Steven Hopstaken was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he spent his formative years watching and reading science fiction and horror. He has a degree in journalism from Northern Michigan University and spends his free time traveling; writing screenplays, short stories and novels; and practicing photography.
Melissa Prusi was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (often mistaken for Canada), and studied video and film production at Northern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. She’s been a video editor, a semi-professional film reviewer, a three-time champion on the quiz show Jeopardy!, and a Guinness world record holder (1990 edition, for directing the longest live television show).
They met in a college screenwriting class and married three years later. They spent a brief time in Los Angeles, where they both worked for Warner Bros. Television. They eventually ended up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they love the arts scene but dread the winters. While they both currently make a living as website content managers, they have sold two screenplays, which have been lost to development hell.
They’ve indulged their fascination with Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde through trips to Dublin and London to research their lives and visit sites mentioned in Stoker’s Wilde.
They live in St. Louis Park, Minnesota with their two cats. If they’re not writing, you can usually find them at a movie, local theater production, improv show or pub quiz.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
Steve Hopstaken: I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I spent my formative years watching and reading science fiction and horror. I have a degree in journalism from Northern Michigan University.
Melissa Prusi: I was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (often mistaken for Canada), and studied video and film production at Northern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. I have been a video editor, a semi-professional film reviewer, and a three-time champion on the quiz show Jeopardy.
We met in a college screenwriting class and married three years later. We live in St. Louis Park, Minnesota with our two cats. We have sold two screenplays which disappeared into development hell. “Stoker’s Wilde” is our first novel.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
We love to travel. We’ve indulged our fascination with Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde through trips to Dublin and London to research their lives and visit sites mentioned in Stoker’s Wilde. Our last trip was to Sweden and Finland.
When we aren’t writing, you can usually find us at a movie, local theater production, improv show or pub quiz.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
Steve: Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C Clarke
Melissa: Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
Steve: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles. I do make soundtracks for my writing to listen to on walks. I pretty much tune out everything when I am writing, so don’t listen when I am writing.
Melissa: King by Belly. Their songs range from bouncy, pop-type stuff to moody and mysterious. I’ll sometimes make up a story in my head based on a song, but nothing’s really translated to my actual writing at this point.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
Steve: I’m really excited by where Jordon Peele is going right now. For old school, you can’t beat John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Melissa: Halloween really hit me hard when I was a kid — maybe because I watched it in the fall while babysitting – so I have to go with John Carpenter too. Wes Craven is another favorite.
KR: What are you reading now?
Steve: Horrorstor: A Novel, by Grady Hendrix
Melissa: Finishing up The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and about to start another Grady Hendrix novel, We Sold Our Souls.
KR: What was the last great book you read?
Steve: Weaveworld, by Clive Barker
Melissa: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I didn’t think I was interested in a sequel to The Shining, but boy was I wrong!
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
Melissa: All of the above, but e-books mean I’m never without something to read, plus I can take multiple books on a trip without adding anything more to my suitcase.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
Steve: Stephen King, Bram Stoker, Ray Bradbury.
Melissa: Tolkien, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Gene Roddenberry.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
Using the Scrivener software we do a rough outline, then refine it as synopsis index cards and then expand the cards into chapters. Sort of a modified snowflake method, if you’re familiar with that. We don’t rigidly stick to the outline because new ideas come to you as you are writing, but we like to have a road map.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Since we were using the lives of real people, this book took a lot of research. The book actually started with that idea of Bram Stoker discovering his boss, Henry Irving, was a vampire. In doing our research we found out that Bram and Oscar Wilde knew each other in Dublin, and that Bram wooed Oscar’s fiancée away from him and eloped with her to London. It was then we got excited about the idea of having Bram and Oscar being forced to team up together to stop a vampire uprising.
KR: How would you describe your writing style?
Steve: I started as a screenwriter, so I’m focused on dialog to tell the story. I’ll get all that down then come back to add description to scene and action.
Melissa: I see everything through character, so making them feel and sound like real people is my favorite part of the writing process. I usually write a pretty bare-bones first draft, then I go through and flesh out the people and descriptions to put the reader in the scene.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
Steve: I tend to write in my head, daydreaming, long before I sit down to write. Then I write in short bursts of one or two hours. Taking a full day to write is something I am working toward since we can’t take years to write the sequel.
Melissa: A usual writing day sounds like a good goal to shoot for! I tend to write in small chunks of time during the work week, then in longer stretches of a few hours or more on the weekends. I usually start by reviewing what I did the day before, which helps me ramp up to continue writing.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
Steve: I love caper films and am very proud of our Let’s Rob Fort Knox screenplay. Stoker’s Wilde will always hold a place in my heart because it was our first novel and I never saw myself tackling such a complex project. Telling a story from multiple points of view in multiple voices was extremely challenging and helped me grow as a writer.
Melissa: I wrote a spec script for The X-Files that I still think of fondly. I was able to get it to the producers through a friend and learned later that they had considered it, but ultimately, they didn’t buy it. I need to think about re-writing that as a standalone screenplay or novel one of these days.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
Yes, we’re really interested in getting better and don’t think you can do that without honest criticism. I certainly know the epistolary format of this novel is not for everyone and combining horror with humor, as we do primarily through the Oscar character, can be hit-or-miss if you don’t strike the right balance.
KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?
Steve: I think I can now get in touch with my emotions to use them to visualize the place, time and action. I’ve always had detailed stories in my head, but now I can get them down onto paper.
Melissa: Structure has been a challenge for me in the past, but I’ve gotten better at building a story and keeping it going through to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion.
KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
Steve: Write for yourself first. What interests you, what you would like to read. If you don’t, you really can’t push through to the end. You will lose interest. Trying to second guess what the reader will like or not like takes you down too many dark alleys.
Melissa: Don’t be discouraged by a bad first draft; that’s what editing is for! That and just to sit down and do it: butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.
KR: What scares you?
Steve: Existential dread. Staring into that abyss and having it stare back into you.
Melissa: My most common nightmare is probably about home invasion. Having the place where you’re supposed to be safe suddenly compromised is terrifying to me.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
Years before either becomes a literary legend, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde must overcome their disdain for one another to battle the Black Bishop, a mysterious madman wielding supernatural forces to bend the British Empire to his will. With the help of a European vampire expert, a spirited actress and an American businessman, our heroes fight werewolves, vampires and the chains of Victorian morality.
The action starts in a dark forest in Ireland, moves through the upper-class London theater world and culminates in an exciting showdown at Stonehenge, where Bram and Oscar must stop a vampire cult from opening the gates of Hell.
KR: You can find out what Kendall Reviews thought of Stoker’s Wilde here
KR: What are you working on now?
We are outlining the sequel, Stoker’s Wilde West, which brings Bram and Oscar to America. And we are in the first draft stage of a YA science fiction novel, where a teenage girl gets a cell phone installed in her brain.
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
- One fictional character from your writing.
Steve: Oscar Wilde, as he would at least be fun to talk to.
Melissa: Same! (Well, except Oscar’s not actually fictional, but I guess the version that we write about more or less is.)
- One fictional character from any other book.
Steve: The creature from Frankenstein.
Melissa: Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. He’s an expert at surviving in the wilderness, which will come in handy.
- One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
Steve: Stephen Fry. We could talk about Oscar Wilde, skepticism and write comedy sketches together.
Melissa: Michelle Obama. Positive outlook, calm demeanor and a sense of humor!
KR: Thank you very much Steven & Melissa.
Steven Hopstaken & Melissa Prusi
You can follow Steven on Twitter @stevehops
You can follow Melissa on Twitter @justlissa
To find out more about Steven you can visit his official website www.steve-hopstaken.com
Years before either becomes a literary legend, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde must overcome their disdain for one another to battle the Black Bishop, a mysterious madman wielding supernatural forces to bend the British Empire to his will. With the help of a European vampire expert, a spirited actress and an American businessman, our heroes fight werewolves, vampires and the chains of Victorian morality. The fight will take them through dark forests in Ireland, the upper-class London theater world and Stonehenge, where Bram and Oscar must stop a vampire cult from opening the gates of Hell.