I read and reviewed Dracula in Love by Karen Essex in last year. What better book to offer up as a Hallowe'en giveaway!? Thanks to Random House, I have three copies to giveaway. And Karen stopped by for a quick Q&A!
Q: Why do you think we're so fascinated with vampires?
A: Vampires have always fascinated humans but the role of the vampire has shifted dramatically in recent years. Vampires used to reflect our fears but now they reflect our fantasies. My theory is that while every generation has longed for a fountain of youth, today we have many youth-extending tools that enable us to reject the very idea of aging. It seems to me that humans today downright abhor the idea of mortality. We live in a youth-seeking, youth-worshipping society—on steroids. We have stem cell treatments, hormone therapies, cosmetic surgery both invasive and noninvasive, and loads of medicines that can keep us alive past our expiration date. We are very close to being vampires already. I sometimes run into people who look younger than they looked twenty years ago!
Besides that, the vampire’s kiss has always been a metaphor for sex, and specifically, sex with someone forbidden and dangerous who promises a dark and thrilling experience that takes us out of our mundane quotidian lives. Is there anyone who secretly doesn’t desire that?
Q: Can you tell us anything about the novel you're working on now? Another historical piece?
A: I am writing a stand alone sequel to my novel Leonardo’s Swans. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some years and I am finally getting around to it. In fact, I have just returned from a very inspiring and informative trip to my favorite places in northern Italy—Milano, Verona, Ferrara, and Mantova. After this, I plan to write a sequel to Dracula in Love, which I hope will be the second of many about the adventures of Mina and the Count as they chase each other through time.
Q: Is there a time period in history you'd rather live in?
A: Yes, the future. Because that is the only possible time period where life would be as good or better for women as it is now. I can be romantic about the past, but I am all too aware of what was lacking in women’s lives—choice about one’s destiny, for example, and legal rights. I think that I would find it absolutely infuriating to live in a female body in a world where women were second-class citizens, or in many instances, not even entitled to citizen status.
Q: Where do the ideas for your book spring from? What does your writing day look like?
A: The idea for Dracula in Love came differently than any other work of mine. I'd read Bram Stoker's Dracula when I was fifteen years old, and even at that time, I was sure that the character Mina Harker was dissatisfied with her role as the passive, cooperative Victorian virgin. Though I loved the book, Stoker’s portrayal of Mina left me wanting to know so much more. Then, several decades later, strangely—inexplicably—I was sitting at my computer one night staring into space and the thought popped into my brain: What if I retell the original Dracula myth from Mina Harker's perspective? The idea just descended on me.
Now that said, I had my "vampire epiphany" long ago. I used to race home from grade school on my bike to catch "Dark Shadows" on TV. I grew up in a family of spooky women in New Orleans, which is a haunted city. I adored Anne Rice's books, and then later, as a screenwriter, adapted Rice's The Mummy or Ramses the Damned for James Cameron and 20th Century Fox (sadly, the film remains unmade!). So while the idea seemingly just "occurred" to me, I have loved vampire lore for a very long time. Moreover, my novels retell the stories of women in history in an empowering way, so empowering the vampire's "victim" was a natural for me.
My workday looks like this: I write until I am empty. That could be fourteen hours or fourteen minutes. If I don’t have much writing in me on a given day, I turn to researching, outlining, or rewriting. I’m fairly obsessed when it comes to writing. I figure, it I don’t feel enraptured while I’m writing, why should anyone feel that way about my work when they’re reading it?
Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: I just finished rereading Gone With the Wind, which was such fun because I was obsessed with that book when I was twelve and thirteen years old. I’m reading The Night Circus, which I am enjoying for its elegant, magical qualities, and which was edited by my own brilliant editor at Doubleday, and I am also reading a scholarly book on a 15th century Italian poet and courtier.
Q: How are you going to celebrate Hallowe'en!?
A: If I told you, you might warn my victims.
Thanks for stopping by Karen! If you'd like enter, simply leave a Hallowe'en comment to be entered.
Three copies up for grabs. Open to US and Canada. Ends Oct 31 at midnight! Read an excerpt of Dracula in Love.