Early on in the writing of Mojo Queen I knew main character Roxie Mathis needed a best friend. In a moment of mad whimsy a thought occurred to me: vampire sidekick. Gasp! you say, and what kind of sacrilege is this?! Who makes a vampire the sidekick instead of the hero?
Someone fed up with all the brooding, romantic, jailbait-obsessed, oh-so-serious vamps filling up paranormal fiction, that’s who.
Thus was born Daniel Rambin. Although he does hit a few of the standard vamp qualifiers – he’s hot, he’s sexy, he’s dead – he’s not quite a typical vampire either.
The sensibility and world I was creating with Mojo Queen didn’t call for vampire politics or any of the usual types of bloodsucking plots, especially since Daniel is a sidekick. He enjoys tagging along with Roxie on her paranormal investigations, and occasionally he likes to blog about the jobs. He is a beverage connoisseur as might be expected but he’s also a foodie, even though he can’t eat. He likes to take Roxie out to eat and he’s inordinately fond of the Food Network.
Almost right away I realized I had an issue that needed to be dealt with: I had to get rid of any possibility of a romantic relationship between Daniel and Roxie. Roxie would get a love interest, sure, but I didn’t want it to be her best friend and I didn’t want to go down the well-trod path of the love triangle. The perfect solution presented itself. Daniel would be Roxie’s ancestor and they would tell people they were cousins.
Since Daniel was the sidekick he had to have some wacky character traits, the best one of all being his love for belting out classic country songs at the top of his off-key voice. Blame that one on too many over-heated montages set to twee emo or Hot Topic goth, with the vampire walking through the night all brooding and, um, brooding. My vision of Daniel included him singing Conway Twitty in a karaoke bar, flashing a smile at Roxie that bared just a hint of fang. Most of all I wanted Daniel to be a fun character, not like a lot of other vampires.
But he is still a vampire. There came a point in Mojo Queen when I knew that needed to be shown and it chilled me to write the scene. Suddenly I began to see Daniel in a new light. I stopped thinking of him as a wacky sidekick, a character I made up just for a laugh. The more I thought about him the more I wondered about that seemingly goofy choice to make him a fan of classic country. I strongly associate country music with family.
Roxie’s “living” family want nothing to do with her so Daniel is all she’s got. Family are supposed to be the people you can trust the most, and Daniel is that to her. But he – like family – is also the one who could hurt her the worst. There’s a lot of cheese in classic country, but when you look below the surface there’s a lot of darkness too. A lot of murder ballads hidden under the beer soaked cheatin’ songs. Without even trying, I had found the perfect music to correspond to Daniel.
That darkness is part of what brings Roxie and Daniel together. They share a deep bond in their love of the night, the ease they both feel in the spirit-filled dark. Daniel doesn’t have to hide his fangs and Roxie doesn’t have to hide the fact that she can see auras and spectral energy. They are open with each other but Daniel still hasn’t told Roxie everything about his past. Sometimes when he grabs hold of my imagination and whispers possibilities to me, I think about Daniel’s history. His life as a man, his transition to vampire, and what led him to seek out any descendents. Daniel may not be the protagonist or the love interest of Mojo Queen but he is deeply important to Roxie. As I’ve explored his character more he’s become deeply important to me, too. He’s one of my favorite characters I’ve created so far.
Oh, one more thing to tell you about Daniel: Roxie calls him “bubba.” But she is the only one allowed to do that. Anybody else tries it and they might get to see his fangs - without a smile.