Beauty and the Beast: How to Write History Within a Fantasy Book

Rosemary A Johns Urban Portraits

Today we’re looking at history in a very different way. Author Rosemary A Johns has joined me here to give her take on the links between history and–can you believe it?–vampires. Yes, you read that right. Vampires. Ever since Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat, readers have loved to take a journey into the nether worlds created by authors walking a bit on the dark side. Don’t you just love how the imagination grabs an idea and wonderful books are born?

Make sure you read through to the end as there I’ve linked to her book trailer for the series. You’ll love it. Thanks so much, Rosemary, for joining us here today.

I’m passionate about history – I always have been. My Postgrad is in history from Oxford University. I’m also a fantasy writer who loves to challenge the world around me by seeing it through the eyes of the paranormal. Luckily for me (?) history and fantasy weave together beautifully, just like Beauty and the Beast.

Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by vampires. The myths. The history behind the myths. Living for centuries and witnessing the best and worst of all humanity but only as the outsiders looking in. Once human but never being able to be human again.

A bit like historians, if I’m honest.

Rebel Vampires my new fantasy series is set in the supernatural world of Blood Life, in a hidden London of vampires, rebels and romance. The world is divided between Blood Lifers (vampires) and First Lifers (humans). And vampires are both predator and prey.

I wanted to write a vampire book for adults. A whole new urban fantasy twist on the myth – or as Light would say: ‘You know those vampire myths? Holy water, entry by invitation only and sodding crucifixes? Bollocks to them.’

Blood Dragons (Rebel Vampires Volume 1) is out now (e-book and paperback). Click here:

Blood Dragons was sparked by the idea of a British Rocker vampire with a photographic memory called Light. Light’s extraordinary memory is based on my son’s. My son is an autistic savant – meaning he has a photographic memory. I wondered whether being a vampire with such a gift would be a blessing or a curse.

Light is caught between his century old love for a savage Elizabethan Blood Lifer and his forbidden human lover in 1960s London.

You have two of my favourite British time periods right there: Elizabethan (a powerful, fascinating, inventive but secretive period overflowing with plots…and my personal top monarch of them all – Elizabeth I), and the 1960s.

The 1960s London music scene? If I could go back to one time period only, that would be it.

Light is elected into Blood life in Victorian England. This gave me 150 years to paint – the glories and the horrors. Because Light remembers it all with the clarity of a photograph.

Research for a writer is essential. But the key? To make it invisible. The reader should feel like they’re in that Victorian warehouse, trapped in a stinking hole during World War One or lounged in the fug of a 1960s bar with a pint and a ciggie. It should be vivid and real. Research worn with a light touch.

Once Blood Lifers are elected they choose to hold onto what they love best about the times they pass through. The clothes, hair or mannerisms of speech.

Ruby – Light’s Author and lover – (‘Ruby. My red-haired devil, Author, muse, liberator, guide: my gorgeous nightmare’), is an Elizabethan.

‘A copper tuppeny bit landed on the grass at Ruby’s feet. There were sniggers.

I remained in the shadows, waiting for my cue.

‘Faith, you are foolish slaves. Nothing but base beasts. By this hand, you will cry mercy before this night is over.’

The laughter died.’

Blood Shackles (Rebel Vampires Volume 1) is out now (e-book and paperback). Click here:

Whereas Hartford? He’s a powerful American Long-lived. But the jazz age? Those were the years of his greatest joy and freedom. They spoke to his Soul – and his beautiful voice. It’s Hartford’s voice, which sets the other slaves free with its hope, when they’re abducted by the secret human Blood Club in Blood Shackles. Like Taken but with vampires.

‘ ‘Groupies,’ Donovan sighed dreamily.

Hartford shook his nut. ‘Jazz babies: now there was a treat! All those blotto dolls in loose dresses, with looser morals, wanting to have a good time. I was in Chicago when it was the hard-boiled gangsters running the cabarets and the dance clubs; now they knew how to throw a party. Later the place to be was New York, where I’d hunt The Cotton Club to the throb of Duke Ellington. Have a smoke. Some skirt up for some nookie and then… Pulse of the blood and the jazz in synchronicity…’ Hartford’s peepers shuddered closed, as we all licked our lips in sympathetic memory. ‘I’d sneak into the Rosewood Ballroom to hear Louis Armstrong play, even when I wasn’t on the hunt.’ ’ Blood Shackles (Rebel Vampires Volume 2)

Blood Renegades, the third book in the trilogy, which has just come out, is at heart a book about evolution: how our two species have evolved side by side through history…and what happens if the Blood Lifers finally step into the light?

Mostly the books are about London: its dark and its glory. Researching historical London? No chore at all.

‘I studied the bloke’s earnest bespectacled mush, as he weaved his small hands animatedly. A single brunette curl fell over his right peeper; he brushed at it with a quick smile. Not quite up at Oxford yet, Edmond was only just younger than me.

Yet it felt like centuries separated us.

We strolled in the early autumn evening along London Bridge, which arched elegantly across the Thames; the moon was masked by mist. The air was sharp; my nostrils stung.

Even in the dark the roadway was alive with bustle and roar: broughams, growlers, whinnying nags and drivers hollering.

My London: thriving and thrusting.

Birds hurried with bundles of umbrella frames and cages of hats, mingling with dirty coster girls and oily sackmakers. Waifs. Strays. Roughs. Working men and women ebbing and flowing across the great river, whilst the rich rode in their carriages.

Then there was us: one First Lifer and one Blood, in the black freeze of the evening.’ Blood Renegades (Rebel Vampires Volume 3)

History and vampires: Beauty and the Beast. Now that’s something I’m passionate about…

Escape into Blood Life now…

~Blood Dragons

~Blood Shackles

~Blood Renegades:



WINNER OF SILVER AWARD in the National Wishing Shelf Book Awards.

ROSEMARY A JOHNS is a music fanatic and a paranormal anti-hero addict who creates spellbinding worlds, thrilling action, gripping suspense and passionate romances, all uniquely told. She wrote her first fantasy novel at the age of ten, when she discovered the weird worlds inside her head were more exciting than double swimming. Since then she’s studied history at Oxford University, run a theatre company (her critically acclaimed plays have been described as “uncomfortable, unsettling and uneasily true to life”), and worked with disability charities.

When Rosemary’s not falling in love with the rebels fighting their way onto the page, she heads the Oxford writing group Dreaming Spires.

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Yay! Book 2 of the Loyalist Trilogy earned a new award!