Monday, July 25, 2011

Interview + Giveaway: Karen Essex author of Dracula In Love

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend! Boy do I have a treat for you today. I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Essex the author of Dracula In Love and so today I'm posting my interview and at the end you will have the opportunity to sign up for the chance to win a copy of Dracula In Love, which has just been released in paperback! So lets get on with the interview...

1. What was it about Bram Stoker’s Dracula that made you want to retell the story from Mina’s point of view?

From the first time that I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula in my teens, though I revered the work, I just knew that the character Mina Harker, Dracula’s obsession, was not satisfied with the role Mr. Stoker gave her—the quintessentially compliant Victorian virgin.  I knew that there had to be more to her than that.  (I knew that there had to be more to any woman than that.)  In a nutshell, my plan was to rescue Mina from Stoker’s sexist fantasy of the nice, cooperative girl, and empower her.

2.What sort of research did you conduct in order to write Dracula In Love?

Whenever I begin a work, I do a massive investigation into the time period.  I read all the relevant history and I also seek out as much of the contemporary writing as possible.  In the case of Dracula in Love, one of the most helpful things was to read issues of The Woman’s World, a slick magazine that was edited by Oscar Wilde.  That gave me a real feeling for what was going on in the female mind in 1890.  I also actually MOVED to London, where I now reside, to research and write the book so that I could drink in the atmosphere of late Victorian England as I wrote.  I never write about a place that I do not visit (unless I can’t get in because of visa problems).

Another fascinating area of research was the late Victorian obsession with the supernatural.  Things like séances and spirit photography, which factor into the book, were common practices at the time in the upper eschelons of society.

In addition, I did a tremendous amount of research into the early days of psychiatry and Victorian insane asylums, which I wrote about in a post:
Readers tell me that the most harrowing parts of the book are not the vampire sequences but the asylum scenes.  Sad but true: women in Victorian times had more to fear from their own cultures than from vampires!

3. How did you decide which parts to keep from the original Stoker's version and which parts to make your own? Did you find it challenging in trying to write this classic tale from a different angle?

Challenging and intimidating.  However, anyone who has read my books knows that I am all about restoring grrrrl power to the historical record, and that is what I also attempt to do here.  In Dracula in Love, I decided to reexamine an iconic female character whose full story had not been written into the original.  In Stoker’s work, Mina has no past, no history, and bears no responsibility for what happens to her.  In my opinion, characters like Mina who have been in our imaginations for over one hundred years are as real to many people as actual historical figures.  They, too, require some reevaluation and fleshing out in terms of our modern day awareness of psychology and gender studies.  Indeed, though Bram Stoker possessed an element of genius, he also wrote about women from the lens of a man of his time.  I thought I could rectify this, bringing to light a realistic portrait of a 19th century women’s experience and teasing out her inner life.

At some point, I had the revelation that I would make Stoker a character in the book.  He would encounter Mina, become intrigued with her situation, and begin to investigate her life.  And he would get it all wrong!  That element freed me from having to follow his narrative.  It changed everything.  It made telling the story so much more fun and gave me license to deviate from the original.

4. Do you have a favorite place to do all your brainstorming and writing for your books, such as a coffee shop or your home office. Where do you think you do your best writing?

I can write anywhere.  I have written through my daughter’s birthday parties at Chuckie Cheese!  I can write in the bathroom, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, at a mountaintop retreat, or in the middle of the night in bed.  I have written massive tracts of words on long distance flights.  Time and place have no effect on my work.  My great challenge in life is to exist in the present moment and not in my work! 

5. When did you realize you were destined to be an author?  I've noticed a lot of author's just fell into this career, is writing something you've always aspired to do or did you grow up wanting to be something else?

I always thought I would be a writer.  I tried to write my first novel at the age of seven.  I don't think it was very good.  However, I spent the first thirty years of my life doing other things—studying, living, modeling, working in film and theater.  I was producing a movie in Philadelphia and I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, «Oh God, I forgot to be a writer.»  I started writing and never looked back.  That is the truth.

6. How do you think your writing has grown since your first published novel? Do you find writing comes more naturally to you or is it something you constantly find yourself tweaking?

Anyone who says that writing comes “naturally,” and that they don’t have to rewrite is either lying or is not a good writer.  Rewriting IS writing.  We write to discover what it is that must be written, and reworking and rethinking is a great part of that process.  I know hundreds of writers and dozens of great writers, and every one of them obsesses over every sentence, reworking it until it is as perfect as we can make it. 

Over the last twenty years, my writing has evolved, and I certainly know more about the process and the craft, but I just reread Kleopatra, my first novel, and I stand by it as being as good as anything else I have written.  So I wouldn’t say that I am getting “better.”  Every book has its own set of challenges.

7. What can your fans expect to see from you next. Can we get a sneak peek into your next writing adventure?

I would love to write a sequel to Dracula in Love, and hope that I can get to it soon, but my next two planned novels return to Leonardo’s Swans territory—the Italian Renaissance.  I have just returned from a very inspiring and informative trip to my favorite places in northern Italy—Milano, Verona, Ferrara, and Mantova.  But in two weeks, I take a vacation to Transylvania, so who knows what will come of that!

Synopsis: London, 1890. Mina Murray, the rosy-cheeked, quintessentially pure Victorian heroine, becomes Count Dracula’s object of desire. To preserve her chastity, five male “defenders” rush in to rescue her from the vampire’s evil clutches. This is the version of the story we've been told. But now, from Mina’s own pen, we discover that the story is vastly different when told from the female point of view.

In this captivating, bold act of storytelling, award-winning author Karen Essex breathes startling new life into the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, transporting the reader into the erotic and bizarre underbelly of the original story. While loosely following the events of its classic predecessor, Dracula in Love deviates from the path at every turn. 

This giveaway is open to the US only and it ends August 8th at 12:00 p.m.

Giveaway Guidelines: 
-You must be a Follower of this blog through the GFC follower in order to be entered into this giveaway.
-Please leave your name and email address in order for me to contact you if you are the winner. If an email is not listed then unfortunately you will not be entered.
+1 extra entry for being a new follower of this blog. 
+1 extra entry each time you post this giveaway on twitter, facebook and/or on your blog somewhere. To count please leave a link in the comment section.

*If you are on Twitter, you can tweet your posts to the Dracula In Love Twitter event:  #DraculaInLoveVirtualBookTour


  1. This book looks great!! Thanks so much for the giveaway

  2. I'd love to be entered in this fabulous giveaway! Thanks so much! :-)

    tiger_fan_1997 AT yahoo DOT com

  3. This sounds great! I was just thinking that I would like to read her book. I tweeted and facebooked about the giveaway. dragonflame720 at yahoo dot com.

  4. It's a fun, twisty book—lots of Victorian atmosphere and very sexy. I really enjoyed it. I liked how she turned Mina's story into a revisionist feminist saga. Go Mina!

  5. Thank you for this giveaway. I'd love to be entered to win a copy.

  6. This sounds like a great book! I am a GFC follower (Colleen Turner).

  7. kelly h,
    I have posted a link on my blog:

  8. Great giveaway!!
    I am a new follower ruby95660
    I tweeted!!/Ruby95660/status/98590877034876928


  9. This is one of those "what ifs" that keeps me reading.!/alterlisa/status/98998814643470336
    I follow on GFC -Lisa Richards


    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

  10. I am determined to win a copy of this book, the more interviews and reviews I read about Dracula in Love, the better it sounds! Thanks for having this giveaway!

    I'm a new follower
    Donna @ The Happy Booker
    ahappybooker at gmail dot com

    I tweeted @!/Donna224/status/99595884966322176

  11. Would love a chance to win, I may be too late though. :(

    felicialso @gmail. com

    follower on google and twitter

  12. Sounds like a great book! I'm a new follower.