Guest Blogger: Danielle Monsch
Danielle's winner is: Gwen Mitchell. Congrats, Gwen! Send me your contact info and I'll pass it along to Danielle. Thanks to everyone who participated.
When I was approximately 11 years old, I discovered three things about myself that have held firm until this day.
I discovered vampires. More than that, I fell in love with vampires. Vampires with all their dark yummy goodness, which my just shy of pubescent brain could not quite understand the exact whys of the fascination. Whys would come with puberty, as they usually do.
I discovered that I could write. Before that, writing never occurred to me. I daydreamed stories all the time, but putting them on paper, nah. I received an assignment from a teacher, an everyday ordinary assignment, write a story. I felt about this as I felt about most homework, which was I didn’t want to do it, but I did it anyway. A couple days after handing the homework in, the teacher called me up to the desk. Did anyone else write this story? No, it’s my story, I wrote it by myself. This is good, you might want to keep writing, you have talent.
I discovered was that I was descended from royalty.
Bastard royalty (meaning the nice prince got some lady other than his wife pregnant, and the king shushed it up). Royalty that doesn’t exist anymore, since the country had moved away from the monarchy. Still, the writer in me has always known to never let unpleasant realities get in the way of a good story.
I am a true mutt in the American sense, a Heinz 57 if you will (letting my Pittsburgh roots show with that phrase). I can name a half dozen nationalities that make up my ancestors origins. Even with that Hungarian is my dominant bloodline . . . and this is where the royalty part comes from.
Growing up, the royalty story was always fun to tell friends, though no one ever called me “Your Majesty”, as I always secretly hoped someone would, darn it! No, not really . . . it was just a funny little factoid about me, like the fact my second toe is longer than my big toe, an interesting tidbit which everyone thinks is wild and then moves on from.
The whole royalty thing paled mightily next to my love of vampires anyway. Vampires were my life. I knew everything, read everything, saw everything. I was Goth before Goth had a name. OK, I never did the whole black lipstick thing, but nearly everything else.
How these things intersected was completely unexpected. I had a friend who was big into researching family trees. This hobby has never held much interest for me, though I completely understand the appeal. My friend had heard the royalty story, though, and found it fascinating. With my blessing, said friend went forth and looked into it.
Now, said friend was not into vampires, so when they came back with some information about my family tree, they had no idea what they were giving me. What they said when they came to me was my family tree contained a famous serial killer.
The serial killer they were speaking of was Elizabeth Bathory. Elizabeth is not in my direct line. More like we share a many times great-grandfather. Grandfather had two children, one of those children was the parent of Elizabeth, and the other child was parent to my many times minus two great-grandfather. This means we are cousins of a sort, though I can never remember exactly those seconds and fourth-removed things and how they work.
For those who aren’t immersed in vampire lore, Elizabeth was known as the Blood Countess. Legend has it she killed over 600 young women, drinking and even bathing in their blood to remain young. She and Vlad the Impaler were the two historical figures that inspired Bram Stoker to create his Dracula.
(As an aside, Vlad is also in my family tree. He married a young Hungarian Countess for political reasons. However, I have no blood ties with Vlad.)
There are usually two types of reactions when I tell people this story, given in varying degrees of interest. The first is from people like me, those who love vampires. They usually think its really cool, and one person even professed jealousy, though I don’t know if that was real or just them giving what they felt was an appropriate response. I admit I did appreciate the enthusiasm displayed, though.
For those who are vampire neutral, the question usually is how does it feel to know I’m related to a serial killer. That one is a little tougher to answer, because I feel bad only because I have no feelings towards that at all. Maybe because it was so long ago, or maybe because it happened half way across the world and there are no visible reminders of it, or maybe just because she has been so mythologized in the vampire world -- which is how I knew of her long, long before I had any clue of a familial connection. Take your pick, but she doesn’t feel like a real person to me, and I just don’t have any feelings of regret or shame in connection to the fact we are blood bound.
So how did this knowledge connect to my writing? Well, hard as it is to imagine, there was once a world before Twilight, and this was the time I was living in. Sure, we had Anne Rice, but vampire books were nowhere near as plentiful as they are now, and any other beastly creature? Yeah, good luck on that hunt.
Now, I had been told I had talent, but at this point I wasn’t actively writing. Too many of those adolescent doubts roaming my head to let me truly think I was really good at something. Still, finding out about this connection to someone from my vampire world burst my vampire obsession into super-nova proportions. The problem was I really didn’t have much new from what I had already read. Unlike today, there wasn’t a new vampire story coming out every other week.
So to satisfy my vampire story cravings, I had to write my own. Dark stories where vampires were the enemies and the hunters fell in love amidst the bloodshed, seductive stories where the vampire brings the human into his world, and the erotic stories . . . well, let’s just say at that time I wasn’t quite sure what went where but I was really interested in finding out for myself, and just leave it there.
Would I have eventually started writing even without this? Impossible to tell, of course, but I have the feeling I might not have. I am not one of those writers who tell you that they only thing they have ever wanted to do was write since the age of three. I stumbled onto writing by pure luck, and if I didn’t have outside forces hearing me talk about a story and wanted me to write it, then declaring I had talent, I might have always simply been content to keep my stories in my head.
Not all my stories contain vampires now, and my obsession has calmed somewhat, but I will always love vampires.
How can someone with my bloodline not?
Danielle Monsch is a not-yet-published author, the host of the Romance themed Podcast, “Romantically Speaking” which can be found on iTunes, VP of the Eastside RWA (located in Seattle) and Assistant Chair for the Emerald City Writer’s Conference, held every October in Seattle. Contact her anytime by going to www.DanielleMonsch.com or emailing her at Dani@DanielleMonsch.com
Danielle will be sending one commenter a copy of any vampire novel that they choose (ask Danielle about the price cap). Good Luck!