The Darkly Vampires, in Chloe Hammond‘s Darkly Dancing, aren’t the undead. They have been infected by a virus and undergone physical changes as radical as a butterfly during metamorphosis. It’s a difficult adaption to their strange new lives. They strive to cling to their humanity and hopes, to avoid compromising away their very natures. They tumble through heartbreaks and rage as they come to terms with being monsters.
This is not your common or garden pervert: we’ve hooked ourselves a proper monster. I almost pant in anticipation, and then, horrified, remind myself that I am not supposed to be enjoying this. No matter who, or what, he is, I am about to be involved in killing a human being. I have to remember to consider what this will make me, who I could become. I must not lose myself in the thrill of the hunt. I must not let myself become a monster too.
‘Verity, I saw what you wrote. I couldn’t bear the thought of you sitting here alone believing no one understood. Verity, I understand you. I read your poems, and I know you are an old soul. Kids your age won’t understand you, but don’t blame them, they can’t help being stupid. You’re special. That’s why I came to find you, we’re the same, you and I,’ he croons to her as he squats besides her and takes her hand.
I know where this would lead if she really was a human girl sitting out here on her own at night, with no one at home caring where she was so late and no peer group to protect her. This monster would groom her until she was completely under his control, so he could do whatever he wished, and she would thank him for the privilege, and never, ever, tell. He would undermine all her other relationships, using lies and insinuation to make her doubt everyone she had left. Then, if any of her friends or siblings was tenacious enough to stick around, he would flirt outrageously with them. This would serve three purposes. It would damage her relationship with the unlucky recipient of his attention, because he would swear the flirtation was the other way around; it would chase the friend away because there would be a veiled threat in the flirting that the friend would feel; and it would break Verity’s confidence that little bit more, because she’s so ugly her friends flirt with him under her nose. She would end up feeling that he was so good to put up with her at all.
He is looking at her hand as he traces the pattern of the lace with the tip of his finger, testing, testing, to see what she will allow.
‘My name is Thierry,’ he tells her. ‘I live near here and when I read that you would be here all alone, I couldn’t bear it, I had to come to you.’
Liar. I don’t know how I am so sure, but my gut tells me that he’s travelled almost as far as us to get here tonight. For the same reasons.
As he speaks, he lifts his head slightly so he can glance at her coyly through his eye lashes, so subtle, no confrontational behaviour, luring her in with his romantic gestures and promises of understanding and care. But as his eyes meet Annie’s, his head jerks up and he rears back as his instincts scream at him that he’s stumbled onto a predator more dangerous than himself.
This is my cue; I turn my Glamour up to full blast and then sway out of the shadows.
‘Thierry!’ I coo. ‘Darling, come here.’
I cover the distance between us deceptively quickly, keeping my gaze on his as I sway towards him. I see terror on his face, which soon dispels as the waves of my Glamour thicken around him and his pupils dilate. He stands and steps obediently towards me. He is spellbound. There is nothing he can do but comply and come with me as I lead him back towards the others.
Over his shoulder Annie grins viciously: even her hunter has been stirred. Before we reach Elaine and Simon, I turn Thierry to face me and look deeply into his eyes. I just want to satisfy myself that right in the very depths of his soul he is still aware and screaming.
I smile broadly at that bit of him, and can’t resist a small gnash of my pointed, shiny teeth.
A Bite of… Chloe Hammond
Have you ever written somebody you love into a book?
Yes. The ideas for my novels came to me in nightmares, and I wanted to keep that intensely emotional feeling, with completely believable characters. So I based my clumsy, awkward, slightly maudlin main character loosely on me, and her vibrant, irrepressible, fun loving best friend on my own best friend. Some of the things we go up to together found their way into the book, and when I showed her, my friend loved it. She was so supportive through the whole writing process, from being the first person to read my first draft, to being the last person to read the final draft, she was my cheerleader every step of the way. So when she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm on father’s Day in 2017, it completely derailed my writing. The first time I realised that she was never going to know what happens, I had a physical shock from the level of grief that hit me. It took a very long time not just to feel like I could write at all, but to feel like I could attempt to capture some of her fizz on the page.
Would you rather live in this world or the one you create in your books?
The one I have created, not just because I would still have my friend-even if she did do something stupidly dangerous out of boredom. Also because in my world there might be vampires in the shadows, but some of them relish the opportunity to even up the power imbalance a little. I have had great pleasure writing Rae and Layla’s hunting scenes as they pursued abusers, murders, pimps and rapists. And Rae’s influence is spreading, more and more vampires are coming around to her way of thinking. Who doesn’t love the idea of the dark allies holding retribution for the evil? Well, other than the evil.
Are you ticklish?
Oh God yes! So ticklish, everywhere. It’s meant to be physiologically impossible to tickle yourself, but I can, and hate it when I do. In fact, sometimes I keep myself awake at night thinking about my armpits being tickled, which tickles. Awful.
Born in Liverpool, Chloe Hammond grew up in West Wales. Without T.V, books became her favourite escape. She studied Behavioural Sciences and Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan. She always planned to write- life just got in the way. When diagnosed with anxiety and depression Chloe refused to give the depression the isolation it craves. She feared judgement, but instead found compassion and support.
She made time to write again. Darkly Dreaming came as nightmares, vivid scene at a time. She started writing them down, and quickly Rae and Layla’s characters introduced themselves and took over.