by Marta Acosta
"You have to own being a vampire writer," the famous and very nice author told me. He'd spent the last few years parked on the New York Times bestselling list, so you think I'd listen to his advice.
But I don't like labels, which often seem to drop someone in a box and keep them there. "I'm not a vampire writer."
"You write about vampires."
"Well, technically, yes, but only to make fun of the cliche of vampires." I also wrote parodies of Raymond Chandler and no one had ever tried to label me as a parodist. I'd penned many a political satire for local rags, and I am still waiting for the term "political satirist" to be bandied in my general direction.
I've learned that writing about vampires is like killing someone: you do it once and you're labeled forever. I've been struggling to redefine myself. I try telling people that I write comic fiction. "Oh," they say, "do you draw the pictures, too?"
I have been asked, "Did you grow up obsessed with vampires?"
No, I grew up obsessed with the idea of getting the hell out of Richmond. Guess where I am now? Yes, on the bad side of the Richmond-San Rafael Bay Bridge. (The motto of Richmond is, "Richmond, City of Pride and Purpose." The husband and I have amended this to: "Richmond, not quite as bad as you think it is.") I grew up reading and studying literature and fully intending to write a Serious Novel someday. I read four volumes of Leon Edel's five volume biography of Henry James and decided I didn't need to need quite as serious as Hank, but pretty darn serious anyway.
I thought I'd do a little living first, as experience for my Serious Novel. This included holding bad jobs, having arty acquaintainces, and maintaining an attitude of jaded disdain for those who had more direction in life. I finally got around to writing a novel. It was a dark mystery set in San Francisco with an immoral protangonist. He escapes justice. One powerful editor at a big publisher told my agent, "If she ever writes something conventional, we'd love to see it."
So what did I do? I wrote a comedy of manners with vampires. Are we seeing a pattern here about taking advice? I probably should object so frequently since I really do like writing about vampires. But I don't want to be limited forever by the title "vampire author." Because someday I may decide to write a serious book about a serious subject, just like very serious Cormac McCarthy, the famous cannibal zombie novelist.
I'll be reading from my vampire books on Tuesday, August 7, 7:00 p.m. at the Corte Madera store.
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