It is a given that whatever we write for commercial purposes, whether a novel or a jingle, the words have to present an original concept. I certainly do not pretend to be a font of originality – but it really hacks me off when a publisher or an agent decides that a certain theme is “done.” They announce they are no longer interested in manuscripts on this topic or that topic, the reason being that is ‘overdone” or the market is “saturated.”
I think this decision is more a figment of the unimaginative publisher/agent’s mind than a market reality. Take vampires as a classic example. Surely, after Bram Stoker revivals, Smith’s Vampire Diaries and Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Queen of the Damned, there is little else to be written. Well…no.
Originality in fiction constantly produces “Oh! I wish I’d thought of that.” Then again, originality in REALITY is never hard to find given a little research. My own insane curiosity has led me into some many dark corners of humanity and history. Each little fact, tale, legend gets sorted into the myriad pigeonholes of the mind – to emerge as complete stories in dreams or on paper. Vampires are no exception – the reality is that history is stuffed with very original and very horrific vampire stories that the ‘market place’ for such nightmares has yet to see or read (‘Vampyre’ by the way is an older version of the word – I like older).
Two examples serve to illustrate and the first follows. The turn of the nineteenth century was a time when exploration of the occult was a very accepted pursuit of the intelligentsia (how many smart people today have explored Manley P. Hall’s The Big Book?). The result was a fluorescence of secret societies, of occult explorations and even gatherings of practitioners from the novice to theIpsissimusin such centers of hidden knowledge such as pre-war Vienna. On one occasion there was gathering of the magi (Yep – that’s the title of the novel I am writing about the event) under the auspices of one particular Austrian Magician. Occultists from all over Europe attended. Among them was one Englishman, an engineer by profession. During the event he breakfasted at a famous at a sidewalk restaurant with a fellow Hermetician and they discussed current events. A paragraph in the City’s major newspaper caught their attention. Peasants had burned a small castle in Transylvania after claiming that the recently dead owner had risen from the grave to feast upon the blood of children from a nearby village.
The English engineer immediately recognized the village and the castle. A few years before he had been employed to build a road through this very area. He heard stories of hauntings at the castle – and, given his interest in the occult, he took time away from the road building to visit it. He told a remarkable story about a haunted portrait painted by a famous Viennese artist. He and several companions stayed the night in the nearby village. According to the engineer, that night the youngest of them received a visit in his locked bedroom – by the woman in the portrait.
The details of the story might well be considered as highly embellished. I thought so. I felt a little research would soon dispel the tale as an overly colorful rendition of a somewhat mundane event. I discovered that there had indeed been a well-documented meeting of international occultists in Vienna. Using the date of the event I searched the Viennese newspapers. I found the paragraph.
I learned that the engineer was the editor of a well-known occult magazine published in England at the turn of the century. I checked copies of the publication for the months following the meeting in Vienna. Another confirmation – there was an article about the portrait. Better yet, there was also a photograph! The portrait was clearly in the style of a very famous artist in Vienna (so much so that Hitler and Goering stole examples of his work). According to the artist’s history, his last portrait was of a woman from Transylvania – after which he went completely mad!
The best fiction is, in my opinion, that which is based mainly in truth. I wrote “A Portrait of Elga” based on the research I had done and, as you can well imagine, I really did not have to invent much to create a vampyre story that I guarantee you have not read elsewhere. Can I sell “A Portrait of Elga” – is there room for one more vampire story?