There is no denying the fascination we seem to have with Vampires. They have dominated fiction for decades. Most of us if asked to name one, would say Dracula, and of course he is undoubtedly one of the most infamous figures in literature. However, he was not the first blood sucker. During a stay at Lord Byron’s Lake Geneva villa in 1816, it was John Polidori who put pen to paper to create The Vampyre. It was on this same infamous occasion that Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein. It is said that Polidori sculptured his vampire, the suave noblemen Lord Ruthven, on Byron himself; ironically so, as the short work of fiction was first credited to Lord Byron himself by his publishers. Eighty or so years later, there is no doubt that Bram Stoker took inspiration from Polidori’s Vampyre to create what we now see as one of the most iconic characters in horror. What it is about these life sucking, blood thirty villains that we find so fascinating? ~ Becky Wright Author
So, first of all, let me say a big hello to Becky Wright, and congratulations on the publication of your latest book “Mr Stoker & I” which was released just yesterday:
Thank you so much Julia, this book feels like it’s been a long time coming.
Now, I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of the novel, and I absolutely loved it. To me it felt very timeless and had elements of classical novelists such as Emily Bronte and Mary Shelley. Was that intentional?
Honestly, I don’t think it was intentional at all. And it wasn’t until all my beta readers mentioned the same thing that I sat back and thought about it. For it to be described as Gothic literature rather than Gothic fiction, was the best compliment I can get as a writer. I have a true love for the classics, for the lyrical prose, the phrasing; it has a certain kind of timing to it, melodious, like a musical score. I have to admit that I don’t read much contemporary fiction at all, as my heart has always belonged firmly planted in the past. Obviously, it’s rubbed off on me.
In the story, you’ve gone right back to the pre-vampire era, and I think “Mr Stoker & I” could be considered an origin tale. Would you agree?
Right up until the point of marketing; I had never really of Mr Stoker & I as a vampire story. There are no fangs, or bats, no cloaked figures. And that is because you are right, it’s more a tale of vampire incarnation, of how it came to be, of how one family’s desperation finds faith in misguided belief, with catastrophic conciseness. It’s a story of “what if?”
Have you always been fascinated by vampires? Or is this a recent interest inspired by the book?
I’m not a huge vampire fiction reader, for me it’s all about the characters and the emotions they make me feel along their journey. I love horror, whether it’s vampires, ghosts or poor lost souls. Yet saying that, Dracula is without a doubt one of my favourite classics. It sits alongside Wuthering Heights, and for me it’s for about the dark side of human nature. Maybe there is something in Bram’s writing, in his words, that struck a chord in me – fine tuning and orchestrating Mr Stoker & I.
One of the book’s main characters is Mr Bram Stoker himself, the creator of the best-known of all vampires, Dracula. How much research did you do on him, and did you discover any surprising facts about the father of the vampire genre?
I certainly have a passion for Bram Stoker himself, over the past year or so whilst writing I’ve referred to him fondly as my dear Bram. During the whole writing process, I found myself reading biographies, articles, anything I could find about the man behind Dracula. I think the most notable fact was although he was a famed writer in his lifetime – alongside his ‘day jobs’ of theatre manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, and being manager to Sir Henry Irving – it was not until after his death that Dracula was pulled into the limelight as we know him. As is so often the case with great artists.
Why do you think Dracula was such an instant hit with the Victorian reader?
Published in May 1897, it wasn’t the immediate success and hit you would imagine with the readers of the time. It wasn’t until after his death that the 20th century readers became more obsessed with Count Dracula. The 1922 movie Nosferatu certainly had something to do with that.
Even though he’s a blood thirsty killer, the appeal of Dracula has never faded from popularity and has spawned a whole vampire culture, what do you think can account for this lasting fascination?
Maybe there is something quite sensual about it. The appeal of immortality, of being devoured. And there is also something quite lustful about vampires. I think that’s how it has developed, that a lot of modern vampire fiction tends to lean towards making death romantic. Although Dracula was not so debonair, or suave, more the desperate blood sucking fiend.
Dracula spawned an entire literary genre, and I wondered what you thought of the recent incarnation of vampires in series such as “Twilight” and “The Vampire Diaries”?
They are not really my thing. Not to say they don’t have their place; they certainly have their fans and success. They have fulfilled or perhaps fed, an insatiable hunger of the young blood-thirsty readers, who are maybe looking for more romance than actual horror.
A remorseless serial killer or a misunderstood anti-hero? Where do you personally place vampires?
I’m afraid my vampires will always be more blood thirsty killers. Whether they are pretty to look at or grotesque monsters, they thrive on the kill, perhaps with a lingering sense of remorse for the human they once were, but it’s all about their own survival.
Even before Bram Stoker penned the immortal “Dracula” the vampire myth has persisted in folklore, especially in the Transylvania area of Europe, with tales of Vlad the Impaler immediately springing to mind. Do you think there’s any substance to these wild tales? And do you have any theories as to the origins of the vampire legend?
If you look into the history of vampires almost every culture has it’s own origin. Mostly existing in folklore, beings feeding on the vital energy force of the living, which is where blood comes in. And as with most folklore, myths and legends, maybe there is that small seed of fact to begin with.
Now the setting of “Mr Stoker & I” is the quaint British seaside town of Whitby – where Dracula is supposed to have first come ashore. Have you ever visited the town? If you have, can you share your impressions of it.
I adore Whitby. I first visited the town about a decade ago, and without a doubt because of its connection with Bram Stoker feel an affinity with the place. We recently revisited and I didn’t want to come home. Even if you put aside any connection to Bram or Dracula, Whitby Abbey dominates the headland with an open invitation, and the town has a vibe to it, it says – welcome, come sit a while, watch the sea, listen.
“Mr Stoker & I” is such a rich and evocative read and harkens back to a more detailed and sumptuous style of writing. Was this deliberate? Or did this style evolve as you were writing the book?
I had no set-out plan of how the book was going to feel, the style, or even the exactness of its genre. All I knew was Lucy had to tell you her story, and how she was going to do that, well, I left that up to her.
I know this is the question that appears in every author interview, but where did the inspiration for the book arise? Was it a germ of an idea that gradually developed? Or did the whole plot come to you complete?
I had planned – I may still plan – to write a collection of macabre short stories, a collection of Penny Dreadfuls – and an image of a piece of carved Whitby jet came to mind, an elaborate mourning piece of jewellery the Victorians were so good at. Whitby has an incredible collection in their museum. This tiny germ of an idea quickly altered into something quite different, as when I really thought about Whitby I didn’t think of jet, but Dracula, and in turn Bram Stoker and his visit in the Summer of 1890. Then the idea of, what if?
If you were suddenly face to face with a vampire how would you react? Would you be afraid and try to escape? Or do you think you’d succumb to his fatal charm?
Do you know, I have no idea? Maybe the Gothic romantic in me would like to think it was a move of seductive charm and gladly succumb to my fate. But in all likelihood, it would be a moment of savage primitive need, and if I didn’t escape my last moments would be having my throat ripped out. Not very romantic after all… I think I’d run for it.
And a question that I know every reader of “Mr Stoker & I” will want answered. Is that it? Or will there be any more tales from the world of the father of vampires?
For me, Mr Stoker & I has a definite ending, as in, there will not be a sequel to the story and Bram will not appear again. Now, having said that, I do plan another book set in Whitby. There will most certainly be some ties to Miss Lucy and her ancestry and Blackthorn Manor itself. Although I can’t promise vampires, I can promise it will be a dark Gothic tale befitting of its era and surroundings.
One of the wonderful things about the book is its striking and mesmerising cover. Now I know you created this yourself, but can you talk us through the process a little. And was this the image you always imagined for the cover, or one that developed after the book was written?
I cannot take credit for the cover. It was most certainly in its entirety the work of my incredible husband. He plays a huge role in my writing process and knew the story very well before he started. I had a completely different vision for the cover, but having total faith in his abilities, I just let him run with it. And just as well I did, my idea was nothing compared the deliciously dark Gothic feel it has.
“Mr Stoker & I” is so detailed and so sumptuously written, that I wondered how long it took you in total to write it?
I am a terribly slow writer. Not that I think it should be seen as a fault, more a way I work. I put a lot of time and effort in my first draft. So much so, that I’m not sure it ever really is a rough first draft. I tend to polish and refine as I go in order to fully uphold the mood of the book as I write. I feel if it was too much of a rough draft, I would lose interest very quickly. Last year, we moved house whilst in the midst of my writing, which brought with it a whole host of time consuming and brain aching issues with it. Taking all that into account, I spent around 18 months on it.
When I was reading the novel, I couldn’t help but picture it as a wonderfully atmospheric film. Would you enjoy seeing it adapted for the big screen? And if it was and you could choose, who would you like to see play the main characters?
I would love to see it on the big screen, or maybe even better on the small screen as a 3-part period drama. As to who would play the main leads, that is a hard one. When I write, I do have a mental picture of the characters, they creep very quickly under my skin, but never in so much physical form, as in their emotions and thoughts, the essence of who they are, not what they look like. I shall have to give this one lots of thought.
And finally, what can Becky Wright fans expect from you next? Is there a plot already bubbling in your imagination, and if so, can you give us a few teasers?
What’s next? More dark, more Gothic, more horror. I’m working on a novella, something short for later in the year. Id love to say Halloween, but I’ve learnt not to give dates as life changes quickly. What I will say is my main character this time is quite a feisty little number, and not sure I’d want to cross her.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy weekend publishing the book to talk to us, Becky. I know I speak for all your readers and fans when I say how thrilled we are that another wonderful book of Becky Wright inspired horror is available to grace our bookshelves.
Should you wish to buy a copy of “Mr Stoker & I” for yourselves or would like to follow Becky, then links are all below.