Relatable Vampires

My dad worked as a night foreman for the Santa Fe railroad when I was a kid. He would wake up in the morning and drive me to school, then go home and sleep until it was time to get ready for work. For most of my childhood, I saw him for breakfast and that drive to school. He suffered a heart attack in 1980. He was 52 and I was 13. While he was on the road to recovery, I took walks with him and, for the first time in my life, really started to get to know him as a person and not just as “dad.” A couple of months later, he had a second heart attack and died. I buried myself in my love of astronomy and science fiction as a way to cope. Eventually, I started operating telescopes for a living, working at night like my dad did. It was in this part of my life that I was first introduced to vampire fiction. Not surprisingly, part of the appeal was the notion of living forever and not being susceptible to human diseases. Plus, I was already a creature of the night, so it seemed like I was halfway there!

Last week, I read Lisa Dominique Machat’s short novel, A Walk in the Sun. The novel introduces us to Nicholas Justine, a young British aristocrat in the nineteenth century whose mother died in childbirth. Justine’s father is distant and tends to only to appear at night. At seventeen, he gets word of his father’s death. Soon after, he meets a childhood acquaintance, Elena, but before he can propose marriage to her, he’s tempted to investigate a mysterious night circus for a book he’s writing. He never reaches the circus, but instead meets a vampire who transforms him. As time passes, Elena is betrothed to a man she doesn’t want to marry. Nicholas and Elena agree to run away to Paris. Paris seems the perfect place for Nicholas and Elena until they cross paths with an evil sorcerer named Count Victor Du Fay, who has his sights set on Elena.

Over the course of the story, Nicholas does learn more about his father. It should come as no surprise that I found that story arc relatable. I also enjoy stories about good vampires and I thought it was interesting to see Nicholas pitted against a very powerful, albeit human and mortal sorcerer. As it turns out, Lisa Dominique Machat is the owner of Vampire Vineyards. I was introduced to their wine through Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans and I thought there was a clever tie-in with Nicholas and the vineyards in the epilogue. There’s a time gap between the last chapter and the epilogue and certainly room for another story about how Nicholas’s connection to the vineyard came about. I enjoyed this little connection to the real world. It’s something that will make me smile next time I enjoy a glass of Vampire Merlot or even a cup of Vampire coffee. You can learn more about the vineyards and their products at https://www.vampire.com

My goal as I start my next book, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order, will be to keep my vampires as relatable as Nicholas in A Walk in the Sun. You can, of course, meet Alexandra the vampire thief in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and Daniel the vampire astronomer is Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

8 comments on “Relatable Vampires

  1. I’m glad you got a start on getting to know your father as a person and not just as your father. But I’m quite sorry that you only had the beginning.

    For me, I was older and my circumstances were different. I was in high school before I first “stood up” to my father. I had planned it ahead of time, but was afraid of how he’d react. Very surprisingly to me, he gave almost no reaction. A few years after that, when I went to college, our relationship changed a great deal, and virtually instantly. He no longer treated me like a boy that he was in charge of, but like another man. I actually changed what I called him. Looking back, I virtually think of him as two different people.

    Speaking of change, it fascinates me how much vampire stories have changed over the years. I’m not an expert, but apparently vampires or something similar were believed real for thousands of years, and didn’t make their way into popular fiction until around the 18th century. They’ve gone from straight monsters to seductive villains to, well, what you once wrote: “Twilight was elves disguised as vampires.”

    I wonder how much of the change in vampire stories relates to society’s real-life changes. The world has generally grown more accepting of people and other cultures who are “different.”

    • Thanks for sharing the story of your relationship with your father. I could see myself growing to a point of thinking of my father in two different contexts if our relationship had been allowed to continue.

      Yes, there does seem to be evolution in the way vampires are handled in fiction. I don’t think it’s a nice, neat straight line, but rather a branching evolution. You can still find quite monstrous vampires on the modern bookshelf alongside the “elves disguised as vampires.” I think the power, appeal and, in many cases, wealth of vampires is attractive to modern Americans. Writers can then exploit that to tell everything from cautionary tales to more wish-fulfillment tales. The behavior of the vampire no doubt depends a lot on the kind of tale the author wishes to tell. That noted, I have certainly seen authors use vampires as a way to explore relationships between cultures who have a difficult time understanding one another among the story branches.

  2. It’s always good to read in the genre you want to write. Not only to get fresh ideas, but to see what’s already been done. Glad you’re back to work on new words.

    • Completely agree and thanks for the good thoughts!

    • One of the problems I’ve run into is being too familiar with a genre. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being too imitative of what’s already been done.

      I’ve tried to avoid that trap by bringing divergent elements together. (Of course I’m very, very far from being the first person to do that….)

      • One other way to avoid that pitfall is to run an idea by a trusted writer’s group or beta readers who can tell you if you’re at risk of going down a well-trodden path and help you find ways to find your own path. Certainly bringing divergent ideas is one great approach.

      • For me, the point of keeping up on the genre is to AVOID imitation. But obviously other writers have their own approach.

      • It’s tricky to avoid the imitation thing either way. We’re bound to be influenced by what we see, hear, and read. But on the other hand….

        I remember once working on a stand-up comedy routine that touched on things in a specific area almost every American could relate to. I had it mostly finished when one of the most famous comedians in America came out with a brand-new routine–with almost half of the same jokes. (They weren’t worded exactly the same, of course, but were quite similar).

        I stopped working on the routine.

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