Bram Stoker, Dracula and Victorian Dread

Before Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer ruined vampires for everyone, I was a big Dracula fan. As a writer, I loved the backstories of how tales like Frankenstein and Dracula came to be written. So when I heard about Calvin Cherry’s new novel, Stoker, about, duh, Bram Stoker I was in.

So what’s the Calvin Cherry story?

I am a 48-year-old native Georgian and a retired sailor.  I work as a Business Systems Analyst for a major insurance company in Atlanta and have a 15-year-old son named Jacob.  He is already 7 inches taller than me and six sizes up from my shoe size!  My spouse, Kevin, is from Tennessee and shares my passion for music, traveling, reading and writing.  I have seen Elton John 27 times in my life and about to make it 28 in November.  English and History were my favorite subjects in school, so I guess it did not come as a surprise that one Christmas Santa left me four graphic novels under my tree when I turned 7:  Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, and Dracula by Bram Stoker.  I have been taking a bite out of Dracula ever since!  After 11 years of intense research and crafting, my debut historical fiction novel Stoker: Evolution of a Vampire was published by Page Publishing this past February.

What’s the basic plot of Stoker?

My novel can be considered a prequel to Dracula.  It is mainly set in Victorian London and Romania in the late 1800s, during the time period Bram wrote Dracula.  There are also flashbacks to Bram’s youth and when Vlad Dracula III reigned Wallachia.  Bram is the central character in my novel, along with supporting roles by Bram’s wife, Florence, Bram’s son, Noel, and Bram’s employer, Sir Henry Irving.

Many of the events in my novel are factual as I used Bram’s own diaries, reference materials and notes on Dracula as material woven into my plot.  It is written in Bram’s own writing style, which is vastly different from my own and was a great challenge for me.  I listened to nonstop audio books written in this time period the entire 11 years I worked on my novel as I wanted the style and language to be as authentic to the period as possible.  Though my book is classified as historical fiction, there are elements of gothic horror, mystery, crime and suspense that yields a 576 page thriller.

I have a thing for Victorian England, but what’s your excuse? What is it about the time or subject you found so interesting?

Victorian England has been the time period for numerous fantastic and morbid STOKER by [Cherry, Calvin]fictional and historical tales from Sherlock Holmes to Jack the Ripper.  My fascination with this period began with reading Dracula as a child and then carried over into adult hood with favorites Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Lewis Carroll.  Though I have been quoted as saying countless times that Dracula is the most frightening phycological tale ever written, around 2004 I began reading everything I could on Bram Stoker.  Until then, there had been few biographies written about Bram – a fact in itself which I found interesting.  Today, there are close to a dozen.  With each additional book I read,  it was astonishing and fascinating to discover his life was worthy of a novel.    And in 2006 I outlined my book, incorporating many situations, milestones and  events in his life.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book. (Don’t deny it, we all have one)

I believe my favorite scene in Stoker is about two-thirds into the plot when Bram is finally on a train back home.  His watch had stopped shortly after he began his journey abroad, so he asks someone for the time.  The answer he gets back is more than what he expected!

Where can we learn more about your book?

My novel can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million.  Here is a link to my Page Publishing page which contains links to all the national retailers that are carrying Stoker:

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The Story of Lao Tzu with Wayne Ng

It’s easy to forget that the “great men” of history were real people. I mean, it’s one thing to think about  Machiavelli, but can you imagine being the spouse of someone who actually thinks and operates that way? That kind of thinking got me intrigued by the subject of Wayne Ng’s new novel.

Lao Tzu is widely quoted and, along with Confucius, is one of the few Chinese thinkers most of us can name. But who was he, and what was his deal? That’s where Finding the Way comes in.

Wayne, besides having a very cool first name, what’s your story?

Wayne Ng, author of “Finding the Way”

I was born in downtown Toronto to Chinese immigrants who fed me a steady diet of bitter melons and kung fu movies. Like my romantic, idealist protagonist Lao Tzu, in Finding the Way, I dream of a just society, of worlds far from my doorstep, and of tastes, sensations, and experiences beyond my imagination. I am a school social worker in Ottawa but live to write, travel, eat and play, preferably all at the same time. I’m an award-winning short story and travel writer who has twice backpacked through China. Hopefully, I continue to push my boundaries from the Arctic to the Antarctic, blogging and photographing along the way at WayneNgWrites.com

I know you’re a traverler because when I showed you a picture I took in Guatemala you correctly identified the lake, which is impressive. So this book attempts to capture Lao Tzu’s (or Laozi’s) work and his life. What’s the plot of”Finding the Way”?

Finding the Way is a fictionalized story of China’s ultimate dreamer, the philosopher Lao Tzu. Rooted in history, based on legends, Lao sees a world spinning too fast. People feeling alienated, disconnected, insecure, unable to find solace in each other or governments, leaders without a moral or altruistic foundation…this isn’t just 6th century BC, but also here and now. The historical context of Finding the Way was written to synchronize with similar modern questions today. The emptiness and imbalance Lao Tzu spoke of then weighs us down as heavily then as it does now. However, he also offered a soothing balm through Taoism that gateways into an inner peace and harmony that’s as relevant and necessary now as it was then. This story isn’t just a cerebral journey, but also a political thriller wrapped in a philosophical bow tie.

I’m certainly familiar with some of Lao Tzu’s thinking, but what is it about the time period or the man himself that intrigued you?

Very little has been written about the China of 2500 years ago. And though Lao Tzu is much admired and venerated, he often falls into the uni-dimensional wise, old, all-knowing sage, and not much else. I felt it was timely that the world came to better see him in the flesh, which I imagined to be brilliant but also a naive, idealist, and almost tragic figure.

I also wanted people to better appreciate eastern history. That much of the world has an appalling lack of knowledge and understanding of it, is short-sighted and Euro-centric, like almost all historical fiction in the west. Yet the prize of understanding the totality of China is not just reconciling whether it’s a friend or foe, but in providing answers to much of what ails us here and now. Lao’s the Way/Taoism tells us that our thirst for sanity and simplicity is a quest that transcends culture and time. I believe if he were here today and started to write Tao de Ching all over again, the message wouldn’t be much different, He might have a rant about social media. But his message is as important now as it was then: that even in a time where rulers are unjust, where change is scary, where greed and consumption drive us away from our natural state of balance and harmony—-we cannot lose hope.

Since you can’t simulate his Twitter account,  and don’t want to give away any spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Two sections stand out for me. Chapter 2, where Lao sees how the natural rhythms and energy around us are a force to be reckoned with and respected. This leads to the development of the Way/Taoism. Imagine Yoda discovering the Force and you’ll get what I mean.

The other section is 40 years later, when Lao has a private audience with one of the Princes vying for the throne. Lao comes to appreciate that the world and the people around him aren’t always as they seem, that people and circumstances are multi-layered and not so easily reduced.

Okay, there is another section, the end, big reveals happen, stunning, really. But that’s all I can say.

Fine, be that way. Where can people learn more about you and your work?

   Website   WayneNgWrites.com

  Amazon   amazon.com/author/WayneNg

Facebook  facebook.com/WayneNgWrites

            Twitter  twitter.com/WayneNgWrites

Goodreads  goodreads.com/WayneNgWrites  

Subscribe to my newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look at the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction of all types from around the world.