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Benton Evening News - Benton, IL
  • Author Seth Grahame-Smith talks about 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'

  • Seth Grahame-Smith is author of the best-seller “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” I recently talked with Grahame-Smith about his newest book, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” which is out now.

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  • Seth Grahame-Smith is author of the best-seller “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” I recently talked with Grahame-Smith about his newest book, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” which is out now.
    Q. What do you find interesting about combining history with the horror genre?
    A. For me, it’s just a matter of combining two things that I love. A lot of the reading I do for pleasure is history – books by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Walter Isaacson (and) David McCullough. I love histories, presidential biographies and I’ve always been interested in history. At the same time, I’ve also been a lifelong fan of the horror genre, especially horror movies growing up as a kid.
    Q. Do you think there is a lot of horror in history you can write on or reflect on?
    A. Absolutely. The most horrific things in the world are real ... the horrors of war – you know – the horrors of crimes and abuse and the terrible things that people can dream up doing to each other – those are the real scary things. History is full of examples. Part of the way we measure time as human beings is by wars. I think history is fraught with horror.
    Q. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
    A. The origin of the idea was just an observation that I reached by hanging out in bookstores. ... A couple of years ago as we were leading up to the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth I kept going into bookstores and seeing that there were Lincoln tables in front of all the bookstores (and) a new Lincoln book coming out on almost a weekly basis. It seemed like people couldn’t get enough Lincoln. At the same time, this was also when the “Twilight” phenomenon was sort of reaching its critical mass, so inevitably, there would be a vampire table with vampire books right next to the Lincoln table in all these bookstores. I kept seeing this over and over, and so that is the genesis of where it came from.
    Q. Do you think there is so much legend surrounding Abraham Lincoln that the lines are kind of blended between fact and fiction?
    A. There are things people think they know about Lincoln, but I was surprised through my own research just how much I didn’t know. ... Lincoln suffered so much tragedy and darkness in his life. Lincoln was sort of a Gothic figure. He was interested in Gothic poetry, he was a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. At one point in his life he could quote “The Raven” from memory. The things that surprised me about Lincoln were some of the darker aspects of Lincoln. That was helpful in creating the story.
    Page 2 of 3 - Q. What was your intention of the tone of the book, overall?
    A. The overall tone is very Gothic. I wanted it to be like that Gothic literature Lincoln read. I never wanted to create the illusion with the reader that this was ridiculous, because the premise is so ridiculous that I wanted to write it more seriously than I would have otherwise. The whole point of the book was to give new context, new meaning, to the already great, already fascinating, already entertaining story of Lincoln. ... That was the fun for me in writing it, and I hope that’s the fun in reading it.
    Q. So it was more of an introspective point of view (from Lincoln)?
    A. Well, yeah, I wanted to get inside Lincoln’s head and sort of imagine what he was like as a man. I sort of got that through reading a lot of his speeches, reading a lot of his correspondences in his real life and trying to translate that into a narrative in his journals – what his innermost thoughts might have been, not just about his hunts as a vampire, but about all of these very familiar pieces of Lincoln lore.
    Q. Have you gotten much backlash for writing about the Civil War and slavery and tying it into vampires?
    A. I haven’t really gotten any backlash, to be honest with you. I knew I needed to be sensitive on the subject of slavery obviously just as I needed to be sensitive on the topic of Lincoln. I mean the last thing you want to do is be offensive. The book goes out of its way to tell the reader, you know, America had a pre-existing evil of slavery. Slavery does not exist because of vampires, slavery is there because of man, and because America has sort of built itself up on this evil institution. Now that evil institution, that pre-existing condition, is what temps the vampires to come over and take advantage of it.
    Q. So it’s kind of a commentary or statement on the “monsters” of history?
    A. One of the biggest things the book tries to do is to tie the idea of vampirism and slave holding together. That’s something that occurred to me very early on is that essentially, vampires and slaveholders do the same thing in a way – they steal someone else’s life to enrich their own, so, you know, to me, it made sense those two “monsters,” I guess you can call them, would be in league together.
    Q. Were movie rights bought for the book?
    A. Yeah, the movie rights were bought by Tim Burton. I’m actually writing the screenplay for him and a couple of other producers, so that’s what I’m in the middle of right now.
    Page 3 of 3 - Hilary Matheson is a reporter for The Journal-Standard. She may be reached when not wielding an ax in the stylings of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” at hmatheson@journalstandard.com.
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