Panic View: Lee Collins

I love westerns, and I love monsters.  So when I found a book combining the both I may or may not have squealed liked a little girl.  Spoiler Alter: I Did.  I loved Dead of Winter and She Returns from War so when I got a chance to interview the author Lee Collins I jumped on it.

42 Webs: Hunter Fiction has become vastly popular these days.  What about the genre drew you to it?

Lee Collins: My first real exposure to hunter fiction was probably when I watched the Hellsing anime series about ten years ago. I enjoyed it enough to track down what issues of the manga had been published in English at the time, and one can definitely see its influence in my books. The idea that a secret world of monsters lurking just beneath the surface of our own really appealed to me. As I started consuming other stories in this vein (Vampire Hunter D, Buffy/Angel, etc), I began thinking how the supernatural abilities given to the hunters cheapened their victories somewhat. Ordinary humans overcoming such creatures is, to me, a much more interesting idea (think Integra rather than Alucard if you’re familiar with Hellsing).

Many people grew up in households where Westerns are almost like a religion.  My grandfather loved Clint Eastwood and passed it onto my Dad who in turn passed it onto me and my siblings.  What was your experience with westerns growing up?

LC: Oddly, I wasn’t too exposed to the genre as a kid. I was born and raised in Colorado, so the environment of the Old West is something I saw (and still see) everyday. Neither of my parents were interested in Westerns, though, so I didn’t see too many except what I caught on the odd Saturday afternoon. I didn’t really dislike them, but neither did they grab my interest the way Star Trek and Star Wars did. It wasn’t until college when I read Larry McMurtry for a class assignment that I really started understanding the richness of the genre.

Many period pieces involving comics or monsters often find themselves using period technology to recreate modern weapons (dynamite + crossbow to make a rocket launcher in Jonah Hex; machine gun crossbow in Van Helsing).  You avoided this.  Was staying true to the period an important factor when writing Cora?

LC: Very much so. As I said, pitting ordinary people against extraordinary creatures is an important theme in my books, especially The Dead of Winter. Giving Cora access to anachronistic technology would have been similar to giving her supernatural strength or speed in my mind. I didn’t want any unnatural influences making things easier for her.

In both of your books we see a great deal of facts about obscure lore.  How much research did each book require?

LC: The research for both was a bit tricky. The lore surrounding the American Indian creatures I incorporated into the books isn’t very complete. For example, I read through a number of texts covering Navajo mythology and legends without finding very many references to the habits, abilities, or weaknesses of the skinwalker. Part of the reason for this is that speaking of skinwalkers and other witches is very taboo in Navajo culture, so it isn’t as though they have an established canon somewhere. I tried to remain as true to the lore as possible, but there were a few holes that I had to patch as I went along.

After the surprise ending of She Returns From War what’s next for you as a writer?  Will you continue the adventure of Victoria Dawes or will you try something new?

LC: I haven’t settled on anything yet. Victoria does still have things to take care of, and it wouldn’t be fair if I just left her to her own devices. On the other hand, I have this completely harebrained idea that I want to try my hand at epic fantasy. I blame release of The Hobbit and Game of Thrones season 3 for this. Still, The Lord of the Rings was an enormous part of my childhood, so maybe I’ll give it a shot.

Up next is one of 42 Webs’ ‘signature questions’. These are small questions that while growing up I always wondered about authors?

What is your favourite book/author? Why?

LC: Being completely honest (and thus risking unoriginality), I have to say The Lord of the Rings. I read the trilogy once a year for most of my childhood, and its influence on my interests and personality are indelible. Hell, I even asked a girl to a dance in high school by writing her a heroic couplet in cirth daeron (she said no). The scope of the world Tolkien created and the magnitude of the storyline astound and intimidate me like no other author has.

What is your most memorable comic trade/graphic novel? Why?

LC: I wasn’t allowed regular comics as a kid, so I’m sadly very ignorant of this medium. Still, I remember having a graphic novel edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress that Marvel had worked up. The artwork was very impressive, and the Medieval fantasy setting appealed to my Tolkien-forged sensibilities.

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