“Write On:” New Highland Park author finds light in darkness

How fitting that a vampire novel should begin in darkness. It was late October 2012 in Highland Park, which, like much of New Jersey, had no electricity because of Hurricane Sandy. His wife and their son were in Maryland. And Fahim Nassar was sitting by himself in a Crowells Road home that was cold with autumn’s chill and too often dark. “With no power, no nothing, all I had to do was to write,” said Mr. Nassar, 41. “I’m sitting in the house, bored, so I grabbed a notebook and I grabbed a pen and I started writing. This story literally fell out of my head. Everywhere I went in the house, I was jotting stuff down.”

He wrote, and he wrote, and he wrote. Before long, he had produced a 159-page draft. By that time he found that his story had grown larger in the telling, and he decided that in order to tell it properly, he would need more words. One hundred fifty-nine pages soon swelled to 1,500; and one book multiplied to four. The first installment is “House of Caine: The Book of Enoch,” and sells for $15 at Amazon, although a cheaper version is available on the Kindle. The book also can be ordered from CreateSpace.com, an independent publisher that prints books on demand, rather than printing an entire run and leaving authors with cases of books to sell on their own.

Popular vampire fiction like Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series or Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire,” and TV shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” often set their stories in the nighttime in real places like Sparks, Wash., or the French quarter of New Orleans. Sunnydale, Calif., might not exist, but it functions as a stand-in for any place with a high school, a college, or teenagers and their parents. Mr. Nassar wasn’t having any of that. He put “The Book of Enoch” in a fantasy setting of his own creation. Rather than Louisiana or Eastern Europe, Mr. Nassar’s story begins on the world Eden, an Earthlike fantasy world, as a royal wedding falls apart and vampirism comes to Eden from the world of Enoch.

The story lays the groundwork for the other three planned novels, and paves the way for Ka’te, his primary protagonist. “’The House of Caine,’ in the simplest way I can break it down: Husband and wife, king and queen, with deep internal issues, turn on each other,” said Mr. Nassar. “At the end of the day, the two of them have these issues, and it’s tearing their kingdom apart.” Vampires have come a long way since the day Varney the Vampire bathed the penny dreadfuls of London in horror, or since Carmilla first preyed upon the innocent Laura in Joseph Le Fanu’s novel “Carmilla.” Nowadays vampires don’t always sparkle, but even with the undercurrent of menace that is germaine to the genre, they’re more seductive than monstrous, more sophisticated than merely inhuman. “They just regurgitate the same thing,” said Mr. Nassar, of the current state of vampire stories, with a nod toward the older tales: “In order to tell the story, I felt I had to go back to the essence of the roots.”

In his case, Mr. Nassar drew some inspiration from the Book of Nod, a book published in 1995 by White Wolf Publishing as part of its role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. That book identifies the first vampire as Caine, who according to the biblical account killed his brother Abel and was exiled from human society as a result, settling “in the Land of Nod, east of Eden.” “The Book of Nod” goes on to have Caine fall progressively further under God’s curse until becomes the classic vampire and meets Lilith, the mythical first wife of Adam and mother of monsters in the Babylonian Talmud. Thus “The Book of Enoch” digs into some of those same biblical roots. “Enoch” is the name of the biblical Cain’s son. The famous biblical brothers are rendered as Cross Abel and Cassius Caine, and Lilith gets evoked by the name Lilia. Other influences on the work he cites include spiritual influences from Islam and Buddhism, and occult philosophies like alchemy. Such earthly cultural touchstones are important to the author, because they evoke familiar stories and legends; but he hopes that it stops there. “I do not want you to think ‘Earth’ when you read this,” said Mr. Nassar. “It’s not that simple.” A native of Queens, N.Y., Mr. Nassar moved to Highland Park from Teaneck five years ago. “It’s a really good town, small but really intimate,” he said. “We love it here.”

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