ByArchie R Spires, writer at Creators.co
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Archie R Spires

[T]he vampires are a metaphor for the danger of charisma. They live in hiding, off the grid - which is easier to do in the early 20th century. They gather little cults of human servants around themselves, and they feed on unsuspecting humans.
-Brian Downes

Newly published author Brian Downes joined me to talk about his recently released novel, *The Berlin Fraternity*. Taking place before and after both World Wars, we're told the story of 22 year old German Sergeant Emmett Tynyanov as he is drafted into an ancient and elite Vampire hunting secret society.

©E.L. Studios & CBI Media
©E.L. Studios & CBI Media
©Brian Downes
©Brian Downes

Comic Book Illuminati
I guess my first question about *The Berlin Fraternity* would be:
Aren't you taking a risk making setting your story in Germany and making your primary character so nationalistic?

Brian Downes
Yes, using the usual definition of "taking a risk", which is, "Your book is different from all the other books." I get this question a lot, but I believe that literature should provoke at least as often as it comforts.
Yes. Emmett Tynyanov is a German who sides with Germany in both the World Wars, although he does have some reservations. Like a lot of Germans in the 1930s and 1940s, he isn't a Nazi fanatic - he is going along to get along.
When Hitler first came to power, Germany was crippled by poverty. His policies got the paychecks coming again, for the first time in a generation.
So a lot of Germans sided with the party that was putting bread on the table. It wasn't until much later that it became clear the path of ruin the madman was leading the country on. But by then it was too late.
Also, I don't think Tynyanov is so much of a risk when Walter White, Cersei Lannister, Dexter Morgan and Darth Vader have proven so popular.

©HBO; ©AMC; ©Showtime; ©LucasFilm
©HBO; ©AMC; ©Showtime; ©LucasFilm

Comic Book Illuminati
So your character is a victim of circumstance?

Brian Downes
To a degree. But he is also a victim of his own mistakes.
Which is true of everyone.

Comic Book Illuminati
You seem to spend a lot of time on historical details, I was actually reminded of a Tom Clancy novel. Was this intentional?

Brian Downes
Yes, that is a very deliberate choice. And it takes a lot of work. It provides a vivid sense of place, of the universe in which my characters live, and try to thrive.
But I was not deliberately following Clancy, though. I don't read him.

Comic Book Illuminati
The technical details do help to paint the scenes. I'd actually forgotten that the Trenches doglegged back and
forth.

Brian Downes
That's a great detail, because the soldier's experience of the war was mostly of a rectangular hole only a few meters long. I want my readers to feel that.

Comic Book Illuminati
Why vampires?
I understand they're coming back in vogue, but they've been watered down recently. Are you trying to undo the camp they suffered for the last decade?

Brian Downes
Vampires are extremely powerful metaphors for the human experience.
I was trying to write an enchanting book.
Myers wrote the perfect vampire story for a generation of abstinence-only girls.
Edward Cullen is supernatural metaphor for the perfect boyfriend - strong, athletic, smart, rich, handsome. And it's OK for the good teenage girl to want to have sex with Edward, because Edward is wise enough to refuse to have sex with HER... because he's worried about her immortal soul.
Of course he really WANTS to have sex with her. But sex is DANGEROUS.
So she wrote the perfect book for 15 year-olds who have been taught to hate their vaginas, and she made a fortune.
In *The Berlin Fraternity*, the vampires are a metaphor for the danger of charisma. They live in hiding, off the grid - which is easier to do in the early 20th century. They gather little cults of human servants around themselves, and they feed on unsuspecting humans.

©MTV
©MTV

Comic Book Illuminati
Are these classical romantic Dracula-based vampires?
The events in your novel start less than 20 years after Bram Stoker's original publication.

Brian Downes
In that way, yes, similar to Stoker's Count Dracula.
But *The Berlin Fraternity* is much more about the vampire hunters than it is about the vampires. You always see the monsters from Tynyanov's point of view.

Comic Book Illuminati
So none of the drama of Richard Matheson's original novel *I Am Legend*?

Brian Downes
No, in my novel, the reader only knows what Tynyanov himself sees and hears.
I never switch to the vampire's point of view.

Comic Book Illuminati
In his novel *Garden of Beasts*, Jeffrey Deaver explored and explained the technology of pre-World War II Europe:
Does your novel maintain technical honesty, or will it go all "Van Helsing is James Bond" super-weapons on the reader?

Brian Downes
My novel maintains technical honesty. When I was a boy and Tim Powers was teaching me how to write, I saw that a fantastic world had to be anchored in realism.
Although many of the technological innovations of the time seem fantastic to Tynyanov. The rise of commercial radio, for example, and talking pictures.

©Brian Downes
©Brian Downes

Comic Book Illuminati
Tell me about the Fraternity?

Brian Downes
Tynyanov is a member of the Fraternity of the Morning Glory in Berlin. There are Fraternity chapters around the world, but they are secretive and don't necessarily communicate much.
The Fraternity is a covert, centuries old, government-backed vampire hunting organization.

Comic Book Illuminati
Isolationist para-military monster exterminators?

Brian Downes
"Isolationist" is too strong a word, but otherwise, yes.

Comic Book Illuminati
I honestly cannot think of anything else to ask or add other than the sample I read is painfully engaging and will challenge the reader to give up their pre-conceived notions of life before and after both World Wars in Europe while taking them on a dangerous journey of suspense and danger.
I've most likely said this before but there is a welcome tone of authenticity and accuracy in your work, and I can promise that you have gained at least one more reader.

LINKS:

Brian Downes
The Berlin Fraternity via Amazon
The Berlin Fraternity via GoodReads
Tim Powers

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