Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies proved that he could spice up a classic without completely changing the original story — an impressive and difficult task. In his newest novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the mash-up author re-imagines American history by adding vampires (think True Blood meets a Ken Burns documentary), allowing him to create explanations for almost every unsolved American mystery while taking some rather hefty creative license. For example: A young Lincoln befriends a young Edgar Allan Poe. They run into a pre-Confederate Jefferson Davis.
It’s a clever idea and the finished product is a little bit campy, a little bit gory, and a lot of fun to delve into. After the jump, check out our interview with Seth Grahame-Smith, where we talk vampires, history, and golf swings.
Where did the idea for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter come from?
From hanging out in book stores. A couple of years ago, right before the Lincoln bicentennial, it seemed like there was a new Lincoln biography coming out every week. No matter what store I wandered into, there it was – the Lincoln table, right up front. Growing bigger by the day. As it happened, this was also about the time that Twilight was beginning to blow up. So inevitably, there’d be a table of vampire books right next to that Lincoln table. And there they were – the two ingredients that people couldn’t seem to get enough of. And it got me thinking… what if these things tasted even better together?
Throughout ALVH you quote from newspapers and reference events that are contemporary with Lincoln. How much research did you do before writing?
I did a fair amount of reading over a couple of months as I was writing the outline. I re-read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and marked it up with notes. I obsessively combed the Lincoln Log — a site devoted to tracing Abe’s real life day by day; hour by hour. I read Lincoln’s speeches and letters to get a sense of how he may have talked, and how he wrote his thoughts down on paper. I knew there was know way I could turn myself into a Lincoln scholar, but I wanted a solid grasp on his real story; his real personality and ideals. I wanted as much real history in the book — as much of Lincoln’s real life — as possible. I wanted to bombard the reader with reality, so that the made-up bits seemed almost plausible.
In both Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and ALVH, you emulate the style of other authors. Do you find this easier or more difficult?
I think all writers emulate the style of other authors to some degree. It’s how you find your own voice, by borrowing (or in some cases, outright ripping off) stuff from your idols. Emulating the style of Jane Austen or Abraham Lincoln is no different (to me anyway) than writing in the voice of a Marine Colonel or greasy spoon waitress on the night shift. You get inside that person’s head, and you describe the world the way they see it. You talk the way they talk.
What are you working on now?
Getting the word out about the new book, adapting it into a screenplay for some soon-to-be named producers [Editor’s note: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tim Burton and Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov are teaming to bring it to the big screen.], finishing up the first season of The Hard Times of RJ Berger — a new scripted comedy series that I created with my friend and partner David Katzenberg (premiering in June on MTV), outlining the next book, and chasing my 15-month-old son around the living room. But mostly my golf swing.
If you’ve ever felt the need to kill John Wilkes Booth, we highly recommend that you check out the free Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter game app. Watch the sepia-tone trailer for the book below.