Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Children of the Night

'Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make.' Dracula by Bram Stoker (first published 1897)  

Let me start this post by saying that, just because I haven't included vampires in my books (yet) I have nothing against them. I like reading vampire novels. But I like my vampires as legend intended them. I want them to scare me. I want them to be proud, beautiful monsters. 
If you like your vampires sparkly, that's fine. Good luck to you. I prefer mine bloody. Each to her own. 
For me, Lestat, central character of The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, is the consummate vampire in his beauty and the way he revels in his unashamed monstrosity. Kurt Barlow, in Stephen King's Salem's Lot, is my ultimate horror novel vampire. When it comes to romance, I have a weakness for Jean-Claude, Master Vampire in the Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton. 
But my first vampire love is with the great Count Dracula himself. And I also have an enduring fascination with Bram Stoker, the Irishman whose imagination conjured up such an iconic character.


My interest in Abraham Stoker (known to his family as Bram), began about 15 years ago when I was in Dublin. I visited a quaint, little church close to the banks of the River Liffey called St. Michan's. St Michan's looks unimpressive from the outside, but, in its vaults, there are mummified bodies.
One of these is an 800 year old mummy called 'the crusader'. When you visit St Michan's, you can go into the crypt and shake hands with the crusader. Well, you could 15 years ago. Things may have changed since! 
On the day I was there, the guide showing me around said that Bram Stoker had lived nearby and visited St Michan's regularly. Who knew, he speculated, whether the crusader might have been the inspiration for Count Dracula? 


I started this year by fulfilling a Dracula related ambition when I spent new year in Whitby. Whitby, a fishing port on the North Yorkshire coast, is the place where, in Stoker's novel, the Russian ship, the Demeter runs aground during a fierce storm. All of the crew are missing, presumed dead, with the exception of the captain's body which has been lashed to the ship's helm. As the ship runs aground an animal resembling a large wolf or dog is seen leaping ashore from it's deck. The ill-fated ship's only cargo is described as silver sand and boxes of mould or earth from Transylvania.
Whitby did not disappoint. 
It is an incredibly beautiful, atmospheric town. I can see why, having stayed there, Stoker chose to set so many scenes from his book in Whitby. He would have drunk in, as I did, the view through the Whalebone Arch across the harbour to the cobbled streets, dominated by the imposing ruins of Whitby Abbey which sits brooding atop the winding 199 steps rising up the cliffs from the narrow streets below. It is easy to see how this prospect would have inspired his macabre and creative imagination. 

My own imagination was fired by Whitby. As I made my way along the tiny, cobbled lanes and looked up at the imposing outline of the Abbey, I could imagine that Dracula and his descendants were still around. I was inspired to think about creating my own beautiful monster.

Watch this space...

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