Once upon a time, my publisher, Echelon Press, asked some of us authors to write short stories for a charitable purpose, to raise money for a charity that aided people whose houses were destroyed in wildfires. ‘Write a story about fire,’ she said. This was in November sometime, as I recall. I already had a Christmas story I was thinking about writing. Being a fantasy author means you have strange ideas as a result of hearing common songs, or watching ordinary TV shows. (One episode of a spy drama I watch made me think of capturing people’s souls and putting them in boxes.) In this case it was a Christmas song that I heard over a radio. I got the idea of vampires at Christmas.
We all know that Christmas as a holiday is a feast day that was grafted on to an existing tradition among the pagan peoples of Northern Europe. The actual birth date of Christ was probably nowhere near mid-winter, but if they’ve already got a ceremony celebrating renewal and rebirth, hey, go with it. But where did these pagan people get it from? You guessed it, from the vampires. What would they celebrate, and why? What did it mean to them? And most important, how could I bring this all out in a short story? About fire.
It was the fire that did it, I think. The vampires needed a god, even in the original version of the story which never got written. In this version the fire connected immediately to Balder, god of the day, who was killed when his blind brother Hodor, god of night, threw a sprig of mistletoe at him. Well, right away, ideas started popping into my head left and right. Day, night, blood, mistletoe…evil? Well, Loki, the god who gave Hodor the mistletoe, was evil. Are vampires evil, even by association? Could they feel…guilty of some vampiric original sin? Is that what the ceremony was for? To bring this story out into the open I needed a human to discover it, see it, participate in it. What happens to him?
The story that grew out of all this, called ‘Bite Deep’, is a story of evil, sacrifice, and redemption, and is best described thusly: “For lo, unto the vampires this day a Savior is…well, not born, exactly.”
Once upon a different time (last month actually), my publisher again asked for stories, although this time she was looking for Steampunk. Or holiday. I asked her if she wanted steampunk holiday stories. Well, as you can imagine a bit of a challenge grew from this as several of us each decided to write a steampunk holiday story. I think I won, but they were all doing NaNoWriMo at the time so it probably doesn’t count.
Steampunk as a genre is a fusion of SF with a Victorian style culture and tech level. Try to imagine James Bond with gadgets that require wind-up keys and steam engines to work. How does this tie in to Christmas and Santa, you ask? Well I’d love to tell you. Honestly I would, but I don’t remember how I got the idea so I can’t. Some stories I have to wring the ideas out, or wait 6 weeks until an idea occurs to me so I can continue writing. Some stories the ideas cascade and the trick is trying to keep up. This story the idea just seemed so natural, that two elves would be holding a contest to see who could make a better sleigh, traditional elfin magic or the new steam technology.
Not that I wrote that story. Ideas that seem great on paper often fail the Story Logic test and need to go a bit sideways from the original intention. Bite Deep was supposed to be about a party. My steampunk story, which ultimately got named ‘Steampunk Santa’, outgrew the simple contest motif and became a story of friendship and teamwork, as two very dissimilar elves participating in Santa’s contest find themselves up against the same challenges in the workshop. It has the flavor of the old Rankin-Bass specials, which was on purpose, as I found myself narrating the story in Fred Astaire voice and doing the elves in squeaky elf voice. I believe that this is my first try at a third-person style of writing, too, with the narrator who knows all. It’s not my usual style but it fit the story so I went with it.
‘Going with it’ pretty much defines my writing career so far. My only rule when writing is to never do what I’ve already seen done before. Every book I write is different from the one I just finished. Every story I start is an opportunity, a requirement, that I change, learn, grow into some new thing.
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Thanks Marc for being this week's Writer Wednesday guest and for sharing your holiday writing. I love the unique titles! And your idea for Steampunk Santa really does sound like a great holiday classic. My family and I are big fans of all of the Rankin-Bass specials. I wish you all the best in your writing and in the coming year.
If you would like more information about Marc Vun Kannon or his writing you can stop by his website and his blog. He's got a new release coming out soon!
Coming 2/2011: St. Martin's Moon
The Moon is haunted, but the werewolves don't know that!
A special thanks to all of you readers. I appreciate that you take time out of your busy schedules to stop by. I wish you all the best of luck and health in the coming year.
Happy New Year!
Kristin : )