they thought was an Al Qaeda operative, but turned out just to be a cab driver. He was beaten to death by these soldiers. The looks of pain and sadness on their faces, the regret, made me realize that in that kind of a space, something really ugly and evil and twisted can come out of us. It's almost supernatural. It's almost horror. I tried to play around with that as much as I could. Unfortunately, that draft of the book was really boring. There are documentaries to tell that side of the story. When I hit upon the lizard-men hybrid, I realized that I don't need to explain the real world to anybody. I just need to chop it up and remix it and make the story really entertaining.
Your first Nathaniel Cade novel, Blood Oath was optioned for a feature. What is the status on that? Are you working on that script?
I am not writing the script - I am not A-list enough to write the script. I was just told that they have a guy working on the script. The producer, Lucas Foster [Jeepers Creepers 2, Mr. & Mrs. Smith], is a one man show, so he works on one project at a time. As soon as his current project, a romantic drama, is wrapped, hopefully he will be able to move Blood Oath to production. He and I just spent a lot of time talking about it at the book launch the other night. I'm looking forward to seeing how the script comes out. It's being written by a friend-of-a-friend, but I don't know if I am allowed to say who, but I've been told he's really, really good. I'm really optimistic.
In all honesty, I don't want to write the script. That's really hard work. You have to take notes from other people, and at this point I would rather just write my books and give the notes. If someone were to give me notes on the script, I would likely say, "Hey buddy, whose name is it on this book?"
So are you working on the next Nathaniel Cade book?
I am - as well as a few other [secret] projects.
What kind of monsters can we expect from the third novel?
The President's Vampire is more like a James Bond, globe-spanning, ticking-time-bomb story. The new one will be set against the backdrop of the 2012 presidential election. The incumbent, President Curtis, is being threatened by a killer. Cade has been fighting this killer, in one form or another, for over 100 years. He is the archetype of the unkillable serial killer, like Jason or Michael Myers. No matter what you do to him, he always comes back. There are some real-life incidents that have inspired some of the events. So I am mixing those with the idea of the killers from those classic slasher films. Cade has fought him multiple times, including pushing him through a wood chipper, but this guy always comes back.
Your books seem to be a little prescient. Does that worry you at all?
[Laughs] I hope that isn't the case! The level of vitriol we have in our politics right now is reminiscent of the 1930s, when people were accusing Roosevelt a secret Communist spy. People are angry and frustrated, and that comes out in some really horrific ways sometimes. I was covering the militia movement in the mid-1990s, around the time of the Oklahoma City bombings. It was like a boil had been lanced. All this ugliness spilled out. So I am really hoping that my timing is much worse this time around! The fun part is that I still get to write about politics - like the mechanics of running a campaign. I hope no one shows up on the election trail in a hockey mask. I have every confidence in the real-life Secret Service to take care of that.