When trying to figure out what to write for my Tor.com blog, I thought about my life a year ago. I was a bartender, writing on a dream and slinging drinks at night. I was also finishing my MA in fiction at Rhode Island College and completing a thesis. Most of my writing was minimalist short fiction and I never imagined I would write a novel, let alone a vampire novel.
But during a moment of free writing, I tapped into a character. She had a dark past, she was British, and most surprising, she was a very old magical creature. She was also extremely angry. I didn’t know it, but I had discovered my main character, Lenah Beaudonte, and Infinite Days came to light.
So why did I write a novel about a vampire becoming human? Well...because that’s how Lenah’s voice came to me. I wanted to write about this person, this dangerous person who wanted nothing more than to atone for her horrible behavior. In my world, in my vampire lore, everything about the vampire body is dead—quite literally. The heart, the nerve endings, even the sense of smell is limited. It’s not dead, it’s limited to flesh and death. The vampire is constantly reminded that they are death givers, death seekers and night wanderers. What remains then? The mind. And even the mind goes to waste after too long. So when my novel opens, Lenah has gone crazy. Her immortality has taken her to a place where she cannot come back to reality. So what does she do? She attempts a very ancient ritual, which turns her back into a human.
But all magic comes with a price—in this case, a sacrifice—and Lenah loses her lover and soul mate, Rhode.
So how I did I come up with the vampire lore? Well, I knew Lenah had a clear conflict: she had a history of violence coupled with extreme power and now she had to re-enter the human world. I think I was also fascinated with irreversible choice—we’ve all done things in our lives we regret and the human condition means we can’t change what we’ve done in the past—we are forced to move on. This fueled the world-building in Infinite Days.
So I gave Lenah a second chance in a way that most people in the world don’t get—she gets to try to live again, but she has to mentally deal with all of the things she’s ever done. When I was writing, I wanted to make sure Lenah’s motivation for becoming human again earned its place in the novel. It wasn’t like a scientific problem; I just knew I had to raise the stakes. So, the longer a person is a vampire in Infinite Days, the more they lose their mind. The only respite from this misery is falling in love, but even THAT is a curse. The vampire is forced to love that person forever.
Humans are complex enough but when you add magic and paranormal romance to the mix, then things really get complicated.
Back to the ritual…the magical world I’ve created within Infinite Days is made even more convoluted and frightening when the ritual to become human again works. This is no spoiler, the entire book revolves around this one magical event: the ritual is a success. The events that are set in motion after the ritual is performed are irreversible and the ripple effect continues through the trilogy.
Lenah is set free by this ritual, but it only opens her up to the next trauma in her life: how do you re-learn what it means to be human? I think this question works outside of magical world building. We’ve all done something in our lives that we regret. We’ve come out of our own personal hells and moments of darkness and had a rebirth of sorts. We ask (maybe not aloud): how can we pick up the pieces of our lives, the darkest moments of our lives, and become better people?
I know Lenah asks herself this—and finds it in a young man who likes to feel. What a relief when you haven’t been able to connect your emotions to your physical being for 500 years. Justin, Lenah’s love interest, likes to make his heart beat fast and feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins. Lenah learns what it means to feel your emotions with your body with Justin. And that is just one way.
I hope I wrote much much more than a vampire story. I hope my characters shone through the magic to tell a story not only of magic but also of humanity. Because it’s all about us humans anyway, no matter what kind of wings, fur, or fangs you want to put on it.
Except, I suppose when you are a 592 year old recovering murderer…it could, just maybe, mean a little more.
Rebecca Maizel graduated from Boston University and the Rhode Island College master’s program. She teaches community college in Rhode Island and is studying to receive her MFA from Vermont College. The first book in her Vampire Queen series, Infinite Days, will be available on August 3rd.