A handsome man with a dark secret, a vulnerable heroine and a love story make Thirsty, at first glance, your typical vampire novel. But then God shows up.
With Thirsty having hit shelves just weeks before the release of highly-anticipated vampire flick "New Moon," some might think the novel is just feeding off the success of the Twilight saga. But author Thirsty author Tracey Bateman says she had not even read the best-selling books by Stephenie Meyer until after she started writing Thirsty.
Furthermore, the focus in the Bateman novel is not on the passionate romance between the vampire and a human woman (though the author does entertain the classic plot) but on human weaknesses and the dependence on God for strength.
Throughout the book, protagonist Nina Parker is hostile to the idea of becoming a Christian, arguing that God never showed up when she needed Him. So instead of God, the once happily married, successful veterinarian alleviates the pains she experiences by turning to alcohol. Her alcohol abuse, however, results in the demise of her marriage, the closing of her clinic, and a daughter who wants nothing to do with her.
After attending rehab, Nina moves back to her sleepy hometown of Abbey Hills, Mo., to start a new life. In Abbey Hills, she confronts demons from her past, including memories of an alcoholic father and rape. It is there she meets her intriguing next door neighbor Markus – a tall, handsome, rich, and sensitive man.
"The vampire story is a metaphor for addiction," says Bateman, noting that the heroine Nina is a recovering alcoholic and the vampire Markus is fighting his craving for blood.
"When you are addicted to something, like alcohol, there is an insatiable thirst and you have to find another way to fill that hole," she adds. "My title deals with addiction, but it also has to do with filling that place with Jesus and thirsting after Him."
Bateman says addiction is a big problem in her family and can seem like a generational curse. Given the book's theme on addiction, the author decided that her vampires will not be turned into what they are by being bitten, but through their bloodline, like a family curse.
"You have to make a choice of whether you let the curses that come down through generation – they can be genes – determine who you are," says Bateman.
In Thirsty, Nina experiences several near-relapses into alcoholism. At the end of the novel, she goes through a harrowing experience where afterward she is able to confess that God did show up in her life.
"I want people who are dealing with addiction – because there is so much of it in the church – to understand that Jesus never, ever, ever fails," Bateman says, "and there's hope."
"It is difficult turning your eyes on someone who is bigger than you, someone who is stronger than you and can pull you out of addiction. But there is always hope in Jesus," she concludes.
While "Twighlight" sequel "New Moon" hits theaters Friday, Thirsty has been available at bookstores since Oct. 6.
The book was published by WaterBrook Press.