Christian Retailing

Vampire-themed titles a new vein in Christian stores Print Email
Written by Staff   
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 10:19 AM America/New_York

'Fiction with redemption' targets customers interested in Stephanie Meyer's popular 'Twilight' series


Propelled by the recent book and movie success of Stephenie Meyer's general market "Twilight" series, vampire-themed titles and products with an evangelical vein are finding their way onto the shelves of Christian bookstores.

ThirstyChristian books such as Tracey Bateman's Thirsty (WaterBrook Press), Beth Felker Jones' Touched By a Vampire (Multnomah Books), Eric Wilson's "Jerusalem's Undead" trilogy (Thomas Nelson) and Ted Dekker's Green (Thomas Nelson) are targeting customers interested in vampire stories.

Literary agent Chip MacGregor has welcomed the response, seeing a big need for Christians to address the growing vampire genre. He pointed to spiritual parallels such as eternal life being a blessing for Christians but a curse for vampires, the power held in the blood and Christians living in light, while vampires live in darkness.

"I've been saying this for a couple years—ever since the 'Twilight' stuff first hit—I think the natural tendency of Christians to dismiss vampire novels is all wrong," he said. "We need a Christian author to capture the vampire culture."

Shannon Hill Marchese, senior editor of fiction for The WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, said the desire to connect with "Twilight" readers was part of the inspiration for Bateman's Thirsty, releasing in October.

"We asked: 'What are the human instincts? What is the deeper need of the readers that the 'Twilight' books have tapped into?' " Marchese said. "How do we explore these themes, truthfully, not glorifying?"

To be released next month, Jones' Touched By a Vampire addresses the popularity of the "Twilight" series. But instead of focusing on vampires, the book focuses more on the broader themes that attract "Twilight" readers.

"I think the vampire element adds tension to the 'Twilight' story, but it's more of the danger of the romance behind it that got me thinking to start writing this book," Jones said.

Wilson's Field of Blood, which released last year, introduced readers to the fictional question of the blood of Judas resurrecting the dead buried in the ground after his death. The sequel, Haunt of Jackals, was released in August.

Allen Arnold, fiction publisher at Thomas Nelson, admitted that the book plays with vampire and even zombie mythology, but he did not want the series labeled as vampire novels.

"The biggest challenge has been helping retailers not immediately say, 'Christian vampire—not interested,' " he said. "Our covers don't have fangs on them. We don't want it to look like a vampire novel. People who love those kind of books will love this because it still hits the same drama, good versus evil, the undead. It plays into the mythology in a fresh new way, very grounded in a biblical world view."

Arnold noted that a human-bat character named Alucard—which spells Dracula backward—was introduced in earlier young-adult novels by Dekker and featured in Green, released earlier this month. "We've seen Ted play with that mythology in his own way," Arnold said.

Marchese admitted some "trepidation" on the part of Bateman because of her traditional romance readership, but she also dismissed possible criticisms of the book being a "Twilight" "tag-along."

"There's always a certain idea of looking at the market, we look at other comparables," she said. "Even of those who might have liked to explore those type of stories, you have to wait for your buying audience to show up, and I think we're finally coming to a maturing point."

The vampire trend has not been confined to Christian books. One of gift apparel company Kerusso's recent top-selling T-shirts has been "The Light" shirt, which ties into the popularity of "Twilight."

"Since a T-shirt is an expression of pop culture, it's important to stay relevant by addressing current trends," said Lorri Carter, vice president of creative development for Kerusso. She added that although the shirt has been a "great success," it has also been popular with those who don't follow the series because it features the message that "Jesus is the light of the world."

Christian retailers and customers are responding to vampire-themed products, although slowly. Arnold said that Wilson's series "isn't hitting huge numbers yet," but he expected it to have a long shelf life.

Chris Jager, fiction buyer at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Mich., has found a way to market the new genre, hand-selling Field of Blood to church librarians looking for "Twilight" alternatives and "readers who read anything and everything, and are looking for a good book."

Arnold said that engaging vampire readers with a Christian worldview was critical.

"At the end of the day, what we're trying to do is fiction with redemption," he said. "If we can redeem the vampire legend, not to scare or frighten or to be gratuitous, we've created a redemptive story out of something meant for evil."