Fiend

June 25, 2011

FIEND - a novel by Jemiah Jefferson

May 2011

Fiend

This is my favorite of all four vampire books. The story of Orfeo Ricari from his childhood in early 19th century Italy to his tumultuous journey to Paris, and his blood-soaked rebirth as a vampire in the hands of the lovers Maria and Georgina, it’s funny and tragic and terribly sexy. Unforgettable characters – Father Christopher, Ricari’s confessor and friend; Liesl and her fashionable jazz-age Berlin pals; Arthur Chicot and the vampires of Montmartre; Maria Elena, Orfeo’s sister, and his very first love. An imaginary memoir of a 200-year-old bisexual artist. A revelation of many truths that affect the entire Vampire Quartet of books.

During the writing of this book, I saw a long-term relationship finally collapse and burn out to nothing but scars and ashes; I sustained an ankle injury that would weaken me for the rest of my life; I endured months of painful and unpleasant treatment for uveitis, which caused me to continue working on the draft in 24-point gray text on a black background, because any bright background on a computer was impossible to focus on; I listened to Mozart’s Requiem Mass and the early works of the Cocteau Twins until I could practically sing them from memory. It was a hard twelve months, but every day I returned to the mind of Orfeo, and told his story in his own words, inspired by the works of Thomas DeQuincey, Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Christopher Isherwood, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. As I wrote, I mentally translated all of the text into French (Orfeo’s primary language), and then back again; if you have much Français, try backtranslating it; there are several language jokes hidden in the text. Also, if you’re astute, look for pop song references, particularly from the lyrics of Morrissey, Peter Murphy, and David Sylvian, from whose song “Orpheus” Orfeo took his name. (If only I had been more knowledgable at the time of writing, the works of Scott Walker would have made it in there, too, but one of the reasons I love Scott Walker is that I don’t even have to steal from him; he was a part of me long before I was aware of his music.)

The first ten pages of this book can be read through the handy-dandy Amazon link.

I thought of this yesterday when I wore a relatively low-cut T-shirt to work.

I am brilliant, beautiful, and strong. I contain an infinity of feminine power. Whatever I need to do, I can, and I will.

(And then I proceeded to drink too much cold-process coffee and have an hours-long anxiety attack. Oh well; best laid plans, etc.)

This evening I will have new photos taken. I have supreme faith in my photographer, Serena Davidson, to reflect my essence and realize an ideal Me. She’d better; these snaps are expensive! But experience has told me that they are worth every dime, and besides, she’s immensely fun to work with. I will be sharing this with Brittney Corrigan, who (as well as being a fellow Reed College alumn, is also an escapee of Aurora, Colorado!) actually needs author photos for her new release. I’m just … either fanning the flames of my ego, or getting a head start on author photos for the next book. Take it as you will. 🙂

Promise that the next blog entry will be about the character, Daniel Blum.

All about Orfeo

May 29, 2011

As a companion piece to the blog I wrote for the Dorchester Publishing website about Lovely, by popular demand (well, two people on Facebook) I will take a similar approach to another immensely popular character from the vampire novels. I’d like to write about pretty much every character – even the minor characters often have detailed backstories – in the future, but one at a time, and all things in their time.

Orfeo Ricari is definitely one of my favorite characters. He might have been the first one I thought of – though more likely he came to mind simultaneously with his nemesis/lover/frenemy Daniel Blum, knitting himself together out of the loose threads of watching Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash interact on stage during the live segments of the Bauhaus concert film, Archive. I knew some things about the history of Bauhaus, and of the simultaneously admiring and resentful relationship between Murphy and Ash (which was much more Murphy vs. everybody else, and really, barely even that), but by God, those two skinny English boys sure looked hot together. Whether they were actually hooking up or not (signs, sadly, point to “not”), their stage interactions evoked unspeakable sexual congress and warfare with a side order of punk-rock fun. Sure, they totally stole these panty-wetting moves from David Bowie and Mick Ronson, but even so, with Peter and Daniel, it was as likely that somebody was going to end up dead when they got off; and David J’s carefully neutral avoidance of the whole dance suggested that it wouldnt be the first time that had happened, and he was damned if he was going to be next.

So, despite a joke I like to make, Voice of the Blood isn’t really Bauhaus fanfic – I didn’t know enough about the actual band to write anything about them, nor was I interested in writing about them specifically, as two guys in a band from Northampton. The characters they inspired got me obsessing and scribbling.

Thus: Orfeo Ricari. His name’s a grab bag: Orfeo from the David Sylvian song “Orpheus”, still a favorite, and a great showcase for Sylvian’s gorgeous, sexy-gothic-stolen-from-Bowie baritone; the song itself based on the Cocteau film, I’m sure; and Ricari because I thought it was an Italian name. It’s not; it’s Spanish. (I make shit up, and I often get it wrong if it actually exists. Novels are handsome lies.) Whatever the source of the name, Orfeo is Italian, through and through, full stop. I don’t know why, exactly; he just is. And rather than be the (at the time) stereotypical southern Italian/Sicilian of looks, dark hair and skin and eyes, Orfeo looks more Continental, possessed of a naturally pale, strawberries-in-snow complexion, pure gray eyes, and the hair color described on boxes of Miss Clairol dye as “Dark Ash Blonde”.

His history is recounted in Fiend, my favorite of the four books, possibly because it really is just one person’s story, but also that of several prominent others: Daniel Blum, George, Maria, Liesl, and even Orfeo’s sister Maria Elena, the woman of whom Ariane would so strongly remind him. Orfeo was born in 1798 in Campania, youngest of seven of whom five survived; Orfeo the only surviving son. He was what you might not want to term a “sissy”, but you wouldn’t be wrong if you did. He wasn’t like the girls, but he definitely wasn’t like the boys, either. He liked painting and poetry and philosophy; he was a spoiled, belittled, coddled princelet, as bored by his advantages and as subconsciously thrill-seeking as his later encounters, Daniel Blum and Ariane Dempsey.

Orfeo came to mind both fully-formed and malleable by my own experiences and learning. I easily envisoned the adult, vampire Orfeo in Paris; in the streets of the same Berlin imagined in Cabaret; daydreaming in the back of a taxi in post-war London; elegantly gesturing for the check in one of the swanky cocktail bars I longed to infiltrate in 1990s San Francisco (in particular, Tosca, which is the bar with red booths and waitstaff in black satin where he and Ariane spend a lot of time). Orfeo would always look the same; would always dress the same, would always get away with it. Creamy satin or linen shirt, worn baggy on his wire-thin frame (not quite pirate-poofy, but close); slim-fit trousers; shined brogues or oxfords, sometimes with spats; sometimes a snug waistcoat to display his 26-inch waist; a classic camel trenchcoat. He’s tiny, five feet four, one hundred pounds, and looks like he’s stepped out of a dagguerotype or a classic-Hollywood headshot. Generally calm, melancholy, and fatalistic, but with a vicious temper, and a tendency to, in anger, say and do the most hurtful things he can imagine. He inspires love rather than friendship; he’s hard to live with, moody and introspective, but fun to go out with, when his generous nature can kick into high gear.

He looks like a porcelain elf doll, but he’s as tough as nails; he’s a fighter and a survivor. His Catholic faith sustains and absolves him, even as his faith is shaken and even abandoned; it always returns.

So does he.

Watching The Pied Piper, a fluffy 1973 lark with Donovan acting in it. I don’t have much hope that this movie will actually be much good (It’s a “Goodtimes Enterprises Film” – oy vey) though it does have John Hurt and Donald Pleasance in… wait, that’s no guarantee of anything. Diana Dors as “Frau Poppendick”? Good lord, what have I gotten myself into?

Well, I count Donovan as one of my muses (along with such notables as John Taylor, Peter Murphy, Montgomery Clift, Alex Colby, and that cute little skank Jeremy from high school) and have been inspired by him to write much material. I am now in the process of revising the novel-sized chunk of said material, originally written when I was 19 and a college sophomore and had a single room. I’ve been off the Donovan crack pipe for quite some time now – one bad LSD trip will do that to you – actually, no, it was because Nick Cave took over and blotted out the sun – and I lost all my original Donovan vinyl – but I want to recall that sweet mania that drove me to write that novel in the first place.

To that end I will re-educate myself about the sound of his voice, for that was the conduit that the holy madness was first transmitted to me. I had barely ever seen a photograph of him until years after I had obsessively collected all his records and spent my first summer home from college being soothed by the songs, nostalgic for soft Portland rain and not the violence of Denver sunshine. Donovan is one of those fellows whose voice is substantially more beautiful than his face – though, I could be mistaken. I’ve never seen Donovan in a movie before.

Hell, I watched The Magic Christian just because Ringo Starr was in it, and I don’t even fancy Ringo.

Wish me luck. Frau Poppendick. I swear.