Welcome, one and all, to another guest post! Today, I’m hosting Sera Trevor, author of the upcoming vampire novel, Curses, Foiled Again.
Isn’t It Byronic?
by Sera Trevor
Vampires are sexy. Their sex appeal defines them almost as much as their blood-drinking in pop culture today. Sure, the occasional ghoulish vampire will show up in media, but for the most part, vampires are brooding hunks and seductive sirens.
But when you really think about the concept of a vampire, it seems a little baffling that they should be such huge sex symbols. Don’t get me wrong—I love a hot vampire as much as the next person. But they’re reanimated corpses that feed on blood—unless you are a very kinky individual, this concept is not exactly erotic, let alone romantic! So how did we get from blood-sucking corpses to Edward of Twilight?
Turns out we have Lord Byron, the original bad boy celebrity, to thank. Lord Byron was the nineteenth century equivalent of a rock star, living a life of sex, drugs, and narrative poetry. He was tabloid fodder before there were tabloids—people couldn’t stop talking about his crazy excesses and scandalous sex life, which included both women and men, and did not necessarily exclude family members, like his half-sister, Augusta. His former lover Lady Carloline Lamb dubbed him “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”—which is a pretty sexy reputation.
He partied so hard and wracked up so much debt that he was eventually forced to leave England forever. But the party didn’t stop—in fact, it led to one of the world’s most famous literary meet-ups when he ran into Percy Shelley and his future wife, Mary. While holed up in a villa in Geneva, the writers had a ghost story competition, which lead to Mary coming up with the idea for Frankenstein. Byron came up with a half-baked idea about a vampire, but never really did anything with it and soon forgot about it.
However, his physician/drug dealer John Polidori, didn’t forget. After Lord Byron ditched him, the bitter Polidori took Byron’s vampire idea and wrote his own story, which he called “The Vampyre.” Lord Ruthven, the villainous vampire of the story, was a lot like Byron— aristocratic, seductive, and completely evil, who delighted in destroying the life of a naïve young doc—er, gentleman. It was an act of literary revenge, although in retrospect, not a particularly well-thought-out one. Some publishers got ahold of it, slapped Lord Byron’s name on it, and it sold like hotcakes. Polidori and Byron were both upset by this and tried to set the record straight, but by then it didn’t really matter. The Bryonic vampire was born.
From then on out, tales of ghoulish bloodsuckers from previous centuries were gradually replaced with stories starring seductive, sophisticated vampires who were all the more scary for how easily they drew their victims in. Bram Stoker’s Dracula made the Byronic vampire an international smash hit, and since then, the sexy vampire has reigned supreme. Over time, authors made their characters more and more sympathetic, until the vampire morphed from monstrous villain to tragic antihero.
I am a big fan of Byronic vampires, but at the same time, all of the melodrama of these stories can verge on the ridiculous at times. For my novel, Curses, Foiled Again, I decided to take the idea of the sexily tragic vampire and turn it on its head. My vampire, Felix, envisions himself as quite the smooth operator, but he’s actually a huge goofball. My mortal, John, takes on the mantel of the brooding, tragic hero. Curses, Foiled Again, comes out on November 27—if you’re looking for a remixed take on the Byronic vampire, you should check it out!
EXCERPT: CHAPTER ONE
The Witch Boy of Sunset Boulevard
Someone smelled delicious.
Felix really ought to have been sated. He had fed that night already, but in spite of his satiety, the new aroma tempted him like nothing before. It was the same dark tang that normally inspired his appetite, but with a sweet note buried in the scent—like an orange at the peak of its sweetness, right on the cusp of rotting. It didn’t take him long to discover the source of the aroma; it was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, making his way down Sunset Boulevard. He walked with remarkable confidence for being on his own at two o’clock in the morning. Felix grinned. He liked the confident ones; their shock when confronted with the likes of him was always amusing.
He raced ahead of the young man with superhuman swiftness, jumping in front of him with his fangs bared. Felix loved this part, right before the attack—the moment when human confusion and animal terror mixed together as his victim realized their fate. Any moment now, he would scream. Or at least, he would try to. By then it would be too late.
The young man jumped and inhaled sharply at Felix’s sudden appearance. But once he’d given Felix a good once-over, he let out his breath in a relieved puff. There was no screaming, no futile attempt to flee or freezing in terror. In fact, it was Felix who froze in place, confused by the young man’s strange reaction.
As Felix tried to gather his wits to think of what to do next, the young man brushed past him and continued on. Felix shook himself out of his muddle. He brought a hand up to his mouth, feeling to make sure his fangs were still bared. They were. Perhaps the young man hadn’t seen him clearly; the lighting here was particularly poor, and mortal vision was not very good.
He zipped ahead of the young man and jumped out at him again, making sure he was directly under a streetlight. He raised his arms and hissed for good measure.
“You can stop doing that,” the young man said. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“Oh really?” Felix sneered, although in honesty he was taken aback. “We’ll see if your bravery lasts when I sink my fangs into your yielding flesh!”
He attempted to pounce, but nothing happened. He tried again, but his limbs just wouldn’t cooperate. As he stood there in confusion, the young man stepped around him and continued walking.
Once Felix had collected himself, he set out after the young man again, this time trotting beside him. The young man paid him no attention.
“Have you put a spell on me?”
“Then why can’t I attack you?”
“Because I’m not afraid of you,” he said. He wasn’t even looking at Felix. “Vampires can only attack people who fear them.”
Felix scoffed. “That can’t be true.”
“Think about it. Can you ever remember a time when a potential victim wasn’t afraid of you?”
“Not that I recall.”
“Then if you only ever confronted people who were afraid of you, how would you have found out you couldn’t attack someone who wasn’t?”
Felix turned that over in his mind. It did make a certain amount of sense.
They continued to walk together. Felix tried to startle him a few more times, hoping it would raise enough fear for Felix to strike, but it didn’t work. The young man’s face remained expressionless, as if Felix weren’t even there. He was a remarkably good-looking fellow, with sandy-blond hair and blue eyes. He was so pleasant to look at that Felix eventually ceased his efforts to frighten him in favor of simply gazing at him. His sweatshirt was not zipped all the way, but the T-shirt underneath was too baggy to give even a suggestion of the body it concealed. He wished the young man would take it off, or at the very least remove the hood.
After some time, they came to an apartment building. The young man approached one of the doors on the first floor. “Well, I would say it was nice meeting you, but it wasn’t, really,” he said as he took out his keys. “Good night.” He unlocked his door.
Felix blocked the door with his body, preventing the young man from entering. “You’ve led me straight to where you live,” he said in his scariest voice. “I could strike when you least expect it, in your very home. Certainly that will frighten you enough for me to attack!”
“Vampires can’t enter a home unless you invite them. Did you really think I wouldn’t know that?”
Felix scowled. “How do you know all this?”
“None of your business. Now unless you want to stand around here until dawn, get your hand off my door and go away.”
“Maybe I do want to stand around here,” Felix said. “You can’t make me leave.”
The young man rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He leaned on the wall a few steps away from the door and took a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter out of the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He perched a cigarette between his pink lips and lit it.
Felix remained where he was. The young man didn’t even spare him a glance as he smoked his cigarette, gazing instead at the smoke as it left his lips and dissipated into the night air. Felix felt annoyed; surely he was more interesting than a cloud of smoke!
“Why are you out alone so late?” Felix asked. “While you may not be afraid of vampires, you are still vulnerable to mortal attackers.” An idea flashed through Felix’s mind. “What if I got a gun? Would you be afraid of me then?”
The young man rolled his eyes again. “Why are you so intent on killing me?”
“I don’t want to kill you. I want to drink your blood.”
“And that’s not the same thing?”
Felix had to think about it. “No, I don’t think it is,” he said. “It’s true that my victims swoon, but I’m fairly certain they survive.”
The young man raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know for sure?”
“There isn’t much reason for me to linger after I’ve fed, is there?”
“I guess not.” He took another long drag of his cigarette. “So why do you want to drink my blood? You’ve already fed tonight.”
Felix looked at him with surprise. “How did you know that?”
“You’ve got blood on your chin.”
Felix wiped his face with the hand that wasn’t holding the door shut. Sure enough, it came away red. “Doesn’t that make you feel at least a little scared?” he asked plaintively.
The young man finished his cigarette with one final inhale, dropped the butt on the street, and then stubbed it out with his toe. “Sorry to say, but it takes a lot to make me feel anything at all.” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes again and took another one. “Would you like one?”
The young man offered the pack and his lighter. Felix stared at the cigarettes and then back at his face. The young man put his hand forward farther. “Go on. Take one.”
Felix frowned, wondering at the young man’s sudden generosity. John stood just out of reach, so Felix had to step closer to him to accept the pack and the lighter. Felix’s fingers brushed over the skin of the young man’s hand. It was so warm.
“Thank you,” Felix said, a little dazed.
“No problem.” The young man’s smile was dazzling.
Felix smiled back and turned his attention to the pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and readying the lighter—
—and then, quick as lightning, the young man slipped inside his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.
“Goddamnit!” Felix shouted after him, pounding on the door. “Come back out here!”
There was no answer. Felix stomped around in a circle, cursing. Once he composed himself, he went back to the door. “Well, I’m keeping your cigarettes! And your lighter! And you’ll never get them back!”
This also failed to get a response. Felix examined the lighter. On one side there was a figure etched into the metal: a dragon, or a demon. Some mythical creature, at any rate. On the other side, there was an engraving: To John. Love, Rob.
A gift, then. Perhaps he could use its sentimental nature to his advantage. “I really mean it!” he shouted. “I’ll throw this lighter in the sewer!”
Still no response.
With a huff, he zipped away. His preternatural speed meant he only had to travel a few moments before he reached the estate in Beverly Hills where he resided with his sister, Cat, and her husband, Richard. The sprawling wrought iron gates were shut, but unlike the young man’s closed door, the gates posed no barrier to him. He launched himself upward and over the curled letters that spelled out the name of the estate: HAPPY ENDINGS. Under it was the image of a boar, cast in iron. The sign’s rusted state made the promise of the words ring a bit false. Nevertheless, it was the only home he had, and he had no desire to meet the dawn.
About the author:
Sera Trevor is terminally curious and views the 35 book limit at her local library as a dare. She’s a little bit interested in just about everything, which is probably why she can’t pin herself to one subgenre. Her books are populated with dragons, vampire movie stars, shadow people, and internet trolls. (Not in the same book, obviously, although that would be interesting!) Her works have been nominated for several Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards, including Best Contemporary, Best Fantasy, and Best Debut, for which she won third prize in 2015 for her novella Consorting With Dragons.
She lives in California with her husband, two kids, and a cat the size of three cats.