As many of you know, and some of you don’t, I was once really into Goth stuff. Fishnets, trench coats, and black, black, black filled the closet of my early twenties. I loved all things fairies and vampires even more. For you moms out there, I eventually grew up and out and normal, except for the vampire part. There is hope.
My first two series—When Skies are Gray, and the Marriage of a Hunter—centered on vampires. (Please think Stoker, not Twilight.) I love them for their ability to communicate sin’s hold on our flesh even after we’re saved. I love them because they never overcome the thirst. I also love them because, done well, they are scary and interesting. (Think Vampire Hunter D and ‘Salem’s Lot not Sookie Stackhouse, or Antia Blake.) I like them for the moral dilemmas they present as arch villains, saved monsters, and half-breed anti-heroes. (Think Buffy, Angel, and Blade not Vampire Academy.)
But for all my love, last year I left them behind. I didn’t want to. I did a little kicking and screaming. But now I’m glad I did. It was time to excise them from my writing just like my gothic clothing removed from my closet, and my fairies taken down from the walls. Not because there was anything sinful or inherently evil about any of that, but because it was time to grow up. It was time to grow up and write something lasting for children.
As I started writing this blog post, I held my sleeping three-month-old nephew in one hand and typed with the other. It’s not quite the hunt-and-peck method employed by my grandfather, because I can almost type in the dark, but it’s not far off either. As my role at church changes from served to servant, my life becomes home-centric instead of career centric, and as my nieces and nephews grow up, my husband has encouraged me to think about what I want to teach them and what I want to share with my church. (It’s kinda like Metallica in their wild youth compared to the tame nature of their concerts now. They got kids in their life.)
Do I want my nephews and nieces to know monsters can be saved? YES! The dear little ones need salvation even now! Each of them will face their own monsterness some day, by God’s grace, and they need to know there is cleansing and salvation. Do I want to showcase that in the overused, abused vampire setting? Maybe not. Maybe I want to challenge myself as a writer to move beyond serial killers and vampires to more subtle evil, more subtle monsters cause that’s more like real life. Real life isn’t often serial killers and being stalked by beautiful people who want to drink your blood. The very reason they seem so shocking to us is their rarity.
But, they will meet self-focused people who will only be interested in what they can get out of them. They will meet themselves someday, in a dark alley, and they will wonder what happened to the innocent child who thought naps were to be avoided. They will face the choice to do what is right, or do what is easy. They will face the lies of this world—that they can see—and the truths of heaven and hell—that they can’t see. They will have to decided to be courageous or cowardly, and in those moments, I want to give them something they can hold on to, like I was given.
I don’t want to write books that I have to hide until they’re eighteen. I want books I can give then at eight. I don’t want to give them books with only butterflies and puppies, but books that are good at their heart because their focus is on the heroes and not the villains. I want to write books that show the beauty of a saved monster, not just the harshness of it.
Coming to this realization is, in many ways, what growing up is all about.
With this in mind, I am dissecting my love of vampires and creating something new for my fairy tale world. I want a creature linked to the soul, cursed by their own selfishness, forced to renew themselves by what they once were, and ultimately savable. But I don’t want them to be blood and lust based. I don’t want them to be stories with only sexual desire at their center. Our world is so full of that already. We’re completely unaware of how soaked and tainted we are by it. (If you don’t agree, walk through a mall and focus on how much lust is used as the main selling point.) The stain goes so deep. I want to take what I love about vampires and use that to create villains that are the perfect foil for my heroes.
The vampire world, like the gothic world, once held so much charm for me. But as I see what others are doing with this mythical creature, I’m less inclined to be associated with them. I seem to spend half my time trying to explain to people why I write what I write and then nobody reads it. A few friends did read it, and I got lots of positive reviews on line. I’ve been honored by having people say I’m redeeming vampires for Christ, and that they’re as good as Ann Rice and not at all like that Twilight stuff. But, they weren’t serving my church. They weren’t something I could let stand on their own. I had to support them with lots of caveats. I had to imagine them on a shelf next to books I would never in a million years read. I had to face the fact that I’m in my mid thirties and still writing about vampires. Time to grow up. No. Time to grow. I need to grow. I need to find a way to communicate what I love more clearly, simply, and effectively.
I’ve always tried to avoid the fantasy troupe of taking something we’re all familiar with like elves and having them in my world just with a different name. I’ve always thought that was kinda dumb. Just call them elves. But, I’m about to give it a try, and I hope to do it in a way I don’t find dumb. (I also swore I’d never write YA fantasy…but here we are.) I take heart in the fact that one of my human characters turned into a wolf when he went to the Spirit World, making him the closest I’ll ever get to having a werewolf. And he wasn’t really that. It was more a subtle, sub-conscious thing.
So, as I get finished with my first rough draft of my Fairy Tale, things are moving and growing. Things are twisting and tangling in my mind. I hope to have something that I can love as much as I love vampires, but with less baggage and more purity. I think that’s part of growing up too: respecting purity. I will never under why we have to see the darkness to respect the light, but I’m thankful God is longsuffering and never leaves us or forsakes us.