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!
Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet on Amazon:
The Mary Shelley Game on Amazon:
The Candy’s Monster Blog:
Candy’s Monsters on Facebook
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