The Literary Life

Two top literary agents on trends in book publishing, with recommendations for your reading list.

Fangs for Last Night

Have you sunk your teeth into the new vampire fiction?

There's a reason we love vampire novels, and that reason, quite simply, is repressed sex. But vampires have been around for a very long time. Why the unprecedented popularity now? Here's our theory. It has as much to do with how publishing works, especially in the United States, as with vampires.

Anne Rice first popularized vampires for contemporary readers with her groundbreaking novel Interview With the Vampire, published in 1976. It was her first novel to feature the mysterious vampire Lestat. Nine more books would follow to comprise The Vampire Chronicles; the most recent, Blood Canticle, was published in 2003.

Rice hit a chord with these novels by deviating from the old image of vampires as gruesome dead people constantly in search of fresh blood. In her novels, vampires are portrayed as frightening but also as physically strong and insatiably sexual. Sexually speaking, the vampire came to represent the most dangerous of lovers, for in giving in to sex with a vampire, one risks death. Grave danger but only on paper--the perfect escapist combination. In the parlance of the Harlequin romance, the vampire hero was the ultimate "alpha male."

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Here's where the nature of publishing comes in. When publishers see a hit, they rush to copy it, bringing out so many read-alikes that ultimately the public tires of the trend, the books cease to sell and the publishers retire the concept. Not so with vampires. The more vampire books the publishers churned out, the more people discovered them and wanted more. But no glut occurred, because here at last was a type of story that had something for everyone--horror, the supernatural, and dangerous, forbidden romance, all rolled into one.

As time passed, the vampire genre began to infiltrate other genres. Now we had vampire romances (both serious and humorous), vampire teen fiction, vampire urban fiction, vampire mysteries, literary vampire fiction, and on and on. Formal subgenres formed and solidified. The genre is stronger than ever and shows no sign of going away.

Have you sunk your teeth into this genre yet? Many who once thought they never would are now hooked. The trick is to find the right kind of vampire fiction for you. For help with this, we recommend these websites:

The Vampire Library
A resource for readers of vampire fiction, literature and nonfiction books. Includes latest titles on the bestseller lists.

LoveVampires
Reviews of novels with either a vampire theme or a vampire character.

Vampire Books for Teens
Suite101: A List of Vampire Fiction for Fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

Evan Marshall is the president of The Evan Marshall Agency, a leading literary management firm that represents a number of New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors.

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