Welcome to the twenty-first installment of LAST WRITES.
The premise is simple. My guests face their final rest, but before Death claims them they are granted a few earthly pleasures, the memories of which will travel with them into the great unknown.
Today’s guest is Amanda DeWees. Amanda wrote her doctoral dissertation on 19th-century British vampire literature—the perfect training, although she didn’t know it at the time, for writing Victorian gothic romance novels.Am ong these are With This Curse, which won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award in historical suspense/mystery. With her latest release, the novella As Vital as Blood, she returns to her vampiric roots.
Visit her website, amandadewees.com, to learn more about Amanda and her books.
Every birthday for as long as I can remember I’ve requested my mom’s special “Amazon” homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs from a family recipe. (One of my uncles claims that the recipe was given to us long ago by a woman whose nickname was The Amazon, but at this point the recipe has been in the family for so long that I think we can claim it.) It’s a meal that is both festive and comforting to me, and it captures the feeling of a warm familial embrace. I would choose that for my last meal.
Oh, this is a tough decision. Really, really tough. But Robin McKinley’s Beauty, her 1978 novelization of the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale, holds a very special place in my heart. It was a tremendous influence on me as a writer and remains one of my favorite comfort reads. I learned so much about characterization, world building, and creating a compelling love story from this book. I would definitely want to revisit it one last time, in part because the heroine is so lovable she feels like a real-life friend, and I would want to say goodbye to her.
I usually gravitate toward movies with more story to them, but there’s something about Sally Potter’s 1992 adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton, that keeps me coming back to it. It’s a visual feast with an almost hypnotic quality, and it ends with Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Somerville as a gold-lamé-clad angel singing in the sky. What better way to usher in the afterlife?
I’ve been listening to Kate Bush a lot lately, so I’m very tempted to choose “Moments of Pleasure,” in which she remembers friends she has lost. It’s a beautiful and uplifting testament to the power of memory to keep our loved ones alive in thought after they’ve died, and that would be a comforting sentiment to have in mind during my last moments. But for a song judged purely on how much happiness it brings me, I might instead have to go with the Flying Pickets’ 1984 cover of Yaz’s “Only You,” surely one of the most beautiful a capella pop performances ever. All those cascading notes surrounding a sweetly yearning lyric are just too lovely not to listen to one last time…and I would totally sing along.
FIRST PERSON YOU’D LIKE TO MEET ON THE OTHER SIDE
This may sound like the witterings of an overly romantic girl who has watched Somewhere in Time too many times—all of which may well be true—but it’s been at the back of my mind for many years. A friend used to tell me about a relative of hers, a brilliant young man who died tragically and too soon, and she always talked about how much he and I would have had in common had he lived. For some reason the fancy captured me that he and I might have been meant for each other. I’ve never forgotten this man I never met, and it would be lovely to be greeted by him on the other side.
Or Christopher Reeve. Because between Superman and Somewhere in Time, his would be a welcoming face indeed.