Christine Cody is the author of the postapocalyptic supernatural Western series Bloodlands and the urban fantasy Vampire Babylon books (w/a Chris Marie Green) from Ace. Once upon a time, she used to be an eighth-grade teacher until she became a full-time author who has published nearly forty books under all three of her pseudonyms (including Crystal Green). Bloodlands is the first book in the series, and it’s released today, followed by Blood Rules (August 30) and In Blood We Trust (September 27).
Four years ago, I turned in a proposal to my editor at Ace Books. I didn’t know exactly how to categorize it.
Was it a paranormal romance? Well, the romance wasn’t absolutely at the forefront, although there’s a strong one that’s extremely important to everything that happens in the series. Was it a postapocalyptic story? Sure, but there were also a lot of supernatural elements that defined the setting. And I couldn’t exactly call this a Western, although it had the pervasive feel of one.
Years later, as Bloodlands is finally being released (along with the sequels in back-to-back-to-back months), I’m still not sure what to call the series, although I’ve started to use Publisher Weekly’s description of a “postapocalyptic supernatural Western.” I’ve also said that this is a paranormal Shane meets Mad Max, which seems to cover the first book pretty well, at least!
Honestly, there really were a lot of different elements that influenced Bloodlands, and the biggest one was old Western movies. Indeed, after watching a batch of those wonderful films, I started to think, “What if Shane was a vampire?” and it went from there. I was inspired by the opportunity to “flip” common themes and characters you’d find in Westerns, such as the underdog sheriff who comes up against great odds (You’ll see that one of the core characters from the first book becomes this trope throughout the trilogy.), as well as things like the fallen woman who’s usually woefully attracted to that sheriff. In book 2, you’ll even find the mysterious sick woman who wears a veil.
I also turned to mythology and world folklore for inspiration. One of my main characters, Gabriel, the gunslinger (or “fangslinger”) who comes out West searching for a way to regain his humanity, is a vampire—a pretty traditional one, initially. But when it came time to write books 2 and 3 and open up the Bloodlands world, I was like a kid in a candy store. I took bits of vampire lore from this place and that to characterize more creatures. (For example—remember the “fallen woman” trope I mentioned? There’s a vampire called a “tik-tik” who has some rather nasty feeding habits. What better creature to be a “fallen” vampire than one who the other bloodsuckers even look down upon?)
Creating a dystopian world was also great fun, and I had a surprising resource to draw upon for that—The New Yorker magazine. This publication is on my regular reading list, but I found that reading about war zones, politics, advances in science, and everything else The New Yorker covers really got me to thinking about our own future—and how it could go drastically wrong. I was also turned onto Thomas Friedman’s books about a global future, and the idea of the urban hubs was inspired by what he thinks cities might be like.
I hope the Bloodlands series has something for everyone to chew on, whether it’s a sci-fi, fantasy, or romantic angle. Happy hunting, everyone, and I hope your summer is full of adventure, no matter what you choose to read.
Christine is giving away a signed mass market copy of the first book, NIGHT RISING, in her alter-ego’s Vampire Babylon series (written as Chris Marie Green). To win, please leave a comment. U.S. only. A winner will be chosen by 6pm Pacific Time on Friday July 29, 2011!
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(Excerpt from Bloolands, Book One)
When I saw the stranger weaving through the newly settled dusk on my visz monitor, he looked like a lie—a mirage, half wavering fantasy, half dust in my eyes. Chaplin didn’t even believe me when I told him about it, but then again, he knew that I’d stayed partway sane only because of one altered version of the truth or another. It always took him some good thought before he ever put stock in what I did or said, and I wouldn’t blame him, or anyone else, for that.
Lies and omissions were how we lived out here in the nowheres. It’s how we made sure strangers like this one on the visz never found us.
We lied about reality to survive.
Hell, I would lie to you anyone, even you.
When I grabbed my old revolver from the wall arsenal, that must’ve lent some credence to the situation for Chaplin. He looked at the visz, seeing that I was telling him true about a stranger coming toward us.
“Think he’s another one of them?” I asked, while keeping an eye on the screen. “Think this guy’s one of Stamp’s?”
My dog chuffed, then padded over close to me, leaning against my leg. His long tail curled over my boot, like a child wrapping an arm round a protector.
Not that I’m all that good at protecting. Sometimes I even think that Chaplin does a better job of guarding me than the other way round. There’s a lot of ways a person needs to be protected.
Strung tight with tension, I adjusted a knob on the visz’s side to get a better look at the approaching stranger. The long view was gloomy with the surreal blur of the camera’s night vision, streaking his movements as he lurched even nearer to my underground home. Could he somehow see this earthen dwelling, even though I’d taken great care to disguise the entrance amongst the scrub and mounded landscape?
Chaplin made a garbled sound, and I rested a hand on his furry head.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll bet he saunters right past us.”
I didn’t even believe myself this time.
My dog softly yowled, as if chewing on words. To anyone not trained in Canine, his sentiments would be inarticulate. But years ago, when I was no more than a pup myself, I’d begged my dad for one of the Intel Dogs he bred and trained at his lab. Dad had obliged only just before we’d been forced to flee our Dallas home much later; then Chaplin had become a necessary tool for survival—a watchdog genetically tooled to be more intelligent than most humans. Stronger, too. He was also a balm for us after my mom and brother had been murdered right in the home we’d abandoned.
I guess I needed Chaplin more than ever now, long after the murders and one year after my dad had taken his own life. My dog wasn’t just my best friend—he was my only friend. In particular, he was nice to have round at night. Nice to have round whenever I thought about what waited outside the dirt-packed walls.
Just thinking about outside made the phantom scars on my body itch, but I forced myself not to touch them. They’d only bring back what had supposedly healed.
Now Chaplin growled low in his throat, his brown-haired ears lying flat against his skull as he backed toward a door barring a tunnel that connected our domain to one of the underground caverns.
I offered him a nod, a show of unity that didn’t need to be voiced between the two of us. Then I turned back to the visz, which showed the stranger in post-stumble pause.
When I found him staring right back at me, my heart jerked, sending my adrenaline bursting to a growl that I fought to contain. His eyes were rendered luminescent by the camera’s night vision and…
It was like he could somehow see the camouflaged lens.
Like he knew we were in here.
Pacing my breathing, calming myself lest I lose control—God-all help me if I did—I hefted down a mini-crossbow from the wall, then stuffed my revolver into a holster built into my wide belt. I loaded the bow with a bolt because it’d be quieter than the bullets if I should have to defend my home. Bullets might attract attention.
“If he’s one of Stamp’s men,” I said, “I’ll show him a lesson about coming here when he’s drunk and looking for trouble. Stamp’s got to be sending his crew to poke round, just like that other man who was already here.”
My dog didn’t make a sound, and I was glad about that. Neither of us wanted to talk about Stamp’s workers.
Meanwhile, the stranger loomed closer on the visz, his features coming into shocking focus.
Something in my stomach fisted at the sight of his facial wounds, but I battled back the clench, the emotion. Battled hard, until all that was left was a tremor that only reminded me I wasn’t safe.
Then my dog crept to my side and stared at the visz, too, almost like he’d been drawn closer. He let out a long, sympathetic whimper.
Hurt, was what Chaplin’s sound meant. The man is hurt.
I tried to glance away, but couldn’t. The blood enthralled me, even more than it had when I was young, back before my family had been attacked and before the world had almost ended. Back when the media had first started entertaining the masses with violent news images, films of close-up war casualties in North Korea and public executions that people had clamored to witness in real life. Carnerotica, it had come to be called, until that form of amusement had become old hat under the new thrill of the subliminal fantasies I heard they were airing on TV now.
This man was a lot like one of those old executions.
The visz’s pale night vision showed his face to be a wounded map to nowhere, etched with open gashes on his forehead and cheeks. Blood and dirt seemed to crust his short-sheared hair. His battered mouth opened round a word.