Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Guest: Janet Mullany

VampChix welcomes back Janet Mullany, who brings us more bloody goodness with Jane Austen and vampires with her latest, JANE AUSTEN: BLOOD PERSUASION.  She's got a copy of the book for one lucky commenter, so show her (and Jane Austen) some love in the comments!


It’s 1810 and Jane Austen settles down to some serious writing in the peaceful village of Chawton. But it’s not so peaceful when the Damned introduce themselves as her new neighbors. Jane has to deal with the threat of a vampire civil war, her best friend borrowing her precious silk stockings for assignations with the Damned, and a former lover determined to hold a grudge for eternity.

 I’m a cheater.

So I cheated. I’m only human. Here’s what happened.

I was contracted to write two books about Jane Austen as a vampire, the first of which, JANE AND THE DAMNED, released last year. I set it in 1797, deliberately choosing a time when we don’t know much about what Jane Austen was up to, except that she and her family visited the spa city of Bath in November shortly after the first version of Pride and Prejudice was rejected. (Imagine how that publisher felt—rather like the music producer who turned down the Beatles.)

So in that book Jane became a vampire and loses the ability to write, but she’s busy collecting material, ripping out a few throats, falling in love, fighting off a French invasion (yes, this is fiction) and at the end of the book takes the cure for vampirism, the mineral waters at Bath so she can return to her writing. I had the second book planned to be about the end of Jane’s life, but my editor put her foot down. Absolutely not! She wanted Jane writing and being a vamp (again).


So it all depended on how how effective were the Bath waters as a cure for vampirism. Or as a cure for anything. And here was my loophole, my opportunity to cheat. I decided that like so much medicine of the Georgian era, the “cure” of the Bath waters was imperfect (many preposterous claims were made about the waters’ healthful properties) and that in the dozen or so intervening years Jane has fought against the recurring symptoms of vampirism.

When newcomers to the village of Chawton arrive and she discovers they are vampires and the household includes her Creator (the one who turned her and with whom she shares a deep and imperfect bond), Jane is in trouble. In this scene, she shares her experience with her former lover, Luke:

“All these years, Luke, I would so often think I saw you across a room or on a street, while I learned how to be mortal once more, and earned my family’s forgiveness.”

“Their forgiveness! For the sacrifices you made!” He shook his head. “And I thought you’d be happy. I hoped you would be so. I expected you to be married and with a flock of children by now: that you’d have the only thing I could not give you.”

“No. The only children I have are my books.”

“So you write, still.”

“Finally, yes. It has not been easy. I have felt that I was never sufficiently cured and the ability to write again, and the desire to do so, took some years. And there were other indications that I was not completely mortal: when, for instance, I—” she stopped, blushing.

He looked at her with keen interest. “When you what?”

“It is nothing,” she muttered in embarrassment. “I have never been able to speak of it.”

“But you can now. Go on.”

“Promise you will not laugh.”

He laid a hand on his heart. “I promise.”

“I received a proposal of marriage a few years after we—after our liaison--from a neighbor’s son. He was a little younger than me, but it was a very good match for he was to inherit considerable property. My father was pleased, as were all my family.”

“My congratulations,” Luke said. “And what happened?”

“I broke off the engagement the next morning. You see … after I accepted the proposal, we were alone, and we …”

“Became amorous?”


“You dined from him?” Luke gazed at her in astonishment.

“Oh, heavens, no. I was not en sanglant or anything of the sort. But it seemed only natural to … to bite his neck.”

“I believe it is something mortals may do in the throes of passion.” Luke, despite his promise, seemed to be having trouble keeping a straight face.

“Well, how was I to know? Besides, I wasn’t in the throes of passion, as you so elegantly put it. I have only—” she stopped in embarrassment, unwilling to admit that she had experienced those throes only with Luke. Besides, doubtless he knew that already. “He seemed most alarmed although I did not bite him very hard. He started to question me on my morals and I was incensed that he should doubt me.”

“Oh, of course. Fornication with the Damned does not count at all, as many respectable women could tell you.”

“It is not amusing.  It was mortifying for me and naturally I had to end the engagement. His sisters, once my good friends, would not speak to me for some time after, and both families were very much disappointed.”


And the beauty of this scene is that it’s based on truth! In 1802, when she was 26, Jane did accept a proposal of marriage from a rich young landowner—the sort of match that would have ensured her and her family’s financial security. The next day, however, she ended the engagement. We didn’t know why—until now. (I think his name alone, Harris Bigg-Wither, was justification for it.)

Now you could argue that I—or any other writer of vamp fiction—cheats. I don’t believe anyone can use all the traditional vampire myths—that they can’t cross water, tolerate garlic, see their reflections in mirrors, listen to FM radio, go out in daylight, and so on (I made one of these up). I wanted to make my vampires true to their times and JANE AUSTEN: BLOOD PERSUASION includes both a history of vampires in England and a glossary of vampire terms. In the passage above, I use the term “dine” instead of “feed” (it’s so much more elegant) and the term en sanglant (some fake French for having a fang-on).

So what are your favorite and least favorite vampire myth? And how much bending of an author’s rules can you tolerate?

Find me online: where there’s a contest, another excerpt from JABP and lots of info about my books.
Twitter @Janet_Mullany


KarinLibrarian said...

My favorite vampire myth is the classic "need to stay out of the sunlight." Something about that adds to the mysterious nature of the vampire.

My least favorite myth is Garlic being a deterrent. YUCK and SILLY!!!

I can tolerate A LOT of rule bending. I can totally accept that vampires sparkle. The only time it becomes a problem is when it just seems thrown in just to make it easier for the story /author.

Thanks for the chance to win.

Janet Mullany said...

Hi Karin, I have to admit I considered the daylight issue but it would have made logistics too difficult, particularly in a society where vamps are "out." But basically the Damned enjoy night time activities and they get up very late in the day. Being up during daylight is unfashionable!

I agree about the garlic. Why???

Eva's Flowers said...

One of my other favorites (since the last poster mentioned 2 others) is the no reflection in a mirror and the scared of crosses myths...I could live with the rule bending, it may actually may the story a lot different for us readers ;)


Jo's Daughter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SandyG265 said...

For me the rules about vampires are bnt to far when they can eat regular food. I don't really have a most or least favorite type of vampire.

Janet Mullany said...

I like the no reflection rule too, @Eva's Flowers. I've read that it means the lack of a soul, which would be appropriate for a vampire.

@Jo's Daughter, I find one of the most interesting aspects of immortality is the need to seek new sensations and experiences to avoid boredom.

@SandyG265, my vampires eat regular food, but for a sensual experience, not nutrition. Naturally they hire expensive French cooks.

Barbara E. said...

My favorite vampire myths are heal quickly, can't go in the sunlight, immortality, and must drink blood. My least favorite is the allergic to garlic, the burning up in sunlight (I'd rather they just get a sunburn and don't like the light), and avoidance of crosses and holy water. As long as the author's story makes sense to me, I don't care how much they bend the rules.

Barbed1951 at aol dot com

LĂșthien84 said...

I don't understand about vamps not tolerating garlic. Why garlic? My favourite part is they can achieve immortality and have all the time in the world to learn new things.

For me if any authors are writing about Jane Austen, they must tread carefully for I'm quite particular that she is treated with respect and if possible explain their motivation if they try to change her but not too drastic I hope. For other subjects, I don't mind as long as it makes sense and is within reason.


Cylver said...

One of my favorite things about reading vampire fiction is how much the mythology can be tweaked!
For me, as long as they remain recognizable as vampires, and the writer can keep the "tweaks" within the context of the story, there's really no limit to how much a good writer can play with the mythology!

The only vampire myth I don't like is that a vampire can be repelled by crosses, holy water, or other religious objects. Myths about vampires have been around far long than Christianity, so why should a vamp be bothered by them?
Also, I've always felt that simply becoming a vampire shouldn't make someone evil by definition. As is true with all of us, it's what we do with our talents and abilities that define us as either good or evil, and it should be no different with vampires.

Amy Valentini said...

Let's assume for a moment that Vampires are real. Wouldn't it be obvious to everyone on the planet that they exist alongside us if they couldn't go out in the sunlight, died if you touched them with garlic (for sure there wouldn't be any in the Mediterranean area), were repelled by religious objects of any sort (couldn't turn a corner in NYC) and turned into bats? It's actually the living forever and drinking blood that could probably be concealed the easiest in the real world. Most of the myths sound kinda silly to the modern world but once you eliminate those, the rest can be quite intriguing.

As long as the author deals with the basic idea of the vampire well and makes it plausible or explains their definition of a vampire, I'm cool with it. I can totally believe that Jane might have known a few - I believe she might even have written them into her novels here or there. ; )

Janet Mullany said...

@Amy, good points. I'm pretty sure the naughty, sexy Crawfords in Mansfield Park were vamps; and they were ostensibly brother and sister, which is how the Damned tend to define their households!

Janet Mullany said...

this has been such fun! Thanks again for having me visit and good luck everyone.