by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
When I began work on the Saint-Germain Cycle forty years ago, it took me almost a year to realize I didn’t have to invent a vampire for the series, because there was a perfect candidate in the historical Comte de Saint-Germain, who claimed to be two-to-four thousand years old, did not eat or drink in public, and claimed to keep his youth by drinking the Elixir of Life. Once I decided upon him as the basis of my character, I began to research all the claims he made about places he had been and the people he knew, drawing up a timeline of his his claims and selecting the events with the greatest potential for stories. That took care of the first four books, Hotel Transylvania, The Palace, Blood Games, and Path Of The Eclipse. The fifth, Tempting Fate, took place well after the real man died, and was planned as a culmination of the experiences in the other four. The timeline I worked from was about six pages, and contained references to characters mentioned in each book who do not appear in the book, historical and fictional.
For almost eight years after I finished Tempting Fate, I did nothing with Saint-Germain; then, after doing the three Olivia books, A Flame In Byzantium, Crusaders’ Torch, and Candles For D’artagnan (the original title, referring to Mazarin’s little fable about Death, her godson, and the candles in the cave, not to candles in church), and Madelaine de Montalia’s book Out Of The House Of Life, which contains a great deal of Saint-Germain’s earlier experiences, I found myself back with Saint-Germain, which meant returning to the timeline to establish some of the events the historical man had discussed and to insert them into the Count’s biography. That got me through Darker Jewels, but required that I make a more comprehensive chronology for Saint-Germain, since my much-scribbled-on six pages were hardly sufficient to what I needed to keep track of, and I began to go through the books and stories to cull those crucial events and characters, particularly those I had not yet written about, since I learned my lesson with Olivia, who is mentioned in passing in Hotel Transylvania as having died about a century before; at the time I had no idea who she was, but I found out in The Palace, and almost every book thereafter. By adding Olivia’s timeline to the chronology, I could keep better track of them; I did the same thing with Madelaine a little later on.
The chronology gets updated with every book, and I check the new setting against as much as has gone before as I have written down. It is a very handy reference, and as I add more books to the Cycle, the characters and incidents in the books, as well as those referred to, are added to the chronology. Every now and then something slips through the cracks, and then my most committed readers take great glee in pointing out my errors. Most I correct in the chronology, a few I don’t, since explanations/expansions and such are planned for later stories or books. And let me observe that often the small details in the shorter works are the most difficult to keep track of; the very tight structure needed in short fiction can become so compact that I can lose track of a small-but-important reference.
The chronology is just that – chronological, beginning with Saint-Germain’s birth and coming up to 2008. But a word of warning: I’ve learned the hard way not to distribute the chronology itself, for the last time I did, I ended up taking six months to explain to over-eager fans that they may not write their own stories to fill in the blanks, and what would happen legally if they did, since it would constitute copyright infringement, a serious federal offence. I’ve already been through dealing with willful infringement, and have no desire to do so again.
About Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is the first woman to be named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild and is one of only two women ever to be named as Grand Master of the World Horror Convention (2003). In 1995, Yarbro was the only novelist guest of the Romanian government for the First World Dracula Congress, sponsored by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, the Romanian Bureau of Tourism and the Romanian Ministry of Culture. Yarbro is best known as the creator of the heroic vampire, the Count Saint-Germain. With her creation of Saint-Germain in Hotel Transylvania (St. Martin’s Press, 1978), she delved into history and vampiric literature and subverted the standard myth to invent the first vampire who was more honorable, humane, and heroic than most of the humans around him. The 25th volume of the Saint-Germain Cycle, Commedia Della Morte, will be published by Tor in March 2012. The first three books, Hotel Transylvania, The Palace and Blood Games, are all available as e-books from E-Reads.com.
For more information on Yarbro’s many books and interests, check out her website at Chelsea Quinn Yarbro