Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sense of Family

Narain's loyalty to his family plays a big part throughout the series. He's surrounded himself with people who become his family: Sophie, Dom, Cassie in some respects the staff of his restaurant who he treats like family (though he has yet to reveal his secret to them). Perhaps all to replace the family he's lost when he left to fight in the fields of France so many decades before.

Narain was 25 when he left for the First World War. He was the oldest of four children which included Aziz who was 13 in 1916. Aziz could be petulant and headstrong. The brothers shared a resemblance in looks but not one in temperament as Aziz felt a sense of rivalry with an older brother who seemed much more in sync with their beloved father. Zaheer, 10, was the quiet brother. The compassionate child. The brother always ready, even at so young an age, to offer a comforting word. The one often breaking up disagreements between his older brothers. Then there was Ujaali, age 5 when Narain left, the light in everyone's hearts. As headstrong as Aziz yet sharing the compassionate trait that ran so strong in her brother Zaheer.

When news of Narain's death reached the family after he promised Ujaali he'd return, Ujaali was inconsolable for days. Zaheer cried himself to sleep all night but did his best during the day to put on a brave face for his parents who were dealing with their own loss.

Aziz went off on his own to deal with his grief for while he and Narain had had their differences, there was love there as well. Sometimes his grief would lead him to look for trouble as if a street brawl could take his mind from the loss. That sense of directionless grew, leaving his parents to wonder what would become of their second son.

After Narain became a vampire and, thanks to meeting Alphonse Reno, he learned to understand the condition better. Alphonse was able to convince Narain to return to India. If Narain could sit down with his family, explain what had happened, what he'd become, help them understand the condition the way he did, perhaps they would accept him.

Alphonse yearned to be reunited with his son and didn't care what his son had become. Would the joy of Narain's return help his family look past what he now was?

The question was never answered.

Narain traveled back to India and returned to his village but couldn't bring himself to take the final step of meeting his family. The thought of the looks on their faces should the horror over what he told them be too much held him back.

And it was a chance meeting with Aziz in his hotel room that sealed his decision. Aziz, now not very much younger than Narain had been when he left, had heard that his brother's look-a-like had been spotted in town and he came to investigate. But his demeanor when they met was cold, a bit calculating, as he told Narain that the family had grieved for him. He should remain dead to them. It had been too long.

Narian's own cowardice had already made up his mind. This stunning hardness on the part of his brother only confirmed the correctness of his decision.

And so he left (though this meeting would figure in later novels), returning to Europe but not to Aphonse. he didn't have the heart to return having failed in his task. Narain wrote to Alphonse every so often, letters full of positive news and contentment. All lies, for Narain's life upon return to France became a life of wandering and uncertainty as he fought to do that which he had to do to survive, all the while fearful of passing the condition on as it had been done to him. He roamed town by night, sleeping in caves or crypts during the day, uncertain in how to turn things around.

It ws during his wandering at his lowest point in life that Narain met Sophie (a meeting described in the second book), the daughter of millionaire industrialist Harrison Grayson. She and her father allowed him into their lives and after the father had died and and Germany invaded France, Narain and Sophie opened their mansion to war orphans. It was Sophie's suggestion but Narian agreed, the couple somehow making it work while hiding what Narain was from the children. To them, he was simply curious "Uncle" who appeared to interact with them as soon as the light faded. Playing with them, giving them cooking lessons.

After the war, when Sophie and Narain made their way to Chicago they kept the mansion open as a school for children from around the world. In the meantime, Narain collected what family he could in Chicago. His staff, who, in a business with high turnover, often stayed on at the restaurant because of the way he treated them. Dom who became like a brother. Cassie, his new love once Sophie had gone.

To Some he revealed his secret, the secret he couldn't bring himself to reveal to his family in India. To some he he didn't. But those who received Narain's trust and loyalty received the sort of loyalty he would have showed his family from so long ago had he found the courage to return to them. Decades later their loss occasionally hits him. 

In To Touch the Sun it's revealed that he's been searching for Ujaali, the one person from his immediate family who might still be alive. He isn't sure if he simply wants to know if she lives or if he would take the next step if she does and go to her.

The biggest regret in his life was when Narain promised his weeping sister upon his departure from India that he would return to her and he never did. It's a promise that haunts him through the decades that follow.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Vampirism as a Disease

In the novel The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, the cause of vampirism is a pathogen that once set loose begins a pandemic. Anyone bitten by someone suffering from the disease becomes infected and carriers of the disease themselves.

The Strain is one of the creepiest novels ever written. A highly engrossing read.

When I decided to write about a vampire I knew I had to set up some ground rules (something every author whose written about vampires has done). I liked some of the old standbys (the need for blood to survive, toxic affects of sunlight, immortality), but as the authors of The Strain did, I wanted to jettison the whole metaphysical aspect of it: Vampirism caused by black magic, evil spirits, etc. Which is fine for certain novels but didn't really work for mine. I wanted--well a mundane explanation. So I turned to science (albeit a fantastical version).

It has been done before, perhaps the best by Richard Matheson who wrote I Am Legend, offering a pathogen carried on the wind to explain the vampire plague, and scientific explanations for old legends. A vampire must be staked, for example, and the stake remain in the wound because withdrawing the stake will allow the tissue to knit back together before the vampire dies. A vampire can't look at his own reflection because the affect of the illness messes with his diseased mind so much that the reflection frightens him. The illness has also made vampires allergic to certain properties in garlic.

It remains one of my favorite vampire novels.

Unlike Legend or The Strain (which I read after writing my first novel) I didn't want an illness that wasn't naturally regulated. The hero in I Am Legend becomes legend because he is the last uninfected human on Earth. Anyone else not outright killed by vampires is infected and becomes a vampire. The same with The Strain.

I wanted to afford my vampires the option to not need to kill their host. As long as they're of healthy minds and bodies they can control themselves and take only what's needed. It goes back to what I've written about moral compasses. Those who have no compunction about hurting people will probably have no problem killing the host. Those with higher morals before conversion will do what they need to survive but try not to hurt the host.

But that can only be done if the infection can't be spread. In essence, when it came to vampires, I needed two possibilities: A human that could be infected and one that couldn't. There had to be something in the physiology of the future vampires that allowed the disease in and an immunity in the nonvampire that conquered the disease.

And so begat the vampire gene. Explained as a gene that might have survived on from prehistoric times, those with the gene are susceptible to the disease. If a vampire bites someone without the gene, the disease dies within their system.

This enabled me to do a controlled "passing on" of vampirism, otherwise, it would indeed turn into a raging pandemic and the world would be peopled with vampires (even Matheson, knowing he needed at least one normal human alive for the story, gave that human an immunity to the plague turning everyone else into vampires). Other authors have tackled this problem of creating more vampires using other devices coming up with elaborate ways to pass on the condition. A certain number of bites before the host is turned. In some, vampirism is considered a gift bestowed carefully upon someone (anyone not allowed this immortality is drained to death or killed in some other fashion). An answered prayer from an evil deity.

I didn't want to go that route to explain why everyone hasn't turned because I wanted to use the possibility as a dramatic device.

Narain has feeding issues, partly because of his attitude toward what he's become. When he had Sophie to feed on it was easier. But prior to her and after, feeding was difficult not only because he felt like a thief but because he was afraid of passing the disease on. Not everyone he fed on succumbed to it. But some would. Some whose lives would altered forever. As his was. And if he passed the condition on to someone dangerous? While it had its inconveniences it also left him a nearly indestructible being. Someone without conscious possessing that power--well the idea disturbed him greatly. 

So it helped me give Narain one more hurdle in the story that he'd have to navigate. It's a hurdle that it takes a couple of books for him to navigate as Sophie's passing makes him realize just how complacent he's become about what he is.

It has also helped me come up with other types of vampires with which to people my stories. While most people with the gene are affected in the same way, there are those who may convert to vampirism with a slightly different result (the most striking example being those who become feral and those sentient). And as in novel four, some might not convert completely, yet have a connection to vampires after being attacked none the less.

It's opened up a variety of possibilities for me which I hope will be revealed in a long and successful series of novels.