After a student of mine handed me Twilight, I started reading about vampires for the first time. I had always avoided reading horror fiction since I’m not into scary things, and to me vampires qualified as scary things. In my mind, vampires and horror were the same thing, but Twilight helped me realize that vampires didn’t necessarily have to be scary. With my new interest in vampires, I began watching True Blood when it was on HBO. With Twilight and True Blood on my mind, I was inspired to start writing my own vampire stories, beginning with Her Dear & Loving Husband. Once I started writing about my own vampire, James Wentworth, I wanted to read more about these preternatural creatures that have been the object of such fascination for centuries. I enjoyed many of the vampire books I read, so it’s hard for me to narrow down my list of favorite literary vampires. But I do have a few who stand out from the crowd:
- Louis from Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice
There is something about the inherent humanness of Louis that drew my attention from the beginning of this story. As he’s telling his tale in the interview to the young reporter, he’s conflicted about his life as a vampire, and I liked that about him. I liked that he hadn’t given himself over entirely to the animal-like vampire nature. Lestat is a fascinating character, but I’ve always liked Louis better. Louis strikes me as reluctant to entirely let go of being human, which is perhaps why he needed to tell his story. I think this book is where I first realized that a vampire might have a conscience. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my own vampire, James Wentworth, is also conflicted about his vampire nature.
- Dracula from, well, Dracula by Bram Stoker
To be fair, Dracula himself is a meanie so in that respect I don’t like him all that much. But he’s so smooth, so suave, so enigmatic, and the way he sneaks around to accomplish his dastardly deeds is rather entrancing, to me and to the characters who share their blood (willingly or not) with the aristocratic vampire. I also loved Stoker’s storytelling, the way he tells the tale using newspaper clippings and diary entries. You can see how that influenced the Loving Husband Trilogy because I also use fictional primary sources to help tell the tale—in my case I used blog posts and television shows—in books one and two of the trilogy, Her Dear and Loving Husband and Her Loving Husband’s Curse.
- Bill from True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse novels
Since the Sookie Stackhouse stories originated in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series, I’m considering Bill a literary vampire. My Loving Husband Trilogy exists because of Bill (or Stephen Moyer, the actor who plays him, whichever comes first). There’s an episode early in the first season of True Blood (I think it’s episode four, but don’t quote me) where vampire Bill is giving a talk at Sookie’s grandmother’s church. Someone shows Bill a picture of his family from his human days before the American Civil War, and Bill becomes so emotional at the remembrance of them. That scene inspired Her Dear & Loving Husband. Here’s this vampire who has everything humans only dream of—extraordinary strength, immortal life—and yet he becomes so emotional at the sight of the ones he loved as a human. That’s where you see the connection between Bill and my vampire, James.
I did read Dead Until Dark, the first of the Sookie Stackhouse books, and I did enjoy it. Dead Until Dark is a quick, fun read told from Sookie’s point of view and you can see the influence the book had on True Blood. If you’re a fan of the show you should read the books.
- Edward from Twilight
I’m compelled to give Edward a nod because if I hadn’t read the Twilight books I wouldn’t have ever given vampires a second thought. Yes, the sparkly vampire bit is odd, and I had to remind myself while I was reading that the Twilight series is intended for young adults, but I liked the love story between Edward and Bella enough to enjoy the book for what it is–a sweet romance between a vampire and the human girl he loves. And after all Twilight was the catalyst for my interest in vampires, which led to the Loving Husband Trilogy. It is fair to say that without Edward, James Wentworth wouldn’t exist, the thought of which makes me very sad indeed. So thank you, Edward.
- Matthew from A Discovery of Witches
For me, A Discover of Witches is like Twilight for grown ups. I love the witch aspect of A Discovery of Witches, and the fact that Matthew’s love interest, Diana, is related to Bridget Bishop, one of those accused and hung for witchcraft in Salem in 1692. Of course, the Salem Witch Trials play a huge role in Her Dear and Loving Husband, and an even bigger role in the prequel, Down Salem Way, which I’m writing now. I thought it was an interesting twist that Bridget is a real witch in A Discovery of Witches. As for the vampire Matthew, in some ways he’s the stereotypical vampire—cold (literally and figuratively), calculating, and ridiculously wealthy. For me, the fact that he did yoga was like Edward sparkling—it’s one of those moments that call for suspension of disbelief, but then when you’re reading or writing about vampires the whole story is a suspension of disbelief anyway, right? I think I loved reading this novel because I could see elements of Her Dear and Loving Husband in it, from the women’s connections to the Salem Witch Trials, to vampire professors, to spending a lot of time in a university library, to two unlikely beings falling in love despite the challenges. I’m glad I didn’t read this until after I wrote Her Dear & Loving Husband or else I would have worried about where I got my ideas from.
If you’re looking for some good vampire reads, here are my suggestions. The amazing thing about vampires is that people continue to be fascinated by them, so a new vampire book is something to be excited about. And most of these novels are part of a series, so there’s more than five books here for your reading pleasure.