We are pleased to welcome this month’s featured author, Janet Mullany. This month’s reading selection Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion is the follow up to Jane and the Damned, and we’re giving away a copy of each. Today she joins us to talk about vampires, particularly what is a historically correct vampire?
When I was first contracted to write my two books about Jane Austen as a (temporary) vamp I was all fresh faced innocence, at least as far as vampires went. I’d watched a bit of True Blood and read a few vampire books, including the ones with the Hs and already my mind was boggling. Vamps couldn’t go out in daylight, eat garlic, cross running water, watch cable TV and so on. And I kept thinking of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld vampires, and snorting with laughter.
In fact other than the biting it seemed there was precious little vampires could do and I had to fit them into the specialized world of Georgian England. I immediately jettisoned most of what I’d found out; for plot reasons I couldn’t have a gently bred vicar’s daughter running around at night all the time, but also for plot reasons vampires in my world cannot see their reflections. I decided for my own sanity that they had to be out and visible, but not in the modest world of the gentry in which Austen lived. Instead, the Damned are the darlings of the Prince of Wales (who became the Prince Regent and makes an appearance in Jane and the Damned), and the fast set of the ton. I also kept the convention that being bitten is intensely pleasurable and that vampires are highly desirable creatures for whom sex and feeding are synonymous.
But they had to sound right. The term fangs didn’t exist until later in the century so I had to come up with my own vocabulary. Since the fashionable liked to employ French terms—enceinte for pregnant, on dit for gossip—I invented en sanglant for visible fangs; the fact that it’s in French implies it’s a condition that requires a certain delicacy. You wouldn’t allow yourself to become en sanglant unless it was a post-dinner free for all or you wanted to establish supremacy. I also figured out fairly quickly that the Damned, as these vampires are known, are considered wicked and blasphemous, and as further provocation they create—not make—new vampires. Thus the maker is a Creator, and also usually serves as Bearleader, the term given to tutors who had to accompany young gentlemen on the Grand Tour and prevent them getting into trouble. There’s a great emphasis on manners and polite behavior. These aristocratic vamps are really big on etiquette—who dines on whom (no feeding here! Far too vulgar), when to display a state of en sanglant, and so on. As Jane says, in this excerpt, it’s rather like negotiating the rules at a provincial assembly.
I had a lot of fun making—or creating!—my historically correct vampires and if you’ve read Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, you’ll know that in my afterword I posited the theory that these Regency vampires were not welcome in Victorian England and left. Some sought adventure in the Gold Rush and the westward expansion in America. Where do you think they went and what sort of professions do you think they pursued?