The front of the invitation.
It will serve as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a fan of vampire stories. My mother created a fiend in me by reading Tolkien to me as bedtime stories when I was very little, and I’ve been a bookhound ever since. She had to take me to the library all the time, and I would often check out the maximum amount allowed and bring it all back to exchange a week later. Mythology of all stripes was my chosen vice, and so at probably too young an age, I read my first vampire story.
Please pardon the hipster-ness of the following segment.
So many vampires…
My first vampire story was, completely on accident, one of the first ever “mainstream” vampire novels.
No, not Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Think farther back.
I’ll give you a hint: this vampire was a she.
Oh, too big of a hint? Yes, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla was the vampire book I cut my teeth on. (I apologize for that, too, but I can’t resist a good pun.) It started me down the path of vampires and monsters, and not just in books. Salem’s Lot! “The Lost Boys”! Every book in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Interview with a Vampire in particular about three times. (But, eww!, not the movie. I watched that dreck once and it was enough, and don’t get me started on “Queen of the Damned.”)
There are so many vampire books, short stories, and movies that I can not possibly list all of the ones I’ve read or seen without making that its very own, very long post. I don’t even know if I can remember them all. I was lucky in that my teens and twenties were the Vampire Years the way that the current era is the Zombie Years.
Lestat vs. Lestat, who did it better? Cruise or Townsend?
Just for the record, I even liked the Twilight books. If you don’t like the, that’s fine, but if you don’t like them simply because they became fanatically popular or because they are YA books, I think that’s a lousy reason. After all, Harry Potter meets both of those criteria as well, but I think we can all agree how amazingly awesome those books are. (If you don’t like them either, I suggest you leave my blog before I use an Unforgivable Curse on you!)
So what does any of this have to do with the Second Coolest Thing I’ve ever done? I’m getting there!
One of my Favorite Authors of All of Time and Space is Holly Black. I got hooked by Tithe and her angsty Modern Faery Tale books (Valiant is my favorite of those, I think, even if Roiben doesn’t figure as prominently in it. Don’t know who that is? Go read Tithe and find out! You’re welcome in advance!), by the adventurous Spiderwick Chronicles, and I was completely done in by the Curse Workers series.
All right. That might not be entirely accurate. I was done in by Holly herself even before she got around to writing about Cassel Sharpe (again, if you don’t know who he is, go start the Curse Workers books. You’re welcome in advance, again.) I got to hear Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi talk about writing and fairies at a special breakfast at a book convention. Mrs. Black explained how much of her inspiration came from her childhood and upbringing. A haunted, semi-dilapidated Victorian as a home, an artist mother with a touch of The Sight, and a voracious book appetite were highlights and made me an instant fan. I had her and Mr. DiTerlizzi sign my Spiderwick Chronicles trading cards. What I’m trying to get at is that she’s impossibly cool, and a great writer besides.
She is also a fan of vampires.
She had always wanted to write about vampires, and just never thought the time was right. She wrote a short story called “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” to tide her over. Then the furor over Twilight happened, and she realized that there was never going to be a good time, so she might as well write the vampire story she wanted to see. So the Coldest Girl in Coldtown became a full-on novel. An amazing, delicious novel.
She wrote it. Her publishers loved it. The publication date got set. Advanced Reader Copies went out. I got my grubby little hands on one and read it in two nights. I decided that when it came out, I had to throw an Epic Vampire Party at the bookstore and make sure EVERYONE read this book.
So that you, too, can get a feel for how blood-suckingly good this book is, here is the movie-esque booktrailer for it:
And then one day, mysteriously, a package arrived in the bookstore’s mail, addressed directly to me. There was another Advanced Reader, but this one was tied up with a beautiful blue ribbon. And between the book and the ribbon was a glow-stick, and an invitation.
The glow-stick on a lanyard.
The front of the invitation.
The juicy part of the invitation.
I was dumbfounded. What was this? Was this real?
I immediately went online and started poking around, but could find nothing about the dinner posted. I read the Yelp reviews for Terroni, which were very intriguing in and of itself. It was a hipster Italian restaurant with amazing food. The chef was very particular and wouldn’t let you change out sauces or allow parmesan cheese at the table, because you had to experience the food AS IT WAS, because they made it a masterpiece. They didn’t cut your pizza for you. They were amazing. They were Food Nazis. The confliction in the reviews read like a gripping thriller. Well, here, you can read it for yourself: Terroni.
I also wondered who had sent me the invitation, and why. Yes, our Publisher Rep knew I created and ran our Young Adult events, and had even sent me the entire Tithe series once for an event, so that I could bone up on them and then give them away as prizes. But this was something…else. We had only ever spoken on the phone, and even that was usually a series of messages back and forth. This was something special and mysterious. This was not something that got sent to small time fish in places like Bakersfield.
Of course I RSVP’ed! And since my sister also worked at the bookstore, I made her come with me as my coworker guest. I obsessed over what I was going to wear. I kept checking the internet for any news of the event. And then it was The Day!
Terroni is on a busy LA street, and so parking was nearly impossible when we got there. I handed the keys to my little hatchback over to the valet who had just come back from parking an exceedingly shiny Mercedes that cost more than five years of my pay. My sister and I nervously looked each other over and tucked away stray hairs and smoothed out wrinkles. Then we put on our brave smiley faces and went inside. We were shown to a back room that was lined with wine bottles and had a boar’s head mounted over one of the long tables arranged in the room. We were greeted by the West Coast heads of various bits of Little, Brown Publishers. We introduced ourselves to Department Head Librarians from all around Los Angeles, and Department Managers from Barnes & Noble LA locations, and owners and buyers of various other LA area bookstores and book industry people. And we were introduced, of course, to Holly Black, hair died freshly deep blue to match her book, due to hop on a plane after dinner, bound for San Diego and a panel at Comic Con.
Dinner was announced and we all found our place cards. I sat between a librarian and the events person for one of the Barnes & Noble stores. We discussed the book and Holly’s other works and various booky anecdotes while course after course was served This included the logistics of a Grumpy Cat appearance in an establishment that sells food. I did not have to get out my pizza cutting wheel I had stashed in my purse, because the various types brought out as a part of one course were already sliced. “Just this once,” the waiter winked at us, when we commented upon it. Salads, meats, pastas, pizzas, and even a desert course. Halfway through, Holly Black switched tables so that she could be sure to chat with everyone.
As food coma saturation was reached, and people got up to mingle and talk and take their leave, I found myself sitting across from Holly Black with, at most, two other people. Then just me and my sister.
I got to have a one-on-one conversation with her about her upcoming book and projects, about writing, characters, sequels (hint: she is not fond of going back and revisiting characters once she feels the story has been told), about the joys of snarkiness and the town in New England where she lives, about her family and her mother. We talked about our favorite vampires and the outrageous dinner we had just had. It was very intimate and copious and genuine and fascinating and one of the best conversations I’ve ever had. Plus, she was super-friendly and gave me a personal pep-talk in support of my own art and writing, unasked for but very gratefully received. Who does that?
It was the Second Coolest Thing to ever happen to me. Which is no small feat, as my life is filled with unexpected adventures, beauty, and wonderment, by some strange miracle. If you are very, very good, I will tell you what the Coolest Thing is sometime in the next couple of posts, as well.
For more Coldest Girl in Coldtown content, I can heartily suggest:
TheNovl.com’s content here. (Yes, they’re the ones mentioned on the glow-stick. Which glowed blue, like the book’s cover, if you were curious!)
An Undead Playlist of perfect music to go with the book here.
For a really fascinating look at vampires and why we love them, I can highly recommend Margot Adler’s Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side . Margot just recently passed away due to cancer, the same nefarious vampire that took her husband some years back and started her research into vampires. She read countless books, watched innumerable movies, and dissected piles of articles on the subject, becoming quite the expert on the ancient and the modern phenomenon of vampire lore and popularity. Her book is the summation of that journey, finished about the time her own cancer started to get really bad. She was amazing and I will miss her.
And just to get the tone back up to sinisterly happy, here is a delicious quote from Gavriel, a mysterious and very, very dangerous vampire from The Coldest Girl in Coldtown from lytherus.com:
As always, all books mentioned here can be purchased from Russo’s Books by clicking their links or visiting the website at http://www.russosbooks.com. Tell them The Mean Bookstore Girl sent you and see what they do. And for fun, tell me who your favorite vampires are in the comments below, or by messaging me. I can’t wait to hear. Mine are, in order of favoriteness: Silas (The Graveyard Book), Gavriel (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown), The Brat Prince Lestat (against my better judegment!) (Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and soon-to-be-released Prince Lestat.)