Interviews
Interview With Steven A.
Roman of StarWarp
Concepts and author of
Blood Feud: The Saga of
Pandora Zwieback

By D.W. Jones

Steven A. Roman is the bestselling author of X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy and
Final Destination: Dead Man’s Hand.  His latest work is the dark-urban-fantasy
adventure Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1.  When not writing
he is running StarWarp Concepts.  We recently had the pleasure of meeting Steven
at our Institute of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction and wanted our readers get
to know him.


D.W. Jones: Steven, tell us about your work at StarWarp Concepts.
Steven A. Roman:
I’m the owner and publisher of the company, which I started in
1993 as an indie horror-comic house.  The first title released was LORELEI, about a
controversial art photographer named Laurel Ashley O’Hara who, through
supernatural means, becomes a soul-eating succubus named Lorelei.  Lori was
heavily inspired by the Warren-era Vampirella and Marvel Comics’ Satana, the Devil’
s Daughter (who’s a succubus).  Unfortunately, low sales killed the series by 1995.  
I tried reviving the character with a second comic series in 2002, with art by
mainstream artists like Steve Geiger (Web of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk)
and Neil Vokes, but the market had become so politically correct in the time I’d been
away, that drawings of a topless stripper in a two-page strip-club sequence got me
labeled a “soft-core pornographer” by some reviewers—even though there was
nothing pornographic about the art, and there was no sex in the entire comic!

Oddly enough, it was only comic reviewers who complained about the semi-nudity
and the “good girl” art; horror reviewers, on the other hand, took the adult themes
in stride and focused on the character-driven story—and they really liked the story.  
When I collected the issues of the original run into graphic novel form, Cemetery
Dance, for example, highly recommended it.  So it was pretty clear the problem
wasn’t with me, it was with overly sensitive comic fans.  They were kinda like the
Reverend Lovejoy’s wife on The Simpsons: “Won’t anybody please think about the
children?!”

Still, I let StarWarp slide into limbo until around 2009, when I decided to reinvent it
as a book-publishing company.  Since 2005, I’d been shopping around a proposal
for a novel series called “Heartstopper”—which I’d originally pitched to R. L. Stine’s
company, Parachute Press, in 1998—but couldn’t find a publisher to pick it up, or
an agent to represent it.  Even after I reinvented it as the fully young adult project
“The Saga of Pandora Zwieback” (on the recommendation of people I trust in the
publishing industry), I still couldn’t find a home for it.  So in 2009 I finally said “The
hell with it!  I’ll just publish it myself.”

The company relaunched in 2010, with THE SAGA OF PANDORA ZWIEBACK #0:
an introductory comic in which Pan tells you about herself, followed by two sample
chapters from BLOOD FEUD: THE SAGA OF PANDORA ZWIEBACK, BOOK 1.  It’s
still available as a free, downloadable e-comic from the Pandora Zwieback Web site
(www.pandorazwieback.com).

So far we’ve published BLOOD FEUD, THE BOB LARKIN SKETCHBOOK, and three
titles in our “illustrated classics” program: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A PRINCESS OF
MARS (the basis for Disney’s John Carter movie, which I really enjoyed), illustrated
by Eliseu “Zeu” Gouveia; J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s CARMILLA, a 19th-century vampire
novella that predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula, also illustrated by Zeu; and The
Brothers Grimm’s SNOW WHITE, our first ebook-only release, which features full-
color illustrations originally published in 1883.

DWJ: How did you first get into writing?
SAR:
I always used to write stories (prose and comics) when I was growing up, but it
wasn’t until about junior year of high school that I discovered other people might be
interested in reading my stuff—I won a short story contest that led to me becoming
the school’s magazine’s fiction editor.  Tried to sell short stories and comic scripts in
the years following, but only got to add to my growing collection of rejection slips.

It wasn’t until 1993, when I launched Starwarp Concepts, that I became a
professional writer; then my work started to get noticed. In fact, one of my earliest
Lorelei fans was Charles de Lint, who’s an award-winning fantasy author; when I
learned who he was, that blew me away!

My biggest claim to fame came about in 2000, with X-Men: The Chaos Engine
Trilogy—three original novels in which the X-Men fight Doctor Doom, Magneto, and
the Red Skull for possession of the Cosmic Cube (a device that allows its owner to
alter reality).  I got that writing gig because I was working as an editor for the books’
publisher, Byron Preiss, and happened to be in the room with him when the original
writers dropped out of the project.  “You want to write it?” he asked me.  “Sure,” I
said.  Done.

Yes, I’m one of those “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” stories.  On the
other hand, Byron wouldn’t have offered me the project if I’d sucked as a writer.  
And his faith in me worked out just fine: together, the three books sold close to
250,000 copies and were highly regarded by X-Men fans.

DWJ: Who are your influences in writing?
SAR:
There’s probably a busload of writers, comic books, movies, and TV shows
that have influenced my writing, but the ones that immediately come to mind are:
writers Stan Lee (my very first influence), Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, J. M.
DeMatteis, and Steve Gerber; TV shows: Doctor Who, Kolchak: The Night Stalker,
Forever Knight, and Highlander; comics: Vampirella, Tomb of Dracula, Ghost Rider,
and Werewolf by Night; movies: Hammer horror films and Guillermo Del Toro’s work.

DWJ: Tell our readers about your book out now Blood Feud.
SAR:
BLOOD FEUD is the first book in the “Saga of Pandora Zwieback” series.  It’s
the story of a 16-year-old Goth girl who’s been seeing monsters since she was six;
because of that she’s been diagnosed as a schizophrenic and has been seeing
therapists for the past ten years.  It’s only after she meets Sebastienne “Annie”
Mazarin, a 400-year-old, shape-shifting monster hunter, that she comes to learn
that she doesn’t have a mental illness, but a power that allows her to see the
human disguises worn by the monsters that have always been living in the world.

Unfortunately, she learns all this just as a mysterious crate is delivered to her dad’s
horror-themed museum in Queens, NY—with three clans of bloodthirsty vampires in
pursuit of it.  So then Pan and her parents get caught in the middle of a vampire
war, and things sort of go downhill from there…

DWJ: What made you decide to write a book making two women, Pan and
Annie, main characters instead of men?
SAR:
I just thought that, given that the majority of leading action characters in
horror are guys, it might be different to make the leads two women—and not just
make them “final girls” (in horror movies, that refers to the last female character left
alive after everyone else has been slaughtered).  Annie is fairly proactive in dealing
with monsters, and Pan is just trying to make sense of this whole weird world she’s
discovered she’s part of—but she’s eager to learn all about it!

Also, the initial inspiration for the series was Doctor Who.  When the project was still
called “Heartstopper,” Annie was the lead, adult character; Pan was her teen
sidekick.  However, after the people I know in publishing read the material, they
suggested it would work much better if Pan were the lead.  Turned out they were
right!

DWJ: This book is for young adults.  Do you see this influencing young
women since the main characters are strong, able women who can take
care of themselves?
SAR:
I don’t know if Pan and Annie are inspirations for young women, but I do know
that the female reviewers who’ve read Blood Feud are extremely pleased with Pan.  
My favorite quote came from Melissa Voelker at HorrorNews.net, who described Pan
as “exactly the kind of teen heroine that readers should be standing up and
cheering for.”  Pan is strong-willed but vulnerable, a “happy Goth” who’s loyal to her
friends and family, and fun to be around.  The direction of her life isn’t determined
by the boy she’s dating—as some book series do with their female leads—but by
her own decisions.  That doesn’t mean she can’t be a romantic—what Goth isn’t a
romantic, to some degree?—but there’s more to Pan than that.

And Annie has been hunting monsters for four centuries; she’s the expert that the
NYPD goes to when they have a creature problem too big for them to handle.  She’
s not the timid sort who lets men make decisions for her, she’s a total kick-ass
huntress—sort of like a female counterpart to Blade, I guess you could say.

But if young women do get inspired by Pan and Annie… well, I think that would be
awesome.

DWJ: What is next for this series and these characters?
SAR:
Well, this year will see the release of BLOOD REIGN: THE SAGA OF
PANDORA ZWIEBACK, BOOK 2, which wraps up the vampire-war story begun in
BLOOD FEUD. It takes place about five minutes after Blood Feud, but that’s about
all I can really say about it—the cliffhanger ending of Blood Feud makes it
impossible to go into detail without spoiling the first book for new readers.

Then in October, StarWarp Concepts will release THE SAGA OF PANDORA
ZWIEBACK ANNUAL #1, Pan’s first full-length comic book adventure.  I’m writing it
(of course), with Zeu providing the art.  It’ll also have a short comic story by Sholly
Fisch (who’s writing the backups in DC’s Action Comics these days) and comics
legend Ernie Colon (known to most DC fans as the artist of the fantasy comic
Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld).

DWJ: What is coming for the future for you and StarWarp Concepts?
SAR:
This summer, we’re publishing LORELEI: SECTS AND THE CITY, a graphic
novel that revives my succubus character, who battles a C’thulu-style cult; it’s a
tribute to the 1970's horror comics I used to read.  I wrote it, and the interior art is
by Zeu, Steve Geiger, and Neil Vokes.  The cover is by Esteban Maroto, and there
are interior illustrations by Ernie Colon, Tom Sutton, and Louis Small Jr.  And then
rounding out my 2012 projects are BLOOD REIGN and THE SAGA OF PANDORA
ZWIEBACK ANNUAL #1.

In 2013, we’ll be republishing the 1932 novelization of KING KONG—to coincide with
the movie’s 80th anniversary—and possibly THE GODS OF MARS, the second
John Carter novel (sales of A Princess of Mars will ultimately determine the book’s
fate). The third Pan Zwieback novel, STALKERS, and the second comics annual will
be out next year as well.

I also have a science fiction novel coming out in 2013, from indie publisher Black
Coat Press. DOCTOR OMEGA AND THE MEGIDDO FACTOR is the first-ever
sequel to DOCTOR OMEGA, a French SF novel published in 1906 about a strange
old man who can travel through time and space. The similarities to Doctor Who are
striking—especially since the novel predates the TV show by almost sixty years!  
And given my fanboy obsession for Doctor Who, how could I turn down an
opportunity to write a novel about a Doctor-like character?

DWJ: Thank you Stephen for taking the time to talk with us and our
readers.  If any of our Blood Moon Rising readers want to learn more about
Stephen Roman or any of the StarWarp Concepts products, stop by the
web site  www.starwarpconcepts.com.   I think you’ll like what you see!
For interview with
Steven A. Roman,
author of Blood
Feud,
click here

For interview with
artist and film maker
David Rodriguez,
click here

For interview with
Jennifer Jaksic
makeup and special
FX artist,
click here