Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

*internal screaming*

Sooooooo a thing is happening. Here's the deadline I referred to with such vagueness:

I'ma be in it. This is also why I asked the Twitters for help with an author bio, the writing of which was complicated by the fact that I've hardly DONE anything:

Cleolinda Jones is the author of Movies in Fifteen Minutes; she has written many novels and might even finish one of them someday. A classy dame who knows what’s what, Cleo currently supervises the House of Bark, recaps when she is least expected, and maintains a howling vortex of delight on Tumblr. She is still blogging on Livejournal out of pure cussedness. Like a drifter, she was born to walk alone, but is available for podcasts.

Let me expand on what I posted on Tumblr:

The Novel of the Damned that I’ve been working on for ten years and still have not finished, as many of y’all know, is called The Black Ribbon, and it’s a Victorian vampire slightly-steampunk, slightly-alternate-history horror/suspense thing. (TEN YEARS, I SWEAR TO GOD. Every bandwagon you can think of has come and gone and possibly come around again, it’s taken me so long. I posted some really terrible rough chapters back in 2003, back when I thought I’d just dash it off as a Halloween serial in five chapters and really broad strokes, which is how some of y’all know about it.) I don't even know how "steampunk" the book really is; it's got some alternate/advanced technology, which hasn't necessarily affected history... yet. The growing relationship between the two main characters is really the center of the whole story, but I don't know that you'd call it a romance, in terms of genre. Maybe it's horror, because there's a good bit of gore, but I've always loved psychological suspense, so there's more of the latter. At this point, I'm willing to let the book be what it wants to be and let someone else figure out where to shelve it, should I ever be so fortunate.

The premise is revealed a bit slowly in the book itself, but it’ll probably come out in the marketing some far future day from now, so why not: it’s basically about West, a vampire hunter/mercenary hired to kill everything in sight, and Rose (Rose Hannah in the original version), a young doctor who is, uh, extremely motivated to look for a cure instead. Essentially: he’s a hunter, she’s infected, slow-burn Victorian romance, THEY FIGHT VAMPIRES.

I’ll be honest, one of my inspirations for Rose was Mina Harker, since I was sort of obsessed with an illustrated edition of Dracula as a kid, and I was always impressed by the way all of these men rallied around her and depended on her emotionally and she was the one who compiled all their research and she was the one who had the train timetables memorized and she was kind of the actual most capable person in the entire book (Lolcat Van Helsing aside). So Rose was partly born out of the idea of, what if Mina was a doctor and could research saving her own damn self? And then, on the other hand, you have the merciless vampire hunter who starts to realize--if a cure might be possible... what has he done?

And I have really, really enjoyed writing about the two of them, the way they assume too much and misunderstand each other at first, then gradually change their minds. The book's in limited third person, sometimes her perspective and sometimes his, and one of the things I've really enjoyed doing is playing with point of view and flashbacks and chronology. That said, I have learned a lot from Film Critic Hulk's essay about overly-convoluted narratives and Bryan Fuller talking about the "show them the bomb" theory of suspense, both of which led me to rethink how much information I was holding back and to reveal a number of things a lot sooner. This is one of the reasons it's taken me so long to write the book--I keep outgrowing my own writing, not just on a sentence-by-sentence stylistic level, but on a plotty, narrative level. I mean, I came up with a really great character who solves a ton of story problems only two weeks ago. I keep hoping eventually I'm going to reach some kind of singularity where I solve the problems before I outgrow them and have to start all over with new problems and I can finally finish the book.

Also, there are inventors and magicians and scientists and tigers (okay, just one tiger) and a chapter about Jack the Ripper, because go hard or go home, I always say.

Also-also, I’ve worked on creating diverse characters in a Victorian context (different sexualities, ethnicities, class backgrounds, ages, and tons of women because that’s who I like to write anyway), but I’m terrified I’m Doing It Wrong. But it's something you have to try, because what's the alternative? And there was diversity in the Victorian era; you just have to make up your mind to look for it. And I could have just as easily said, "Well, this is steampunk, which means it's essentially fantasy, which means I can write utopian diversity and tolerance if I want." Which I did seriously consider that at one point. I just finally decided that I wanted to work with some of the tensions and obstacles and conflicts that were really there, and the choices people might have to make as a result--like Rose being a doctor but also a socialite, and how she leverages that status in her work, specializing in "female complaints" because women's health was so marginalized and misunderstood at the time. Or the way a lot of the panic surrounding the Jack the Ripper case was driven by anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Or the way that Chinese neighborhoods like Limehouse and Pennyfields were exoticized as this opium-smoky criminal underworld that was actually, like, shopkeepers and sailors and dockworkers just living their lives. That's the "punk" element of it to me, all these various characters making their way in the world, pushing back against the dim rigidity of The Way Things Are Supposed to Be. And then I get terrified that I'm going to screw it up and what right do I have to try to tell any of these stories? But what kind of story am I telling if I don't?

I want to finish the book, but sometimes I just spend hours staring at Word documents, paralyzed with fear--lots of different fears. And I'm willing to tell you this because I can't be the only writer working through that, and being honest about it is the only way I've ever been able to get past it.


And it is the first book in a series (sorry), because I don't think in terms of shorter stories very well. If I go to the trouble of creating characters I really enjoy and spending years on the world-building, I don't want to walk away from that after one book. On the other hand, if I can retrain myself to think in terms of short stories, I now have all these characters I can write about. The Athena's Daughters story, as I pitched it, will be set before the timeline of the novel; it's Rose telling a ghost story that happened to her mother, to give you a look at both Rose and someone who’s important to her, and a little glimpse of some of the friends who appear in the book as well. You should be able to read the story and not need to read the book; you should be able to read the book without having read the story. But the way I've planned it thematically, your brain will explode a little bit if you read them both. That is, if I live through this. Seriously, prayer circle for me finishing this, you guys.

So. There’s going to be a Kickstarter for the anthology later this year; my deadline for the story is November 1st, which is the unspecified project/deadline I mentioned before. I am fortunate as hell that the NBC Dracula recapping, starting late this month, will only overlap with this a little bit. (Also, you now maybe see that I’m coming to the recap table with a… distinct perspective on Dracula, let’s say.) I’ve also agreed to write a second, non-Black Ribbon story for a different project, but I’ll talk about that tomorrow, when that Kickstarter goes live.

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Tags: athena's daughters, black ribbon, dracula, existential terror, writing

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