My fascination with vampires began when I learned my mother had Bela Lugosi’s autograph. My great grandparents owned a hair salon in Manhattan and Bela Lugosi had been just one of their famous clients.
One day he’d met my mother as she played at the shop and had signed the back of the photograph of my mother, that my great grandmother kept on her station. From the first time I saw that signature, I was hooked.
As a child of the 80s, I had some of the best movie vampires to lust for. There was Jason Patric as Michael in The Lost Boys (1987) and Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige in the original Fright Night (1985).
Michael and Jerry both exemplified the kind of vampire I would later create in my writing. Both were forced by circumstance to be monsters but given the choice, neither would have lived their lives of blood and death that is a vampire’s destiny.
Both Jerry and Michael had something else in common with other vampires I’ve come to adore over the years. Despite their blood-soaked lives, they were still able to love. It is, in fact, the ability to love and the ferocity with which vampires love or are loved by those around them, that makes these creatures so appealing to the mere humans who read the books and watch the movies featuring these denizens of death.
In Interview with the Vampire, Louis’s desire to escape the pain the loss of his wife and child brought to him led him straight into Lestat’s arms. It was in those arms where Louis learned of Lestat’s own need for love.
Lestat’s existence consisted of little more than his quest for love and connection—in between feedings, of course. Lestat’s quest for love made him seek out not only Louis, but Claudia as well. And it was his love for them both that brought his terrible vengeance when he felt betrayed by them both.
Even the farcical Once Bitten (1985) proved that the love of others could be enough to break through the draw of eternal life and beautiful death in the form of a vampire. In both Once Bitten and The Lost Boys, if there had been no human willing to fight for the life of the vampire, the vampire would have been doomed to an eternity of solitude and servitude.
Bella’s weakness and constant need of rescue might have been enough to make me hate her, but it was her willingness to not only ask for, but expect to be granted immortality no matter what effect that request would have on the heart and soul of the man she supposedly loved more than life itself.
That level of selfishness could not be borne and so Mairin came and made herself known to me.
It began as a whisper in the night. What if the heroine could be strong enough to save others? What if the heroine loved others more than she loved herself? What if it were her choice to grow old beside the never-changing man who loved her, rather than be concerned with what society might think of such an old woman with the young man Mathias would always remain?
What would readers think of that kind of character? To my immeasurable joy, readers have loved Mairin and her strength. They might grind their teeth as Mathias does when her strength morphs into stubbornness, but they always cheer when Mairin is in the thick of the action rather than hiding behind the vampires and werepanthers who attempt to protect her.
Mairin is the strength at the center of her family. Rather than the selfish damsel in distress we have come to see so often in young adult fiction, and especially in vampire fiction, Mairin stands up for herself and her sister. She protects them both not only from the supernatural, but also from the mundane dangers of being teenagers living on the outside of the “cool crowd.”
As for becoming immortal, Mairin has no interest in it. She knows what it would mean to Mathias should she ask him to test his control and change her only to find he lacked the resolve to stop and keep from draining her. She understands what her death would mean to him and she refuses to ask him to take her life.
Mathias is the gentleman of both my own dreams as well as Mairin’s. Where Mairin’s prophetic dreams bring her the hidden truth of who and what Mathias really is, Mathias and Mairin both dwelt in my own dreams during the months that Mourning Sun went from a stand-alone statement to a series which continues to move toward an ending I don’t think my readers have yet seen coming.
Mairin and Mathias are both the best and worst of who they could be in our world. Mairin takes the weight of the world on her shoulders in an attempt to save everyone from the supernatural beasts who follow her and her family. She puts herself in harm’s way whenever she believes doing so will save those she loves.
Mathias believes in being the gentleman and comes from a time when men acted in the best interests of the women they loved, no matter how the women might feel about the situation. These two clash on nearly every level but one—love.
Their love, not only for one another, but for the families affected by their lives, is what keeps them fighting as the supernatural foes grow more powerful. It is love that allows even the family members who are genetically opposed to vampires to trust Mairin’s judgment and Mathias’ motives. It is love that will, in the end, save them all.
Love may not have been the reason I first became enraptured of vampires, but it is definitely the reason I have stayed with them for as long as I have. It is my most fervent hope that anyone who reads Mourning Sun will find themselves falling in love with each turn of the page.
Shari Richardson holds a master’s degree in English Education and has spent much of her life teaching students the joy of reading and writing. Her love of writing began when she was in elementary school and has carried through her entire adult life. She is the author of the Highland Home series which currently includes Mourning Sun, Captured Sun, Seven Days, Banished Sun and Nine Lives. Two Suns, the next book in the series, will be coming in late 2014.