Bite me magazine and author of The Real Twilight: True Stories of Modern Day Vampires. Arlene has graciously taken time from he very busy schedule for an interview with PVN.
Arlene, thanks so much for being here!
PVN: Your book is based on the premise that vampires exist. How do you define the term "real vampire"?
Arlene: Of course, people will always have different ideas of what constitutes a real vampire and my definition of a vampire will always be a subjective one. In no way am I stating it is the only one, nor the correct one. However, I use the word ‘real’ in the first instance to stand apart from any fictional or supernatural vampires. I would say there must be a definite crossover to the actual essential lifestyle of the person, whether that person needs to obtain energy from blood or psychic energy or needs some other vampiric trait.
PVN: Professor Raymond T. McNally, co-author of In Search of Dracula, was a great supporter of your endeavors. What can you tell us about him?
Arlene: Dr Raymond T. McNally’s contribution to the Dracula legend is phenomenal. He was the best-selling co-author of In Search Of Dracula and Dracula, Prince of Many Faces, historical biographies of Vlad ‘The Impaler’) Tepes. McNally was part of a team that discovered the real Castle Dracula in 1969 in the Carpathian mountains of Romania. For years Raymond provided my fanzine Bite me with support and even promoted the magazine in his American homeland.
I was very honoured to have Raymond as a regular contributor to Bite me. He shared with me many fascinating articles on all things from vampires to Countess Dracula to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I was sad to hear he had died recently and I have dedicated this book, The Real Twilight, to him.
I have been blessed by the support and encouragement of many vampire experts over the years. They were with me from issue 1 and I could not have asked for greater support to launch Bite me.
PVN: How has the AIDS epidemic affected the vampire communities?
Arlene: Not surprisingly, in a paranoia-gripped AIDS society, the subject of blood exchange was to become taboo. This did have an impact on the blood drinking vampire community who decided to seek other less dangerous ways to feed. Perhaps this may explain the rise of psychic vampires. There is a whole chapter in The Real Twilight entitled ‘Bloodlust- End of the One Night Bites’, How AIDS Killed the Vampire.
PVN: How do Goths relate to the vampire community?
Arlene: From my experience Goths prefer to see themselves as a separate group from vampires and it is incorrect to assume – as many do- that most Goths are vampires. They are not. A vampire is not confined to any one social or other group they come from a wide cross section of society.
PVN: What inspired you to begin your research of real vampires?
Arlene: Since I launched Bite me in 1999, I was contacted by many real vampires and that sparked a desire to find out more about them, as up until then I had focused exclusively on the supernatural and fictitious breed of vampire. But now I was discovering that there really were people who lived as real vampires. Hence my research led to a boom in material which was expanding at an alarming rate. I then decided to collate all this in book form.
PVN: Would you please name some of the real vampires of history and tell us a bit about them?
Arlene: For a start, people automatically assume Vlad Tepes is the main real vampire of history. But there have been no actual instances recorded of him drinking blood. Again this argument all depends on your definition of a vampire and for some Vlad will always be King Vampire! I personally would say medieval accounts of Romanian folklore are closer to the truth of real vampires in history.
PVN: How do you become a vampire?
Arlene: Common consensus is that you cannot. You either are one or you are not. A person is born a vampire and will usually experience an ‘Awakening’ - when a person first realises they are a vampire and start to adapt their lifestyle.
PVN: How do you know if you are a vampire?
Arlene: By identifying with the characteristics and symptoms as mentioned in The Real Twilight- by comparing yourself to the real vampires interviewed and analyzed in the book you can see if you share common ground.
PVN: Tell us about Bite me Magazine.
Arlene: It all started with a chance visit to the ‘world’s biggest Dracula party’ in Los Angeles in August 1997 for a convention to celebrate the centenary of Bram Stoker’s immortal novel Dracula. I had travelled over 5000 miles for this special event and over 4 days I met a host of interesting characters, from Hammer Horror legend Countess Dracula Ingrid Pitt & other Hammer stars to the son of Bela Lugosi.
I also met my first real vampire there. The whole experience sparked the idea for Bite me and as soon I arrived back in Scotland, I was on a mission: to produce a publication that would unite vampire fans from all around the world. From an initial plan to produce a small fanzine, I decided I wanted to produce a ‘proper’ mag. One that could sit amongst shelved in stores across the world. So big, glossy, and colourful it had to be! I therefore undertook a self -taught crash course in publishing. Issue 1 of Bite me was published in 2000.
Bite me is currently preparing a special 10th anniversary online magazine.
Bite me has an active web forum and its own Facebook page and new people are always welcome to join.
PVN: Do you have any fictional vampire favorites?
Arlene: I must say I do like Bill from True Blood! He epitomizes the mysterious vampire perfectly!
PVN: Where can readers find out more about real vampires?
Arlene: By reading The Real Twilight
The Real Twilight on Facebook
The Real Twilight: True Stories of Modern Day Vampires
Ever since the publication of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, vampires have been a part of the popular consciousness. Now, with the release of the phenomenally popular Twilight novels and the subsequent films, it seems that we can't get enough of these blood-sucking creatures of the night.
But we might not sleep quite so soundly if we knew that vampires aren't confined to the page and the screen. There is a thriving UK vampire scene that has roots deep in our history. Their shadowy secrets - which include drinking actual blood - have remained hidden from public gaze...until now.
From the revelation that the legend of Robin Hood may be based on a vampire, to the startling discovery that the Royal Family is descended from Vlad the Impaler, The Real Twilight is teaming with toe-curling tales of how vampire culthure is taking the country by storm.
Arlene Russo, the UK's foremost vampire expert and founder of Bite Me magazine, has interviewed dozens of real-life creatures of the night for this blood-curdling tome. She reveals the strange rituals and rights of vampire lore and the grisly truth behind genuine vampire murders.
Just hold on to your crucifix...