Tuesday, September 29, 2009
“For Want of Chocolate” - by J.F. Lewis - IGMS issue 14
Something is terribly wrong with Edmund. It’s a well known fact that I can’t sell a short story to save my life. Well. Known. Fact! And then Edmund goes and buys “For Want of Chocolate” putting me in this weird place where I have to stop saying that I’ve never sold a short story. Flat out cruelty. That’s what it is. And from a certain point of view cruelty is what the short story is all about.
Usually, I’m not a short story guy. Write a novel? Oh, yeah. For a short story, though, an idea has to explode into my head fully formed… and in general, I have to finish the thing in a week or it transforms into a novel. Take “For Want of Chocolate.” FWoC started as a blog post about how the vampires in my Void City series can’t eat and how that has driven them to participate in a sort of voyeuristic eating where they make humans dine on what they, the vampires, crave but cannot have. At the end of the post, I asked readers what food they’d miss the most if they became a vampire. Chocolate won hands down… which, given that I don’t really like chocolate, intrigued me.
Around the same time, I was invited to do a reading (I won’t say where) and *after* I accepted, the person in charge asked if I would please make sure to keep it clean. We’ve since laughed about it, but it seemed like a very odd (almost cruel) request at the time. My first novel, Staked, was the only book I had out, and to be frank, the main character is a veteran who runs a strip club and his language is… peppery at best. So, the week before the reading, I wrote the first draft of “For Want of Chocolate” as a vehicle for introducing the way my vampires work, with a fair dose of the humor folks have come (hopefully) to expect from the novels, but without the colorful expletives.
Obviously, the story became more than that… the characters became real and made their own choices and decisions, which is what I’m always shooting for when I write.
Haley, the main character in “For Want of Chocolate” is a newly turned vampire coming to the realization that she can’t eat chocolate anymore. Having her realize that simple fact while standing in front of a Godiva store is my little jab at the chocolate lovers out there and an attempt to awaken in chocolate lovers that craving which never completely goes away. The first time I read the story, people went out and bought chocolate. The second time I read it (at a convention) it was as part of a group reading and two of my fellow authors threatened to kill me if I ever again read the story in their presence when no chocolate was available… threats which made me glow inside, because that is exactly the reaction I wanted. Could the guy who doesn’t really like chocolate make people who do like it crave it? It worked on Edmund. Hopefully, it will work on you, too… and if all works as planned, you won’t have any chocolate at hand either.
If you enjoy “For Want of Chocolate,” you can check out more tales of Void City in Staked and its sequel ReVamped. A third book in the series and a proposal for a fourth are on my editor’s desk, so hopefully you won’t have long to wait for those either. If I have my way, Haley will have her own novel eventually too, in which the lack of chocolate will be the least of her worries.
* * * *
"For Want of Chocolate" by J.F. Lewis is available now in issue 14 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show