This is a collection of the comments, questions & answers, which were between the members of Worlds of D&D and the wonderful Christie Golden. We thank Christie for taking the time in her schedule and providing us with some wonderful insights, behind a wonderful novel – Vampire of the Mists!
I loved this opening section, as I am also a fan of Forgotten Realms, and back in the days we played we would always enter Ravenloft from some other campaign setting.
Waterdeep is one of my favorite locations, and you portrayed this much darker side to the city, the Asylum.
Being your first novel, how much research did you do on the Forgotten Realms setting? I noticed there were some nice references to Evermeet in there too.
I mostly concentrated on Ravenloft, but I did buy the FR campaign setting so that I could talk about things with some degree of familiarity.
Comments on this part of the book: When I originally started writing this, Jander was almost as bad as Strahd. I remember working on scenes like, “The vampire stalked among the sheep, his cold eyes raking the scene with contempt.”
It sucked. I mean it felt All Wrong. From the very beginning, Jander’s fight to hang onto what goodness he could started to manifest, and I ended up completely redoing the character. He told me very clearly who he was and how he would behave, and I just followed his lead!
I am glad that you made this change. As I really liked the way that Jander is sorrowful, and clings onto nature even in a small way, and plants night blooming flowers near his cave.
There is still that evil inside him, as he kills everyone in the asylum, including the guards. A scene that still lingers in my mind long after I have read it.
Ah, is it evil or is it just pain and rage manifesting out of control? Darkness, yes, but not evil, I don’t think. He “checks out” and the slaughter is done on a subconscious level. Not guilty by reason of insanity?
Saw that James Lowder was your editor on VotM. It must have been fun. I had a few exchange by email over author’s notes at the FoS and all the time it was very pleasant.
James has been editor of many horror fantasy books, it seems (I recall he edited too the All flesh must be eaten series). How was it to work with him ? What seemed to be his concerns when he edited VotM ?
Jim did a fine job editing me, but I think he too was a little hamstrung by orders coming down “from above,” especially to “make it darker.” I ranted about this earlier somewhere on these boards–basically the higher ups wanted the books to be “darker” and, apparently, more depressing, and he was under pressure to see that my work reflected that. Unfortunately, I did as I was told, and I do think the books suffered from that after VAMPIRE. If it’s too dark, well, all you’re doing is sitting around saying “Hey, where is everyone?” LOL!
Did Madame Eva recognise Jander as a sun elf from Toril because she has visited his world in the past or because she’s a seer?
I find it fascinating that Madame Eva went to Toril and is now back in Barovia, I’m guessing she came back for her family?
You know, it’s been so long….I can’t even remember all this. If she did go to Toril, she probably did encounter a Sun Elf, so that’s probably what I meant to say. I would say Madame Eva, who is a TSR creation, probably has a good sense of where she belongs and made a deliberate decision to be where she is.
Another thing about this section of the book that I like is the Tarokka reading. It was a great tool to be used in the Ravenloft setting, to give a bit of back history of the adventuring party, and to tell in a small way how the story would unfold.
I also like how Jander wept tears of blood!
Thanks….they later did their own “tarokka” deck but I designed all the cards that appeared in VAMPIRE. I took a traditional deck and kind of made it Ravenloft-centric, the Tower being Castle Ravenloft etc. It was fun.
And the blood tears…I don’t know where I got that, but it was one thing that was often attributed to vampires. Maybe I swiped it frome Anne Rice? Hey, good writers borrow, great writers steal…LOL I AM joking of course!
A few things have stuck out in my mind in the book, that I really liked.
First up was the curse that Jander could not partake of the blood of animals like he could back in Waterdeep, something that he needed to separate him from other vampires, something that would make him feel less evil.
Next was the way he carefully fed of Natasha, but at the same time his thirst was so great that he could have killed her. Jander had amazing restraint to hold back and spare her life.
I also liked a little history tidbit which was revealed when Jander was looking through some tomes of Strahd. One of these books was called Skin and Steel : The History of the Ba’al Verzi. This was a very insightful introduction to these assasins and I would have loved to read more about them.
If you can remember Christie where did this info on the Ba’al Verzi come from, was it your creation and what was the inspiration behind it?
Part of the pathos of Jander is that he continues to try even when he knows that he can’t really succeed.
But he refuses to give up. He’s going to keep trying to overcome his dark parts, keep trying to bring light to the land, keep nurturing all that’s good and beautiful. Very much a Don Quixote, except with full appreciation of the futility of what he’s doing. One of the reasons I think this book is so popular is that it DOES have the glimmer of a candle in the darkness. There’s still hope, even if it’s doomed. I think the more the line went on, the less that was allowed to manifest in the novels. I know that I was repeatedly told to “make it darker,” and yet the book that has the most light (VAMPIRE) is the most popular, and the book that has the most darkness and lack of hope (ENEMY) is the least popular.
The whole Ba’al Verzi angle was my creation, yes. Kinda proud of that. Prouder even of creating, as far as I know, the first elven vampire.
I liked the scene where Strahd and Jander are playing music together, Strahd playing the organ and Jander playing the flute for a short while you see that both are moved by the music and are kindred spirits for a time.
Also liked Jander and Strahd little duel with controlling the wolves eventually leading to strahd having full control over them
Ah, the duet…still one of my favorite scenes. I think it still stands among the best I’ve written. It’s interesting to look back at this, my first book, from 25 novels on and see what I think still works and what seems very clunky to me.
Yes the duet is fantastic, a really powerful piece of writing.
Let me just quote a piece that really struck out…
“Together, the vampires created spontaneous music. The clear tones of the flute danced and skittered like light over the organs deep chords. Sometimes the music was gentle, rippling, peaceful. Other times it swelled and burst like the waves crashing onto the shore, a vampiric music that reflected the inner pangs of its creators, the harmonies of the damned incarnated.”
Christie, you must have shivered yourself when writing that!
I hope people who have not yet picked up this book, who look at these threads, come to see how a great piece of work this was and still is to this day.
Mal, thanks! I don’t want to go all ooky ooo on everybody but you know, there are times when I really feel I’m not writing this all by myself. Sometimes the words just come through and I sit back and say, “Dang, did I write that? That’s GOOD!” There are characters like that too, of which Jander was one. He really felt and feels still like something “outside” myself. It can be very weird. I’ve talked to other writers and it’s very reassuring to hear them confide similar feelings, so I know I’m not crazy….at least any more than other authors are crazy!
Another thing in this part of my book, that I had totally forgotten about, which I found to be an absolute pearl of information, was Chapter 12 which basically told the story of the Silver Six.
This flashback also served to tell the tale of how Daggerdale in the Realms came to have its name.
Yep, the Silver Six are my own, as is what happened to Daggerdale and why it got that name. I fullly expect someone to write me and tell me that WotC has released some compendium that completely retells that history. LOL that happened with ENEMY, you know….there was only a little bit about Nova Vaasa in the first Ravenloft game, so I made up a ton of “history,” including giving Tristan his name, deciding who the unnamed “ghost” was and her history of suicide, etc.. Imagine my shock when I read in a review that I had “got it all wrong” because I apparently misspelled Tristan’s name and said his wife was a suicide when Tristan really murdered her.
I’m like, “But….they changed everything AFTER the book came out….”
So, I guess the question really is…who got it wrong?
This is not at all unusual in dealing with shared worlds, by the way!
I like the character of Trina even if she is a werewolf , I liked it when she transformed right in front of Jander
Trina was a lot of fun…and, er, partially based on someone I knew at the time….the physical description anyway. Human physical description, that is.
I particularly enjoyed developing “Trina” and “Katya” as two separate characters.
Another flashback I have enjoyed, is the one where Jander returns to Waterdeep to see his old friend, Lyria. It is at this time Jander feels his most desperate, trying to understand what he has become. And it is here also we learn the name of the vampire who made Jander undead also…Cassiar.
Cassiar was an homage to Anne Rice’s Armand as he was described in the book.
I don’t know if it because I have watched Van Helsing on DVD recently, but when I read the sections where Sasha and Leisl are out hunting the undead, it is that kinda role that I imagine Sasha to be in.
I have really grown fond of his character, and the history behind him. It was cool how he was a sworn friend to Jander even before he was born!
Sasha was perhaps one of my first conflicted young men characters, an archetype I like to work with. (Jander too is conflicted, but he is an elf and not exactly young.) I just now realized from your post how much he is related in spirit to the lead male character in ON FIRE’S WINGS, Jashemi-kha-Tahmu. Hmmmm….
The last two chapters of this section are certainly amongst my favorite.
It is these two chapters where Jander find The Tome of Strahd and starts to learn the truth about his Anna (Tatyana).
Firstly I like this because it reminds me of playing the original Ravenloft module many years ago, where you found Strahds tome, and read those now famous lines – ‘I am the Ancient, I am the Land’.
Also these chapters were fantastic because for the first time ever we got the real backstory on how Strahd became what we know of him today!
You certainly set the stage perfectly for the novel I,Strahd.
It was fun getting to flesh out the backstory. One thing I knew I had to do was have Strahd love Sergei. I really pushed for that because even as a budding young writer (26, heaven help us!) I KNEW that that was what was going to make this more than another ho hum, kills someone for power type of thing. Even here, a lot got edited out, but I think the fact that Strahd truly loved his younger brother made what he did more horrific and at the same time more poignant.
Can you tell me more about Strahd other brother Sturm as there was not much written about him.
I wish I could, but I never really gave Sturm much thought. He was kind of the forgotten brother, wasn’t he?
Another thing I like about this book, is when Sasha asked Jander what it is like to be a vampire. The descriptions that Jander gave were so vivid it really made you think.
When he decribed the thirst, and compared it to being worse than the bloated tongue in the cotton mouthed desert wanderer, that was genius. I was almost dry reading it!
In fact it was so good I will quote a paragraph.
“The blood need is a thirst like no other, a hunger that has no parallel. The man stranded in the desert, his tongue thick within hs papery throat, yearning for the tiniest drop of moisture to ease the parched, cottony feel of his mouth – that is nothing to my thirst. A prisoner trapped in a cell, denied food for days; he feels his stomach hollow within him, he looks at the rats who share his cell, the filthy straw upon which he sleeps, his very own flesh as sustenance – he knows nothing of my hunger. And every night, we awaken thus.”
Thanks for the compliment, that’s one of my favorite passages in the book. Very purple prose, but pretty good for a lush bit, I think!
I was wondering if the original module I6:Ravenloft had a major influence on this part of the book.
Also did you have any contact with Tracy Hickman when you started this project, or was it the intention of TSR to move forward with a new vision of what Ravenloft should be?
The only reference I had was the boxed set.
One thing I have always wondered about is the fate of Jander. As he is listed as still around in Ravenloft to this day. In the novel we do not read about his actual demise, as it just leaves you wondering.
Christie – Did you intend at some point to come back to Jander, or did you envisage that he died in the morning light?
About Jander’s “end”–it was an interesting thing. I originally wrote it as it stands now–open ended. My editor wanted me to make it clear that he died, so I wrote the scene in which poor Jander’s flesh is charred off the bones, etc. etc. Jim, my editor, then decided that the first way was the best, and that’s how it stands. My answer is and always has been that if there are no more novels, then he died; if there are, then he lives.
One of the things about a shared world is that once you create a character, he doesn’t belong to you. In CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT, the author created a mini adventure with Jander, so “officially” he’s still around in Ravenloft.
I think it’s the first time in D&D where we had some vampires interested by sex as well as blood (“I’m untouched here and here”). That is a great idea, as Ravenloft usually attracts mature readers. Did it cause worries at TSR ?
This novel exploits with brio many characteristics of the canon D&D setting – I think it can be used an intro for players wanting to know more about Ravenloft. I’m curious to hear what D&D material you had in hand before writing this novel? Where you a D&D player?
Lots of questions!
Regarding sex, I did have to do a little dance with TSR about a few things. This was
right after some of the worst PR stuff to hit regarding the “evils of gaming” and TSR was rightly very cautious. So Petya and Sasha’s mom had to be older than I had originally intended them to be (I was really going for 15-year-old kids having sex, because unfortunately it does happen and it does have consequences).
I was able to get permission for vampires to have sex and–get this–to be able to father
children. For a while, in the early stages, I was toying with Jander being Sasha’s father (“I am your father, Luke!) but I think I like the way it played out better. (Don’t you love all this dishy behind the scenes stuff?)
As I said, I only had the original module, and I had never played Ravenloft (although I did a lot of playing in college.) I don’t do much these days because it’s too frustrating to come from a place of directing every character as an author to BEING directed. Weird, huh?
I guess you was doing the Vampire mating thing years before they thought of it in ‘Angel’
LOL I do sometimes wonder if a copy of VOTM ever crossed Josh Whedon’s path….Angel is clearly very different, but there are a few similarities.