I’ve loved quite a few vampires in my life. Some of these loves have been among the most fulfilling and worthwhile literary relationships I’ve ever had. In sixth grade, I remember being blindingly in love with Lestat as Anne Rice wrote him. All that agonizing beauty and decadence on the page made me weak. The way she wrote him literally made the twelve year old me cry. I wanted desperately to be able to create such a powerful and evocative character that would fire the imagination of millions. After I devoured as much Lestat as was available at the time, I wrote a painful homage (think 1988 fan fiction) that even now makes me cringe.
After that, it was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s elegant and epistolary Count Saint-Germain who drew my fickle devotions. Her writing was seamless and rich with history and a sense of place. The work was not as sensual as Anne Rice, but had its own rich rewards. I enjoyed Saint-Germain for a long time, but then, in college, I discovered Jewelle Gomez’s Gilda.
Picking up The Gilda Stories was the first time I read anything about vampires who looked like me: brown and female and queer. And it was simply magical that Gilda’s story also incorporated the lived experience of being black in America. I’ve been hooked ever since.
It wasn’t until years later when I was in Jamaica that I thought about vampires from another perspective – writing them instead of simply reading about their scarlet lives. The idea came to me in such an organic way – a notebook, firelight, the particular sounds of a Caribbean summer night – that a chapter of the book practically wrote itself during that visit. The book that came as a result is Every Dark Desire, a Lambda Nominated novel that still, gratefully, has its supporters.
And as odd (kinky?) as it may sound, during the process of writing that book, I fell in love again with another vampire. Silvija. A tall and confident woman who had been a Jamaican maroon warrior in her human life and who sometimes smelled like pain. There is nothing soft about her, at least not at first glance, and I loved trying to write to the heart of her in the novel.
Silvija and the other vampires I wrote were Jamaican and queer and cruel and vulnerable and, except for that butter-smooth initial chapter, so very difficult to write. But I loved the challenge of their world and how writing some lines was like sweating blood and others were as easy as breathing. A transformative experience.
Now, seven years later, I’ve written the sequel, Desire at Dawn. The new novel can be read as a standalone piece. It’s the story of a young woman dragged into immortality against her will and who has to find her own ways of coping with the unfamiliar world she suddenly must face. There is blood between the pages of Desire at Dawn, a little sex, and as always, love. And isn’t that how it should be?