Carrie Vaughn, Author of “Life is the Teacher”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

“Life is the Teacher” is about a new vampire learning to hunt, using her newfound powers of supernatural seduction.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

The story originally appeared in the anthology Hotter Than Hell, edited by Kim Harrison. The anthology invitation asked for “hot” supernatural stories, and I wanted to write a story that takes place in the world of my supernatural novels. The tone of the anthology wouldn’t have worked for a story about Kitty, since she tends to be a little too perky and cheerful for an erotic story, so I picked a secondary character to write about, Emma. It worked out, because “Life is the Teacher” picks up Emma’s story where it left of at the end of Kitty Goes to Washington.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

In some ways, mainly because I did what I often do when writing short stories: I set myself a challenge. This time, I wanted to write a sexy/erotic story in which the main character never actually takes all her clothes off. So it was a matter of seeing how much of a reaction I could get out of the reader without taking the obvious route. I had a lot of fun with it.

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I’m not sure, except that I always feel a great deal of empathy for my main characters. In this case, Emma’s in a situation she didn’t ask for having to do something she lacks the confidence for. A lot of my stories are about characters overcoming a lack of confidence, which is something I relate to.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

Not a whole lot, truth be told. Since it’s a story that ties into my novels, I was able to cannibalize most of the research I’ve done for those. As far as my vampires go, I pretty much use the movie stereotype, since that’s what most people are familiar with. But I do like to play with that stereotype as much as I can.

What is the appeal of vampire fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

I get asked that a lot and I haven’t come up with a good answer. The modern seductive vampire is so different from the old-school folklore vampire, and it’s an interesting evolution seeing how the one became the other in film and fiction. I think audiences are intrigued by the power — supernatural power, seductive power, political power — that vampires are made to wield. They become these avatars for the dangerous and alluring.

What are some of your favorite examples of vampire fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Steven Brust’s Agyar is my favorite vampire novel, though by even listing it I’m giving away one of the big attractions of the book, which is how Brust never uses the word vampire, never tells you it’s a vampire novel, until one shocking moment. It’s got all the vampire tropes, but it’s told in a personal, almost claustrophic manner. It’s not really a novel about vampires, you know?

My favorite vampire movies are probably The Hunger, which is just kind of hot, sexy, creepy, and beautiful; and Shadow of the Vampire, which is really best when seen right after watching Nosferatu.