Clark Hays + Kathleen McFall on their “opposites-attract love story forged in a fiery crucible of a passion that nearly burned us to the ground”

The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.

Following find an interview with authors Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset, published June 9, 2016 by Pumpjack Press (Portland, Oregon) — the fourth book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection.

What’s the book’s first line? 

The woman wobbled unsteadily on her high heels and giggled.

(Note: It’s a harsh reality that, practically speaking, any unnamed character in this series will ultimately fall prey to a vampire).

That’s the first line of the prologue to the book. The action really starts however in the first chapter. That first line is:

“Ain’t you tired of pancakes?”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”. 

The series is about the potential of love to bridge vast geographic, cultural and emotional distances: country and urban, good and evil, even life and death. But mostly the book is just damn good western gothic entertainment and, we’re told, sexy and laugh-out loud funny.

Here’s the pitch for The Last Sunset:

Two years ago, Lizzie broke Tucker’s heart into six jagged pieces when she packed up her vampires and quit the quirky town of LonePine, Wyoming, population 438. Since then, Lizzie has stayed put in Russia, ruling over the vampire nation, while terrorizing a string of new lovers. Back in LonePine, Tucker has mostly stopped drinking himself into the grave and is getting back into town life. As a typical Wyoming summer approaches, the ranchers pray for rain, the survivalists stock up on ammo, and the kids look forward to the carnival — but all that good fun is interrupted when a death cult takes up residence in an abandoned pioneer ranch just outside of town. With their yellow robes and automatic weapons and twisted rituals, the cult wants to overthrow Lizzie’s reluctant undead reign, with Tucker as bait. The fate of the world hangs in the balance (yet again), and the doomed lovers reunite to face one last sunset together.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event? 

The inspiration for the first book in the series, The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance, was our own opposites-attract love story forged in a fiery crucible of a passion that nearly burned us to the ground. After a nuclear break up and several years of angst, we realized we were useless apart and probably doomed together, so we decided to try a creative project to keep us from each other’s throats. At a truck stop in Madras, Oregon, meeting for the first time in years, we chain-smoked cigarettes, chain-drank bad coffee and hashed out the plot for the first book in crayon on the back of a paper placemat. The concept brought together our love of the west, our gothic sensibilities and a shared interest in spirituality.

A great fan response, and the realization that — despite the fights and sleepless nights and restless creative energy — we like writing together, led to three more books in the series with this one, The Last Sunset, being the finale. But we’re hard at work on a new series now (no vampires this time) that we’re both excited about, and the epic fights we’re already having about it, a proxy for creative passion, bodes well for readers.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book? 

The Last Sunset is fun and deep. That sounds like two reasons, but the one thing that makes our books stand out is the power of duality. They’re by two authors, but in one voice. It’s about cowboys and vampires, but they inhabit the same lonely world. It’s about good and evil, but the boundary between the two is flimsy at best. The main characters are from opposite worlds, but their love creates a single force. And though there are undead amongst the living, the metaphysical element we introduce ­— The Meta: a shared external consciousness —­ links the two. The force between all of these pairs of diametrically opposed sets of attributes means the book is both an entertaining page turner with laugh out loud moments and literary fiction with depth and moments of wonder.

There’s also a really sweet cow dog named Rex who saves the day (and night) on multiple occasions. So now it’s two things.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character?  Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of? 

Tucker, the laconic cowboy, is distinctive because of the depth of his character as shaped by the place he’s from. The wide-open spaces of the west have filled him with an easy and unshakable confidence emanating from his comfort navigating the vast solitude of the sagebrush and mountains where he was born and raised. It keeps him grounded (mostly), cool under pressure and filled with an appreciation of the world and a sense of awe that hidden just below the dusty surface of expectations. He reminds us of the character Tom Selleck played in Quigley Down Under, with a dash of exasperation thrown in when it comes to his dog, Rex, and matters of the heart.

Lizzie, the vampire queen (though she doesn’t know this when the series starts), has a brassy urban confidence. She’s made her own way (an orphan, raised by her mother who died young, with no father in the picture) in a chaotic, crowded and unkind world filled with people trying to use her — the opposite experience of the wide-open west. This confidence is tested when her world is turned upside by revelations of her undead ancestry at the moment when she improbably crosses paths with Tucker. Against odds, they fall in love as she becomes the leader of the undead, a position to which she reluctantly acquiesces for the good of the human and vampire races, and to protect her cowboy. Lizzie reminds us of two characters in House of Cards: early on, as a human, she’s like Zoe Barnes, the intrepid journalist bedding the president-to-be, but then she gradually is forced to morph into steely, sexy Claire Underwood in her undead persona.

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

Tucker needs a young Tom Selleck/Sam Elliot vibe. We’re thinking Tom Hardy or Michael Fassbender (we were impressed by his turn in Slow West).

As for Lizzie, Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black mesmerizes us; her ability to turn her characters on a dime would be great for Lizzie, who careens between two worlds.

Another interesting pair to cast: Lizzie’s former enemy turned faithful friend, the beautiful, deadly, ancient Elita — she is both regal and fierce, so we’re thinking Chanel Iman, who was great in Dope. And then there’s Lenny, Tucker’s childhood friend and paranoid conspiracy theory survivalist — Jim Parsons, from The Big Bang Theory, would be awesome. We can just see him in camouflage clothes, with a bushy beard, toting around an assault rifle with thermite grenades in each pocket.

When did you first decide to become an author?

For Clark it was in third grade when he wrote crazy, illustrated short stories about monsters and superheroes and his teacher, Ms. Magee, taught him how to use adjectives (probably to save her sanity).

For Kathleen it was the winter of 1995 while doing laps in a neighborhood swimming pool when she realized she wasn’t really suited for much else.

Is this the first you’ve written?

We’ve written four books together. The sequence is:

The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance

The Cowboy and the Vampire: Blood and Whiskey

The Cowboy and the Vampire: Rough Trails and Shallow Graves

The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

We both worked in communications — Clark for a financial services company and Kathleen for a university — until recently. Kathleen quit to focus on our creative projects full time; Clark is still marooned in corporate America, from which he draws inspiration for some of our most terrifying scenes.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

Clark writes at least an hour or two every day, more on the weekends. Kathleen gauges her writing by a daily word count of no less than 1,000.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?   

The best part is having total creative control and feeling completely connected to our work and the worlds we build from scratch; it’s also challenging, of course, because there’s no external pre-publication expert (the role that traditional editors and agents typically play) to validate the approaches or provide trustworthy plot feedback and editing. Luckily for us, as a writing team with literally decades of professional experience between us, we have each other to serve in that editor/gut check role. And serve we do, sometimes with unabashed glee.

The hardest part, not surprisingly, is discoverability — how do you get your books in front of readers? In turn, that involves mastering marketing, distribution, sales channels, returns and all the business-y, boring side of selling a product. But we know that comes with the territory — the flip side of independence — and we dive into it headfirst. From the business side, we also rely on a wonderful team of contract copy/line editors and designers/artists for our book covers and website. Because in the end, readers actually do judge a book by its cover, as they should. Three years ago, we established Pumpjack Press, our imprint, as the business umbrella for our creative endeavors.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?  

No. The first book in the series had a traditional publisher to begin with way back in 1999 and then again as a second edition in 2006 (Llewellyn/Midnight Ink; they were very nice) but since then, we’ve learned a lot, had a lot of fun and want to work for ourselves, not for others. We like the entrepreneurial/disruptive elements of the indie model. If a publisher expressed interest at this point, it would just reinforce the approach we’re developing and validate the trust we have in ourselves and in our creative abilities. But of course, we have to be honest and admit we might reconsider if offered an embarrassingly large sum.

Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune? more sex?)

More sex, definitely. Isn’t that what all writers are motivated by?

But the other thing that motivates us is that incredible feeling of knowing the story is unfolding just as you planned, feeling a sort of narcotic moment of expansiveness, an intellectual out of body experience of “rightness.” It’s addictive and fulfilling and kind of selfish. But then, later, when we get feedback from readers sharing how the books, or characters, or certain scenes resonated with them, and hit them exactly the way he had planned, well, that enables the addiction.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Clark: Victor Hugo

Kathleen: It changes monthly.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

Clark: Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky

Kathleen: The Vegetarian by Han King