How I Learned to Stop Grumbling and Love Vampires
Written by Carrie Vaughn
I’m best known for writing about werewolves. I started writing about werewolves—made the main character of my series a werewolf—because I was far more interested in them than the other usual supernatural critters. They simply hadn’t had a lot of attention paid to them in supernatural fiction, and when I was starting out, few people were writing books that featured werewolves as main characters. Plenty of people were writing about vampires; I didn’t feel a need to throw my hat into that ring. I didn’t have anything to say about vampires that hadn’t already been said. They were, in a word, kinda boring.
I didn’t want to leave vampires out of my stories entirely. I certainly wasn’t going to pass up a chance to mock them. Or at least mock the usual current vein of stereotypes about them. (No pun intended, I’m sure.) I’m writing supernatural stories, I wanted the full complement of the supernatural world at my beck and call.
But in creating my vampire characters, Alette and Roman and especially Rick, I discovered something. Something that vampires bring to the table that other supernatural creatures don’t: history. One of the first things I do when I create a vampire character is figure out their history. How old are they? Where did they come from? How does their background affect them? Have their values and outlooks changed over the decades, or centuries? That aspect, making vampires these walking repositories of “living” history, finally made vampires interesting to me. If vampires seem strange to my mortal human and werewolf characters, it isn’t so much because they’re bloodsucking monsters—it’s because they often come from entirely different places and times. They’re historical aliens.
One of Kitty’s best friends and closest allies in Denver’s supernatural underworld is the vampire Rick. Rick—Ricardo de Avila—was born in sixteenth-century Spain and came to North American as a young conquistador. He didn’t quite find what he was looking for, though, and was made a vampire instead. This is someone who was raised to be a devout Catholic in a world where Catholicism and the Spanish colonial empire were the dominant powers in Europe. These things were part of his identity. They still are, even though he lives and functions seamlessly in the modern world.
The idea that after all this time as a vampire, unable to go into churches and unable to take part in any of the rituals or symbols of Catholicism, Rick still considers himself a devout Catholic has always intrigued me. I touched on it a bit in his origin story, “Conquistador de la Noche,” found in Kitty’s Greatest Hits. But I’ve always known there was more to his story to that, and that far from being outlandish, I could turn that idea into something wider-reaching than one character’s backstory.
In Kitty Rocks the House, Rick doesn’t just get validation for his spiritual identity as a Catholic—an identity that he believes has kept him sane and ethical for five centuries. He learns of the existence of an entire order of vampire priests. He’s not alone, and that changes everything.
And this is why I love my job. Over the course of writing the eleven novels of the Kitty series, I’ve gone from not really wanting to write about vampires, to having vampires become some of the most intriguing supporting players in my books, to creating an entire order of vampire priests. And that just blows the story wide open, doesn’t it?
From the Tor/Forge April newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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