An Undying Romance: Vampires in Fiction

This week I’m pleased to welcome Kathryn Troy back to the blog – last year Kathryn shared her thoughts on what it means to be Lovecraftian. Now she’s launching the second book in her gothic fantasy series and stopping by to take a look at the enduring appeal of vampires and how she uses them in her work:

Bram Stoker was certainly not the first person to craft a vampire story. Serialized tales like Varney the Vampire and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla were written decades before Stoker published his novel in 1897. Polidori’s The Vampyre was published in 1819, almost a century before. As serials and penny-dreadfuls, vampire stories had gained a modicum of popularity, which created a climate that was ready to accept Dracula. But it was Stoker who propelled and solidified the genre into the veritable beast it has become. 

Part of his success was his approach to the titular character. Stoker combed the annals not just of history, but of folklore, pulling on deeply entrenched local customs, and using fascinating but true facts to ground his story. His clever pairing of old superstitions with the burgeoning studies of the blood imbues his plot with an inherent tension: the old world and its phantoms encroaching upon the new and the scientific.

Stoker’s hand is a heavy influence in my own fiction, especially works that contain vampires. I’ve taken his example of the vampiric as an invading force in my romantic fantasy series Frostbite. The world I’ve crafted, continued with the new title Dreams of Ice and Shadow, is one in which Stoker did not simply research vampires; he recorded them. I’ve taken folkloric images of vampirism and injected them into a high-fantasy setting, exploring how the themes, moods, and supernatural elements associated with the genre would interact with elemental magic and enchanted forests.

Both as a reader and a writer, whether or not I think something is Gothic, or Romantic (not lovey-dovey, but adventurous and fantastical), depends on the presence of certain things. Castles? Yep. Magical creatures? Uh-huh. Family secrets? Definitely. Obscured pasts coming to light, sometimes in ghostly form? Absolutely!

In terms of narrative structure, my fantasy world is fashioned primarily after more classical realms of fantasy; you will find a pegasus, a few minotaurs, some fauns, and things of that ilk that are usually associated with Classical literature. Generally such Romances are depicted as idyllic, making them contrast all the more sharply with the dark influences in Icarya.

Nagging questions about family trees for my protagonists, Kate and Luca, were my starting-off point. They are both painted as Romantic figures, because both are pulled out of Earth and brought to a magical place filled with equal parts wonder and danger. Their story feels grand, and epic, and adventurous, with varying levels of excitement and peril.

Now romance, with a little “r,” is the steamy stuff that, alongside vampires, will never go out of fashion. Dreams of Ice and Shadow, the second title in my Frostbite series, has more than its share of steam—but it is human nature to feel the allure of people, places, and things that are foreign to us. The fact that we keep reinventing these things, changing features here and there, but still with the same underlying premise pulls at the very fabric of our existence. Whether you come to a vampire story hoping for sexuality, immortality, the excitement of otherness, or inhuman power, the well of material for outstanding, ground-breaking vampire fiction has not run dry, and will not run dry for many generations to come. With Dreams of Ice and Shadow, I hope to add my own two dreadful pennies.

______________

Book Cover: Dreams of Ice and Shadow“Luca has discovered his father’s hideout. He hunts the legendary vampire alone, pushing Katelyn away to safety. But Dracula is not so easily bested. He evades Luca so he can tap into Katelyn’s power—the magic that lies at the heart of Icarya. Luca’s heart sinks as his father draws him further and further from his eternal love.

Across the Great Sea, Katelyn is summoned to the slave city Likhan. After the death of Seht Reza, Likhan teeters toward revolution as her nephew Darien seeks the throne. To help him, Kate must work alongside Alaric, the assassin who will stop at nothing to win her back in Luca’s absence. The dark forces mounting against Darien leave Kate vulnerable to the destructive pull of her elemental nature.

Dreams of Ice and Shadow is the heart-stopping second volume of the Frostbite series, where gothic terrors invade epic fantasy. Sinister, unnatural horrors are unleashed, and Katelyn and Luca’s passions burn brighter than ever as the dangers facing Icarya threaten to separate them forever.” 

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5 thoughts on “An Undying Romance: Vampires in Fiction

  1. Vampires are definitely one of the most provocative monsters of fiction. They tap into the struggle between intellect and base desires, fear of death, the temptations (and price) of power, and they probably represent the most attractive “conversion” monster out there (not too many want to become a zombie).
    I think monsters that still bear some semblance to their human past, and maintain a level of intellect, are particularly interesting. And I like how the lore offers greater powers, and greater limitations. I’ve always been drawn to that idea of the monster, something that can easily overwhelm us, if we don’t keep our wits and remember how to fight and bind them.
    The touch about “unable to stand the light of the sun” is a particularly nice touch, since it creates a widely accessible “safe space”, and a strong sense of impending deadlines.
    At some point I think I’ll write a vampire story, explore my own version of it. I thought Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire adding something very interesting when she introduced the concept of vampires growing “too old”, too disconnected with the world, to the point where it was their own inner struggles, and not humans, that became the greatest threat to their immortality. That’s something I’d like to see explored more, the ways in which immortality itself can take its tole.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes vampires really do have so many aspects that make them fascinating, and I agree that they are probably the most appealing of the “conversion” monsters (werewolves and zombies are interesting too, but they don’t have quite the same appeal). I love coming across new versions or interpretations I haven’t seen before.

      I actually finally read Interview with the Vampire last year and I also found it fascinating to see the new angle she took – it really did become less about humans (I was surprised how superfluous the humans were!), and much more about the struggle with immortality and finding meaning in endless life. A pretty bleak tale but definitely an interesting exploration.

      Liked by 1 person

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