As if Melissa didn’t get enough of cruel blood-sucking vampires in Channahon author Denise Baran-Unland’s first book, Bryony, she falls into the same trap in the second one, Visage, just released in November.
And these aren’t the romantic fun-loving vampires of the “Edward” variety. The vampire Melissa falls head over heels in love with in the Bryony trilogy is a quietly conniving, cold villain who uses her devotion to him for his own ends.
In this second installment, Melissa, a young college student, knows her vampire lover John is long gone — destroyed in a fire at his lavish mansion in northern Michigan. She had tried to save him through his plan of blood “vaccinations,” little by little, until he had changed over from a vampire to a real human again, but the plan failed. Or did it?
As she attends her first university classes, she comes across a music instructor who bears an uncanny resemblance to John. And also just like her vampire, John composes for the piano and is a master classical pianist. Maybe the human transformation worked, she thinks, although he shows no outward signs that he recognizes her in any way.
Sensing something there, however, Melissa finds herself suddenly blurting out a date proposal to the professor and beginning a whole new relationship with a man who may or may not be the dangerous but irresistibly attractive John.
Unland, a full-time freelance newspaper writer, mother and grandmother, finds time for her new hobby of writing vampire novels on the weekends and in the wee hours of morning when all is still quiet at home. Both writing and vampires have been passions of hers since she was a little girl.
“I read a lot of classical and early 20th century vampire stories, things with a supernatural twist,” she said of when she was a schoolgirl.
By junior high, all her stories included a main character by the name of Melissa, also the main character in Bryony. She majored in journalism in college, but left early to get married and begin a family. Her dream of writing a novel was always kept tucked safely in the back of her mind.
The first book of the trilogy was written in bits and pieces, here and there, as she found time. It began its life as a novella as a gift for one of her children, but grew with her expanding plot ideas.
“The first one was on and off in drafts,” she said. “In the fall of 2008, I started getting serious with it.”
Then the popular vampire series Twilight was released, and Unland decided to take a break.
“I stopped when Twilight came out,” she said. “I thought, wow, I should have written that.”
It didn’t take long for her ideas to woo her back to her novel, though. The plots and notions behind Bryony were quite different than those in Twilight.
“I had so much fun doing that first one, that I sat down and wrote the second one,” she said with a laugh.
“It was just me and the computer. The art of writing a book is completely different than writing for the newspaper. I had to come up with all the dialogue for one thing. People did not give that to me like they do with articles, and that was hard.”
Visage, which means appearance, is the second installment of Unland’s trilogy, and the third will be Staked, available next year.
She has also released a cookbook to go along with the Victorian era and 1970s America, where Bryony takes place, the proceeds of which go toward Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.
The book itself is described as one of “obsession, danger, and appetites.” Information about the Bryony series can be obtained at www.facebook.com/BryonySeries, and the books can be purchased or downloaded for the Kindle at www.amazon.com or at www.bryonyseries.com.