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The Magical Mystery Vampire Tour Of History

I have always loved vampire novels (and the occasional movies) that focus on the immortality aspect of vampires, and explore what it means to be able to live through centuries…millennia, even. In discussing the appeal of vampires, Marian and I both realized that we were always less interested in stories that focused on the good guys defeating the Vampire Villain, or (the modern corollary) the vampire as Sex God.

A large part of the appeal of Anne Rice’s early vampire novels (Interview with the Vampire (Vampire Chronicles) and its sequel, The Vampire Lestat (Vampire Chronicles)) was that we got to see the vampires as the protagonists, and we got to experience history through their eyes. Sure, Louis and Lestat weren’t very heroic in the traditional sense (one was hopelessly passive and depressed, and the other arrogant and sublimely self-absorbed) but at least they were *interesting* and not just the run-of-the-mill bloodsucking undead. And we got a grand tour of eighteenth-century France and nineteenth-century New Orleans in the bargain.

And then there was the Comte de St. Germain. I remember discovering Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Hotel Transylvania at my local library when I was in high school, and thinking that I’d finally found the perfect vampire novel, with an interesting historical setting, a grand romance, and a very sympathetic (and heroic) vampire as the main character.

Marian had a similar reaction to the early St. Germain novels–finally, a good guy who wore fangs! And whose author actually spent some time exploring the effect of immortality on the soul and character of a profoundly compassionate man who loves and loses his mortal friends and lovers over and over again. In Yarbro’s vampire universe, the real villains are found in the intrigues among power-hungry upper classes of ancient Rome, invading Mongols in medieval China, Satanic cultists in pre-Revolution eighteenth-century France, or among religious fanatics and the Inquisition in Renaissance Florence.

It’s no wonder that we both became fans of the late-night vampire cop show, Forever Knight – The Trilogy, Part 1 (1992 – 1993), that aired in the early 90′s. Handsome, brooding vampire hero trying to atone for the sins of his past? Check. Lots of historical flashbacks? Check. Attractive, and talented cast? Check!

Marian and I actually met through the FOREVER KNIGHT fandom–she was trying to establish herself as a screenwriter, and had written several FOREVER KNIGHT spec scripts, and I had long wanted to write a vampire novel that incorporated the historical flashbacks I enjoyed so much. We soon became critique partners, and then, a year later, embarked on co-authoring the first version of the novel that eventually became Glass Souls.

In the process of writing, we evolved a somewhat different kind of vampire by discussing how immortality might work from a practical standpoint.  Instead of making our vampires the traditional brooding loners, haunting the centuries in solitude, we gave them a support network (The House of the Rose, a vast mercantile empire of perfumers) and jobs (they’re the protectors of the House’s business enterprises and its people, as well as the keepers of the family’s memories and traditions). And in doing so, we got to evolve a whole set of traditions and a hidden culture based on ancient Sumerian mythology, as well as set our stories in some very interesting periods of history, such as the Crusades and the Mongol invasion of the Middle East.

How about you? What’s the thing about vampire novels or movies that appeals to you the most?

Category: book reviews

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