Shefford vampire novel is ratings rival for horror legend Stephen King

Author Dan Klefstad reveals the secrets of what it's like working for a beautiful, manipulative vampire - and her penchant for O Negative!

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 2:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 3:48 pm

A Shefford publisher has propelled a new vampire novel to success as the page turner is rated higher than horror legend Stephen King.

Burton Mayers Books is proud to introduce Fiona's Guardians, which has a 4.6 review on goodreads.com, draining success from its competitors, Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, which are on 4.03 and 4 respectively.

The spine-chilling story has been penned by talented author Dan Klefstad and reveals the secrets of what it's like working for a beautiful, manipulative vampire - and her penchant for O Negative!

Dan Klefstad and Fiona's Guardians. Images: Dan Klefstad and Burton Mayers Books.

Dan, 54, who lives in DeKalb, Illinois, told the Chronicle: "Fiona is a 250-year-old vampire and she has a favourite blood type, which is slightly rarer to procure, more difficult. Some time around the early 20th century she got innovative, observing the evolution of police tactics, detection, and the scientific methods that they are using to solve crime.

"She realises, you know what, if I leave just a few drops of blood on my way to my doorstep, the detectives will follow and I will get in trouble!"

Keeping one step ahead, Fiona hires her first guardian, an English shipbuilder who subdues victims before disposing of their bodies after Fiona's "gotten her nourishment".

Fast forward to modern day, and the street-smart vampire has hired 'Daniel', who risks his life every night to buy blood for hospital workers.

But should readers like Fiona?

Dan said: "Does she occasionally, like a house cat, go out and hunt just to enjoy the thrill of the chase and the catch? That's an open question throughout the book, but basically, she tries to avoid police.

"And she will kill in revenge to protect herself or her chosen humans."

Fiona faces death from the Mors Strigae, an ancient order of monks dedicated to the extermination of vampires, and who not only want to see her destroyed, but her creator, Agripina, too.

As the meddling monks close in, Dan's loyalty is thrown into question as Fiona and her family face extinction.

"The Mors Strigae fly drones equipped with thermal imagers - vampires are below freezing in my book - and the monks use wood-tipped bullets!" reveals Dan.

Growing up, the author himself enjoyed the fictional world of guns, guises and espionage and was hooked on the TV thriller 'Reilly, Ace of Spies', starring Sam Neill.

Inspired to write, a young Dan compiled a 200 word manuscript but alas, a rival to Reilly Ace of Spies it was not.

Dan laughed: "Oh my gosh I was 16, it was first time I'd ever tried to write fiction, and it was terrible. My mother read it and was very gentle in her comments: 'You should continue to do it but practice, practice, practice; rework the ending - and maybe that love scene!'

"That's when I learned how to write with a reader and share a reader's critique. Mum become my first editor if you will in that sense and she didn't squash my dreams. She encouraged me, so I kept writing."

Thanks to his mother's advice, Dan persevered and published his first book in 2016, before writing a series of short stories which later became Fiona's Guardians. The book, of course, is dedicated to his late mother, Tamara.

Dan, who is Burton Mayers Books' first US author, told the Chronicle: "It feels kind of special actually.

"I found them on Twitter. I kept submitting revised manuscripts to Richard Mayers, the principal, and eventually we had a product we both believed in."

Dan himself is a journalist at Wisconsin/Illinois radio station WNIJ, crafting tight news bulletins to read live on air, although there are surprising similarities between breaking stories and vampire thrillers.

Dan said: "It's worth remembering that some of the most famous writers were journalists. Writing broadcast copy and writing news copy, you get to the point fast - get their attention, hold their attention. In the case of literature, get to the next chapter!

"I tend to stick to Subject Verb Object until I do a deep-dive on a character.

"I love those moments when something happens to a character and you can just see them develop. And this is the most exciting part - the author starts by creating them but at some point if the character's behaving logically, and the plot's going along, they will do something that you don't expect."

In Fiona's Guardians we are faced with Fiona, "very, very powerful character" and her sire Agripina, a "stunning vampire who often prefers to appear nude".

"She's a bit of an exhibitionist I guess you could say," laughs Dan.

"'I've always been fascinated with vampires ever since I was a kid, because they were often portrayed as stronger than humans are, and sexier than we are.

"As I got older and a little more sophisticated, I started seeing vampires as metaphors for things that drain our energy, these could be people - your family member, a coworker or a neighbour - or it could be a corporate or government entity.

"At the end of the book, I just really want readers to ask themselves, hmmm, who is my vampire?"

Dan is now working on a sequel to Fiona's Guardians and would love to visit Whitby, home of Dracula, when travel restrictions ease.

As for keeping up with the ratings of his idol, Stephen King, Dan laughed: "I know that these things don't last, so I'm just going to hold onto these bragging rights for as long as a I can!"