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‘To All The Vamps I’ve Loved Before’

February 14, 2017

It’s February 14th and I figured I would go with the mushy stuff as a tribute to the mushiest day of the year, as well as my all-time most beloved vampire series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice. Now, this may be spurred by my need to clear the air on some things, my need to show my support for not just some of the incomparable Ms Rice’s work, but all of it, and also by my incessant need to write down random meandering thoughts, but what the hell.

I’d like to preface this piece by noting that I have never been one of (nor will I fully understand) those people that choose to exempt the series from some of its parts. Yes, I was young when I read the Chronicles (the first time) and maybe that affected my particular tolerance/love/adoration for them, but, I have never looked at the cover of one of these books after finishing that last word on that last page, set it down and thought “Well, hell, I won’t be touching that thing ever again. What a waste of my time.” Not once. And this is not a fun story I’m weaving for the sake of being a fangirl, this is blatant fact. The Chronicles up to Blood Canticle formed who I am today and I loved each and every one of them with singular devotion as if they were their own tiny universes with new things for me to fall in love with. Did I love Mona? No, not really. Did I sometimes wish that Lestat had stayed with Louis indefinitely and been a monogamous lover who only wanted his one and only? Sometimes. Was I ever offended that he not only betrayed David, but also took yet another fledgling? All the time. But this is canon. This is real. This is in print, there, on the paper, and it is what it is, and I didn’t love Lestat, or the books that he “wrote” any less for it. So why would I “choose” to dislike Blackwood Farm and Blood Canticle? Dear God, why?! Two of the most beautifully written things I have ever laid my eyes on! I cried for days!

Eh, maybe I am just being overprotective of the things I felt, but I think that these stories are shining examples of what Anne Rice is capable of giving to her fandom, and I love her all the more for them. I cherish them above all of my books.

But my love for the Chronicles is not all the mush I wanted to look at today. I give you Vampire Relations Appreciation Day!

Louis and Lestat

I don’t think I could get away with not mentioning this Vamp Power Couple. They’re like A-List vampire celebs and were even played by A-List celebs. Lestat and Louis were a same-sex couple when it was still taboo, and they somehow made it work for a full human lifespan together. To hear Louis tell it, it was hell, but if we read between the lines, maybe he was just at his wits end with his rambunctious and oftentimes manic maker. There are too many good reasons to love these two. They are the light and dark, they represent the good and the bad in people and the ups and downs of every relationship. They represent the one-sidedness of love. That each always feels that he feels more deeply than the other. They so often lack communication. But centuries later, look, they’re still together. And it’s beautiful. I dare anyone to tell me differently.

Marius and Armand

I feel like the “Marius and…” list is going to get extensive very quickly. But this one is one of my favourites. It was palpable enough in The Vampire Lestat, but the reunion of these two in Queen of the Damned was completely heart wrenching. They are the oddest and most compelling of couples: Marius, a stoic scholar and painter, and Amadeo, an obstreperous man-child with a knack for demands of love and outwardly selfish behaviour to get what he wants. A typical teenaged kid, basically. Their relationship has the hallmarks of bordering on uncomfortable and well beyond taboo, but has the sweetest core to it.

Louis and Claudia

Wow, this love story. Is it creepy to call it that? No, I don’t think so. It’s been validated that the act of caring for a child/infant alters the chemicals in the human mind to represent the feelings of falling in love. And Louis was nothing if not absolutely besotted with Claudia. Their relationship bloomed from a father and a daughter to eternal lovers, and isn’t that the way with all vampire relations? So many readers view Claudia as a monster. Her actions were monstrous, I’ve no doubt of that, but she wasn’t a monster so much as a tragedy, and Louis’ inherit tragedy was that he was the reason for her failings as a human, a vampire, and a child and companion. It’s a classic romance. Romances almost never have happy endings for everyone.

Marius and Pandora (<—Oh look)

Honourable mention? Maybe. Marius has a habit of falling for the least likely of suspects. Men and women that are nothing like him in the least, and in the end he leaves, they leave, everyone leaves, but while it lasts it’s always perfect. Pandora was Marius’ counterweight, and who can not love a story that spans millennia of a man looking for the lost second half of his heart?

Louis and Merrick

For the haters: I loved this love story. I was so sad when it didn’t carry through, when it seemed as if Louis had forgotten all about Merrick and her witchy witchliness. Yes, yes, she tricked him. She sabotaged his misery and almost drove him to suicide, but you know what she did do for him? She LIBERATED him! That’s right. Claudia’s grip on Louis’ heart was killing him. Merrick, set him free. In a manner of speaking.

Honourable Mentions

~ Because this article is reaching the realms of too-long-didn’t-read ~

Marius and Bianca (sigh)

Armand and Daniel

Lestat and David

Lestat and Nicki

Lestat and Akasha (Maybe Lestat needs a *sigh* too)

I KNOW I’ve missed out more than a few. I know that the list of Vampire Love is so long that I’d be writing on it until my fingers bled if I continued. But I don’t want to bore you to tears. If you have a Vampire Love you want me to mention, post it in the comments.

This is a series about Love. Doesn’t the above list of romances prove that? I don’t like the mushiness of Valentine’s Day, but it has given me a reason to write on my most favourites of love stories, so, thank you Valentine’s Day, or, Vampire Relations Appreciation Day.

And also, since it’s Valentine’s Day, do pick yourself up a copy of Blood Pearl, all vampire romancey and deliciously dark. It’s free. Sssh, don’t think about it, just do it <3

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Love Between Monsters (The Queen and her Consort)

February 7, 2017

So I went digging through my bookshelf today to find my copy of Queen of the Damned, but the blackhole that is my house has swallowed it, and I will need to replace it somehow with some money, from somewhere.

This is Lesson #3 in my set of posts about how Anne Rice inspired me to write, the things I have learnt and the joy that I derived from gathering words into beautiful choruses and letting them sing to a captivated audience. At least, I try to live up to the potential that reading the Vampire Chronicles made me consider cultivating.

The lessons to be learnt by writers in Queen of the Damned are a little more obfuscated than the ones mentioned up to now in Interview  and LestatQueen of the Damned is the first book to give a perspective – a number of perspectives in fact – that are so completely different from the Yin and Yang of Lestat and Louis. They are opposing forces that need one another to survive to their utmost potential. Centuries into their time together, they still gravitate towards one another and only feel whole when they’re together. That is an aside, previously discussed in other posts. but here, we’re going to be looking at the number of new and enticing entries that occurred in the Queen of the Damned novel, that opened up the world of the world of the Vampire Chronicles to display something not in the least claustrophobic. A novel that took the reader away from the vacuum of Lestat’s thoughts alone and offered opposing ideals, notions, thoughts, and feelings.

A single perspective makes the reader learn to love and hate and feel all the things that the character is feeling. In Interview, it was torturous not to feel sympathy for Louis; even empathy when his world was at its darkest. In The Vampire Lestat loving Lestat was easy. He made it so simple just by being himself. But knowing those same characters from the perspectives of others is like falling in love and knowing the love of those characters in an intimate fashion that is almost like voyeurism. It’s as exciting as voyeurism, but more importantly, it’s seeing the tiny webs of pulsing veins that connect them, the ghosts of their past passions, and their incomparable love through their eyes and feeling for their consorts in ways that it was impossible to feel for them before.

The two examples I’d like to look at are as follows:

Lestat and Akasha

Akasha’s evil is on the back burner for me as far as questions of it go. The reviews are mixed and with the new information in Prince Lestat it is getting increasingly hard to see Akasha as evil. Then again, some of her human choices were questionable too. That aside, Lestat is in love with her. It isn’t infatuation, it’s the love of a man that has looked into a woman’s soul and found that soul looking back at him with understanding. Akasha could have chosen anyone, but she chose him, she kept him as her consort and her lover, and Lestat fulfilled the fantasies he’d allowed himself to entertain from the moment he saw her, played for her, and angered her King. Feelingless creatures can feel. Even millennia old “monsters” know love. One can argue that that love is more of an infatuation, an obsession. Maybe it’s glandular and has everything to do with the instinctive need to find a tribe. But Akasha chose Lestat and for however brief a time it was, they knew love.

Marius and Armand

I doubt – no, I know – that I was not the only reader waiting for a reunion of these two characters from the moment Armand divulged some of history to Lestat in The Vampire Lestat. Aside from the fact that Marius was a relatively mysterious and unknown quantity here, there was a much deeper level to it. Armand is the quintessential lost boy, and Marius is the anchor that keeps him from floating off into his own madness (later the relationship between Marius and Daniel felt very similar, though in that instance, Daniel was utterly dependant on Marius, and not just used to dreaming him up late in the day in order to try and recall who he really was as in Armand’s case). There were numerous occasions in Prince Lestat when I was hoping for a similar meeting, a rejoining of characters that had lost each other, with the same depth of emotion. Marius’ love for Armand proves two things. 1) In fiction, anything is allowable, anything is done, and all things can be beautiful. 2) Love can heal any wound and can conquer any chasm it faces. An old Roman loves a young boy, and it’s exquisite. Armand is changed from a scared child to an obstreperous bon vivant, and it proves the most basic truth about love: it’s a cleansing breath of air, rain washing away the filth of the day.

In terms of vampire fiction/literature, love is often overlooked, or looked into in a creepy, stalker-ish manner. It’s easy to think of the vampire as a separate entity, something to be treated as alien. But if we are looking at vampires as a metaphor for humanity (greed, lust, envy, etc.) then we should look at them as the norm, not the other. Vampires are intimate creatures by the very nature of what they are. Touches between humans have a myriad of symbols attached to them. Touches between vampires are the same and vampires have to touch, constantly, to feed. The more they touch, the more they feel, the more love they get drawn under by.

This is potentially what makes the vampire such a smashing candidate for Romance and Erotica.

Queen of the Damned allowed one very simple insight into writing: There is no story without a character that can feel, that can flail into fits of rage at the loss of love or passion. And no story without characters that love one another. Whatever the manner of the love, the gender, the orientation, the crushing weight of the desire, it matters. It draws a sterling human creature out of some descriptive words, a fetching scarf, and a speech attribution.

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Lesson 2: The Vampire Lestat

February 2, 2017

I started this thread last week and then had difficulty continuing, in spite of my ever-present willingness to talk about these novels. It’s been a tough week, personally and worldwide, and tougher still considering the circumstances and the dangers in the world and the never-ending horrifying news stories that come from world powers and little backwaters like my own country. As such, after a good week of moping and an unwillingness to communicate more than a word here or there, I decided to dig myself into my escapism and live in it until things improve or until I am in a position to fight for the good things. The good things aren’t always easy to see, and a lot of the time they tend to be hidden behind the big bad that stares at us from the ajar closet in the dark and terrorises us into sleepless nights and hours huddling in front of a night light. And that seems to be a fairly decent starting point for a book ostensibly about a villain that turns into the story of a towering hero and his centuries of accomplishments on a manic journey.

~What can I say? I have a soft spot for the bad boy and the anti-hero, and sometimes even the villain. In a world filled with James Potters, I tend to root for the Snapes~

“Villain” is another word for the Hero of a different story

I picked up Interview and Lestat in one shopping trip and it didn’t take me long into my reading of the former to be a little skeptical of the second book in the series and its somewhat ominous title considering Lestat’s list of sins in Louis’ P.O.V. But a few pages into Lestat I naturally struck a turning point and was astounded at the leap in appreciation, as well as the escape from the dreariness of Louis’ world where everything is bleak and empty, into Lestat’s where everything is something to be conquered, explored, vanquished, understood, defined, experienced… The list is endless. He does The Thing. He looks at it and determines how best to do it, how best to undo it, how best to counteract it and control it. Even when his aim is to abandon all control, he somehow dominates the thing and becomes the highlight of any page he happens to land on.

Lestat made the error of keeping a lot of himself to himself and not sharing his own story with Louis. This invited his fledgeling to fill in the blanks of what life with the manic and vicious Lestat was like and why in his own book that was meant to, in part, smear Lestat, and draw him out by casting lies into the water like rivulets of blood. It worked. And it forced Lestat to tell his own story, his own truth. It doesn’t take Lestat long to set the record straight and win over an audience that had all the potential in the world to hate him at the opening of his very own book.

As such, I try not to treat any fictional villain as a villain anymore. The Vampire Lestat proved that one man’s villain is another man’s hero, and Lestat is an enticing hero with a list of heroic deeds that more than outweigh his sins. Or so I like to think. Arguments are valid and will be heard. But I like my anti-heroes. Lestat is the Heathcliff in my universe; the hero that took more than one wrong turn on his journey towards finding himself, but his goal is still pure and untainted by whatever “evils” he has to face or endure, or in his case, commit. If I’ve learnt anything here, it is never to sell a character short by giving him a proverbial moustache that he can twirl while laughing maniacally and swooping into the darkness. Villains are not villains because they have nothing better to do. They have/had a story, and their goals, their dreams, simply differ from what the protagonist wants. Louis didn’t want to be a monster and he saw Lestat as the reason for his monstrosity. Antagonists are only compelling if they come from a place of humanity, rife with all its sinful behaviour and selfishness, to pollute the hero’s story with their own desires and subvert the hero’s aims.

Sometimes, Heroes Lie

Lestat is a do’er. He looks at life through the eyes of someone who is gluttonous, wanting more of everything, and stopping at nothing to get that sense of fulfilment. Louis is a thinker. He analyses everything until the existentialism eats him alive. It’s hard to see the rosy hues of life when the human mind is hard at work finding the bad in everything and dissecting it, only to discover a great lack of answers and an empty hole where there should be an end, or, at the very least, an explanation. It’s dark and twisted, the human mind is. The good things aren’t always easy to see. And maybe, sure, maybe Louis was feeling a little bit sorry for himself, empty, angry even, and he partly hated Lestat for bringing this side out in him. But, in all honesty, that side of him was always there. Lestat was just the catalyst that gave it voice. Louis was cursed with a thinking mind.

A question can be raised. Did he lie? Or did he ultimately believe what he put into words? Only the author knows, and, in the end, characters do what they want when pen is put to paper. It’s a flaw in the design. We want the characters to be real and magnetic, and they run away with the words, laughing and squealing with happiness that they won. If we try and wrestle them back into their prospective cages and steer the ship down the course we set it on, they win anyway because the story comes out false and insincere. I wholeheartedly believe that Louis was one of these runaway characters, and Lestat was most insulted when he was forced to play the villain in Louis’ nightmarish memories.

But, yes, I may have pinned for myself the trouble with being human (and to me, vampires are still human, they’re just, elevated, changed, whatever you want to call it, but they come from humanity and are trapped in the cycle of who they were when they died). Being human is a constant battle between the soul and the body. The body wants and needs things. The should dreams big dreams. But the dreaming part has an awful lot of time to think, and has to think while seeing bad revolve around the world like the sun’s ugly cousin. I think that this horrifying cyclical nightmare is what Louis found himself trapped in. If I think back to reading Interview with the Vampire I get shivers of disquiet. It was sorely painful, because being in Louis’ shoes was like seeing nothing but pain and suffering everywhere and being powerless to stop it, and, worst of all, perpetuating a lot of it and feeling powerless to stop that too…

“My subjects look at me with love.

And I love each of them.

They’re family. My family. My kin. My blood.

Whatever binds us, ripples through us all. We might not all be shadow, but we are all human. I remind myself every night. I am a man. I always will be.”

 ~ Raphael de Sangallo, Blood Amaranthine ~

I am rambling, let me stop. But I’ll leave it on this note:

I’ll debate forever until the tips of my fingers are raw from typing, that Lestat is a villain. He’s the greatest kind of hero. He’s the utterly human kind; riddled with insecurities that he masks with incessant bravado, ultimately bound to make one massive mistake after another, and, finally, he tries, to do the right thing, even if his nature drags him into the darkness every handful of decades. Humans write about human flaws because we write what we can relate to the best. And the same facets that make the human monster the most terrifying, make the human hero the most enticing. A hero built on flaws and fears that falls every damn time he tries to walk, but always gets up and keeps moving forward.

~Plus, The Vampire Lestat introduced Marius. What more could a reader ask for?~

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How the Vampire Chronicles Inspired Me

January 23, 2017

I always knew that I wanted to write. When I was in Grade 4 I had a teacher who wasn’t all that fond of me. Or at least that’s how my childish mind perceived her concern over my “sickly” nature. But there was one thing that she always praised about me: my capacity to write creatively and well. Mostly I remember there being a lot of ellipses and exclamation marks in my work then; so I still haven’t worked out all the kinks, I guess…

I started with poetry when I remembered how much praise writing had brought me, and moved onto prose when I was about ten. So while I credit my creative endeavours in most part to my favourite authors, I don’t blame them entirely for my forays into the written word. That being said, it wasn’t until I read the Vampire Chronicles that I gave any thought to writing about vampires. Sure, the topic had always fascinated me, there were other authors that I read who wrote primarily about vampires, I watched (and read) a lot of Buffy fiction, and I found my niche in contemplating life and meaning when I was in my early teens – something that I credit primarily to the vampire in literature – but it was the concept of the “romantic vampire” that spurred me to write not just small snippets, excerpts, and stories of dark castles and midnight kidnappings, but things that made me think. And in thinking, I hoped I would provoke others to do the same.

I was young, but I didn’t need the themes explained to me: the questionable nature of evil, the danger of beauty, the simple existentialism of being alive and never being entirely certain that there’s more purpose to it than eating, sleeping, procreation, scrabbling to find meaning in what seems completely meaningless. I couldn’t put fancy words to it, but I recognised a lot of what the perspective characters felt from what I felt in my own life. The metaphor of the vampire as “the outsider” has started to seem cliched, but it’s not, it’s archetypal. Why else would vampire fiction be so popular with teenagers? Everything is urgent and every feeling seems like its the end; not just of the world, but the universe, life, the soul, all of it. I wanted to explore the same themes, other themes even. I wanted to look at the world not through the eyes of the non-fiction perspective character, someone I knew, myself even. It was too close to home. I wanted to put myself int he shoes of someone that wasn’t me, and let them walk a mile, let them find the answers I couldn’t find.

You could say, I learnt lessons from the Vampire Chronicles. Not just about life, but about how to create literary life. how to take a cutout character and breathe into him, make him move and dance and sing, make him list and sway and follow the path towards his own truth. Books aren’t always about the story. Without the characters, there wouldn’t be one. I like the characters. The characters give a tale life and meaning. I applied the lessons I learnt from each book in the Vampire Chronicles to my own writing, and I believe that I won my own internal challenge, to chisel characters from nothing and make them real.

The realest thing a character can do, is run away with the story and ignore my planning.

Lessons from Interview

Lesson one: What I think I enjoyed most about Interview with the Vampire was Louis’ wandering, seeking the same answers and never getting them. Even when his story came to a close and Daniel stared at him waiting for more, it was very clear that the story was never going to end. Because the question hasn’t been answered. If the question is “what is the meaning of life?” no one can answer it but the wanderer. And in every novel thus far, I don’t think that Louis has ever really found that. You can live for someone (Lestat, maybe Claudia?), but it’s not really living in the end. It’s surviving for that one last look that they give you, like the sun slipping behind the clouds. One day (or night) you wake up and find that it isn’t enough, and then, you start to wander again. It’s a romance, but not romantic; not, traditionally anyway. It’s a horror, but the horror is so perfumed that the reader can’t see it until the spilt odour is choking him. Interview was dark. It was like the novels I read just prior to the Vampire Chronicles, in authors like Jeanne Kalogridis and her vile Prince.

Not one of my own characters, no matter how old, is a fully-fledged person. There is always room to grow. Always. Saskia D’Asur is older than the shadow that animates her, but she still hasn’t found her answers, and she keeps moving through time, trying to find reason. I suppose she even embodies the darkness I felt in Interview, the clammy fear, the brooding sincerity. She handles everything badly, everything wrong, but she keeps doing what is in front of her, in hopes that whatever comes next, will give her life meaning.

Lesson two: People look for meaning in religion, because without a God the world is terrifying, bleak and, well basically, meaningless. With no deity, there is no afterlife, and with no afterlife, what are we toiling for? Is everything for nothing in the end? Where do we go? Do our voices echo in our own skulls for eternity? I’m not sure it’s a question vampires can answer, but, I think it’s one that they’re more afraid of than any human. Why could Louis never end his “miserable” existence (we’re barring later books here)? Was he exaggerating about his anguish, or was it that much worse: after being immortal, death was less palatable than sleepwalking through night after night like a sad, old ghost.

Our characters struggle with religion. Human, vampire, whatever their physical attributes, religion is a harsh reality that is built on something they can’t see or verify. Not everyone believes. Not everyone has to. But the ones that do face their own challenges: defining evil, coming to terms with being evil, and fighting theistically evil intent. Evil is a very Christian structure, but Christianity is the forerunning religion of the modern age, and it features distinctly in the Gas Light Victorian Vamp setting of the Sanguinem Emere novels.

And the last lesson I learnt from Interview was, possibly, the most important one: A successful character, is a relatable character. Being a bloodsucking beast doesn’t make a character obscure, but being inhuman does. It’s difficult not to relate to Louis for all the reasons previously mentioned. Lestat and Claudia, however, on occasion behave with such monstrous abandon, that Louis’ horror seems perfectly well placed. Later on, from Lestat’s perspective, the horrors he commits seems almost justifiable, definitely understandable. And it’s a charming truth of all fiction, that a perspective character is not God, and that he can lie, if he chooses, and as the avid reader, we’ll never know the difference.

 ~It will be too long of a post to put each of the novels in here, but I will make separate blog posts for them. Hopefully one a day ~