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His Name Is Rio: An Interview with the Author of ‘Everdead’

By, Vince A. Liaguno

Rio Youers may have more in common with British band Duran Duran than a cursory glance might first reveal.

OK, there is that rock star name, synonymous with the band’s catchy 80’s New Wave hit. There’s the direct music connection; Youers was once the lead singer in a heavy metal band and still fools around on the guitar. There are the English roots – he hails from a small town outside of London, grew up in Bridport, Dorset (and now lives in Canada with his wife Emily). There are the rock star good looks. The photogenic dark scribe was once characterized as the “Boy Toy of Horror” in the episode notes for a BlogTalkRadio™ interview; Simon LeBon and company were once called “the prettiest boys of rock” by People magazine and graced many a teenage girl’s bedroom. Both he and the band’s keyboardist Nick Taylor are vegetarians. But although he’s seemingly a long-lost band member, the compelling comparisons between the venerable pop outfit and the substantially more literary leanings of Youers end there.

Youers (pronounced as two distinct syllables, “yew” and “ers”), whose English accent is the vocal equivalent of the hippest, coolest swagger, is making quite a name for himself by standing out in the crowded vampire sub-genre of horror. While critics scoff at Meyers’ money-making bloodsucker train and cynics roll their eyes at the sight of yet another debonair bisexual vampyre, Youers has managed to garner good notice for his second novel, Everdead, in which a decidedly retro bloodsucker is let loose in an exotic spring break atmosphere. That is if one considers a rave from Peter Straub “good notice.”

For Youers, it’s all about a return to the seduction of the vampire mythos and the idea of applying his unique voice to it. And he’s poised and ready – with his rock star hair, tribal tattoos, and rebel-without-a-cause image – to take his dark prose to the masses. But don’t let the appearance fool you — there’s plenty of substance to back up all that style as evidenced by Youers growing body of work. Hot on the heels of Everdead, Shroud Publishing revisits the high school horrors of Mama Fish before PS Publishing unleashes the revenge-driven Old Man Scratch later this year.

Like two old chums down at the local pub, DSM and Youers sat down to wax philosophical on the exaggeration of the vampire’s cultural oversaturation, why Dracula prefers cognac over Cosmopolitans, and why one would be well-advised to mind his side of the barbecue grill.

Dark Scribe Magazine: Tell us about Everdead.

Rio Youers: Everdead is an exciting, energetic vampire novel set in the vacation hotspot of Ibiza. It tells the story of Toby, a young American who travels to Ibiza in the hope of healing his broken heart, and Cass, a beautiful, intelligent woman hoping to have one final crazy summer with her friends before they go to university. Toby and Cass meet, they fall for each other, but any possible romance is disrupted when they discover a vampire running riot on the island. They go to the authorities, but ultimately realize that if they want to stop Luca, they’re going to have to do it themselves.

Dark Scribe: Vampires, huh? Brave man. With an overabundance of vampire fiction on bookstore shelves, why did you choose vampires?

Rio Youers: Yeah, I understand the whole overabundance thing. But it’s not like I sat down and said, I must write a vampire novel. The original spark for Everdead came to me more than ten years ago (not quite as many vamp books around then), and the concept was so solid – so appealing – that I felt impelled to put pen to paper. It sometimes seems that I didn’t choose to write a vampire novel, but that a vampire novel chose to be written.

Dark Scribe: For all the readers weary of vampires in fiction, what fresh element or perspective do you bring to this often clichéd sub-genre?

Rio Youers: Everdead has its share of clichés, but I don’t try to hide them. They’re in your face, in fact, and that’s exactly where I want them. This is my contribution to the genre, and I wanted it to be a well-written story with all the thrills and spills cranked to eleven. I wanted it to read like a comic book, and flow like a movie. And I think I achieved this. But there are still original elements: the characters offer a touch of realism and vulnerability that is rare in vampire fiction. And then there’s the location; I chose a real and popular setting for the novel. I wanted it to feel real – to live and breathe on the page. And so we have realistic characters in a real location, from which everything else falls into place. Also, Everdead has a fresh-edge with The Originals (aptly named, huh?). These are a breed of vampire as old as the world. They are hideous, flying monstrosities that hunt the darkness for other vampires. And so Luca – my bloodsucking bad dude – is always looking over his shoulder...always being hunted.

Dark Scribe: Why have bloodsuckers gotten such a bad rap of late?

Rio Youers: Whenever I think about this, I keep coming back to how many books Stephanie Meyer has sold. Whether they are good or bad is a matter of opinion … but I can tell you for sure that she is reading her bad reviews while sitting on a pile of cash. They just made another Underworld movie. They even made a sequel to The Lost Boys. The demand is there. People dig vampires. But if vampires are getting a bad rap, it’s because so many books and movies are – at best – mediocre.

True fans of the genre know what is good, and they will embrace it. Every now and then something good does come along. I Am Legend was written almost sixty years after Dracula. The Hunger is still an awesome vampire movie, and Metastasis by Dan Simmons offers a unique and brilliant twist to the genre. The good stuff will stand out, and will endure. The mediocre stuff...not so much.

Dark Scribe: Which vampire novels shaped your own interests? From which did you draw inspiration for Everdead?

Rio Youers: The Big Guns: Dracula; I Am Legend; ’Salem’s Lot; Interview with the Vampire. These are not just my favorite vampire novels, they are among my favorite all-time novels, and I absolutely drew inspiration from them while writing Everdead. If you’re going to be inspired by anything...be inspired by the best.

There are a number of movies that helped shaped the book, too: Dracula AD 1972; The Lost Boys; Fright Night. Now, I appreciate these may not be the best movies ever made, but they’re a lot of fun and they adhere to those traditional vampire values, and this is something I was keen to recreate with Everdead.

Dark Scribe: Everdead is set on the island of Ibiza, a little island just off the coast of Spain. How did you come to pick this locale as the setting for the book? How important is this setting to the story you’re telling?

Rio Youers: I went to Ibiza in the nineties, and it’s such a hi-octane, breakneck environment, alive with young people intent on doing the things they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. While I was there it occurred to me that – because all inhibitions have been blown to the wind – it is the perfect setting for a suspense novel. It lends itself to that kind of story because everybody behaves in such a carefree fashion. And so there was the spark: an all-too-appealing image of a young vampire seducing victims in some of the hottest dance clubs in Europe. And it stayed with me. It wanted life, and Everdead came into being...originally as a novella called Sundown, but a few years later I fleshed it out, and after a few more edits and revisions, it became the novel we have today.

The locale is essential to the story, not only because it keeps everything fresh and alive and new, but because the plot hinges on the fact that Ibiza is such a wild environment. Ibiza is the heartbeat of the book – as important as any of the characters. Everdead would not have been the same (I fear it may have been just another vampire book) if I had chosen a more typical setting.

Dark Scribe: Peter Straub wrote about you, “Youers writes beautiful phrases and sentences, and he has an instinctive feel for horror’s flash points, those moments in a novel when its author must demonstrate that he can keep his head while his readers are cheerfully losing theirs.” Are you conscious of these flash points when writing?

Rio Youers: No, not at all. I guess, as Peter says, they must be instinctive. I just write the story, concentrating on one word at a time. I really don’t think too much about being “scary” or creating tension. I just follow a magic thread to see where it will lead. There are times (most of the time, in fact) when I have no idea what will happen next. I think I know; I have this image – this phantom – in my mind that lures me onward, but it’s nothing solid. I write by instinct. And I’m glad I work this way. I think if I were to become aware of things like tension and flash points, they might become dulled by my over-excitement.

Dark Scribe: Everdead is actually your second book. Tell us something about End Times.

Rio Youers: End Times is different altogether. It’s a novel, written in the first person, about a recovering heroin addict who suddenly finds that his dark past (and it is very dark) is catching up with him, and threatening to crack his fragile state of mind. The story follows the narrator from the cold city streets to the wild prairies of South Dakota. It deals with some challenging subject matter, like drug addiction and self-harm, but is ultimately rewarding. I wanted to take the reader on a journey, and to have them follow the troubled protagonist every step of the way, which meant dealing with difficult issues in the hope of finding salvation.

I self-published End Times a few years ago and received many outstanding reviews, and it’s because of this book that everything else has fallen into place. It’s actually eight years old now, and I’m still very proud of it. And I’m delighted to say that it has found a very good home: End Times will be [re]released by PS Publishing in 2010.

Dark Scribe: How did your writing process evolve between the first and second book?

Rio Youers: That’s difficult to answer, because I have flipped so much between the two novels over the last eight or nine years – with revisions and such – that it’s difficult to remember which one I wrote first. But I have evolved as a writer in general because I am more experienced, and have learned to be more patient. There are writers that happily churn out two and three thousand words a day, and be delighted with what they have written, and that’s fine, but I’m not one of them. I’m extremely careful with each and every sentence. I need to find that inner rhythm and work to it. Some days I’ll find a thousand words. Some days there will only be two or three hundred. But I rarely push it because I don’t like sloppy writing. It’s probably detrimental to creativity, but that’s the way this kid works, I’m afraid.

Dark Scribe: What’s life like for Rio Youers when not writing? Are you one of those writers fortunate enough to write full-time, or do you juggle writing with another career?

Rio Youers: Life is great – a real blessing. I have a wonderful, supportive, loving wife and I live in a beautiful part of the world. I enjoy playing my guitar, reading, listening to music, and hanging out with my friends. Sounds corny, I know, but every day is a gift.

It could be better, however; I am not, as yet, in a position where I can write full-time. But I do anyway. Which reminds me...I really should find a job!

Dark Scribe: Tell us three things about your personal life that readers may either not know or may be surprised to know. We want skeletons!

Rio Youers: Well, I’m not sure about skeletons, but here are a few things that readers may (or may not) be interested to know:

One, I’m an annoyingly strict vegetarian – the kind that will make you use a different side of the grill when barbecuing my veggie burgers;

Two, I used to be the lead singer in a heavy rock band. We were pretty damn good, too;

Okay … here’s a skeleton. Just a little one. Gary Coleman’s skeleton, say:

Three, I once - during those helter-skelter, experimental days – went on a drug and alcohol binge with the lead guitarist of a world famous rock band.

Dark Scribe: Do you remember the moment that the writing bug bit you?

Rio Youers: I’ve been writing stories since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but I remember the moment I decided that writing would be a good way to earn a living—when that particular bug jumped up and bit my ass. I was sixteen—heavily into authors like James Herbert and Stephen King—and I wrote a short story called The Dog. It was terrible, of course, but back then I thought it worthy of a Pulitzer. I showed it to a few friends and they liked it, too (or so they told me). And so I sent it to a magazine, and shortly thereafter received my first rejection slip. But the excitement of possibly getting something published, in a real magazine, was immense. I’ve been hooked on rejections ever since.

Dark Scribe: Who are your favorite writers —past and present?

Rio Youers: Okay, I’ll cap it at five, because otherwise I’ll be here all day: Graham Greene, because he writes beautifully. His books have a dark fascination and his characters are so bitterly real; Stephen King, because he is arguably the greatest story teller of all time, and story is everything; Peter Straub, because he falls exquisitely between Mr. Greene and Mr. King – a great storyteller who writes beautifully; more recently I have developed a deep and envious appreciation for Cormac McCarthy. His novels are so stark and vivid, and his use of language twists my mind in fanciful, exotic directions; and I have to say Joe Hill. I thought Heart-Shaped Box was a great novel, but when I read 20th Century Ghosts I realized just how damned good he is. And when you consider that he is still at the beginning of his career, it makes you wonder how much better he’s going to get. It’s frightening, really. A huge talent.

Dark Scribe: If you were pressed to name three books released within the past five years that you thought would still be being talked about in genre circles 20 years from now, which three would you name? Why?

Rio Youers: I don’t read widely within the genre, so I’m probably not the most qualified to answer this question, but what the hell … I’ll give it a shot:

Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill’s first novel. He’s going to be the new king of the genre, no doubt about it, and this is the book that has got him off and running. John Dies at the End, by David Wong. This started out as a serialized story on the Internet, and because of its popularity was picked up – extremely successfully – by Permuted Press. It goes to show just how powerful the Internet can be, and how it may be utilized in the future. Also, it proves the impact that readers can have. I understand that it has been picked up for mainstream publication, and that the movie rights have been sold. I like this book; it’s a big-up for the little guys. And The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. You could argue that this is not a horror novel. I’m not sure whether it is or not, but I do know that it contains some of the most terrifying scenes I’ve read for a long time. One of my favorite novels of the last ten years – a breathtaking, powerful piece of work that spans the chasm between horror and literary fiction, and a deserving winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

Dark Scribe: What’s coming up next for Rio Youers, writer?

Rio Youers: I have a novella called Mama Fish coming out – any day now – through Shroud Publishing. 2009 will also see the publication of three of my short stories – "This is the Summer of Love" and "Alice Bleeding" will appear in the spring and winter editions of PS Publishing’s Postscripts anthology, and "WSCK" will appear in Graveside Tales’ Harvest Hill, to be released in October. Also, another novella, Old Man Scratch, is going to be published fall ’09 by PS Publishing...so it’s definitely a full year for me.

Dark Scribe: Dracula, the vampire Lestat, and Miriam (the Egyptian female vampire Catherine Deneuve played in The Hunger) walk into a bar. What does each of them order and why?

Rio Youers: We know they all like a drink, right? Okay, so they prefer blood to alcohol, but assuming they are given to occasional human tendencies …

Dracula is a count; nobility. He is going to prefer a distinguished drink, maybe a vintage red wine, or a cognac – Courvoisier, perhaps. I have this fantastic image in my mind of Dracula (well … Christopher Lee) chugging a bottle of Bud Light. However, given his stateliness, I don’t think this is going to happen. Courvoisier, then.

The vampire Lestat. He’s a rock star. An immortal rock icon. Much easier to see Lestat (not Tom Cruise) drinking a cold bottle of beer, but in true rock star fashion he’s more likely to order a generous shot of Jack Daniels. No ice.

Miriam. Sexual, seductive, and intensely gothic. She would order something smooth and sweet, but with a harsh kick, and likely to leave you staggering after just one glass. I’m thinking a Black Russian. The coffee liqueur, dark and bitter, suits her nature. Vodka offers the deceptive kick, and the ice is like her heart. So yes...a Black Russian for Miriam.

To learn more about Rio Youers, visit his official author website.

Posted on Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 02:21PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | CommentsPost a Comment

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