When I was a junior in high school, I became obsessed with a vampire series. Sound a little familiar? Except this was waaay before Twilight, and the series I loved didn’t make quite as big a splash. It didn’t get a movie, though I might’ve been persuaded to part with a vital organ if only one could be made. That series was L.J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries, and it was the story that made me take a long look at myself and finally say with absolute certainty, “I want to do this. I want to write.” It was, and remains, the only story that has ever drawn that kind of emotion out of me. When I finished the third volume (the last at the time, but Smith later wrote a fourth, and is writing more now), I cried, I threw things, I beat on my pillow. Not because I hated it, but because it just absolutely gutted me. And I re-read those books until the pages literally fell out and I had to buy new ones. I lost count of how many copies I ended up going through.
I’d always been a writer, but something about that story lit a fire in my blood that hasn’t been extinguished to this day. Not only did I want to write, but I wanted to write vampires. (Funny how that worked out, huh, since my first two books are straight contemps with nary a fang in sight?) Anyway, I was in love. With a fictional character. Who was a vampire. At the time, I thought that was a little weird, but who knew well over a decade later it would pretty much become the norm among teenage girls?
I wasn’t infatuated with Stefan, the “nice” one, the “good” brother; oh, no. It was Damon. I thought he was fascinatingly complex. He was the antihero, the villainous one who liked to talk a big game but in the end operated on a moral code even he didn’t want to admit to. He always had a quip; he always had the answer. He was strong and deadly and for a YA series with no sex, managed to burn up the pages in just about every scene he was in. Hello… kissing Elena’s palm, looking into her eyes and quoting “To Helen” by Poe? “Helen, thy beauty is to me / Like those Nicean barks of yore / That gently, o’er a perfumed sea…” I will NEVER forget those lines as long as I live, just because of that scene. No other vampire will ever measure up in my eyes. Sorry, Edward. ;)
Now–and I speculate this is because of the hype surrounding Twilight and to a lesser extent True Blood–L.J. Smith is resurrecting the series, writing new books centered on Damon. I don’t think I can read them. I tried the first and had to put it down. See, part of Damon’s mystique was just that: he was a mystery. In four books, only one scene was written in his POV, and it was very short and very sparse. You never knew what he was thinking, and that was how he was able to maintain his fearsomeness and unpredictability. When’s he going to pop up next? What’s he going to say? Is he going to save the day? Or ruin it? I’m afraid he’ll lose most of that if I can see inside his head.
And, on top of the new books, tonight I watched the series premiere of the The Vampire Diaries on CW. I had to wait almost two decades, until I’m in my thirties, for these books to be turned into a TV series–something I might’ve sold my soul for in my teens. The show was quite a departure from the story, but you know, I was pleased. I nitpicked it to death–Elena was BLOND! She didn’t have a BROTHER! Stefan and Damon originated during the ITALIAN RENAISSANCE!–but it was fun. I’m cautiously optimistic, and will continue to watch.
I guess we have the Twilight/True Blood hype to thank for the TV series, too, but what really irks me are the people who dismiss TVD as a Twilight rip-off. Oh, no no no. Even though they’re getting more attention now, those books were captivating readers before a lot of the Twilight fans were even born. So never make that mistake, and we’ll be fine. ;) They came first.
I haven’t read these books in years, so I don’t know how well they’ve “aged”. I have them so built up in my mind because of my youthful adoration I’m afraid they can’t possibly stack up today, and that might tarnish my memories a bit. That’s the last thing I want. But man, the TV show has put me in the mood to revisit them. Whatever else it would be, I’m sure it would be like seeing old friends again.