Vampires are quite popular at the moment with Twilight and True Blood, as they have been on and off for the last couple of centuries at least. There are many well known vampires and all of them quite different. They have also given rise to a complete subculture in society, some who take their belief a lot further than others.
Megan Norris takes a close look at the deadliest side of this subculture in her latest book True True Blood, and we asked her to share a little of herself with us, I found it fascinating, I hope you enjoy it also.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
From the moment I learned to write my name. As a kid I spent hours making up poems and writing adventure stories based on my own love of Nancy Drew Girl Detective books. By 11 I was the youngest contributor to the high school magazine, getting into trouble with my overly frank accounts of school camps and my critiques of the food! I wrote compositions for the school arts festival and by 14 had decided I would be a journalist. All my school reports reckoned I was ‘nosey and interfering’ so I figured I’d make a living from it. I pestered the editor of my local evening newspaper with story ideas, and was finally employed at 18 as one of two ‘token’ girl apprentice reporters on a British journalism training course where I learned from the best. I absolutely loved news, the smell of print, the whole environment and learned to write tight copy to tighter deadlines. Being a young girl in a seventies news room was tough and I had to work twice as hard to prove myself. But I loved the challenge and the chase and still do. I’ve learned to ‘think’ through my fingers and have more ideas than my head can manage!
What made you want to write about crime?
As kid I used to wait for my parents to go shopping and dig out the sensational News of the World Sunday paper which my dad tried to hide from me. I was nine, so I had to read the gory stories armed with a small Collins dictionary to help me figure out words like ‘corpse’, ‘dismembered’,‘torso’ and ‘decapitated.’ I was both horrified and fascinated with the disappearance of two little girls my age whose naked bodies wound up on Cannock Chase. I followed that case for weeks and my mum never knew what was causing my bad dreams. As a news journalist, I specialised in police and court reporting. I adored the whole ‘theatre’ of Crown Court where the worst of human behaviour, and the best of human courage was there on a plate, waiting to be written. I used to take bets with the police and lawyers on who’d be chosen as the jury foreman and I always won. But while I loved the clever legal arguments and reported on a range of ghastly, and sometimes hilarious cases, it was the stories of the surviving victims of crime that fascinated me most. It’s amazing how courageous and resilient some survivors can be. I was inspired by how people who’d endured such horror could rebuild shattered lives and be happy in spite of hideous things. I now write survivor features for women’s magazines and find them inspirational.
More particularly what inspired you to write this book?
I had written a feature on real life vampire murders to coincide with the premiere of one of the Twilight movies and the then publisher at Five Mile saw it and asked if I had enough material to write a book on the subject. I thought I might struggle – truth is, I’ve got enough for a sequel.
Can you tell us about your latest book
True True Blood is a portrait of gruesome darkness in which I’ve taken a look at some of the most sickening and violent blood lust killings, which with the exception of one, all come from contemporary court cases that made headline news around the world.
I didn’t want it to be one of those compilation books, where each case is a scanty snapshot of material we’ve all read before, so I’ve handpicked some of the most fascinating and studied the crimes more closely, endeavouring to find a new twist to each one.
Each of the murders are as disturbing as they are diverse. But I wanted to illustrate that the popular culture of vampirism has had a great influence on the minds of some disturbed individuals who have crossed the line from fantasy to reality when they’ve killed. At the time some of these murders were committed, viewing for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer soared. It’s unclear whether popular culture has sparked evil in some, or whether evil has sparked curiosity in the subculture of vampirism! Either way, this book looks at the darkest most taboo nature of homicide and the motivations that drive people to kill with such sickening violence.
Is there a reason why you chose these particular cases to write about?
Yes. The cases I chose, while very different, all have a similar hallmark. Many of the killers believed they could achieve immortality through drinking the blood of their victims. Others killed to satisfy a blood lust. I have included a cross section of vampire killers from different parts of the world and different backgrounds. There are two cases of killers acting in tandem – from German newlyweds Manuela and Daniel Ruda who ritualistically slaughtered their best friend and drank his blood, to Perth lesbian lovers, Valerie Parashumti and Jessica Stasinowski who murdered their teenage housemate to prove their sickening love for each other. Two of the crimes, including an Australian murder, illustrate the charismatic influence of a vampire ‘leader’ over a pack of young devotees. And I also chose three contemporary cases where the killers acted solo. All three share the common motivation of killing and drinking their victim’s blood, in a bid to become immortal.
I’ve also included an Australian case of a self proclaimed vampire who was on trial for a brutal attack on a sex worker when he became the victim of an underworld hit part way through his trial. That case was different to the rest since he was the only one to become the victim of a murder himself. As a result he was never able to prove he wasn’t the vampire it was alleged he was, and neither was his guilt. The most ghastly case in the book, which never reached the courts, is the only one that is not contemporary. I chose Elizabeth Bathory, not just because she was a woman, and the first recognised vampire killer, but because her crimes were by far the most hideous and she almost got away with murder. Because she was noble, the Blood Countess of Hungary, couldn’t be tried for slaughtering 650 young maidservants and bathing in their blood. Instead she was holed up in her bedroom in the castle where the murders took place, until her death. What is interesting is that many of these cases share a sado-sadistic sexual hallmark; all the offenders are young, half of them were women, and most were motivated by the lure of immortality and the vampire lifestyle. More disturbing, of all the killers, not one was found to be criminally insane when they killed and not one showed any remorse!
Are you working on something new that you can share a little bit about with us?
I am just completing another true crime book on a high profile murder which made headlines around the world. I covered this story as a journalist from the moment the crime broke and have followed it from the courts and behind the scenes with the victims. It’s still very confidential. I’ve also begun research for another true crime book with a twist. This one’s different as I usually write about women or children as victims of crime. This time the victim is a bloke and the offender is female.
Did any one case stand out and affect you more than others?
It’s hard to pinpoint one, because the background histories of several of these killers are chilling. Some of the killers were as much victims of past horrific violence as the their own victims. But the case of the Kentucky Vampires was possibly the most intriguing. Rod Ferrell, the cult leader, is the youngest killer in the book. At 16 he led his teenage vampire groupies on a road trip that culminated in the grisly murders of the parents of one of his young devotees. Ferrell’s background is the stuff of nightmares. An obsession with a role playing vampire game captivated his dark imaginations to the point that vampirism stepped out of his computer screen into his life with devastating consequences.
He adopted a vampire lifestyle, claiming he was a 500 year old vampire called Vessago who walked with a limp and a cane, like Lestat, the anti hero from Interview with the Vampire who he adored. He wore a flowing Dracula cloak and even tried to change his name to Lestat. The high profile murder case unearthed a sinister sub-culture of young teenage vampires flourishing in his rural Bible bashing town whose claim to fame, until then, was being home to the National US Boy Scouts Museum. His charismatic personality lured scores of teenagers to join him in macabre blood-letting rituals where they then drank each others blood and crossed over into the world of vampirism. It put the tiny town on the map for all the wrong reasons. More intriguing, is that his former high school girlfriend, who he’d alleged had urged him to murder her parents, was the only one of his clan, not to be indicted for the murders. She denies to this day having any involvement and though the Judge in Ferrell’s trial ordered a second grand jury to consider the evidence again, the jurors still found there was no evidence to indict her. Ferrell, whose sentence was later commuted to life without parole, gave a really chilling interview from jail about what vampirism meant to him. It’s dark and totally fascinating. The case is now taught in US schools by the former Prosecutor, to highlight the dangers of falling under the influence of the wrong crowd. Loved it.
I’ve read in your bio about the EVA awards. Tell us a bit more about them and your award in particular.
The EVA Awards were initiated by Victoria Police and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre of Victoria, to recognise media whose work highlights issues of violence against women and children. There are many different categories from best suburban newspaper feature, to best television reportage etc. And there is an overall gold winner who is recognised across all categories. I won the award for Best Magazine Feature a couple of years ago, for a feature I wrote for one of the Australian women’s magazines about a mother’s first hand account of surviving family violence. Her name was Kate, and she was a most inspirational woman who survived years of the most horrific kind of violence behind closed doors. It was a very harrowing story, but she was brave enough to talk about her experience, to shed the taboo surrounding family violence. And to explain to those working in the field, why women struggle to leave. Her former partner was jailed for a number of years for the violence he inflicted on her and helped change the legislation so that offenders with a history of violence can be charged with past abuse once a woman finds the strength to finally leave. What is amazing about this woman, is that her story gave such hope. She went on to find love again with a gorgeous new man.
Do you write fiction?
Not yet. So far I am captivated by real life stories, especially crime, though I have written one book called Running Pink, on a truly inspirational Australian breast cancer survivor who ran around Australia with her dog to raise money for a cure.
I interviewed a leading Aussie romantic fiction writer a couple of years ago, whose books are listed in the New York Times’ Best Sellers list. She had such a fan following that in the US fans have trivia nights about her and her books! I have enough true material to base a fictional book on though, so who knows.
Thank you for your time Megan, True True Blood certainly sounds fascinating, and good luck with your future True Crime books.