So, as I said in my last post, the book I have out right now is called, “The Vampires of Soldiers Cove”. I thought I’d talk a little bit about how this book came about and why I felt the need to write it.
In my late teens and early twenties I had a serious bout with mental illness. More serious than most people actually realized. Between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two I was hospitalized at least two or three times a year, sometimes staying for lengths of 3 to 4 weeks or more.
Life clicks very fast at that age. Every time I had to leave school to address my illness I was left behind a little more. If you picture life as a board game, then being sick the way I was back then was just like Monopoly. My friends were rolling the dice and moving ahead. One roll, graduating. Two rolls, college. Three rolls, boyfriends. Four rolls, jobs. Etc. The doors they were walking through were mostly closed to me at that time. I would get sick, leave school, get better and try to come back. When I’d get there I’d try to catch up with all the changes, but then not long after that I’d be back in the hospital, falling behind again.
More often than not, when the dice came around to me, I was rolling and landing on the space that said, ‘go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go!” While those around me were buying property and trying to secure the rights to Boardwalk, I was waiting my two turns just so I could get back on the board and get moving again.
You can only get sent to the jail square so many times before you give up on the game, throw your hands up and say, “This is stupid. Why bother?” And that’s where I was for most of my early twenties. After having tried and been thwarted so much, I put the game away and said, “Fuck it!”
When you’ve been sick with that kind of frequency and intensity, sometimes what happens is that even in the periods in between when you are well, you start to live in fear. I lived in fear of the next episode. The fear of starting something, and then having it all taken away…again! And living in such a small community, while it has its definite advantages, didn’t help me when it came to my mental health. Aside from the appointments with doctors, which I had to travel to for an hour and a half each way, there were no resources to get me on the road to recovery where I needed to be.
I fell into a very long, and very dark depression which lasted for years. Depression comes with an immense loneliness. Unless people have actually had that kind of depression they really don’t understand. You can try to explain it until you go hoarse, but it’s been my experience that people just don’t get it, due in large part to the fact that they just don’t want to. If you don’t have something everyone can see, people in their ultimate laziness will not work to understand anything about it.
Time marched on however and events conspired to get my ass back into the game. I met my husband, moved to the city and had my daughter. I could be out and about on my own. Jobs were readily available and I could get a one that worked around my needs, and nobody knew me as a ‘crazy person’. I was free to start over, and I did.
The type of illness I have never really goes away, it just gets managed and I did a pretty good job at managing it. Not that I didn’t have my bouts with it, because I certainly did, but I could bounce back more quickly and the episodes didn’t last as long. Generally I was happy with my new life. I had a sense of control now and the long years of isolation and depression were largely a memory. Those years were quite painful, and I tried not to think about them.
Then, in January of 2011, I was put off work ‘indefinitely’ after a hospital stay. I had been sick in a more severe way than I’d been in a long time. After keeping a very busy schedule that included a 40 hour work week, caring for two kids and an aging parent, and being around many people day in and day out, I was suddenly home and unable to do the things I wanted to do. It was winter and a particularly bad one at that. Even going for a walk that year was something people weren’t really doing. Once again, despite the fact that I now had a very caring family and network of support in terms of the people I work with to stay well, I felt completely and totally alone.
It was a feeling I’d not felt in a long time, the same feeling I had all those years when I lived at home, sick, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I was lost.
I had never been much of a vampire enthusiast. In fact for a long time, I refused to have anything to do with them at all. I had seen, “Salem’s Lot” when I was seven and slept with the light on for months. That was my idea of vampires. I never really checked into them beyond that. I went out of my way to avoid them actually. When, “Interview with the Vampire” came out on video I remember only half watching it from under a blanket at my friend, Denise’s house. She lived across the street and I was so freaked out by having watched a vampire movie that I just stayed over that night. I didn’t want to make the five second trek from her door to mine, that’s how much I loathed vampires.
Then, one night I was remote surfing and came across what looked like a period movie. I heard one line of dialogue. “I have crossed oceans of time to be with you”. As someone who’s a writer you hear that and go, ‘Wow, what a beautiful thing to say”. I was intrigued. I don’t remember at what point I realized I was watching Dracula, I just remember that the movie was repeating itself as soon as it finished and I stayed up and watched it again. It didn’t scare me. It was poignant, it was beautiful, it was meaningful and lovely. It was also dark, edgy and just incredibly cool!
At its core it was a story about a creature who is feeling immense loneliness and isolation, grieving the life he had missed out on. I was hooked, and realized I had really been missing out on these creatures who were perfect metaphors for everything from depression to addiction. I watched/read anything I could get my hands on. I especially loved a show I found that winter called, “Being Human.”
If you’ve never seen, “Being Human” it’s a show about a werewolf, ghost, and vampire who are roommates. I know! It sounds absurd, but it works so well that you totally buy into it. The show is so well written and acted that it all seems completely plausible. The vampire on that show, Aiden (played by the wonderfully talented Sam Witwer) is a vampire who is trying to live as close to being human as he possibly can. That, for him, includes not ‘drinking live’. He has a job at a hospital and has access to bagged donated blood and he attempts to live on that, which is not easy because it’s not the same, but drinking live has always ended up with Aiden hurting people, and he’s made up his mind not to hurt anyone anymore. The situation is clearly a metaphor for addiction and so I thought, why not for this?
Around the end of March I started writing. Between January and March I had gone on a vampire binge and it led to this story dancing around in my head. By the time I actually had the balls to sit down on that first night at the keyboard I had the entire story plotted out. It changed as I wrote it and new characters came in. Rachel and Gavin came to life like no other characters I’d ever written about before. I jumped into that world every night after midnight, sometimes falling asleep at the keys. By the end of May I had my first draft, and at that time as far as I was concerned, the only draft.
I hit, ‘save’, backed it up and stood up thinking, well, that was fun. It never occurred to me to do anything with it at all. I’d think about it once in a while. I even had ideas for multiple books including the characters. I mentally plotted out an entire series, but didn’t do anything about it. I had written a novel in my early twenties between hospital visits and threw it out. Had this been written on paper with a pen, the way that one was, I’m sure it would have landed in the garbage.
In January of 2012 I was excited to sit down and watch the second season of, “Being Human.” Aiden was doing some crazy and cool things on the show and I was really loving the vampire storyline. After watching the second episode I decided I’d dig out my own vampire book and re read it.
I went to the library (I had no printer at the time) printed it off and sat down with it one day. I’ve had a very bad habit over the years of writing something, liking it, putting it away and then looking at it again and going, “What the hell is this shit?” and throwing it out.
I read it. I didn’t hate it. It needed work and lots of it (not that I’m saying the book is perfect now mind you) but I didn’t hate it and so I thought, ‘maybe I’ll rewrite it at some point’.
The very next week I sat my ass down on the couch to watch my favorite vampire, ghost, werewolf saga and in walked a new character. He had already been on the show during the season but he’d been dressed in period clothing and so I guess I didn’t really notice him, but on this night, he came into story during modern times. The character, Henry, is Aiden’s ‘son’ (as in Aiden is his maker) and is played by a very talented, very good looking Canadian actor by the name of Kyle Schmid.
He stepped on screen that night and said two words, “Hello Aiden.” My jaw dropped. Not from his striking good looks, although that would be enough, but because he looked like Gavin. Up until that point I had a kind of non-descript picture of Gavin in my head, but his face was cloudy. Not anymore! It struck me so suddenly that I had to pause the DVR. There he was…Gavin…staring at me from the TV. He had sprung to life and I was looking right at him.
I had no idea who Schmid was and so after the show was over I immediately Googled him. Well, come to find out, he had played a vampire before on a Canadian TV show called, “Blood Ties.” Call it coincidence, call it fate, call it what you want but I had just been sitting around contemplating if I was going to rewrite this thing, and suddenly here was this dude, who looked like my character, and who had played a vampire, not once but twice! I took it as a sign.
I started rewriting the book the next night. Then I put it away to let it rest, and rewrote it again, in-between writing, “One Crow Sorrow”, which is the second in the series.
Books, when they are going well, have a strange way of evolving into something you didn’t even expect. That’s certainly happened here, and I’m so happy it has.
This is quite long so if you’re still reading and giving a rat’s ass, give yourself a cookie. You deserve it!