All About Lovely by Jemiah Jefferson + Giveaway

One of the most common questions that any writer gets is “Where do you get your ideas?” In many cases, I can truthfully answer that the ideas were shaped by my own life experiences – not that I’ve know many vampires, but I have known some people who came close, even if they weren’t truly undead, super-powered blood drinkers. In one particular case, however, a character occurred to me as if out of nowhere, and demanded that I depict him.

After I graduated from college in 1994, I moved from Portland to San Francisco to try and find some kind of gainful employment better than working the swing shift at a convenience store. I got a job with reassuring swiftness at a company that no longer exists (oddly enough, most of the places I’ve ever worked no longer exist), handling data entry and library database research. It was a decent place to work, and after a terrible spring and an even worse, underemployed, desperate, rootless summer, I felt as though I might be able to make it in the world somehow.

At that point I wasn’t writing. Part of the unpleasantness of the spring came from the humiliation suffered as I tried to defend a novel that I’d presented as my senior thesis; my overblown, overheated style made for an easy target, and my relative ignorance of what a novel was, and its place in a literary canon, even at the point where I was ready to receive a degree in English, earned me some well-deserved sharp blows from my professors. The message that I received, loud and clear, was that my writing wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t know what I was talking about (which was more or less true). All I really had to offer were stories, and characters, and conflict, and mood; if this was not enough, I had no business calling myself a novelist.

I’d moved to San Francisco hoping that the city’s rich literary heritage might seep into me. I hoped that being in the same environment that spawned such greats as Shirley Jackson, Armistead Maupin, and Lemony Snicket might have a beneficial effect on me. Walking the endless stretch of Market Street, drinking in bars in the Castro, loitering outside the shops at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, and being kicked out of the first place I lived within two weeks of moving in had to have some kind of educational value, didn’t it?

When I was eighteen, I wrote a seventy-page draft of a vampire novel that I felt had some potential, but it certainly wasn’t there yet. I’d been thinking it over occasionally ever since, wondering if there was any way to make it better, to make it really work as a narrative and not just a collection of vignettes and one-liners between two vampires, old lovers, come to the point of their relationship when most of their interactions are fights and quarrels. I hadn’t actually worked any more on the novel since its second draft, written out longhand in a spiral notebook, but the two central characters refused to leave my mind, and increasingly, I saw a third character, a woman and a shared lover, as a bridge between them. And yet, that wasn’t enough, either; I needed more than a standard love triangle. These characters would require more than a bedroom farce. Even Noel Coward’s Design for Living has more than three characters.

One early afternoon, I was at work, and on the phone. I had a red pen and a lined spiral notebook so that I could take notes and mark up the printouts of the documents I had been tasked to find. The margins of that notebook had been used for many a phone doodle; I tended towards geometric designs, hands, and anime-style eyes. When I was little, I considered becoming a visual artist, and drew constantly, but at a certain point, I hit a wall of skill and expression that I just couldn’t scale, and my family lacked the money to invest in supplies to take further art classes. Spiral notebooks and ballpoint pens, however, were cheap, and as I had always narrated a story to myself with every drawing I created, I determined to just write the stories alone. On that work day, on the phone, I sketched the outline of a face, the curve of a neck flaring out to narrow shoulders and an arched collarbone. Almost as if out of nowhere, the eyes appeared – big, dark, soft, haunted eyes. No eyebrows. That was important.

The phone call ended, and I continued the drawing, adding a small, full, shy mouth; a slender, bare male torso, some vague drapery around the hips, and a couple of protruding, mouse-like ears. For hair, I dashed a couple of vertical lines sprouting from the center of the forehead, and stippled the sides of the head, suggesting a sort of fleecy stubble. I paused for a moment and considered the drawing. Despite the sadness of the eyes, this creature seemed to have a wonderful, wicked sense of humor. And he’d be a teenage runaway, from Oklahoma. A mutant freak in his native environment, he’d have to run away to find a place to call home; and perhaps it wouldn’t be a place; it’d be a person. An eternal person. A vampire. Of course.

I wrote, beside the figure, Lovely.

Then I gave him some tattoos. And pierced nipples. This was 1994, after all. He was beautiful; he was tragic in origin; he was fearless, sexual, sentimental, earthy and ethereal at once. He reminded me of the characters from Francesca Lia Bloch’s Weetzie Bat novels, which meant that he wouldn’t end up in San Francisco; it would have to be Los Angeles, the L.A. of punk clubs, bougainvillea, Oki Dog, Hollywood glamorous sleaze. He pulled the story along with him. He sprung from my head fully formed, and the novel where he would live shaped itself around him.

With shaking hands, I tore the drawing out of the notebook and put it in whatever book happened to be in my purse at the time, and got back to work. During the tumultuous months afterward, I would look at the drawing again from time to time, further details about this new fictitious person expanding in my mind. I found my original notebook draft of the vampire novel, and re-read it. Shortly after acquiring a bare-bones PC, I opened a new document and began writing a scene between Daniel, the more forceful of the two vampire characters, and Lovely, as told by the teenage runaway himself to an unseen narrator. As Lovely told his story, the unseen narrator, the intermediary, also began to take shape in my mind; her loves, desires, and frustrations.

Keep in mind that, as far as I was concerned, I’d given up on writing. This was just fun, like an expansion of “rolling up” characters for a role-playing game. I began to do that, too; in the occasional sessions of Vampire: the Masquerade I had with my only friends in the whole Bay Area, I created Ariane as a player character. Quickly, though, I realized that she wasn’t an RPG character; I needed more control and more detail than would ever be useful around the gaming table. Still, playing her brought her voice to my mind, and I wrote more scenes between her and Lovely, with other characters in her life, with her own story. Throughout all of this, Lovely remained strongly at the forefront of my mind; I wanted to write something worthy of him.

Lovely, seventeen years old and as childish and silly as a puppy, became the mortal companion of the vampire Daniel Blum. As ward, as lover, as good-natured heir to the immortal power of vampirism, Lovely bears many similarities to some young men I have known (and loved, and been vexed by), and yet he is as individual as anyone I’ve ever met. His realism and spontaneity helped the novel Voice of the Blood come into being. I don’t feel that I crafted him; he just showed up and told me how things were going to go.

I still have the drawing.

Giveaway: Dorchester is giving away the complete Vampire Quartet to one lucky commenter in his preferred format. So, how ’bout it? Do you, as a reader, enjoy seeing a visual depiction of your favorite literary characters, whether drawn or live action in films, or do you prefer your own idea of what the character looks like? What are some movies that got it right with casting? That got it wrong?

Jemiah Jefferson was born in Denver, Colorado. Her childhood consisted of a steady diet of AM radio, New Wave and disco, music videos, Star Wars, and resenting the strictures of school. At an age too early to remember, she began making up stories populated by vivid characters. Combined with a compulsive urge to write commentary and reactions in the margins of books she read and re-read, she found that these increasingly-complex stories demanded to be written down. Her first printed work, St*rf*ck*ng, a group of short erotic stories with a touch of celebrity obsession, was published by local small-press rockstar Kevin Sampsell for Future Tense Books. The first draft of the novel that would become Voice of the Blood was written in 24 hours in 1990 in a fit of inspiration. After another six years of thinking about it (and writing a few more novels and short stories in the meantime) she finally began to apply herself to this work, taking her experiences of living in San Francisco and of her contacts with the young, amoral, and beautiful that she had there and applying them to a situation and a set of characters already in existence in her imagination. Voice (originally titled “Vox Sanguinus”) was released by Leisure Books in Feburary 2001. Wounds, a novel detailing the further adventures of the vampire Daniel Blum, saw release in May, 2002. The third novel, Fiend continued the story, with an exploration of the life of vampire Orfeo Ricari, released in April 2005. 2007’s A Drop of Scarlet, the fourth book in the series, further explores the neuroses, fascinations, desires, and loves of this extended vampire “family”. She has also written for Willamette Week (which featured the Halloween ghost story “Polaroids of Dorothy” in October 2005), Just Out, Plazm, 2Grlz Quarterly, and Cafe 80s Magazine, and maintains a regular comedy- flavored film review blog on Livejournal. She works in the editorial department at Dark Horse Comics, Inc., working on titles including Emily the Strange, Creepy Archives, The Complete K Chronicles, and the Eisner Award-winning Herbie Archives. Jemiah Jefferson lives in southeast Portland, Oregon.


18 Responses to All About Lovely by Jemiah Jefferson + Giveaway

  1. dave talberg says:

    TV got it right casting Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone (Robert Parker)

    • Susan says:

      I agree with dave about casting Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone. Most times, I think my image of the characters are better than what was cast. Imagination is much better (at least for me). I have never been completely disappointed with casting–I think I am more disappointed of what is left out of the original book.

  2. Pamela says:

    The story and the character of Lovely sounds intriguing. I totally relate to the author’s experiences.
    I used to doodle on any scrap of paper I could find as a child and teenager. But my family also could not afford training, and intinidated by what I perceived to be superior talent in others, I gave up my dreams of being an artist. I also wanted to write and was told I had some talent, but to date haven’t had the courage.
    I really wish I could see that drawing of Lovely!

  3. noraadrienne says:

    Don’t feel bad about the job thing. I’ve had over 35 jobs in my lifetime. Many of those were companies on the edge and wouldn’t make it no matter how hard I tried to help. I love the Vamp genre of books and would love to win a set in Paper so that it could have a place of show on my home library shelves.

  4. Stacia Russell says:

    I have had a hard time finding Jemiah Jefferson in a lot of the book stores around here, either she is wildly popular (which I believe) or the stores have just not picked up on how fabulous she is.

    I prefer to make up in my own mind how the characters look when reading stories. However, Interview with a Vampire, seemed pretty spot on to me. Also, 30 Days of Night was just as exciting to see as it was to read.

    Would love to continue reading this series if I was the lucky winner! Keep up the great writing Jemiah! 🙂

  5. Estella Kissell says:

    I prefer my own idea of what a character looks like.
    I don’t watch movies, so don’t know which movies got their castings right or wrong.

  6. Larena Wirum says:

    For me I really enjoy what an author does with their characters giving details and so on and sometimes those characters seem to real that it would be nice to see them in the movies or where ever. But for the most part I like the authors version better rather than someone messing up the character. 🙂

  7. Ila Turner says:

    Rarely does TV or movies get the character anyway near what I imagine them in my mind. I am dreading the release of two of my favorite books to film: Stephanie Plum books and the Ranger character who I can not believe that any mere mortal can portray, and Stephen King’s the Gunslinger. I know they’ve picked an actor to play Roland, who of course does not fit my image of him, but Clint Eastwood is past the age of playing Roland and why they did not ask Tom Selleck is beyond me.

    Perhaps Tom is not as lean, nor do they think he can become as lean as needed to be to adequately play Roland. But he would be my first choice. His eyes alone qualify him for the role.

    But in answer to your question, I do not rush out to see, or watch a movie made from books penned by my favorite authors in which I feel an affinity with the characters. I prefer to keep my memories intact.

    Interesting question and not one I’ve ever seen asked by an author.

  8. Tracey D says:

    Hi, Jemiah.

    You’re a author for me but not for long. I enjoyed reading your post; it was quite interesting and informative.

    I prefer to use my imaginatio to visualize characters. I prefer not to at watch movies based on a book I have read. I tend to compare the two.

    I look forward in reading your works.

  9. WyNtEr ApPlE says:

    they all sound very interesting reads! hte story line is really good

  10. Jessica says:

    I am mixed between seeing the character from the author’s eyes, to seeing the character from the reader’s eyes. On the one hand, I’ll fall in love with a character according to how I interpeted the author’s words, only to discover his/hers features are totally different from the author’s mind. And because not everyone’s idea of ‘beauty’ is the same, it’s a bit disappointing when I discover a character’s handsome features I’ve grown attached to are totally opposite from my own. This is why it’s difficult watching a move adapted from a book I love!

    Still, on the other hand, I also want to see the author’s original vision. As a reader, I don’t want to re-interpet or change what the author had in mind. It’d be like changing the painting of the Mona Lisa just because I didn’t think Da Vinci’s idea of beauty was up to my liking. At some point, the created piece revealed to the audience must stay true to the author’s vision.
    I write a lot myself so it’s important for me that readers can see the character

  11. I usually prefer to conjure up the character in my mind from the author’s writing, but I do like black and white illustrations along with gothic horror stories or more modern horror that has a historical setting. The first movie that pops into my mind with bad casting is Interview with the Vampire. Tom Cruise as Lestat? Anne Rice still probably has nightmares after all these years…

  12. Mia says:

    I’m normally not one for vampires, but this series sounds awesome. And speaking of vampires, the most drastic bit of miscasting was probably in Interview with the Vampire, all they had to do is switch their leads around, but since Tom Cruise was way more famous back then…sure, go ahead put him in heels and give him a wig just so he can look remotely like the character. I do sometimes cast movies in my head, but I do so irregardless of the actors’ fame level and thus I’m a way better casting director 🙂

  13. Pingback: All about Orfeo « Jemiah Jefferson • Author • Vampire Quartet

  14. heykiddego says:

    I do enjoy seeing how the characters are translated onto the screen, but they never live up to what is in my head. How can they? I’ve already decided what they are like. No actor can ever match my imagination. 🙂

  15. Hey, nice blog with good info. I really like coming back here often. There?s only one thing that annoys me and that is the misfunctioning of comment posting. I usually get to 500 error page, and have to do the post twice. Giving up smoking is easyIve done it hundreds of times. Mark Twain 1835 1910

    • Allison Carroll, Editorial and Web Coordinator says:

      Hi Mary,
      I’m sorry you’ve been having a problem posting comments. I will certainly look into it. The good news is I’m here to announce the winner of the giveaway and you’re it! Congrats—you’ve been randomly selected to receive the complete Vampire Quartet series in trade paperback.

      Sorry for the late communique, but we discovered a glitch in the system and some prizes went unknowingly unrewarded.

      To claim your prize, just email with your shipping address. And thanks for being a voice on the blog!

      Happy Reading,
      Allison Carroll
      Editorial and Web Coordinator
      Dorchester Publishing

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