As his face came close to mine, a sudden miasma surrounded me, the stench of his breath. I recalled years ago standing over a mass grave where the bodies of brave soldiers had been lying for many days. It was that same odour of decay and I felt the same urge to run as I had then, accompanied by an even deeper sense of dread which I could not place...
According to computer records, I started writing Twelve on May 27th 2003, and finished the first draft 132,000 words later on July 11th the same year. When I first started sending it to publishers and agents, in April 2004, it was up to 145,000 words. And then there was a brief pause – of several years – as the reading public caught up with me and everyone decided that vampires were cool again.
By the time it was published in the UK by Bantam, there were 155,000 words and if you now add on the sequel, Thirteen Years Later, and the recently finished first draft of The Third Section, that’s around half a million. At a rough count, there are twenty-one dead vampires out there in nineteenth century Russia, and a few more still surviving. So by now, I know quite a bit about vampires, or about my vampires at least – voordalaki, to use the Russian term. And with each new word I write about them, the more bound they become by my rules. If a voordalak safely crossed running water on page 147 of Twelve, then another cannot have an aversion to it on page 424 of The Third Section.
But back at the beginning, vampires were a blank sheet. There’s a plethora of characteristics to select from, but very few rules. Or perhaps only one: vampires must live by drinking human blood. But thinking about it, is that even a rule? Many authors’ vampires can get by on animal blood. And mine are just as interested in eating human flesh. It seems there has to be blood-drinking, in some form or another, but beyond that I had to make choices.
My vampires are killed instantly by daylight (unlike Meyer’s or Stoker’s). Their method of reproduction goes beyond simply infecting those whom they kill. They are not harmed by religious symbols. They cannot transform themselves into bats or wolves (unless they’ve forgotten the ability, just like R2-D2 forgot that he could fly in episodes four to six). There are a few other facets too, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises.
And so now, with two books remaining in the quintet, my hands are tied. Maybe I can fit in a few more surprises, but nothing contradictory. Welcome, I suppose, to the world of non-fantasy writing. In most novels, apparently, the protagonists aren’t given any supernatural abilities and have to abide by the existing laws of nature. Hard to believe, but I kid you not.
So I’m happy to live by a single, if evolving, set of rules over a sequence of five novels, but at this stage, I’m starting to look forward to what will come after. Maybe not right away, but I’m sure I’ll want to write other vampire novels after these, in a different place or a different age. But the question that puzzles me is this: will I still be bound by the same rules? Or to put it another way, could I start again please?
Twelve is published by Pyr on September 7th.