Interview with J B Stilwell, author of The Source: A Mountain State Vampire Series
About The Source: A Mountain State Vampire Series.
Emma Burcham is a human scientist working on a project for the Federal Office for Human and Vampire Administration, a U.S. government office created to deal with paranormal crime that the regular correctional system just can’t handle. She’s paired with scientist Rick Allstedt who just happens to be of the fanged sort. Together they work to uncover the source of vampire mortality for crime prevention – and if they succeed they will be $50,000 richer.
Emma struggles to focus on the project while she develops feelings for Rick. Does he feel the same way or will government archivist Tucker Dutrieux win her heart? Will Emma allow her desire for love get in the way of the work she was hired to do?
Emma quickly realizes that she has a lot to learn – not only about vampires, but also about herself.
Firstly, tell us about your book/series – and what you are working on at the moment.
My book series is called The Mountain State Vampire Series. The first book in the series is my debut release, “The Source,” and I’m currently working on the sequel “Mining the Dark.” The series takes place in West Virginia and focuses on the heroine, Dr. Emma Burcham, a scientist who has taken a job working for the US government’s Federal Office of Human and Vampire Administration (FOHVA). Emma is a complex woman in that she is confident about her mind and effective contributions to projects, but not so confident about other areas of her life. Being a native West Virginian, we see her interact and develop with the recently out-in-the-open vampire community – and other paranormal creatures and human “outsiders” – all in the backdrop of Appalachian culture. The story really focuses on what happens when your place a normal woman in paranormal situations.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I was inspired to become a writer by the first book that got me interested in reading and also got me interested in poetry – S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders.” I became an avid reader after reading “The Outsiders,” and the story introduced me to the poetry of Robert Frost. I became obsessed with being able to tell stories and express my feelings through the written word, specifically in rhyming poems. I used writing as a way to deal with all of the coming of age issues that I was facing as an adolescent. It was meditative and cathartic. In doing this, I developed my skill as a writer and soon began writing more than teen angst poems. For a long time I wrote specifically non-fiction and political essays. It wasn’t until I got what I felt was a truly original idea that I started writing novels – that idea became “The Source.”
How long have you been writing?
I began writing poetry when I was 14 years old, so I’ve been writing on and off and in different genres for 23 years. I’ve only recently been seriously published with “The Source.” Before its release I had only been randomly published in local media, anthologies and state newspapers/magazines.
What is your relationship with your characters? Do you have a favourite? Is there one that you find a bit more difficult?
As I wrote “The Source,” it was like the characters became close friends, almost like family. While writing, I would often be surprised at something that was said or done – and I was the one writing the story! It was like the characters took on a life of their own and were just using me as a way to get their voices heard. Emma is definitely my favorite. I like how she is evolving, how she doesn’t just blindly go through life, but looks at what happens, learns from it and even allows it to change her. The most difficult character for me to write is Bree – mainly because her caustic personality is so significantly different from the way I am. She’s the type of person that I would most likely avoid in real life. Yet I enjoy the challenge of looking at her personality type and thinking about how she would react to different things.
Do you write freehand at all or straight onto your pc?
I mostly write on my laptop, but my laptop is not always around when scenes come to me, when the characters start “speaking” to me. I’ve been known to write scenes on scrap paper or even record them on the voice memo app on my phone. When the Muse calls, she doesn’t like to be put on hold, so as a writer I do what I can to capture those ideas as they happen.
What do you think causes people’s enduring fascination with vampires?
Honestly I think it’s the ability to use vampires to address certain elements of the human condition that aren’t necessarily openly discussed in a poignant way – issues of good vs. evil, humans’ struggles within themselves regarding feelings and desires and of course the sensuality of literary vampires. All paranormal fiction gives us the ability to safely explore concepts and experiences that in some cases might even be taboo in modern times. That’s the fascination – getting close to the “bad,” “naughty” stuff without feeling guilty. Vampires – and other paranormal creatures – are great for this because regardless of how we humanize them, they’re not real. Fantasy is a great normalizer – we can explore without consequence. Well, unless you miss work or school because you’re reading too much.
You are planning an awesome dinner party. Which 3 celebrities/fictional characters/historical figures (past or present) would you add to your guest list?
Great question. Dr. Frankenstein (the one who created a monster), Buffy Summers (the one who is destined to fight monsters) and Mahatma Gandhi (the most famous practitioner of non-violent disobedience).
Can you give us five random facts about yourself?
1. I was born in Huntington, WV, which is prominently featured in The Mountain State Vampire Series.
2. I lived in India for 6 months and met my husband while I was there.
3. I have my bachelor’s degree in Sociology – my studies focused mainly on crime and deviance, with an academic fascination with serial killers.
4. I’m extremely afraid of heights.
5. The very first album I ever purchased with my own money was “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns ‘N Roses.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
I love my readers. I don’t want to say anything too cliche, but they are extremely important to me in terms of how I develop my stories. I actually listen to feedback and want my readers to be satisfied. So I take suggestions to heart and often use them as a guiding principle in my writing. My readers are the best and I’m grateful that they challenge me to be an even better writer!
About J B
She was born and raised in the foothills of Appalachia and currently resides in the Seattle metropolitan area with her husband and daughter. She is eclectic, having diverse interests that show in her writing. J.B. has a degree in Sociology in which her studies focused on crime/deviant behavior for undergrad and race/gender relations in post-grad. She loves to travel, particularly to India, and her varied experiences around the world are woven into her stories.
Aside from writing, J.B. loves to read, listen to music, watch good TV/movies, crochet and above all else, spend time with family and friends.