Today author James Lyon joins us here on MPB to discuss...
Chocolate, Vampires, Garlic, and Indiana Jones
If you think you know everything there is to know about vampires, then skip to the quiz at the end of this post.
I love dark Lindt 90% cacao chocolate. But I also harbor a dark secret: I love garlic! My refrigerator holds jars of garlic in olive oil. My kitchen sports long braids of garlic. And to make matters worse, I eat garlic raw.
What compels me to indulge this habit? Well, by day I am a diplomat living in Sarajevo, by night, a vampire-hunting novelist and historian. Eating garlic is an OSHA-required work-place safety measure for vampire novelists.
Garlic repulses vampires and the opposite sex. But my wife – who is Serbian -- often approaches me with a naughty smile and places a clove of raw garlic between my lips. I suspect that Serbian women consider garlic an aphrodisiac… either that, or she knows that when I stink, she need not fear losing me to another woman.
I began writing about vampires when I had an Indiana Jones Moment, you know the point in the movie where Harrison Ford is looking through dusty old books and stumbles upon a clue that starts an epic quest. My Indiana Jones Moment happened long ago in the archives in Serbia, when I stumbled upon a cryptic entry in a text about medieval Serbian mining law. The author noted – without explanation – that an army under the command of the Vojvoda of Wallachia, Vlad III, had carried out a military campaign in Bosnian in 1476. Vlad’s nickname is Dracula. This became my starting point on a journey that would soon take me across the centuries through Balkan folklore to the origins of the word “vampire”.
So, on the basis of what I uncovered, I have put together a short quiz to test your vampire knowledge.
1) What shape and color are a vampire’s eyes?
2) What are a vampire’s teeth made of?
3) Where does a vampire’s power reside?
4) What do vampires look like?
5) Which side of the body do vampires feed from?
6) What are vampires made of?
7) How does someone become a vampire?
8) How do you kill one?
9) Where do they sleep?
10) Are they afraid of daylight, or can they solve their problems with sun block and Ray Bans?
11) What time of year are vampires most active?
12) Where do vampires like to hang out? (not the blood bank)
13) How many vampires can gather at once?
14) What do vampires eat?
15) Where can you always find vampires on Good Friday?
16) What are the most common professions for vampires? (telemarketers, attorneys and IRS agents do not count)
17) Can vampires have sex?
18) What is the relationship between a vampire and a butterfly?
19) When did the word “vampire” enter western languages and from which country?
20) When was the first recorded reference to vampirism in the Balkans?
These aren’t Hollywood vampires, so don’t tell me that vampires sleep only in coffins, that you become a vampire after being bitten by one, or that you can kill a vampire by driving a stake through it’s heart. With answers like those, the vampires would have you for supper.
The answers to all of these questions (and more) are in my new novel, “Kiss of the Butterfly”, which is based on my academic research and 18 years experience in the Balkans. Although it would be unfair to readers to give away all the answers to the questions (spoiler alert), let me note that vampires must always return to sleep in their graves on Good Friday. Therefore, I would strongly suggest that you avoid all graveyards at Easter. But if you must visit the grave of a loved one, make sure you take a sharpened Hawthorne wood stake (other types won’t work), a hacksaw, as well as matches and copious quantities of lighter fluid. And avoid any butterflies you see hovering around the graves. Just in case.
Now, when will someone invent garlic-flavored chocolate?
James Lyon is an accidental Balkanologist, having spent the better part of 32 years studying and working with the lands of the former Yugoslavia. He has a Ph.D. in Modern Balkan History from UCLA and a B.A. in Russian from BYU. He has lived in Germany, Russia, England, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, and California, and spent the better part of 18 years living in the lands of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, and has worked in Macedonia and Kosovo. He has traveled widely, from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East, and all over Europe. He currently works in Sarajevo and bounces back and forth to Belgrade. In his spare time he likes sailing through the Dalmatian islands and eating Sachertorte in Vienna at the old Habsburg Imperial Court’s Confectionary Bakery, Demel. He lost his cat in the forests of Bosnia and can’t find it. If you see a black and white cat that ignores you when you call the name “Cile II”, a reward is being offered…provided the cat hasn’t turned into a vampire.