It’s about vampires. /toothy grin/
What would you do if the one you loved was turned into a monster?
Melrose Durante brings order. As founder of the Houses of the Dead, he tirelessly opposes the vampires, and provides refuge for the Blood Kind, those like himself who fight against the blood curse that leads to vampirism. His medical breakthroughs have brought many back from the vampire path. After thousands of years, the Blood Kind finally has the upper hand.
Until a vampire attacks Melrose’s family, then begs for asylum. To his friends she’s Lucy, a disturbed young woman prone to incoherent rants, warning of an imminent attack by vampire leader, Conan. But to Melrose she’s something more.
His lost wife, Jane.
One thing is clear – time is running out. In five days Conan will attack Quebec City, killing or enslaving all in his way. If Melrose cannot unlock his wife’s tormented mind, even his immortal wisdom may not be enough to save Quebec City, the Blood Kind, and the Houses of the Dead.
The thing about vampire (and other folkloric) stories is that no matter where you want to take the plot, you cannot ignore the elephant in the room, the centuries of established lore and cultural baggage. The tropes are always with you. And that can feel somewhat limiting at times, but just as often it’s not a bad thing at all.
Here to tell you about working from previous incarnations is Janeen Ippolito, author of Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water.
Julia Busko and I love misfits. Those who believe they are beyond reach. The downtrodden. The forgotten. The impossible to save.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a character who falls through the cracks is Lucy Westenra.
Lucy always fascinated me. Everyone focuses on the Harkers and on Dracula. Meanwhile, Lucy, the sidekick who isn’t told anything, is beset by a mysterious ailment. She’s fed upon. Turned into a vampire. And then they find her feeding on an infant, her lips painted with the baby’s blood.
This image stuck with me because it is so horrific. It’s one thing to believe that anyone can be saved and brought back from darkness. It’s another to see someone in that pit of horror, to personally view them doing unforgivable things and be able to forgive them.
To see in them something worth saving. Even when they are about to sink their fangs into the throat of a fragile child.
I always wondered what would have happened if things had gone differently. If they had gotten to Lucy in time. If she had been told things sooner. She wasn’t involved in anything related to Dracula. She was a bystander, a symbol of virginal purity who was turned into a symbol of wanton darkness. A casualty that increased pathos and horror, and proved The Situation Was Serious.
Seriously bites, right? (Couldn’t resist.)
But what if Lucy could have come back from the darkness? What if she was found before she drank the child’s blood? What would her journey of redemption look like? Would she be upset that no one intervened in time to stop her transformation? Would she be angry at having been kept in the dark?
And so, Lucille Jane came to be. An independent, creative, rather selfish ‘young’ woman (she’s over forty, but those things are measured differently when you’re immortal). She grew up sheltered in a Paxena Preserve, a colony of Blood Kind who believe in quarantining themselves from healthy humans. She ran away and became Jane, a free-spirited world traveler and good Catholic girl who fell for Melrose Durante, leader of the Blood Kind. Having no idea the kind of target she’d have on her back as his wife.
Until Jane is lost. There are only the broken pieces of Lucy, corrupted by darkness and vampirism.
Then she’s given the chance to return. To use her knowledge to stop the evil plans of her captors. Turning a virginal victim into a flesh and blood woman who is worth saving, no matter what she’s done.
That is Lucy’s arc. Fighting for redemption, even while her own mind is turned against her, viciously reminding her of her vile actions. Fighting against her anger at her husband for keeping secrets about his own dark past. Fighting against the memories of her time in captivity.
All the while, those memories might be the key to saving Quebec City.
I will add to this a fantastic observation from playwright Steven Dietz on adapting Dracula:
Most of the characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula spend the better part of the book trying desperately — with the absolute best of intentions — to keep secrets from one another. Their reasons have to do with safety, honor, respectability, and science… but every secret buys the vampire more time. Every evasion increases the impossibility of anyone assembling the totality of the facts, the cumulative force of the information. Secrecy breeds invasion. Darkness begets darkness.
It is this secrecy among the principal characters — heightened by the lack of third-person objectivity, since the novel consists entirely of personal letters, diaries, and news reports, that is the heart of the book’s unique power. The objectivity so desperately needs by the characters is handed to the reader. A trans-continental jigsaw puzzle. A myriad of disturbing clues. And it falls to the reader alone to make the connections between these events.
A fascinating question, when secrecy protects and when it harms….
Janeen Ippolito is an idea-charged teacher, reader, writer, book reviewer, and the Fearless Leader of Uncommon Universes Press. She writes nonfiction writing help and speculative fiction laced with horror, humor, and cultural tension. Her co-written illustrated novella, Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water, releases on October 29th. In her nonexistent spare time she reads, cooks, and sword-fights. Two of her dreams are to eat a fried tarantula and to travel to Antarctica. Go to janeenippolito.com for world-building resources and off-the-wall insights from this sleep-deprived author.
Did you guys catch that? A fried tarantula? I like to think I’m adventurous and open-minded, but even I haven’t put dining on breaded arachnid on my to-do list. (Antarctica’s already there, though.)
Julia Busko (like “bus” and “co.”) is an illustrator, designer, writer, and the Elusive Unicorn (art director) of Uncommon Universes Press. In addition to co-writing with Janeen Ippolito, Julia has created book covers, made logos and t-shirt designs, and is planning a series of steampunk fairy tale picture books. In her spare time she dances with a local company and watches documentaries and horror movies. She strives for art filled with creative wonder and the beauty inherent in tragedy. Go to juliabusko.com to dive into a world of remarkable visions and artistic musings.
You can read more about the world of Blood Mercy at the book’s site or pre-order at Amazon.