Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest: Elaine Bergstrom

Please welcome Elaine Bergstrom to VampChix today!  She's written quite a few vamp books, including the Austra family series, which began with SHATTERED GLASS, and a few written under the pseudonym Marie Kiraly, including MINA: THE DRACULA STORY CONTINUES.  Elaine will give away a copy of MINA to one lucky commenter, so show her some love in the comments!  [Winner announced on Wednesday.]

Fangs Most Boring

Whatever happened to those hot, sexy vampires? You remember them, right? Saint-Germaine, Lestat, Jean Claude (in the early books, at least, when there was some sexual tension instead of just sex), my own Stephen Austra and brother Charles and countless others. They seduced readers, sometimes they even raped them. But all that fantasy and lust is over now. Teen angst has replaced adult passion, and today’s most popular vampires that should be draining the pulsing veins of their lovers, they lie about hungry but impotent. The lustiest characters on True Blood are, with a few exceptions, human. The vampires have other issues.

Since our fantasies reflect a portion of our reality, what does this say about our culture – particularly the plight of adolescent girls whose attraction to these bloodless creatures of the night define what is seen and read today? Plenty. And only a little of it – at least from this old curmudgeon’s perspective – is good.

I grew up in the fifties, an era when children’s innocence was carefully guarded. Not a swear word escaped my parents or my friends’ parents, at least when we could hear it. I learned about sex from my mother’s medical book, and lust by reading the books stored in the basement when they were out for the night. The Vixens by Frank Yerby was one of my favorites, as was Lord Johnnie by Leslie Turner White but whatever people were actually doing beyond getting naked was, at the time, a delightful mystery that I was anxious to, at the very least, learn more about.

The fifties were not so different from the Victorian age in which Stoker wrote Dracula. I doubt he fully understood the subliminal messages contained in his novel (author’s frequently don’t) but I suspect more than a few Victorian ladies who read it were frightened but also moist in places they barely admitted they possessed.

Today, girls grew up on Madonna and Brittney and Pink and now Lady Gaga. Sex in all its tempting varieties come at them on the big screen, the small screen, the computer screen and the cell phone screen. There is no mystery any more. And there are too many boys eager to expand their knowledge. Girls are wary of lust and longing for longing ─ that mysterious emotion that has somehow passed them by.

This longing is something Stephanie Meyer tapped into, likely without realizing it. Girls don’t lust after Edward Cullen because he is a vampire. No, he’s the coolest boy in school and he loves her but is sexually unattainable. And while girls may think it’s all about the fangs, it’s more than that. Just as young Victorian women longed for passion, today they long for innocence so they can move forward to innocence deliberately lost. 


Visit Elaine's website.

Read a 'cut' excerpt from SHATTERED GLASS that was not published in the original novel.

Below is an excerpt from BEYOND SUNDOWN, coming soon!

            For days the revolt against the Ceausescu regime had raged throughout the cities, but in a comfortable cell in an isolated prison in northern Moldavia, far from the thick of it, Vasile had sensed the growing unrest solely through the questions he was to ask the prisoners who were brought to him. Loathing those he questioned a bit less than he did his guards, he sometimes lied. Guards died, executed on his whim. The power made him greedy and the lies increased.
                 He had no way of knowing that in the cities like Cluj, Sibiu and Timisoara, dissidents faced down gunfire and cannons and washed the concrete and cobblestones with the blood he had been taught to crave. Apolitical, he would not have cared that soon after the uprisings the army turned on their leader or that  the dictator and his wife were tried and shot for the crimes they had committed against their people and his.
                 He had only vague memories of his people. He had been in this place, this cell, since he was six years old. Removed from the world, his past was only a distant, happy memory; the present all that mattered.
                 His mind was not strong enough to break through the confines of his other senses. Walls of concrete contained it as effectively as it did his body. And so he did not know of the night his Russian guards, as terror-filled by the revolution going on around them as they were by their captives, abandoned their prisoners and retreated across the border into the shattered remnants of what had once been a world power.
            Days passed and no guards sought his skills, or brought him any food. The lights sputtered out. Cold crept in through the cracks in his cell door.
                 Thirst was not a problem. Vasile's cell included a sink and toilet and, though both heat and light were absent, the thin stream of fresh water still flowed through the pipes. It kept him alive so that his hunger could be all that more relentless. He needed food. He craved blood.
                 He lay on his cot and waited for death. Only half human, death kept her distance but did not completely ignore him. Vasile tried to sleep and as he did, it seemed he dreamed and that his mind merged with those of others in different cells this strange prison. He felt their hunger as well as his own. Some of them were much younger than he, some far older. Some were toddlers, the product of forced breeding. Some were still infants. These were the first to die, clutched in their mothers' arms, sucking at barren breasts. Through the thick walls, he heard the mothers' wails. Half mad, he roused himself and beat his fists against the wall in time to the beating of others' fists as if their combined efforts could crumble the stone walls that held them.
                  The exertion only made the pain in his guts more intense. He wore only thin gray pants and a black flannel shirt, not enough to keep out the incessant cold. He wrapped himself in the wool blanket from his cot and retreated to an inside corner of his cell where he folded the blanket's edges under his bare feet. He drew his legs tight against his chest and the pressure relieved some of the empty feeling in his stomach. Resting his cheek on his knees, he said the prayers his mother had taught him so many years ago.
            He prayed for death.   
                 For a time it seemed his prayers would be answered. His heart rate fell, his breathing slowed. And all he sensed as he lived on was the others fading. Weeks later, he sensed no life at all.

                 He woke to sudden noises; soft, but after so much silence, the sounds deafened. He heard a human moan, a cry cut off as soon as it began. He sat up, dizzied by the effort, waiting in silence as something shuffled down the hallway outside his cell. Through the thin slot in his door he detected the heady scent of blood, of food. They had come back! They would feed him! He crawled to the opening, reached his hand through the slot. "Va rog!" he called. Please.
                 Someone touched his hand, the first touch freely given to him since he'd come here so many years before. The locks of his cell groaned and broke, the door opened and the room was filled with a burst of light.
                 Vasile shut his eyes against its sudden pain, cringing when someone reached for him.
                 "Shhhh," a voice said, a comforting hiss as his body was pulled into the warmth of an embrace. He thought of his mother, so long ago, she has been soft like this. Gentle. Her scent, so much the same.
                 "Shhhh," the voice repeated. "I am Catherine and I will be your mother today. Like her I give you life."
                 "Va rog," he repeated, not certain what he begged for.
                 But she knew what he needed. She pulled back for just a moment then drew him forward. Eyes still shut, his dry lips brushed her skin, his tongue running over the softness of it, the sweet copper taste flowing from the wound she had made.
                 "Drink," Catherine told him, inviting him to take what he longed to take. "Please," she added, a chuckle purring in her throat. As her warmth coursed through him, it seemed that his own blood began to flow for the first time in days. Wanting more, he held tight to her shoulders but she was stronger, pushing him away before he was sated as if he were a greedy nursing child.
                 She left him and his eyes fluttered open, seeking her, seeing only her form silhouetted against the door's blinding light. He focused on the shadows until she returned dragging a heavy burden. The scent of blood filled the room.
                 He groped at what she had brought. A man. His fingers moved to the neck. No pulse. Fingers wet. He licked them, tasted blood.
                 "Eat," Catherine whispered, voice so soft she might have been speaking into his mind.
                 "But this is a ... a corpse," he argued, having to seek the word he'd rarely heard.
                 "Human blood. Human meat. It is no different than that of any animal to one like you, child," she replied. When he did not move, she added, "Then drink. You've done that before, have you not?"
                 Vasile had, but until moments ago never directly. They had drained the blood, passing in a cup with his food through that little door. He had been starving when he drank from her; still starved, but the thought of taking from this corpse disgusted him. Yet, what a wonderful scent! He lowered his face to the jagged wounds on the man's chest and neck and drank, then without thinking, found himself ripping at the flesh as well, worrying it like a wolf.
                 Mid-feast, a new scent caught his attention. He dug into the pocket of what was left of the man's coat and found a wax paper packet: bread and cheese, and a bar of chocolate.
                 He remembered how when he was young and still crying for his mother, one of the guards would sometimes open the little door to his cell and toss him some chocolate. He never spoke, and Vasile guessed that kindness had been forbidden. But he had given hope with the sweets. Could this be the man?
                 Sickened by what he had done. He turned away from the woman and the corpse, holding the treasured food tightly, afraid she would take it from him. When she did not move, he ate all but the chocolate quickly; that he savored one small bite at a time.
                 As he did, the woman pulled off the man's shoes and gave them to Vasile. He put them over his bare feet. For years he had worn only sandals but he managed to recall how to tie the laces. She laughed. "Such a memory!" she said.
                  By then the shadows had darkened and Catherine stood, took his hand and pulled him to his feet. "Come," she said.
                 And though he trembled with fear, he scooped up his tattered blanket, pulled it tight around him and staggered after her into the fading daylight that scorched his unpracticed eyes.
                 She pulled him down a narrow path that led away from the building. Only when they were in the dark comfort of the woods, did she turn and face him.
                 Vasile recalled his mother's face. He had been told often enough that he looked like her and so when he saw his own face in the mirror in the warden’s office, he would think of her – her dark hair, her deep brown eyes, her high cheekbones. He occasionally saw female prisoners but not often enough to form any idea of true beauty. But to him, this woman was beautiful. Her black hair long and thick and loosely curled, her eyes just as black and slightly slanted. Her body beneath the loose black pants and sweater she wore seemed almost as thin as his own, delicate. If he touched her too hard she would break.
                 In response to his thought, her lips parted. She grinned, then laughed and he saw the long second incisors beyond the first. He ran his tongue over his own teeth, those same four pointed like hers though not nearly as long.
                 Perhaps he and the woman were kin?


Shauna Kemp said...

Welcome! Looks great, I'm going to have to check out Shattered Glass too. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Meandi's corner said...

awesome excerpt

Patricia Altner said...

I read the Austra family books some time ago. Wonderful series. Thanks for posting the new chapter for Shattered Glass.

No need to enter me in the contest. I have a copy of Mina.

Only wanted to stop by say hello to Elaine and thank her for her terrific books.

Derek Tatum said...

Hooray for the Austra clan!

joder said...

Great post! And I agree, things are way too in your face now. There's something to be said for subtlety and I miss it.

Even though I'm not a Twilight fan, I do admire Meyer for dramtically changing the vampire landscape.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

Lynda Hilburn said...

Elaine: It's great to see you here. I keep hoping there will be more in the Austra series. You added some intriguing elements to the vampire mythology. The books are on my "keeper" shelf. Don't enter me, either. I also already have a copy of MINA. Let's hear it for adult lust and the dangerous vampires who inspire it.
Lynda Hilburn

buddyt said...

Hi Elaine,

I very interesting post on vampires past and present. I find myself agreeing with most of the points you make although I will have to think about the subliminal a bit more.

But the 50's were like the Victorian era.! Thats a bit much. Did your parents dress their tables legs ?


buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Sandy Rainey said...

Hi, Elaine! I heartily enjoyed both the Shattered Glass outtake and the excerpt from your newest (which I am very much looking forward to!). Your post was extremely insightful, and I couldn't agree more with you. I am very weary of the new, bloodless vampire fiction and am waiting for a bit of the limelight to fade away so that the good stuff can get some oxygen. I have absolutely NO doubt that this will happen, sooner or later.

Anyhow, like Patricia, I already have (and love) Mina, so I also don't need to be entered in the contest. Thanks for inviting us over, Michele--I wouldn't have missed this for the world.

Rosie said...

I'm new to your writing, but this book sounds great. I'll have to check out your other books as well. Thanks for stopping by!!

heatwave16 said...

Book sounds very interesting. What did you think about Mina's portrayal in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Its a guilty pleasure movie for me.