Author One-on-One: James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
Q. How did you two meet?
Rebecca: I used to live in Hawaii, and Jim was my instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat where I was workshopping a thriller. My first novel, A Trace of Smoke, had been accepted for publication a few weeks before and he kindly agreed to give me my first blurb. It was so good, I printed and hung it above my writing desk until it got covered in gecko poop. Then I took it down. Sorry about the poop, Jim.
Q. The Blood Gospel is a bit of a deviation from the books that both of you are traditionally known for. What inspired the idea for this book?
James: This book came about from viewing Rembrandt’s painting of "The Raising of Lazarus." It struck me strange how scared everyone looked, and this started me down a road of reflection about early Catholicism, vampirism, and a story began to unfold. I knew this could be a huge, ground-breaking new mythology, a story so epic in scope that I knew I didn’t want to tackle this alone.
Rebecca: Jim called to ask me if I was interested in collaborating on a project. The premise and the world were so intriguing and controversial, I said yes immediately.
Q. Both of you are well known authors in your own right; how did you learn to collaborate?
Rebecca: We went back and forth a lot while trying to decide what would be fun and interesting for both of us. Since we’re two people, more ideas come out and the books end up going in a direction I don’t think either of us would have found on our own. Luckily, he’s very open and easy to work with and has never once said “that’s the stupidest idea ever,” because I think you need to feel safe to throw out any idea at the beginning and see what sticks.
James: It’s one of the best things about collaboration: we each bring a unique skill set to the table. Scenes where I know I perhaps am more deft (i.e. action), I handle. Likewise, Becky’s skill at characterization and atmospheric historical descriptions, I let her run with it. That said, then we each take each other’s work and tweak it in new and surprising ways that neither of us could have done alone.
Q. Could vampires have been or be real?
Rebecca: Our series plays with the idea that vampires are and always have been a myth, but the myth is based on some truth—that strigoi have always existed within and without the Church and their bloody crimes have formed the basis of the vampire myth.
James: It was interesting how many of the Church’s trappings (hooded robes, crosses, celibate priests, and the rite of turning wine into Christ’s blood) could be directly folded into the vampire mythology. It makes you wonder if the Church isn’t keeping something secret about a mythology that has existed for millennia.
Q. Can fans expect to find elements of science in this series?
James: With a scientific background in biology, I wanted to instill into the mythology how vampirism might be possible, how such creatures could live among us, how they could survive without beating hearts, why silver would be toxic to them. The goal of this book was to explore the line between faith and science, so that meant exploring a scientific and historical rationalization for the existence of vampires.