Imagine it’s 2013 and you started writing a vampire novel 20 years ago, back before vampires were glittering across movie screens and writing diaries all over television. Back then, the only vampire writers were Bram Stoker, Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite. (And, you know, Poppy was very new on the scene, only fellow punkers and goth kids knew who she was).
You were excited about this, because a vampire story was a very untapped genre. Not much competition. Not much over-saturation in the fickle eyes of the public. Plus, even though there were few stories out there, you wouldn’t follow any conventions of existing vampire movies and novels. No werewolves. No vampire hunters. No warring vampire clans. No love triangles. No “quest for the eldest vampire” and no forlorn sissy vampires, acting all Robert Smith about their “cursed” afterlife. No, no. These would be strong, powerful, violent, angry, sensual vampires who savored the thrill of their power. This would be something different. Something unlike anything anyone else had ever done, taking the genre in a whole new direction. In fact, you’d even add in some old Celtic dark faerie spices for flavor. No one had ever done that before!
So, you start writing your epic vampire book, not realizing it’s a 900-page epic, until you reach page 300 or so.
What to do?
You decide to change the epic 900 page standalone novel into a duology. One 600 page book and one 300 page book. No problem. Everything’s cool. You release the first book, and everyone loves it. The book is lauded as awesome and it’s very well-received. Fantastic!
You kinda sorta accidentally get sidetracked for 16 years, before you finish the second book. Heck, that’s same amount of time we waited for The Phantom Menace after Return of the Jedi!
That’s what happened with my series, a duology beginning with The Gothic Rainbow in 1997 and concluding with Annwn’s Maelstrom Festival in 2013. (Don’t worry, Jar Jar Binks doesn’t make an appearance.)
Like a Barnabas Collins, buried too long and perplexed by a changed world, Annwn’s Maelstrom Festival has been unleashed into a universe fraught with a bazillion vampires. Vampire novels. Vampire movies. Vampire television shows. Vampire video games. Vampire hair care products… (okay, I’m lying about that last one…or am I?). Some authors are even adding my dark faeries into their vampire stories! Darnit! That was my idea! The point is, it’s a strange time to spin an “olde” vampire yarn. When The Gothic Rainbow was released, my biggest fans were all teenagers 15, 16, 17 years old. Now those same fans are all over 30. Long time to wait for the next installment. I feel like Peter Pan, returning to take Wendy back to Neverland, only to discover I’d been gone too long and she’d grown up.
This isn’t as self-deprecating as it may sound. Like many of you, I have a knack for ranting and bemoaning misfortunes, so, sometimes I do it just for the sole satisfaction of hearing myself blather, not because I’m convinced of my malaise. The truth of the matter is, I’m very happy about this whole thing. Life truly is what you make of it and attitude is everything. Having a long-established vampire series with a massive gap in publishing is more a blessing than a sorrow. Vampire tales are now more readily accepted and here I am, sitting on a story that, in certain circles, many people have heard about, but never knew where to find it.
The Vampire Noctuaries are now easily accessible in paperback, hardcover and ebook from every major seller you can imagine. If you’d like to procure a copy, may I suggest www.CreateSpace.com or www.Lulu.com? As a customer, it costs you the same amount, but as an author, I make a few pennies more from those fine ladies and gentlemen.
The Gothic Rainbow originally began in the 1980’s, as the title of a high fantasy story I started writing as a teenager. Had nothing whatsoever to do with vampires. The image of a “gothic rainbow” always stuck with me though and when I began on my vampire tale, I realized the flying buttresses of an ornate cathedral look like… gothic rainbows arching across the sky. Thus, the title was born by resurrecting an old one (“old one” meaning “former title” not “servant of Cthulhu”).
When I was in high school, I had begun, but never finished, about 3 novels. One of my writing idols is Ray Bradbury and when I discovered he would just sit down and pound out 400 page books with no outline, I wanted to emulate him and do the same.
I’d get stuck at about page 150 or so, and have no clue what to do next. Needless to say, doing that 3 times in a row was not encouraging to my novelist ambitions.
Finally, I decided, “Maybe I should concede to outline first.”
Around that time, I also happened to get invited to take an Honors English course at my local community college. The professor let us design our own curriculum.
Perfect! “I’m going to write a novel!”
My professor had a PhD in English and he had never written a book. Needless to say, although he approved me to go ahead and attempt a novel as my project, he was a bit skeptical and tried to warn me it wouldn’t be easy to write a whole novel over the summer. However, my rationale was, “Hey, if I have an outline plus a deadline, I’m sure to finish it!”
He was right. I was wrong.
I’m embarrassed to say, I only finished 11 pages. However, he did give me an “A” on those pages and encouraged me to keep going! That was cool.
I sent him a few letters (email was still 3 or 4 years away) asking that we get together and discuss it. I was very curious to hear what he thought. I was kind of hurt and disappointed that he totally blew me off and ignored me. He never responded, even after I wrote to him twice!
Then the school secretary found my letter and called to inform me he was dead.
Certainly a valid excuse!
I’m not using my professor’s death to market a book and tell people that the first person to read my spooky vampire novel keeled over dead, but… the first person to read my spooky vampire novel keeled over dead. I figure that’s gotta be worth some eerie street cred. Sure, the guy had heart problems and his kicking the bucket has nothing to do with reading 11 pages of my book, but why ruin the potential for a nice urban myth? Although… “my book kills English professors?” My critics could use that one against me. “The book is so bad, it killed the first PhD who read it!”
A few months after that, I dedicated myself full-time to finishing the book and in January of 1996, the entirety of The Gothic Rainbow was complete. One year after that, it was published and available for all the world to see. In 2013, Annwn’s Maelstrom Festival was released, completing the series.
The spirit and the vibe of the story is based upon all my years of clubbing at underground gothic/industrial clubs and hanging out in that scene of beautiful girls in black lipstick and a sea of Siouxsie friendships and Front 242 dancing and Cocteau Twins romances. I’ve always known that world wouldn’t appeal to a huge array of readers, because as all the fellow Skinny Puppy fans can tell you, only 1 in 500 people who read this will have ever heard of Skinny Puppy. But for those who know and love that world, these books will feel like home.
Now that the sequel is out, fans can finally experience the depth of The Vampire Noctuaries as I had always intended.
It’s not just another vampire story.
It’s for those who have lived in shadow.
It’s for those who have barely made it out alive.
It’s for the dark-hearted and the whisperers to nightmares.
You know who you are.
About Our Guest Author
Eric Muss-Barnes was raised by the 1940’s swing kid generation. In addition to his epic vampire duology, The Vampire Noctuaries, Eric has written, directed, and produced an award-nominated, critically-acclaimed short-film entitled The Unseelie Court, which was screened in numerous film festivals across the country and is available on DVD.
Eric lives and works in Hollywood where, now and then, he still finds the time to dance for hours on end at alternative and underground nightclubs, just like he did when writing his first novel, “The Gothic Rainbow: Beginning Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries”.
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