Here’s blood in your eye…
For the young writer of thriller and horror fiction, doing a vampire novel is kind of like doing a keg stand or shotgunning a beer–it’s just one of those rites of passage that sounds like a good idea at the time. It’s only when you wake up in the morning with a killer hangover (and/or a complete stranger passed out next to you) that you realize you’ve made a horrible mistake, but by then it’s too late. Nothing to do but put your clothes on, slink out the door and hope you’ve learned your lesson.
Mistress Eyes was my literary one-night stand. The summer before my sophomore year at Texas A&M, I was pretty tight with a group of friends who got together to watch horror movies almost every week–everything from the camp classic Night of the Creeps to Sam Raimi’s immortal Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. One of the guys had a family that was, shall we say, seriously into the occult. They did Ouija boards, automatic writing, sÃ©ances, the whole works. There was even a crazy grandma they swore was possessed by the devil–although I never saw any spinning heads or pea soup, so I had no way of confirming this.
My buddy’s mom found out I had written a novel, and suggested I might want turn their haunted happenings into the subject of my next book. I was big into Stephen King at the time, and had always loved horror fiction, and naturally thought this was a great idea. The family told me their stories, I took copious notes, and over the next few weeks I cobbled together the basics of a plotline. Soon after, I headed back to school with everything I needed to start my second opus.
But then something changed. This was the late eighties, you understand–and with the release of The Lost Boys, everything vampire became the pinnacle of COOL. I had also finished reading ‘Salem’s Lot for the third or fourth time, so one thing led to another until…
(Insert groan here.)
I took the basics of my original story–a high schooler with latent psychic abilities moves into a house haunted by restless spirits–and added the whole bloodsucker angle. A coven of vampires, led by Master Jeremiah (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Michael Aston from Gene Loves Jezebel), seeks to convert our hero to their cause, and use his whammy powers to channel some supernatural energy contained within the grounds of the house. Pretty thin, I admit–but it was fairly atmospheric, and had all the violence, harsh language and sexy sex I couldn’t put into my Star Trek novel.
Mistress Eyes was also populated with characters based on people I knew in college, right down to their names. Not only was this economical, it was an easy way to get my friends to read it when I was done. (“Sorry, J.D., your character gets staked. Way to go, Steve, your character gets laid!”) Of course, I later lived to regret this–especially when said parties busted their guts laughing over one cheesy passage after another.
Writing the book took about four months, the first one I ever did on an IBM PC. With 640K of RAM at my disposal and a whopping 10MB hard drive, I was living large. This was pre-Windows, so I used a DOS-based version of WordStar (to this day, I see that big blue menu in my dreams). I still have the files, which I’ve since converted to Word, and I occasionally read them with the same bewilderment that strikes me when I look at my high school yearbook photo. So much changes, but you can still see yourself in there.