Book Writing AdviceBook, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

Looking for Gothic Writing Inspiration? Here Are 15 Vampire Novels You Should Read

If you plan to write a vampire novel, you should first explore the variety of vampire tales that have shaped the genre. We've compiled this list for writers looking for various approaches to the vampire character and mythos. From early works like Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (which predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 26 years) to the modern biker babe/vampire killer protagonist of Skinwalker by Faith Hunter, here are 15 unforgettable vampire novels you should read to inspire your own writing.

Although Bram Stoker created the seminal vampire tale, other novels have been written that define the genre's modern place in literature.
Although Bram Stoker created the seminal vampire tale, other novels have been written that define the genre's modern place in literature. Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash.

#1. Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu is a gothic novella that later influenced Bram Stoker's seminal work, Dracula. The story is narrated by a young woman, Laura, who falls prey to a female vampire named Carmilla, who is later revealed to be Mircalla, Countess Karnstein. The story is presented as part of the casebook of Dr. Hesselius, who can be seen as the original detective of the occult in literature.

#2. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker has been the inspiration for countless film and stage adaptations and remains the most influential vampire tales of literature. The story is told through a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and ships' log entries, and centers on a young English solicitor, Jonathan Harker, who finds himself surrounded by unspeakable evil on a business visit to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania. Upon returning home, he finds that the evil has returned with him, threatening the very souls of those he holds most dear.

#3. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Interview with the Vampire is Anne Rice's debut novel that tells the hypnotic story of vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac, through his confessions made to a reporter. From revelations about his vampire origins and his maker, the charismatic Lestat de Lioncourt, to his relationship with Claudia, a young girl Lestat turns into a vampire to keep Louis close, Interview with the Vampire is full of dark beauty and longing in the face of death and destruction in old New Orleans.

#2. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice is the follow-up to the first novel of The Vampire Chronicles, and is narrated by Lestat de Lioncourt himself, offering sometimes contradictory explanation for the events told by Louis in Interview with the Vampire. Moving from the 18th century to the late 1980s, the story follows Lestat's life—from his noble beginnings in Auvergne, to his life in Paris, to becoming transformed into a vampire and his search for the most powerful vampire, Marius de Romanus. Once he finds Marius, he is introduced to Those Who Must Be Kept, Akasha and Enkil, the progenitors of all vampires who have been sleeping for many years, inspiring Lestat to do the unimaginable and awaken them.

#3. The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice is the third novel in her The Vampire Chronicles series, and explores the extensive history and mythology of the origin of the vampires, dating back to Ancient Egypt. It also follows the exploits of the newly awakened Akasha, who has been inspired by Lestat's music to kill her husband and force Lestat to be her consort. As her bloodthirsty reign grows stronger, the book follows modern vampire covens' attempt to keep her from destroying 90 percent of the world's human men and establish a new Eden in which women will worship Akasha as a goddess.

#4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a debut novel that blends the history and folklore of Vlad Țepeș and Count Dracula in a combination of genres, including travelogue, gothic, adventure, detective fiction, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. In particular, the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East through the characters of Paul, a professor, and his 16-year-old daughter (who is curiously, never named), as they go on a quest to discover Vlad the Impaler's tomb. It became the first debut novel to become number one on The New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale and as of 2005, it was the fastest-selling hardback debut novel in U.S. history.

#5. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is a post-apocalyptic horror novel set in Los Angeles that has been massively influential in the development of the zombie-vampire genre. It has since been adapted into multiple films, including The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), and I Am Legend (2007). It tells the story of Robert Neville, the sole survivor of a pandemic that has taken most of humanity and turned the rest into blood-sucking, pale-skinned, and nocturnal vampires.

#6. The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain, written by Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, is a tale of a vampiric virus that overtakes New York. It is the first installment in The Strain Trilogy, and was followed by The Fall (2010) and The Night Eternal (2011). The plot centers on a Boeing 777, which arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport, taxies across the tarmac, and then suddenly stops. Since all communication has gone dark, an alert is sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather, head of a rapid-response team that handles biological threats, is sent to investigate. Goodweather and Dr. Nora Martinez board the plane, finding everyone except four people dead. What follows is a vampire tale that will not soon be forgotten, as the city tries to contain the pandemic, along with the help of Del Toro's own Van Helsing, Abraham Setrakian, an elderly Romanian Jew who has first-hand knowledge of these "dark thing" creatures, from his time spent in a death camp in Treblinka.

#7. Salem's Lot by Stephen King

As Stephen King's second novel, Salem's Lot is rumored to be his favorite of all his books. The plot, as with most Stephen King books, involves a writer—this one, named Ben Mears. He returns to the small town he lived in as a child (Jerusalem's Lot or 'Salem's Lot for short) in Maine, as vampires are taking over and the town's original inhabitants are succumbing to a dark power. In a 1987 interview, King told Phil Konstantin with The Highway Patrolman magazine: In a way it is my favorite story, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!

#8. Fledgling by Octavia Butler

Offering an unusual view of vampires, Octavia Butler's Fledgling is more science fiction in its exploration of the Ina, who are simply another species (although vampiric) coexisting with humanity. The story centers on the life of Shori Matthews, a 10-year-old girl who discovers that she is actually a 53-year old vampire. There is no monstrosity and abnormality, no deviant sexuality and decadence—Butler's vampires are biological rather than supernatural. They are vampires who are not antagonistic toward humans, but instead, create close-knit Ina-human communities where they cohabitate with selected humans in symbiotic relationships.

#9. Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon

Epistolary novels seem to be the most comfortable storytelling form for vampire tales, and Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon reiterates this pattern. Named one of the Top 40 Horror Books of All Time by the Horror Writers Association and from one of the godfathers of modern science fiction comes this story of a soldier who returns home different than how he left. Between visits to the Army psychiatrist, Philip Outerbridge, a young soldier named George Smith reveals a shocking secret via therapy—one that involves him drinking the blood of others during emotional crises.

#10. The Passage: A Novel by Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin's The Passage begins in the near future in an apocalyptic (and later, post-apocalyptic) world full of vampire-like beings who have been infected with a contagious virus. The virus began with an experiment performed on convicts to find a drug that enhances human immunity but was carried by a species of bat. The novel spans 90 years of colonies of humans who attempt to survive among these now superhuman creatures who drink blood. Within this setting, we meet Amy, who was abandoned by her mother when she was younger and who is now part of the shadowy experiment. As Special Agent Brad Wolgast tracks her down, he learns the truth of her past and vows to protect her.

#11. Children of the Night by Dan Simmons

Children of the Night by Dan Simmons follows a research team to Romania, where they find a orphaned child whose blood is linked to that of Vlad Tsepes, the original Dracula. Immunologist Kate Neuman adopts the baby, believing that he may hold the secret for curing cancer and AIDS. As the child is kidnapped but agents of the ancient clan, Kate and her friend, Father Mike O'Rourke, must find Joshua and get him back before it is too late.

#12. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a cocktail waitress in small-town Bon Temps, Louisiana, and is the inspiration behind the HBO series True Blood. Sookie can read minds, which makes her too odd to date—until a talk, dark, and handsome man enters the diner and she can't hear what he is thinking. Having waited for someone like Bill Compton all of her life, Sookie falls hard for him, only to learn that he is a vampire. When grisly murders begin to plague the town, dating a vampire is suddenly not all it's cracked up to be.

#13. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Sunshine by Robin McKinley takes place in an alternate universe, after the "Voodoo Wars" have taken place between humans and the "Others," which are vampires, werewolves, and demons. The protagonist is Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, who is abducted from her family's old lakeside cabin by vampires, and held captive in an abandoned mansion with a vampire named Constantine—the enemy of the gang who kidnapped her. Although Rae is brought to the mansion as bait for Constantine, she remembers a forgotten magical power that her grandmother taught her, and develops a symbiotic relationship with the vampire.

#14. The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas

The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas is the tale of Dr. Edward Lewis Weyland—a professor by day and a vampire by night. While his need to feed on human blood is biologic rather than supernatural, he struggles to interact with society and find meaning in it despite his uncommon need. This novel is truly a different take on the vampire tale and should not be missed, especially for its character development.

#15. Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter is the story Jane Yellowrock, a shapeshifting, hardcore motorcycle rider who is the last of her kind, having descended from Cherokees who could turn into any creature they desired. She's also a vampire hunter for a living and has been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans, to hunt a rogue vampire who is going around killing his own kind.

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.