Guest Blogger: Jeri Smith Ready
And the winner is . . . drum roll, please! (As I reach into my porta coffin . . .) micaela6955. Please email me with your snail mail info and I'll pass it along to Jeri! Thanks so much everyone, for your great participation!!
But a black cat crossed my trail.”
--“I Ain’t Superstitious,” as recorded by The Rolling Stones
I am a bizarre combination of two seemingly incompatible creatures: the skeptic and the scaredy-cat. Officially, I don’t believe in demons, vampires, and ghosts -- not with my rational forebrain, at least. But my lizard brain, the part that tells me to eat, fight, procreate and FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T GET KILLED, believes that demons and ghosts and vampires are not only out there, but they’re after me. Especially when I’m walking the dog down a lonely country lane late at night. In the fog.
I can’t argue rationally with my lizard brain. It was raised on a steady diet of horror movies and ghost stories and Stephen King novels. I saw THE BLOB at an age when reality and fantasy still blurred -- I figured it was just a matter of time before I was part of this monster’s complete breakfast.
My first published novel was REQUIEM FOR THE DEVIL (Grand Central, 2001). It’s a love story told from the first-person point-of-view of Lucifer. Yeah, that Lucifer. When I first started writing it, I was afraid to tell anyone the subject matter, afraid even to speak my character’s name. (Old superstition: if you call the Devil’s name, you summon him.)
But by living with the character Lucifer as I created him, I gained some of his power, his supreme confidence, his comfort with evil (don’t worry, it didn’t make me evil -- he learns to be good). Moreover, by seeing the world through his eyes and experiencing his agony at eternal separation from Heaven, maybe I understood the nature of good and evil a little better -- that there’s a bit of each in all of us.
So that took care of demons. On to vampires. Two words: ‘SALEM’S LOT. That was my vision of vampires until Anne Rice and eventually Buffy. In both series, the vampires are humanized, but most are still ruthless killers. Monsters.
And then one day I had an idea for a group of characters who were psychologically and culturally ‘stuck in time’ in different twentieth-century eras. I realized, with a certain amount of dread, that vampires were the logical choice, as the only paranormal creatures who die but go on living.
But for me to accept vampires as objects of affection and passion, I had to make them my own, add such a unique twist to them that my lizard brain could be fooled into thinking they weren’t really monsters. Looking back, I realize that the key was sharing with them my passion for music.
WICKED GAME (May 2008) is the first in a romantic urban fantasy series about 94.3-FM: WVMP, The Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll. At this radio station, all the DJs are vampires, each wearing the clothes, speaking the slang, and of course, playing the music of his or her original “Life Time.” While a few vampires in my universe hunt and kill people for sustenance, most live more carefully, to avoid detection and being hunted themselves. They form symbiotic relationships with “donor” humans and are monitored by an ancient paramilitary organization called The Control, which helps the good vampires and, uh, neutralizes the bad ones.
WICKED GAME heroine Ciara Griffin is a human, but a different kind of predator: a con artist. Through her I could relate to that shifty sort of morality that evaluates others based on nontraditional criteria. In other words, she doesn’t judge them for taking what they need. (More important, through Ciara I could totally crush on the hero, grunge DJ vampire Shane McAllister.)
So my vision of vampires has expanded to include sympathetic, humanized versions as well as the more monstrous types. That’s two nightmares down -- yay!
Leaving me with ghosts, probably my biggest irrational fear. I once stayed in the Cooper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, Arizona, a place thought to be haunted (my friend neglected to tell me this fun fact before we arrived). I made the mistake of reading the “Ghost Book” at the front desk as we were checking in. In the Ghost Book, guests could describe the spooky things they’d seen and heard during their stay.
After reading that, for three nights I insisted on sleeping with the lights on (not that I slept much, or even closed my eyes). I only let my friend leave me alone when I had to go to the bathroom, and then I wouldn’t look in the mirror because I just knew that something would be staring back at me.
*shudders, lies down for awhile*
You know where this is leading, right? My current work-in-progress is, naturally, a ghost story. The main character has seen and heard spirits since -- well, since she could see and hear, period. They’re part of her daily life -- a rather annoying part, if you ask her. In her sixteen years she’s absorbed and catalogued the pain of countless nameless dead, to the point where she can barely feel her own pain anymore. (And that’s all I’m telling, since it’s still in proposal stage.)
Of course, part of the fear of ghosts stems from the fear of death. In my romantic fantasy trilogy from Luna Books -- EYES OF CROW, VOICE OF CROW, and coming in November, THE REAWAKENED -- every person has magic bestowed by their Guardian Spirit Animal (what most of us would call a ‘totem’). The heroine, Rhia, has the Aspect of Crow, the Spirit that governs death. This doesn’t exactly make her the most popular girl in the village, but in a time of impending war, it just might save her people.
In this series I depict death as just another stage of life, one that leads to an eternal peaceful existence on the Other Side. I’ve been told by readers who have lost a loved one that these books comforted them. Writing doesn’t get any more rewarding than that.
We dark fantasy authors must embrace our fears, dance with our shadows. In so doing, we bring depth and reality to the worlds we create, and we bring readers along on our journey from terror to triumph.
So while I can’t argue away my fear of the dark, by tackling these bogeymen in books, I can tame it, master it, make it my own. And have a heckuva lot of fun in the process.
I love to hear from readers, so I encourage anyone to contact me through my website, www.jerismithready.com. I also give away free bookmarks and signed bookplates for any of my books and frequently hold contests on my blog and in my newsletter.
For more about my latest release, WICKED GAME, check out www.jerismithready.com/wicked-game. To visit the DJs and listen to a sample of their shows, go to www.wvmpradio.com. Ciara, Shane, and I can also be found on MySpace, though mysteriously never at the same time (www.myspace.com/jerismithready, www.myspace.com/ciarawvmp, and www.myspace.com/shanewvmp). Ciara and Shane love to make new three-dimensional friends. J
Jeri will be giving away a signed copy of WICKED GAME. Just leave a comment here, answering this question: Which musical time period would your vampire DJ represent? Winner will be posted here on Tuesday, July 22.