March 16th – the one year anniversary of the day Suzie met Cleo. It was a few days after that, however, that Suzie and the Monsters was conceived. On March 23rd I arrived in Bulgaria for a week – for work, but with a couple of days’ holiday in the middle. On the flight over I was reading Katharina Katt’s erotic vampire novella A Female Vampire. I was quite enjoying this, but also (as is often the case with me) feeling rather frustrated with it. (I abandoned it halfway through, but have recently started it again – I’ll do a proper review soon.)
I finished writing my novel Kings of Infinite Space in 2000 and, despite various quickly aborted attempts, had failed to find an idea for (and motivation to write) a new novel. The idea of writing an erotic vampire story was something I had dismissed as absurd on various occasions, but sitting alone in my room in the Light Hotel in Sofia I decided to try it, not really expecting it to go anywhere…
And it wouldn’t have gone anywhere if that original aim had been maintained. I realised fairly quickly that writing meaningless erotica was… meaningless. It wasn’t interesting. What did interest me, however, was exploring the character of this vampiric girl I was creating. It was easy to write her as sexy and ruthless, but that didn’t take her out of the stereotype I had defaulted to.
I needed detail. Specificity! Superficial to start with: What did she wear? What make-up did she use? I spent hours searching the web, looking at women’s clothing, etc. Being in Bulgaria was partly to blame – so many shops selling beautiful shoes! Right in the centre of Sofia was a shop with the prettiest pair of Lorenzis (not the ones in the picture).
And I found a fantastic brand of make-up: Illamasqua. I adore that name. Just saying it is like making love.
Even better, it’s a London-based company. Although I was reluctant at first to be specific about location, in my head the setting was London. Illamasqua crystallised this for me. About a month later, on one of my rare trips to London, I was wandering through the streets towards Carnaby Street when I was startled to find myself standing outside Illamasqua’s ‘flagship store’. So of course I had to go inside and buy lipstick…
(Not for me, mind you. Lipstick really doesn’t suit me. Hmm… I’m suddenly reminded that I was in London fifteen years ago trying to buy golden lipstick for reasons related to Kings of Infinite Space, which I was writing at the time.)
Anyway… The point is that it wasn’t enough to say Suzie was a pretty girl wearing designer clothes and five-inch heels – or six-inch heels when she was a stripper – because such generic descriptions just reinforce the stereotype. Indulging in details of clothing and make-up may seem like another way to reinforce the same stereotype… and maybe it would if the specificity was limited to the superficial.
But I like to think I have taken her beyond the stereotype. Suzie, after all, isn’t a vampire with a vast fortune and a small army of servants. She’s just a lonely vampire girl playing at being human.
And, like me, she loves her monthly Cosmopolitan…