Tag Archives: Bram-Stoker’s-Summer-Sublet

A behind-the-scenes look at author Candy Korman

I promised you all a treat today so I’m stepping into the wings as freelance writer and author Candy Korman takes centre stage. Go Candy!

***

When Meeka asked me to share the back-story on Bram I was honored and then embarrassed. I was embarrassed because it means revealing my wacky process. You see, “Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet” started with a violin player living next door. He’s very nice looking, but I only see him in the evenings and… No, my vampire Un-Romance is definitely not autobiographical. The genesis goes back to growing up with those old Bela Lugosi movies on TV. “I want to suck your blood,” was more funny than scary, but it was intriguing and I know I’m not alone in my romantic dance with the vampire image.

Back to the embarrassing back-story and my process, I often stumble on ideas, snippets of assorted ephemera, that roll around in my head for a while, mixing and mingling until they glom onto other bits & pieces to form the background, character or hook for a story. Meeka was among the participants in a blog conversation on my Candy’s Monsters blog: http://candysmonsters.com/ that led immediately to a new short story.

I had posted a short riff on the kind of vacations a monster might take. I imagined a lonely vampire living at an island resort and in no time I was asking for ideas about rum punch names and scribbling what became “Hurricane Castle.” That’s how I “make” a short story. Longer works of fiction take much more time, but the process of gathering and filtering and shuffling and playing, is pretty much the same.

Reading Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” knocked me off my feet. It was nothing like the long chain of movies that followed. In many ways, it’s the quintessential gothic novel — gloomy castle, mysterious characters and tons of atmospheric details. It’s an epistolary novel (written in letters, diary entries and other documents) a fiction format that was very popular at the time. The story unfolds slowly and with it a late 19th century erotic sensibility and fear of female sexuality.

Beware of young ladies who walk in their sleep!

I did not want to write an imitation of “Dracula,” so I took the epistolary form and updated it, mined “Dracula” for character names and subtle descriptive details and then let go of Bram Stoker’s story. Well, not exactly. I didn’t really let it go; it hovered. There is a great and terrible loneliness and sense of isolation in “Dracula.” That kind of isolation is a key element in “Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet.” Willie is not visiting a faraway castle to get a mysterious stranger to sign some legal documents, but she is living a subway ride away from her usual haunts and her temporary home is a weird sanctuary, a place to hide, while she gets her act together.

Her strange castle is an apartment on Tompkins Square in the East Village in New York. If you know Manhattan, you’ll know that there are many important landmark “squares” including: Madison, Cooper, Union, Tompkins and Washington Square. I live near Union Square and lived in a dorm off Washington Square back in my college days at New York University. Even if you’ve never set foot in the city, Washington Square will ring a bell because it’s the name of the famous Henry James novella set on that square.

My original title for Bram was “Tompkins Square” in homage to the James masterpiece. My protagonist, Willie, is not at all like the good-hearted, yet unattractive heiress that Henry James created. But how the lovely Olivia de Haviland was cast in that role in the 1949 film (“The Heiress”) is something that Willie might ponder during one of her long walks with the dog.

That trek with the dog circles us back to the back-story/process that mixes and mingles various influences. While Willie is in her self-imposed isolation, recovering from a romantic disaster, her mind is a sponge absorbing — seemingly without a sensible filter — extraneous facts, images and ideas from everything and everyone around her, including Jerry Springer, Oscar Wilde, her horoscope in the newspaper, postcards from her former fiancé, email “fun quizzes”, voicemail messages from her mother, conversations with strangers, etc.

In some ways, Willie’s method for processing her grief and moving on with her life mimics my own process for writing a story and that’s pretty darned embarrassing!

Conceptually, the Candy’s Monsters ebook series offers me the opportunity to explore voices, styles and story-telling techniques in the relatively short format of a novella, as well as the chance for me to revisit the MONSTERS of my childhood in their original form — without the distortions of “Creature Features,” Roger Corman and Vincent Price. That’s how “The Mary Shelley Game” — my Frankenstein, became a Suspense/Mystery and “Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet” became my Vampire/Un-Romance/Comedy.

I’m working on the third monster right now. It’s called POED — yes, I’m using Poe as a verb in the past tense. I want my readers to get Poed (alarmed, tickled, disturbed, frightened and swept away in Poe-like paranoia) by my contemporary story set in the Usher Clinic for the Criminally Insane.

I don’t know if other writers feel this way, but I’m always in love with my current project. I have zero objectivity until later when I see all the flaws. That’s when I feel dreadful and hate my work. If it’s actually good, I grow to like it again later. I hope to have POED done and ready to be e-published by the end of 2012. I’m already booked to do a reading from it at the semi-annual Poe Room night at NYU in December, so I’d better get cracking. A black cat, a purloined letter and a deadly pendulum await me!

Links:

Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet on Amazon:
http://bit.ly/bramssummersublet

The Mary Shelley Game on Amazon:
http://amzn.to/qB5ncq

The Candy’s Monster Blog:
http://candysmonsters.com/

Candy’s Monsters on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/candysmonsters

Candy Korman on Twitter: @CandyKorman

Short stories by Candy Korman are included in the Mardibooks Collection “Unexpected Tales from the Ends of the Earth” to be e-published in August 2012 http://www.mardibooks.com


The Monday unpost

My big news for today is that on Wednesday, 1 August I’ll be handing the blog over to Candy Korman [author of The Mary Shelley Game and Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet]. Candy will be talking about some of the behind-the-scenes events and inspirations that have influenced her work.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always been fascinated by how and why a writer writes. Are they like me or are they very different? Is the writing process as effortless as the finished product or is it work?

Having had a sneak peak at Candy’s guest blog I can assure you that it will be interesting… and quite funny in spots, in an understated way of course. 😀 So please make sure you check out the blog on Wednesday.

In other news I’ve updated the ‘Indie Recommendations’ page. Given my general sloppiness when it comes to housekeeping I’m rather proud of that. 😀

And last but not least I still have not seen my profile pic. on the google search lists. I’ve been told by a reliable source [thanks Laurie!] that in this era of instant gratification one must… wait. So I am being patient. Sort of. I have been typing my own name in the google search box rather a lot but other than that I have not been cursing and shouting, pulling my hair out or generally being obnoxious. For me that counts as the epitome of patience! If by some glorious chance the situation changes please believe I will let you know. 😀

cheers
Meeks [who can also be found on Google ]


Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet – a review

We all know what it means to see life through ‘rose-coloured spectacles’ but no-one ever talks about the bruise-coloured glasses that cover our eyes when love goes wrong. I imagine that a simple ‘growing apart’ would result in purple specs but what kind of glasses would you wear if you discovered your fiance in bed with another woman… just two weeks before your wedding? Is there a filter deeper than black?

In ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’, Willie is that woman betrayed but we don’t know that at the start. Her story begins in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar the dog wanting to go for his morning walk. The apartment in which Willie wakes is not her own. The neighbourhood is not her own and Quincy the dog is not her own either. We learn that Willie is pet-sitting Quincy and Renfield [a talking parrot] for a month while their owner is away on holiday.

Everything seems very normal, even mundane until you begin to see that Willie is not just pet-sitting, she is in hiding from her own life because she can’t face what HE has done to her, HE being the fiance who cheated on her. She can’t face HIM and she can’t face the apartment they shared so she is literally homeless until her new apartment is refurbished. She could have taken her small suitcase and gone to stay with friends or her family but she can’t face them either. And she most certainly can’t face Facebook, not with her wall plastered with wedding news, so it’s just as well that she left her computer behind with everything and everyone else.

Willie believes that pet-sitting in a strange place where no-one knows her is the perfect way to retreat from the world while she licks her wounds but she is not aware of how isolation can distort the dark lens through which she already views the world. She begins to see significance in small things – a cab goes by showing an advertisement for a sexy new vampire movie and we learn that she is attracted to bad boys like her fiance. She says ‘HE wasn’t a vampire – although he certainly sucked the life out of me when I found him in bed with another woman…’ A little later she notices that the “coffin corner” on her floor is empty of decoration ‘as if it were ready for the undertakers.’ [In older buildings coffin corners were built into the bends of the stairwell to allow coffins to be carried down stairs.]

A little further in the story Willie catches the tail end of a news flash on tv, about the sudden increase in violent crimes… in her new temporary neighbourhood. Small things given special significance by a dark lens. I could go on but I think you can see the pattern unfolding.

When I read the Sublet just over a week ago I was too enthralled by the story to give much thought to how it was written but now I can appreciate the cunning way in which Candy Korman has woven these moment of special significance into the mundane world of dog poop, misery and day-time TV. It all feels so real and so normal yet with every page the influence of the dark lens becomes deeper and the impossible starts to feel… plausible.

Where is the dark lens leading Willie? That is the question that kept me turning page after page. By three quarters of the way through I could see where the story was headed yet I still did not want to believe because I’m a normal person and I know vampires aren’t real. Are they?

And that is all I am going to tell you, except perhaps to say that ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is one of the best psychological thriller-cum-literary monster stories I have read in a very long time. The writing is superb, of course, but you won’t notice that until the end because you will be too busy wondering who the real monster truly is.

I knew that Candy Korman was a great indie writer when I read her first novella, ‘The Mary Shelley Game’, but now I know she is a great writer, full-stop because ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is a great book. Great as in one of the classics. Great as in ‘will be remembered’. Great as in ‘would have been published in a bygone era when traditional publishers still cared about merit’.

This is a book you MUST read and I do not say that often. 5/5

[Note : Those of you who have followed my reviews from the beginning may have noticed that they have changed, becoming more and more positive as the months have rolled along. You may have wondered whether my reviews could be trusted. I just thought I’d take this opportunity to explain that I still read books that leave me dissatisfied but I no longer review them. This was a conscious decision on my part because I find negative, or even just so-so reviews very hard to do. They upset me. I put them off. I feel guilty. Then, when I finally force myself to write them I spend far too much time trying to be diplomatic, time I should be spending on my own writing. So I decided that I would only review books that made my greatness antennae go bzzzzzz. You may still disagree with me about what makes a given book great but I promise you that I’m not faking it!]


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