The vampire has been a part of popular literary culture from the moment that John Polidori put pen to paper to give us “The Vampyre” in 1819. (You thought I would say Dracula, didn’t you? Also – The Vampyre was penned in the same contest that produced Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.) These monsters of the night have also been part of humanity’s cultural heritage and collective memory since the days of the Mesopotamians, Ancient Greeks, and others (though not always by the name “vampire”, which has its origins in southeastern Europe.) The ancient “vampires” were often considered to be blood-drinking demons. Vampire-like creatures are found in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. In China, the jiangshi (often erroneously called a “Chinese vampire”) is a reanimated corpse that hops and sucks life energy (qi) from their victims. (In Untouchable, Saul tangles with a jiangshi.)
But for western culture, the quintessential vampire is usually based around Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula himself has appeared in so many books, movies, television shows, and video games that he’s the go-to image (pale skin, aristocratic look, flowing cape) for most people when they think of a vampire. This isn’t wrong, and is certainly a product of our popular culture, but it isn’t the final say in what a vampire should look like.
Many authors have portrayed vampires in many different ways. I won’t go into the details here – I’m not doing a compare and contrast – but one of the things that Coy and I wanted to do with our vampires was to make them unique. We wanted to let them stand out in a crowded literary field, but also to have them still be familiar to the reader.
(CAUTION – spoilers on our stories and our vampire lore is ahead. Consider yourself warned.)
We introduced the reader to Saul Imbierowicz in our first book, Unremarkable. Saul was specifically designed to be a nobody, an ordinary person who you’d have a hard time picking out in a crowd. We wanted to do this in order to contrast him with the world that he suddenly finds himself thrust into, first as he discovers that vampires are not just myths, but also as he becomes a vampire himself. We wanted our vampires to be familiar to readers, and they share many of the same traits, but they also deviate from what is often considered “tradition” in vampire lore.
Vampires drink blood to survive. Any blood will work, animal or human, but human blood makes them stronger. They usually feed by biting the victim in the neck, but any place will do.
Vampires can control/command others to do their bidding, with some caveats. A person in the process of being converted into a vampire is immune to this ability, as are “Renfields” (see below).
If a vampire feeds from a person without killing them, they can choose to create a loyal follower. This is similar to the character of Renfield from Dracula, though there are many differences as well. These people gain certain abilities and share a bond with the vampire that created them. (Some vampires in our world – Al Capone for one – call these people “procurators”. This is a Latin term for an agent that represents others in a court of law.)
Some apotropaics (holy items) can harm a vampire when they touch the vampire. Holy water will burn like acid, and a blessed symbol (crucifix, rosary, etc.) can leave a burn when touched.
Our vampires have enhanced speed, strength, and senses. They also heal rapidly, repairing simple wounds within seconds and more serious wounds within minutes.
Vampires cannot enter a person’s home (a private residence, whether house or apartment) without being invited in. They can easily enter places that are considered public spaces.
A vampire will die by blood loss, by any means. Not just from a stake to the heart or by cutting off the head. Sure, these methods will also work, but so will a hail of bullets from a Tommy Gun. Anything that allows blood to drain out faster than the vampire is capable of healing the wound will lead to their death. Our vampires also don’t turn into piles of ash when they die.
Vampires are not any paler in skin tone than any normal human (no, George Hamilton is NOT normal), and they are not repelled or harmed by sunlight.
Running water does not affect a vampire or prevent it from crossing.
Vampires have a reflection and cast shadows.
Apotropaics do not repel a vampire. As long as the blessed object doesn’t touch the vampire, they are unaffected by the presence of the object. They are also not repelled by strong odors like garlic.
Vampires are not affected by holy/consecrated ground, such as churches, temples, cemeteries, etc.
Vampires do not need to sleep in coffins or on unhallowed ground. (In Untouchable, Al Capone tells Saul, “Dracula is a figment from Stoker’s imagination. He is solely a work of fiction and is pure drivel. Surely you know that, Mr. Imbierowicz. Are you repelled by the cross? Do you sleep in a coffin?")
Vampires can sense other nearby vampires. This is a tingling sensation that the vampire feels, but there are some restrictions. The range is limited, about 20 to 25 feet, and is not affected by "strength" or "age" of a vampire. Procurators can also sense a vampire’s presence (at the same distance), but a vampire cannot sense a Procurator.
Vampires can see the world through their Procurator’s eyes, but vision is the only sense available to them. They cannot hear what their Procurator hears, and they cannot communicate telepathically.
Vampires do not transform into bats, rats, or other creatures of the night. They also cannot control such creatures.
Some other differences for our vampires (more spoilers below):
Our vampires fall into two groups, or tribes:
Al Capone, Moira Kelly, Mr. Brown, and Saul fall into a group that variously calls itself “The Enlightened”, “The Blessed”, “The Gifted”, or “The Fortunate”. This group descends from a non-pure blood line of vampires. Newly created vampires are “reborn” and are considered “vegans” until they have fed on their first human. (A vampire can feed on any blood, but human blood allows them to be at their full strength. Al Capone tells Saul, “The only way that you won’t feel fatigued is to feed on human blood. It has sustained our race throughout history. Without it, we are not at our full potential.”)
The other group is descended from a pure bloodline. (How the bloodlines diverged, and one became impure is lost to history.) This group is referred to as “Vlads” by the non-purebloods, but they simply refer to themselves as “The Pure” or “The True”, or just as “vampire”. The pure vampires will derogatorily refer to the non-pure line as “Leeches”. The pure bloodline are the original, primal vampires (Capone would say wild). They share all of the same strengths and weaknesses, but they are inherently stronger than the non-pure bloodline. They are also quick to anger, and they can go into a rage and blood frenzy.
There are some other abilities and differences. We will leave those as secrets for now, but here’s one quick tidbit: the two groups cannot sense each other.
Coy and I will leave it to history (and the reactions of fans like you) to see whether our version of the vampire will hold water. We think that Saul and the others will stand the test of time. Plus, they don’t sparkle, so they have that going for them.
Check out our books page to find links where you can order copies of Unremarkable, Untouchable, and all of our titles.