by Bella Higgin, author of Belle Morte
They’ve stalked the pages of our books for over two hundred years, and our TV screens for over a hundred. From Dracula to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from The Lost Boys to Twilight, from Carmilla to my own Belle Morte series, vampires are, arguably, the most compelling and enduring of all mythological monsters.
These days, it’s not hard to see why.
Few other fictional creatures so perfectly embody both the erotic and the horrifying. The sensual titillation of a vampire sliding his fangs into your neck could so quickly become a nightmare if he uses those same fangs to rip out your throat.
Vampires are heroes, love interests, tragically misunderstood bad boys, and villains. We’re drawn to them because of the allure of eternal youth, because they never have to truly face the unknown of death, and even when they are villains, we still want the things that they can offer us.
They are human, but not. They have the physical abilities of some superheroes, but without the tights and capes. They are us, but still more than us, unfettered by human fragility and human limitations, though whether this is actually a good thing is a question that my own vampire creations must sometimes ask.
For many of us, vampires are the ultimate bad boys. They break the rules of reality itself – and they look damn good while doing it.
Of course, it must be pointed out that this polished, sexy version of vampires bears little resemblance to their historical roots, where vampires were often hideous, bloated monsters, but it’s precisely this reinvention that has made them so popular.
Would Buffy’s opponents have been so scary if she could have taken advantage of their alleged arithmomania and distracted them with a handful of rice or seeds? Probably not.
Would Edward Cullen have bewitched a generation of teenage girls if his transformation had involved a black cat stepping over his corpse? It seems unlikely.
Would Dracula himself have become the global legend he is today if, like his folkloric origins, he didn’t have fangs? Possibly because he is still Dracula, but let’s not pretend that fangs aren’t important.
Indeed, it was Dracula who sparked my own lifelong love of vampires – although acknowledgement must be paid to John Polidori’s Lord Ruthven, who was reinventing the vampire from a repulsive monster to a charming immortal bad boy nearly eighty years before the fictional Dracula emerged from his Transylvanian castle.
My first experience of vampires was an abridged, illustrated copy of Dracula that I found in my local library. In it, one image stood out more than the rest, and funnily enough, it wasn’t the Count himself. It was Lucy Westenra. Freshly turned and snarling, bathed in moonlight in a cemetery – the juxtaposition of eerie beauty and bloody-fanged savagery transfixed me, and ignited a fascination with vampires that has never waned.
I’ve dabbled in many genres over the years, but I always come back to vampires, so it was hardly surprising that they’d be the focus of my debut novel. Belle Morte takes the things I love best about vampires, their beauty and immortality, but also their dangerousness and the fact that they really aren’t human, and combines it with our modern-day celebrity-obsessed culture.
Today’s singers, movie stars, and assorted TV personalities are almost like vampires themselves, with their beauty and almost unnatural defiance of the ageing process, so if vampires did reveal themselves to the world today, it seems like a forgone conclusion that we’d place them on the highest of celebrity pedestals, as is the case with the vampires of Belle Morte, and the self-proclaimed Vladdicts who adore them. But how much would we allow our worship of beauty and mystery to blind us to the darker side of vampire nature? What cost could we end up paying?
While few modern vampire novels can hope to achieve the longevity or influence of the classics, I hope that the Belle Morte series might inspire new readers to fall in love with vampires, just like I did with Dracula so many years ago, and that it will represent the creativity and imagination that has fuelled our centuries-long obsession. No matter how many vampire stories already exist there’s always another author around the corner, with a new take on these gothic creations – the vampire genre, like vampires themselves, is timeless and eternal.
We’ve come a long way from Max Schreck’s iconic silhouette, and even further from the mythological and folkloric roots of the creatures, and this vampire-fan can’t wait to see where we go next.
About The Author
Bella Higgin fell in love with vampire fiction after reading an illustrated copy of Dracula as a kid, so it was inevitable that her debut novel would be about vampires. She currently lives in a small English town not far from the sea, where she writes full time. Her works on Wattpad have amassed more than twelve million reads. One day she hopes to have enough money to build a TARDIS in her garden. You can follow her on Wattpad @Bella_Higgin.