Pike Talk: Old and New Books


(From Facebook)

PIKE HERE: I’ve been asked, many times in the last few weeks, to talk about Remember Me and The Last Vampire (Thirst). Of course I have spoken about them before on this site but I suppose there’s no harm in discussing them again. Plus I can’t recall what I said before so if I contradict myself blame it on the fact I’m only six months shy of turning sixty.
I cannot remember when I first got the idea for Remember Me. But I do know that I discussed the story idea while driving my editor from Avon, Ellen Kreiger, the woman who had bought Chain Letter, back to her hotel in Orange County. I think this was in 1986. All of publishing was in the hotels around Disneyland because of the ABA — the main publishing convention of year. It’s now called the BEA. Anyway, Ellen said it was a terrible idea. That no one would want to read about a dead girl.
I argued with her but frankly I didn’t really care what she thought. I felt I knew Shari, I felt she had a powerful story to tell. At the time I’d only written the first chapter of the book but Shari’s voice was very real to me. Which was odd in a way because I’d never written in first person before.
First person can be tricky; it’s hard to avoid saying “I” all the time. A small hint on writing: I think it’s better to learn how to write in third person before trying a first person narrative. Just my opinion.
I wrote Remember Me right after finishing the Final Friends trilogy. I had just signed a contract with Simon & Schuster for four books. For the first time in my life I thought I might be able to survive as a novelist. I was anxious to write a great book — a story that would last. I was living in La Habra at the time, in a small apartment not far from my parent’s house in Whittier. I never cooked or bought groceries. I used to walk home for dinner and for lunch I’d walk to a nearby mall and buy a sandwich. I didn’t even have a TV. All I did in that apartment was write and sleep. It was a very reclusive period in my life.
Anyway, I remember taking my time writing the book. My editor, Pat MacDonald finally called and asked if she could see what I was working on. I sent her the first half, up to where Shari meets Peter at her funeral. The next few days, I waited anxiously to see what Pat thought. Keep in mind I was not writing a standard thriller and after turning in Final Friends, S&S wanted me to return to books like Chain Letter and Spellbound.
But I was delighted to hear that Pat loved the book. She had recently lost her mother and she found the story moving. With her encouragement I pushed on. Like Shari, Peter took on a life of his own and his entrance into the book accelerated the plot. Looking back, it’s obvious Remember Me wouldn’t have worked without Peter. Yet I had only a vague idea who he was when I brought him in. Peter is a classic example of how a character can sometimes save a book, even when the author — in this case, me — did not plan for him to be important.
In the same way I did not plan for the detective — I forget his name — to be important. I certainly wasn’t going to explore his back story. But again, the character had other ideas. Remember Me was the first book where I felt I was on automatic pilot. The whole scene when Shari died, it was some of my best writing ever. But I wrote it quickly in a single draft. I was sort of surprised to see it all on my computer screen. In fact, it was that surprise that later gave me the idea that Shari’s brother, Jimmy, wrote the book while he was asleep.
I’ve spoken before what happened as I wrote the last page of the book, the last line. Immediately after I typed in the words, “I want people to remember me,” I felt someone tap me on the right shoulder and heard the words, or else was given a very powerful telepathic jolt, “See you later.” I did not imagine it and I cannot explain it. But it happened. It shocked the hell out of me. I almost fell out of my chair.
Remember Me went on to become a huge bestseller. S&S asked if I would write a sequel. They didn’t pressure me but I should have said no because the book was perfect the way it was. And I didn’t say yes because of money. I actually struggled to write the sequels, although I did like the idea of having Shari return as a Walk-In. It was while I was trying to figure out how to write Remember Me II that I suddenly got off my bed and wrote the first few pages of The Last Vampire.
I had never planned to write a vampire story, never mind that Season of Passage had a slight vampire flavor. I think I was too in awe of Anne Rice’s novels. Back then I remember how excited I was when Queen of the Damned came out. And right after that I got to meet Anne Rice at a “book launch’ party in New York City. That was the first time S&S had flown me back to New York, which was terribly exciting in itself. Please understand I had just spent a huge chunk of my life struggling to get someone to look at what I had written. To be flown to New York and to be invited to parties where famous authors were — it was like some kind of dream. I kept waiting for someone to wake me up.
Anne Rice turned out to be extremely nice, very easy to talk to, very normal. I remember being shocked that she was just like everyone else. It’s funny looking back on my reaction, especially since later people would get excited when they met me. I know it sounds dumb but it took me a while to realize famous writers are no different than anyone else. They are not even necessarily smart. Look at me. My girlfriend, Abir, would tell all of you I am actually sort slow.
Anyway, the thing that blew me away when I began to write about Sita was her voice. I don’t know where that voice came from. More than any other character, way more than Shari, I felt like I was channeling her. Sita had such an attitude. I never knew what she was going to say next. I wrote the first book in less than a month. Hell, I may have written it in two weeks. I wrote all the Sita novels quickly. And when I returned to her story after a fifteen year hiatus, I continued to write them quickly.
I know S&S advertised that “The Sacred Veil: Thirst 5” would be the last of Sita’s books but I never planned it that way. There will be one last Thirst book and it will be the best one. Sita’s father will return and be a point of view character. And someone else very important to Sita will also return — a person I’ll keep secret for now. Plus John will finally play his main role. John, Matt, Sita’s father — all three of these characters will be crucial to the last book.
I know many of you want me to finish Sita’s tale immediately but I can assure you the books I’m working on right now are wonderful. Strange Girl may be the best book I’ve ever written. Plus the book I’m finishing up right — I love it. Then I have two other novels in the works. One is horror — it’s my answer to The Exorcist. The other is science fiction — the one book Abir is pushing me the hardest to write. The story is unlike any I’ve seen before. Of course someone will probably come up with the same idea before I can publish it. You don’t know how many times that’s happened to me.
As to the Thirst movie…Well, every time I give an update on what’s happening in Hollywood I change my story. Because Hollywood is flakey. At this time vampire movies are not in high demand, and for that reason it’s going to take time before we see Sita’s story on the big screen. Or on TV. Actually, it might be better if the Sita books were done on TV.
As of today “The Sixth Door” looks like it will be made first. Now you’re going to say you haven’t read the book and I know. I never published it, which might not be a bad thing. This way, if it is made, when it comes out you’ll have no idea what’s going to happen next. It’s a great dark story. The tale of “The Doors” will make for a very wicked series.
Again, thanks for all your kind words on my whole library of books. I wish I had copies of them. Honestly, I have three or four of them lying around and that’s it. Weird, huh? KEVIN/PIKE


One Response to “Pike Talk: Old and New Books”

  1. Thank you for talking again about what are possibly my two favorite books of all of your work that I’ve read so far. In Remember Me, you certainly wrote a story that lasts. All these years later, that last line resonates with me still. Shari & her story have stayed with me always. As have the very first Last Vampire book. I have to refer to it that way since that is what it was called when I began the series. I feel so old sometimes, having read all of your earlier books when I was a teen! I still have my original copies and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Thank you for inviting us into your mind over the years, it has been a privilege, Sir.

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