In late 1992 and into 1993, secretly using my mother’s off-limits Windows 3.0 computer, I wrote a novel. I was 17 going on 18, living in Camarillo, being battered by the school system, knowing that I couldn’t afford college and wondering where my life was going. I had big plans. I was going to be the next Ray Bradbury…except, with vampires.
After Anne Rice, around the time of Poppy Z. Brite, but 15 years before Stephanie Meyer, I had a massive fascination with vampires. Gary Oldman played a sophisticated blood drinker in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I often thought that it would be pretty cool if I could live forever. Since I couldn’t be a real vampire, I decided to write about them instead. When I wrote this novel, life wasn’t great but it was about to get worse. Even so, it was a time when I had hopes and dreams for a bright future – despite lack of evidence to the contrary. I was going to conquer the world. Life didn’t go exactly as planned.
Somehow, this novel traveled with me from apartments to houses to lofts. I recently discovered this binder-bound novel in a box of mementos, hidden beneath old yearbooks and sketchbooks. I opened the first page and laughed out loud. I’d named all of the chapters after songs and albums from the bands I liked at the time (and still do). I thought I was being so clever. Accompanying the text were photocopies of vampires and beautiful models from a popular Gothic magazine called Propaganda. I started reading, stopping occasionally to slam it shut, embarrassed at myself for being so dramatic. But then I let all of that go and just read it for what it was: A window to my former self.
By no means is this the great American novel. It’s about a Gothic girl who falls in love with a vampire, loses her virginity, has some drama, meets someone else, and then breaks up. I wrote some of the cheesiest junk imaginable and the dialogue goes on for miles. In between all of that, I discovered that even at 18, I was capable of seeing the world clearly and profoundly. It’s highly self-aware and peppered with sarcasm as if I knew I was writing a cheesy vampire novel. Amid the dramatic and flowery prose, are traces of the writer I would become. There are signs of the characters I’m currently writing and sweet passages about who I was at the time. My lead character Tasha is me, although for some reason I changed her musical style slightly…perhaps to discourage readers from drawing too close a connection to the author. She claims to dislike The Smiths and Tom Waits – I was a huge fan at the time. Except for the vampires, the mean sister, and minor tastes in music, it’s all real. That’s who I was and that’s what was going on in my life. In one scene, my main character is overjoyed she’s found someone who likes to read. Apparently, cute intelligent boys were few and far between in 1993 Camarillo. At least, the one I liked didn’t like me back.
I remember at the time, I used to carry a thesaurus around in my purse. And boy did I use it. Exchanging words like dark for obscurity and food for sustenance any chance I got. If there was another word for it, I used it. In numerous cases, I used the word o’er. I even included some of my terrible poetry. Besides that, what’s most interesting about this novel isn’t that I was a silly, vampire-loving teenager, it’s the details I wrote about. I described the places I went to and the clothes my friends and I wore in wonderful detail. And I also talked about the heartache you experience when you’re that age. That visceral pain you feel only when you’re young and everything is new. Although the paragraphs are overly drippy and romantic, the dialogue is surprisingly natural and real.
No, this novel isn’t good, but it’s something else entirely. It’s a laughable and lovable snapshot. It’s a time capsule into 1992 and 1993. It’s like having a conversation with my younger self. This glimpse into the past shows me just how far I’ve come. I can only hope, 23 years later, that I’m a better writer. It would be awful if I wasn’t.
Once I’d finished reading the novel, I wondered what my 18-year-old-self would want me to do with this thing. She’d want me to leave the original work untouched and pure. The 41-year old me can’t help but clean up the formatting, fix the spelling errors and remove some of the more heinous mistakes. My husband thinks they’re all part of the fun, but I can’t help myself. I also want to make it a little easier to read. I thought it would be fun to put it online for anyone who’s interested in reading my awkward early work. It’s about 42,000 words in six chapters. I’ll post updates on Twitter and Facebook and will post it here when it’s ready. I can’t help but think my 18-year-old self would be impressed (and terrified) that her story is being shared with the world. You see, she didn’t have the internet and the concept of sharing your art with the universe was still a few years away.
Until we meet again. Until we engage anew.