Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

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Why hello there

I don't have much to say, but I figure I ought to check in and say it anyway. I've had an energy drain of a sinus cold this week, plus I'm trying to get some reading done. Mostly I'm trying to read up on vampire lore from a historical perspective--i.e., what someone living before 1900 would have known, culturally speaking. I'm about to attempt a reading of Varney the Vampire, which ranges from something like 160+ chapters to 223 chapters, depending on which version you tackle. (I'm sorry, but nothing should ever have 223 chapters. Nothing. Ever. Ever. Everrrrr.) But I and my love of trashy 1800s sensation lit cannot resist something with passages like,

With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen—with a strange howling cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized the long tresses of her hair, and twining them round his bony hands he held her to the bed. Then she screamed—Heaven granted her then power to scream. Shriek followed shriek in rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell in a heap by the side of the bed—she was dragged by her long silken hair completely on to it again. Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her soul. The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with a hideous satisfaction—horrible profanation. He drags her head to the bed's edge. He forces it back by the long hair still entwined in his grasp. With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth—a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking noise follows. The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!

For those of you more recently joining us, I've been working on a Victorian vampire series (eight books, it looks like) since 2003--yes, six and a half years now, and don't think I don't smack myself every single day of the week for letting the bandwagon leave me in the dust. I just keep telling myself that, if I can finish the damn thing, maybe people will be tired of the Chastity Vampire trend and they'll be ready for something else (she said, even as True Blood is already very much the opposite of the Chastity Vampire, SHUT UP, OKAY, IT'S WHAT I HAVE TO TELL MYSELF TO GET BY) and it'll actually benefit me to show up in a post-Twilight market. I don't know. But this is why I can't read anything written in, oh, say, the last forty or fifty years. I read a lot of Anne Rice as a teenager, and I made an exception for the Sookie Stackhouse series because I got sucked into the show (and I was comfortably sure that modern-day Louisiana vampires were plenty different from my thing), and I made an exception for Twilight because obviously Twilight does not count (yes, that was a burn), but... no matter how many other things people recommend to me, I don't feel like it's good for me to read them at this time. I set down my own world-building vampire mythology a long time ago, but I'm still working out the finer points of vampire "science" (or at least vampire logic), and being off in my own little writerly backwater has helped me develop the story on my own. I'm mostly afraid that I'm going to read current vampire lit and go, "Oh, shit, [whoever] got to that idea first, now I'm going to look like a copycat asshole," or, more broadly, "Oh my God, everything I have ever thought has already been done." Both of these are probably true. It's just that I don't need to know it. It's like walking a high wire: don't look down.

(Part of the reason I check in with an update on the novel-writing process every now and then is that I want it here, on the internet, dated, in writing, that I am working on this, so that if something similar happens to coincidentally come out, you'll know that I've been here working on my own thing all this time.)

So I'm immersing myself in pre-1900 and pre-Rice vampire lit, because Anne Rice was a huge popular turning point in the way audiences viewed vampires--maybe not the first writer to make the vampire a hero, but the one who really set the stage for a large number of writers to follow (my critical reading is telling me). The vampire was at His Hideous Repast before that. I'd like to go back to that. I have a number of different angles I'm taking along that line, but I'm afraid to say much more, given how long it's taking me to write this. Mostly it's taking me so long because life keeps getting in the way, as it does, as well as my own writerly anxiety. I've come to view the delay as necessary--commenting on and writing about and deconstructing Twilight over the last two years has been really instructive, honestly--not just in terms of how not to do it, but in terms of looking at why it does appeal to people and what does work, because clearly something does, and how to possibly use those dread powers for good. I have theories on that as well, and while I've mentioned them before, I should probably not expound on that at this time.

A lot of what's dragging me down is that I am not good with the spatial concept of geography--I can't drive, after all, so I don't have a very good sense of how big places are or how long it takes to get from one place to another. And then you have the potential hubris of writing about a place you've never been to. I've done a lot of research on the Victorian era--like a lot of people, I've been into it since my early teens--but in more of a closeup detail sense. Fortunately, I now have someone who knows Victorian London very well and can Britpick for me--which presents the new anxiety of, "Oh dear God, I'm going to write this and hand it to her and then she's going to be forced to tell me how very stupid I am." Yay.

Another thing that's slowing me down is--would you understand what I meant if I said the story is a lot like Harry Potter? Because it's not like Harry Potter at all, it's not about wizards or a school or even people under the age of twenty. It's not one year per book, either. But it's similar in the sense that things actually happen, as opposed to Twilight, where the emotions are the plot; it's similar in that it's got a large cast of characters and a central mission/mystery and major antagonists and a lot of clues and foreshadowing to work out. So you kind of have to map out the entire series up front--at least the general direction of the second half. So the whole writing process has been front-loaded with plottiness and "This is great and all but what do these characters actually want that they would be doing all this, what's their agenda, what's the end game?" Where am I going with this, and how am I going to get there? And what about the stories of all these side characters, how do they fit in--do they fit in?

Because, really, it's the characters that keep me going at this point. You see all these vampire books and movies and TV shows coming out and saturating the market, and you start to get really, really depressed. They've already done everything there is to do, and even if they haven't, your audience won't care by the time you show up. But I've been living with these characters for nearly seven years now, and I keep telling myself that I'm doing this to tell their stories, and if people like the series, it'll be for their sake, not because I did or did not reinvent the wheel.

And I can also use vampire research in general for the second Movies in Fifteen Minutes e-book. So. That's where we are right now.

ETA: Varney the Sparklepire, as it were.

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Tags: black ribbon, vampires, writing

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