Vampires and the wild West. Not normally two things you hear together. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go together. In fact sometimes the most unusual combinations are the most fun to write…and to read.
Sometimes when I write stories I only get brief hints to begin with of how the story will unfold. Back in 1998 I had the idea for these three brothers who were involved with three supernatural women. I knew the eldest was a law man, the middle one an attorney and the youngest an outlaw and that they were all named after their father’s favorite guns – Winchester, Remington and Colt. What I didn’t know was what held them together or why they would work with these women. I put the series idea away and kept writing.
Fast forward ten years, after a period of living in Arizona for nearly a decade then moving to Washington, and I was now writing contemporary paranormal stories for several different publishers. I kept finding myself wanting to go back to my historical writing roots. That’s when it all kind of pulled together. They were supernatural hunters. But in order to be able to hunt supernaturals, you’d need something than just your average weapons, and I couldn’t see it being merely magical. My love of Victoriana sort of merged with my paranormal writing and out of that grinder came my steampunk heroes, ready to battle Darkin and save the world in the wild west.
You know we don’t give enough credit to the Victorians for our current love of all things paranormal, but it really was that era that brought creatures of the night out into mainstream society. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to surge of interest in Egyptology (and hence mummies) the 1800s really laid down the foundation for our fascination with monsters.
The Victorians loved the supernatural. It was a period of time where Spiritualism (the contacting of the dead by the living) was rampant, as was fortune telling, and séances. This is when you found stories of fairy sightings being reported in daily newspapers or fictional accounts of airships being seen hovering over the city reported as front page fact (thanks to authors like Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe). This was paired with the newly emerging sciences of cryptobiology, cryptozoology and Egyptology. The blend of fact and fiction, mysticism and science was at its zenith.
I suppose that’s part of the reason why I enjoy writing paranormal steampunk romance. I know—a mash up if there ever was one—but it really all does work together. What we consider Frankenstein, hard-core steampunk fans would consider a construct (revivified human body). All I had to do was add in my Jackson brothers, who hunt down Darkin (aka supernatural beings).
In The Legend Chronicles my Jackson brothers are Hunters in the wilds of the America west. It’s an age of cowboys, rustlers, miners and stage coaches. But the world is getting smaller too. Telegraphs and airships, the use of electricity and the development of science is all happening and converging during the late 1800s. So while the Jackson brothers may use old-fashioned know how when it comes down to hunting demons, vampires, ghosts or skinwalkers, they often have a few gizmos courtesy of their intrepid inventor friend, Marley Turlock.
Writing paranormal steampunk means I get a chance to play in that Victorian era, when monsters were something fresh, exciting and new to the masses. While my brothers are well-versed in Hunting, average citizens still see these monsters as merely fictional creations by the writers of the day. They don’t know that vampires are real.
Which puts my eldest brother, Winchester, in a tough spot in The Slayer. You see, he’s given up hunting and is trying his best to lead a normal life as sheriff of Bodie, California. But when a vampire contessa from the royal court of Transylvania arrives, asking for his help to recover a stolen piece of the Book of Legend (the compendium of all Hunter knowledge handed down generation to generation) he can’t really say no. The world depends on him and his brothers recovering the scattered pieces and reuniting the Book to defeat an even bigger threat to our world.
To be perfectly fair, I put all my Jackson brothers in a tight spot, forcing them to rely on gorgeous Darkin (a succubus, a vampiress and a shapeshifting thief) in order to accomplish their goals. What better way to torture a character than to make him fall for the thing he trusts least in the world?
And in Winchester’s case the torture is doubly so, because out of the brothers he’s the one who’s been ingrained the longest and was expected to be the best Hunter by his father. (Being a first born will do that to you.) Only when he realized how hunting was killing off everything and everyone he loved did he want to walk away and just be normal. So he’s been raised to not just hate vampires, but to kill them without compunction or thought. A natural instinct bred into him. So when he sees the humanity inside of the Lady Drossenburg, his whole notion of what is black and white, right and wrong, begin to shift.
And to be honest, she’s as much a fish out of water in the wilds of the untamed American west as he is a rough and tumble territory sheriff in the highest levels of European society. Both have something to prove and neither can just flat out right accept the other. You see, Hunters are responsible for the death of everyone Lady Drossenburg has ever loved. Her husband, her mother and father, brothers and sisters, even her own children. It’s not something she can easily overlook either. But Winn has something more powerful and elemental about him that marks him as different from the European Hunters she’s known. He’s honest to a fault, calls things as he sees them and friend or foe will be level with her. And that is something she can respect and trust.
So yes, while vampires in the wild west, sounds like an odd combination when you first hear it, really this is a story of people from two opposing societies forced to work together for a common good. It’s a story set in an era when the supernatural was all the rage and the idea of things like vampires, werewolves or constructed creations like Frankenstein and the wonders and possibilities of science were circulating in society.
And just like the Victorians, my stories get to be a blend of supernatural and plausible science side by side, with a dash of romance and generous dollop of action and adventure thrown in. I really do believe that our love affair with monsters started with the Victorians. Seriously, can you imagine how Dracula would have looked without the benefit of a great cape? Simply dreadful. It wouldn’t have had nearly the impact if he were in slouching, baggy jeans and a hoodie. The Victorians imparted our impression of monsters with style and grace, flair and excitement. Without them, would our vampires and demons, witches and werewolves still have the same appeal?
For a taste of paranormal and steampunk I suggest you consider either visiting with me and several of the other authors into steampunk at Authors After Dark in New Orleans, or going to Steamcon IV (www.steamcon.org) in the Seattle area, Oct. 26-28 (yes, Halloween weekend). Their theme this year is…take a wild guess….Victorian Monsters. You can also find out about all kinds of steampunk events happening world wide by going to http://www.airshipambassador.
com/aa-Events.html. Bring your top hat, and your fangs. I can’t wait!
Theresa Meyers is giving away autographed copies of Advanced Reader Copies for both The Hunter and The Slayer along with a beautiful antique china tea cup (may vary from the photo) and lovely Bliss chocolates.
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