Another Vampire Novel?
I know, I know...yes, THE KENSEI, my latest novel out this past week from St. Martin's Press is another vampire novel. But it's also unlike any other vampire novel you've read before.
But let me back up and explain: from a very early age, I've had this love/hate thing with vampires. The very first nightmare I can ever recall was of The Count from Sesame Street. I was feverish, woke up in the middle of the night screaming my lungs out. I was maybe three years old? Four? I can't recall the exact age, but from that moment on, I was fascinated with vampires. They scared the hell out of me, but I was drawn to their power and what they represented.
Growing up, I studied the legends, read the books, watched the movies ('Salem's Lot, believe it or not, was one of my favorites). And throughout it all, I spent a lot of time wondering if they could be real. Was there a way for these creatures to exist among the rest of us. The question never found an answer, per se, until I started writing.
In about 2000, I wrote a short story called "Past Imperfect," that combined my love of espionage thrillers with the short horror stories I enjoyed reading. It was a classic case of the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial with the whole "you got your espionage on my horror, you got your horror on my espionage." But I dug the story, the character, and the idea of what it could represent. So did the people who read it over on Zoetrope.com. And they all thought it should be a novel.
I debated. There was already a glut of vampire novels on the market. Did there really need to be another one? And all of those novels seemed to cover pretty much every aspect of the mythos that there was. What was I going to bring to the genre that was different?
The question that had haunted me growing up - whether or not vampires could exist alongside humans - came back around. I recalled reading about early humans drinking the blood of mighty animals they'd slain thinking it would give them the beast's powers. What if, I thought, there was a race of early humans that hunted other humans and drank their blood?
All right, maybe. But what was it about the blood that they needed? From my study of martial arts and East Asian philosophy, I decided that drinking the blood enabled them to extract the life force energy (ki in Japanese, chi in Chinese) and gave them better-than-average strength, a lot of immunity, and the ability to live longer than normal humans.
I felt I was on to something. My main character, Lawson, was a Fixer - part-spy, part-commando, destined from birth to defend his people and protect the Balance - the secret existence of a race of living vampires.
From there, it was off to the races. Lawson's Fixer Service became a fully-fleshed out organization modeled on human covert operations agencies. My own background gave me the experience and ability to make Lawson's world and his espionage activities extremely realistic. And my almost thirty years of martial arts experience enabled me to create fight scenes that literally exploded off the page.
I was intrigued at what Lawson could do for the genre. But my first publisher mishandled the series and the result was that after four books, Lawson was homeless. I still believed that he could be great and so I kept looking for a new house and a new editor who got what he was and what he could do.
Fast forward to late-2009 and I struck pay dirt with Daniela Rapp at St. Martin's Press. She fell in love with the series and knew what to do with Lawson. After an eight year hiatus, Lawson returned to stores this past week in his 5th installment, THE KENSEI. Given the absurd amount of time that has passed, we made sure reading books 1-4 is completely unnecessary. THE KENSEI is a complete standalone novel. And if sales of it are good enough, the first four books will be reissued (with some much-needed editorial revisions!) along with more installments besides.
Along with that, I've launched a production company with one of my best friends, Jaime Hassett to bring Lawson to the small screen with THE FIXER TV series. We begin shooting the pilot in the next few months and the cast we've assembled is fantastic. I'm looking forward to Lawson finally getting out there in the way I always believed he should.
My favorite part about writing a vampire series is that Lawson is the antithesis of what you'd expect in a typical vampire tale. He hates drinking blood; he's morally conflicted about his job and the society he's a member of; and his brand of sarcasm is without peer. As others have said, he truly is James Bond with fangs.
If you haven't experienced Lawson before, I invite you to check out a free short story, INTERLUDE, over on my website. And I'm also running a free serialized Lawson adventure throughout 2011 in the pages of my newsletter, which you can also sign up for on my website at http://www.jonfmerz.net
I'm holding a special giveaway for those who purchase THE KENSEI. Simply forward your receipt to me here: firstname.lastname@example.org and you get a chance to win the sword we used in the book trailer for THE KENSEI.
Finally, I'm giving away a signed copy of THE KENSEI to one lucky winner here at VampChix.com. Simply leave me a comment or question below and someone will win a free, personalized copy of the book!
Thanks for reading - I sincerely appreciate your interest in Lawson and his world.
Best wishes to all,