Interview with James Christie of Dear Miss Landau, part 2

6) It seems the stories center on an unlikely relationship between Dru and Xander? Why is that?
 

In 2007-2008, I was mentally pulped, disillusioned and damaged. Dru and Xander’s stories served to remind me of the better sides of human nature. There really was an absolutely lovely aspect to her nature that a few fans had seen. Jason Thompson and Mahaliem were among early influences, but an excerpt from Xander’s Secret by Zillagirl rather captured the Drusilla I came to know:

 

In Xander’s Secret, Xander met Drusilla in London six months after the end of Chosen. Despite the fact she was one of the evil undead whom he was sworn to slay, he started going to afternoon tea at Dru’s flat and began to fall in love with her:

 

Druse, no offense, but I don’t think I’d like having rotten cream. Okay? How’bout just plain old whipp—“ Xander stopped and spun in horror at the soft snarl he heard emanating from Drusilla.

I do NOT make rotten food!” She spat at him angrily. How dare he say such a thing to her? And she had thought they were friends. Ohhhhh! Things like that made her so angry.

Xander looked on in shock, his horror subsiding somewhat, as her face shifted back and forth from human to demon and back again. He came to realize, somewhat slowly, that she wasn’t going all evil and homicidal on him. She was angry… angry and hurt. He felt a slow burn of shame wash all over him. He’d hurt her feelings. Ever since he knew her, he was always amazed at how sensitive she was. How easily she was hurt.

She was really cute, and such a welcome contrast to the lousy real-life attitudes I’d seen. As a socially-inept Asperger, I also find stories of relationships fascinating and don’t mind admitting I’m a sucker for romantic comedies and a sentimental bag of mush at heart.

And there was something indefinably sweet about Drusilla. Something only Xander brought out. So it was a natural progression – I went from reading one utterly specific type of fan-fiction (tales of Dru and Xander) and essentially schooling myself in that precise area of the genre – to writing one myself.

Incidentally, it’s funny you should call it an unlikely relationship. Even I sometimes called them the odd couple, but there were similarities if you looked very carefully…

 

7) Did your decision to send the novella to Juliet come out of the blue, or did you think about it a lot?

 

Well, I finished Roses, Drusilla was alive and very comfortably ensconced in my mind (and when I wished to see her, gliding shyly around my flat), I couldn’t really publish anywhere except on Meltha’s website and although I was well-balanced and well-aware Dru was fictional, I was nevertheless deeply attached to my vampire flatmate and didn’t want to file such a lovely and lively girl away on a bookshelf to be forgotten.

So what to do?

In Leonard Nimoy’s second autobiographical work, I Am Spock, he made the clear point that:

“…the actor is ultimately the ‘keeper of the flame’ for his or her character.”

 

So, logically, the best thing to do for Dru was put her in the care of her keeper by sending Roses to Juliet Landau in Hollywood. It would also serve the parallel purpose of getting Dru (very reluctantly) out of my system, and I would then be able to resume a “normal” life without my flatmate. 

It was a fairly straightforward decision, arrived at neither callously or carelessly, but as Burns would say, “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang oft agley!”
 

8) Was there any episode of Buffy or Angel that inspired you to think there was something inside Drusilla that few others had seen? It’s certainly much different to how a lot of people like Spike.
 

Two spring to mind. There is the moment at the end of Crush (Buffy season five) where Dru is physically dumped by Spike. The look of shock, upset and loss on her face definitely got to me in a big way at the time. It could be argued that Drusilla might have been in a very fragile state by the time of Crush as she had nearly been incinerated by Angel in L.A. shortly before, was holding herself together by main force and desperately in need of her William’s support. When Spike brutally rejected her, that could have been the last straw for Dru, setting up the backstory which led to Roses:
 

But not this one. Her head was clear as a bell for the first time in decades. She could not hear the stars and Miss Edith was long gone, lost in one of the slimy nests she had drifted through over the past two years. Heartbroken about losing her William to the slayer and lost without her vampire family’s protecti
on, she had gone from prized jewel to pariah. She had been used, abused and shunned by her vampire kin because she was “a f*****g pain-in-the-ass loony,” or so a young fledgling had yelled at her.
..Drusilla’s Roses
 

I’d say one of the most important facets of understanding Dru is that there are subtleties to her nature. Things you don’t notice at first glance, hence the pivotal quote from Dear Miss Landau to which I referred in my answer to question five.
 

Now, the other episode which led to a certain little eureka moment is one I’d like to keep under wraps. That is the episode which inspired Drusilla Revenant’s twist. My creative process is like a pretty straightforward software programme. Every so often, an idea clunks out like a video-cassette being ejected from an old VCR. While I’m occupied with that idea I’m relatively blind to other possibilities, which I suppose are shunted off to some part of my subconscious until my id decides the next idea should emerge. Anyway, I’d just completed the sequel to Roses, Drusilla’s Redemption, and was watching a certain Buffy or Angel episode when I saw something I had not seen before. Out clunked the next idea. I emailed Miss Landau, basically saying I’d spotted something and that was the genesis of Revenant. Interestingly, as I went to great trouble to make the trilogy adhere to Buffyverse canon, Revenant had to be wrapped round Drusilla’s adventures in Angel 24-25. When I met Miss Landau in L.A., I admitted that this would probably cause me some problems, but it all worked out pretty well and both versions of Drusilla (mine and the official one) were quite seamlessly merged. Unfortunately, I have no influence whatsoever over the further development of canon. Giles lived on in Revenant but shortly after I finished it, he was killed in Buffy season eight. I hope Angel manages to resurrect him… 

Finally, it’s very important to note that people with autism are generally not that empathic, so for Drusilla to elicit such a reaction from me meant there simply had to be something special about her. 

Both of her.
 

9) Did it take a long time to plan out your long bus trip? Did you get a little discouraged at some point?
 

Not really. I had been through it before (albeit twenty-one years before), and it’s intrinsically more a matter of intent than planning. In the first place, I’ve rarely gone on package holidays and a year in Australia on a working visa (1988-1989) really does give one travellers’ skills deep as bone. For example: an utterly realistic attitude to the realities of the situation, and a decisive intuition honed by experience because there’s no tour guide to take care of you. 

The mental decision is the most important part i.e.:
 

I WILL spend a year in Australia. 

I WILL go across the US on a Greyhound bus and meet my Hollywood film star. 

Once I’d made that decision (and in the latter case) had it sanctioned by the NAS, all there was left to do was find the most efficient and economic way of doing it, and to hope it didn’t all blow up in my face.
 

On a more philosophical level I also had to consider the possibility that, due to the neurological trauma I had suffered at work, my travellers’ skills might not function properly any more. I wasn’t under literal sentence of death if my instincts had been permanently blunted, of course, but independent travel is extremely unforgiving of mistakes. 

I was also now middle-aged, out of shape, aware I was autistic and preparing to operate in an era of which I was relatively ignorant. When I was out in Australia, the internet scarcely even existed; so the rather dramatic and romantic question was whether I could physically regain my old edge and successfully operate in what, for me, was another time. 

Whether I could spit on the calendar and take myself back like I was before… 

And I don’t recall getting discouraged at any point. The westering spirit (referred to in more detail in Dear Miss Landau) was waking up, I was escaping Thoreau’s life of quiet desperation and, while I was fully aware that people with autism don’t like changing their routines, the desire was there and, with it, the acceptance that a) it was going to hurt and b) it was going to be worth it.
 

Also, funnily enough, once the decision had been made to go for L.A. come hell or high water, every time a problem came up, some countermeasure which solved it appeared shortly thereafter. All of this is discussed in more detail in chapters 27-30 of Dear Miss Landau.
 

10) How would you describe finally meeting Juliet after that long trip? 

 

That day – 14th March 2010 – really should be part of Buffy mythology, too. In the film version of 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff says:

 

The reader would not credit that such things could be, but I was there and I saw it.”
 

If you were looking for a musical backdrop, it would probably be the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s cover version of Over The Rainbow, and if I told you that thinking of it can still break me down in tears, then I would not be lying nor even exaggerating. I stole the Enterprise for my Helen of Troy all right, and she was worth every moment of it.
 

Lately, I’ve even been allowing myself to say:
 

You’ll never see anything like it again in your life.
 

And you probably won’t. The meshing of the myriad factors which brought me to Sunset that day: the specific nature of Drusilla’s character, the neurological damage I suffered which made me think more deeply about Dru than I otherwise would have, my strange ability to empathise with and write Dru, my decision to send Roses to Hollywood, Miss Landau’s decision to reply, our email/twitter correspondence, my ability to travel independently despite being autistic and then to write the tale of the trip… 

No, it really was like Rain Man meets Notting Hill via 84 Charing Cross Road. It all really happened and it’ll probably be a long time before you’ll see its’ like again. 

I could wax lyrical like this forever, and there’s a real danger I could end up boring the pants off everybody like Jody’s grandfather did in Steinbeck’s The Red Pony, but luckily there is a contemporary description of it. I arrived an hour early at the rendezvous point on Sunset Boulevard, and while I waited I did some writing. 

 

This is what it was like that Sunday morning in March, on a boulevard west of Sunset:

 

 

Dear Miss Landau and the Sunlit City

 

 

They say all America looks for that sunlit city on the hill, where the sidewalk ends and the good life begins. 

Perhaps there’s a hint of Mom’s apple pie in the air, malted milkshakes at the diner, the scent of coffee always on the brew; and that most delicate and fragile of things, the tinge of lost innocence in the air. Like seeing your first love as she was, before disappointment and disillusion changed her. 

For some, Sunset Boulevard signals the end of dreams. It’s the last stop of the trolley car, the red light at the intersection, the look on the doctor’s face when he has to deliver terminal news. 

And then again, sometimes not. 

The message was thankfully clear. The hopeful trust I’d carried for a year, across an ocean and over 3,000 miles of hard road, was about to be fulfilled. 

A small thing was going to happen. Of no interest to most, of curiosity to some, perhaps a subject of speculation to others. 

From somewhere I smell the scent of roses, and I think I hear Drusilla singing softly in the distance. 

The bus drops me off at the end of Sunset. I look up and see, not the house on Candlewood Drive, but the homes way up in the Hollywood Hills, well lit by the sun. I find myself smiling. 

I wait for a while. I no longer feel tired or weary. Those aches and pains are the province of other, older men; and I am young again, as I was before. 

I see a face in the crowd, coming closer. It is familiar. 

Oh dear Miss Landau, it is so good to see you!
 

 

James Christie

 

 

17th March 2010

 

 

Noting by the date, it will be nearly two years ago.

 

We’ll have part three this weekend. If you’d like to order Dear Miss Landau, you can get it directly at the Chaplin Books website. It will be released March 14th. The publisher says an American distributor isn’t available yet, but th
ey’re working on it.

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Post Author: David Mello

Worked nearly eleven years at a radio station as a board operator, news reader, and assistant producer for baseball broadcasts. Have been a staff writer for Whedonopolis since July 2008

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