I’m teaching creative writing at Michigan State University this semester and one of the books my students are reading and discussing is Charlie Huston’s noirish Already Dead, a dazzling PI novel with a twist. The tough guy private investigator/enforcer Joe Pitt is actually a vampire and one of his jobs is keeping lower Manhattan free of zombies.
Huston’s worked out a terrific alternative reality in which vampirism is caused by a mysterious “Vyrus,” and I’ve read the book four times, marveling at his inventiveness. Already Dead is the only vampire novel except for Dracula that I’ve re-read, and it inspired me to launch into a genre I’d always enjoyed but never tried to write in.
Every writer has false starts, byways, and what seems like dead ends. Huston made me dig out some good, juicy material I’d filed away while doing research on the Gilded Age for a historical novel riffing off of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.
The material I’d set aside was mainly a bordello sex scene I really liked, but hadn’t figured out how or where to use. Bitten by Charlie Huston’s novel, I pulled up the folder on my PC, studied the scene and some notes, and realized that I had the makings of a short book: Rosedale the Vampyre.
It’s a dark story of powerlessness and grief that takes a very unexpected turn when its hero crosses over into a different reality and discovers life is entirely more satisfying for him as one of the Undead. Set in 1907 New York, the book is filled with period detail and sexual obsession. I’ve published books in almost a dozen different genres, but having created something that’s historical and supernatural, I feel as liberated and thrilled as my protagonist does when he first tastes blood. And I understand from the inside, as a writer, the allure of this ultra-popular contemporary genre I’ve previously enjoyed only as a reader.
Now I’m hungry for more….