The Undying Appeal of Vampires by Erica Manfred

I fell in love with vampires in the 1980's when I read Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. The language, the romanticism, the concept of an entire vampire society who lived for centuries and were cursed with having to kill to live was enthralling. The sexiness of Rice's vampires also made them irresistible. What red-blooded American fan of paranormal romance doesn't fantasize about being ravished by Lestat?

Interview with a Jewish VampireI originally envisioned  Interview with a Jewish Vampire as a humorous essay, a funny valentine to Anne Rice's classic. I imagined the scenario of  a Jewish girl meeting a Hasidic vampire on Jdate and interviewing him. He explains that he was a rabbi turned into a vampire by Dracula, an anti-semite, who thought it was a good joke to turn a Hasidic rabbi into a vampire because he'd be forced to drink blood which isn't kosher. I mentioned the piece to a literary agent who repped a lot of paranormal novels  at a journalist's conference and she got very enthusiastic and told me to turn it into a novel. I sat on that idea for a while, too long a while as it happened. I wrote the novel with the encouragement of my writer's critique group, but by the time I finished it, the same agent refused to look at it because she'd decided she wanted to move on. She didn't want to be identified as the agent who only represents vampire novels anymore.

With my usual finger on the  pulse of the market I tried to sell  Interview with a Jewish Vampire just when editors had decided that the vampire craze was over. Never mind that my book was a parody of vampire romances with a Jewish twist, which gave it a fresh take on the genre. If the publishing world has declared vampires over,  they cannot be resuscitated except maybe by Anne Rice, who invented the genre and whose fans would buy the phone book if it had her name on it. But even Anne herself has moved on from Lestat and her other vampires. She's dabbled in angels and is now writing about werewolves, for God's sake. If even Anne, the mother of all vampires, has deserted us what hope is left? 

Is it true?  Have zombies, werewolves, angels, shapeshifters, witches, and other supernatural creatures taken over the fantasy market? I say NO, vampires are NOT over. The market for vampire fiction will never be saturated, just like the market for romantic fiction will never be saturated. As long as paranormal romance is published, fans will be fascinated with vampires. Vampires as romantic heroes are here to stay. A 2008 article in Newsweek pointed out "the idea of vampire as artistic metaphor is as deathless as the creatures themselves." 

Publishers Weekly agrees. In an article in the May 24th 2010 issue, Lucinda Dyer describes the undying popularity of vampire romance: "There's no new way to say it, except possibly en francais, the language of love. Paranormal is le dernier cri in the romance category - its hold on readers and publishers alike defies any logic or explanation. In its first year it was a phase, then it became a definite trend. Now, it's a sea change, with no evidence that the tide's waning."

There is a lot of speculation about the mass appeal of the vampire as romantic hero. My take is that women (and girls) love bad boys, and up until recently bad boys in romantic fiction have mostly just been sullen and unavailable with a hint of danger. The danger ante in our culture has been upped by the extremes of violence in television and other media - women who watch CSI are not easily scared or grossed out. Twenty-first century females are hardly delicate creatures anymore, so we're demanding our bad boys be truly dangerous. Vampires are not only bad, they're scary bad--natural born killers who are also lovable, sad and tragic. They take the bad boy archetype to a new, more thrilling, level. However to be romantic heroes, bad boys must also have a good side. Today's vampires are noble; they struggle against their impulses to kill humans. They're also good-looking, gorgeous actually, since vampirism improves not only longevity but looks, which is more than you can say for werewolves or zombies who are disgusting no matter how you spin it. Vampires don't kill people anymore, though they might take a taste of blood here and there. Stephanie Meyer's  Twilight invented the game-hunting "vegetarian" vampire. Vamps are also devoted to the women they love. In Interview With a Jewish Vampire, my vampire, Sheldon, is a member of B. A., Bloodsuckers Anonymous, which helps him control his bloodlust. He's also totally devoted to Rhoda, his human inamorata.

Vampire novels are not just for teens either. Since 1976 when Interview with a Vampire started the whole trend, vampires have been popular with grown women as well as teenagers. Anne Rice's series is emphatically not YA. The Twilight series is YA but has caught on with mothers - and grandmothers-- as well. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a classic TV series about high school kids, beloved by anyone who loves good witty writing.

Just as vampires are here to stay, so is the lighthearted, humorous version of paranormal romance. Fans love their vampires in all varieties:  mystery, romance,  funny, dangerous, lovable. I'm planning to turn Interview with a Jewish Vampire into a series, with the next installment entitled True Kosher Blood, a valentine to my favorite vampire TV series. Fans, stay tuned.



Erica Manfred is a freelance journalist, humorous essayist, and author. Her most recent book is the novel, Interview with a Jewish Vampire. She's also authored two non-fiction self-help books, including most recently He's History You're Not; Surviving Divorce After Forty. Her articles and essays have appeared in Cosmopolitan, The New York Times Magazine, Ms. , New Age Journal, Village Voice, Woman's Day, SELF, Ladies Home Journal, and many other publications. Erica lives in Woodstock, New York with her Chihuahua, Shadow, and her daughter, Freda. Brought up by Jewish parents who spoke Yiddish but avoided religion, she got her Jewish education at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation which welcomes Jews from all backgrounds, from atheist to Orthodox, to vampire. Her website is www. ericamanfred. com, or visit www. jewishvampire. com

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