Rob Thurman Kicks the Supernatural into High Gear

A few years back I picked up a paperback from a book stand featuring new novels.  I’d never heard of the author before, but the cover looked interesting.  I know, how shallow; buying a book because of the cover.  But I followed my instincts, shallow cover-art moment notwithstanding, and entered a world of action and adventure that didn’t stop until I turned the last page and read the last line.  Upon finishing, I returned to the opening page and instantly began  my visual journey all over again before searching online to see whether this author had written anything else.  Unfortunately for me at the time, I discovered that Nightlife was Rob Thurman’s first novel.  On the fortunate side, however, I learned there would be many more!   Check out the Nightlife prologue: Book One for yourself.  I promise you, you’re in for a wild, witty and intense literary adventure!

Fellow Joss Whedon fan Rob Thurman’s first novel, Nightlife, was released in 2006 and began the journey of Cal Leandros, half human, half monster and his all-human brother Niko as they kept one step ahead of the creatures that claimed Cal was one of their own.  Thurman has since written five Leandros novels, with the sixth set for release on Tuesday March 1, 2011.  For the Leandros brothers, the world is a dangerous place filled with creatures and beings older than humanity, almost older than the earth itself.  Set in 21st century New York, the brothers encounter vampires, werewolves and demi-gods, and elude, fight, and work for beings most people never know exist.  With sarcasm drumming staccato beats, Thurman hurls her characters through non-stop action on a roller-coaster ride that doesn’t end until the last word on the last page.   Anyone who loves wit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the drama and angst of Angel, the humor and bleak edginess of Firefly and the darkness of Supernatural will love these novels.

Not one to rest on her laurels or the popularity of her Leandros novels, Rob Thurman has expanded her focus to include two other series.  The Trickster novels are set in the dark world of non-glitz Las Vegas featuring Trixa Iktomi, a mysterious young woman who deals in information both human and non-human alike desire.  Her third series, Chimera, sidesteps the supernatural and explodes into the murky landscape of assassination and medical exploitation.

Question: How did you get into writing?  Have you always wanted to write?

Rob Thurman: I hate to give the same answer to this question over and over during interviews, but it’s so damn true that I can’t not tell it. I wrote stories before I could write. I was a semi-okay artist (second best in class…so proud), and I drew constantly. Kindergarten wasn’t a problem. First grade my pictures began to get a few raised eyebrows from the teacher. In the second grade my parents were called in for a parent teacher conference to discuss the disturbing issues of my latest picture: a princess chained to a dungeon wall with monsters gnawing on her feet and two guys running around with swords (oh, and a few pools of blood.) I think those two guys were the proto-Cal and Niko. My parents explained I had a very vivid imagination, loved horror movies (even at the age of 7) and I managed to avoid court ordered counseling and possibly foster care while our house was searched for a basement and manacles.

When I was ten, my mother wrote Kirk/Spock fanfiction and that’s how I discovered another outlet for the creepers in my head. Thanks, Mom!

Q: From what dark corner of the world do you draw your ideas?

RT: My brain. My brain has so many dark corners that most of my normal daily thoughts huddle together and call 911. It’s also marinated in sarcasm and snark as sharp and wicked as a switchblade… and probably should be as illegal.

And I’ve been a pathological reader of mythology since the age of nine. Only in my books I take that mythology, run it through a woodchipper, and see what comes out the other side. I change it, twist it, and make it my own. My feeling is if monsters, gods, tricksters, various other creatures did exist then mythology would be like a gossip website. There would be at best a seed of truth in it. It’s not like Vlad or Loki or your random werewolf was going to sit down and do interviews back in the day so humans could get their mythology correct. So my werewolves aren’t people bitten and cursed. Mine evolved from the beginning of time just as people did, but they’re not a split from humanity’s evolution. They began as wolves. The evolved the ability to turn into human form to make hunting easier…to blend into the herd (we’re the herd.) They’re not really werewolves…they’re were-people.   And I do that with every monster/creature/you name it from mythology I use. It’s a helluva good time taking the originals apart and putting them back together in a way the readers never see coming.

Q: What was the impetus for Cal and Niko?  Were these characters creations of total fiction or based on people you know?

RT: As I said, I’ve been drawing Cal and Niko since the second grade…not that I knew their story or their names. I simply knew they were brothers and fought ‘bad things.’ I’m a huge fan of brothers (I don’t have one obviously or I might not be. He would’ve burned my Ken dolls (who usually tied up Barbie and ran over her with the Barbie Country Van…I think the Kens thought Barbie had it way too good) or generally tormented me. But since I didn’t have a brother and I read books and watched TV about how brothers or cop partners always had your back, always were there to kick-ass with you, and were loyal to the end even while playing evil practical jokes on you…well, that’s what I thought all brothers were (or should be.) I love ’em.

And what’s better than one hot guy kicking ass? Two hot guys kicking ass. I finally thought of Cal and Niko’s entire story (not just running around a dungeon waving swords and oddly unconcerned that the princess chained to the wall was having her feet chewed off) about fifteen years ago–yep, fifteen years.

But I thought being a writer wasn’t practical, real job, all that…then real job sucked out my soul, so in 2000 I wrote it. In 2001 it was rejected by every agent in the country. In 2002 it was rejected by every publisher. In 2003 I sent it around again and it was picked up, but it takes 1 1/2 to 2 years to actually go through the publishing process of editing, being slotted in the schedule, blah blah. So it took six years to reach the shelf in Feb of 2006…at the same time the TV show Supernatural debuted. I think people in China heard me howling over that. Still, Cal’s gun is bigger than Dean’s and Niko carries a katana and about a hundred other blades of some sort. And I do get fantastic crossover fans from the show…in the end I benefit. And in the entertainment business it happens often…great minds think alike.

But it still kills me (even though I watch it, because, damn…two hot guys!)

Q: You’re contracted to write seven Leandros novels.  Is there a chance the adventures of Cal and Niko will continue beyond 2012?

RT: Oh, yeah. Well, damn, at least I hope so. I have a great fan base there. They truly put the fanatical in fan. They are so amazing that they wait until the official release date of the books to buy them (sometimes stores put them out early and those sales aren’t counted towards rankings–think of rankings as TV ratings). They know keeping my rankings up keeps Cal and Niko around. I actually affectionately call them Rob’s Reavers because of Joss Whedon’s Reavers. They are that kind of bat-shit crazy for Cal and Niko…and that’s the very best kind of crazy. I picture them driving into the bookstore parking lot screaming, fake blood on their cars, and reaving the store of every new copy they have.  Actually…that might happen and I just haven’t seen the pictures.

Q: Chimera seems a darker-themed tale, with assassins, kidnapping and underworld families.  What prompted you to expand your creative world and move outside the supernatural?

RT: If you don’t expand your imagination, it dies. Period. But I did keep the brothers theme and I had a huge fan response to that book. Fanmails about how I made them bawl like a baby at the end…but in a good way. How they couldn’t put it down and was one of their favorite books they’d read (and these were my urban fantasy fans who read nothing but urban fantasy. I must have gotten something right.) Plus there is some genetic manipulation so people who looked normal could do things that weren’t normal at all. That was….heh…entertaining in a purely darkly evil way.

Q: Tell us how an idea evolves into the stories we read in your novels?

RT: There are pantsers and plotters (you probably already know, but…pantsers just start writing and come up with it as the go….write by the seat of their pants. Plotters plot.) I am a third, new category, beyond even a pantser. I write by the skin of my ass. I usually know one thing going in…the epic battle at the end of the book that is so goddamn cool that I have to write something to get there. And I’m a big lover of twists and surprises. If a reader peeks at the end, it will greatly lower their enjoyment of the book.

Q: As a Whedon fan, which was your favorite Whedon series?

RT: That’s difficult. Firefly of course was the best sci-fi series ever done (in which Joss, of course, killed off my favorite character in Serenity.)  But although Firefly has the same mix, BTVS was the first to show how you could combine humor and violence, sarcasm and darkness (as it came out long before Firefly). I’d always written like that (from ten years old on I always wrote…I just didn’t consider it a viable career option money-wise, but I still wrote.) And although I had always written scraps of novels and stories with sarcasm, monsters, angst, ass-kicking, darkness, humor all wrapped up in one, I’d never read anything as dark and snarky as what I was doing nor seen it on TV. I think seeing BTVS (oddly I loved everyone on the show except Buffy…go figure. Dying to see Spike at Dragon*Con) for the first time let me know, yeah, it can be done. People will accept it, will love it.

So, as an older adult, Firefly is my favorite. As a younger one, Buffy…because it validated me, plus I love me some evil Willow. I loved Xander’s snark. I loved Oz…I just loved Oz. I’d have eaten him up like an ice cream cone. I loved the contrast between Watcher Giles and Ripper Giles-the ruthlessness.

Shorter answer: can’t pick between those two…two different times in my life…both frigging AMAZING shows and of course I accept Joss Whedon as the One True Creative God.  Besides, I don’t need to pick. I have them both <grin.>  Oh, hey, great tid-bit. When I was at a convention (SDCC), I sat on two writers panels with Amber Benson (yes, Joss broke my damn heart there, too) and was able to chat with her for a while. She’s a doll. Nicest person. But while Seth Green was at the same convention I was never able to track him down, tackle him to the floor, and drag him back to my room (maybe my second grade self was right. I do need a dungeon.)

Visit Rob Thurman’s Site for audio and written book excerpts as well as her live journal and a new, upcoming Cal video set to debut on March 1, 2011!

Cal Leandros Novels:

The Trickster Novels:



Kristen, a freelance writer, has been a part of the Whedonverse Network since 2004 and Managing Editor since 2008.She has contributed news items as well as feature pieces reporting on and exploring the wide, wide world of Whedon and beyond.

Latest posts by Kristen (see all)


Kristen, a freelance writer, has been a part of the Whedonverse Network since 2004 and Managing Editor since 2008. She has contributed news items as well as feature pieces reporting on and exploring the wide, wide world of Whedon and beyond.


  1. I was one of those crossover Supernatural fans Rob speaks of, and am I grateful! Rob’s books are a pure delight from paragraph one on. The snark, the action, the brotherly love, and the wonderfully twisted monsters in her world speak to an incredibly fertile imagination and a form of writerly irreverance that appeals to me no end. I just downloaded Blackout, and have a paperback copy ordered as well (I read, therefore I reave!), and I’m seriously considering faking sick tomorrow so I can stay home and read it!

    So, yeah, also a huge Whedon fan. Not only the body of work, which rocks my world (especially Firefly; I’m a proud Browncoat), but his deliciously wicked sense of humor and, yes, irreverance. He is one big ball of incredible talent. (I should probably hate him and Rob both for hogging so much of the available talent in the universe and leaving less for the rest of us!)

    Anywho, thanks for this delightful interview. Go Rob!!!

    • Andi – Her books are amazing, and just the right fit for all of us Whedon and Supernatural fans.

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