Wednesday, August 1, 2012

History Means Never Running Out of Stories by Carrie Vaughan

I'm happy to welcome Carrie Vaughan today...she's the author of one of my favorite werewolf series, the Kitty series.

In the Kitty series, I'm writing about a world in which vampire and werewolves and many other supernatural and magical tropes really exist. People often ask (really, they do, it isn't just a cliché): How do you keep a series fresh and interesting after so many books? Where do you get your ideas?

Well, where *don't* I get my ideas? All I have to do is think about a particular historical incident or time and imagine: what were vampires doing then? How were werewolves involved? The world opens up. For Kitty Steals the Show, I got to imagine the whole history of the city. Most of my wool- gathering didn't make it into the book, which is, of course, about current events. But when I'm writing vampire characters, I try to imagine their histories, their connections, what they were doing, and how it made them the way they are now. Those little details can make the characters richer, more real. I got to imagine London's vampires and werewolves working together to save their city during the London Blitz. Their particular talents -- moving easily in the dark, near-invulnerability to damage -- would be particularly useful during such a traumatic time. And my goodness there's a story idea buried in there, just waiting to be pulled out.

I've used folklore the same way. Once I decided that some bits of folklore -- vampires, werewolves -- were real, who was I to say that it all wasn't real? Going back, reading some of those tales and histories through a supernatural lens -- amazing things start to happen. My favorite so far, one I've written about a couple of times: the Biblical story of Daniel in the Lion's Den. What if Daniel survived because he could, you know, actually talk to the lions? What if he knew their language because he was a were- lion? Awesome. What if all the immortal gods of countless mythologies were actually vampires?

Far from running out of ideas, I have far more than I will ever use. It's wonderful.

In a "secret history" story, the outward events happen as our current understanding of history lays them out, but some other occurrence behind the scenes caused those events to happen. In fantasy, that occurrence may very well be supernatural, and isn't that fun? Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, is a secret history. The urge to make every favorite historical figure a vampire hunter becomes irresistible, isn't it? (Though Doctor Who decided that Queen Victoria was actually, secretly a werewolf. I must say I approve.)

The best part of all this? I get to do all this research, learn all this awesome history and lore, and call it work. "Reading again, Carrie?" "I'm working, leave me alone!" Next up: I'm working on a story about Nazi werewolves in the last years of World War II. Because it turns out the Nazi armed resistance to the Allied occupation of Germany really did call itself Operation Werewolf. *Of course* I have to write about that. Best. Job. Ever.

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