Okay, there isn't really a joke buried here, but now that I have your attention, I'll answer a question I'm sure you're dying to ask. (As for the question of how many dead puns I can pack into a blog posting, the answer is "an infinite number.")

So, here's your question presented for viewing by all: Why write about vampires?

My answer: Why not?

Vampires have been lurking in the shadows of fiction for centuries. They've been lurking in the dark recess of my mind ever since I was a kid and I saw Bela Lugosi stalking the streets of London in an opera cape (1932 film adaptation of Bram Stoker's DRACULA). My fascination with bloodsuckers continued when I discovered Anne Rice and Tanya Huff. Throw in my interest for crime fiction (fueled by my dad) and forensic science and it seemed only natural to marry these great loves of mine into fiction.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the so-called "rules" regarding fictional vampires were never part of the original folklore and legends. For example, sunlight as a means to kill a vampire -- total fiction. Read Stoker's work again. Dracula could walk in daylight but his powers were diminished. So how did this well-known "fact" enter into our collective vampire beliefs? The first known (to my knowledge, anyway) use of sunlight to kill a vampire was in the 1922 silent film, NOSFERATU, and was employed as a stunning visual effect for the audience. The key point to remember is that in 1922 films were still a relatively new form of entertainment and having Max Shreck's character, Count Orlock, fade away with the coming dawn was the equivalent of the best CGI graphics films have come to rely upon today.

(For the record, "my vampires" are free to walk in the sunlight without fear of bursting into flames. Tweaking the "accepted rules" to reflect the original folklore opened up a plethora of possibilities for the characters.)

Another "fact" that wasn't present in all folklore was that the body was a reanimated corpse. It varied by country, and even by region within a country. Some were the "standard" reanimated corpses, others were more ghost-like in appearance, some were wandering spirits capable of possessing a living host, and there were some that were more animalistic in nature -- more akin to legends of Sasquatch than what we consider to be vampires today.

Why do I bring all this up? To further answer your question, of course. Vampires have become a part of our culture, even to the point we place them on cereal boxes (Count Chocula) and feature them in children's educational programming (The Count from Sesame Street). Nearly everyone can name at least one vampire-based book, film, or television show. When a folkloric creature reaches such an iconic stature, it becomes increasingly difficult for a writer such as myself to find a new approach. How does such a writer solve the problem of reader apathy because they've "read it all"?

My solution: Return to the original folklore, not of only Europe but other countries as well. Pick and choose the commonalities between them all. Find the connecting thread and weave a new tapestry (or death's shroud, if you prefer). That, I believe, is what I've created.

Hopefully this little "lecture" has given you, the reader, valuable insight into my work and why I have chosen vampires as the medium for my crime fiction. As always, feel free to contact me. I love to hear from readers and other writers.

TTFN JKH

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Comment by carole gill on August 12, 2007 at 7:04am
totally love your post. so true. a huge fiction has been clouding the truth for a long time. vampires are fascinating. my first husband was one. no, that's an insult to vampires. do you ever scare yourself writing. i have. as a matter of fact, i only read and wrote horror until very very recently. any vampire legnds in your neck of the woods? it's interesting how they differ from culture and country to country.

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