Each of our literary journeys began with one book that made us dedicated readers (and for some of us, writers); a book that left us insatiable at its final page, eager to return to the library for more books to read. If you were lucky, this happened to you when you were very young...but that was not the case for me. I struggled with reading well into High School (though I had been a passionate writer since the first grade). It wasn't until I happened upon Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber, and devoured it while locked away in my bedroom one rainy weekend, that my fourteen year old self truly appreciated the magic of reading.
In an era long before Twilight was ever put on shelves, I was a love-hungry teen who wanted a vampire boyfriend more than anything else in the world...and reading about supernatural romances helped me cope with the fact that no leather-clad vampire boys were trying to bite my neck and make me their immortal bride. Vampires have always been my weakness, ever since I first watched Michael eat maggot-rice and drink blood-wine in The Lost Boys as a dreamy six year old, and an enviable Kirsten Dunst kiss a cravat-wearing Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire. Being the poor reader that I was, I hadn’t even given any thought to reading Anne Rice novels. It was difficult enough for me to attempt YA vampire novelettes, desperate for that romantic sustenance that would help me survive against the all-too ordinary boys at school. But when finally I got Vampire Kisses into my black-fingernailed clutches, I would be a poor reader no more.
In a nutshell, Vampire Kisses is your typical teenage story about an outcast girl in the 80s, somewhat reminiscent of Pretty in Pink. However in this story, the girl does not want the pretty rich boy: she wants the town freak who shows all the classic signs of being a vampire, and it is her goal to not only fall in love with him, but uncover his supernatural secret.
As a teen, what I thought I loved so much about Vampire Kisses was the vampiric love interest: Alexander Sterling, a mysterious, Gothic teenage boy with long black hair who resides in the town’s infamously creepy mansion. He was my ideal boyfriend. Somewhat nerdy, reclusive, romantic; and though he was rumored to be undead, his chivalry was very much alive (ha-ha). However, looking back, I realize it wasn’t him at all who had me pouring through paragraph after paragraph: it was the main character—the daring, confident Goth girl with a hilarious inner monologue—Raven.
I was aware even then that she was a fictional role model to me. I remember thinking ‘what would Raven do’ throughout my teen years, and thanks to her, she helped me find my tough, cunning, witty side when I didn’t realize I had one. Now that it’s been an additional fourteen years since I first read this book, and in that time have read a plethora of novels, Raven is still, to this day, the one character I identify with the most.
So thank you Raven for inspiring me to follow my unique path—even when it twists far beyond the reaches of what ordinary folk can understand, and thank you, Alexander, for setting my romantic standards from thereon, both paranormal and (yawn) normal. But thank you, more than anything, Ellen Schreiber, for writing the first book I ever finished, and felt impacted by. You have inspired me as a writer to give other young teens the gift of visibility.