ROCKLAND – Longtime local newspaper editor and columnist Daniel Dunkle has released his second novel, this time featuring vampire children living in a tree house in Maine.

Dunkle is news director for MaineStay Media in Camden, which includes The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald, The Republican Journal and the VillageSoup news sites.

“Let’s Be Monsters” is his second self-published novel available through Amazon.

It tells the story of two 12-year-olds, Jamie and Iris, who are accidentally turned into vampires after they find a fang in the woods. Presumed dead by their loved ones, they live in the only place they can hide from the daylight world, their tree house. They have escaped school and bullies, band practice and parental expectations, but when the owner of the fang begins a killing spree, it is up to them to save their town.

“A few years back, in the dead of winter, I wanted to write something nostalgic about the 1980s, what it was like to grow up in my hometown of Hampden, Maine, but I wasn’t feeling humorous,” Dunkle said. “I didn’t want to write a Jean Shepherd story. I got thinking about the fun Stephen King must have had with ‘It,’ and then thought, ‘What if the kids were the monsters?’ That’s how ‘Let’s Be Monsters’ was born.”

The story spans more than three decades of their lives even though they do not age. “The town itself becomes a character,” he said. “You see how it grows and changes over that time, and not for the better, so it really becomes a story of lost youth. Here are a couple of kids from the ’80s trying to make sense of the 21st century. I could relate to that feeling.”

For this story, a new kind of vampire was needed.

“I’ve been a fan for years of this subgenre in horror. My Dad used to watch the Christopher Lee ‘Dracula’ movies with me, and I devoured novels like ‘I Am Legend’ and ‘Interview with the Vampire.’ For this story, I wanted to innovate, do something a little different. I started looking up various legends and came across the story of the Nachzehrer, a German vampire that you paralyze by placing a coin in its mouth. I just loved that. What a horrible thing, to have to reach into a vampire’s mouth? I ended up using this as a jumping off point and embellishing the idea quite a bit.”

However, the story is more about people living in small towns in Maine than it is about anything else.

Dunkle’s first novel, “The Scrimshaw Worm,” won the 2019 Maine Literary Award for Speculative Fiction.

Dunkle has worked as a reporter, editor, columnist and photographer for Midcoast Maine’s newspapers since 1998. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, also a journalist, his two children and two cats.