Len Handeland - Love, Jealousy, Rage, and the Supernatural
Len is an award-winning fictional author. His writing involves vampires, paranormal, and murder crime drama novels. Len has enjoyed writing as far back as middle school. To further enhance and better his writing, Len has taken many creative writing classes and, in 2017, attended The San Francisco International Writer’s Conference, which inspired him to write his first book, “The Darkest Gift,” based on his love of vampires. He credits the late Anne Rice as the author who inspired him the most to write his dark vampire story. His first book earned him 5-star reviews from readers and professional book reviewers, and became a finalist in the American book fest contest in the fall of 2021. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about The Darkest Gift.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Darkest Gift is about.
The Darkest Gift is an exciting and captivating story about love that is both discovered and destroyed by a former partner's jealousy. The plot includes themes of revenge, possible reincarnation, spirit possession, and vampirism and takes place in various periods, such as 18th-century Paris, Haiti, and New Orleans in the 1980s.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
Since my earliest memories, I have always been drawn to vampires. Growing up in the 1960s, I was captivated by the gothic horror soap opera "Dark Shadows" and the character of Barnabas Collins, a reluctant vampire. Watching Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula in the 1930s film and reading the late Anne Rice's vampire novels further fueled my fascination. Even the HBO mini-series "True Blood" left a lasting impression on me. These experiences inspired me to write a dark but romantic vampire story.
Tell us more about Jack. What makes him tick?
Jack Devereaux is a character of great complexity, struggling incessantly with his sexual identity. Despite his seemingly simple-minded demeanor and irritable temperament, his true nature runs much deeper. He is trapped between the straight and gay communities, feeling profoundly insecure and out of place. His yearning for love and companionship is all-consuming, driving him to go to any lengths necessary to achieve it.
Why did you write vampires and paranormal experiences into the story? What do you find so fascinating about them?
As mentioned, I am keenly interested in vampires and have encountered paranormal phenomena. I decided to write a story about an epic battle between immortal creatures - vampires and ghosts. However, the storyline is far more intricate than just this premise.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have a passion for entertaining others. I have experience performing in Community Theater in Northern California (although I now live in Palm Springs) and singing at the North Bay region wineries. Despite my interest in vampires and blood in my writing, I have been a vegetarian for almost thirty years. Additionally, I have trained in various forms of Martial Arts for nearly twenty-five years. Whether through singing, acting, or writing, I enjoy thrilling and captivating my audience.
The Darkest Gift became an award-winning book. What surprised you most about readers' reactions to it?
I was happy to find out that straight men would appreciate reading a book with male characters who identify as gay or bisexual. My book does not contain explicit sexual content but has sensual elements. This is a positive development, as it would have been unlikely a decade ago.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
The most challenging part for me was figuring out how all the different periods and characters mentioned in the past were connected to each other in the future. It was like connecting all the dots.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about it.
For my book cover, I aimed to depict all the main characters. The main image of a vampire in the center is Fabien, while the image of Stefan, an evil vampire, and Fabien's lover and maker, is on the bottom left. Laurent, Fabien's lover, and fledgling vampire, is towards the bottom middle. Finally, the last image on the bottom right shows Jack Devereaux, a human who looks strikingly similar to Fabien but from 250 years in the future.
Readers say this book was really hard to put down - what is your secret to keeping their attention throughout the story?
To write an engaging book, the author must create cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. This leaves the reader wanting to know more. Additionally, if the characters in the book have well-defined backgrounds and depth, it will emotionally engage the reader. Many readers have expressed that this was the case with The Darkest Gift.
How much research did the book require from you to make the history and vampire lore feel so authentic?
To accurately depict the historical and cultural references in my fiction/horror novel, I conducted thorough research on life in 17th and 18th-century France. This included my travels to Paris, the Loire Valley, Haiti, and New Orleans to understand better the cultural references mentioned in the book. While the novel is a work of fiction, I strived for authenticity by incorporating factual elements. I have extensive knowledge of vampires from watching movies and television shows and reading numerous vampire novels, which helped me incorporate folklore about the living dead into my writing.
Did you plot out your story before you started writing, and did any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Like many other authors, I begin writing a book by creating an outline of my story with a brief description of each chapter. However, this outline is subject to change and improvement, as my characters sometimes speak to me and offer suggestions on how the story should progress.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I am a full-time author with varying preferences when it comes to writing. Depending on the book I am working on, I may choose to listen to music or work in complete silence. Sometimes, even the slightest noise can distract me from putting my thoughts on paper. My work schedule is similar to a full-time job, starting at 9:30 in the morning and ending at 6 in the evening. I leave the weekends free from writing, but if a thought occurs, I jot it down to include it later. However, sometimes I experience "writer's block," and I find it challenging to write for eight to nine hours straight.
What are you working on right now?
I am in the process of writing my fourth book, titled "Transplanted Evil." The plot is intricate and includes themes such as a serial killer, possession, satanic worship, attempted suicide, paranormal activity, and daily life challenges in an idyllic suburban area near Boston. It is expected to be published by the end of summer 2023.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I am excited to announce that my debut book, "The Darkest Gift," is now available at two bookstores, and more locations are expected to carry it soon. You can find it at the "Best Bookstore" on Tahquitz in Palm Springs and Readers' Books in Sonoma, located in the beautiful wine country of Northern California. If you prefer shopping online, you can purchase all of my books on Amazon using the link provided:
For additional information about me and my work, I invite you to visit my website, LenHandelandAuthor.com
I would love to hear from you, so please be in touch! Go to the contact me form at the bottom of the home page and send me a note!
This is the story of Jack, who struggles with his sexual identity and meets the elegant yet incredibly mysterious Laurent Richelieu. Has Jack's stroke of bad luck with men and women ended, or is it the beginning of a nightmare? The two begin their courtship—during that time, Jack encounters many horrifying experiences involving vampirism, paranormal experiences, and possible reincarnation.