On the 1st of November 2020, author Rachel Caine (Roxanne Conrad) passed away. I write this having just recovered from floods of tears upon hearing the news. This comes after a long and fraught battle with cancer, through which she was always incredibly brave and inspiring. That’s the woman she was. Rachel was a prolific writer. She published 56 books, and those works are immortal. They’ll live forever, on shelves and in hearts. In my heart especially. This is a tribute to her in the only way I know how. Through a story.
Rachel is undoubtedly my favourite author. If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time you’ll know I usually try to sneak Glass Houses into any and every post. It’s a book that changed my life, that got me through every hardship and shaped me as a person.
To the best of my memory, I was 12 or 13 when I first came across the Morganville Vampires series. I found them on offer in a bookshop, and my nana bought me three of them. The ones they had in stock unfortunately did not include the first book, so my mum ordered that for me from eBay. I received a used copy with a battered spine, damage from a sticker on the cover, and cookie crumbs in some of the pages. (No matter how many times I read that copy, I never could get all the crumbs out.)
I went on to devour all 15 books in the Morganville Vampires series. I treasured every one, and I’m sure I talked the ear off anyone who would listen to me discuss them. You see, these books were special. The protagonist, Claire, was nerdy, small, and loved school and learning. She was focused on her grades, she was never the strong or beautiful one, and she cried when bad things happened. She was me, and it was the first time I’d seen the small, nerdy character in the starring role. She wasn’t there to receive a makeover, become popular, realise she wasn’t actually interested in studying – Claire stayed unapologetic about who she was. She was the role model I needed, and the first (and to this day, only) character I truly connected with and saw myself in.
It takes one sentence for me to slip back into the world of Morganville. I’ve read it so many times, and I know the story so well. That true and pure escapism has helped me through so many difficult moments. When my nana, who got me started on these books, passed from cancer, rereading Glass Houses got me through. It saved my life on nights when I felt like I couldn’t go on. Reading that story has saved me from my darkest thoughts by showing me there is always something wonderful waiting out in the world.
I own two copies of Glass Houses. My first, the copy from eBay which still has a stranger’s cookie crumbs in it, began to fall apart. Paperbacks tend to do that when you read them too many times. My partner Olly gifted me a brand new copy. The old one became too delicate to read, and I couldn’t bear not being able to reread my favourite book.
These books inspired my true love of – and dedication to – reading. They focused on a really strong group of best friends fighting against all odds to survive the small, vampire-infested town where they live. I was and am completely unapologetic for my love of this series. These books – and Rachel – truly get credit for making me who I am today, and they feel like an extension of my soul. My favourite tropes, my love of reading, this blog – I owe them all to Rachel Caine and the works she created.
The stories we love become a part of us, and never has that been more true than with me and Rachel’s books. I dreamed of getting her to sign them one day, but I’m forever grateful for the one interaction I had with the woman who shaped my reading life. I’m glad she got to see my Morganville collection. I hope she could feel the love and what it meant to me through that photograph.
Rachel, I love you. My heart is broken. I’ll miss you forever. But go now, be at peace. You’ve given enough. And for everything: thank you.