I was nine years old when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t really know what the job entailed, but I had wonderful examples available to me whenever I chose to have them.
My mom took me to the library often. We lived in Winchester, Indiana at the time and I remember those library trips well. Winchester had a great library, too, but it wasn’t cold like small town libraries often are. I was always happy to shed my coat to wander between shelves and decide on my reading material for the next two weeks. Somewhere, there would be a coffee smell wafting around, though I never discovered the source. Happily, I discovered a sincere love for books and the people who created them.
Particularly, I learned to enjoy Anne Rice. I was young, but I was always ahead in my Reading classes. I could comprehend far ahead of my level and that was in part due to boredom in my earliest years. The film adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire came out that year and I got a VHS copy. I don’t remember who bought it for me or when I first watched it, but I do remember being completely enamored with the world of the undead, possibly because Brad Pitt was in the movie. And, in a move I now detest, I read the book after I watched the movie, rather than the other way around. I discovered thick and thorough description and how words can be beautiful if you string them together in certain ways.
From there, I learned of other vampires and monsters. Vivian Vande Velde became another favorite author quite quickly. The young adult section at the Winchester public library never knew what hit it. I was wide open and those characters were more than just intriguing. I couldn’t figure out why I, like so many other people out there, was so drawn to them. By the time I was eleven, I knew all of the folklore associated with the creatures of the night.
Of course, it was not just vampires. I also read werewolf stories. I read classic literature, beginning with some of Shakespeare’s very best tragedies. Before I knew it, the reading material at school bored me to no end and I had surpassed the expectations of my teachers. I still enjoyed reading the required novels in classes, but it wasn’t the same as reading the books I chose myself at the library. I began to wonder if there was ever going to be more to learn or if I was just going to flounder around in search of new books, new concepts.
Along with the reading material I spent hours with, I kept journals and notebooks full of words strung together that probably only made sense to myself. I looked at sentence structure only when doing homework. But, in the safety of my bedroom, the words I scrawled on notebook paper were written only to please me. They had meaning and were often thrown together in haste because I learned that writing when angry or upset was the best medicine for anything.
And, I was angry and upset an awful lot. There was little going on in my life that I didn’t take issue with. I wanted to ask why a lot. Every day. I questioned everything because I was stubborn–where most kids my age just accepted their lot for unchangeable, I wanted to know why.
Why do I have to live in a place with a shit economy? Why couldn’t I go see my dad when I wanted to? Why was everybody voting against Bill Clinton when he obviously knew what he was doing? Why are adults so grumpy all the time? Why can’t I live somewhere closer to town so that the library and stores to shop in would be just a skip away? And, most importantly, why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me? Do I even exist?
At some point at this period in my life I even wrote an entire short story about why I hated living in a house surrounded by corn fields.
Everything always came back to vampires, though. There was a young adult book by Annette Curtis Klaus called The Silver Kiss in which the hero doesn’t exactly get the girl. Most vampire books I had read up to that point had involved a vampire hero who always turned the girl of his dreams so she could be his mate forever. Or the head vampire was killed so that he could be human again and be with her. Or, maybe they just ran away together. But, not The Silver Kiss’s hero.
In the book, the main character’s mother is dying of cancer. The girl is at a very impressionable age, going through very real situations. The vampire in the story doesn’t whisk her away to a better life or make her forget her problems. Instead, his immortality forces her to face her mother’s impending death. She is shown what a life cycle really is. Everything that is born must die one day. It is the natural way of things. And, of course, the vampire’s day comes too. He doesn’t turn her into a vampire. He doesn’t tell her flowery, beautiful things about being undead. He is killed. He dies. And, the main character, Zoe, is forced to go on with her life without her mother and without Simon, the vampire she once knew.
Something about reading a story about a creature who obviously couldn’t exist and being able to pull a small, but immensely strong, sliver of truth out of it really hit me. Life isn’t pretty. Life is not about the hero impressing a girl or saving her from her own boredom. Life is messy and dirty and gut-wrenching. Truth is most certainly stranger than fiction, as they say. The feeling I got when I read about Louis and Lestat living as the undead or about Simon dying even though he’d been given immortality is one that I still, to this very day, cannot describe in a way which would be sufficient to another person. No matter which words I chose, it would not be enough to portray the twisting in my guts and stalling of my heart. Life is short and pain is inevitable, so I write as a buffer between the two.