by Joey Hill
Series aren’t pre-meditated, at least not for me. I start writing one story, and somewhere along the way, secondary characters show up that are so wonderfully strong, I know they’re going to have their own book. So it was with Devlin, an Australian bushman, and Lady Daniela or “Danny”, the vampire who becomes his mistress, in the upcoming A Vampire’s Claim (March 2009). His “walk on” part in The Mark of the Vampire Queen came on a weapons practice field where the vampires’ servants were all naked, like Greek Olympians of old. It went somewhat as follows:
While Jacob wasn’t in the habit of ogling men’s genitals, the Aussie’s were hard to ignore. Hung like a horse, literally. Devlin’s eyes twinkled. “Like staring at your granny’s face tumor, isn’t it? Can’t hardly look away. Have to have my pants specially tailored, which is more than these blokes can say.”
At the wave of jeering responses from the other combatants, he grinned. “Anyhow, Lord knows, we’re all tired of getting thrashed.” He inclined his head to Jacob. “Knock this bastard Malachi on his arse just once, mate, and I’ll shout you your first beer here in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Oh, yeah, I thought. Here’s a character. But Danny and Dev had a twist for me. I don’t often delve into history. I love character exploration so much, overly demanding historical research can make me twitchy and grumpy. But when it allows me to expand the characters in an unexpected direction, my reluctance turns into full immersion.
I realized I wanted to do a story of how Danny and Dev met. Well, since the two of them are introduced as secondary characters in the current day Mark of the Vampire Queen, that meant I had to go backwards, and I ended up in 1953 Australia. Dev turned out to be a veteran of WWII, one of the fierce Aussie “diggers” who dealt with the horrific Kokoda Track campaign. And Lady Daniela, “Danny” was a reflection of the type of people one finds in Australia – independent in her thinking, unwilling to bow down to the formalities of the vampire hierarchy, and determined to carve out her own part in it, on her terms. For one thing, unlike most vampires, she’s shied away from having a full servant, so the quick bond she forms with Dev takes her by surprise.
I did a lot of Internet research, read a great deal of Aussie fiction from historic periods – Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice, Arthur Upfield’s Death of a Swagman, The Road to Coorain by Jill Ker Conway. I read anthologies about the Outback like Memories of Kalgoorlie by Filton Hebbard. I even indulged in watching Aussie movies like the Thorn Birds mini-series, Ned Kelly with Heath Ledger (sniffle – still miss him), Man From Snowy River, etc. And of course I pestered Oz author Denise Rossetti to death about vernacular and she tried to muffle her laughter (or horror) at my fumbling attempts.
And of course what this research did – besides make sure I had just enough knowledge to be dangerous – was develop the tone of the book. That’s the other cool thing about series; the tone doesn’t have to be the same from book to book. In Vampire Queen’s Servant and Mark of the Vampire Queen, Lyssa, as a 1000-year old vampire queen, was dealing with a far higher level of politics, and Jacob, who had the mannerisms of a modern-day knight, was perfect to stand at her back to help her deal with them. Danny has local bad guys to fight, and who better than a bushman to help her fight them? Lyssa is very old world, very powerful and dangerous. Danny is young, by vampire standards, born in a very egalitarian society, and still finding her way. The difference between the two books is like watching the movie Braveheart versus Rob Roy – one is a change-the-course-of-history book, and the other is one female vampire’s struggle to claim what is hers. But, like the movies, both have gorgeous male leads – lol. Further, having the chance for Lyssa to come back in A Vampire’s Claim, with her earlier servant Thomas, is another perk of series writing – guest appearances by past characters!
All three of the books deal with the push-pull relationship between vampire-servant – in fact, Jacob and Lyssa needed two books to do it justice. What started in Vampire Queen’s Servant was finished in Mark of the Vampire Queen, though my readers tell me they’d like to see another book with the two of them as primary characters, and who knows? Series are a winding river of unpredictable curves. In fact, one of the future books will be set in a predatory cat sanctuary in the western U.S., of all places!
Well, I’ve rattled on enough. Because Lori is kind enough to host 30 days of vampires, I’d like to give one blog reader a chance to win a package set of the first two in the series (The Vampire Queen’s Servant and Mark of the Vampire Queen). Or, if you’ve read those, a signed copy of A Vampire’s Claim, when I receive my author copies. That will be late February, just before release – delayed gratification!
All you have to do is go to my website, www.storywitch.com, and read the excerpt from A Vampire’s Claim (navigate to it from Peek Inside the Cauldron if you’d like). Then come back here and post what you like or don’t like about the excerpt, or any other reasonably intelligent comment (grin). Praise or criticism is acceptable – I improve from both! I’ll select a winner sometime on November 22, Eastern Time, and post the winner in the comments section of this blog. (Prize can be shipped worldwide.) And whether or not you choose to play, I welcome any comments and questions about me or my work. I’d love to talk to you. Thanks for having me here!