When I was a little girl, around the age of seven, my dad’s best friend (my godfather for all intents and purposes), introduced me to vampires. He sat next to me as Christopher Lee wreaked bloody havoc on some poor unsuspecting town, and I watched in fascination as Peter Cushing inevitably bested the count. By age ten, I was staying up late with my mother to watch these films every Friday night. And, I found myself drawn more and more to Count Dracula than to those who might stop him. I fell in love with vampires and I began to seek information on both the genre and the folklore.
I began reading everything on vampires that I could, spending hours in the library, searching in book fairs, and pouring through every book on the subject I could find. My favorite, so far, was one I bought at a school book fair when I was nine: “The Story of Vampires,” by Thomas G. Aylesworth. This book, although quite thin and small, held an immense amount of information and introduced me to folklore not only from England, but from all over the world. I learned about superstitions and legends in Scandinavia, Russia, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Japan, China, and Spain. Each legend was just a little different from the others, but the theme remained interestingly the same: an undead creature who sustained its life by feeding on the blood of the living. Sunlight wasn’t always a deterrent, nor were crucifixes or holy water. The legends of how one became a vampire differed as well. The accompanying superstitions were sometimes horrific, sometimes comical, but by either measure, interesting. I read this book over and over, and so much, the book fell apart over time. Recently, I was able to purchase a new copy on eBay. It should arrive by next week and I will be so amazingly happy to have it in my possession again.
I began writing poetry when I was eight. By age ten, I was writing short stories, and by age fifteen, I was writing novels. Not good novels, but novels nonetheless. I made a couple of attempts at writing vampires, but the stories were always second-rate, and not very original. Vampires, after all, had already been written to death. And, with authors like Bram Stoker and Anne Rice already having written some of the best vampire stories in the world, my confidence level was nowhere near what I needed it to be, and my writing skills at the time needed work. While I loved vampires, the lore, and superstitions, I felt disheartened by the idea of writing them.
Fast-forward twenty years. The well-wishers are going to understand this next statement: I was sitting in my theater seat when Gandalf answered Bilbo’s door, and I met Thorin Oakenshield, and the fantastic actor who plays him. Richard Armitage blew me away with his performance. And, I was then inspired to see the rest of his work. Over the years and years of trying to accomplish the endeavor of seeing all of his work (I finally saw it all in March 2017–only 5 years. LOL), it became more and more clear that (1) Richard Armitage would make an amazing vampire, and (2) he should never play one. I can hear the well-wishers right now, screaming, “WHY?!”
Two reasons: (1) (and most important) he would bring all his talent to the role and ruin vampires for me for every other vampire in the whole history of vampires. Not to mention that I would end up on the news: (2) he’s just that gorgeous: “Fangirl drowns theater in her drool. Story at eleven!”
But, I thought, what if he could be written as a vampire and exist in the imagination? That would save a whole theater of drooling fangirls, and, perhaps, all the vampires I love could be left in safe keeping. So, I began like any writer should: with what I know.
I was born and currently reside in Louisiana. We have a rich eclectic culture of people from all walks of life. We have some of our very own superstitions, ghosts, witches, and yes, vampires. New Orleans is a world unto itself, and there, it doesn’t seem strange that vampires should exist.
Then, I paused. I didn’t want to write just some vampire story. I knew that if I was going to “cast” Richard Armitage as a vampire, he had to be unique, the story itself had to be unique, and so, I placed my head in my hands and wept because I had no idea what the heck I was going to do. Then, my phone rang, and my Big Sister, Candida Orta, was on the other line. “Stop crying,” she exclaimed. And, I’m looking at my phone like: “How in the world does she know this stuff?”
That call led to a discussion on Native American folklore. Not sure how that happened exactly, but there we were. The discussion was not about vampires or dream walkers or anything of the like, but it was about some of the Native American superstitions surrounding Wolfen. The discussion was a far cry from what I wanted to write, but her call and our discussion opened up my imagination to the point where I began to realize what I would write, how I would write it, and how I would make my vampires unique. Past education came back to mind and I incorporated some science theory that further set my story apart from all the others.
The first time I wrote The Blazing, I wrote it as fan fiction and about twenty-four of my friends on Facebook read it as a serial in a secret group I created. I got some great feedback and that boosted my confidence to the possibility of getting it published. I knew I’d have to change the name of my leading man, and since every other character within the story was one I created from the ground up, I would then need to expand it to novel length.
In the few months prior to publication, I spent every spare minute working on the expansion. Then, what to call my vampire? I couldn’t very well leave him Richard Armitage. But, I LOVE the name Richard. Always have. My first teddy bear was named Richard (much to the confusion of my parents as we knew no one named Richard). When I played with Ken and Barbie, Ken was never Ken; he was Richard. You get the picture. In every romance novel I’ve ever read, the character of “Richard” was either the best friend or the villain. It drove me nuts! I wanted a leading man–a hero–named Richard! For once! And, so it came down to me writing one. But what about the last name? When I asked that question to myself, the answer came almost immediately. Ambrose. It sounded old-fashioned, didn’t take away from any of the good looks or sexiness of my vampire, and it just seemed to suit him.
Since its publication, I’ve sat down and read The Blazing: A Vampire Story. I have to say that I love it. I wrote a book I’d want to read and I hope you enjoy it as much. If you’re a Richard Armitage fan, you’ll find him in there in spirit. If you have no idea who he is, you’re missing out on an amazing talent. You should check out his work! You won’t be disappointed. And, for those wonderful ladies–those beautiful fellow well-wishers, I cannot imagine my life without you. That is why I’ve dedicated The Blazing to you. Thank you for your unwavering support and encouragement. I wouldn’t have found Richard–my Richard Ambrose–without you.