Jeremy Jordan King is an interesting breed. To most people he is a young gay men in New York City whose time in front of the lens has turned him into a fantasy of sorts. His fuzzy face holds a sense of innocence yet his eyes, those coquettishly peering through photographs, are full of confidence.
Jeremy’s creativity is a lifeline. Outside of publishing his own writing, he designs and creates the book covers and, as mentioned, spends time co-creating in front of the lens. Fortunately, everything he touches turns to joy.
Here, he discusses what inspired his latest book Night Creatures and his relationship with publishing in the digital age.
Night Creatures does not cover new ground, but it does so in a very unique way. Could you discuss what inspired the project?
I loved the characters I created in In Stone, particularly the vampire named Bryant. I really wanted to explore his origins, but the world was already pretty saturated with vampire stories. So I tried to think about how my vampire was different. What did he see and do to bring him to such a somber and stoic place? Why does he have such a deep desire to help others when he’s expected to be a monster? A lot of vampires are portrayed as tortured, complex characters because of hedonism; because of the crazy or horrific things they did after they were turned. Bryant certainly owes some of his current state to that, but I thought it might be more interesting for him to be a product of what he witnessed while he was human. And what real life experience could have such a strong impact? What real life experience hadn’t been explored a lot in contemporary fantasy fiction? What real life event was important enough to me to focus on for the better part of two years? It was the AIDS crisis.
What makes the discussion of HIV/AIDS so important for this generation? For the queer community?
The history of the queer community is very important. It’s probably the most important thing to me. And it is at risk of being lost. The things we went through in the 80s impacted us in profound, lasting ways. A lot of the struggles we have with coming out, the misconceptions others have about us, the views we have on sex, the way we interact with one another all stem from that plague. It shaped the modern homosexual. It shaped the world. A lot of people don’t understand or recognize that. I look at the community and I actually don’t see men of a certain age because practically a whole generation is dead. That’s insane. How can we not think about that? How dare we not? We must keep discussing HIV/AIDS not only to protect ourselves from current and potential risks, but also to honor everyone who once fought it, still fights it, and were lost to it. HIV/AIDS is becoming topical again because of new ways to prevent/treat it; it’s becoming easier to stay negative and easier to stay healthy if you’re positive. Understanding how bad it was then helps us realize the importance of protecting ourselves now. We have to keep the discussion on the table so we can continue to conquer this thing.
Talk more about the book’s form and execution.
I needed to do something creative to keep me sane while I was TRYING to get In Stone published. So I thought I’d experiment with a favorite character, the vampire Bryant. Since nobody had read it yet, I had a lot of freedom. I set up a blog. I framed it as if my real-life friend Bryant had given me a box of old letters and journals from his youth in the early 1980’s. I posted a new entry every Friday. Some people thought they were authentic, as the story starts off pretty realistically. I hand wrote some pages and included scans of Bryant’s artwork from the time. It was like a time capsule. Obviously as the magic started to creep in, people realized it was fiction. It was really fun and having a readership kept me writing. It took about a solid year to tell the whole story. So the printed version of Night Creatures uses that same narrative device.
What made you want to do it as a journal?
It was easiest to write a blog like that. It’s also a play on my favorite book, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is also epistolary.
Is Bryant based on a particular individual?
Bryant is a mash-up of several people. The one we meet in In Stone is based on a guy I briefly dated after college. His physicality, dark personality, and artistic interests come from him. But the youthful boy from Illinois we meet in Night Creatures is loosely based on my cousin, Donny. He was raised in a small town and moved to a big city in the late 70’s. He died of AIDS-related complications when I was very young. His being gay and his death had a profound impact on my family, so I used some of that as a springboard for the characters of Bryant and Wally.
What is your relationships with the characters?
If I keep writing books about them, I must really love my characters. As I write new novels exploring different origins, I discover more and more about them and become increasingly interested in telling their individual stories. My first book, In Stone, is very much inspired by my own life (the protagonist is even named Jeremy). In retrospect I think that was very much a “young writer” thing to do, but I’m glad it happened. It got me to access a lot of rich material and it has brought me to the place I am now with the series. In subsequent books the characters become more and more my own creation, but of course aspects of them are inspired by actual people and experiences.
More interviews: SIRPAUL, Baron and Armand Deluxe, Panther, Walt Cessna, Mark David Gerson (second interview), Emerson Collins with Del Shores, Joey DeRuy, Ryan Lill, Laura Pausini, Vanessa Carlton, KENN, Mary Lambert, SATURN, Stephen Dittmer, Stephan Nance, Mark David Gerson, Eric Himan, Kevin J Thornton, Sammy Crawford, Eddie Christie, John Carrasco, YogaBear, Bryan Nevin with Christopher Van Etten.
Books: Rasping Melodies: Painspirations of My Past, by Roeau Vetrano : Out of the Past, by Jeffrey Ballam : Dreaming Outside of Destiny, by Roberto Carlos Martinez