Man and monster are in his blood. . .
His name is Jeremiah Fall. A soldier of fortune, he has been fighting his own war for 150 years–ever since the beast in him was born.
Desperate to restore his lost humanity, Fall crosses the sands of Egypt, discovers a lost city off the coast of France, and finally arrives at the birthplace of all mankind. Shunning daylight and feeding only when he must, he battles the monster who transformed him forever. He can share his deepest secret with no one . . . not even the beautiful woman he starts to love, the only human who grasps the mysteries of an ebony stone as old as creation itself.
Across the world, across time, Fall seeks the stone’s secret. But has he found a cure for himself or unleashed a final curse on all mankind?
The Hysterically Historical Paranormal Paradigm by Stefan Petrucha
Ambrose Bierce said, “God knows the future, but only an historian can alter the past.” History’s tough. It’s written by the winners. It’s a rebuke to the present. He who does not remember it is condemned to repeat it. And the historical novel? Twice the angst at half the price. By definition, the author wasn’t even there.
Sure, there are all sorts of heady reasons to engage the conceit – it’s a reflection of ourselves, a way of understanding how we got to be who we are, blah-blah-blah. But, but really, does it offer a genuine advantage or is it just another decoration for something that, at heart, works the same as any other fiction? Is it merely a matter of taste – a la some like chocolate others strawberry?
My new novel, Blood Prophecy follows puritan Jeremiah Fall’s efforts to cure his vampirism, a quest which takes him smack into Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798. Aside from a dozen other delights, my work on it made me take a look at the question of what makes the historical novel tick. As a result, I’ve come to think it’s more than mere façade. At the same time, having been writing professionally for over twenty years, I must quickly add the disclaimer – Really, what the hell do I know?
For me the issue stretches back to my first historical effort, Dark Ages: Assamite. A licensed work, it was set during the fall of Byzantium, had to conform to the rules of the role-playing game it was based on, and featured a lesbian Islamic vampire. Going in, not only did I not know much about any of that, I had to write the thing in about six weeks.
I crammed like crazy, skimmed, read, collected facts large and small, drank coffee and drove myself crazy. Despite these efforts, six weeks was just not enough time to “own” the material enough to write an effective write a story.
The clock was ticking. And then… I caught pneumonia!
Rather than a due date death-knell, the raging fever was a blessing. It melted my doubts and second guessing into a fine stew, actually helping me bring the story alive. (Silverware and various pieces of furniture also came alive and sang various Paul McCartney songs, but that’s another tale for another genre.)
Like Frankenstein, manufactured life is what I shoot for as a writer. If I can fool myself into believing the words on the page are more than that, if I’m transported, I figure I’m doing something right. Or maybe it was the fever.
Regardless, I remain pleased with the results, which earned a number of raves and went into a second printing the first month of its release. But, it wasn’t until I began my more leisurely efforts on Blood Prophecy that I really thought about the whys and wherefores of the form.
I mean I like history. I’m a factoid freak, bent on collecting and expressing whatever odd ideas tickle my fancy – but what’s the cosmic ray that makes those assembled facts breathe? Long story short, the answer I came up with is this:
When I write (or read about) the present day, it’s easier not to pay attention to things like a pencil, a car, a cell phone or a fast food meal. Familiarity breeds contempt. The desk I work at, the laptop in front of me, the parts of reality I see most often, are the things I experience least of all.
But… leap back a hundred years or so, and there’s an opportunity, at least, for everything to seem new, and therefore real again. Ask what kind of a hammer a puritan farmer had and I think about hammers. Ask if Napoleon had a pencil and I can almost hear the quill scratching the paper. To look at it another way, a soup can is nothing, simple to ignore. Struggling with the first soup can, because they were just invented, is something else.
It helps the mind, mine anyway, see things more what the Zen Buddhists call beginner’s mind. It makes it easier to ask, what the hell is this? And, as a consequence, what the hell am I? The very questions assume the world and its characters are real.
And those questions form the heart of Blood Prophecy.
In 1644, Jeremiah Fall and his family are lousy famers, not sure what they’re doing, not sure if the New World is Eden or Hell. They’re unsure if the natives’ savage ways will lead them to the Devil, or if they’re obligated to bring them to Jesus. Everything’s tense with newness when they encounter that burial mound they really should have left alone.
In 1798, Napoleon, rock star of his day, invites a hundred French intellectuals along for his next campaign. They hop in the boat without even knowing where they’re going. It’s Napoleon! The world is new, the world is ours. Who cares? On the way to wherever they chat with the little corporal about life on other worlds, and what a dream is. Yet these great intellectuals believe hieroglyphs are magic and powdered mummy a curative.
What is this? What am I?
The novel opens with a good example of what I’m trying to get to. Vampire Jeremiah Fall is in chains, examined by two men. One is the historical figure Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, an arrogant savant who has developed a proto-version of Darwin’s theory of Evolution. But the jock-soldiers give him no respect.
The other is a Catholic priest, summoned by the atheistic French because of his biblical knowledge and because, well, they can summon whoever they want. Rome is occupied, it’s power on the wane. Here he is in a heathen country, prepared to fight the Crusades all over again.
Each asks the question Jeremiah’s been asking himself for decades – what is he?
And though the vampire’s been written about a thousand times in a thousand ways, for me, the question feels real again. I hope it does for readers as well.
Born in the Bronx, Stefan Petrucha spent his formative years moving between the big city and the suburbs, both of which made him prefer escapism.
A fan of comic books, science fiction and horror since learning to read, in high school and college he added a love for all sorts of literary work, eventually learning that the very best fiction always brings you back to reality, so, really, there’s no way out.
An obsessive compulsion to create his own stories began at age ten and has since taken many forms, including novels, comics and video productions. At times, the need to pay the bills made him a tech writer, an educational writer, a public relations writer and an editor for trade journals, but fiction, in all its forms, has always been his passion. Every year he’s made a living at that, he counts a lucky one. Fortunately, there’ve been many.
Want to purchase Stefan’s novels?
Blood Prophecy at Amazon
Read the FREE short story, Fall and the Jersey Devil
- Yestermorrow at Amazon and the Book Depository
- Inrage at Amazon and the Book Depository
- Blindsighted at Amazon and the Book Depository
- FutureImperfect at Amazon and the Book Depository