TOKYO, April 26 What with romance and suave, sensitive characters, vampires weren't scary enough for author David Wellington anymore. So he decided to see if he could bring some terror back to tales about the centuries-old undead creatures.
The result was five books starring policewoman Laura Caxton and Justinia Malvern, the ancient vampire she fights, climaxing in the just-released "32 Fangs" - a chilling, sometimes graphic tale of their final, epic battle.
"With vampires, it was almost a reaction to what was going on, to seeing more and more of these romantic vampires, these true-blood vampires," said Wellington in a recent telephone interview conducted after midnight.
"They were getting less and less scary and more and more fetishy... I was reading a lot of books that I didn't really enjoy because the vampires weren't scary."
So Wellington, who has also written novels featuring zombies and werewolves, set out to see if he could do something about the situation, despite the doubts of some who said vampires were so old-fashioned that nothing about them could be scary again.
Inevitably, perhaps, this involved what Wellington termed "a lot of blood and gore," although he said the books were tamer in this respect than his zombie novels. But he tried to make sure the bloodletting had a point.
"I believe that blood and guts for their own sake is really boring. Just spreading carnage gets very old very fast," he said.
"So I wanted to have that but also make it mean something. I wanted the reader to be invested with the characters enough so that when they were in danger, it's scary. So there has to be a real threat."
A long-time fan of monsters who first grew hooked as a child from reading books his mother left lying around the house, Wellington said the Laura Caxton series grew from a short story he wrote in one afternoon. When he decided to turn it into a novel, the character of Caxton appeared and practically took over, "basically writing herself."
But it's the monsters that make his job most fun.
"I think that monsters are really interesting to write about because they have their own agendas and they're not really bound by convention. So when you're writing about real people you're stuck with what does that person do for a living, how do they feel about their mother - all the old questions," he said.
"Whereas with monsters, almost anything goes. They tend not to fall into old cliches as much - which is a strange thing to say, because a lot of the times, when you think about things like vampires, you're thinking about hundreds of years of tradition and folklore."
As for which sort of monster is most suited to the present age, Wellington said it would have to be zombies.
"It looks enough like a human being to fool you, but it's not human, it doesn't have a brain, it can't think, it can't reason, it can't feel anything," he said.
"As we get more and more isolated from each other, it's hard to remember that other people across the train from you, sitting on the bus, are real people. I think all of us have had those moments where we start feeling utterly alone in a world full of zombies." (Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Paul Casciato)