“Cedarcrest Sanctum” is the fictional rest home described in The Matriarch vampire horror thriller novel series. There are benefits to living with an immortal, especially when you have nowhere else to go.
25 Years In The Making
Thanks to NaNoWriMo back in 2012, one of the first concepts I ever had as a writer finally received the attention it deserved and has since become a book series — an idea I originated in 1987.
Back in my college days, I had an idea about a supernatural happening in the rural backwoods of West Virginia, specifically located in and around the college I went to school. A “suitcase college” is what they called it then, where no one stayed on weekends and the campus became a ghost town. It was about thirty miles to the nearest McDonald’s by rural highway, and you needed a buddy with a car if you wanted to make a cheeseburger run.
This is the kind of place that not everyone knows about (or wants to), where communication is limited and things can happen that don’t reach the public stage of awareness. Away from the wifi-connected bright lights and cell-towered big city, this is where modern monsters and the misunderstood might retreat to, a place where they could be left alone or, in those rare cases, operate uninhibited. It’s not backwards, just behind. The Mountain State is a wild, wonderful place to set something sinister in.
The Idea for the Story
The Matriarch was an attempt to explore the horror and loneliness of being turned into a monster and having to survive in modern society. It was my intent to remove the convenient crutches meant to keep my heroes heroic and force them to make dire choices while clinging to their fragile humanity. I chose the college I went to when I wrote the original story as the setting, integrating not only key locations and the school but a local ghost legend that fit in perfectly with my antagonists.
I wrote two original drafts back in my college days, neither of which I was happy with until I picked them up and started anew almost twenty-five years later. My initial problem over the original idea was the wrong main character: a young man endured watching his girlfriend be reborn and pull away from him, both out of fear of harming him and but specifically because she grew beyond him in a way he wasn’t willing to embrace — or, more specifically, BE embraced. In the new draft, the girlfriend became the protagonist and the young man was “re-purposed” — some of you already know the punchline to this inside joke.
To create the necessary alienation between her old life and new, I also put my protagonist between two immortal former lovers hellbent on destroying one another, extreme examples of the ways the protagonist could end up. The final piece of the corrected storyline was the inclusion of a mortal minion to the “good” immortal; originally a throwaway character, he grounded the supernatural elements by providing a lifeline for the protagonist back to her slipping humanity. I burned through the new draft in twenty-one days and finally found the story I had been looking for.
I love these creatures of the night because they are us and yet they are not us. The most evil forsake their humanity while the noble struggle to retain it, but the idea of becoming the monster — by choice or by fate — and the need to prey on the very thing it once was in order to survive is a very human story: the stuff of legend.
Vampires fascinate me more than they frighten me. That isn’t to say they can’t be monstrous or downright horrific — all elements I’ve put into my writing — but the idea of a thinking and feeling monster has always been appealing. Stories teach us that, even as judge/jury/executioner, vampires who survive the ages aren’t the rampaging destroy-the-world types but are instead immortals who remember and hold onto their humanity, appreciating such compassion when they find it in others. Of course, it’s hard not to smile when a truly horrible person runs afoul of the underfed undead.
In classic tales, vampires aren’t born; they’re made. As such, I believe they should always carry a spark of humanity, a hint of regret, and a secret self-loathing of what they have become no matter how completely they have embraced their dark incarnation. Whether they actively sought out their fate or had it inflicted upon them, I see this “punishment” as part of the deal: if they get to live forever, their suffering should be equally eternal. Any trusted human in the company of a “good” vampire is still going to be (and SHOULD be) wary of WHAT they are at all times, good intentions be damned. I also love the notion that bored vampires create drama even at their own peril to endure the centuries.
A true vampire should be royalty itself and treated as such; I believe this is one of the reasons Bram Stoker’s title character remains so popular today. A modern vampire should be like a James Bond super-villain: lairs and minions and secrets and plans. This was the template for my own bloodsuckers, and a castle in the countryside (even if it isn’t recognized as such) is so much cooler than the penthouse of a skyscraper. My “vampire nation” is small yet powerful self-regulating population capable of both good and evil.
I’ve grown tired of stories about inner city vampire wars against other paranormals that paint the vampire as foot soldiers. How many stories can we tell where “main character vampire” is Satan’s concubine and attacking one another with MAC-10s, black helicopters, and snowmobiles? I’m not sure when Ian Fleming started writing vampire fiction, but shouldn’t vampires be giving the orders or leading the attack? If a vampire has come for you personally and not just for a nip, you should be both flattered and very, very afraid.
I see vampires as secret rulers, the power behind thrones and governments. I sought Dracula-level Über-vamps for my own novel, alphas that don’t put up with rivals or need to swear fealty to some Italian governing committee. Vampires shouldn’t run in packs; their paranoia of one another alone should prevent that. I think there is also an inherent loneliness to being a vampire, that you can’t trust your own kind nor does your former kind trust you: beautiful, powerful, immortal and alone.
Vampires are kings and queens of the night: the ruling class of the darkness.