A few thoughts in a bundle, since tomorrow is my birthday and I intend to spend as much of it as possible not working in any way.
Firstly, today the Pure Passion Awards are being held in London by the Romantic Novelists Association, and I wish I was there because two of my lovely chaptermates are shortlisted for the Love Story of the Year award! So, it's fingers crossed for Jan Jones and Louise Allen, and I'm only sorry they can't both win! If you want to follow awards news on Twitter, the hashtag that seems to be in use is #RNAAwards.
Secondly, I've been wondering about Sophie. Yes, she's been a bit quiet recently, since her last story came out in paperback a year ago and the sequel to that was rejected by Samhain in January 2009, apparently on the grounds of bad sales. I've actually received a surprising amount of feedback about the Sophie books, often asking me when the next one will be released, and my answer is always the same: probably never. But since sales have picked up a bit recently, I wonder if it's worth resubmitting? Or, since the sales that have picked up were only for the first book, have people bought it and decided not to get the rest? And, since I've had lots of questions about the fifth book but very few sales for the first four, how exactly are people reading those books? Is this another case for Jack Sparrow?
Thirdly, I've been thinking about vampires, what with Hardest of Hearts releasing this week. A little while ago I caught the end of a BBC documentary called Vampires: Why They Bite (and I can't find it on iPlayer to catch up on what I missed!). Part of the case for the appeal of vampires was their close link with sexuality, and society's views thereof. Dracula, for instance, was totally evil, and had to be vanquished with strong Christian belief, which paralleled the Victorian attitude to sexuality at the time. Anne Rice's vampires, by contrast, came along in the 1970s when sex was much more acceptable, and even played around with homoerotica. Then we had Buffy, and the emphasis shifted from vampire to slayer. How to defeat the evil of teenage boys/vile seducers--oops, I mean vampires? Be a strong, witty, intelligent woman who's not afraid to stand up for herself and learn from her mistakes. And understand that vampires are capable of redemption.
Now of course the vampire is a romantic hero. A dark one, usually (and most effectively. If you're not going to make your monsters monstrous, then what's the point?). And who's the most famous vampire of the last few years? I'd say Edward Cullen. And what does that say? That we're over the whole sex is bad/gay sex is bad/weak women are bad thing (because honestly? To my generation, most of those things are so obvious we rarely feel the need to make the point). Now perhaps our concerns have shifted to the topic of teenagers and sex.
So where do my vampires fall? Not in the teenage category, that's for sure, and not (often) in the gay category. Weirdly, with Hardest of Hearts, I found myself thinking about the old trope of the vampire vs the crucifix. Why a crucifix? Does it have to be a Christian symbol, even if you're not Christian? Would a Star of David work if you're Jewish? Is it, in fact, not the crucifix but what it stands for that's key? And if that's the case, does it only work if you actually do believe?
And from there I started to wonder. What if you do believe, and then you become a vampire?
I was only partway through writing the character of Aidan in Hardest of Hearts when this occurred to me. I think it was a throwaway line about swearing and blasphemy that triggered it. What if my vampire was the one who believed in God? And not just believed, but had already devoted his life to the Almighty? Since I'd already decided he was a 19th century Irishman, this wasn't hard to build in. And it gave him an extra layer of conflict: between his nature as a devout, moral man, and the demon inside him who thirsted for blood and sex and mayhem and death. How to vanquish the demon? With prayer. But if you're an unholy creature of the night, you can't pray. You can, however, prey.
Hardest of Hearts is released in ebook format from Changeling Press, 19th March 2010. Erotic paranormal romance.