So. I chose. I made a list of pros and cons for all the little niggly, squiggly, unclear, partially-clear, hungry little brain monsters wandering around kicking in doors, spray-painting on walls, and generally making a noisy mess of things in my head. It was a totally scientific process, you guys. You can tell, because there were lists! And as a result...
I am now writing a vampire novel.
Let me explain. I totally have an explanation. (It's not very scientific, but I swear, it makes perfect sense to me.)
So, you've heard me mention The Damn Vampires, yes? If you're someone I don't know who is just joining this blog, don't worry, you haven't missed anything. I refer to the project as The Damn Vampires, not because it doesn't have a title, it does, and like most of my projects, has from its inception. (I'm good at titles. I don't know why.) But because, from the beginning, I had no desire to write it. Which, as we've seen, is pretty much the indicator, for me. I seriously never learn, do I? But here's what happened: First step, a few years ago, was a dream. Nothing particularly odd about that. I'm a chronic insomniac, I have a lot of weird dreams. But it was one of those nightmares. I don't know if it's me, or if this is a thing among writers, but sometimes, I have nightmares I'm not in. Like, I'll have dreams about really weird and complicated and terrifying stories where I'm just kind of there, shifting perspectives, changing from this character to that, and sometimes, in these dreams, I will actually seek out the dangerous and scary stuff, just to see what the characters will do. And then I wake up and try to make it fit. This was one of those.
When I woke up, after having a dream where werewolves were being hunted by vampires in a strange unconscious dreamworld of a young woman who was, very decidedly not me, my immediate reaction was, "Hell no." First because I don't do that whole fantasy thing very well, it's like a whole other language that you have to learn pretty well before they let you in. My brother's a geek, okay? I know hell hath no fury like a purist pissed off. Secondly because vampire vs. werewolf had been done to death (this was before I had ever heard of Twilight, too.) Thirdly, Buffy had pretty much cornered the market for "Chosen One" stories, and finally, because I just completely lacked the skill for the visceral, violent tale lurking in the dream.
The excuses melted away very slowly. The first thing that happened was the story came back. This is unusual. The only nightmares ever come back, I mean the really horrible ones, are the ones that feature me. Still, I ignored it. Then, I happened to watch a documentary on sleep disorders, which put most of the plot into perspective, and let me think about how things might fit together. Still, I ignored it. Well, okay, I did a little reading, maybe. And in the reading, came across new 'theories' about vampires and werewolves I had never considered. At which point I threw up my hands. I decided, what the hell, I'll write it for Nano, get it out of my system. Since first drafts suck, I'll hate it, and leave it alone. Still, in order to write it, I'd have to kind of understand the styles. So I started reading vampire stuff, Anne Rice, Whitley Streiber, Elizabeth Kostova, and eventually, Twilight, House of Night, et al. Which, of course, led to its own problems.
I spent a lot of time on the Nano boards last year sifting through bitterness at Twilight's success to the actual problems in the story, because I wanted to understand if it was just the aforementioned wrath of purists, or something else going on. Of course, knowing Twlight is problematic is one thing, but I wanted to know what was actually generating all the scorn. And what I found, like I said, was a lot of bitterness. And a lot of distaste for how women, starting with Anne Rice, had 'ruined' vampires. I didn't finish the novel attempt then, but I did get my requisite 50,000 words, and I was totally happy because I didn't fail, and also, because now I saw how daunting a project it would be, and the type of criticism I would have to endure. And it did enough to make it hard enough to not finish. Yay. Mission accomplished.
Let me be clear here, I don't agree. In case you missed it, I have a couple posts on the Twilight phenomenon in particular, and women's place in literature in general that emphasize that I don't agree, but what's coming out of publishers these days does, and I'm a little annoyed and, if I'm honest, intimidated. I refuse to use the term 'sparkly vampires', so I'll just say, my vampires are the nasty kind. The kind that only want to seduce you so it's easier to eat you. So on the one hand, I'm a woman writing a vampire novel, which means people who are interested in vampires won't buy it. On the other hand, I'm a woman writing horrible disgusting and potentially (pleaseplease) terrifying vampires, so people who like vampires now will not get what they are expecting. And thus, I have successfully alienated two audiences.
My last whining post got me thinking a lot about silencing, about how and why it works, and how even I, sitting here writing a blog about feminism and writing and pop culture, about what it is to be different, to be searching for yourself in realms of fiction, in places where every misfit, geek, and misunderstood outcast should have a place, and someone to look to, even I can fall prey to that. I hate myself for a lot of things, most of them inconsequential nothings I have to learn to let go of, but I really hate myself for this, and I'm not going to fall for it again.
So. I'm writing a vampire book. I'm writing a book I have no business writing for an audience that may not exist, and you want to know the kicker? It's coming out in a gush. It's coming out smooth and easy and right, like it's always meant to. I don't know how or why. I hate the twinge of 'must explain why it doesn't suck' every time I explain to people, "Well... I'm writing about vampires." I still hate it, I still don't want to write the thing, because it's looking like an ass-kicker of a story, and who knows what it'll take, how long, how much (there have been four dreams so far. lucid and ugly ones, you guys). But it's coming out almost against my will. I've spent so many months staring blankly, not knowing what to do with Hannah, and this just feels way too easy, like I must be doing something wrong.
But it doesn't feel wrong. It feels good, and I'm enjoying it, except all the little doubts. I've been getting lots of encouragement though, so maybe I've been wrong all this time, and I'm finally getting it right.
New path, same journey. Wish us luck.