Hello Readers and Writers!
Today we would like to introduce you to an author who has been creating stories since pre-school with the help of a very supportive teacher! With a love for horror, this author can even make Santa scary! Using humor to lighten his spooky stories, this author rebels by staying true to himself and writing stories he would wants to read, despite any under representation.
Introducing Damian Serbu!
When did you start writing as a career?
My mother would tell you I started in pre-school, when my favorite activity was to tell my teacher a story while she wrote it down to bring home that night. I began writing fiction in the late 1990s while in graduate school, earning a Ph.D. in history. At first my writing was nothing more than a private hobby for fun but I kept working and refining my skills over the years until I was first published.
Writing as a career developed slowly from there, by publishing, building a following, and learning about publicity. I know that’s a long and maybe convoluted answer to a rather simple question! But I can’t think of how to give it a specific moment. Oh! In fact, before I dabbled as a hobby writer, I invented stories in my head but never attempted to write them down. However, a lot of those concepts or ideas popped into my head again over the years and did become stories or scenes in a novel. So in that regard, I began even earlier.
What's your current work in progress?
I have a few irons in the fire. Most prominently, I am writing The Vampire’s War. This will be the fifth in my vampire series. In April, my publisher – NineStar Press, is publishing The Vampire’s Witch, which is the third in the series. So in April, books I-IV will be available, with V hopefully coming next year. The fourth in the series, The Vampire’s Protégé, ends with a cliffhanger – about an impending vampire war. So I needed to crank out the fifth book because the story has been swimming in my head for quite a while.
I am also delving into two other projects. First, I am writing a sequel to Santa Is a Vampire: The Easter Bunny Is a Werewolf. Simon the Elf is back with another dark but humorous story. And I began writing a new young adult novel, about an alien invasion.
Tell us about your latest release The Bachmann Family Secret.
The Bachmann Family Secret is my first young adult novel! The story follows Jaret, who returns to his family’s ancestral home in Nebraska for his grandfather’s funeral. He arrives to find an irate ghost haunting his family and especially after him. Jaret struggles against the ghost as he discovers he has hidden powers as a witch. Also, he decides to come out, and in the middle of the chaos finds a boyfriend. The whole idea for this story started as a recurring nightmare I had in high school. I can’t tell you much about the dream, because it would be a spoiler for the book. After I kept having that dream, though, I always told everyone I could make it into a great horror novel scene. So, I did! My favorite character is Jaret’s dog, Darth. I liked having a dog as a main character.
This story is a companion novel to your series, The Realm of the Vampire Council. Tell us about the other titles in that series.
The Vampire’s Angel is the first in the series. The novel introduces my world of vampires, and really focuses on a love story between a French priest, Xavier, and an American visitor, Thomas, set during the French Revolution. The Vampire’s Quest comes next, set forty years later. Spoiler alert to the first, Thomas converts Xavier into becoming a vampire and the two enter a relationship. In Quest, Xavier is sent on a spiritual quest to save a friend’s family from slavery in America. His act defies the Vampire Council, who hunts him as Thomas also tries to find him to save him.
The Bachmann Family Secret comes here – it’s not about vampires, none of them appear in it. BUT! It’s a companion novel because . . . The Vampire’s Witch, the third in the vampire series, brings together my vampires with Jaret! Anthony, one of the vampires on the Vampire Council, meets and falls in love with Jaret but can’t convert him to being a vampire because Jaret’s magic as a witch is too strong. The story follows their ups and downs, as well as the evil ghost who haunted Jaret in The Bachmann Family Secret coming back to terrorize him. The fourth book, The Vampire’s Protégé, stands alone with a new vampire secretly being created by someone who hates the Vampire Council. This book sets itself apart because Charon, the main character, is more a villain than a good person or vampire. He falls in line with being a lovable kind of villain, someone you follow and think is all wrong even as you can’t take your eyes off what he might do next.
At the end of this novel, he meets Jaret, who tells him about an impending war and the need for him to assist. Thus paving the way for The Vampire’s War – which will be book V. As long as I stay focused with writing and getting that one done!!
You also have two books based around Christmas in your Simon the Elf series. What inspired you to write a book based around a holiday?
For a long time I joked around with people that the legend of Santa had a creepy side. He lurks around, spies on people, enters homes, all without permission. Who knows what the dude is really up to? And – I like to read scary horror stuff and I love the holiday season. But so little speculative fiction is set around the holidays, I suppose for obvious reasons because people like to think about joy and love and happiness. I combined my long-time joke with my desire for holiday horror.
Simon the Elf popped into my head as the vehicle for telling the story as an enslaved elf of Santa’s because he could be relatable to the reader and have a reason for being around evil Santa. The novel is both horrific and dark in a not okay kind of way, but also humorous, which is also not okay. I love the holidays, so it was fun to set something during the Christmas season. Santa’s Kinky Elf, Simon, is a novella prequel, to introduce Simon and hint at the horrors to come. This one also gives Simon a love interest.
How do your books rebel against the status quo?
Oh, boy. Lots of ways, I hope! They rebel first by just being LGBTQIA+. I know that sound trite at this stage in publishing, where all sorts of books are out there for many people to read in the community. But I still remember coming out in the early 1990s, where there just wasn’t as much around, especially if you liked gay horror. I always flipped out when I found LGBTQIA+ horror and read it too fast in my excitement.
I also find my writing somewhat transgressive in attempting to make being non-hetero a secondary story. Sometimes I write established couples or characters already out and comfortable with their sexuality. Instead of ALWAYS having to include a coming out story, the story makes the sexuality a non-issue.
But my novels also rebel in making dark creatures more complicated. Are vampires bad or good? Both? What about witches? And what if the real evil often resides in “normal” society and its prejudices? Most people see “normality” and goodness in societal structures that are actually serving as the evil in the world. I like bending the rules and playing around with norms all the time. Taking previously outcast monsters and concepts and making them good, while taking things so many see as pure and good and turning them into evil.
Plus I rebel with my humor. Some people like it, some find it off putting. But it’s important to me to incorporate it into my writing.
Talk to me about the path you choose in publishing.
I’m kind of old school in wanting to have a publisher, not self publishing. I don’t have the knowledge and background to self publish, so I write my stuff and then submit it to publishers. I found my first publisher that way, and when we parted ways over creative differences, I found NineStar Press! I rely on and love the editing process that comes from a publisher. NineStar has WONDERFUL editors who help improve my stories and guide it through a rigorous process. So I started by sending queries, getting rejections, but keeping at the process until I landed a publisher.
Your bio says that your dogs rule your writing life! Does your life ever show up in your writing?
All the time! My life intrudes with things I see or experience. Life also creeps in with people I meet and personalities I build into my characters. I mentioned how one dream became a scene, but that has occurred more than once. I love having animals in my stories because my dogs are so important to me. So their personalities are all over the place in what I write. I also write about the elements of life I love and hate, trying to make sure that, in addition to telling a good story, my novels also offer a commentary on the world around us. I am careful to never have my work mirror exactly any one person to event I actually experienced, because I don’t write memoir or autobiography. But writing from what I know keeps my stories authentic for me.
Outside of reading, what are your hobbies?
I love watching professional sports, and am a big fan of all the Cleveland teams. My husband and I enjoy watching movies and traveling. So during Covid we’ve done a lot of movie watching while really missing the travel. I enjoy hanging with family and friends, too. Sitting and chatting and drinking and – most important – laughing a lot! During Covid I picked up a new hobby: I started cross stitching to chill and relax.
How do you balance your writing time with your real life?
I am pretty regimented about my schedule and routine. Like a dog. Or maybe because the dogs are in charge, we stick to a routine. My schedule helps me to make sure I carve out work and writing time, but also have time for play and relaxation. I find the down time helps my writing because I am fresh and ready to go when I sit down to write. Really, I have a harder time balancing the “business” side of writing – publicity, editing, social media, etc. – with actual time to sit down and create. Because the business side can suck up time and energy so fast! So I make sure to give myself exclusive writing time, or my creative side becomes frustrated.
What are you reading currently?
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi. What a powerful story. I was gripped immediately – and am about 1/5th the way through. It’s an educational experience for me and well told tale. Before that, I finished The Shadow Wand by Laurie Forest, the third in the Black Witch series. OMG – do I LOVE that series!!! Creative and intense.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
I promise to keep cranking out stories! And they will always include LGBTQIA+ elements, as well as other kinds of diversities. I want to keep writing speculative fiction that both entertains and gets people to think about what makes us tick as humans, both the good and the bad, and what we can all do to make a difference in moving us toward inclusion and equality.
Thanks for having me in for a visit!