What I said the other day—about you need to actually spend some time around other people in order to be a better writer—was proven true today. My friend Carla is never going to want to go on another long road trip with me again, because I talked about my book for a couple of hours on the way to our event, and again on the way back home today (although I honestly tried to keep it to a minimum today). But she apparently didn’t zone completely out, because when I said one benefit to working with vampires is that I can put one character in many different time periods (which, as a history major, excites me to no end), she told me I should do one from the Civil War period.
And then, I was suddenly inspired. Marie, my French-born vampire, lived in Charleston throughout the Civil War, and actually managed to save her house when the Yankees came through, burning everyone else out. Of course, being a vampire makes it easy for her to convince people to leave her alone. So I already have a character primed and ready to appear in that time period. And I like the idea of showing Marie then, because Marie became a vampire in the late 1700’s. My first series of books shows Kalyn from age 16 onwards. Alice’s story will start when she is Accepted at age 16. Rose’s story starts when she first meets her future husband, James, when she is 15. Joshua’s story will start when he is first introduced to vampires, when he’s about 20. All of the other stories have a definite beginning: an entrance into the world of vampires. Marie during the time of the Civil War gives me the chance to tell a story about the main character which starts in the middle of her life, not at the beginning.
Carla also brought up the idea of a black man/slave turned into a vampire. That could make for an interesting story line. Marie’s family—who were not vampires or Yaechahre—owned a plantation, which was run by a number of slaves. Where does Marie stand with that? For that matter, where does her family stand with it? Is it a necessary evil? Would they prefer to hire freemen to work for them, but are afraid to because the culture around them doesn’t support it? Once Marie takes over the plantation for herself, does she and the other vampires that join her use the slaves for blood? (They can’t make them Yaechahre, because, by law, Yaechahre are not the physical property of vampires.)
I imagine Marie to be a fairly sexually-liberated woman; would she have any problem about having a sexual relationship with a black man? Probably not. What if she turned her lover? And what if he eventually came to resent her for the choices she made on slavery? As a slave, he wouldn’t have the rights that a Yaechahre has, even though he’d be serving in the same capacity. And what if he resents that she turned him? Maybe he felt pressured, or now that he’s been free and the culture has changed more, he looks back on it and thinks that Marie was using him? Children and their sires are connected mentally for life; what if they both have to live with that connection, although they are estranged?
I think you could get into all sorts of interesting questions—both from a purely fictional point of view, as well as from a historical “what-if”—with that kind of scenario. And the Civil War was one of my early historical interests, not to mention that my husband used to do Civil War re-enacting and research, and my mother-in-law is considered an expert on the Civil War in East Tennessee (and she is knowledgeable in other areas), so research on the subject—and people to check me for historical accuracy—should be easily accomplished.