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Continuation of Interview with Karen Essex
LB: Once you knew what you wanted to write, how long did it take you to complete this book?
KE: The idea came to me in 2006, while I was in the thick of writing Stealing Athena, which was the hardest book I’ve ever written, owing to the enormous historical research involved. But I started thinking about Dracula in Love at that time, and I actually moved to London in 2009 to research and write the book. I suppose it’s been a three to four year process.
LB: I know that Mina Harker is part of the legend of Dracula. But did you base your character of Mina, with her strengths and her weaknesses, upon someone that you know?
KE: Absolutely not! Mina had a voice of her own from the beginning. In fact, she was the most stubborn character I’ve ever worked with, insisting on taking a very different path than the one I’d mapped out for her. I have written extensively about how difficult it was to manage her. You can read my essay here: www.karenessexblog.com/2011/09/mina-harker-an-uncooperative-protagonist/
LB: I can't decide which part of the book I found more chilling – the way women were looked upon and treated in Victorian England or the asylum. Which part of the book did you find to be most chilling? Why?
KE: The most harrowing research I have ever done was in the archives of Victorian mental hospitals, reading the accounts of the really bizarre treatments given to women in the early days of psychiatry to help "settle them down." A good chunk of Bram Stoker's Dracula takes place in an insane asylum, and I wanted to use the same Gothic setting but portray the asylum as it actually was at the time—full of women incarcerated for having what we today would consider normal sexual activity. My conceit for Dracula in Love was that women in the 1890s had a lot more to fear from their own culture than from vampires! I agree that the scariest parts of the book take place in the asylum scenes, which were recreated from painstaking research. People always say to me, "You must have made that stuff up!" But no, everything that happened in those scenes is based on reality. Research will always demonstrate that truth is greater than fiction.
LB: Are there any of the old asylums, like the one in the book, left standing? If so, did you visit any of them?
KE: I did visit the archives of the old Bedlam Hospital so that I could read the case studies, but the archives are housed in the new campus, which is actually very beautiful and serene. My asylum scenes are based on the contemporary medical journals and physicians’ records I read, bizarre photographs I dug up, and other reference books on women and madness.
Mina's decision, the one that she has been struggling with down through time, will it ever be resolved? Or are you going to leave her battling with it? The ending led me to believe that there will be a sequel written. Am I right? If you are going to write a sequel, could you tell us a little bit about it? When can we look forward to it being released?
KE: I like to call it “Mina’s Choice,” with apology to Sophie and Mr. Styron. I will definitely write more books about Mina and the Count. Readers write to me all the time demanding a sequel, so I’d better get on the stick and deliver one! I’m writing another book first, though. I have a general idea about the sequel but I don’t want to say anything about it in case I change my mind—or in case Mina changes hers!
LB: Mina's daughter is born with the same wine-colored birthmark that her mother has. Will Mina's daughter play a big role in any future books?
KE: In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha.
LB: Do you know if there are any plans for this book to be made into a movie? If not, would you like to see it played out on the big screen? Is there someone you would like to see play Mina? What about the other main characters?
KE: There is always discussion about my books being made into movies but as yet, none have actually come to fruition. Sigh! I’ve had material optioned and have written screenplays based on my books but remain in the “discussion” phase. I would particularly love to see a film made of Dracula in Love because it’s so cinematic, and my first choice for Mina is the lovely Rooney Mara from Social Network, who also will star in the U. S. version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I see either Clive Owen or Eric Bana as the Count. Someone handsome, brooding, and dangerous. Maybe Javier Bardem. Or if there is a younger version of Javier Bardem…(and if he exists, would he please give me a call!).
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