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” I had a mission – to produce a publication that would unite vampire fans from all around the world. From an initial plan to produce a small fanzine, I decided I wanted to produce a ‘proper’ mag. I needed it to sit amongst shelves in stores across the world.”

DarkMedia Interviews Arlene Russo [Bite me Magazine]

Arlene Russo is editor and founder of Bite me magazine, the UK’s only glossy magazine dedicated to vampires and the supernatural, which she launched single-handedly in 1999.

She has been shortlisted three times for the Periodical Publishers Association’s Scottish Magazine Awards for ‘Editor of the Year and also ’Publisher of the Year’.

In 2008 she received a ‘Special Commendation Award’ for Services to Publishing from the Periodical Publishers Association. For the first time in the six years of the Scottish Magazine Awards, the judging panel decided that a special commendation should be awarded to one publisher and singled out one person. The judging panel, led by Helen Alexander CBE, former CEO of The Economist Group, said: “Bite me is an original and exciting product. If ever there was a great example of never-say-die, then this is the person. She has single-handedly edited, published and distributed a magazine against all the odds for the past ten years.”

Arlene is often consulted by the media as an expert commentator. Recently she was commissioned by True Blood to comment and promote the DVD release of True Blood Season 2

Her book The Real Twilight – True Stories of Modern Day Vampires was recently released in mass market paperback.

Will you tell us a little bit about “Bite Me Magazine”? When and why did it begin? How has it evolved since?

It all started by complete chance – I had seen on one of my first ever browses on the internet back in 1997 – something about the ‘world’s biggest Dracula party’ in Los Angeles .I made it my mission to attend. Basically this was a convention to celebrate the centenary of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. I travelled over 5000 miles for this special event and over 4 days I met a host of amazing characters, from Hammer Horror legend Countess Dracula Ingrid Pitt & other Hammer stars to the son of Bela Lugosi. I also met my first real vampire there who was happy to tell me about her real vampire lifestyle. The whole experience sparked the idea for Bite me and as soon I arrived back in Scotland, I had a mission – to produce a publication that would unite vampire fans from all around the world. From an initial plan to produce a small fanzine, I decided I wanted to produce a ‘proper’ mag. I needed it to sit amongst shelves in stores across the world. So from a photocopied effort it now had to be big, glossy, and colourful. Only problem was that I had zero experience of magazine publishing. So I therefore undertook a self -taught crash course in publishing. The first issue of Bite me was published about 2 years after that visit to the convention, in 1999.

How would you describe your readership? Is there something for everyone in “Bite Me”?

There is no typical reader- and that’s the way I like it! It is very varied, from teens to OAPs! Commonly people have said they don’t normally read stuff on vampires but are drawn to Bite me and that is a huge compliment,

Your magazine hosts a fantastic mix of real life stories along with news on films and books. Do you think it’s an easy marriage between the two? Do you ever run into a situation where they conflict with one another? For example, where the real-life self identified vampire might become offended by the pop culture image of a vampire?

Thanks, I am glad you like the mix of real life and film articles. It’s not easy to get the balance as most publications steer to one or the other but I always tried to have a really broad balance, from mythology to modern day real life vampirism, from gothic fashion and furniture to vampire weddings. I don’t really run into these conflicting situations- it is not my style to offend people for the sake of it. Certainly in Bite me, the people I have featured over the years are broad-minded enough not to take offence where none is intended. Or perhaps vampires are so used to be being criticised they have developed a thick skin.

What book do you like to give as a gift?

The Real Twilight, of course– and signed in blood red ink.

What are you reading right now?

I am actually reading the French version of the The Real Twilight-L’Histoire Secrète des Vampires.- which has just been published in France. I am trying to brush up on my French and of course prepare myself in case I am suddenly whisked off to do a book signing in Paris!

In your book, “The Real Twilight”, you explore and describe the reality, history, and hidden truths of real life vampires. What do you think the greatest misconception is about the self-identified vampire community?

That they are especially dangerous. There are far more dangerous sections of society- like mindless and unprovoked attacks on innocent citizens that happen on a regular basis.Yet people seem more afraid of vampires- who are actually very choosy about their victims, preferring willing donors to innocent victims.

How deeply do you feel mythology and fear has affected the public reaction to the word “vampire”? Do you think the term itself has been claimed for myth and fantasy? Would the real vampire community benefit from another label without all that stigma?

Well, vampire mythology has had a grip on us for over 2000 years so that is hard to shake off! Ask me in another 2000 years…who knows maybe mythology will no longer have any relevance.

Very recently, the vampire has undergone a transformation; from the monster in the darkness to the dark, romantic hero. Why do you think this has happened, and who do you credit (or blame) for this shift in perception?

Well, every so often the vampire undergoes a transformation. Anne Rice changed the concept of the vampire from a monster to one with feelings. Then they reverted to being evil monsters and now it has come back to the romantic hero. Perhaps in these dark times people need their monsters to be attractive.

Back to the magazine, how can our members get a copy of “Bite Me”?

Issues are available from http://www.bitememagazine.com.

Is there anything you’d like to share with our members about your future plans for Bite Me Magazine?

All news posted on the Bite me Facebook page.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? What’s the best, or worst, advice someone gave you?

To find your own voice and not try and write like someone else. Best advice–never give up! Worst advice– never give up! That is the dilemma of being a writer.

Finally, what’s got you excited or inspired?

Well I was recently excited that my favourite vampire Christopher Lee received a Fellowship at the BAFTA awards. About time too!
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Arlene and Bite Me Magazine can also be found at http://www.bitememagazine.com/

If you’d like to purchase Arlene’s book, “The Real Twilight”, please visit Amazon.com.

(All interviews are the exclusive property of DarkMedia, and may not be reproduced or shared without permission, excepting the posting of links.)

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