Diana Castle has always loved reading tales of adventure and romance. Longing to write her own stories, she’s now in the process of independently publishing spicy tales of “dangerous men and adventurous women” in her favorite genres: mysteries, suspense, westerns, science fiction, fantasy and paranormals.
The first book in her spicy Western trilogy, Under His Hands, is now available for purchase.
Under the name Anna Black, her short stories have appeared in The MILF Anthology, Zane’s Caramel Flava II, Purple Panties, and Honey Flava anthologies, Cowboy Lover-Erotic Stories of the Wild West, The MILF Anthology, The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra, the Cleis Press anthologies Hurts So Good and The Sweetest Kiss: Ravishing Vampire Erotica. She’s also written for Ellora’s Cave under the name Jenna Reynolds.
She lives in the Midwest and very much enjoys the change in the seasons.
That’s the what-if scenario I hypothesized to myself one day and which led to the writing of my vampire romance Madison Avenue Vampire, written under the name Jenna Reynolds. For those who are not familiar with Don Draper, he is the focal character of AMC’s Emmy-award winning series Mad Men. Here’s the show’s description from the web site:
The series revolves around the conflicted world of Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), the biggest ad man (and ladies’ man) in the business, and his colleagues at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising Agency. As Don makes the plays in the boardroom and the bedroom, he struggles to stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing times and the young executives nipping at his heels. The series also depicts authentically the roles of men and women in this era while exploring the true human nature beneath the guise of 1960s traditional family values.
Initially I had no interest in the show and didn’t even start watching it until the second season. But I’m now a rabid fan and I’m anxiously awaiting the show’s fifth season.
What led to my deciding to loosely base my vampire character, Richard Harlan, on Don Draper was (1) I was deep into catching up on the show at the time, and (2) I was trying to come up with a different setting for a vampire romance I was itching to write.
Okay, yes. I’ll confess to it. And also a bit of a crush on Jon Hamm.
But the era of Mad Men also appealed to me because it was a time of rapid, exhilarating and often frightening changes.
The country was coming out of the post-World War II Eisenhower era and, in just a few short years, would witness the assassinations of a president, the president’s younger brother, and a prominent civil-rights leader; violent, nationwide protests over the Vietnam War; the escalating of the civil rights’ movement, along with women’s increasing demands for equal rights; the transition from beatniks to flower children to the darker, sinister side of the hippie movement: Charles Manson and his murderous followers; the widespread distribution of birth control pills, which lead to the sexual revolution; the Cold War heating up amidst the explosion in the fashion world of mini-skirts, Nehru jackets and bell-bottoms; the Motown sound, epitomized by the girl-group of the 60s’, the Supremes, and the arrival to these shores of some mop-haired quartet from England calling themselves the Beatles.
Since vampires are immortal (that is, until someone stakes, burns or decapitates them) it was no real stretch of the imagination to play around with the idea of a vampire story set in the swinging 60’s.
My vampire, Richard Harlan, does owns an ad agency, and he somewhat physically resembles the actor, Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper. But the similarities pretty much end there.
As described in the article “Why the Ladies Love Jon Hamm”, Don Draper is a rather venal character. He sleeps around on his wife, reflects some of the values of that era when it comes to race and sex, and he drinks. A lot. As matter a fact, Don Draper isn’t even his real name!
He’s shadowy, domineering, mysterious and über-masculine.
Wait. That sounds like a vampire. *grin*
Richard Harlan, however, belongs to that breed of vampires I tend to gravitate toward in both my reading and my writing. He’s more of a Louis than a Lestat (Interview With the Vampire), though perhaps not as tortured as Louis. (Not sure who could be more tortured than Louis).
More of an Angel than a Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), a Bill Compton than an Eric Northman (True Blood), or a Stephen Salvatore than a Damon Salvatore. (The Vampire Diaries).
Not that I dislike Lestat or Spike or Eric or Damon. I don’t. I love bad-boy vampires!
But in this particular story, I chose to write about a vampire who, at this point in his very long life(?), is starting to regret all that he’s done to survive. However, even while he’s wallowing in all that vampire angst, it doesn’t mean he’s not thirsting for the heroine’s blood.
As for her, although Lana Sorenson has more of the coloring of a Betty Draper, Don’s blonde, long-suffering, ice-queen of a wife, she’s physically built more like Sterling Draper Cooper Price’s attractive office manager, the voluptuous, red-haired, accordion-playing Joan Holloway.
But, in all honesty, Madison Avenue Vampire probably reads more like Little Red-Riding Hood than Mad Men, with my heroine, Lana, as Red and Richard as the Big Bad Wolf. A similarity that even Lana notices and comments on. She’s the naive farmer’s daughter who, having left an abusive home life back in Wisconsin, comes to New York hoping to find a new life for herself.
She and Richard attend a Halloween party given by one of Richard’s wealthy friends. It’s a party that takes place not long after 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world was a hairsbreadth away from nuclear armageddon. While at the party, Lana discovers Richard is a vampire.
I had a lot of fun doing the research for Madison Avenue Vampire. The clothes, the music, and all that was going on culturally and politically in the country and around the world.
I’m a big history buff, so I can’t help imagining other historical eras in which to feature vampires. Many have already been written, of course, and I’d love to hear what are some of your favorites.
Actually, one of my faves was written by George R. R. Martin, author of the fantasy series Game of Thrones. It’s called Fevre Dream and it takes place in the 1850’s on a riverboat.
One of my short stories, “The Temptation of Mademoiselle Doucette”, which I wrote under the name Anna Black and is in the anthology The Sweetest Kiss: Ravishing Vampire Erotica, takes place during the French Revolution. Although now that I think on it that’s probably one historical era in which vampires would have wanted to keep a low profile.
The guillotine and all that.
Anyone who comments on what their favorite historical vampire novel is and/or what era in history they’d like to see a vampire novel set will be eligible to win an electronic copy of Madison Avenue Vampire.
Here’s a bit of a set-up for the excerpt from the book.
The scene takes place immediately after Lana and Richard leave a Halloween party where Richard, as a private joke, comes to the party dressed like a stereotypical vampire, meaning he’s wearing a costume similar to the one Bela Lugosi wore in the 1939 version of Dracula.
Lana, having gone in search of Richard when he disappears from the party, discovers him in a rather compromising position with a good-looking, young actor. She thinks Richard is kissing the actor’s neck, but he’s actually drinking the actor’s blood.
* * * * *
“Get in the car, Lana.”
Richard’s voice carried that same coldblooded tone of command that had scared off a pair of street thugs who had tried to rob them one evening. He had simply ordered them to leave or suffer the consequences and the two would-be-muggers had quickly scurried away.
She looked over at the driver. He stood silently, his hand on the door, his face hidden by his chauffeur’s cap. At least she wouldn’t be alone with Richard.
She got inside the limo and scooted across the wide leather seat until she was pressed up against the other door. She had no idea how safe she would be with him in the backseat, but she could at least put as much distance between them as she could.
Richard got into the limo. The chauffeur closed the door and jumped into the driver’s seat. As the car pulled into traffic, Lana anxiously clasped her coat collar around her neck. Her other hand gripped the door latch.
She sensed Richard staring at her. A glass partition separated them from the driver. She wondered if he would be able to hear her if she screamed. And what he would do if she did? He was, after all, Richard’s employee.
“Do you have something to say to me, Lana?” His smooth, melodious voice coiled around her like a velvet noose.
Her heart skipped a beat. “What do you mean?”
He laughed, soft and low. “I know you were there.”
She gasped and looked over at him. “I…I don’t know what you mean,” she stammered.
He shook his head, his topaz-colored eyes staring deeply into hers. “Don’t lie.”
“I’m not lying.” Her voice shook. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Richard looked at her for a long moment. Then he released a heavy breath. He pushed himself against the back of the seat and placed his hands on his thighs.
Lana looked over at them. They were large hands with long, expressive fingers. She’d had any number of heated fantasies about those hands on her body, caressing her naked skin, molding her heavy breasts, skimming over the curves of her buttocks. Even now, confused and anxious as she was, she wanted Richard to take her in his arms and make passionate love to her.
On the ring finger of his left hand, he wore an elaborate silver ring set with a single ruby. As she stared at it, it seemed to pulse. She shivered and looked away.
“Go ahead, Lana. Feel free to say whatever is on your mind.” His voice was distant, preoccupied, as if he were thinking about something else.
He chuckled. A cold, dark sound. “Is that what you think? That I’m a homosexual? Did Mrs. Pomeroy tell you I was?”
“She didn’t say anything of the sort.” But Lana recalled the look Mrs. Pomeroy had exchanged with Councilman Stone when she had gone in search of Richard. And there was the joke the councilman had made about some cupbearer being the lover of Zeus.
“Councilman Stone, then?”
Lana shook her head. “I’m only going by what I saw.”
“And what did you see, Lana?”
She turned away from him and stared out the window of the limo, her eyes hot with unshed tears. “I saw you with that actor. Jonathan Merrill. You were…kissing his neck.”
“Is that what you really saw?” Richard’s voice was low, hushed, almost hypnotic, like a soft breeze playing about her ear. “Think carefully now.”
“Yes. You were with Jonathan. And you were—”
Richard moved toward her, but he moved so fast it was as if the air around him had shifted. One moment, he was on the other side of the limo. The next, he was pressed against her, his arms firmly around her.
Lana gasped, her heart pounding in her chest. She gazed up at him and felt a dangerous swooping deep in her stomach. His breath was cool against her cheek, his firm lips slightly parted and she could well imagine them pressed against her throat. She drank in his nearness, like some urgently desired and equally hated elixir, wanting to kiss him as much as she wanted to scratch his eyes out.
He stared down at her, and as he did, the pupils of his eyes slowly swelled until the hazel color was completely swallowed by black.
A scream scrabbled in her throat. She pushed against him but his arms were like iron around her. He opened his mouth wider.
“No. They’re fake,” she whispered as she stared at a pair of white fangs. “They’re part of…part of your costume.”
“They’re not, Lana. And you know they’re not.”
She frantically shook her head. “No. There are no such things as—” She stopped, the pulse leaping in her throat.
A bright spot of blood lay on the pristinely white shirt Richard wore under his vest.
Her eyes widened. “Blood. You…you were…?”
He lowered his head and moved his mouth close to her neck. His breath caressed her skin, under which her veins throbbed with the mad beating of her heart. “Yes, Lana. I was drinking his blood.”
“No. I don’t believe you.”
He pressed his mouth against her throat. The sharp points of his fangs pricked her flesh and the tip of his tongue lazily stroked her skin.
She shivered, gripping his arms. She should be terrified. Why wasn’t she screaming? If he really was a vampire, that meant he was going to kill her. But he hadn’t killed Jonathan. He’d come back to the party very much alive.
Lana shook her head. There were no such things as vampires. Richard was playing a trick on her. He was trying to distract her from the fact he’d been kissing Jonathan Merrill’s neck, not biting it.
Yet in spite of her fears that he actually preferred men, feeling his arms around her like this, his lips on her neck, his body pressed against hers, a powerful wave of desire surged through her.
Prior to this night, Richard had always been the perfect gentlemen. Treating her with the utmost courtesy. Never going beyond a kiss on the cheek at the end of their dates. Even when she’d finally gotten up the nerve and offered to sleep with him, he had politely declined. She had thought it was because he respected her and wished to treat her like a lady.
She wasn’t so sure now. Maybe what Mrs. Pomeroy and Councilman Stone had hinted at was true. Maybe Richard did prefer men. But if that was true, why was he holding her like this? She could feel the hard strength in his body, the way his lips pressed so urgently against her neck. He wanted her. She felt it. He wanted her as much as she wanted him.
She lolled her head back, offering him the line of her throat.
He violently pushed away from her
“What’s wrong? Why didn’t you…?” Lana stopped, her heart pounding.
Richard looked over at her, a corner of his mouth curled up in a mocking smile. “What? Drink from you? Is that what you want, Lana? For me to drink your blood?”
“No, of course not. I didn’t think you were going to do that anyway. I thought you were going to—”
She shook her head. “This is some kind of joke. Isn’t it?” She nervously laughed.
Richard only stared at her with his midnight eyes.
“You’re dressed up like a vampire and now you’re pretending to be one. And you’ve done something to your eyes.” She laughed again, but there was still no humor in it. Only a desperate need to make sense of what was happening. “You just don’t want to admit that you prefer men.”
“I don’t prefer men, Lana. I am a vampire. I was feeding from Jonathan Merrill. Not making love to him.”
Lana stared at him. Why was he doing this? There were no such things as vampires. But there were men who liked being with other men. “If you’re a vampire, then why won’t you drink my blood?”
He glanced at her neck, his expression both greedy and apprehensive. “I’ve had enough blood for tonight.”
“I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation. You’re not a vampire.”
He looked over at her, his eyes regarding her gravely. They were once again hazel instead of that terrifying black. “I am a vampire, Lana. And the fact that you know it has, I’m afraid, seriously complicated things.”
* * * * *
Don’t forget to comment and share your favorite historical vampire story and/or what historical era you’d like to see vampires featured. Those who comment will be eligible to win an electronic version of Madison Avenue Vampire.