I have no personal experience with vampires. I don’t hope to meet one, much less be one anytime soon. True, my father’s family came from Romania, leading my wife to suggest that my interest in vampires is in my blood. But there were no family stories about Vlad the Impaler or any mention of Count Dracula in my childhood. Indeed, my relatives and friends have avoided vampires altogether, even in fiction. So why do I write about them?
The conscious reason I had when I first started out was that a vampire novel would be more salable than the humorous mystery I’d written. I was in a year-long struggle to get an agent for Murder in Millbrook, while books about vampires and zombies seemed to be flying off bookstore shelves. My reason turned out to be wrong, for Murder in Millbrook far outsells my first vampire novel, Ethics of the Undead. But even after I was aware of that, there were strong reasons, both conscious and unconscious, that kept me on the vampire track. My next other-worldly effort, Cure for the Undead is almost finished.
Only recently did I realize that writing about vampires reflected growing concerns about my own mortality. In such concern, I am not alone. Throughout history, societies have enjoyed or been frightened by stories of death and immortality, about supernatural beings that come back from the dead or never die. Why is it that adolescents, who are much less likely than adults to think about their mortality, are much more eager to read stories about such imaginative, immortal beings?
Personally, I enjoy intelligent fantasy and science fiction, but I never liked to read horror stories and never wanted to write one. Therefore, I adopted a humorous approach to vampires (e.g., an Orthodox Jew and a native American trying to be principled vampires) and to serious issues (e.g., Would immortality be more of a curse than a blessing? What code of ethics would immortals follow? What if they didn’t?). Even when I need to write a macabre scene (how does one avoid them when writing about vampires?), I use humor to wink at my readers. I hope they’ll see I’m poking fun at the genre’s conventions and excesses, but that there are some underlying observations and/or issues worth considering.
Any work of fiction provides an imaginative world. The paranormal genre, like science fiction, or any stories of strangers in a strange land, allows the author to regard the human condition as an outsider might. Thus, my gripes about the fashion and funeral industries, the Department of Education, or the real world vampires who prowl Wall Street, find their way into my fiction. It’s a lot of fun for me as a writer. I hope readers enjoy it as much as I do.