Why did I make the heroine of my first novel, Willow Band, a vampire? I could have chosen for her to be a super hero with amazing powers. Instead, I created a little creature of the night that eats postmen for breakfast and bankers for supper.
One of the many regular questions a writer is being asked is where to your ideas come from? It’s a difficult question to answer and may be quite different for every writer out there. In my case – or rather in the case of Willow the vampire entering this world – it was the fact that there is a real little Willow alive and happy living in London…and she is a vegetarian! What started out as a joke to make Willow’s Mum laugh with a short story I had written about Willow and her family of vampires, became soon a full blown idea for a novel…indeed a whole series of books.
So why are we so mesmerised by the vampire genre? Ever since John Polidori’s The Vampyre was published, soon followed by James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney the Vampyre, then later Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and, of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula at various stages of the nineteenth century, we’ve had a never ending thirst for more blood-curdling vampire stories or so it seems.
Many people believe that so many cultures in the West share the vampire myth because the idea of blood sucking fiends dates back to pre-historic times, perhaps even to the dawn of humanity. When food was very scarce and a clan’s very survival was at stake (pardon the pun), cannibalism was not unheard of among prehistoric peoples. Many cultures believed that drinking their slain enemies’ blood after battle would imbue them with their enemies’ strength, bravery and honour.
The Vikings, according to Old Norse sagas, mention vampires and there were cults where high priestesses would collect the blood of human sacrifice victims to appease the gods. In the Balkans and throughout Eastern Europe the vampire is quite a different creature – mostly one that lives off the life force of a living being, but not a creature of the night that sucks blood.
Haven’t we all come into contact with people whom we’d perhaps like to describe as vampires? People who seem to drain us off our very energy, who are clingy, seemingly pitiful, but actually rather manipulating?
Known as vrykolakas in Greek and strigoi in Romanian folklore, the spread of vampire lore and their followers has been consistent since the 19th century, when the vampires stories mentioned above were supposedly expressing the “fears of an age”, the Victorian’s worries over sexuality, patriarchy and general loss of morals in an industrialised future. This seems rather too simplistic, given that the fear of dying is as old as humanity itself.
Vampires like Willow and her kin do have so many attractive advantages that it is hard to resist writing about them. I had never envisaged myself to be a “fantasy” writer, had in fact started writing a completely different, reality based novel for children, when Willow walked almost fully formed into my feverish brain and became the flawed heroine of a vampire book.
Perhaps my sadness to see the real Willow grow up so quickly and not being part of her every day progress had something to do with it? Maybe undergoing cancer treatment at the time and being more than usually preoccupied with morbid things caused me to choose the vampire genre?
In Western folklore the vampire is often depicted as a woman overpowering a man and draining the life force from him. Perhaps the idea that Willow should be a powerful being that can’t be pushed around by a male dominated society was at the bottom of my inspiration?
It is clear to me that inspiration for my writing comes from so many mysterious sources that it will be impossible to decide, which one was responsible for the creation of my fictional characters. Overheard snippets of conversation often find their way into my short stories, as do annoying habits displayed by those near and dear to me…where does your inspiration to write come from?
Surely a question impossible to answer for the majority of writers?
Willow the Vampire and the Sacred Grove takes a very different view of vampires. ..they are a life-force to be reckoned with!
Now out as a paperback novel, available at Amazon.com (ISBN-13 978-1468114683)
NB: Picture above Eduard Munch’s Vampire from wikipedia.org