At a time when vampire books (read: Twilight series, Vampire Diaries) and erotica (read: Fifty Shades of Grey) are trending big in the literary world, online erotica website remittancegirl.com decided to fuse both genres in Tales of the MumbaiCoven.
Written by Madeleine Morris, who prefers the sobriquet Remittance Girl (RG), the series features nine stories about a Mumbai-based vampire coven consisting of expats. RG was born in Canada to a Canadian mother and an English father, was raised in Spain and lives in Vietnam. “Nearly 12 years ago, I moved to Southeast Asia, to work as a graphic designer. I did a Masters in writing and have been lecturing at a university for a decade now. I will work on my PhD in creative writing in September,” she reveals.
Travel with a vampire
The short story collection, Tales of the Mumbai Coven, began with the story Midnight at Sheremetyevo, which RG wrote five years ago. “The story is about a travelling female vampire who gives in to her hunger and feeds on a Danish tourist at the old Moscow airport during a transit stop.
She is on her way to Mumbai where she lives with her coven. As I populated the story with the other vampires she lives with, I got interested in their stories and the series took off,” she explains, admitting that she used the pen name Remittance Girl as a joke but it stuck. Interestingly, RG admits that she isn’t a fan of “sparkly” vampire fiction — “I like the more monstrous variety. I enjoy the idea of creating morally ambivalent characters and the paradox of immortality. The interest in vampire fiction waxes and wanes. Someone theorised that vampires gain in popularity when the economy is good, and zombies take the upper hand during recessions. Honestly, I don’t concern myself with trends.”
Quiz her about her writing erotica, and she says: “My father is a writer and was critical of my efforts at writing when I was younger. So, for years I didn’t write anything. When I moved to Asia, I began a blog to let my mother and brother know about my life. One Sunday I sat down to write a newsy post, and this story started to pour out, literally. It was utterly filthy. Somewhere in my subconscious, I decided to write about the one genre I could never show my father.”
RG chose Mumbai as her base for the series: “It’s the lead character’s destination. Once this was decided, I wanted to research extensively. I have been to Mumbai for thee days. So, I relied very heavily on other people’s writings of the city, photography and Google Earth.” For each story, RG did plenty of serious historical research, which explains why there are not too many stories in the series.
“I try to write the stories in the voices of the characters and be faithful to the culture and era. So, for instance, The Ballad of Calum O’Neill is about a soldier during the Cawnpore (Kanpur) Uprising; it has a colonial perspective of a soldier in the British Army. In the story of Daniel’s origin, he’s a psychopathic Jesuit during the Spanish Inquisition. The upcoming story speaks of Latika, who looks like a child but is 80 years with an appetite for killing paedophiles,” she says.
The online series has earned mixed responses — “Many stories have explicit sex scenes with brutal violence, so that bothers some people. Readers have also been upset that a few characters aren’t politically correct.” For inspiration, RG turns to history and locations. “I love stories about common people being swept away by historic events. I am addicted to markets; I gravitate towards them and watch life play out. I am also interested in people who seek life on the margins of society. My favourites in literature include Ernest Hemmingway, Vladimir Nabokov and James Joyce.” RG’s first full-length novel, Beautiful Losers, will be published soon; it isn’t a vampire story, sadly.