You might expect baleful frogs and music themes from horror films to linger around Michael Romkey like an unhealthy miasma. You might expect him to be pale and wan, sepulchral and morose. You might have such expectations if you read his books: "Fears Point," "I, Vampire" and his latest, "The Vampire Papers," released in August (1994).
When you get to know the creator of the Illuminati - a secret society whose members are vampires - you learn to expect the unexpected.
Yet Mr. Romkey appears remarkably normal, though his novels hint that he has a dark side. (When, several years ago, the Ronkeys where the first family on the block to have a bat house, no one was surprised.) But on the whole, Mr. Romkey seems a well adjusted, happily married, 39 year old, father of two.
You might expect him to be as ghoulish as his vampires. One of his more timid fans, after reading, "The Vampir Papers," even suggested he is warped.
"I am not warped," he protests. "Well, maybe I
am, but just a little."
A newspaper editor by day, Mr. Romkey writes on weekends, late at night and early in the mornings.
Basically, whenever I can grab a little time, I try to work." He says. "I bought a laptop computer that I can turn on in the kitchen, outside on the deck, wherever.
"People are fascinated with vampires. As Anne Rice put it, vampires are the aristocrats of the monster kingdom. They are sensual, elegant creatures. The way vampires kill is a form of seduction. They sweep into bedrooms and linger over their sleeping victims. And vampires are utterly irresistible. If a vampire looks at you with mesmerizing eyes and asks you to go with her for a walk through the streets of Paris at night, you're not going to politely decline.
In Mr. Romkey's vampire world, some vampires are good and some are evil.
"That only makes sense to me," he says. "If Mother Teresa was turned into a vampire, would she become a depraved killer? Not likely. But if someone like Ted Bundy was given the vampire's powers, you'd have very serious trouble, indeed."
The influence of Mr. Romkey's voracious appetite for esoteric knowledge is evident in his novels, which offer more than the blood, sex, gore and graphic violence you'd expect. (They have their share of that, too.) His angst-filled, epicurean vampires aren't run of the mill monsters. They're erudite, cosmopolitan and, in many cases, very well known. They sip rare wine, recite poetry, play Mozart - and, of course, bite people on the neck.
"Given the belief that everyone has the capacity to learn and improve, it would follow that someone who lived forever would become wiser with time," Mr. Romkey says. "Consequently, my vampires - the ones who aren't deranged criminals - are interested in art, music, and poetry. With the supreme opportunity for self-cultivation, they become supremely cultured beings."
Of course, immortality presents problems for his characters: loneliness, secrecy, various stresses that give mental aberrations the opportunity to blossom in especially horrific ways.
"And that's when the fun begins for me as a writer,"
he says with a smile that is only a little bit wicked..