Nancy Kilpatrick, Author of “The Vechi Barbat”

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

“The Vechi Barbat” is about the old world clashing with the modern.

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

Well, I was a writer Guest of Honor at the World Horror Convention 2007 and they wanted a story for the souvenir book!

There are places in this world today, despite computers, cellphones, TV and other modern technologies, that still have a lot of cultural mythology and ancient lore imbedded in the lives of the ordinary person who live, by our standards, very primitive lives — imagine not having a phone in the village. Or never having seen a computer. City dwellers may find that hard to believe, but if you go to places in Europe and in the East and South America and step outside the urban world, you find spots that don’t appear to have changed much in centuries. It’s a shock to the system of people who are “modern” and living in the 21st century, believe me. How much more of a shock would it be for someone who comes from such a place and is thrust into the “first” world, hauling with them every one of their beliefs learned at the knee of their mother into this more or less godless and myth-free-zone of 2010? I wanted to see how that clash would play out in a vampire story. And besides mythology, I’m a huge fan of psychology.

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

It wasn’t challenging at all. And I think anyone who writes horror can imagine themselves braced between two worlds, the rational and the irrational, the superstitious and the deadly reasonable, the mythological and just-the-facts-ma’am. After all, we write about horrific circumstances and even when we work with real-life horror, for example, serial killers, it’s still pushing the envelope between what is real and what is paranoia. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how many serial killers have lived in your neighborhood and you can get a gauge on how paranoid you are. Writers of horror play on this.

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

I’d say that everything I’ve written is personal. It all comes from me. If there wasn’t a resonance somewhere I wouldn’t be writing it. But that doesn’t mean all stories are a direct link to me. “The Vechi Barbat” is not. I am not from a backward country (unless, like WC Fields, you consider Philadelphia backward). My family did not rely on myths, legends and spookiness, nor did we have demons in the closet; all our demons were all front and center!

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

Only research for some of the Baltic countries and a bit on mythology and language. I’m fairly familiar with vampire mythologies. In Romanian, Vechi means “old” or “stale.” Bărbat is a “man,” or “husband” and an extension on the word makes it “mankind.” Also, a friend of mine, Rob Brautigam, has a great website called shroudeater.com and he has been researching vampire mythologies and sightings of “real” vampires for well over 25 years. I cribbed a bit of info from there.

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 wish I knew. I’ve been writing about vampires since 1975 and no matter how much I try to get away from them, I’m always seduced back. I spent my childhood loving horror movies and vampires were a favorite. They became a BIG favorite when, during puberty, I saw Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula. Lee and that Hammer film style caught me.

Vampires are clearly an archetypal energy or they wouldn’t resonate with so many people. I think you can heap all the cultural traits onto them (and almost every culture has produced a vampire mythology, the traits varying from place to place). But there seems to be a universal attraction/repulsion. That tells us that this creature is of serious concern for humanity, even those of us who enjoy living in the most advanced places on the planet. And isn’t it curious the surge in popularity the vampire has enjoyed over the last sixty years in the so-called first world? More vampire fiction has been published since the 1950s (in English) than in all the rest of human (publishing) history.

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

As a lot of people know, I have a huge collection of vampire books (1700 titles), magazines, fanzines, films, posters and odd items, like a Dracula punching bag, and a chunk of the theater in London where Dracula was first performed. It’s awfully hard to find favorites in fiction. I like everything, whether it’s good quality writing, or cheesy pulp. And even the stuff I’ve thrown against the wall in despair because of the purple prose. There’s something so charming about what so many people have written about vampires, but also awe-inspiring, that this creature could have evoked all this creativity.