The latest Read by Candlelight novella, The Collector releases today, the same day that Shades of Sepia, one of my favourite M/M vampire novels and written by a very good friend of mine, Anne Barwell, rereleases. To celebrate these events, Anne and I teamed up and let our characters interview each other. Pip was over the moon to speak to real life vampire, Simon Hawthorne, while over on Drops of Ink, Ben Leyton has a few questions for Westaway.
The scene is the library at Foxwood Court, a well appointed room lit by warm gas lights and a large fire. There is a tattered rug in front of the fire, upon which a silvery-grey dog of large size slumbers. The library walls are lined with bookcases containing a varied collection of books, ranging from sermons and diaries, to occult works and detective novels. The occasional display cabinet, map chest, or item of interest fills in the gaps, and a handful of comfortable armchairs and desks complete the room.
Pip, a brown-haired man of middle years and barely contained excitement, is seated at his desk. He has a notebook in front of him, and is already enthusiastically scribbling. “Can I just say again, Professor Hawthorne, how pleased I am to welcome you to Foxwood Court, and to meet you at last. I don’t know if you realise quite what a privilege this is to me.”
Simon smiles. "Thank you for the enthusiastic welcome. It's very much appreciated." His glances around the library, his gaze lingering on the bookcases. He's always appreciated a decent library.
“My first question,” Pip starts, glancing at the paper in front of him, “is to ask, if this is not too personal a question, just how long you have been of the vampiric persuasion.” He looks hopefully at his guest.
"Nearly a hundred years." Simon reminds himself that he agreed to this interview, and he has missed speaking to another Englishman. Although Boggslake is his home, he's never forgotten his origins.
"A hundred years," Pip breathes, leaning forward. "Fascinating. You would have seen a lot of changes in that time. What challenges has your, shall we say, longevity caused you and how have you adapted to meet them?"
Simon pauses for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "I've seen a lot of changes, yes, although I'm not convinced that all of them are good. I'm not a fan of all of this new fangled technology, but... " He smiles, thinking of Ben. "It is rather wonderful to be able to not hide everything about one's self." He grimaces, then speaks quietly and somewhat subdued. "On the other hand, it's not easy losing friends as they grow old, and I do not. It's also a pain being stuck physically in my early twenties, and being treated by some as though I'm younger than they are when in fact I'm much older."
Pip hastily jots down his notes. “It certainly sounds as though being a vampire is not easy. I admit, I had not considered the possibility of being mistaken for a younger man. On that note, the vampire is presently rather popular in literature right now, thanks to Mr Stoker’s work and the resurgence of interest in vampire lore. What popular misconceptions do you find people hold in regards to the vampire?”
Simon hesitates. "This interview is just between us, yes? Some of those misconceptions are there for a reason. People fear what they don't understand." He glances at the bookshelves again. "Vampires like humans, are a mix of good and bad. I'm familiar with Mr Stoker's work, and some of the other fiction on your shelves."
"Oh?" Pip looks up, eyes shining. "What did you think of Dracula? What do you think is the most accurate representation of vampires and do you have a favouri--" He cuts himself off. "I do beg your pardon. My--ah--enthusiasm got the better of me. Yes, Professor Hawthorne, this interview is strictly confidential."
And since he has only limited time with the Professor, Pip glances again at his notes. He must make his questions count. "Has becoming a vampire changed you? Do you consider yourself still the man you were before your change, or has the experience had an indelible influence upon you?"
"Thank you." Simon can't help but be a little amused by Pip's enthusiasm. "No, I don't have a favourite." He hesitates. "While I have done some research on the supernatural on occasion, I don't tend to read much about vampires. It loses its appeal when it's an integral part of your life." Simon shifts uneasily in his chair, choosing his words carefully. "I'm not proud of a lot of things I've done in my life, especially since I became... this. Some days I wish I could put it behind me and be normal, but as my partner frequently reminds me, if I hadn't become a vampire we wouldn't have met, as I'm way older than he is." He glances away, not wanting to meet Pip's gaze head on. "Despite that, this isn't something I'd wish on anyone. Everything comes with a price." He lowers his voice. "We aren't immortal, Mr Leighton, we just age much more slowly than you do."
Pip nods slowly, impressed by his guest’s gravity. “I certainly appreciate your candour, Professor, especially as I know it cannot be easy for you to talk about so personal a subject. I imagine that during the course of your distinguished career, you’ve encountered many supernatural creatures. Would you care to tell me about some of the supernatural community that you’ve encountered?”
Simon chuckles. "My career isn't about meeting supernaturals, at least not officially. I teach history." He thinks for a moment. "I've learnt that there are many things and kinds of supernaturals that we're still not aware of, and presuming to know everything is foolish, and often downright dangerous. The community I belong to consists of mainly vampires and werewolves. Ghosts are real. Most myths have a basis in fact." He hesitates for a moment. "Some humans have an edge as well, but I haven't encountered many of those, just enough to be aware of them."
“Interesting.” Pip hastily adds ‘most myths have basis in fact’ to his notes—he’s got an entirely new branch of research to occupy himself with now.
Outside in the hall, the grandfather clock chimes. Pip grimaces. Out of time already? “We’ve got time for just one more question. Professor, you mentioned your partner earlier, and that you are considerably older than him. If it is not too presumptuous, may I enquire as to how you met and courted Mr Leyton?”
Simon smiles. "No, of course not, and please call me Simon." This interview has been much more pleasant than he anticipated and he's warmed to the man in front of him, whom he thinks has the potential to be a colleague. "We met in a park. He was taking photographs of the area, and I like to go there to think. I finally got up the nerve to approach him and introduce myself. He is very easy to talk to." His expression turns wry. "Although that can be a problem when one is keeping secrets, and I wasn't about to share mine at that point."
He stands and offers his hand. "It's been a pleasure meeting you, Mr Leighton. And please, if you ever need my help, don't hesitate to contact me." His tone turns sombre. "Research has the potential to be dangerous, and it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that."
“Simon.” Pip’s grin is wide and genuine as he returns the handshake. “Phillip Leighton, at your service.” This interview has exceeded all Pip’s very high expectations. On first name basis with a vampire who doesn’t want to eat him! “You and Mr Leyton are always welcome to visit us here. Foxwood Park is at your disposal—it is a very good place for thinking.”
His smile is wry. Pip’s last encounter with a vampire did not go anywhere near this well. “I confess I have allowed my fervour for research to get me into trouble in the past, but I am, I trust, older and wiser now.”
He sees Simon to the door, and stands, looking after him with a speculative expression on his face. Research potential—yes, Pip has a lot to look into now. Rubbing his hands together he returns to the library.
Shades of Sepia (The Sleepless City #1)
To be soulmates they first have to survive.
A serial killer stalks the streets of Boggslake, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.
One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can't ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Boggslake, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he's found a new home.
After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer's next target.
Author’s note: This story was originally released in 2014 by another publisher. This edition has been revised and re-edited with the end result being a better, stronger story.
Buy Shades of Sepia now on Amazon.
The Collector (Read by Candelight #9)
All Gideon Lawes has left is his scrupulous honesty. Employed to investigate a supposedly haunted house, Gideon vows to uncover the secrets of 32 Belcairn Road. But he gets more than he bargains for in the form of the Collector, a spirit relentlessly pursuing an unpaid debt.
Drawn by chance into the lives of cheerfully generous Fairweather and darkly ironic Holford, Gideon discovers things about himself he never imagined. With the Collector closing in, Gideon must choose between destroying the friendship he values most or sacrificing his self-respect for a lie. Whatever Gideon chooses, the Collector will claim another victim.
The Collector is book nine in the Read by Candlelight series of gothic novellas wearing paranormal suspense and mystery around an evolving ensemble cast. Pour yourself a strong cup of tea and pick up The Collector today.