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RIchard Radstone

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter scribe Seth Grahame-Smith has a knack for mixing greatness and gore.

Like chocolate and peanut butter, some things are just better together. So it may be with Jane Austen and zombies or U.S. presidents and vampires, at least if the stratospheric success of Seth Grahame-Smith’s best-selling literary mashups — Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, respectively — is any indication. With his latest tome, Unholy Night, on bookshelves now and the movie adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (for which he penned the screenplay) hitting theaters this month, we spoke to the 36-year-old author about his inspirations and successes.

American Way: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a gonzo idea casually thrown out by an editor, right?
Seth Grahame-Smith: Yeah. And I jumped all over it. I wrote it in six weeks and had so much fun doing it. I turned it in and moved on with my life. I’d been a writer for hire, just going assignment to assignment, paycheck to paycheck, for a lot of years. Six months go by, and PPZ is suddenly everywhere. We were all caught off guard by it.

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AW: And then you had Abe Lincoln using his mythological ax to take on vampires.
SGS: I was surprised at how much the real Lincoln scholars loved the book. The biggest fans of the book are the people who might have most hated it — the academics, the scholars, the historians. They’re excited because the book’s brought new people into their tent. And they let me hold the actual handwritten Gettysburg Address, so that’s cool.

AW: The movie is absolutely mad — a fun mind trip.
SGS: Yeah, it’s completely crazy. For what it’s worth, it’s a big summer 3-D movie that is not based on a toy or a video game. It’s not a reboot, a sequel or a remake, and there are no robots in it. It’s something wholly original and strange in the summer-movie landscape, which excites me as someone who loves summer movies.

AW: A lesser writer might get forever pegged as being the pen behind some gimmicky novelty books, but you’ve already written a well-received third novel and are a hot hand in Hollywood, too, having written the screenplay for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.
SGS: The first two novels that I wrote were the right books at the right time, but mashups do not a career make. I have so many stories that I’m interested in telling. I would love to migrate toward doing more traditional horror/science fiction/fantasy books. I don’t ever expect to win the National Book Award for what I do, but I do think I can do great work that pleases readers and gives me a great time. What’s more important than anything right now is just keeping people interested in reading books.