Jacob Maresbeth is just like every other teen—except for one tiny detail: he drinks blood. But given the trajectory of YA novel in the past decade and a half, drinking blood might make him like every other teen. There certainly have been a number of the dark and mysterious bloodsuckers—you can almost spot them by category: vampire-with-a-past, vampire-not-sorry, vampire-wish-I-wasn’t, vampire-hero, vampire-sex-object… Okay, in all fairness, that last one has been around forever. So, you might ask, does the world need one more teenage vampire?
I’ll answer with another question: What exactly is a vampire, anyway? They have quite a history. Supposed vampire graves discovered in Český Krumlov (and dated to 1732). The “vampire debate” of the 1730s concerned an epidemic of this “vampirism,” borrowing from science and from folklore. For instance, according to some of the stories, vampire men would come back not only to attack the living, but to visit women and—well, use your imagination. The scientific community didn’t really believe in vampires like Dracula, but they did think something terrible was happening. They thought vampirism was like a disease, an epidemic, and they desecrated graves in an attempt to quarantine. Sound strange? It shouldn’t. Many diseases we understand today were mythologized and monster-ized in earlier time periods. And that is what caught my attention in the first place. I am a historian. I work at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History—and I used to work as a professor of 18th century literature. Put those pieces together and you end up with an insatiable appetite (pardon the pun) for the history of death and disease in all its guises.
So—I began to imagine vampirism as, in fact, a disease of the blood. What then? Vampire bats must drink blood or they can’t sustain their own; they die within two days. What if our vampire epidemic caused the sufferer to have similar complications? A body without blood isn’t much use to the living or the (un)dead. The more I mulled over the mythology, the more it began to look like symptomology—and in the midst of writing my PhD dissertation, a story began to take shape. I shared some of these ideas, and was dared to write the first installment by a fellow grad student. Roughly eleven hours later, Jacob Maresbeth was born. I continued working with him past the PhD, into my career teaching literature (gothic, of course). When I changed careers, I found Jake came right along, too. And at the intersection of medicine, literature, and history, the story became a 9-part series. Book 1, High Stakes, came out in April with Cooperative Press.
We’ve got a hand on vampires, now, right? So who is Jake? He isn’t brooding. He has the audacity to have a well-balanced home life, supportive parents, and a well-meaning if annoying younger sister. He has friends, a job at the school paper, and aspirations for becoming a journalist. He’s not dark, he’s not mysterious, he’s not even able to get a date most of the time. But despite all the other “norms,” Jake finds himself constantly at the mercy of hospitals, blood tests, and hematologists who’d love to make a living off his rare condition. That’s a lot of pressure for a 16-year-old boy, but lucky for Jake, his doctor-dad has been hiding some of the details about his condition from the wider medical community. Of course, that means Jake has to conceal an awful lot, too, even from his aunt and her (devastatingly beautiful) research assistant. Unfortunately, young Jake will do just about anything to impress her. What could go wrong? (A lot, as it happens). I hope you will join in the adventure of the not-vampire: a differently-abled young adult who is navigating a confusing medical system with grace and style. Actually no, Jake is not remotely graceful and his sister Lizzy will tell you he has no style. But he does have a brilliant sense of humor. Endearingly awkward, Jake isn’t going to take a little blood disease lying down in some coffin somewhere!
(Not on purpose anyway.)
About HIGH STAKES
“I’m not a vampire,” insists Jacob Maresbeth, teenage journalist for the school paper. But what is a vampire, really? What happens if you have all the right symptoms, but are a living, breathing sixteen-year-old boy?
Diagnosed with a rare disease, Jake can’t help but wonder. After eight years in and out of the Newport News hospital, he’s had it up to here with doctors, diseases and dishonesty. After all, Jake’s father, respected neurologist Franklyn Maresbeth, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years… particularly that part about drinking blood.
In High Stakes, Jake records his summer vacation in the home of his maiden aunt, the bangled and be-spectacled Professor Sylvia. If that isn’t bad enough (and it is), Jake and his theatre-loving sister Lizzy must keep the “unofficial” details of Jake’s disorder a secret from Aunt Sylvia’s seductively beautiful graduate student, Zsofia. Will Jake survive a whole month pretending to be an invalid? Will Zsofia weaken his resolve with her flirtatiously dangerous Hungarian accent? Will Jake lose his heart–in more ways than one?
About the Author
Author, historian, and adventurer at the intersections, Brandy Schillace spends her time in the mist-shrouded alleyways between literature and medicine.
Brandy grew up in an underground house in abandoned coal mining territory near a cemetery. It does things to you (like convince you to get a PhD). It also encourages a particular brand of fictive output. HIGH STAKES, Book 1 of The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles, came out in 2014 with Cooperative Trade Press.
Brandy is managing editor of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry and Research Associate for the Dittrick Museum of Medical History. She is also editor of the Fiction Reboot | Daily Dose blogs. When she isn’t researching arsenic poisoning for the Museum, writing fiction, taking over the world, or herding cats, she teaches for Case Western Reserve University.
Connect with Brandy:
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOSRSk0hW9g&feature=youtu.be
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20927933-high-stakes
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Brandy-Schillace/e/B00K4EMPEG/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1