Characters and stories come to me in the strangest ways. Mattie Hornbecker’s Other Bag (a short story) evolved from the bird-shaped sweat-stain on the back of a neighboring cyclist—and the Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles was born of an exam-induced stress dream.
It was a cold day in late November, after leaves and before snow: the perfect setting for a class on gothic novels. I was a graduate student then, and we were plotting to convince the prof that exams should be foregone in favor of fiction writing. Why not? We were discussing vampire stories; wouldn’t it be a better test of our ability to write our own? Not surprisingly, the professor didn’t see it that way. Ah well, I thought. Worth a shot. I went home that night with plenty of studying to do, little suspecting that an idea had taken hold in my subconscious.
Sometime late that night, I found myself dreaming television. It’s boring, really, but you can’t change the channel on dream-TV, so I watched. And there he was: a young man, cajoled by his obnoxious aunt and annoying sister, desperately trying to escape the house for some night air… as a vampire. A medical vampire. Exactly what Freud would make of this, I have no idea. Regardless, Jacob Maresbeth was born.
Ever since he was involved in a mysterious “accident” while on family vacation, Jacob (Jake) Maresbeth has suffered from an unusual medical condition. Having a doctor for a dad has certainly made things easier, but puberty throws a wrench in the mix. Even Jake’s father, a respected neurologist, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years…especially that little detail about drinking blood. From hermetically sealed juice boxes. In the basement.
“Let’s face it,” says Jake, “consuming raw blood instead of cheeseburgers kind of gets you noticed, and not in a good way.”
Is there a “good way”? History tells some alarming stories on that front. In the 1730s, Europe witnessed a vampire scare resulting in the occasional mutilation of corpses to stop an apparent “outbreak” of vampirism. Odd, isn’t it? That’s a word we reserve for plagues. But what if vampirism is a plague or disease of some kind? What if the modern vampire isn’t a vampire at all? The more I thought about Jake, the more I realized how much Hollywood leaves out of the picture. If you take away the fancy covens and the protection super-human systems provide, what you have left is a marginalized victim of circumstance. Lucky Jake’s not the worrying kind.
Easygoing and affable Jake knows the whole blood-drinking thing is a little weird, but doesn’t spend too much time thinking about it. Would you? Hospital visits suck (no pun intended) and medical tests are boring. Anyway, Jake’s got bigger things to think about, like writing articles for the school newspaper and trying—sometimes desperately—to get a date. Blond beach boy with a spotless reputation, well-balanced home life, and plenty of friends: it doesn’t sound like your normal angsty vampire novel. But as I developed the story, I realized the world of a “differently abled” young adult would be fraught with danger enough—and to spare. In HIGH STAKES, Jake has to put up with more than his condition, he has to keep hiding it, too (even from his aunt). When the remaining blood supplies in Jake’s portable refrig-o-mat suddenly come up missing, his vacation takes a more sinister turn. Who took them—and why? And will he make it until fresh supplies arrive?
Find out more about Jake and his (mis)adventures in High Stakes, Book One of The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles, released on April 1st from Cooperative Trade. You can find it on Amazon—and I welcome your reviews! Look for Book Two, Villagers, out this summer.