I’m super tired. Is that the best time to write a blog post? Hopefully this won’t be too rambling.
I have surpassed the sixty thousand word mark on the edits/re-write of the vampire novel. I have approximately sixty-six pages of the original text, about twenty thousand words, to finish, knowing that I’ll likely add a chapter or two. I’m right on time for the schedule that I set for myself with this.
I started writing this novel in January of 2013 and finished writing it in the fall. I did not want to write about vampires. I threw numerous fits about it. I quit writing it at about twenty-three thousand words, walked away, said “I hate vampires, I’m not doing this.” At which point the rest of the book wrote itself in my head over the course of a couple of days and I had to get it all down on paper. Not only did I have to get it all down on paper, I wanted to.
In the beginning, it made me feel really sick to write it. Headaches, sick to my stomach. For me, writing has involved a lot of catharsis, thus far anyway. People might say, “Well, why would you write horror?” I didn’t set out to write a vampire novel, like I said, I don’t like vampires, and perhaps, I’m not that much of a planner?
Why do I dislike vampires and where did this idea for this book come from?
|My actual blood, actual.|
I dislike vampires, and I mean no offense to anyone whatsoever in this, but because I was deathly ill when I was an adolescent, there was a time when my blood was being drawn twice a week, every week, for several months. There was a time when I was in the hospital and they’d come in while I was asleep, take my temperature with one of those then new temperature things that they’d stick on your forehead, and if I had a fever, I’d often wake up with a nurse standing on one side of me, gently holding me there, and a phlebotomist standing on the other side of me, with a syringe already stuck in my arm. I had nightmares for a quite a while, I think that it’s a lot to have to toughen up about at any age. However, I think that being that age, being faced with mortality, the constancy of the blood work, it might have been abnormal had I not equated it to vampires at some point. One of the first R-rated movies that I was allowed to watch was during that time, “Altered States,” and the transformation scenes resonated with me because, what the heck was happening to me? Was I dying? They said I might not live. What was I becoming? Needless to say, the idea of vampires as any kind of romantic, immortal, creatures, wasn’t something that was going to fly with me.
But that time of my life passed, I lived, I went on, and it isn’t that we forget, it’s simply that we put such things behind us, we continue on in the present. I’ve been through other bouts with illness, some equally arduous. I live with Still’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis. Suffice it say that vampires haven’t ever been my favorite thing. I felt like I turned into some strange wolf creature, was turning into that, all of those years ago, and they kept taking my blood trying to figure it out, or turn me into a vampire, one of them. But, it still wasn’t what I intended to write or would have said that I wanted to write.
But I wrote some horror stories trying to push my own boundaries and that’s something that I’ve always done, push my own boundaries, something that I’ve never need prompting to do. Years ago I knew that I wasn’t comfortable writing about sex. So I got comfortable writing about sex. When I started writing horror stories, I wasn’t comfortable writing violence or about violence. Without realizing it, I had begun to think in terms of How am I ever going to write whatever kind of book if I can’t write a sex scene? If I can’t describe a violent crime? How I am ever going to be free as a writer to write whatever if I’m holding myself back from ever writing any kind of fiction that might offend someone? If I’m not getting outside of my own beliefs as well?
From that came a story called “The Love” that was originally published at Solarcide and appears in the “Solarcidal Tendencies” anthology, a story about archangels in love with each other, having become carnal, battling a Lucifer character. It was a really fun story to write, surprisingly so.
There was also a poem that I wrote in January of 2012…
They bust the rusted meadows gate,
They wait the darkness for the dawn,
They drink the stars,
They curse the moon,
They wander on and on,
They steal away the slipstream sleep,
And purge the soul with fire,
They promise everlasting life,
And all that you desire….
I’ve been writing poetry all of my life, essentially, at this point so that for me now, it’s simply something that I can do, after decades of practice. But I looked at that poem and I thought, “They bust the rusted meadows gate…” What the heck is that? From there I think that it was only a matter of time before a longer story began to present itself because I could see the vampires from the poem trying to get in some huge gate somewhere like zombies. Sometimes the poetry that I write is “with intention,” I’ll think I want to write a poem about a butterfly, however more often than not I’ll get the first line or two and then it just goes from there. I didn’t know that it was a poem about vampires until I wrote the last line.
Other inspirations that went into it are obviously every other vampire thing that I somehow know after this many years on earth. I’ll likely get more in depth about those specifics another time though many of them are included, listed, referenced, in other posts here on my webpage. But I’d never written a full length novel before.
I wrote it, I started to write a sequel. Then I set it aside because I just felt like it was making me sick and I kept fighting it. In reality, it was making me well. In reality, writing this novel has mapped my maturation as a writer, and is the book, the story, that graduated me completely from poet to novelist. I will write many other books, but there will never be another first novel. During the course of this process, from beginning it in January of 2013, to finishing the first edits in July of 2014 and filing my copyright, to submitting it and having it ( quite nicely) rejected, to now, I’ve learned so much. Practice.
|What seventy-two thousand words, two-hundred and forty-four typed pages looks like.|
I’ve almost quit this book more times than I can count. But I’m not a quitter and at some point it became not only about the fact that I believe in this story, but about learning to to be a novelist. How do you get good at something? I decided that I didn’t want to abandon this story. I decided to type it again, to re-write all seventy-two thousand plus words, from the beginning, for my own learning if for nothing else. That’s more than two hundred pages.
I learned that not only do I love writing fiction, I love writing genre fiction. I truly have fallen in love with writing longer stories. I never would have anticipated that I would because poetry involves so much instant gratification for me. I’ve discovered that the “short-story,” from about twenty-five hundred to five thousand words, is my least favorite form/length to write. I’ve found that writing flash-fiction is another thing that I’m in love with doing. My idea of myself as a writer not only evolved with this book, it has come into being.
I look at the first poem that I ever wrote and I know that to be the beginning of all of my writing, though not necessarily my fascination with language. This is the book that made me a novelist. Far from being my first attempt at writing a novel, there have been many other tries over the years, many, I think that the first time that I tried to write a complete novel I was eighteen, and that’s important too because just like all of the poems that I was writing without realizing that I was practicing every time, honing my skills every time, all of those other attempts at completing a novel went into this one, and this is the one that I will see through. This is the one that I decided that even if I have to publish it myself, it is getting done. I wanted to take a moment and kind of think about that, savor it a little bit, before I begin the big push through the last fifteen or twenty thousand words because I hated this, because I fought it and it couldn’t be fought or I never would have finished it in the first place. I’ve come out the other side of it with the understanding, the knowing that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, writing fiction. I’ve learned so much about the value of fiction, of the emotional truths that can be expressed with it, of story telling, about how I misunderstood the limitlessness of genre writing and I feel like I’ve been given this incredible gift.
Before this, I understood how it is that I write poetry, I understood myself as a poet. Now I understand how it is that I write novels, and myself as a novelist.
When the time comes, of course I’ll be offering up the synopsis, the pitch, the what is this vampire novel about anyway? That I’ve spent three years on it?
I will always be a poetess and write and publish poetry. Now I am a novelist, a fiction writer, and really, I couldn’t be happier about that.
The original title of the book was “The Slick Furies.” I decided to change it, to “Travel Long the Night” from an old poem of mine, and then I decided to change it back, because that’s the kind of book that it is, a caper book. I may yet use “Travel Long the Night” for another book.
I’ve listened to a lot of Shinedown, Stone Temple Pilots, Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Audioslave, over the last three years while writing this thing. Some Better than Ezra too. I’ve made playlists, deleted, made other ones, while wrestling around with this thing.
Some of those songs….
Near Dark, Love at First Bite, Blade, Interview with the Vampire, Only Lovers Left Alive, What We Do in the Shadows, Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Underworld, Queen of the Damned, Last Man on Earth.
My favorite vampire movie is “Only Lovers Left Alive.” I think that it’s beautiful and perfect, and I didn’t think that I could love a vampire movie. “Blade” is still my favorite anti-vampire movie. “Near Dark” will always be a favorite for a reason that I’ve never fully revealed because it would be a spoiler but it’s kind of fitting because like I said, writing this book made me sick, and then it made it me well.
I wanted to take a moment. I know that whether or not I write the sequel, I’m going to work on and complete some other writing project first. There are so many things that I want to write, so much.
~ Teri Skultety
~ Red Smith