Today, I welcome to the Stone Cottage author Arshad Ahsanuddin of the highly rated Pact Arcanum series.

Though you answer it a bit at your website, I’ll ask once more: why vampires? What do you believe sets your vampire series apart from the rest?

The vampire is an age-old archetype of fantasy and horror, which has  long preceded the current popular renaissance in interest.  I originally conceived the story back in the 1990’s when I was a die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel fan.  What intrigued me about the vampires in those stories was the fact that though they were vampires, that was only one aspect of their personalities and they were unique and distinct characters.  I’ve tried to do the same with my characters, trying to make them each unique in voice, motivation , and backstory.  As for what sets my story apart from the others, I’d have to wonder that myself.  I haven’t read many of the other series in the vampire genre, other than the staples of Anne Rice, Dracula, etc.  And yes, I did read the Twilight saga.  They kind of lost me in the fourth book when Carlisle says he genotyped Jacob and the other vampires, and they had extra chromosomes.  I mean, come on.  Who does a karyotype when tending a broken leg?  He may be a vampire and a doctor, but show a some professional ethics, please.

I saw one reviewer wrote that “Sunset” would be a difficult book to categorize or define. What genre would you consider the Pact Arcanum?  Do you write across genres?  If so, why?

The genre of the series would most broadly be considered Speculative Fiction, of which a subset is urban or contemporary fantasy.  On top of that the story is also a paranormal romance, with both straight and gay characters.  So, in a way, I’m writing across three genres: urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and gay fiction.  Two, if you consider paranormal romance as transcending the characters’ particular naughty bits.

I see Pact Arcanum is set in the future.  Give me an idea of setting.  What has changed in the world?

The world is similar, except for some technological advances, such as virtual/holographic interfaces for computers.  The vampires/vampire slayers are more advanced, having declared a truce and turned their attention away from killing each other to working together.  By combining magic and science, they have achieved quantum leaps in technology, including space flight and temporal manipulation, and have secretly set up colonies across the solar system.

Your covers are gorgeous.  Do you do them yourself?  Does each image on each of the three books represent something inside?

I created the cover art myself from licensed stock photographs, which I cobbled together in Photoshop.  Each image represents an aspect of the protagonist of that book.

Have you used your real life experience as a hematopathologist in your writing?  For those of us who don’t really know what that is (i.e. me), what is a hematopathologist?

A hematopathologist is a laboratory physician, who is focused on using laboratory test and microscopic evaluation of tissue biopsies to diagnose diseases of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, such as leukemia and lymphoma.  My colleagues got a laugh out of the fact that I write about vampires, given my area of expertise.  There hasn’t really been much overlap over my job and the books, though, other than the general appreciation of science and mathematics that I acquired over the course of my training.

You offer a lot of sage advice on editing through the Pact Arcanum blog.  What is your personal process for editing your work?

I don’t offer advice so much as information.  God knows, my first books should have had another round of editing to become truly impressive, though the flaws in the material are mostly evident to other writers.  The main thing is to make sure you don’t approach your writing in isolation, or you blind yourself to the flaws in your work which become glaringly obvious on an unbiased read through.  After I published my third book, I read it again and realized that I used the same first name for two separate characters, in the same book.  That required some quick rewriting to fix, but it was a major embarrassment.

As for my personal editing process, as soon as I finish my first draft, I send it to a substantive editor who points out overall structural defects in theme, setting, plot and characterization.  After I respond to those critiques, I send it to a copyeditor to identify problems of grammar, punctuation, and language.  Recently, I identified the need for line editing, in which an editor goes through the book line by line and points out changes in language and phrasing that are awkward, repetitive or cliched, so there might be a revision to the three existing books in the future to tighten up the language and give the reader the best experience possible.  Since I would in eBooks and print-on-demand, I have creative and editorial control over my books and can go back if absolutely necessary.

What’s more important to a reader, the cover, the blurb, or the first few pages? (in your opinion)

It depends on the setting.  In a brick-and-mortar store, definitely the cover, followed by the back cover text, and then the first five pages.  Those are the three chances to hook the reader, and they have to shine.  For eBooks, though, given the availability of search engines and sample chapters, the main hook is in the short blurb, which catches the reader through the catalog listing or tag cloud, and causes them to go in for a closer look.   Then the first chapter is key, since they will in most cases, be able to read the first 10-20% for free.  The writing is your hook, not the visual appeal, as with a print edition.

You have several posts on writing guides that you have read and reviewed.  What are the two essential writing guides you recommend to every writer?

The two that I have read that are of singular importance in shaping my growth as a writer are Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, and Writing Fiction for Dummies by Ingermanson and Economy.  They lay out the blue print for the essential elements of plot, characterization, and setting that define the overall structure of the novel, leaving the nuts and bolts of dialogue and theme to the writers developing voice.

Does the Pact Arcanum end at “Moonlight”? If not, what else do you have in store for readers?

The main storyline of Pact Arcanum ends with Starlight, the fourth book, which I am presently working on.  It will probably be available early next year, and picks up the story through the eyes of a new character, Antonio Jameson, introduced  in Moonlight.

How long have you been independently published? Did you attempt the traditional route at all?

I didn’t try for traditional publishing.  Other than the editing and the prestige, it seemed like a bad deal all around, with a small advance, low royalties, loss of creative control, and lack of marketing support.  I didn’t see what a publisher would offer me that I couldn’t do on my own, or learn to do.  As it happens, I used a publishing service, which I think ended up costing me entirely too much, so I’ll probably be leaner in my development and publication of the fourth book.

Sunset

Book One in the Pact Arcanum series

Los Angeles, 2040. The terrorist Medusa and her followers threaten to destroy the metropolis with a nuclear bomb. One individual, the vampire Nicholas Jameson, comes forward to oppose them. As Nick takes on the terrorists, the fragile peace between the races hangs perilously in the balance as the supernatural peoples are exposed.  Can Nick lead the four races into peaceful coexistence, or will the final war destroy them all?

With millennia-old magic, emerging romance, and ever-shifting allegiances, this inventive new series unveils a scintillating, homoerotic world of Nightwalkers, Daywalkers, Sentinels, and Humans, who battle for world dominance in the not-too-distant future.

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About the Author:

Arshad Ahsanuddin is Canadian-born, but lived in the United States for most of his life. He is currently a practicing hematopathologist, a physician who specializes in using biopsies and laboratory data to diagnose diseases of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Yeah, a blood doctor writing about vampires. The irony is not lost on him.  It certainly amuses his colleagues.

Find him online:

Pact Arcanum Website

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Twitter Handle @pactarcanum