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Friday, June 29, 2012

I know about vampires, now!


I have a confession to make.  I know nothing about vampires.
Okay, that’s not entirely true.  I used to run out of the room when my sister would come home from school and turn on Dark Shadows.  No, not the Tim Burton movie.  The real Dark Shadows, the cheesy vampire soap opera that came on every afternoon at 4 p.m.   So, even though I never stayed to watch any of it, I knew that Barnabas Collins was one scary dude.  I knew who Vincent Price was.  Ditto Bella Lugosi.  Oh, and I read Salem’s Lot in high school and it scared the crap out of me.  I mean serious, lie-in-bed-clutching-a-crucifix kind of scared. 
I’m pretty sure I saw Love at First Bite.
I almost forgot—I starred in a high school production of Dracula, too.
But by far and large, other than recognizing the name ‘Van Helsing’, my knowledge of vampires was mostly through osmosis.  A sort of general absorption of the basic facts without any real study of the subject.  Vampires couldn’t cast a reflection in a mirror.  They slept in their coffins and had to return to them before daybreak.  Sunlight would turn them to dust.  Other than sunlight, the only way to kill them was with a stake in the heart while they lay in their coffins.  They couldn’t come into your home unless invited, but once invited, you couldn’t keep them out.  They could be repelled with garlic, a cross, and holy water.
That was the sum total of my knowledge, and some of that was sketchy as well.  I wasn’t sure how much was ‘real’ and how much I’d misinterpreted over time.
Imagine my surprise when I decided to write a story with a vampire as the main protagonist. 
In my defense, I‘d come across a cool prompt on an open submission call and started writing my story.  It wasn’t until I realized that I’d completely misread the prompt that I discovered I had the makings of a novel instead.  I immediately set the story aside so I could do some intensive research on vampires—I didn’t want to get it wrong!  I got as far as reading the first paragraph in Wikipedia when I stopped myself.
Did I really need to research vampires for my story?  Alex was a vampire that had grown tired of living the Life—he’d made a conscious decision to leave his controlling lover behind and live life as close to ‘normal’ as possible.  In order to do that, my vampire needed to be able to bend the rules.  He needed to be able to go outside in daylight, to see himself in a mirror, to pass for human.  It occurred to me that all vampire lore was just that—legends and myths.  There was no reason to suppose that any of it was a hard and fast rule.
I played around with creating a mythos that would allow my vampire to live life like a human, but also incorporate many of the things that readers would expect—such as the supernatural strength, and the inability to cast a reflection.  I decided that the coffin was the source of power, but that not all vampires had one—so the other means of perpetuating immortality was to feed off living beings.  The idea was that use of the coffin conferred immortality, but it came with a price—waking with an insatiable desire to feed, and  a gradual loss of one’s humanity over time.  The coffin was addictive too, and the scarcity of them increased their value.  The only way to achieve the same results as one night in the coffin was to take the lives of dozens of humans.  It made a weird sort of logical sense to me, and the rest of the story built itself around this premise.
Crying for the Moon has been praised for its original take on the vampire lore, which always makes me blush a little because I was literally making it up as I went along.  I enjoyed finding new ways to tweak the presumed assumptions of the reader—yes, I would continue the tradition of having vampires and werewolves be mortal enemies, but then I would make Alex’s closest friends a pack of misfit werewolves.  Yes, seduction and sex would be part of Alex’s deadly charm, but he would never really enjoy sex until he met Tate.
Alex is definitely not your typical vampire.  He is a reluctant lover, unwilling to place Tate in harm’s way.  He was born into the Life, a very rare occurrence, as most vampires are sterile.  He knows no other existence, and yet he longs for an entirely different way of living.  He finds himself drawn into friendships and attachments when he doesn’t think he is capable of having either. 
I was drawn to his desire to be different, and the fact that he did not fit in.  By allowing him to explore his humanity, I wasn’t as tightly bound to the standard presumptions about vampires, and in fact, enjoyed poking fun at the conventions by having the characters ask, “You believe that stuff?”
Because underneath the seductive good looks, and the unbelievable strength paired with immortality, Alex is basically a guy looking for love.  He doesn’t know that—vampires are presumed to be incapable of love—but his parents loved each other, and unconsciously he wants that, too.
Tate is unlike anyone Alex has ever met.  Coming out of a toxic relationship, Alex doesn’t really know what a good relationship is like—which is why he resists getting involved with Tate for so long.
I still know very little about vampires.  But I’m planning a sequel that will force Alex back into the dark world he left behind, so now I am willing to do the research.


Crying for the Moon is available through Dreamspinner Press.

Blurb: 
Vampire Alexei Novik may have the teeth and the coffin, but he’s given up the lifestyle for an old fixer-upper in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Weary of his past, Alex plans to keep to himself, but it seems his sexy, new neighbor, Tate, can’t take the hint—a good thing, since it turns out he’s handy for all kinds of things around the house. Tate even gets along with Alex’s werewolf friends, though one of them pointedly reminds Alex that their friendship is a bad idea.
If a platonic relationship is a bad idea, the growing attraction between Tate and Alex is a disaster waiting to happen. Loving Tate will draw him into Alex’s dangerous world, and Alex is torn between having the relationship he’s always craved and keeping Tate safe. Tate won’t take no for an answer, however, and seems to handle everything Alex can throw at him without blinking. Just when he thinks things might turn out all right after all, Alex’s past catches up with him—forcing him to make a terrible choice.

2 comments:

  1. Fascinating to get a "behind the scenes" look at what goes through an author's head when planning and writing a book!

    I loved this book, and the unusual perspective on a vampire's lifestyle and on his relationships with a supposed enemies was part of the reason. There's definitely something to be said for research (and Sarah is excellent at it), but creating your own mythos for an often-used subject gives it a unique twist.

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  2. Thank you! I *am* a huge fan of research and sometimes can get lost in it (endlessly researching instead of getting on with the actual writing!) but in this circumstance, I felt like researching the fictional lore of vampires and werewolves was just going to unduly influence me to stick to it.

    Much better to rely on the minimum that I knew (because that was familiar to readers) and then go with what made sense to me. I really enjoyed having the characters discuss common beliefs and misconceptions about themselves. :-) Once I realized I wasn't locked into the lore, I began to have fun with it!

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