Why biting People for a Living is not always a bad Thing

Throughout this series of blog posts I have tried to see things from the underdog’s point of view – moths rather than butterflies, aardvarks rather than koalas.

So what of my vampy girl Willow? How is the protagonist of my children’s novel different from other vampires?

Essentially vampires are creatures of the night – Bram Stoker’s Dracula as well as the ensuing Hollywood films and even Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer have established in our minds that sunshine kills off vampires and that their place inthe world is therefore firmly established after bedtime, when the owls are hooting and the moon illuminates gravestones most eerily.

Willow the Vampire turns out to be different in that she is a child of light. However, her family and all other vampires in the Stinkforthshire world I’ve created are strictly nocturnal. My vampires bite people, they suck blood to survive but – waste not want not – they also eat people whole, when the mood takes them. Cured slice of vicar any one?

Written entirely from the vampire child’s point of view, the novels show Willow’s dilemma in coming to terms with who she is. Her mother wants Willow to be a good hunter of human prey, her father would like her to be more ruthless and Willow’s peers think she’s pretty lame, when it comes to knowing about vampire etiquette and history. Her human friends just want her to be happy.

What do you do when you are attracted to the “other side”? Willow has human friends as well as vampire ones…not all vampires are evil fiends, they simply hunt to survive just like humans eat animals. Humans and vampires are simply two different species trying to use Earth’s resources to their best advantage, right?

Not all humans are good people  either – some are murderers, some think nothing of hurting children and others enjoy torturing animals. When we grow up we discover the world cannot be defined by strict rules – black is not always black as the night, white is not always as white as the mist at dawn. Is Willow’s human friend Rita a bad person because she cannot hold down a job? Is headmaster Henderson evil because he craves fame and aspires to be mayor, not caring how he achieves his goal and who he tramples in the process?

Just like Anne Rice’s latest creature of the night, a handsome werewolf, Willow decides that biting and eating bad humans is for the time being the best option she has. As we grow older, we learn that our ability to compromise is what makes humans so successful as a species.

In the fictional world of Stinkforthshire, the Vampire Council has strict rules about how many vampires are allowed to live in any one area so as to avoid detection by humans – after all, littering rural Stinkforthshire with human corpses that have been sucked dry would soon get a whole squadron of slayers out! No, biting only people, who’d otherwise have vanished underground thanks to their illegal activities, guarantees the vampire species’ survival in an increasingly “human” world.

Biting people for a living can also be very rewarding when you know these people are harming others without ever being brought to justice for their crimes. Thus, Willow and her family bite bankers, greedy businessmen, insurance salesmen and those who experiment on animals.

Some might argue my child protagonist should learn how to live on carrot juice and in harmony with humans instead – but in the real world bankers, greedy businessmen, insurance salesmen and those torturing animals don’t live in harmony with the rest of humanity either and couldn’t care less how many living beings their actions plunge into misery!

Why not let my vampires do something truly useful and let them bite people for a living who deserve to have their despicable activities brought to an end?

While in fiction we have the good fortune to deal adequately with those who deserve a sticky end, in real life we often scratch our heads in despair and wonder what’s to be done with utterly unscrupulous people who operate only just within the law, but still manage to defraud or cheat millions of people.

Little vampire

Little vampire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often wonder if writers should not use their limitless imagination to come up with non-violent, legal but utterly devastating punishments for such wrong-doers. Like not allowing bankers to shop for groceries in their local stores or ban them from every wine bar, pub and restaurant in the world, not take their kids at nurseries, snub them in the street or deposit our money with credit unions instead – perhaps boycotting such creatures of the fiscal might at every human level will make them see the light? So far nothing else has worked to get bankers, multinational pharmaceuticals and insurance companies into line.

Biting such people where it hurts – their self-esteem and their bank balance – is a good thing not only vampires should enjoy…by what legal, non-violent means do you think we could rid the world of such creatures of the fiscal might?

NB: If you live in Greece, you don’t have to answer this question.

Why Vampires?

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