The first thing I ever wrote in depth was some horrid vampire story back in my teens. Long before Buffy or *shudder* Twilight made vampires cool I’d just been exposed to the White Wolf RPG game Masquerade, a popular game about vampires working as some sort of supernatural mafia within the USA. I was a member of a roleplaying club at the time and we played it maybe half a dozen times, our characters being created by our own imagination and a few careful nudges from the guy who owned the game and served as an impromptu dungeon master for us all.
There was even a TV show made at the time. it only lasted 8 episodes before getting pulled, and would have gained a reprieve due to fans badgering the network except its leading actor sadly died in a motorcycle accident less than a month after the show wrapped. Then Buffy came along and that was the end of that. I remember my character was called Raven. I’d named her after the wrestling persona Scott Levy was portraying at the time, all grunge attitude and violence. She was a gangrel, which is to say she was sired to the clan that was the loner, biker, pack-orientated one of the bunch. She could also hack into certain security systems. And that’s pretty much all I remember about her.
Then I read Elaine Lee and Will Simpson’s ‘The Vamps’. Published in ’94 I discovered it during my senior highschool years and found the mix of bikers, vampires, gore and family values really appealing. So I thought; Why can’t I write something like that????
So I did.
I still have it too. 100+ pages of linear, telling, diatribe. First they go there, then they do this, then they meet this person, then this happens, and so on. Not exactly subtle.
And it’s not fair to say I only dabbled on this either. I think one of the reasons why my grades in economics and history are so horrific is because I devoted more time to my literary masterpiece than I did to the revision and coursework. I mean, who wants to research about the French Revolution and The Terror when you can write great set pieces involving bike crashes, bedroom spats and bloodletting? I even worked a torture scene into it. Reservoir Dogs had just been released, I was easily influenced.
But aside from the horrible grammar, laughable dialogue (something I still struggle with) and meandering plot I thought it was bloody terrific. I was absorbing everything from Manga to Shakespeare at the time as a source of inspiration. Anything from Pittsburgh felt interesting and different so I started it there and just let my puppy run as far as it dared. I think they got all the way to the West Coast in the end before the whole project ran out of steam, exhausted. An ensemble piece with a naive heroine as its protagonist it was more a tale of growing up as anything horror orientated. I can’t even remember her name. There was one character called Midge, who was the frizzy Oklahoma space-cowboy stereotype; big smile, bigger teeth, with a trademark green duster and neckerchief over her nose like some Wild West stagecoach robber she was the cool comic relief. One of the girls was based off Skin from the UK band Skunk Anansie. Coal dark skin, skinned head, lots of attitude but a pussycat to those she cared about. I called one of the boys Taine. Whatever that meant I had no idea. I tried working an anagram of the word Amtrak but nothing came of it so I left his name at that. He was the stereotypical Midwestern muscle, intentionally big, slightly clumsy, but with a soft heart.
Then movies like From Dusk Til Dawn came out, and Clooney was battling stripper vampires with all manner of weapons, and vampires as a character in their own right didn’t come back into the canon until the likes of Angel and Spike in the Buffy series. They regressed back to the mindless monsters that must be destroyed for the hero to prevail. And I never really wrapped my head around that. It’s fun to turn your head off and watch but it’s not a method that can really hold my interest.
And I never got into Buffy. I was leaving high school and heading for college and as a result couldn’t afford a TV. And besides, I found her (and still find her) annoying. Much prefer the series Angel.
But people always ask me why I set my writing in the USA? As opposed to the UK where I currently hail from.
Why? Simple, USA has a bigger palette.
Does that make me a crappy artist though? The fact I can’t conjure scenes, characters and events with limited resources?
But I’ve always been enamoured with a country that has deserts, mountains, snow, swamp, city, country and everything else in between, all in the same place. America’s always seemed to me to be both more romantic and extreme than the UK. Not to say that it’s better, we have a free health service and a queen; those things just can’t be beaten.
And we don’t have Fox news either, thank heavens. Though we do have UKIP, ok so in today’s society it’s closer to being even than it usually is.
But what the USA has the most is the space to get lost in. for things and people that want to get lost. If Jon Connolly writes about a drug deal going sour in a backwood motel off some random freeway on the way to LA then I can imagine that sense of isolation, the tumbleweeds, the darkness, the feeling that these people, the cartel members or whomever can get away with what they choose to and no one would be any the wiser.
I don’t have that same feeling of expanse in a Holiday Inn on the motorway between Manchester and Liverpool. Though similar things probably happen there I’m sure, it’s tricky for me to see them in my head.
I live in the west of the UK, just outside Wales; someone once asked me if I could name all the counties of the UK. Ha! I can’t name 5. Citywise I know London’s over in the east, Birmingham’s to the north of me, Liverpool and Manchester are north of that and Scotland’s at the top. That’s it. County wise everything ends in Shire. It doesn’t inspire me, which is something I find very sad about myself oddly. That I can’t be more enamoured with my homeland, the land that birthed me, taught me, and took care of me when I was in hospital.
I don’t sneer at the UK; I just don’t feel anything towards it. As Belize states to Lewis in Angels in America “I live in America Lewis, I don’t have to love it”.
Same difference with me unfortunately, and it’s not something I’m especially proud of. I’m British, with no real national pride for any country. Why should someone have pride for the place they were born in? It’s not like they made a conscious effort to be born in a particular place. You can choose a sport team or a political party to support because they might inspire you or promote values you think are right, but both are conscious decisions. National pride has always been a problem for me.
I don’t dismiss the feeling in others; I just wish I could find it in myself. But it’s like being gay: either you are, or you’re not. Which is not a dig at bisexuality either, it’s just the example that you can only love who you love. Albeit person or country. Which is why I like the romanticism of America; you often find everyone turns out to be from somewhere else sooner or later. Or as Russell Nash replies in Highlander when the NYPD ask him where he’s from:
“Lots of different places”.