Developing Vampires And UF
A writing blog for Urban Fantasy
I've mentioned once or twice that fan fiction is more or less how I started writing. It started with a space opera, and simply put, it spiraled out of my control into something so totally different, I didn't need to rewrite a whole hell of a lot to make it a different universe.
However, I started doing that in 1998, before I really knew what the hell fan fiction was. I wasn't 16 yet, and I had high school to deal with.
Then my sister decided that she was going to do something for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She based a character on me a little. He was named Marco, a bit player.
By **that** point, it was 3 years later, 2001. I had been writing with every spare moment, I had pumped out thousands of pages of book by then. I took one look at her fan fiction and muttered "Come on, move over, we can do this better."
Because, really, you don't get to be a writer unless you're wrapped a little too tight… or just a little too strange.
Before I knew it, I had written three additional stories in that little bit of business, and some of them nearly at hundred pages.
Because, again, writers: we’re wired weirdly.
And, because I decided that I shouldn't let anything I’ve worked on ever go to waste, I later retooled it into a massive 460 page novel.
Of course, I had to retool the vampire legend a little ...
Okay, I mostly had to retool it so that it was coherent.
Let's face it, after Bram Stoker, it gets a little strange. And when you hit the 90s, vampire lore becomes a befuddled mess (Anne Rice vs Blade vs Anita Blake vs Buffy).
And when I this book, it opened with a government spy from my other books, Merle Kraft....
Merle Kraft is one of those characters who will simply not go away. He's a deleted character from my Pius Trilogy -- yes, I had even more characters than in the final cut -- who first appeared in a thriller of mine called Dances with Werewolves. Merle deals in "strange" cases for the government. He started out as a spy who mysteriously, just sort of opened locks without any tools whatsoever. Any lock.
Merle Kraft is one of three half-brothers (that they know of)-- Merle, Tal, and Dalf. One's a spy, one is a stage magician, and one seems to deal with a darker power. BUAHAHAHAHAH.
And, of course, these names are short for Merlin, Taliesin, and Gandalf.
In the one-volume edition of this vampire novel, I opened with Merle Kraft being dropped head first into a world of vampires. Because, hey, when in doubt, use the Alice in Wonderland effect.
Then Merle started to complete disappear from the story entirely. Marco and his sidekick, Amanda, had taken over the entire novel.
Gahhh. Sometimes, these people never want to play well with others.
All right, fine, if they wanted to play that way -- and it wasn't like anyone else wanted to publish the bloody book as is -- I'd retool the novel. Let's do it from the ground up, where the two of them met. They had to figure out how to bring each other into their worlds without killing each other.
And keep in mind, this all started in 2001, before there was anything called Twilight.
One thing that I threw into this party was that I’ve always had a problem with vampire fiction in which the vampires were so secret, nobody knew they existed.
Seriously, when you're around for thousands of years, eventually somebody is going to notice.
Which is why when I started writing Marco and Amanda, their first step was to go to the local Catholic church and start asking questions — if only so their inquiry can be kicked up the chain of command. The next step would have been to go to the nearest synagogue. Why? Because where else are you going to go aside from the organizations that have been around for a few thousand years? It ain’t the Mormons or the Masons, that’s the
And from the church, we will get one very simple concept: Vatican ninjas,
It feels as though I’d promised Vatican ninjas for a while now by that point. Here they come.
After a while, I started working out the people who should have, reasonably, come across vampires for the last hundred years or so — and survived the encounter. Soldiers were at the top of that list. Since there are a lot of soldiers who went from the military into the police department, there would be cops all over the country who would at least be concerned about the monsters under the bed.
(Yes, I know; if I'm not careful, I'm going to end up recreating the world of Monster Hunter International.)
Now, is every last vampire going to be the loaner sulking out in the middle of nowhere? Well, that would be hard, considering that Love at First Bite is in New York City.
For the record, no, “the city” is not Manhattan. I’m one of those people who remember that New York City has five boroughs. Yes, I know that New Yorkers refer to Manhattan as “the city,” but if a large quantity of vampires lived in Manhattan, it would be way too easy for the neighbors to realize that the creepy guy next store is just not right.
.... Okay, for the most part, there are a lot of neighborhoods where you can get away with that because every other person on the block is some variety of “not right,” because, well, welcome to New York. The major philosophy of the city is cerchez le buck and “leave me alone, and I won’t push you in front of a train, thanks.” But you can’t stuff all the vampires into one neighborhood.1
That’s why there will be a vampire who claims to be a Roman Centurion from the Empire and he owns Little Italy! At which point, someone will smack him down and tell him that, 1) being a Sergeant in Mussolini’s army doesn’t count, and 2) if he doesn’t sit down and shut up, he'll be driven out of “Little Italy” (which, right now, is about one square block in lower Manhattan) and sentenced to his great grandson’s home in Howard Beach, enjoy it when it floods.
Yes, welcome to New York.
And yes, there will be a governing body of vampires. The New York City Vampire Association will have monthly meetings in the far east corner of Queens, in the local VFW hall. But that's for book two. It's also for vampires of status -- you know, the vampires that invested in the ground floor of Ma Bell (AT&T), IBM and Apple.
There will be vampire bars. There will be a nice little underground network that will guarantee fresh blood, caught that evening. There will be plenty of them that want to be 9-5 vampires (PM-AM, of course), go home, crawl into a room with blackout curtains, and not want to get up until the next evening.
There will also be a history of vampires going back to the 18th century. Why only that far back? Because I haven't needed a reason to go back farther yet. There will be vampires on both sides of World War II -- because Gulags and Concentration camps are natural places to make certain that the victims of vampires don't end up coming back for any reason (Let's just say that there was one concentration camp where it was replaced with a row of trees. No one really knows what happened to it. I have a nice little supposition on that one.)
Now, why would vampires be a secret? Well, that part is simple, and I’ll give you an example. Announce that vampires exist. Prove it to one and all. Then, watch every goth become a target of people with recently purchased bow and arrow sets, or Molotov cocktails, or try to utilize weaponry they’ve seen in any random vampire film.
That’s why even the most demonic vampire is going to keep a low profile. Because even vampires understand that, if Satan appears in a puff of smoke in front of a live studio audience, people suddenly become very, very religious. And you’d have every single civilian on the planet carrying enough crosses and rosaries to equip everyone in the Vatican, and still have enough left over to hand out to the tourists.
Short version: mass panic is good for no one.
When writing, one of the reasons I’ve stayed with the “Secret History” versions of Urban Fantasy is because New York City is alien enough to most people that I don’t have to make up stuff to be particularly strange.
Also, I’m a historian. I like inserting monsters into historical events. Vampires and the French revolution in particular became a matter of fun.
And being Catholic, I come with my own “magic system.” Strictly speaking, according to doctrine, my Saint Tommy books are not horror or fantasy, they’re thrillers. I haven’t yet come up against anything so egregious that would make it out of the realm of possibility.
So I guess you can say I cheat. I stole someone else’s magic system. But you call it metaphysics, and you can be surprised what can escape copyright.
The nice thing about New York is that it's distinctive. Everything has its own history.
For example, in my novel Hell Spawn, I used Creedmore and Riker’s Island, each with decades of history. I used local neighborhoods that have never been seen on TV, and unless you were native TO THAT AREA, you'd never have heard of it. (Trust me, I know. I tell people where I live and no one can find it on a map.) Even areas that are fictionalized in literature, no one can figure out -- because how many people looked up Big Egg and Little Egg from the Great Gatsby and discovered they were real places?
Welcome to New York City, where everything is alien to anyone who doesn't live there.
One of the reasons I don't use Manhattan often is that most of Manhattan is for tourists. Those who work there don't want to stay there any longer than they have to. Those who live there are alien to me and my area.
Trust me, if you think you hate New York City, or Manhattan, ask the people out in the Hamptons what they think of “city people.” They hate them more because they’ve MET them. Not even Revenge or Royal Pains (set in the Hamptons) really covered much of City versus Locals.
Not to mention that, in real life, if anyone burned down Eastern Queens, or parts of Long Island, no one within the five boroughs would even notice. There would be no media coverage, except for Long Island News stations.
In short, I don't need to recreate the world. The world is strange enough as it is.
** Yes, I just said that New Yorkers are comprised mostly of capitalist libertarians, but it's true. Trust me, if the totalitarian schmucks who get 90% of the national air time were representative of the city, the city would look much more like Detroit, or Baltimore.