Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the Pearls Cast Before A McPig website.
Some of the most common questions I’m asked revolve around the “kind” of vampires I write about and the amount of research I conducted before writing about them … so, I thought I’d devote this blog to those topics.
I’ll begin with the research part, since it will be the shortest explanation.
Any good writer will tell you that the key to writing a great novel lies in research. A writer must literally (and liberally) immerse him-or-herself in the subject—living, eating, breathing, it for an extended period of time.
Unless, of course, the subject is underwater aquatics or the mating habits of hippopotami (but I still want one for Christmas).
Remember, a good researcher is blessed with common sense. A bad researcher is kissed by death.
I dove into my research for Væmpires: Revolution with gusto. I also added a bit of relish, but that’s a personal preference I might recommend, but would never insist someone try. For the next six months, I lived as a probationary vampire in a commune in upstate New York.
Believe me, it’s not as glamorous, nor as rustic, as one might suspect. Yes, the constant gardening took some getting used to and sharing a cabin with a dozen paranormal romance cover models was a bit daunting (those guys really are suffering, I tell ya! It’s teen angst multiplied a hundredfold. I hope they find their soul mates soon.), but it wasn’t bad at all.
To sum it up: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times (thanks, Chuck!). I never realized there was actually an art to seducing unsuspecting young ladies, but you can bet I really put my heart and soul into it.
On the other hand, I never quite mastered the whole “let’s go back to my … cough … coffin,” line that the true masters pulled off with aplomb.
I’m still convinced they left something out of that lesson.
Nevertheless, the time eventually came when I had to head back to the real world. Don’t get me wrong, the urge to stay was incredible (and it had nothing to do with the smoldering looks of my cabin mates), and while I could live with the vegan diet, and I developed an affinity for the whole, “Relax, you’ve got all the time in the world … all the time in the world …” approach to things, and I absolutely loved having rock hard abs (finally … crunches be damned!), when push came to shove, I balked at the thought of being a perpetual high school student.
The first four years were enough.
So, I headed home with a heavy heart and a rucksack full of regrets … plus a trio of consolation prizes: a vial of “human blood” that was really organic cranberry juice with non-FDA approved food color added to it (go figure), a vampire tooth necklace that looks suspiciously like the shark tooth necklace I picked up at the Jersey shore one summer when I was fourteen, and a neat little iPhone app that keeps counting down the time until the projected end of my (once again) human lifespan.
Say what you want; those vamps may sneak into your teenage daughter’s room in the middle of the night to “watch her sleep” or steal your grandmother’s Social Security check from the mailbox (how else are they supposed to make a living?), but they sure have a killer sense of humor.
And software design skills. Who knew?
Armed with an encyclopedia’s worth of information, I sat down to write Væmpires: Revolution.
Okay … I admit it.
There was no commune and no cabin of inhumanly good-looking men. I certainly never seduced any unsuspecting young ladies.
Or gentlemen, for that matter. I’ve never seduced anyone in my life.
I’ve never been seduced, either. Perhaps that’s why I write …
But, anyway, please forgive my little white lie. I can’t help it. I write fiction, for chrissake. My entire life is one never ending circle of lies, deceit, secrets, drama, plot twists, cliffhangers, and the occasional deus ex machina. And that isn’t even the writing.
So, I’ll try to focus on the facts. The fact is that I didn’t do any research on vampires. Why the heck would I? No one’s going to read my book anyway! [Interject self-effacing laughter here that actually sounds phony and perhaps a bit uncertain.]
I did conduct research on the layout on New York City. You see, Væmpires: Revolution takes place far in the future—our future. Sometime in the late twenty-ninth or early thirtieth centuries, humans trigger WWIII. The resultant nuclear winter lasts for hundreds of years and wipes out the vast majority of the population. Water levels rise. The face of the world changes.
When the world recovers from the Great Devastation (as it’s called), the Atlantic Ocean is gone, creating one immense continent surrounded by water. Antarctica and Australia are uninhabited. The few island groups that exist are in constant danger of being swallowed by the remaining oceans, so efforts to inhabit them are quickly abandoned. The peoples of earth spread throughout the continent and grow roots.
The supercontinent is broken into seven provinces: four ruled by vampires and the other three by humans. The landmass that used to be covered by the Atlantic Ocean becomes the two vampire provinces of North and South Atlantica. The vampire (and world) capital of Orion is built in North Atlantica.
Orion is a faithful replica of ancient New York City, so I needed to be fairly accurate with my descriptions and settings. Of course, I employ poetic license, but not too much. I also live an hour north of NYC, so I’m in the city numerous times a month, which helps.
I conducted research on England’s Windsor Castle, as well.
Since Orion is the capital, it stands to reason that vampire leaders will reside there. Humans are still led by elected officials, but monarchs lead vampires ... and monarchs need palaces and royal estates.
From the novel:
Constructed in memory of New York’s famous Central Park, the royal estate constituted a thousand acres in the center of Orion. The entire perimeter, two miles long by three-quarters of a mile wide, was lined by a dense forest of native trees.
Sitting in the middle of it all was the royal palace. After the signing of the Silvestri Accords, the first vampire king had commissioned the building of a royal estate. When the time came to build a home for the royal family, the queen had suggested—some said demanded—that they make a goodwill gesture to humans. So, instead of building something new, they elected to unearth Windsor Castle from ancient icebound England, where it had been reduced to little more than a shell by the Great Devastation. The process of returning it to its former glory in a new location had taken more than a decade, easily twice as long as new construction would’ve taken, but the new leaders of the world could afford to be patient.
You’ll have to read Væmpires: Revolution to see how my research panned out. For now, I’d like to turn my attention to my vampires.
You see, my world has two races of vampires—vampires and væmpires.
In writing Væmpires: Revolution, I didn’t decide to follow any particular vampire mythology or mode of thought. Certainly, my vampires have some similarities to “traditional” vampires in that they are undead creatures with enhanced abilities and senses, they require human blood for sustenance, and sunlight kills them.
However, they differ from traditional vampires in that they were created from the radioactive fallout from WWIII, new vampires are born (not made), and they age naturally (although they are immortal). Additionally, the creation of synthetic human blood frees them from the need to feed on humans and provides protection from the sun.
Decapitation, stopping the heart, bleeding them dry, or even causing injuries that overwhelm their healing abilities can kill them, of course. But it isn’t easy.
They aren’t susceptible to garlic, crosses, holy water, etc. They can certainly see their reflections in the mirror—how else can they ever be humanized, if they can’t wrestle with self-doubt and self-loathing?
On the other side of the conflict, væmpires are mutated vampires. No one knows why the mutations occur or how to stop them. Each væmpire—warm-blooded with a hunger for cold vampire blood—is a bigger, stronger, faster version of its former self, with a second thumb on each hand and an altered physical appearance, to boot.
Væmpires can be killed. That much we know. Vampires are still trying to determine the full extent of their vulnerabilities. They’d better figure it out soon, because væmpires are winning the war right now.
So, there you have it: the unvarnished, unmitigated, unadulterated—and perhaps, unwanted—truth about my research and my vampires.
Please forgive my honesty, but I never realized telling the truth could be so … sterile.
I don’t recommend it. No, sir/ma’am, not at all.