The February edition of “MySpace Dark Horse Presents” will introduce a new writer to the comic book field, dark fantasy/supernatural romance author Jackie Kessler, who will pen a short “Tales of the Vampires” episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8” titled “Carpe Noctem.” Kessler, whose novels include “Hell’s Bells,””Black and White,” and several Young Adult titles under the name Jackie Morse Kessler, is joined on the comic by artist Paul Lee. CBR News caught up with Kessler to discuss her short adventure in the Buffyverse and her own background in comics.
As seen in previous “Buffy” shorts on “MySpace Dark Horse Presents,” lovable Valley vamp Harmony has taken the reality television world by storm and made vampires trendy, much to the detriment of Buffy’s army of Slayers. Kessler’s story will pick up this thread and follow the adventures of two new creatures of the night. “The world has changed dramatically, thanks to Harmony Kendall. Vampires are In, Slayers are Out,” Kessler said. “‘Carpe Noctem’ shows what two vampires in particular, Cyn and Ash, think about this brave new world. Simply put: Cyn hates it, and Ash can’t get enough of it.”
Though Kessler has collaborated with other authors, such as Kittredge on “Black and White,” working with an artist is a new experience for her, and CBR asked about her reaction to seeing Paul Lee’s first pages. “It is the coolest thing in the world to see your script translated into art,” the author said. “Paul is so phenomenal – he not only brought the characters to life, he made the script work even better than I had imagined. He was wonderful to work with, and I did a happy dance every time I’d see more pages from him in my inbox. (And I still do, whenever I look at the pages!)”
Kessler, who cites comics as an influence in her writing career, said that having the chance to finally write one has been “amazing.” “I wanted to work in comics for a long, long time, although when I was a kid, I’d thought it would be as an artist,” she said. “Once I became an author, the most I’d done with comics was read them (and silently worship some comic book authors). When Dark Horse editor Scott Allie asked me if I’d like to write a comic book script – one set in the Buffyverse – I was beyond thrilled. (Still am!) ‘Buffy’ is one of my favorite series, and getting to write a ‘Tales of the Vampires’ story set in that world was a dream come true.”
The author has tackled comic book-style heroes in her “Icarus Project” series of novels, which she co-writes with Caitlin Kittredge, beginning with “Black and White.” The novels find a pair of one-time classmates at a superhero training academy growing up to find themselves on opposite sides of the law. “Writing ‘Black and White’ with Caitlin Kittredge was so much fun. She and I grew up reading a ton of comic books,” Kessler told CBR. “We bonded over her AIM icon, which at the time was a picture of John Constantine – and no, I don’t mean Keanu Reeves. I didn’t think of ‘B&W’ as novelizing a comic book, though – it was more like we created a world complete with superheroes (and the prerequisite supervillains) and then we wrote about it. I’m a novelist, so there was no transition from comic book to novel for me for ‘B&W.’
“But when it was time to write ‘Carpe Noctem,’ wow, medium shock! I got some terrific advice from Scott and from my friend C.E. Murphy (bestselling author of ‘Urban Shaman’ and ‘The Queen’s Bastard,’ as well as the author of the comic book series ‘Take a Chance’),” Kessler continued. “The biggest difference for me is length – no 400 pages to get into the backstory. If I were to novelize ‘Carpe Noctem’ – or even turn it into a short story – I’d get into the relationship between the two main vampires a lot more and explore their decades-long history.”
Her “Tales of the Vampires: Carpe Noctem” short on “MySpace Dark Horse Presents” may be more in line with Kessler’s “Hell on Earth” series of novels than her “Icarus Project” superhero line. In “Hell’s Belles,” the first book in the trilogy, readers meet a 4000-year-old succubus, hiding out from Hell and earning her keep as an exotic dancer. Like the characters in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Kessler’s heroine Jezebel (or “Jesse”) faces apocalyptic confrontations amidst more human challenges, love being chief among them. Asked whether her characters and the Sunnydale crew might have anything to talk about, Kessler said, “Okay, first please know that I’m blushing from you comparing my work to Joss Whedon’s.”
“Joss did (and still does) such a terrific job of showing character growth amidst the epic battle of Good versus Evil – and questioning what the difference is between the two – all with humor, and without shying away from the darker side of things,” she continued. “The one character Jezebel from the ‘Hell’ books would most identify with would clearly be Anya: both former demons, both struggling to understand what it means to be human. Jezebel isn’t afraid of bunnies, though, and Anya wasn’t a succubus. Anya also sang way better than Jezzie ever could. As for Daunuan…he’d probably just laugh his ass off.
“If the two casts were to get together, yeah, there’d be a lot to talk about. Assuming, of course, that Buffy & Co. didn’t try to kill Jezebel and Daunuan first. (Or, in Daun’s case, with all the wiccans around, vice versa. Mages make him twitchy.)”
Given Kessler’s active online presence, having her comic available for free and easily linkable ensures that her fans will have instant access, even if they don’t normally read comics. “I’ll definitely post the link on my blog, my website, and on my Twitter/Facebook/MySpace accounts,” the author said. “Fingers and toes (and fangs) crossed that readers will enjoy it.”