Ben Tripp is best known for his ‘Rise Again’ zombie novels, though he is currently tackling a different form of the undead with his vampire novel, ‘The Fifth House of the Heart’. While not writing in horror Ben has been writing a YA fantasy series, though he is now back with a vengeance.
Science Fiction (SF): First off Ben, thanks for joining us today and if you could share a bit about what ‘The Fifth House of the Heart’ is about?
Ben Tripp (BT): It’s a pleasure to be here. Fifth House of the Heart is about an antiques dealer named Sax – he’s old, greedy, an abject coward, and a narcissist — who nevertheless ends up killing several vampires in order to acquire their stuff. And these aren’t “Christopher Lee snoozing the afternoon away in a coffin” vampires. These are alien, predatory psychopaths that don’t mess around. So it’s a book about how greed can overcome fear, which sadly might be the central theme of our times.
SF: I love the idea of an antique dealer robbing vampires to increase their inventory. Where did such an ingenious concept come from?
BT: Ingenious is a nice word. I’ve been saying ‘preposterous’.
I should make up a better story, but the truth is that I have seen every single Hammer horror movie, including the snoozing Christopher Lee ones, and I really dig the set decoration. I was watching one of these some years back, admiring the castle interior, and I thought, “damn, I’d kill Dracula myself if it meant I could get my hands on that Jacobean banquet table.” And off it went. That’s literally where the idea came from.
SF: Where Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang lacks physically he makes up in spades mentally. What did you love most about writing him and would you get along with him if you met his real life counterpart?
BT: I AM Sax’s real-life counterpart, so we probably wouldn’t get along at all. He’s smarter than me, though. He can remember everything. I can’t remember anything. But I’m younger — I’ve got that going for me. I think what I enjoyed most was writing this character who is completely reprehensible, he hates doing the right thing, but he always ends up doing it. It’s so much fun to twist a good deed into a bad one, and vice-versa.
SF: Thankfully we don’t have to worry about sparkly “vampires” in your work. However with so many takes on this classic form of the undead, what kind of vampires can be found in ‘The Fifth House of the Heart’?
BT: You’re welcome. First of all, these aren’t supernatural vampires. They’re preternatural; there’s a biology to them, but on a higher pitch of evolution. Like the Bengal tiger is to the housecat.
As I mentioned, they’re alien to us — utterly incapable of human emotions. They see us as prey alone. Sometimes they mingle with us, to distract themselves from the exquisite boredom of the immortal apex predator. They’re also like dragons, in that they hoard the most beautiful objects human hands can make. That’s the only thing they envy us for. They cannot create, they can only destroy.
SF: What horror character or trope would you love to write about and add your own twist to but haven’t had a chance to so far?
BT: My wife [writer/producer] Corinne Marrinan and I are sizing up a new twist on the ghost archetype. It’s something we might do as a European television project, if the stars align. But we’re both so busy we just kind of gaze wistfully at the idea these days.
One trope I have been able to work with recently — just finishing up a freaky alien abduction story called Heat Lightning that takes place in an old farmhouse out in the cornfields. It’s essentially a hostage drama.
SF: How has life changed for you after switching over to being a full time author?
BT: That’s an interesting question… It’s really sort of amazing. I used to work in theme park design, so I spent all day painting pictures, meeting with mall developers in strange parts of the world, and swapping lewd jokes with architects.
These days, I crawl out from under the Boston Terrier, make tea, and then start writing. I write until written out, after which I spend the rest of the day pretending to be a person. Still get to travel a lot, still completely anonymous despite having fans. All the good bits. I’m very grateful.
SF: With your last dip into horror dealing with zombies do you prefer to write about the undead or have they just been what have inspired you so far?
BT: I’ve never thought about that before. It might be a coincidence. I’m also writing the relatively lighthearted YA series at the moment, so maybe for a horror chaser I go straight for the worst thing of all, which is the idea of a never-ending death experience.
That’s why the concept of heaven is horrifying to me. The whole time you’re there, you’re like “oh shit, I used to be alive. I’m dead now. This is tripping me out really badly.” And you have to do that for eternity. Can you imagining remembering your old phone number for six billion years? Let alone forever? It’s insane. That’s what it’s like to be a vampire! I’d rather just go out – bloop — and turn back into stardust like everything else.
Of course zombies are when the bloop part happens but the corpse keeps wandering around. So the undead. Yeah, I guess that’s been my jam lately.
SF: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
BT: I go to the DMV and pretend to be a driving instructor.
SF: If a zombie apocalypse were to break out, would human, vampire, or zombie end up being the last man (or monster) standing?
BT: My money is on the humans. Collectively we’re morons, yet we’re individually so resilient. But it doesn’t matter. The cockroaches still win in the end.
SF: Fans are going to want to know, what do you have in the pipeline?
BT: Well, finishing up Heat Lightning, the alien abduction story I mentioned, and The Accidental Giant, the second part of the fantasy trilogy, which should be coming out next year. Also an espionage thriller that takes place in Prague and Marseilles. I’ve got a humorous sci-fi epic that’s never going to get done at this rate, the TV ghost project, and about thirty other things floating around. I can never choose. It’s the same with neckties.
SF: Is there anything that you would like to share with our readers?
BT: The guy posing with the dead triceratops is not a big game hunter, he’s the director of the original Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg. Triceratops has been extinct for 65 million years.
SF: We’re just going to have to finish this up by including that image for reference!