Vampires in Vatican City, secrets that threaten to destroy the Catholic Church—Blood of the Lamb has received criticism for dealing with religious themes in unconventional ways, but S.J. Rozen and Carlos Dews (the dynamic duo behind the pen name Sam Cabot) aren’t concerned. The authors share the inspiration behind the vampire thriller and give insight into society’s enduring fascination with the bloodsucking monsters.
Zola: “Sam Cabot” is a pseudonym for co-authors Carlos Dews and S.J. Rozan. How and when did you two decide to write a book together, why did you decide to write it under a pen name, and why “Sam Cabot” in particular?
S.J. Rozen: Carlos came to me with the idea, the arc, and the main characters. I was a lot less certain than he was that writing this book together was a good idea, but working with him turned out to be so much fun I couldn’t resist. The single-name pseudonym was at the request of the publisher. I’m Sam.
Carlos Dews: Cabot here. I had the idea that led to Blood of the Lamb quite a few years ago, when I first moved to Rome from New York. Having great respect for writers of genre fiction and the craft involved in writing good genre fiction, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to attempt the book on my own (all my previous writing was scholarly articles and literary fiction). A mutual friend suggested that I ask S.J. to write the book with me. The rest, as they say, is Blood of the Lamb history.
Zola: Blood of the Lamb has been compared to The Da Vinci Code in terms of the religious controversy it spawns, and critics of The Da Vinci Code have argued for this controversy as a mere marketing tool–an easy way of landing a bestseller, as opposed to a legitimate narrative arc. Has anyone claimed this of your own work?
SJR & CD: The book’s certainly controversial, and we’ve heard criticism of the religious aspects. Not saying that it’s a marketing tool, but that it’s blasphemous, disrespectful. We feel it’s neither blasphemy nor marketing. At the heart of Blood of the Lamb since it was conceived has been the question of faith: what it is, why it’s needed, how one holds on to it though serious challenges. Every “controversial” issue in the book has been in the service of exploring those questions.
Zola: What role did you each play in the writing process?
SJR: I wrote. Little writing machine, that’s me. We worked out the plot arcs together. Carlos researched, edited, and asked probing questions.
Zola: Priest Thomas Kelly and vampire Livia find clues in holy sites around Rome. How accurate are the locations and history referenced in your novel?
CD: We were committed from the beginning to being geographically and historically accurate. Except for the fact that one of the works of art featured in the novel has recently been moved to a new location in the church in which it is found, readers should be able to locate everything in the book and confirm — except for the paranormal parts, of course — most of the history as well.
Zola: What are your favorite vampire novels, TV shows, and movies? How would you explain people’s enduring fascination with the vampire genre?
SJR: I have to go back to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The book, I mean. And Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice. To me, the vampire has evolved from the original legends, where it was all about evil, into a symbol about danger in the unknown — they’re like us, but they’re not at all like us — and about the question of what you’d trade for what you want. And also, this question: what if what you want turns out to be, equally, a blessing and a curse?
CD: I agree with S.J. about Stoker and Rice above. To them I would add True Blood, but I am biased because I grew up in East Texas, not far from the fictional Bontemps, Louisiana! I think people’s enduring fascination with the vampire genre springs from the same source as the enduring fascination with most religions; an answer to our desire for more life, perhaps eternal life.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.