In the past few weeks I’ve been working on an outline for a new Scarlet Order Vampire novel. Back when I first wrote Vampires of the Scarlet Order in 2004, I’d written four synopses for novels in the series. I started the prequel, Dragon’s Fall almost right away in 2005 as a NaNoWriMo project. I set the novel aside for a time, but finally published it in 2012. Recently, I was prompted to think about the series again as I brought out new editions of the novels in 2020. Also, around that time, Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans selected Vampires of the Scarlet Order for their book club. Both events reminded me how much fun I had with these characters and I went back to look at those synopses from eighteen years ago. Of the three remaining synopses, two would be historical novels and the third was a sequel. The sequel interested me most. Re-reading the synopsis, I thought there was a lot of potential to further explore concepts I’d developed in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Not all the ideas in that synopsis grabbed me, but I started playing with the plot, jotting ideas down and just about 4000 words later, I have a detailed outline that I’m chewing on and probably will pursue in the coming months.
Looking for a little thematic inspiration, I decided to browse my to-read stack for a vampire book I hadn’t read before. One of those books was Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula which I’d purchased on the strength of Kurt MacPhearson’s review from a 2011 issue of Tales of the Talisman Magazine. At long last it was time to give it a try.
Anno Dracula is set in 1888. It imagines that Dracula did not die at the end of Bram Stoker’s famous novel, but killed Abraham Van Helsing and went on to marry Queen Victoria and become Prince Consort of Britain. Once done, vampires become an accepted part of society and are seen almost everywhere. The story is set up like an episode of Columbo. The book opens with one of the Jack the Ripper murders and Jack’s identity is revealed right at the start. The twists are that this Jack only murders vampires and he’s a character from Dracula. From there, we meet Charles Beauregard, an agent for the Diogenes Club. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will recognize this esteemed establishment as the home of the power behind the British government. Among the club’s most esteemed members is Sherlock Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, who assigns Beauregard the task of solving the Ripper murders. At the heart of Whitechapel, near the scene of the crimes is a vampire named Geneviève who has set out to help the poor and destitute of the district. We soon learn she’s a truly ancient vampire with powers to rival Dracula’s.
The novel reminded me of a vampire-centric League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with a mix of historical personages and characters related to just about every Victorian-set vampire novel or movie you can think of. Among the notable characters in the novel are Lord Ruthven, Florence Stoker, Frances Varney, and Doctor Jeckyll. Count Orloff, from Murnau’s Nosferatu is a creepy, silent jailkeeper. Dracula himself only actually appears in the novel’s last chapter. For the rest of the novel, his shadow just looms over everything that happens. One of my favorite character cameos happens near the end of the novel when Beauregard encounters an armadillo in Buckingham Palace, a clear nod to Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula.
All in all, I had a lot of fun reading Anno Dracula and I might well seek out some of the other stories and novels in the series. It’s clear Kim Newman is a fan of many of the same books I am.
I know some authors who avoid reading books in genres they’re working on to avoid being unduly influenced. However, when I’ve done my job as a writer and fleshed out my characters and have a good idea of what they’re going to do in their story, I find I’m not tempted to lift anything from another writer’s work. What I do pay attention to are those moments where I emotionally connect to the story. What makes me sad? What makes me laugh out loud? What makes me say “Cool!” After reading Anno Dracula, I did go back to my outline and asked, were there moments where I could do more of that? Are there moments where I could be more effective and make better connections with my readers? I did weave in a new plot thread as a result of asking those kinds of questions. And, I suspect I’ll find even more connections as I begin the actual writing process.
In the meantime, if you want to delve into the world of the Scarlet Order Vampires, click the links below to learn more about the books in the series.