Michelle Lane’s debut novel Invisible Chains dropped this summer from Haverhill House Publishing. It’s a story about vampires, so we’re going to talk to her about those bloodsuckers. Lane has also published several short stories and holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her specialty is writing dark fiction about women of color dealing with personal monsters and the creatures that lurk in our nightmares.
Lane says that she has always been “fascinated” by vampires. She believes they are one of the most “versatile” monsters in fiction. “They can be scary, cool, sexy, powerful,” she says. Lane actually prefers the handsome, romantic-type vampire popularized by Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula. However, this type does not include the brooding vampires from Twilight. Edward Cullen, according to Lane, is “a study in repression and denial of one’s true identity and nature.” The “scary, cool, sexy” vampires she really loves are the ones found in the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton and the vampires in the All Soul’s series by Deborah Harkness. Lane uses words like “attractive, deadly, and wildly inappropriate” to describe Hamilton’s creations, and “scary, sexy, manipulative, powerful, and deadly” are used to describe Harkness’s characters.
It is probably a given in your mind that Lane has no problem with vampires being commandeered by ever popular genres of fiction. She says that the use of vampires in so many different genres doesn’t damage its fierce reputation. Lane believes it makes them scarier. She points to the fact that paranormal romance novels use vampires as the romantic interest a lot. This oftentimes leads the main character of the story to get involved in a relationship with a partner who is highly manipulative, territorial, and deadly. In some ways, Lane says this “normalizes sexual violence.” Translate this kind of relationship outside of the fictional world into reality, and you have an abusive relationship. To Lane that certainly makes the vampire something to be feared. Through the percolation of many genres, the deadly blood-sucking fiend has gone from physically repugnant (Dracula and his hairy palms or Count Orlok from Nosferatu) to a gorgeous creature (Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire or any YA bloodsucker). “We should be more afraid of vampires who look like Damon Salvatore, Elijah Mikaelson, Matthew Clairmont, and John Mitchell,” Lane says about the vampires found in Hamilton’s and Harkness’ novels.
To Lane, vampires, like many other classic monsters, can take on the fears of the time. It is what keeps them relevant as a monster. Of their timeless appeal, Lane says that vampires can stand “metaphorically or literally for social commentary – racism, sexism, white privilege, undocumented immigrants, sexual orientation, or any aspect of identity politics.”
One of the uses of the vampire character in Lane’s debut novel Invisible Chains is as a comparison between the horrific nature of the monster and the even more horrific practice of slavery. Her novel is a slave narrative where the protagonist, a young female slave, finds herself in the company of a vampire. Lane says that the character is safer with the vampire than on the plantation. In her book, the true monsters are the humans. She says one of her favorite lines from the book is, “Vampires are terrifying creatures, driven by an insatiable cannibalistic hunger and murderous urges. I was glad to have one at my side when I left the safety of the Lynches’ house.” Lane believes that vampires are the ultimate monster because they can be so many things. As our fears change, so does the vampire. It has been hideous like Count Orlok in Nosferatu and gorgeous like Edward Cullen, but at the heart (whether beating or still) of every vampire is a serial killer, waiting lash out.
Lane believes that this is truly why they remain so scary even when commandeered by genres outside of speculative fiction. They are time bombs ticking away toward explosion. Everyone knows that waiting for the boom is the most suspenseful thing out there. On that note, I’ll leave you with a bit of suspense. Lane gave us too much to talk about this week, so we’ll continue our conversation next time.