Author and content creator Rose Sinister has been on a mission to explore the question, “Why do we tell vampire stories?” This query laid the foundation for her podcast Rose Sinister: Vampires, which she launched in 2018. Since then, she’s branched off to work on multiple projects dedicated to enriching people’s knowledge of these creatures of the night, plus she’s just released her first novel within the vampire genre titled This Crimson Debt. I had the opportunity to interview the writer and read the story, and it’s fangtastic. Don’t worry; there won’t be any spoilers in the following review.
I’ve absorbed plenty of vampire fiction, and I must say this tale stands strong and is worthy of entry into the canon of literature about the undead. This Crimson Debt is the first book of the Community of Blood series. It follows 25-year-old Grace Kelly Cordero’s unexpected fall from grace and transformation into a vampire after a New Year’s Eve party. The storyline immediately drew me in and maintained a good pace with events steadily unfolding.
The author does a wonderful job creating characters a reader wants to get to know. Central figures like Grace and Harold (a 200-hundred-year-old vampire) come across as relatable and complex. They’re two individuals with emotional and psychological depth, and yet they also have an endearing sense of humor that comes out when you least expect it.
The characters are also multi-dimensional, transgressing gender norms and comfortably exploring their sexuality. Real estate mogul and badass vamp Calliope Jones was a woman ahead of her time when she lived centuries earlier. Her vampiric nature allowed her to break away from the stereotypes that plague females and gave her the freedom to do business in a man’s world. She exudes masculinity and dominance, and revels in intimate relations with men and women.
Then there’s the clever way Rose Sinister weaves in classic vampire tropes for comical effect. Newbie Grace can’t help but interrogate Harold regarding what history actually got right about their kind. Garlic’s not toxic to them, they don’t sleep in coffins, but they must be invited into someone’s home in order to cross the threshold. Oh, and have I mentioned these blood-sucking creatures have retractable fangs? Talk about versatility! The author breathes new life into timeless vampire motifs, putting a refreshing twist on them.
Her writing is evocative and uncomplicated and flows gracefully. Without giving too much away, there’s a sensual scene she paints in the story that takes vampire eroticism to another level. The blending of blood and BDSM play between the two characters made for quite the carnal act, and I loved it.
Given Rose Sinister’s impressive knowledge of vampires in history and fiction, I’m not surprised she crafted a captivating novel about them. Her journey into darkness actually began in her childhood. She was bit by the vampire bug at a young age when she stumbled upon a copy of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Enthralled by the story of Louis de Pointe du Lac and his adventures in New Orleans and beyond, her curiosity about the undead was sparked. Soon after, she was exposed to Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula and learned about the historical Vlad the Impaler. The child was turned and, from then on, spent her time exploring all manner of macabre subjects.
When the Los Angeles native relocated to New Orleans during the early 2000s, she would experience a vampiric rebirth of her own. In 2008, she consulted a psychic for guidance on choosing a brand name for a jewelry line she was working on. She was advised that the idea would come to her not long after they parted ways. As she headed out to the French Quarter, she spotted a vendor selling roses that brought to mind a school project she did titled “rose, sinister.” Thus, Rose Sinister was born, and several years later she would establish her podcast of the same name.
While living in New Orleans, she worked as a tour guide for Haunted History Tours, sharing the paranormal and vampire legends of the city with visitors. It’s this experience that greatly inspired her to launch Rose Sinister: Vampires. The podcast delves deeply into the realm of vampires, analyzing them in literature, film and history with an academic approach. It’s apparent the host takes painstaking care with her research and the episodes are exquisitely executed. I should know because I’ve listened to every single one. The show, though, is not just for entertainment. Rose Sinister wants her audience to realize there are many reasons we should care about vampire history and that we can learn about our own mortal natures through their immortal eyes.
Now, she’s a published author leaving her own mark on the vampire fiction world. I had the fortune of asking the novelist a few questions about her work and, of course, vampires! Here’s a closer look into the mind of Rose Sinister.
Q: Thank you so much, Rose, for taking the time to chat with Vamp Jenn’s Corner. So, correct me if I’m wrong, but in December of 2021 you sat down and wrote your debut novel, This Crimson Debt: Community of Blood, Book I. What inspired you to create this story?
A: I did! I’ve started and left unfinished probably a dozen or more vampire novels over the years; some had stronger characters, outlines, or premises than the others, but each in their own way failed to captivate me enough to see the project through to the finish line. But something magical happened in December of 2021; I started writing the story with a fairly clear idea fully formed in my head. Ten days later I had a 70,000-word first draft. That initial draft expanded a lot over various revisions throughout 2022, but the general plot and characters have remained mostly unchanged since I first started writing. I was a woman possessed. I think in some ways, I still am.
Q: Can you talk a bit about your writing process? How did you go about piecing details together and developing your characters?
A: I use an outlining method that’s based on the structures discussed in the book “Save the Cat Writes a Novel” (which I cannot recommend enough for aspiring authors). It helps me identify and arrange the major emotional beats in my story in a way that creates the most compelling experience for the reader (and it’s fun to put your characters through the wringer when you’ve got a really compelling arc in store for them, too!). When I was outlining “This Crimson Debt,” I started with some archetypical concepts (the Type A neat freak female protagonist thrust into a situation completely beyond her control, the quietly competent and protective romantic hero who happens to be as monstrous as he is wholesome, etc.).
There’s a funny story about how I came up with Grace Kelly Cordero, the central protagonist of my novel and its sequels, though. I was scrolling through TikTok, and I came across a cute, campy video a vampire cosplayer creator had made for the Bo Burnham song, “White Woman’s Instagram.” I thought the original creator’s vampire-inspired take was funny, but it prompted a semi-serious question: what if a young woman *exactly* like the girl in “White Woman’s Instagram” became a vampire unexpectedly? I bet she wouldn’t like that at *all.*
After that, it was just a matter of refining the broad strokes through each subsequent revision. Unlike my previous attempts to complete a novel, this process made a lot of intuitive sense to me. It’s allowed me to outline multiple sequels, and I’m halfway through the initial draft of the first sequel!
Q: What challenges did you encounter while writing your novel, and how did they shape your story?
A: I survived a catastrophic car accident in December 2020 that left me broken, and my future uncertain. My back was fractured in multiple places, my dominant left hand was shattered, and I had multiple internal injuries. I crawled out of the wreck, across a swamp, and up a muddy embankment despite the damage, in order to get help for my husband, whose sudden cardiac arrest had been the cause of our crash. Afterward, my recovery was long and often left me feeling helpless. I was utterly dependent on the friends who came to help care for us for the most basic tasks. As if that wasn’t grueling enough, in the first few weeks after being discharged from the hospital, I lost my father and father-in-law just days apart from one another.
As I approached the one-year anniversary of all that in December 2021, I found myself profoundly changed by my experience, and completely unsure of what the future held. I had recovered from the worst of my injuries; I could walk without a limp and relearned to ride my bike. I taught myself how to draw and write in cursive all over again. But I was no longer living in New Orleans. I was isolated from my community, from my support network, and the city I called home. I was still dealing with ongoing bouts of chronic back pain, and still mourning the loss of my fathers. It was a dark time, and I think being creative was the only thing that saved me. Maybe that alone was the breakthrough I needed to finally see a project through to completion. The darkness in my life around the time of my novel’s creation was both a challenge and a comfort.
Q: Reading vampire fiction is quite different from writing a story of your own where the characters and narrative are a part of you. Has writing your first novel about vampires impacted the way you view them in any way?
A: I’ve spent years challenging myself, along with guests on my tours and listeners of my podcast, to ask the questions, “What do these things mean,” in the context of popular media, so being forced to ask myself the same questions about the story I was writing made the task in front of me feel daunting at times. When I wrote THIS CRIMSON DEBT, I was focused on combining my favorite tropes and aspects of the vampire genre, while addressing some of the strongest criticisms I had for some of the elements of popular media—such as over-reliance on subtext in place of actual on-the-page LGBTQIA+ representation, for instance.
If anything, I think I’m more committed than ever to my oft-repeated phrase, “vampires may not have reflections, but their stories do.” My vampires definitely DO have reflections, and I tried, as much as possible, to make sure that they reflected the widely varied complexity and nuance of human nature at its best and at its worst.
I’m not sure I was 100% successful. But my world is diverse and full of wonderful, nuanced, complex individuals, and I wanted to do the work necessary to create a world where everyone I loved felt comfortable imagining themselves.
Q: The world of vampire fiction has certainly grown since the publication of John William Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819. Many writers, such as yourself, are taking this figure and reimagining it in different contexts. What components make a vampire tale impactful?
A: Vampire stories are impactful when they hone in on specific cultural fears and insecurities and flip them on their head. To present the maligned social outsider as a creature of power and desirability is to subvert the limiting niceties of “polite” society. All the best vampire stories do this to some extent or another. The more specific to a time and a place a vampire story is, the more enduring it becomes. Impact is all about reflection, even if the force of that impact shatters the looking glass.
“Vampires may not have reflections, but their stories do.”— Rose Sinister
Q: For those who may not know, in addition to being an author, you’re a vampire scholar. In your podcast Rose Sinister: Vampires, you deliver thorough examinations of how these immortal creatures are represented across all types of media and how they reflect humanity. What do you feel are some of the most eye-opening revelations the vampire archetype has taught humans about themselves? How do you hope your novel contributes to the ever-evolving image of the vampiric figure?
A: The vampire archetype has always exposed the vulnerable. From anti-Semitic caricatures to queer-coded villains, the vampire often represents whatever scapegoat is considered the biggest threat to the prevailing moral and class hierarchy. The fact that this theme is so consistent across so many centuries of media never fails to astonish me; once you see the pattern, you cannot unsee it.
We are currently experiencing a global backlash against tolerance. Fascism and bio-essentialism are on the rise, and along with these, we’re seeing an enormous backlash against queer literature, performance, and expression. Antisemitism is on the rise. Book bans are gaining traction in public libraries. My novel, and the sequels I’ve planned, are unquestionably a response to this encroaching conservatism. I don’t shy away from explicit depictions of sex, and my characters exist across a diverse spectrum of sex and gender identity. That’s so important to me. I also chose to incorporate the visual symbolism of an owl throughout my series as a very intentional “screw you” to JK Rowling and her increasingly harmful bigotry towards the trans community. I love owls as nocturnal predators and for their ancient, ongoing symbolic connections to powerful feminine archetypes. The Community of Blood is intentionally femme-centric, which is not to say my vampires exclude men, but the culture of my community of the undead is intentionally written to subvert a lot of the alpha-male power fantasy that frequently dominates vampire fiction. The owl belongs to Athena. The owl is the Strix, the Strigoi, the harbinger of death, the companion of Lilith. The owl belongs to vampire stories. So I want to reclaim that imagery. I’m on a mission.
Q: What does the future hold for Rose Sinister? Are there any teasers you can drop regarding the This Crimson Debt book series and upcoming projects?
A: There’s a re-branding of the podcast in the works, and I’ve always wanted to expand my reach to YouTube and more. I’m also working on a lot of fantastic projects with the team that brought you Vampyre Magazine that I’m not at liberty to discuss, but I can imagine that the next few years will see the Rose Sinister project expand into the multi-media project I’ve long envisioned it to be. The Community of Blood novels are just the beginning. But it all starts with THIS CRIMSON DEBT. I can’t wait to share my own take of vampires with the world.
Where to Stalk
Rose Sinister official website
9 thoughts on “Spotlight On Rose Sinister: Vampire Scholar & Author”
This was a most interesting interview. The authors ability and persistence to write through so many terrible life events is incredible. I enjoyed reading about her writing process. I also use Save the Cat for Novels- excellent resource.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m getting back into writing this novel I started two years ago, so I’m really interested in looking into the Save the Cat method myself.
That was a fascinating interview. Rose Sinister certainly endured a lot of tragedy and her knowledge is quite impressive. Her book sounds intriguing. I was captivated by how she was able to emerge from the tragedy by being creative. I loved this sentence “The darkness in my life around the time of my novel’s creation was both a challenge and a comfort.”
I also have somewhat of a connection to vampires. In 2008 I went on a school trip to Romania with my son and the water polo team he was part of. I was assisting the coach who was from Transylvania. We spent most of our time in Romania following a Dracula theme and staying for the most part in Transylvania including staying at Dracula’s birthplace in Sighisoara. We visited the Snagov Monestary (not in Transylvania), which is Dracula’s / Vlad Tepes alleged burial place. Dracula’s monk chose my son to be Dracula’s special protector and him and I were initiated into Dracula’s special circle. I know that’s a tourist thingy but it was interesting.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for checking out the interview. Your trip to Romania sounds like it was an amazing experience! Transylvania is on my travel bucket list. Thank you for sharing it🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Rose Sinister certainly has a compelling CV. Those aspects of her persona which I share are unremarkable. However, the more challenging notions make me think. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! I’m glad this feature gets the mental juices flowing🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
A very cool and very interesting interview. Looks like I have some catch up reading to do. Awesome work as always Jenn.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you so much! I’m happy you enjoyed it. I appreciate the support.
You are more than welcome Jenn, you are doing an amazing job with your blog. Thank you for keeping it interesting.
LikeLiked by 1 person