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BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Authors Nancy Holder and Christopher Golden
By Denise Dumars
October 28, 1999
'Fortunately, the only Mr. Pointy I've had to deal with is the autograph pen,' says Nancy Holder in her best Sarah Michelle Gellar voice. Her first BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER tie-in book signing at Burbank, California's horror bookstore Dark Delicacies broke store records for attendance. Her collaborator on seven BUFFY novels and one non-fiction tie-in, Christopher Golden, has experienced a similar upswing in his popularity. 'It was the first time people came up to me with stacks of my books,' he says of his autograph session at science fiction convention DragonCon. 'It was amazing.'
Chris and Nancy--or should we call her Buffnan, her new e-mail handle--have been writing BUFFY novels since 1996. 'We'd been wanting to collaborate on some kind of a book for some time,' says Golden. 'We both saw the pilot of the TV series and said, 'Whoa, this is it.'' Holder adds, 'Then we called our agents. No one was sure that this little show--on a new network no less--was going anywhere. Certainly no one expected it to be the huge hit it turned into.'
Timing certainly helped--getting their calls in to their respective agents after only three BUFFY episodes had aired was key to their successful beginning as the primary chroniclers of the Buffy oeuvre. They sent in five ideas for tie-in novels, and in two days had approval to write the first book. Golden and Holder were also the first to do original novels based on the series. They wrote the first WATCHER'S GUIDE together, as well as the seven novels, including the latest--and the first hardback BUFFY book--titled IMMORTAL.
'IMMORTAL is a book for grown-ups,' Golden says. 'We felt challenged to come up with a plot which would be appropriately adult for the hardcover. It deals with mature issues--issues of life and death. In it, Buffy encounters what might be a truly immortal vampire--a vampire that cannot be killed by any of the traditional means. When one body it inhabits dies, it simply gets another body. It's an immortal demonic soul,' he explains. In the BUFFY mythology, vampires are humans who have died and had their bodies taken over by demonic souls. 'Buffy's mom has a cancer scare in the book,' he continues. 'All kinds of life and death issues come to the fore in the novel.'
Angel, Buffy's former lover who now has his own show following BUFFY on Tuesday nights, is something of an anomaly, soul-wise, since he is cursed with having both a demonic soul and his own, good one. Holder is writing the ANGEL novels herself, not surprisingly, since the handsome, brooding vampire is very appealing to women. Her first novelization of the ANGEL series will be called CITY OF, but she is especially enthusiastic about NOT FORGOTTEN, her first original ANGEL novel, which she turned in on October 25. 'It deals with Indonesian mythology,' she says. 'There are thousands of islands in Indonesia, each with its own exotic folklore. Some of the islands have matriarchal cultures--the women wear headdresses in the shapes of their temples. I'm using a bit of their mythology in this book which deals with a Sasquatch-type creature.' Holder is also excited that the BUFFY novel that was held back from publication due to the Columbine tragedy, THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, is finally going to be published in December.
Two of Holder's friends, Yvonne Navarro and Jeff Mariotte, have also been tapped to write BUFFY books. Golden is in the midst of working on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE MONSTER BOOK, with Steve Bissette and Thomas Sniegoski. This will be a guide to all the monsters in the series, with explanations of the history and real-life folklore and legends from which the TV monsters were gleaned. Nancy, meanwhile, is going solo on the WATCHER'S GUIDE. Clearly the two authors are very busy with BUFFY. 'In fact,' says Golden, 'the irony of it is, we're so busy that we no longer have time to collaborate.'
Since Holder lives on the West Coast and Golden resides on the East Coast, the collaborate through 'the magic of e-mail,' says Golden, adding, 'We worked hard to find a voice that we could both feel comfortable with in our collaborative writing.' But the three-hour time difference contributed to the slow erosion of their time to collaborate, and since the popularity of the BUFFY books has led to opportunities for both Holder and Golden beyond the scope of their tie-in novels, the two decided it was best to put their collaboration on hold for now, although they do hope to resume in the future--if success doesn't get too much in the way.
Holder is working on WISHBONE novelizations as well as tales based on the SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH television show. Golden has a young adult series he has just sold, geared at older teens, which features a college student who works as a coroner's assistant; it's rather like Patricia Cornwell for kids. The first book in the series is out now, and the series has been optioned by Viacom and will, potentially, be developed as a TV show. Golden also writes BUFFY comic books, and his new horror novel, STANGEWOOD, which is neither a young adult nor a tie-in book, is out now in paperback from Signet.
Holder and Golden are proud of their success, and are quick to praise BUFFY's creator, Joss Whedon, and the remarkable cast he's assembled. 'Joss is very hands-on. His scripts are our bibles. He's been great. And I've really enjoyed talking to the actors,' says Holder, making her interviewer jealous of the fact that she got to meet David Boreanaz, who plays the dark and mysterious Angel.
If anyone is surprised that two more-than-teenaged authors love the Buffy mythos so much, one has only to turn to statistics to see the appeal. 'Everyone thought it would be a show for teens,' Holder states. 'But the statistics have shown that the average age of the Buffy viewer is 29. So the show is reaching a far greater demographic than it was originally expected to.'
With IMMORTAL on the shelves--in hardcover, aimed at adults--along with the SUNNYDALE HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK for teens, the two authors hope to reach that very broad demographic. The success and recognition that the tie-in series has brought them is, perhaps, a model for other aspiring novelists. But Golden is quick to give a bit of cautionary advice: 'No writer should exclusively write media tie-ins,' he says. But that, of course, would never happen to these two authors. Golden was already known for his own vampire tales and work in comics, and Holder's horror short stories, novels, and women's fiction garnered her many fans before BUFFY ever hit the airwaves.
The two do feel they've added something unique to the mythology, especially with their original novels--that is to say, those not adapted from the series episodes. 'We've done what Joss would never do on the show,' Golden says, referring to the strictures of network programming. Clearly, he and Holder are proud of their work, and rightly so. Each has added enormously to the burgeoning popularity of the BUFFY mythology while creating well-written, exciting novels that stand on their own merits. Each has found that their work in the BUFFY arena has helped both their careers in other ways as well.
'What more could a vampire fan ask for?' laughs Holder.