Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Well? Have You Read It Yet?

Jane Bites Back was released yesterday. I know you ran out and got your copy. And four or five more copies for your friends, because that's the thoughtful kind of person you are. Also, maybe half a dozen to hand out to people on the bus/street/etc. because you want them to be exposed to great literature.

Because I have been busy doing all of the thrilling things a soon-to-be-bestselling author does in the days following publication of his novel (that would be eating pint after pint of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean and obsessively checking the answering machine to see if Oprah has called) I haven't had time to do much writing. However, my lovely friends at VampChix asked me to be a guest blogger this week, and I'm re-posting it here in case you missed it. But you should totally go to their site too, because it's a lot of fun and we love them.

They asked me to write about how my interest in vampires came about, which is an excellent question. And here's what I said:

In 1972 my family was living in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), where my father worked for the U.S. State Department. I was four.

Every so often my father would bring home movies that the embassy received from the office in Washington. This was before the invention of DVD's, of course, or even videotapes. The movies came on big reels, which my father played on an old projector using the living room wall as a screen. Movie nights were always a thrill for my sisters and me, even if the choice of films was limited to whatever the government thought we would like.

I remember only one film in detail. It was The Return of Count Yorga. Count Yorga, played by Robert Quarry, was a kind of second-rate Dracula crossed with Hugh Hefner. He masqueraded as a psychic in Los Angeles, wore velvet smoking jackets, and seduced a lot of pretty girls.

The image I recall most clearly from the movie is of a hand breaking through the earth and grabbing at someone running through a yard. I had nightmares about that hand for years. Actually, I had a lot of vampire dreams in general because I watched a lot of classic vampire films growing up. Nosferatu, Dracula's Daughter, House of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula, Son of Dracula, Horror of Dracula, and of course Dracula. That was my favorite. Every Saturday, when one of the local television stations showed several hours of monster movies, I hoped one of them would be a vampire film. And often it was.

When I began writing fiction, my first book for young readers (Lights, Camera, Die! written for the Spinetinglers series under the name M.T. Coffin) drew on this love of monster movies, featuring some of the characters that had thrilled me so much, including of course vampires. Vamps would also have starring roles in some of my first fiction for adult readers, including the short story "Angel Baby" (included in Brothers of the Night, Cleis Press, 1997) and the novellas "Sting" (included in Masters of Midnight, Kensington Publishing, 2003) and "Carnival" (included in Midnight Thirsts, Kensington 2004).

Now that my novel Jane Bites Back is out, people inevitably want to know how I came up with the idea of turning Jane Austen into a vampire. The truth is that it was an accident. In the spring of 2008 I was talking to my agent about the sad state of publishing.

"The only things selling are vampires and Jane Austen," my agent said.

"I should do a novel about Austen as a vampire," I joked.

A week after we sent out the proposal I had a three book deal and was writing the first one. But that's when another problem presented itself: Just how vampire-y were the books going to be? I knew I wanted Jane's vampirism to also work as an allegory about her remaining "alive" through her work but unable to enjoy any of the profits being made from it. After all, the book is called Jane Bites Back. There had to be some revenge in it somewhere. But I didn't want it to be too bloody. That just wasn't very Austenish.

In the end the book leans much more to the comedic side, which I think works well. It suits Jane's personality, as well as mine. But there's an unmistakable air of the romantic vampire stories from those early films running through it as well, in the story of who turned Jane and why. After all these years I'm still in love with those stormy nights when the wind blows open the bedroom windows, letting in the Prince of Darkness.

Speaking of that, the other day someone asked me if I would want to be turned if I had the chance. The answer to that is absolutely. I would love to watch what happens to the world over the centuries. Yes, the whole blood thing would become tiresome, but would it really be any worse than wandering around the supermarket trying to decide what to munch on? As someone who dreads the "What should we have for dinner?" question, I think not.

I hope people like vampire Jane. I mean she's no Bella Swan-Cullen. She spends more time agonizing over being perpetually middle-aged than she does fretting about being undead. Also, there are no hunky werewolves to distract her. But she's feisty, and funny, and she has bad hair days.

Frankly, I think she could kick Bella's ass.

1 comment:

Queer of Steel® said...

Just bought my copy two minutes ago. Can't wait to read it, chief.