Scott Snyder: I’ve done mostly literary fiction until now. I wrote a collection of stories in 2006 called Voodoo Heart. I’m working on a novel for 2011. And I’ve done some work for both Marvel and now DC in the comic world. And I’m a big Elvis fan.
Lilja: How did you come up with the series, American Vampire?
Scott Snyder: I came up with it several years ago in a pretty mundane way. I was in a hobby shop in the West Village and I was looking at the statuettes and figurines for a present for my friend who’s a big Dr. Who fan and there was this statue of an zombie Confederate soldier, and it just got me thinking about how monsters and history and how there are so few monsters (other than Romero's zombies) that are indigenous to the US. Vampires, werewolves, they're all Old World creatures. This was also at a time when there was another glut of vampire stuff out (I guess there's always a glut) - sequels to Blade and Underworld and Queen of the Damned... All with that same look to them - the Matrix-style, sunglasses at night, leather trench-coat,super-slick style, like they're going to some club that's too cool for you.
Anyway, I started thinking that it would be fun to see vampires with a different character to them, something more animalistic and feral. And the real idea hit me: why not make up a new species of vampire - something born, here, with new powers, new weaknesses... A new look… An evolutionary jump! So the idea for this American species took shape, something wild and mean, a vampire 2.0 born in the American West, with new powers, new weaknesses, a new look…
And from there the series idea exploded and became this bigger concept to have a whole genealogical tree of vampires from different time periods and locations around the world. A secret history where the bloodline, every once in a while, hits someone new from somewhere new and makes something new - the bloodline mutates and creates a new species.
Lilja: Tell me more about American Vampire. I understand that King is only involved with the first 5 issues, right?
Scott Snyder: That’s right, but we certainly would love to have him back anytime!
Lilja: But you are in for a longer run? How long run is that exactly?
Scott Snyder: The series is ongoing, so we hope it’ll run for a long, long time.
Lilja: What is the plan when it comes to the plotline? Will it span over a long period of time?
Scott Snyder: It will. The idea is for every cycle to take on a different decade of American history. The 1920’s, the 30’s, and so on. The series will follow the American bloodline through the ages, picking up with the main protagonists of cycle 1 –Skinner and Pearl- in different ears, while also introducing new cast members, and exploring the secret history of vampire relations and evolution…
Lilja: Will you collaborate with other people one King’s run is over?
Scott Snyder: We don’t really have any plans to. How do you top Stephen King? You can’t!
Lilja: How did you get King involved?
Scott Snyder: I’ve been in touch with him ever since he reviewed my short story collection - he was incredibly kind to give me a quote that we used on the cover. Anyway, when it looked like the series was going to go through, Vertigo asked me if I knew anyone on the literary world who might be up for giving a quote to promote the series. Anything for publicity. I’d shown Steve the pitch a few weeks before, to get his editorial opinion, see what he thought, and so I reached out to him again, asking if he’d be willing to give a line of press. And to my surprise, he wrote back saying he loved the pitch, and the character of Skinner, and that he’d love to blurb it. But if I wanted it, he’d actually be up for writing an issue! I asked if he was sure, because if I told Vertigo, they’d jump at it. He said, “I don’t know. I’ve never done a comic so I don’t know if they’ll be that excited.” So I called Vertigo on a Friday afternoon after the studios closed. I left a message and said that Steve—he makes you call him Steve—said he’d be willing to do a couple of issues. On Monday morning, at 8:30, I got a call from the whole Vertigo office saying, “Did you say Stephen King would be willing to do an issue or two’? So I told them that he was. And they, of course, were over the moon about it.
The funny thing is, originally, Steve was only going to do a couple of issues. And I knew he had (the novel) Under the Dome coming out, he was working on a musical on the West Coast… I couldn’t imagine he’d have a lot of time for this. I wanted to make it as easy as possible so I gave him a very clear, almost a paint-by-numbers outline for an issue with Skinner. So he started with that, but then, a couple weeks in, he emailed me and said he was having fun and wanted to know if he could go off the res a little bit. I was like, ‘Sure, do whatever you want.”
And so he wrote a second issue, and then a third issue with a cliff-hanger. And then he wrote a forth issue, then a fifth issue. And he wound up doing five full sixteen-page issues about Skinner and about his relationship with his adversary, a Pinkerton who caught him when he was alive. And it was just so good. I mean the series as a whole, not just his part of it, is exponentially better for his involvement. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Lilja: How is it to work with King? Does it inspire you or scare you?
Scott Snyder: Both! The thing about Steve, is that when he likes a story, he writes like a hungry young writer, right out of the gate - a writer with something to prove, not like someone established (established beyond anyone out there!). It's incredibly inspiring to see someone of his stature go to the mat for a story that way. We emailed and spoke every day for those couple months - talked ideas, edits... Again, the series as a whole, not just his part of it, is exponentially better for his involvement. A hundred thanks to him.