Arlene is the founder and editor of the successful Glasgow-based vampire magazine Bite Me! After studying media and television at university, she started out her journalism career by writing and submitting articles to newspapers - and discovered a niche in the market for paranormal stories. After attending the world's biggest Dracula convention in the USA, Arlene decided on her mission to return to Scotland and establish a vampire magazine. She is also squeamish at the sight of blood, but don't tell anyone…
Paul Kane; When did you first become interested in vampires?
Arlene Russo; I was nine when I begged my mother to let me stay up to watch Dracula, Prince of Darkness. And I was hooked from then on Hammer horror. Although I watched all the late night horrors, like Creature from Black Lagoon etc, the vampire captivated me. I remember my copy of Dennis Gifford's Monsters of the Movies that I used to recite by heart when I was about ten.
Paul Kane; What's so appealing to you about the culture and the sub-genre?
Arlene Russo; I have never figured out why I have this particular interest and cannot explain why I am drawn to the vampire. Its appeal is just multidimensional.
Paul Kane: What are your personal favourite vampire novels?
Arlene Russo: I have always preferred non-fiction to fiction. I like to dip into the Vampire Encyclopaedia by Gordon Melton. A magnificent tome.
Paul Kane: And your favourite vampire movies?
Arlene Russo: It has to be Hammer horror of course! And I really loved the opening scene in Blade. Wow!
Paul Kane: You're not alone there. Think I might know the answer to this one already, but name your favourite vampire character of all time...
Arlene Russo: You're right. That would have to be Count Dracula - Chris Lee.
Paul Kane: Do you enjoy reading - and/or watching - other types of horror books and films?
Arlene Russo: No. I am not actually a great horror film fan - which might surprise people. I feel I have seen all the greats, like Halloween, American Werewolf in London and so on.
Paul Kane: Turning to Bite Me magazine. How did it all come about?
Arlene Russo: A visit to the 'world's biggest Dracula party' sparked the idea for Bite Me. Over 1000 Drac fans converged on Los Angeles in August 1997 for a convention to celebrate the centenary of Bram Stoker's immortal novel Dracula. Over four days I met a host of interesting characters, Hammer Horror legend and Countess Dracula, Ingrid Pitt, other Hammer stars, and also the son of Bela Lugosi. Plus the very first man to ever spend a night alone in the real Castle Dracula in Romania, and a psychic vampire… Back in Scotland, I was on a mission: to produce a publication that would unite Drac fans from all around the world. From an initial plan to produce a small fanzine, I decided I wanted to produce a 'proper' mag. One that could sit amongst others shelved in stores across the world. So big, glossy, and colourful it had to be. I therefore undertook a self-taught crash course in publishing.
Paul Kane: A life-changing decision then. But was it hard making the transition from hobby to professional with the magazine?
Arlene Russo: Unbelievably so. If I had known, I would never have done it. I would never recommend anyone to do it. Most of it has been a nightmare. I really think I ought to write a book about it.
Paul Kane: You definitely should; it might help others in the same boat. Back to films now, though: what do you think of recent vampire-related movies like Underworld and Van Helsing?
Arlene Russo: I have to be honest, I haven't seen them! That's a major downfall of doing the mag - I never have free time, there's always something to be getting on with.
Paul Kane: You're not missing too much really, especially with Van Helsing. But what do you make of the whole Buffy and Angel phenomenon? Have they helped or hindered the vampire sub-genre?
Arlene Russo: I have never been a fan of Buffy. I have found a lot of Buffy fans are not that interested in vampires or the supernatural, which sounds odd but it's true.
Paul Kane: That is weird. Finally let's talk about you and your personal ambitions. You had a book deal but didn't have the time to go through with this - is fiction something you want to do more of in the future?
Arlene Russo:It is all I have ever wanted to be - an author- and I feel saddened that the mag takes up all my time. As 95% of my time is spent on admin and publishing duties and not actual writing.
Paul Kane: That's a real shame, but you can be proud of what you've achieved. One last question: how do you see Bite Me developing and what plans do you have for the future?
Arlene Russo: I would love Bite Me to be a monthly mag. I would also like it to have a sister title.
Paul Kane: Thanks for taking time out to be interviewed, Arlene.
Arlene Russo: Thanks Paul.
Visit the Bite Me website by clicking here.
Interview (C) Paul Kane & Arlene Russo, September 2004.
© Paul Kane 2003-2018. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.