Emily Ruth Verona
Nicole Eigener Interview
Nicole Eigener swept readers through time in their 2020 novel Beguiled by Night, which follows ancient vampire Louis de Vauquelin as his timeline rewinds itself, diving deep into his own past. Now, Vauquelin returns in Citizens of Shadow. Picking up where book one left off, Vauquelin is learning first-hand what happens when you meddle with time and fate.
Read the full interview below.
[NOTE: Spoilers for book one, Beguiled by Night, ahead)
When you wrote Beguiled by Night, did you know you wanted to do a sequel or a series?
I didn’t at all. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could write even one book, let alone more. After Beguiled by Night, I took a very long break. I finished it in the summer of 2020 and I didn’t start writing Citizens of Shadow until November of 2021. Beguiled by Night was meant to be a standalone book. I think people could read it and be satisfied, yet I’m so happy that people seem to want more of Vauquelin’s story.
At the end of Beguiled by Night, Vauquelin righted all his wrongs and it was immensely satisfying for him as well as for the reader. Was it hard to watch Vauquelin’s torment in the aftermath?
It is extremely hard to see Vauquelin suffer, but he is a survivor: he rarely lets anything tear him down, at least not for long. My work is completely character-driven — I always let them lead me. I sit down and I wait for them to tell me what to write. I know it sounds insane. But I got to a point in Citizens where the character of Vauquelin went quiet…and that was when I knew that I was wrong. I wasn’t telling the story the way it was meant to be told. I took another break and I stopped until March 2022. When I started again and listened to my characters, the story flowed like mad and refused to stop — it was only then I knew I was on the right track. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser: I never outline anything and I always put the characters first. When I try to force them into something, they dig their heels in. The way Citizens of Shadow unfolded was the truth of the story. It was only when I tuned into that that it began to unroll like a bolt of silk. Unstoppable.
Vauquelin's struggle is such a human one—amplified by the loneliness of his immortality—do you think Vauquelin still has more humanity to him than he realizes?
Absolutely, yes. Even after being alive for so many years, he has always clung fiercely to his mortal self. He refuses to surrender completely to the darkness, even though it causes him relentless problems. The most crucial part of this, in terms of his existence, is that, in Beguiled by Night, he hasn’t yet admitted that he isn’t being his authentic self. This is precisely why I believe vampires are an excellent metaphor for the LGBTQ+ community as well as other marginalised communities — but that realisation is also a core theme in Citizens of Shadow, and a crucial lesson for Vauquelin.
You write so vividly about so many time periods. What was the research for that like? Did you have a favorite era to write about? I especially enjoy the early Los Angeles scenes.
I’m an old soul. I’m not 100% sure I belong in this era…I always feel slightly out of sorts. I have degrees in literature and history, and once upon a time had illusions of being a history professor. That was another lifetime! I am obsessed with history. For some reason, I have always been drawn to seventeenth-century France. I could probably tell you anything you want to know (or it might be a… Nobody: Nicole: I just bought some 17th-century French coins and they seem oddly familiar to me) I’m not convinced that reincarnation doesn’t exist. I have no reason to identify as closely with French history, design, and settings as I do, but here we are. It speaks to me…it makes me feel at home, comfortable. But now I live two hours away from L.A. in a California city that was founded in 1936. That’s nothing compared to the rest of world history, and I don’t always feel I’m in the right place. Most people don’t think of L.A. as having a much older history, or being a rustic village. Vauquelin has had too much history: he wanted the opposite, the beginning. Maybe living in an ancient city will do that to one. I am a mere mortal. I crave the ancient. I want to see things that will place me in their time, in my time, and make me feel significant. Like I matter. Maybe that is exactly what Vauquelin was looking for: the opposite of antiquity, to get a timestamp of his survival. As far as Los Angeles history, people always think of L.A. as a very modern city, when it isn’t. There’s a lot of deeply (and often ugly) American history in L.A., but it is in extreme danger of being erased. I don’t believe in erasing history. I think we should leave it all out in its hideous realness, raw meat for the world to see what it has wrought. Unfortunately, because L.A. has been the epicentre of massive cultural change on a worldwide level, and of being the harbingers of what’s next, they’ve forgotten about their history. I tried to emphasise this in Beguiled by Night and also in Citizens of Shadow. But these books are about characters: they don’t offer solutions. Los Angeles takes on a completely different context in Citizens of Shadow because it becomes a source of nostalgia for Vauquelin and then completely turns his perceptions (and cherished memories) of the city on its ear. He begins to question if the present is truly where he belongs. His frequent time-slips and journeys through time begin to take a toll on him and he decides he wants to find a way to go back.
You and author Beverley Lee wrote a novelette together called Crimson is the Night. In it, Vauquelin meets Clove from Lee’s Gabriel Davenport series. What was it like collaborating on a story involving Vauquelin?
It was one of the most magical experience of my life. Truly. I read Beverley’s Gabriel Davenport series around the same time she read Beguiled by Night. We didn’t know each other then, and now we are absolutely inseparable. It all started with an interview for Nightworms, and one question: I wonder what it would be like if our vampires met each other? That’s how Crimson is the Night was born: and it was a total disruption of both our firmaments. It isn’t easy to blend vampire worlds, and ours were meant to be together. Vauquelin and Clove, though their experiences are vastly different, what they have in common is an eternal desire for independence and solitude.
Did you know you were going to write Citizens of Shadow, or had you already started it, while you were working on Crimson is the Night?
I hadn’t started Citizens of Shadow when we wrote Crimson is the Night. The irony is that I wasn’t sure how to continue Vauquelin’s story and Beverley never thought she would write about her boys and Clove again. It was a portal for both of us. It opened a whole other world to us, because we realised our characters had so, so, so much more to say to us. And we listened. Because we will always listen to them.
And an even bigger irony is that Crimson is the Night shaped Vauquelin’s future. A small part of Crimson is the Night appears in Citizens of Shadow because it was so pivotal. It’s safe to say that Citizens of Shadow would not exist without Crimson is the Night.
Are there going to be more Beguiled by Night books? If so, do you have an idea of how many you want there to be total?
Well, Emily…this is a very complicated question. While I was writing Citizens Beverley was working on her new book, The Sum of Your Flesh. We critiqued each other as we were writing both books. Crimson is the Night altered ALL of our vampires’ paths…because none of them were the same after that meeting, and it became impossible for us to deny it. And a completely new character emerged in Citizens that made it even more important for our vampires to congregate again. We filed this idea, because we were both actively writing and editing our respective WIPs. However, in the background, our characters were poking us. Not now, we said. We’ll get to you. Fast-forward to August of 2022. We were finished with our drafts: they were out to betas. Now we can have some fun, we thought. We started writing a sequel to Crimson is the Night (which was actually a sequel to multiple sequels) and we naively projected: maybe we’ll get a novel out of this. But this will just for us, just for the pure enjoyment of writing. A love letter to our characters. As it turned out, we were fools, because our ‘novel’ turned into a 316K word, 1100-page EPIC. Our minds are still blown…and it was all written in the span of three months to the day. 95% of it was written in real time on Google Docs — with live call and response. We actually broke Google Docs and had to split our MS into two parts because we crippled the platform and were cut off. As of this writing, we’re still editing it and we’re still being crippled by Google Docs because we’re bringing it to its veritable knees.
The covers for both Beguiled by Night and Citizens of Shadow are both sumptuous. Who designed them?
Thank you so much! The cover for Beguiled by Night is an original seventeenth-century vanitas painting. I wanted something that was authentic to the period of Vauquelin’s origin, and I loved that the teeth on the skull implied fangs. It was perfect. For Citizens of Shadow, I commissioned the photograph, because I needed the spirit of that seventeenth-century artwork but with objects that mattered to the story. I hired Alyssa Thorne to do the cover and sent her the objects to be used in the vanitas. Other than that, I gave her keywords on Citizens of Shadow’s thematic content. She absolutely killed it. My only request was that she include one dead flower, for reasons. Ironically, I never mentioned ranunculus, and those are my favourite flowers. Alyssa rendered pure alchemy for the cover for Citizens of Shadow. I designed the type and did the mechanical setup for the book. I am a professional graphic designer: that’s my job that pays the bills. Unfortunately writing doesn’t pay my bills.
Do you have any other work coming out this year you’d like to tell people about?
Funny about that…remember earlier when I said I didn’t know if I could write one book, let alone two? Stay tuned for the first week of October 2023…because Beverley and I might have some news…
What’s your favorite recent read? Any genre or category. It doesn’t have to be horror.
To be honest, my reading has come to a screeching halt because I’m caught up in the release of Citizens of Shadow and my epic WIP with Beverley (might have mentioned that above…ahem…but I would love to tout three books in particular: Lie With Me and In the Absence of Men by Philippe Besson —neither of which are horror at all, unless you consider that being unable to live an authentic life is horror — and The Sum of Your Flesh by Beverley Lee which is a masterpiece of literary dark fiction and draws a bead on mistaken identities and the dangers of herd mentality. Of being unable to recognise the special ones, and the sadness of assuming someone is a monster. I’m starting to reassess myself as a horror writer because I’m not sure my words resonate with the horror community. Even though I write about vampires, at its core my work, like Beverley’s, is dark, literary fiction. It is not horror per se — it is about our darkest recesses and the characters. And how they come to terms with their own lives. That is what my work will always be about.
Thank you so much for talking to Frightful!
Citizens of Shadow hits shelves on May 11, 2023.
Nicole Eigener is the author of Beguiled by Night: A Vampire Tale (Polidori Press, 2020) and Citizens of Shadow: Beguiled by Night Book Two, in which Vauquelin’s story continues. They are also co-author, with Beverley Lee, of Crimson is the Night: A Vampire Novelette featuring a meeting of characters from Lee’s Gabriel Davenport series and Beguiled By Night. Nicole is a lifelong student of French history and the macabre. Their love for haemovores became a beautiful marriage to their obsession with French culture, specifically of the seventeenth-century, which features prominently in their work. Nicole lives in Southern California. Visit thevampire.org for book extras including French pronunciations and a soundtrack.
Follow Nicole on Twitter and Instagram.