• Avon, an imprint of
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • ISBN: 9780061923036



DRACULA, MY LOVE

THE SECRET JOURNALS OF MINA HARKER


Frequently Asked Questions

(Click on the question to reveal the answer)


Q: With our current obsession with all things Vampire, how does Dracula, My Love fit into the many offerings out there?

A: Today, readers are drawn to vampires who are "good"--smolderingly handsome, powerful, intelligent, young, immortal, sexual beings who fall madly in love with a human and constantly struggle against the evil within them. They're the "forbidden fruit"--a combination of sex and danger that's a powerful aphrodisiac for many. That's a perfect description of my version of Dracula! But my book takes it to a different level by using Bram Stoker's classic to create something sexy and modern.

It is my hope with this novel to appeal not only to readers who already love vampire stories, to those who enjoy a passionate, adventure-filled love story, and to those who love historical fiction--but to entice readers of contemporary vampire fiction back to the fascinating Victorian era, to meet the first and most powerful vampire of them all.

Q: What inspired you to write Dracula, My Love?

I loved Bram Stoker's brilliant novel, but it left me unsatisfied. His Dracula--one of the earliest literary depictions of a vampire--is an evil, ghoulish old man, endlessly discussed and feared, but rarely seen after the first few chapters. The two female characters in the book are sweet, feminine, and sexless, and their encounters with Dracula are almost entirely off-stage and shrouded in mystery. We know nothing of Mina's courtship or early life, other than a single, vague reference that she never knew her parents, and the fact that she and Lucy are close friends. We get theories about Dracula's origins, but never hear the true story from Dracula himself.

The book also leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Dracula? How did he acquire his uncanny powers? Who are the three vampire women at his castle? Why does Dracula choose Whitby as his port of entry into England, if Purfleet is his destination? After encountering Lucy in Whitby, why does he seek her out again in distant London? Why does Mina become his prey? And what about the mental connection established when Mina drinks Dracula's blood--why don't Mina and Dracula ever utter a single syllable to each other telepathically? This seemed like a missed opportunity to me. What fun it would be, I thought, to imagine the telepathic bond between those two, and see how it played out!

As I re-read Dracula, I saw that there existed a wonderful opportunity to fill in the voids that Stoker had created--a way that I could answer all the unanswered questions, explain away all the inconsistencies, and bring a fresh perspective to this timeless work. Stoker's novel is told entirely through a series of letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, and journal entries, which I could dramatize and bring to life. Instead of five different narrators, I could employ just one. And most intriguing of all: what if Mina's journal entries weren't the entire truth?

I envisioned a new and more romantic interpretation of the story, told entirely from Mina's point of view, which would stick to the essential facts of Stoker's novel, but open it up to include the untold story: the secret, scandalous account of Mina's passionate love affair with Dracula which she couldn't bring herself to write about--until now. I got very excited about that concept. That's the book I decided to write.

Q: Dracula, My Love is very romantic, but there is little or no romance in Bram Stoker's Dracula. How do the main characters in your novel compare to--or differ from--Stoker's characters?

A: Stoker's Mina is smart, strong, logical, and sensitive--a woman with a "man's brain," as Van Helsing puts it. I strove to retain all these lovely, essential qualities, while at the same time fleshing out Mina's character arc and reflecting her evolution as a woman. To that end, I focused on two major elements: the invention and exploration of her personal history, and her inner struggle between her affection for and loyalty to her husband, and her intense desire for that powerful being, Dracula, to whom she is drawn despite herself.

I wanted Dracula to be a central character and love interest--which meant he could not be Stoker's hideous, selfish, elderly recluse. Neither did I envision him as the suave but evil charmer so often portrayed in the movies. I envisioned Count Dracula not only as an attractive, charismatic, and highly intelligent supernatural being, but a sympathetic one: a man who had a very different explanation for every terrible act attributed to him. A man who'd been completely misunderstood. An accomplished man who'd taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents, and who would do anything to win the heart of the woman he loved. Mina would fall madly in love with that man, and so would I.

Stoker's Dracula can vanish at will, morph into a bat or wolf, and appear decades younger. Given these abilities, I reasoned, he would surely appear in his most attractive form to the woman he wished to woo--just as the female vampires at his castle appear to Jonathan as ravishing beauties.

Q: Your previous novels are critically acclaimed memoirs, written as if from the pens of Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë. Was it something of a departure for you, to write a romantic thriller about vampires?

A: Although this novel is an offshoot of a fictional story instead of a true story, it still shares many similarities to my past work. All three novels take place in nineteenth century England. They are all passionate love stories featuring a strong, intelligent heroine and a man who is forced to disguise or withhold his feelings for the woman he deeply loves until a defining, culminating moment. As with Jane and Charlotte, I was working with an established set of facts riddled with gaps, which I had the pleasure of bringing to life through imagined scenes and dialogue.

As for vampires--I've been interested in them for years, ever since my son Ryan asked me to co-author a screenplay that featured vampires. I really enjoyed getting into the mind and heart of Dracula. A vampire who's lived for centuries should be incredibly good at everything, don't you think? Especially sex. Vampire sex should be the best sex a woman has ever had. After all, they've had centuries to practice.

Q: What's the funniest or strangest thing that happened while writing Dracula My Love?

A: My husband Bill walked around quoting "Please, don't be afraid" and "Welcome to my parlor" so often that I had to put those lines into the book. He tried to bite my neck a couple of times (just kidding.) Actually the best thing that happened wasn't funny or strange but incredibly gratifying. The entire time I was writing the novel, Bill kept telling me that he didn't like Dracula, the guy was an evil predator, and he didn't see how I could possibly turn him into a romantic hero. Although Bill had loved all my other books, he felt certain he wasn't going to like this one, and he'd be happy to see Dracula die at the end. I just said: "Wait till you read the book, you'll see."

Bill was the first person to read the manuscript when it was finished. He reluctantly sat down on a Saturday afternoon and started reading. He was hooked instantly. He read far into the night and all day on Sunday and then he took the day off from work on Monday so that he could finish it! He said I had entirely captivated him. He loved the novel and he loved my version of Dracula, his heart went out to him, and the whole time he was reading, he kept hoping nothing bad would happen to him at the end. I was both relieved and thrilled by his ecstatic response.

Q: How much research went into this book?

A: A great deal. I did an in-depth study of life in the Victorian era and all the locations portrayed in the novel. I obsessively read and re-read an annotated version of Stoker's novel Dracula in search of details and clues. I watched many film versions of Dracula as well as the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and True Blood. I read a wealth of vampire literature from such contemporary series as Twilight to novels going back a century or more.

Q: The book is brilliantly written to hold the reader's attention. How do you find that fine line between suspense and frustration for the reader?

A: For me, a great book is one that keeps me turning pages. To accomplish that goal, I carefully structure and outline my novels, layering in hints and mysteries with regard to both story and character. I strive to reveal the answers to those mysteries one piece at a time, at what I hope is just the right interval when the reader feels they simply have to know. It's not easy and I end up going over my manuscripts many times, so I'm very happy to hear that I struck a good balance for you with this book!

Q: What was the most difficult part of writing Dracula, My Love?

A: The most difficult part for me was dealing with Mina Harker's dilemma and still keeping her real and sympathetic: she's in love with two men, which would be hard for any woman to handle, but this is the Victorian era with all its sexual and moral taboos, which made it even more complicated.

I wanted this to be a standalone book, so that readers could enjoy it and fully follow the action without having read Stoker's original. It was important to me to stay true to the facts of Bram Stoker's classic, while giving it a new spin (as it's all told from Mina's point of view.) At the same time, I was interweaving a brand new, romantic story, and creating what I hope are compelling and fascinating back stories for the main characters. Balancing all that was very tricky! I hope you enjoy the result.

Q: What was your favorite part?

A: I loved writing all the scenes with Mina and Dracula, as their romantic relationship progresses through its many phases. One of my favorite new story elements in Dracula, My Love was getting the chance to explore the unique possibilities of the mental connection that develops after Mina drinks Dracula's blood. Stoker never uses the connection in his book other than to give us Mina's repeated, hypnotic sightings of lapping waves. What fun it was to create the telepathic bond between the two lovers!

Q: As a well-known historical novelist, what draws you to the genre?

A: I love the research, learning about other time periods, and imagining what it was like to live back then. As I delve into the lives and minds of characters from the past, flesh out their back stories, and bring them to life, it's like being given the gift of time travel. Whether I'm writing about a beloved, real-life historical figure or a legendary ficitional character, it is an honor and a thrill to get inside their heads and "become" them.

Q: As a bestselling author what would you say is your secret formula to successful novels?

A: I work long and hard on every book, pour my heart and soul into it, sometimes for years. While I'm researching and writing, I obsess about the book in progress, eat, sleep, and breathe it, and never stop thinking about it. I think that's the formula to success in anything: be passionate about what you do, give it your full attention, and don't settle for anything but your very best work.

Q: Any advice to budding authors?

A: Read everything. Study hard. Join writing groups. Write what you love. And: don't get bogged down by trying to make the beginning perfect. Even if you change your mind midstream about a story or character or book's direction, just jot down a few notes about it and keep going with that new direction in mind. When you get to the end, then--and only then--should you go back and revise. Reaching the finish line of that first draft is an indescribably satisfying feeling, and you don't want to derail yourself by constantly revising the first few chapters.

Finally, I believe that the secrets to success are threefold, and they all begin with P: passion, patience, and perseverance. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you do, or what you wish for ... I believe that if you press on, keep your goals in sight, and put in the hard work, you can achieve your dreams--no matter how impossible or unlikely they may seem to others.