I’m a crier. I cry. I cry at movies, good things and bad things, scary things and sad things, puppy food commercials, and the news. I am usually overwhelmed with emotion for some reason or another and the people who know me and love me have long accepted that I will probably cry at some point this week. Crying at books has always been a staple.
But what I wasn’t expecting, on that sunny Saturday morning in May, late into my junior year of high school, was to fear them.
The late morning sun-strewn through my curtains, eastern southern exposure blanketing the room in soft, beckoning light. Come outside, it said. It’s a beautiful day, why are you still in bed?
I was still in bed, huddling deep beneath the covers, in fact, because of Bram Stoker and his stupid vampire. Never before, had a book driven me to such visceral fear. Sure, I knew they could make me weep, but many things made me weep. They were capable of causing arousal – obviously, I would dedicate my life to understanding just how capable – but to make me fearful, to send my body into a genuine panic by simply stringing together words on a page, that was something that very much blew my mind.
There have been innumerable books since that first Gothic Romance, books that have driven me to fear, overwhelming joy, hunger, exhaustion, desire and, yes, weeping. But when I glanced out from below my blanket, the one that would somehow keep me safe against the onslaught of vampires in suburban New Jersey, I genuinely learned about just how much power the written word has.
There were no vampires in the world where I lived, let alone any nearby. There was no chance of my risking life and limb, of nearly dying in a cold, decrepit castle in a legendary city. Rationally, I knew all this. But for a long-dead writer to have such skill, such ability to reach into the depths of my heart and mind and to stroke the survival skills within, that changed everything. I knew from then on that I needed to be the type of writer that could create physical, real, undeniable emotions from nothing but ink and imagination.
I learn from every book I’ve ever read. The good, the bad and the unique all teach us something, about writing, about ourselves, about the world. But that first book, Dracula, would – if you’ll pardon the inevitable pun – sink its teeth into me and never let go. Without it, I don’t think I would be the author I am today. Forget the vampires of Twilight and True Blood and even Anne Rice. For me, it’s all about that first vampire. My first vampire – a taste of what books are all about.