Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Restless Music--Riding with Crooked Fang

It’s all Peter Steele’s fault, really. When the bassist and frontman of Type O Negative passed away in 2010, his death rekindled my interest in music and I embarked on a journey of rediscovery. Music. Particularly the music I listened to when I was in my late teens and early twenties.

That’s how I discovered A Pale Horse Named Death, and started interacting with folks on the band’s forum … and that’s also when I took note of a post by one of the other members who mentioned that she was serializing a vampire novel on her blog.

Curious, I clicked … and fell in love with Xan Marcelles. I knew the minute that I read those first few extracts that here was a well-formed, complicated character I was itching to see more of. When author Carrie Clevenger and I started chatting about our mutual love of music and writing, we just clicked.

Somewhere along the line I ended up getting her contracted to get the novel published, and we got the ball rolling with edits, and also an enjoyable writing partnership.

Now, taking a tale from a blog serial to a novel is not as easy as it sounds. A blog serial, by its nature, doesn’t always follow the kind of structure one would encounter in a novel. Episodes and seemingly isolated vignettes can prove tricky, and this is one of the problems we had to overcome – how to string it all together and build tension in the right parts.

Some scenes hit the cutting room floor while Carrie created quite a bit of new material. We also had to look at continuity, and how to blend the old with the new. Layering was important too, but in the end all the hard work was a tremendous amount of fun and possibly one of the most rewarding projects I’ve played editor for in my career so far.

The thrill of seeing the original form, a rather raw set of blog posts transmute into a physical book you can heft in your hand – priceless.

What I love about Carrie’s writing is that she’s a keen observer of the world and people around her, presenting tales often heavily themed with the shadow of mortality. For those who’ve yet to read her Friday Flash offerings, you’re missing out on her unique brand of often wry, sometimes poignant and often dark slices of life.

But back to Crooked Fang. This is not your average vampire novel. What makes Xan so engaging is his very humanity in the face of his undead existence. He’s the kind of character who just quietly wants to get on with his life, and readers will gain a glimpse into the heart of a complex person who’s been through a lot, has been transformed by his experiences, yet clings to the veneer of normality. As a reader, I felt real sadness at the knowledge that all Xan loves is temporary. Everything dies, and he will continue.

This is particularly illustrated in Xan’s relationship with his best friend from his living years, Scott. The human has a family, a successful business and is settled, and sure of himself. Xan, on the other hand, knows that all he holds is “for now”, yet he’ll hang around while he can. It’s tragic in a way, but it makes you love him all the more for his loyalty. He never forgets his true nature, even as much as he hides it, and there are a few times when there are hints at Xan’s more bloodthirsty side. Yet all his aspects are balanced. There’s no wangsting after a “one true love” though Xan’s quite honest about his intentions when he gets hot and bothered about the fairer sex. And his music. He loves his music.

That just made it for me. As much as Crooked Fang is a story of a vampire coming to terms with his past and present, and possibly an interminable future, this novel has its own soundtrack, and echoes the spirit of the restless music that thumped through the years when I didn’t know my own place in the world.

Twitter @crookedfang


  1. Absolutely fabulous review, great insight into the process, and I can't wait to get stuck in!

  2. Wow great review Nerine! Made me tear up a bit!
    You are so eloquent with feelings we all share!