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A Conversation With E.E. Knight
An interview with Alisa McCune
March 2004

© E.E. Knight
E.E. Knight
E.E. Knight
E.E. Knight was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and grew up near the Twin Cities in Minnesota. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a double major in History and Political Science, had a number of jobs that had nothing to do with history or political science, and now resides in Chicago.

E.E. Knight Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Way of the Wolf

Way of the Wolf
Choice of the Cat

E.E. Knight is an up and upcoming fantasy/horror author with his second book to be published in May 2004. Knight is the creator of the Vampire Earth series; Way of the Wolf and Choice of the Cat. He is also the author of the forthcoming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Lost Cult.

The Vampire Earth series is set in a post-apocalyptical world in which aliens have taken over mankind. The aliens or Kurians are using humanity as cattle. Kurian-controlled Reapers, vampire like wraiths, steal a person's lifeforce or aura. This aura is used by the Kurians to achieve immortality. Way of the Wolf begins 43 years after the arrival of the Kurians. Humanity is fighting back with the help of the Lifeweavers -- aliens who are fighting a war with the Kurians.

The main character, David Valentine is a hero for humanity and the Lifeweavers. Early tragedies shape him and guide him on his quest to defeat the Kurians and save what is left of the human race. Valentine embarks on missions that take him to many places across what was once the United States. Among the ruins of civilization, he finds friends, allies, and foes. These adventures are the Vampire Earth series.

As of late March, 2004 ROC has optioned three more novels in the Vampire Earth series. Way of the Wolf has also won the Darrell award for best new novel. The award is given by the Memphis Science Fiction Association at MidSouthCon 22.

E.E. Knight was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions and discussing the series.

What is your background?

I had a 70s-80s suburban Midwest upbringing so typical it could have been the starting point for a Steven Spielberg movie. No aliens ever showed up in our bit of Minnesota riverside, though. There's not much to do when it's twenty below out, but read. My dad had shelves and shelves of the classics. He started me on E.E. "Doc" Smith when I was in the fourth grade, then I moved on to Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and of course Robert A. Heinlein. The local drugstore had a great science fiction and fantasy section; they always had the latest Larry Niven or Frederik Pohl or Keith Laumer -- this was back before the book distribution consolidation. I also read a lot of history. I'm not sure what the record is for the youngest person to read Samuel Eliot Morison's The Two Ocean War but I might be close. Later I got together with my friends for games. We would cross country ski to each other's houses to play Dungeons and Dragons and those wonderful old Avalon Hill bookshelf games. I went to college and got a liberal arts degree. I double majored in history and political science, which resulted in a series of really boring jobs that gave me plenty of time to fantasize.

How does it impact on your writing?
It turns out all those activities fertilized my mental soil. C.S. Forester once wrote that every time he read something, it sank into sort of a mental tar pit. Then it would bubble up again at unexpected moments in his writing.

What are you currently working on?
Right now I'm in the final stages of research for the fifth Vampire Earth series book and I'm drafting a role-playing worldbook for same.

You mention a few different projects in other interviews; a high fantasy and a Roman "X-Files." How are these projects coming along?
I wrote the "Roman X-Files" manuscript with a talented friend named Howard Andrew Jones, and right now it's working its way through various editorial piles. Roc's made some promising noises about the High Fantasy, it might finally see the light of day after the third Vampire Earth book, but nothing is in contract form yet.

Will there be anymore books in the Vampire Earth series after Tale of the Thunderbolt? [To be published in 2005]
Funny you should ask. It certainly sounds like there will. Roc expressed an interest and negotiations are supposed to take place towards the end of March. I'll know when my agent tells me.

Did something specific inspire the Vampire Earth series?
H.G. Wells in The War of the Worlds has that long conversation between the narrator and the sapper about a future for mankind under the Martians. That little passage really started it off. As a teen, I used it as inspiration for a role-playing game (RPG) campaign about Earth under these vampire-aliens (in The War of the Worlds, if you remember, the Martians live by drinking blood from a livestock species). My players loved it. Much later on when I finally got around to seriously novel writing I started reshaping that world, because it had really stayed with me over the intervening years as a dark place worth exploring.

Why did you use so many historical references; i.e. the Twisted Cross/Nazi connection?
I like a good bit of Lovecraftian "secret history" where the world isn't quite what we think it to be. The real reason is the hope that my readers give a little cackle of enjoyment as the covering gets peeled back and the truth is revealed.

You mentioned in a previous interview you have no political agenda, but the premise of a ruling elite is very political. How do you interpret the political aspects of the story arc?
Throughout history power has typically flowed from the top down. Vampire Earth is an extreme example, but I could name half a dozen others about as terrifying just in the bloody twentieth century. The Founding Fathers tried to design a system which reversed that flow, but subsequent generations started meddling with the plumbing. I'm not sure where I fit in with our whole right/left dichotomy, but I want to caution people against investing government with too much power.

David Valentine is a very well fleshed out character. Is there any of you in Valentine?
We both like to read and chop wood. We've both got a rather frightening dark side. I'll leave it at that.

Did you use any of your family and friends in any characterizations?
No. I throw in a name now and then if I like the feel of how the name comes off my tongue, but personalities, never.

Do you have any military training or experience? I was very intrigued by the military references in both books.
Luckily I turned 18 in peacetime. I've always loved first-person histories, or stories from men who've ridden the elephant. As a teen in small-town Minnesota, a couple friends and I used to hang out at the Legion Hall for bingo, and the older guys would buy us beers. Some of them were shooting eight-inch naval guns at Japanese-occupied islands or clearing German minefields at our age, and they figured we were old enough to handle an Old Style. Over the beer and the pool table and the bingo cards you'd hear some stories. The ones I liked best were the stories about friendships, or funny stories about supply SNAFUs, or the different people -- New Guinean, Italian, North African, Philippine -- they interacted with while in the service.

Please tell more about the Vampire Earth RPG.
It's just going to be a little rule book and world book that I'll sell through the site based on an open-source system (or systems). Other than "more books, faster," it's the most common request I get from fans. I like the completeness of writing a game book. Vampire Earth started, in very different form, as a RPG campaign. Now it has come full circle and will be a game in its own right. Some great people are involved in it: Howard, who I mentioned before, Gary Franklin, who has helped me with the web forum at, Fraser Ronald, an experienced world book writer for the d20 system. I'm enjoying it. Talented people just pop up wanting to help.

What are you currently reading and why?
The usual mixture of history and mythology books for idea fodder. I read more non-fiction than fiction, but I don't want to bore the readers with lists of obscure titles. I'm getting caught up on David Gemmell. I hadn't read him before but so many people raved about him. Now that I'm reading his stuff, I see why. Legend impressed me with the battle scenes. Another book I'm pushing on people is A Scattering of Jades, a wonderful "secret history" by Alexander C. Irvine. I'm always waiting for the next Alan Dean Foster novel to come out. I grew up on Foster's Humanx universe; it's like an old friend now.

What inspires you to write? I realize this is a loaded question -- but everyone wants to know what inspires you to create and what that process is.
Most people desire to add a little something to the world. Storytelling, myth-making isn't as important as building bridges and hospitals, but it has a long and honorable tradition. Lately, fan mail from Iraq inspires me.

Why vampires?
They're popular, which is a consideration for a debut novelist. Vampires make great foils; a hero is only as interesting as the evil he's set against. I've always had more sympathy for the Lucy Westenras of the world than the Count Draculas.

The Vampire Earth series reminds me of anime. Each section reveals a little more of the ultimate story, but never completes the story line. Why did you choose this type of episodic fiction?
True, the first book is episodic. That's one of the many reasons I had such a tough time selling it, I imagine. The others have a more coherent story arc, though they're still told the same way. Maybe it comes out of reading comic books. I have a tough time slicing up this biography of David Valentine though. It always seems the next book starts within the end of the last.

What made you a science fiction, fantasy, and horror fan?
The vastness, the possibilities, the stunning displays of imagination... but I think it boils down to escapism. I want to get out of my own life every now and then and visit a different world. It's like taking a really cool cruise for under 10 dollars, without the weight gain.

What are your favorites and why?
Is this the "stranded on a desert island" question? [Interviewer would like to add that this question is a very popular one for authors.] I'm assuming I'm limited to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. The Lord of the Rings, since I never get tired of following the hobbits across Middle Earth. Richard Adam's Watership Down, I have yet to finish that book dry-eyed. Keith Laumer's witty Retief stories, two-fisted thrills with a sense of humor that show that galactic civilizations might come and go, but the bureaucrat is eternal. Stephen King's The Stand, my favorite apocalypse novel. Robert E. Howard's action yarns and H.P. Lovecraft's blessedly overwritten mythos tales. I'd add in C.S. Forester's Hornblower books and a complete set of the Sherlock Holmes stories but that's wandering outside the genre.

Why did you originally publish Way of the Wolf as an e-book? Did this help you get the book published in paper?
No one else wanted to publish it, so when AOL/Time Warner Book Group gave me a chance with their experimental iPublish imprint (which sounds self-published but it wasn't), I took it. Way of the Wolf got enough of a response to make Roc take a second look after iPublish closed its doors.

What conventions are you planning on attending?
Every year my wife Stephanie and I try to do one of the biggies, either World Fantasy, World Horror, or World Science Fiction. I haven't decided between World Fantasy and World Science Fiction yet. I do some of the smaller regional cons around Chicago like Windy Con and OddCon (Madison, Wisconsin).

What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Watching Stephanie bellydance, travel (when I can afford it), gaming, movies, teaching, and a nice cup of tea.

What about your 'day' job?
The less said the better.

Any movies you particularly enjoyed?
No insult to The Return of the King intended, but the best movie I saw last year was Master and Commander. I love those Christopher Guest mocumentaries like Best in Show. I always see the latest John Carpenter movie. He's been criticized as a "pornographer of violence" which doesn't make sense linguistically but I consider it a compliment artistically. I'm looking forward to the next Ang Lee film, Brokeback Mountain. Anyone who can do such a good job with Sense and Sensibility and still make Ride with the Devil can do any sort of picture. In my heart of hearts Lee's the ideal director for a Vampire Earth movie -- call me a dreamer if you must, but if I hadn't dreamt I'd never have been published.

I would like to thank E.E. Knight for this interview.

Copyright © 2004 Alisa McCune

Alisa discovered science fiction at the tender age of eight. She devoured The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and never looked back. She lives in Chicago with her husband, cat, and 5000 books. For more information please visit her website at

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