Okay, so if you haven’t heard of the Twilight franchise by now, you’ve either been dwelling under a rock or sleeping in a coffin. Vampire novels, movies, and tie-ins have exploded. Some say the vampire trend is dead (or undead, if you’ll forgive the pun).
But vampires have fascinated numerous cultures for thousands of years—long before Dracula saw the light of day (groan). And there are some folks, like myself, who will read/watch/drool over anything vampish.
But how can you make your vampire novel different from all the others on the shelves? Read on to see what I did to make my vampire romance, House of Cards, stand out.
Make your vampires more than just vampires
When I set out to write this book, I knew I wanted my vampires to be more than just strong, beautiful, bloodsucking immortals. I wanted to give them histories. Personalities. They were human beings before they were supernatural creatures. Naturally, part of that humanity would carry over and create motivations for their present-day behavior.
I think a lot of paranormal books focus more on the “para” than the “normal.” But take away the supernatural abilities, and what should you have left? The complex character interaction that fuels any compelling novel.
So that’s what I really strove for in House of Cards. My male lead, Lucas, is a vampire. But he’s also much more than that. He’s an artist. He was part of a close family. He is a caring, frustrated, sensitive soul. It’s these characteristics that draw the female, human lead (Sherry) to him. They are also what helps save her life—not his “vampire” abilities. Ultimately, they’re why she falls in love with him.
Make the story about more than just vampires
Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. Boy or girl turns out to be a vampire. We’ve all seen this before. Some vampire novels are just regular love stories with blood-guzzling thrown in.
But I think the best books are ones with deeper, layered meaning. Interview With the Vampire wasn’t just about an eighteenth-century plantation owner who gets vamped. It’s about love, hopelessness, and humanity’s place in the universe, among other things.
While never explicitly addressed, reading about these issues lets us walk away from the book with the notion we’ve really felt or thought on a deeper level. Weave them in, and the novel feels weighty, substantive. Leave them out, and the story seems trite.
In House of Cards, Sherry and Lucas both suffer significant losses before they even meet. Both are prevented from living their lives to the fullest by an unnerving villain known as “The Master.” In Sherry’s case, even surviving is not guaranteed.
So I tried to address how we cope with death, futility, and expressing our true selves in the world. Odds are, readers have dealt with some—or all—of these issues themselves.
Reverse stereotypes and give readers the unexpected
I don’t mean to criticize the many excellent vampire novels out there. But I see a lot of them falling into the same pattern: 300 pages of boy-rescues-girl. Now, there’s nothing wrong with an old-fashioned love story. But it seems that no matter how strong, how skilled, or how powerful the girl, it’s always up to the boy (usually a vampire) to save her in the end.
Personally, I’d like to see a little more of the kick-ass heroine in these vampire books. This was partly my idea when I developed Sherry’s character. Timid and terrified at first (as she should be—she’s trapped by serial killers), she gains power and strength as the novel progresses.