I've been invited to write about my background in creating vampire fiction as well as nonfiction about vampires in literature.
Reading DRACULA at the age of twelve changed my life. I'd heard about vampires from a slightly older girl on the street where my grandmother lived and thought the concept sounded fascinating, but I'd neither seen a horror movie nor read a vampire story before I impulsively asked the public librarian for a copy of DRACULA. (Technically, I wasn't supposed to borrow books from the adult side of the library, where it was shelved.) Thanks to Stoker's novel, I not only became enthralled with vampires, I plunged into the whole field of horror, fantasy, and "soft" science fiction. I became a devotee of Lovecraft, Machen, Bloch, Bradbury, Matheson, and Sturgeon. When I had any money, I bought paperback anthologies of vintage stories. I eagerly sought out vampire fiction and nonfiction wherever I could find it, not easy in the 1960s at the library or on the paperback racks. I consider myself fortunate that I got a solid grounding in the horror classics before I ever saw my first vampire movie (when I was over the age of twenty). Meanwhile, I was writing my own stories, the kind I wanted to read—sympathetic to the "monster" and from the vampire's viewpoint. Before 1970, tales like that were even harder to find than vampire fiction in general.
Not that there wasn't plenty in existence, in the form of short stories, at least, but it was thin on the ground in bookstores at that time. Gradually I began to assemble a list of titles, which inspired me to think of writing a full-length survey of the history of vampire fiction, something that had never been produced before. SHADOW OF A SHADE: A SURVEY OF VAMPIRISM IN LITERATURE was rather amateurish, since I hadn't even finished my master's degree when I sent it to the publisher. Previously, I'd already had a chronologically arranged vampire anthology, CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, published in paperback. Nowadays an unknown writer would never get an anthology accepted by a mass market publisher. As a graduate student, I had access to wider literary resources, and I eventually wrote my dissertation on the Gothic novel. It included a section on "Carmilla" and a whole chapter on DRACULA. The scholarly press that published it also released my DRACULA: THE VAMPIRE AND THE CRITICS, an anthology of DRACULA scholarship (the first collection of articles published on Stoker's novel), and THE VAMPIRE IN LITERATURE: A CRITICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY. The best features of SHADOW OF A SHADE, corrected and updated, are included in the latter and in my later book on the history of the science-fiction development of the vampire as a naturally evolved species, DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN. This book is available from Amber Quill Press at a reasonable price in trade paperback and e-book (as opposed to the typically high academic-press prices of the earlier lit-crit books, mainly targeted at library markets).
As I also continued writing horror fiction off and on over the years, my conventionally supernatural vampires transformed into a naturally evolved humanoid race, inspired by my husband's story "Vanishing Breed" (under a pen name) in my anthology CURSE OF THE UNDEAD. I wrote from the vampire's viewpoint and incorporated versions of two characters from my first two vampire tales (written at the age of thirteen) into DARK CHANGELING, my first published vampire novel (Hard Shell Word Factory). The protagonist, psychiatrist Roger Darvell, has a very strange midlife crisis. At the age of forty, he discovers vampires are real and finds out the truth about his own background. A renegade vampire stalks him, threatening his patients and his new-found lover, his professional partner Dr. Britt Loren. In a sequel, CHILD OF TWILIGHT, Roger meets his twelve-year-old human-vampire hybrid daughter, Gillian. This novel further develops the relationship between Roger and Britt and introduces another vampire-human couple, Roger's pureblood vampire brother, Claude, and Claude's wife, Eloise. Since my main interest had always focused on the relationships between human and nonhuman characters, when paranormal romance became a recognized subgenre, I immediately recognized it as a perfect fit for me. Ellora's Cave published the stories of Claude and Eloise's meeting and falling in love ("Tall, Dark, and Deadly") and the love affair between Gillian, as an adult, and a human male ("Night Flight") as erotic romance novellas. In "Tall, Dark, and Deadly," Eloise has written a screenplay for a vampire movie and wants Claude, a real vampire "hiding in plain sight" as a horror actor, to star in it; however, another vampire targets Eloise to get revenge on Claude. In "Night Flight," Gillian goes into heat for the first time and flees to her human friend for refuge when her mentor tries to mate her with a vampire she detests. I've had vampire romance novels in the same universe published by Amber Quill Press and Silhouette. Anyone who'd like to check out my vampire species can find a list of all the available novels and stories, arranged by internal chronological order, under the "Vanishing Breed" link on my website, Carter's Crypt (www.margaretlcarter.com). Aside from DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT, they can be read independently in any order.