If you enjoy vampire fiction, then I hope you’ve been keeping up with the Chicago Vampire Series, by my good friend Laura Enright. “Ujaali,” the second book in the series, has garnered glowing reviews over at Amazon:
“Ujaali” follows Laura’s successful first book in the series, “To Touch the Sun.” The first novel was roundly praised by fans, and drove their considerable interest in following the continuing story of Narain Khan, the vampire chef. Here are a few words from Laura tonight about how her first novel served as the creative genesis for the ongoing series:
“When I wrote ‘To Touch the Sun,’ the first novel in the series, I had no idea it would be the first in a series. I was actually trying to impress an agent who I’d been corresponding with. He’d rejected a few previous proposals, but always encouraged me to continue sending them and kept in touch. That’s very rare for an agent. Noticing that the agency he worked for represented a vampire series, I decided to try my hand at the genre. I liked vampire novels, Ann Rice’s series being a favorite, but I never had an urge to write one. I never had a story to tell.
“Still I learned years ago with my book ‘Chicago’s Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Murderous Mobsters, Midway Monsters and Windy City Oddities’ (another book I originally had no desire to write) sometimes you have to try new things to achieve a goal.
“It took me some time to refine the characters and build a story around them. The only idea I had from the beginning was ‘vampire chef.’ Not a lot to go on off the bat. The structure changed, perspective changed, characters changed, the plot changed. But at last, after a lot of experimenting, I had my very first vampire novel. Narain Khan is a young man, a chef in a hotel restaurant, who leaves India to fight on the Western Front of the First World War. It’s his hope to stay on after the war and learn the art of European cooking. It’s his dream to be a famous chef. But after being wounded during a push across No Man’s Land, he’s attacked by feral vampires, wild scavengers who take advantage of the carnage on battlefields to feed. He becomes the other type of vampire: a sentient vampire, able to move about in society, with certain restrictions, and no one need be the wiser to what he is. It is a difficult life for a man such as he to wrap his mind around and the restrictions do manage to keep him from his dream. Then he meets his beloved Sophie, daughter of a wealthy industrialist, and she helps him achieve all that he wishes to.
“When ‘TTTS’ opens in modern day Chicago, the life Narain has carefully cultivated for decades is at risk. The death of Sophie months before has taken away not only the woman he loves but also his food source. It’s a risk that grows greater as the story goes on. I’m fascinated by the ‘victim of circumstance’ dynamic behind many vampire legends (some poor guy walking along is attacked, the life he once knew stolen from him). Narian has never denied what he is, but he’s never worn it comfortably. Sophie’s willingness to not only provide emotional support but also physical sustenance helped him live as normal a life as possible. Narain finds himself having to return to a life he left behind decades ago. If he doesn’t attend to the need, however, his body will make the decision for him, which is the last thing he and his normal business partner, Dom Amato, need. So while things seem to be “exploding” around him, he’s finding it more and more difficult to deal with the many crises that come up. He falls in love with Cassie Lambert, a microbiologist with a curious connection to his past, and finds he must save her not only from a new and more dangerous breed of mutated vampire, but also from a threat he finds much more dangerous. Captain Reginald Jameson was a sadistic bully when he commanded Narain in the trenches of WWI. As a vampire, his cruelty is matched by his power. He wishes to obtain something that Cassie discovered during her research and he’s not overly concerned with how he gets it.
“I would like to say that the agent I was trying to impress loved it and instantly agreed to represent it, but sadly, that didn’t come to pass. I’ll not go to deep into what happened to the agent except to say that he liked the concept I verbally pitched to him at a convention and told me to send him a proposal once I had the novel written, but by the time I was able to submit the proposal, he had left the business altogether and his fellow agents weren’t interested in the project.
“The funny thing is that I completely fell in love with my little experiment. I joke that the woman who had no interest in writing a vampire novel now can’t stop telling the stories. I’ve gone on to write three more and a spin-off novel of paranormal investigators that appeared in the third novel. So while I may have lost an agent, I gained a series.
“I’m not sure when the idea for a sequel hit me. As I say, I had planned only to write the first novel and there is a last chapter that would have been fine with which to end.
“For some reason, though, an epilogue seemed called for. It’s possible I had hoped to add some closure to a subplot about Narain searching for his sister who might yet live but who would be very old. It’s not that it seemed unfinished. It’s more that a scene came to me which I felt would work as an epilogue to that subplot.
“It was while writing this scene that the idea for the sequel sprang to mind. It was so clear and so intriguing that I left the ending of the epilogue open. And I was propelled instantly into enthusiasm for a sequel. And in fact, the epilogue in ‘TTTS’ begins the sequel, ‘Ujaali,’ as the prologue.
“That is part of the joy of writing that first novel. Unlike other novels I’ve written, I didn’t have a sense of plot or characters. So often times places the plot went to were a surprise for me.
“The sequel was no different and I think out of the four books I’ve written for the series, Ujaali remains my favorite. Possibly because of certain elements I brought in with this novel. The conflict is even more personal than the first, one as the consequences of an action taken out of anger and misery decades before come back to haunt Narain. He desperately needs to fix the situation, but he isn’t sure that he can. The consequences of that action taken so long ago threaten his two most important relationships: His friendship with his business partner Dom, who he finds himself keeping secrets from, which he’s never done before, and his romance with Cassie, who, in an episode of shock and confusion, he finds himself betraying in the worst way (that was one of those scenes I didn’t see coming). To help the victims of his mistake, he must turn to an old nemesis for help and pay the price that Reg Jameson is only too happy to extract from him.
“Exploring all possibilities was very enjoyable for me as a writer. I think I have or at least I’ve tried to put a unique spin on the genre. Hopefully it’s as enjoyable for the reader.
“To check out the books visit Amazon where they’re available in paperback and Kindle format. For more information on the series you can visit the Chicago Vampire Series Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Chicago-Vampire-Series-1497548483899119/. You can also visit my website at http://www.laura-enright.com/“