This blog is called Creatures of the Night and some of you might ask what does village life have to do with the theme of vampires?
Well, Willow the Vampire lives in a small village in the fictional county of Stinkforthshire. Stinkforthshire-upon-Avon has just 5,000 inhabitants – unlike the village I grew up in, which has around 10,000 souls during the winter months and around 300,000 during the summer, when holidaymakers flock to the Baltic Sea coast for their beachside frolics.
A recent blog post of one of my regular readers (yes, you Loonyliterature!) dealt with the problem of indulging in creative writing outdoors when the sun is shining, but being hampered by everything and everyone a village can muster to combat such frivolous outbursts of creativity.
Michelle’s blog post prompted me to explain, why my heroine Willow and her vampire family left the safe anonymity of the Big City for a rural life. As the novel progresses, the reasons behind this move from the streets of London to the fields of Stinkforthshire become clear, but it is my own particular obsession with the negative aspects of such enclosed communities that caused me to place my vampy family in a rural setting in the first place.
I can’t remember, if it was Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey who said that villages were sinister places. There are good reasons why Agatha Christie let so many of her murder mysteries play out in rural settings – Miss Marple’s village of St. Mary Mead is a micro-cosm of the evil world at large.
In towns and cities people live cheek by jowl, they notice things, they report to the police or at least to other neighbours; in villages the most heinous crimes go unreported because everybody closes their minds, eyes and ears to what is going on around them…mustn’t upset the status quo or the village won’t win the title of Best Flower Display again in the national competition!
In remote villages all manner of horrors can occur – think Salem! Bigots and ignorant people thrive in enclosed environments. While the religious fanatic might have carte blanche to pester anyone foolish enough to arrive too early at the bus stop, an outsider simply dressed in a more modern style becomes an outcast and object of ridicule for the entire village.
At night the hypocrite leaves his well maintained home, crosses his manicured lawn, throws a critical glance at his neighbours’ floral displays and slinks off to the village brothel to enjoy an enslaved young girl or two.
The curtain-twitcher, who during the day observes everybody’s comings and goings, sits down to her poison pen writing task at night to make sure her letters catch the early morning post.
The cleaner who comes to tidy up, polish and vacuum clean at dusk, has a quick rifle through the chest of drawers, the writing desk and opened letters to see what juicy blackmail material is offering the greatest earnings potential.
My first novel Willow the Vampire and the Sacred Grove served to set up the world in which Willow, her family and friends live. The follow up novel Willow the Vampire and the Würzburg Ghosts will delve deeper into what it’s like to grow up in a village environment and what eccentric or plain horrid people live in such places (in the fictional county of Stinkforthshire and beyond).
My own experience of growing up in a village is one of suffocation – and, having lived in villages later in life as an adult, I found the village world even more suffocating and detrimental to my development as a writer and human being.
I love nature, observing animals in their natural habitats and hiking or cycling through the countryside, but the lack of humanity that I experienced as a child and young adult in the enclosed village world has put me off for good and I cannot envisage ever living in a village again.
What about you? City slicker versus rural pumpkin?