11) How has the trip changed your life?
Gee, where do I start? I went from being an underachieving neuro-typical to a high-achieving Asperger (very sadly, only about 15% of us have any sort of job), I escaped from Thoreau’s life of quiet desperation and fulfilled my dreams, and I even recaptured my youth and went out again like a captain regaining his command. I am very grateful for the help I have received from Miss Landau, from the NAS, from my long-suffering mother, and from the fine and decent friends I later met at the organisation; but as I was thinking about how to answer this question, a seemingly small but important point occurred to me.
Myself and my dear Miss Landau have now been corresponding for two-and-a-half years. There have been occasional ups and downs, but Jim of the NAS once asked me if the whole situation was stressful and difficult for me, and I replied that, at the heart of things, she always made me happy, and I wasn’t really happy before.
I’m off work with ‘flu at the moment. The other night the full moon was out, looking a bit like it did in John Patrick Shanley’s Moonstruck (coincidentally, Miss Landau is starring in Shanley’s earlier play, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, at the moment), so I took a picture of the moon from the stairwell, sent my dear Miss Landau the shot and we flipped a few emails about it back and forth.
It was no big thing. Just a little footnote in life’s long parade, but I spent the rest of the evening in a sublimely good mood. It had been fun, I was happy, and it didn’t really have anything to do with Buffy or with autism.
12) Are you a fan of the other Whedon shows, including Firefly and Dollhouse, or even Dr. Horrible?
People with autism, by definition, usually only have a few specific interests and tend to concentrate solely on them. Joss Whedon’s other shows are superbly written, wonderfully-acted and have high production values, but Buffy still holds most of my attention. I don’t even watch that much TV these days, although funnily enough the few shows I do look at are usually vampire-orientated – The Vampire Diaries, Being Human (UK version) and True Blood.
I think this is less to do with the vampire aspect than the relationship aspect. As mentioned in my answer to question six, I find human relationships fascinating. Hoyt and Jessica’s relationship in True Blood did captivate me, and Caroline the vampire in The Vampire Diaries does also seem to have that certain something which can make me empathise with her.
To theorise for a moment, perhaps this is because the brains of Aspergers, like vampires, are differently-wired to those of typical human beings. You could even call us soulless, although that would be highly inaccurate. Mr Spock, who has an Asperger’s demeanour, is by no means emotionless. In fact, he has very strong emotions; but for him and for us, it’s logic first, emotions afterwards.
Therefore, any well-written dramatic story which involves different variants of Homo Sapiens trying to find common ground may well have an intrinsic fascination for us.
13) Do you hope to meet Joss someday, and discuss your Drusilla stories with him?
Believe it or not, I hadn’t really thought about that until now. When I first sent Roses across the pond, I schooled myself to assume nothing would happen but at the same time could not help but wonder if it would make it into Joss Whedon’s hands. However, once Miss Landau and I started to correspond, I forgot about all that. A friend teased me sometime later, asking if I’d be emailing Jennifer Lopez or Nicole Kidman next.
I simply said:
“I have my Hollywood star, and I want no other.”
And that’s the way it was and is. However, at the time I had no idea one Drusilla would turn into three (with a fourth on the way), that I would cross America on a Greyhound bus, or that Dear Miss Landau would be published.
I have therefore already fulfilled my own core ambitions but I don’t necessarily have to stop at that. I have a great deal of respect for Joss Whedon, would be very pleased and honoured to meet him and (amongst other things) to show him Drusilla Revenant and discuss the twist.
Mr Whedon and I are virtually the same age, I think we may have a similar sense of humour and I believe any such meeting would be productive and enjoyable. Neither he nor I have anything to lose and possibly quite a lot to gain. He is of course very busy with The Avengers, but I’ve taken the whole month of March off for the launch of Dear Miss Landau and, with not much notice, could therefore make it over to L.A. for a couple of days if required.
14) Has there been any buzz about your upcoming book? Do you hope to write other stories, like maybe some essays about other characters in the Buffyverse?
Myself and Chaplin Books are trying to create that buzz right now. Grateful thanks must also go to Deverill Weekes for opening several doors. I myself have been blogging on SlayAlive’s and smgfan.com’s fan forums for some time. There’s also a YouTube clip of me reading an extract from Dear Miss Landau out there with two more to come.
I’m not sure how you write a sequel to a true-life novel, but my publisher, Amanda Field, will be lecturing at UCLA at the end of August. I mentioned to her that I didn’t necessarily want to be a one-hit wonder, and that (depending on how well Dear Miss Landau sells in March) one sure way of getting more prose out of me is to put me on the road again with Juliet the Notebook in August, point me in the general direction of California (hopefully Juliet the Landau will be there at the time) and stuff will happen. There could even be a US launch of
Dear Miss Landau in California.
Also, the articles written during the original trip were heavily concerned with the state of the nation through which I was travelling. It wasn’t all about Buffy although it was, in the end, all for Miss Landau. That, though, was 2010. 2012 is, I understand, an election year and quite possibly a historically pivotal year for America. Is the US now a superpower in terminal decline or will another Roosevelt ease Washington’s gridlocked politics and reconstruct the American Dream?
It will certainly not be easy. As I understand it, the US is dealing with a new depression in the south-west, a flow of power from West to East, falling house prices and foreclosures, a gargantuan national debt, a reduced national credit rating and a real unemployment rate of ca. 20%. These are undoubtedly hard times and there seem to be too few chroniclers of it. John Steinbeck partly inspired both Drusilla’s Roses and Dear Miss Landau. While I would never compare myself to that great man, I can write of what I see, so long as my muse is with me.
A man’s also got to know his limitations, as Clint Eastwood might say, and I know it’s only Drusilla with whom I have this incredible literary connection. While I am very fond of other Buffy characters like Darla, Cordelia and Spike, I might not be able to do them justice.
You might even say I can only do it with my dear old Dru!
Funnily enough, every time I finish a Drusilla story my creative VCR (as mentioned in the answer to question eight) simply coughs up the next chapter, so guess what happened? I’d finished Drusilla Revenant, finished the trilogy and ended it well.
One week later, I could see the continuation.
Trying to be rational (really, why do I bother?), I told myself I would probably have “just enough left” to do one more Dru story before retiring her for good.
Boy, was I wrong there.
As soon as I started Drusilla’s Song (provisional title), my dear old Dru bounced brightly back to life and we were off! I also got Meltha back. So Miss Landau has her dream team available if she wants us, and I’ve sent Spike and Dru back into action again. I’m dropping them into Afghanistan this time and, as usual, probably to certain death. I tend to think any plot can be improved with the addition of some gratuitous sex and violence, and Spike has been putting the boot into Dru with a certain sadistic relish for which Xander just wasn’t designed.
But there’s a strong emotional core there, too, working off Revenant’s twist with a touch of elegy and a hint of The Last Picture Show…
The fourth part of the trilogy, as Douglas Adams might say.
I always try to stress the importance of drafting and editing in writing, but when I’m writing Dru I just sit down, see the story and stuff happens, and it’s great. So I’d beg everyone, whatever they do, not to question this strange ability of mine too closely or I really might lose it, and I really don’t want that to happen.
15) Do you have any special Buffy or Drusilla memorabilia?
I have a couple of printed copies of Roses and Redemption with Juliet Landau’s signature on them. I kept a framed picture of us on my office desk for a year. I never told her about that.
Most of all, I have my memories. After the fictional tales of Drusilla came the real-life journey to America. I know how it felt to cross a whole darn continent for someone. I remember arriving in Chicago at dawn, and watching freight trains in Amarillo. I remember coming upon Vegas and seeing the city spread across the landscape like a fallen star. I remember what it was like to wake up in a dingy hostel on the last day, knowing I was out of contact and that I’d be coming into Hollywood on a wing and a prayer. I remember what it was like that day on Sunset, and the way she smiled.
No, you’ll never see the like again; but I was there, and I did it.