I was amused to read in The Independent newspaper last week an article about "The secret blood sucking world of Mr. Darcy." It seems a writer called Amanda Grange will soon be publishing a book titled Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, in which she reveals the dark private world of Jane Austen's dashing romantic hero. Regency with a bite.
At some primal level, most of us are attracted to the idea of vampires. Women in particular, adore dark, intense guys with good teeth. I've been trying to analyze my own attraction to the breed. Vampires are either cruel and careless (sort of cool) or tortured and agonised (cool and ever so romantic.) No wonder so many of us mortals aspire to undead status. In fact, there doesn't seem to be much of a downside to not having a heartbeat. True, vampires only walk at night and they're always hungry. But they never grow fat and night time allows them to opportunity to indulge their adventurous dress sense. Think Wesley Snipes in Blade. However, it did occur to me that if you're going to be a vampire then you'd better make sure to get bitten when you're young. I can't think of anything more dreadful than to become a member of the living dead at an advanced age. While every other vampire around you slinks around in leather looking sexy, you have to suffer wrinkles and sagging flesh. Imagine having a double chin and flabby underarms for all eternity.
Vampires, of course, have no soul and that is bad. Still, in vampire universe a soul doesn't seem to be necessary to fall in love, wrestle with ethical dilemmas or engage in fits of self-loathing. The only other rather uncomfortable aspect of being a vampire I can think of - and here I'm referring to male vampires - is their dodgy attraction to very young teenaged girls who are either of the kick-ass kind (Buffy) or the tremulous, fall-over-their-feet clumsy kind (Twilight). These guys are invariably beautiful, strong, keen- sensed and brilliant but they can't find better use of their time than to hang around school buildings? But maybe that's just me and I have no imagination. A friend of mine says she finds Twilight's seventy year old Edward sexy in part because of his "self-discipline." At first I thought she was referring to the whole "will he kiss her, or will he eat her" angle but it turned out she meant the fact that he regularly attends high school and delivers his science projects on time :)
And then there is the True Blood TV series based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. After reading a glowing review, I decided to watch. As I haven't read any of the books, I didn't quite know what to expect except "wild sex," which the reviewer mentioned several times in her write-up. The opening sequence with the credits is great - I love it -- and the Louisiana setting is nicely sultry. However, I wasn't as blown away by the rest as I had hoped. (Mind, I'm only on the third episode so far, so who knows.) Certainly the main premise - vampires living openly among humans - is an imaginative twist and there are cute touches such as the newspaper headline proclaiming "Angelina adopts vampire baby!" The sex is certainly wild, but - dare I say -- a little unappetising? But my main problem is with the characters. I find them startling, but not appealing :( And I don't particularly care what happens to them. I can't help feeling that the producers are trying way too hard to be edgy and to differentiate this series from the rest of the pack. Take this scene in True Blood where vampire hero, Bill, cleans up the blood from an injured Sookie by swishing his tongue across her forehead. I still can't make up my mind whether this is gross in a romantic way (he is caring for her the only way he knows how) or simply gross. Nah. It's just gross.
Lest I am giving the wrong impression, let me state unequivocally that I am a huge vampire fan myself. Josh Whedon is a genius and Buffy his finest creation. The scene where Buffy kills Angel - "close your eyes" is heart-stoppingly poignant. But to my mind Ann Rice's Interview with a Vampire is still the best of its kind. She manages to convey in her characters an authentic emptiness of the soul while raising all kinds of interesting questions about our relationship with our Maker. And Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula is one of my favourite movies. It was shredded by the critics, but I very much admire it for its magnificent, operatic scale: a truly tortured, black-as-blood love story.
Will I ever write a vampire novel myself? In a way, I already have. Keeper of Light and Dust was my attempt to create a vampire for the twenty-first century. My guy gets turned on by light, not blood. He is, of course, also brilliant, beautiful and keen-sensed but instead of hanging around school playgrounds he keeps himself busy with quantum physics and Zen philosophy. Ah, yes. Classy, classy. Edward, eat your heart out.
So let me know if vampires are your thing? Do you wear vials of blood around your neck. Will you read anything vampire and if so, why?
Onto something else! For those of you who live in London, I will be at Ealing Library on 8 September talking about my books and taking questions from the audience. If you have nothing better to do, I'd love to see you there. On 13 November I'll be at the Richmond-on-Thames Literary Festival addressing the following topic: "From Bram Stoker, to Andrew Davidson, to Stephenie Meyer: the increasing use of fantasy in suspense fiction." Vampires again... Here is a link to the page on my website that gives details of both events: http://www.natashamostert.com/events/
Hope you guys are doing well. Sadly, summer in England has turned into a wash-out. We had such a good start - first Wimbledon in years not to rain out - but then things became drizzly...:sad