The Bloodsucking Influences Behind our Brides of Carpathia series
In the long, uncertain months of early 2020, when streaming video services all at once became so much more important than they used to be, I found myself curiously checking out a new Stephen Moffat project, Dracula. It was only three episodes long, but it scratched the itch I always have for brooding, bloody, immersive vampire lore.
Around the same time, my good friend and fellow vampire fiend, Torie James, caught word of a vampire 'soap opera' set to star Gina Torres, titled The Brides. That series, eventually, fell through, but we were excited and inspired. We loved the concept of stories exploring the lives and roles of Dracula's brides, and what it meant to actually become the bride of a powerful vampire lord.
Our excited conversations surrounding these shows and their concepts eventually evolved into our new, urban fantasy romance series, Brides of Carpathia. In a first for both of us, Torie and I felt the time—and the idea—was right for a collaboration. We wanted to tell the untold stories of the brides. Not just the brides of Dracula, but all the lady vampires transformed by hungry, lustful demons, who maybe didn't end up being the Mina Harkers or the Bella Swans of their stories. The girls who got left behind with nothing but a serious pain in the neck and an inexplicable lust for blood. The undead and unwed.
So began the story of Carmilla Summers, matriarch of the Brides of Carpathia Agency, and her roguish family of imperfect creatures of the night. Here's a little look into some of our other inspirations:
I grew up a gamer and I married a gamer. One of my partner's favorite game series has always been Castlevania, particularly Symphony of the Night, and when Netflix announced the release of an anime-style series based on the characters of the games, we were crazy for it. If the Stephen Moffat take on Dracula jogged my brain in the right direction to write vampire fiction again, Castlevania hopped in beside me and shouted "Catch me if you can!". The series was gorgeous, the characters enthralling, the monsters chilling, the sex riveting. I wanted to crawl inside and live in the story (though I'm sure I probably wouldn't have lived for long!)
When we began plotting Brides of Carpathia, I shared the series with Torie, and we had another hit. This is the show I put on to get the blood flowing when it's time to sit down and write. If I'm not quite feeling in touch with my inner bloodsucker, I turn to Castlevania for a good jolt.
In Book One of Brides, the character of Carmilla names three vampire queens: Elizabeth Bathory, the Striga, and herself. Specifically, the Striga is a direct homage to the Castlevania animated series, and the character of the same name. My little nod to one of my absolute favorite vampire stories.
Torie and I are both avid fans of Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles, and we both knew there would be echoes of her influence in Brides of Carpathia. In the months leading up to our first few planning meetings, we binged the classic Interview with a Vampire and Queen of the Damned, even inviting members of my reader group, the Strange Wayfarers, to join us in an online screening.
Anne Rice has such a rich and deeply emotional take on vampires, and we knew we wanted to capture a similar richness in our stories. When Book One released, we gave away a copy of Claudia's Story, a graphic novel based on the characters of Interview, written by Rice herself. Though we were heartbroken to say goodbye to her in December of 2021, her work will always be a strong part of who we are as writers, and what Brides of Carpathia is as a series.
Vampire, the Masquerade
For Torie, the role-playing game and original TV series; for me, the PC game. We were both influenced by the world of Vampire the Masquerade. This clever look at vampire clans, interrelationships, and politics is rich with dynamic lore. Our inspiration boards are full of pictures from the game settings, like a brooding and rainy Santa Monica. Another little easter-egg: all our leading vampire ladies (besides Carmilla) are named after actresses who've played vampires in television or film, and the character of Brigid takes her name from Brigid Branagh, who played Sasha Luna in the television rendition of Masquerade, titled Kindred: the Embrace.
(The character of Brian, the 'bridegroom', is named after trans actor Brian Michael Smith.)
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Would it be possible for two girls of our generation not to be influenced by Buffy? There's so much to be inspired by in its lore, not the least of which is the theme of the girl standing up to the monsters. Some of the staples of the genre now hearken back to this series, and it brings a well-incorporated sense of humor in a way most other peeks into the vampire world just can't pull off. The humorous side of Brides of Carpathia definitely stems from the clever, quippy, and courageous Buffy herself.
The Classics: Bram Stoker's Dracula and Carmilla, Countess of Karstein
Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the original, as penned by Bram Stoker. Torie and I are in love with the world of the original Dracula and all its dark, gothic tone. We could sit together for hours talking shop about the whole thing.
But we both agreed that, beyond the background on Dracula's brides, there were other stories we wanted more of. Characters done dirty by the count, who deserved a second chance—Quincey Morris, for one (and sharp-eyed readers or fans of the original might have caught our shout-out to the ill-fated Texan in our books already). There are plenty of speculative stories about what became of Van Helsing or his heirs or of Mina Harker, but so many others united in the novel to defeat the Count. What must life have been like for the rest of them once the dust settled?
And finally, we also wanted to explore a bit about the less-well-known Countess Carmilla of Karnstein: the true original! So often people seem to take for granted that Bram Stoker's Dracula was the first published vampire story, when it's really Carmilla. We believed it was high time for the Countess to get her due, so we crowned her our queen, and the mastermind behind the Brides of Carpathia agency.