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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Genesis of a Book - Shadow Lord by Tony-Paul de Vissage

Shadow Lord by Tony-Paul de Vissage

The Second Species:  Vampires based in Fact

            It was a lovely Southern summer afternoon—late afternoon, in fact.  What the townspeople called “evening,” that time when day is turning into night and the sun begins to dim.  It was around six o’clock when Warene de Vissage stepped from the dining room of the house onto the back porch, calling to her child to come in for dinner.  The sinking sun was shining over the front of the house and Warene was sheltered from its rays by four walls and a roof.  Nevertheless, she could see the heat rising in shimmering waves from the sidewalk fifteen  feet away on the other side of the running rose-covered picket fence.  She could also feel that same heat touching her skin.

            Wrapping her arms protectively across her chest, she hurried back inside not waiting for the child to obey.

            The next morning, Warene awoke in agony.  Her skin burned, felt hot and tight.  Staggering out of bed and to the mirror above her vanity,  she stared at the startling and horrific image before her…skin crimson and scorched, edges curled and inflamed, blisters and scales…as if someone had held her over an open fire.  To touch her face brought excruciating pain…to look at it brought tears…it itched, it burned, and the most awful part was…but she knew why.

            The sun…reflecting off the pavement.  Hadn’t she felt its heat?  She’d dared step outside during daylight, thinking just this once, it wouldn’t matter…just this once, so late in the day, she wouldn’t suffer. Though she hurried back inside, that damnable sun still found her, and did its work.

            It would be weeks before she healed.

This may sound like the beginning of a vampire story, but it’s a true episode, taken from my own mother’s life.  Maman suffered from PMLE…polymorphic light eruption…a condition in which an individual’s DNA cannot repair the damage done to the skin by ultraviolet  rays.  Even on the most overcast days, she was never able to go out during daylight without being completed covered from head-to-toe.  Long pants, knee socks, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, a neck scarf, a wide-brimmed hat, and an umbrella were her usual attire when leaving the house…and still, she could be burned by sunlight reflecting from the pavement or any surface, going through her clothes to cause near-first degree burns.

PMLE appears to be hereditary. I was lucky, however; even with my blond hair and fair skin, I can walk in sunlight with no more than the normal fear of getting a sunburn.  SPF-70 sunblock and I are old friends, nevertheless, and I use it faithfully. A little caution is a prudent thing.

For most sufferers, PMLE simply causes an annoying rash but a small percentage are stricken with a much more severe case, in which they appear to have been actually cooked. It is the less painful form of a condition called XP—Xeroderma pigmentosum. This is, in medical terms, “a skin cancer-prone autosomal recessive disease characterized by inability to repair UV-induced DNA damage.”  XP suffers never come out in daylight; they live their entire lives after dark.

What does this have to do with vampires?  The inference is obvious, and may be one of the ways the vampire myth began.  If you were a superstititious person living in a primitive time when it was believed the sun sank into the sea every night at the edge of the world, and you saw someone actually burned by that same sun…someone who was only comfortable after dark and only felt he could safely come out of his dwelling at night, what would you think?  Other opinions have been offered:  premature burials, porphyria, lycanthropy.  I’m certain all these—plus PMLE and XP—attributed to the legend a good many of us who are writers have used to our advantage, and I am one of them.

When I began my series The Second Species, I wanted my vampires to be different, not the usual Undead, sleeping-in-a-coffin type.  So I made them a living people, a second species of Mankind, divorced from their human brothers because of their differences.  They have many characteristics of the Undead but I’ve given acceptable reasons for them:  the entire group suffers from XP, therefore they can’t emerge into sunlight; they have allergies—the most powerful one being to garlic and certain herbs; their refusal to look at crosses, etc., is not because they are repulsed by them but because their own religion demands they not look on the sacred objects of other faiths, and so on.  Understanding how humans fear them, they have hidden themselves away in the cloud-covered peaks of the Carpathians where the sun never penetrates. If and when they emerge into the land of humans, tragedy inevitably follows.

That is the story behind the creation of my “vampires,” based in fact, elaborated in fiction.  The first novel in the series, Shadow Lord, is expected to be in the next two months by Double Dragon Publishing.  Look for it…you will enjoy it…and feel a little sympathy for those true suffers who are “deprived of God’s holy sunlight.”


 Men call them vampires.  They call themselves aventurieri.  For generations, they hide in the mists of the Carpathians away from their human foes.

In 1794, everything changes… Their Prince’s assassin is murdered. His son demands revenge.

Marek Strigoi’s quest for justice will take him from his Transylvanian homeland to the Hellfire clubs of Vienna, and the boudoir of a Parisian Marquise, but not even love will stop his vengeance.

Mircea Ravagiu must die.

When both the hunter and the hunted are vampires, not even Hell can stand in the way!

Shadow Lord, Book One of the Second Species, is scheduled for an October release from Double Dragon Publishing.

A writer of French Huguenot extraction, Tony-Paul de Village saw his first vampire movie on television at age 6--the old Universal horror flick, Dracula's Daughter--and was scared sleepless. He’s now paying his very permissive parents back by writing about the Undead. 


Twitter: @tpvissage


Anonymous said...

That was such an interesting post, Tony, thanks for sharing. Myths and legends are often based on truth, and it was interesting to hear your theory about PMLE. It's good that you are raising awareness of this condition through your novels. Good luck with your vampires!

Rose Anderson said...

Fascinating post Tony-Paul. How creative you were inspired by the details of a very real genetic condition. Best luck.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Jane,

A perfect true story for October, our month of obsession with horror stories and vampires. My husband's brother had a light sensitivity that did not allow him to be out in sunlight without sunglasses on, and even then only for short periods of time. My guess is that all the vampire myths have some truth in them. My own sexy short story "Vlad" is based loosely on original Vlad the Impaler history that started the Dracula myth. It will appear in the Diabolic Press anthology LIVING DEAD--I'm assuming a Halloween publication.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Wow - that sounds so fascinating and I love the different approach!

Kaye Spencer said...

"...This may sound like the beginning of a vampire story, but it’s a true episode, taken from my own mother’s life..." Oh my gosh!!! I didn't know about PMLE. How sad, yet fascinating. Thanks for sharing the story behind your story.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I love your approach, too, Tony-Paul. The conditions you describe could very well have led to the vampire myth. Your poor mom must have suffered terribly, living in the South. Glad you didn't inherit the condition.

Jane Leopold Quinn said...

Great post, Tony-Paul. Our best inspiration for stories often comes from life.

Sandy said...

Oh my gosh, Tony-Paul, how informative this information is. Thank you.

Tony-Paul said...

I think the stories will be, Rosemary. I hope others do to.

Tony-Paul said...

My mother lived until her mid-60's (1976). The last time she went to the beach was in 1960. She was outside for 15 minutes and got 1st degree burns. I wish we'd known then but we know now about PMLE. Thanks for the comment, Kaye.

Tony-Paul said...

Luckily she was able to laugh about it, which helped, even saying maybe she was a vampire.

Tony-Paul said...

Sometimes unfortunate, but true. I wonder what Maman would think of my series.

Tony-Paul said...

I agree but still...there are always those more unfortunate. Maman didn't let it stop her.

Tony-Paul said...

At least your brother-in-law knew what to do. Congrats on the short story.

Alicia Street said...

Great post, Tony! I love it when an author uses something from real life that could have influenced a mysterious mythology. You've got me hooked. :)

Gemma Juliana said...

Tony-Paul, It's wonderful you are drawing awareness to this genetic problem. I feel for what your mother went through, and there was so little help back then. I love when we see where our so-called reality and mythology cross paths. Wishing you lots of success with your stories!

Janice Seagraves said...

Your poor mother. I can see how this would trigger the interest to write vampire stories.

I wish you well with your new series.


Cara Marsi said...

I've never heard of PMLE. How terrible for your mother. Glad you don't have. Your vampire series sounds very creative and different. Best of luck to you!

Tony-Paul said...

Merci. I hope readers can stay hooked through the entire series.

Tony-Paul said...

I agree. Every time I go outside during daylight, I'm grateful I only have to wear sunshades to protect my eyes and can actually weare a muscle shirt or roll up my sleeves.

Tony-Paul said...

Merci, Janice. Good to hear from you.

Tony-Paul said...

I'd never heard of it either until I did some research when I decided to write my series. Soon after, after someone was thinking along the same lines, there was an episode on CSI: Miami where the killer had PMLE and another on CSI where the victim was a victim of phorphyria, the supposed cause of lycanthropy.

Joan Reeves said...

What an interesting take on the vampire myth. It certainly sounds plausible to me because we have genetic medical issues in our family. Just this week I had a test to see if I have a defective copy of the MTHR gene. If any woman reading this is thinking about getting pregnant, please be tested to see if you have the MTHR defect. It's important for the health of an unborn baby. If you have 2 defects, it's crucial for your own health plus knowledge that needs to be communicated to your parents and siblings.