It is now almost exactly four years since Suzie met Cleo in a London nightclub, and to mark that anniversary I have, this week, dropped the price of Suzie and the Monsters – a fairytale of blood, sex and inhumanity… – which, if nothing else, gives me a great excuse to talk about Suzie and her novel.
Suzie and the Monsters started as an attempt at vampire erotica while stuck bored in a hotel room in March, 2012. I expected to give up very quickly. I have, over the years, spent altogether too much time thinking about vampires, and sometimes I feel like a grumpy old man complaining about all these newfangled inventions, but I’m not really. It’s true that I’m a lot more flexible in my enjoyment of vampires in film and television, but even there I want the vampires to be more than blood-drinking zombies. I’ve watched and enjoyed some extremely low-budget nonsense over the years, while glossier stuff can be tedious.
It was impossible for me to write a vampire story and not take it seriously. What I wanted was a female vampire who didn’t have amazing superhuman powers because I genuinely believe that the more powerful the vampire the less human (and less interesting) the character. Also, I wanted her to drink blood from the source – and not rely on blood substitutes! And not have an urban fantasy environment providing a whole service industry to take care of all the day-to-day details of paranormality.
Suzie is a vampire, one who is all alone and without great superpowers. She looks human but isn’t, but nor is she a walking corpse (or shade) with an illusory humanity. She drinks wine and tea, although they’re no substitute for what she really needs. She loves the smell of coffee, enjoys curling up with a good book, finds happiness through dance, and has a large collection of films and music…
When I was growing up, vampires were always dangerous, bloody and sexy, at once wonderful and terrifying. There was, of course, a huge amount of sexploitation influencing that, and vampire stories have always been littered with negative tropes, predictable clichés, absurd plots and entirely unnecessary sex. The past twenty years have seen the urban fantasy and romance genres give birth to paranormal romance in which valiant heroes are no longer merely handsome and rich but also imbued with phenomenal supernatural powers. As escapism, it’s all harmless fun – or mostly harmless, anyway – but as story it’s utterly disconnected from reality.
I have always been drawn to stories of vampires and assassins – especially, but not exclusively, female vampires and assassins – and the common theme is a hero who is also a killer. In a world of black and white / dark and light / good and evil, the vampire and the assassin must be both. But whereas an assassin can step into the light, the vampire can never escape the dark. Worse, the vampire is immortal, and the struggle to resist the dark has no end.
‘My husband liked to make me kill, and I don’t think a month went by without a life taken. I quickly lost count. Forty years? Could easily have been five hundred people, mostly young women, sacrificed for my lust.
‘Travelling around sixteenth century Europe may sound romantic, but mostly all I can remember now is blood, death and hatred. Later on, free from my husband, the killing didn’t stop, but it was killing for self-defence, or for food, or vengeance. There was always a reason for it. I made a determined effort not to kill unnecessarily, but…’
I shrug. ‘Thousands have died at my hands. What right do I have to judge human predators? What right do I have to exist?’
How much blood must a vampire take before the light is forever out of reach? How many lives must be taken? How many crimes must be committed against humanity, before the vampire passes beyond forgiveness?
Suzie and the Monsters poses this question. Suzie may well be beyond forgiveness, though she aches for it. But all the suffering she has caused, and all the suffering she has endured, are nothing compared to the suffering she has witnessed – suffering inflicted by humans on humans. And sometimes it takes one monster to kill another…