Digging Into the Background of a Story
When I set out to write Blood Shadows, I knew I wanted something in Miles Lysander’s past to give him nightmares, something he regretted and which still caused him pain. Then I decided I also wanted it to be triggered by someone coming back into his life, bringing those nightmares back to the surface. That’s when I decided war was the biggest nightmare. Of course, Miles is a vampire, has been for centuries, so it couldn’t be a recent war. However, I also wanted the person who triggered Miles to be someone who aged, rather than someone who stayed young for decades. That’s when Deana Abbington became an empath, and her grandfather, Walt, entered the story. Now, I had to decide which war.
World War One and Two were out, because the human character, Walt, would be dead from one and well over a hundred in the other. The next war then was the Korean War, or rather, the Korean Conflict. That’s the one I chose, and so, then began the research which would keep me from sounding like an idiot, making up facts about a period when I wasn’t even born yet. I’ll admit, the only thing I knew about the Korean War was from the sitcom, M*A*S*H, which wasn’t the best source for my research. For one, the writers of M*A*S*H were really writing about the Vietnam War, but thought it too sensitive of a topic at the time, so they switched it to Korea. And for another, my vampire wasn’t a doctor. Therefore, to Amazon my fingers flew until I found The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam, a book thick enough to choke a mule, if you’ll pardon the cliché. With an orange highlighter in one hand and a cigar in the other, I sat out on my back porch and began to read.
The war the North Koreans thought they could win in three weeks took three years. Words were bandied about, like conflict and police action, because President Truman didn’t want to use the word war so soon after WWII, and really who could blame him? I also learned how our men were poorly supplied with outdated weapons and inadequate uniforms. The worst part, however, was how those in power kept vital information from the men in the field, which led to a catastrophic amount of deaths. The men entered Pyongyang in October 1950, believing they would be home for Christmas, only to find themselves marching off into what was supposed to be a small skirmish that turned into a slaughter of American troops. In one day, the company had been reduced from around 160 men to 39. The more I read, the more intrigued, as well as appalled, I became, until I knew I had picked the right war for my story. I kept reading and highlighting, even after the story was finished.
Out of this 719-page book, I pulled a few stories to sprinkle throughout Blood Shadows, but I think I grasped the anger those men of the Eighth Regiment of the First Cavalry Division felt when they walked into the ambush in Unsan. The Chinese had entered the war in full force. No one would be home for Christmas that year. Or the next two.
With each of my stories, I have delved into whatever I can find to make the stories more than just pure imagination. I want to know the area, the history, the magic. I store a warehouse of information in my notes from books and documentaries to give it some semblance of realism, even if I only use a teaspoon of the research in my recipe for the story. Hopefully, when you read Blood Shadows, or any of my other books, you see this come through. Hopefully, it helps you enjoy what you read. You’ll have to let me know.