The MAIDENS & MONSTERS playlist.

Officially/Unofficially! (I don't own any of these songs, of course.)

I collect songs. I'll hear a phrase or a verse, and if it strikes me as something that could be used in a story I'll file it away and remember it. My playlists during the writing of a book are curated as carefully as my home library is.

Over the course of these FIVE BOOKS (can you believe it?!) this is what it's all come down to.

 

For your listening pleasure ----

FACADE, from the musical Jekyll & Hyde

The overture of the series, if you will. Duplicity and society are mega themes in M&M, and I can practically see the characters singing this in a musical number. (I come from a musical theater background. Almost everything is a musical in my head.)

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA MIX, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, performed by Lindsey Stirling

So I was sick in bed with a sinus infection and a fever and the idea of doing an old west Phantom of the Opera came to me and I started writing it. Then the idea came that - haha - Christine should have plucky friends and I'd name them after the leading ladies of other gothic/horror classics...oh wait! A series idea was born. During the whirlwind writing of CHRISTINE, I probably played this track two hundred times, no exaggeration. It's a wonderful mix of the major instrumental themes of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, with the quirkiness of Ms. Stirling, who I dig. It was perfect when I needed it to be perfect.

CASTLE, by Halsey

Why this made for Mina's theme, I don't know - the creepiness, the bold statement of "I'm heading straight for the castle..." Whatever. It worked, and drove the book when I got lost in details for a while.

SLEDGEHAMMER, by Rihanna

My sweet Lucy Carew, my wonderful and originally spoiled brat, took probably the biggest arc leap in the whole series. From being silly to being a sledgehammer, and thus - her theme. 

WE SINK, by Of Monsters and Men

Lucy and Henry's love theme. Because those two went through some STUFF.

TAKE ME TO CHURCH, by Hozer

Can we talk about ESME for a moment -- and how the book that happened was not at all the book I thought would happen? I'll be honest. The world in May of 2016 was a different place than the world at the end of the year, and ESME was my response to it. Sometimes there are bigger things to handle than one's own dreams and desires. Esme fought and scrapped and came out of it a character I love so hard. Also, Quincy is - no joke - my favorite of the leading men of this series. Salute to those two. They earned it.

AWAKENINGS, by Sarah McLachlan

Wake up, girls. 

TONIGHT AND THE REST OF MY LIFE, by Nina Gordon

I've been a FRANKENSTEIN/Mary Shelley nerd since college, when I dreamed of being a literature professor. FRANKENSTEIN captivated me, and I've been rolling it around in my head ever since trying to adapt it - and this song was always a part of that. Finally, it fell into place for ELIZABETH, even if she's not even sure where it should go. <3

TEAM, by Lorde

I wanted to write about female friendships and how they can be as important - if not more important - than romantic ones. This series allowed me to do that. I'll remember these ladies fondly, and they'll remain on each other's team...

The ESME playlist!

Music fuels me while I write. My Maidens & Monsters playlist is, at this point, rather extensive and there's a ton of overlap, but the below songs were new additions and really pushed ESME to completion.

WROTE MY WAY OUT from The Hamilton Mixtape - 

Dude. Its hard to write and create when the world is in trouble. This track helped me remember to keep going. 

TAKE ME TO CHURCH by Hozier

This one's pretty obvious, right? THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME has obvious church undertones, and when I decided to make Esme one of the Maidens, I knew this song would get some play.

GYPSY RHAPSODY by bond

Apart from the techno-y parts, this is not far from the music I imagine underscoring Meg's sensational dance act. (It's where I took the name of her dance, too.)

THE GREATEST by Sia

I happen to think Esme is the greatest, and if I had to pick her anthem I'd pick this. Things come at her as fast as she can juggle them, but she keeps going. #heroine

THROW DOWN THE BOWLINES by James Paget

Every playlist needs an epic instrumental, and this sums up a lot of the heroes rising aspect of the series. I expect it will get a lot of play in crafting ELIZABETH as well. 

Other tracks that got a lot of play

FACADE, from the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Jekyll & Hyde

CASTLE, by Halsey

EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD, by Lorde

<3

 

 

On adapting DRACULA to the Old West.

Or, sometimes things become trickier than you originally think.

As you might know, MAIDENS & MONSTERS was born of me suffering from bronchitis and a sinus infection this past winter. Confined to my bed and couch, I brainstormed an idea and started writing it. Turning Gaston LeRoux's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA into an Old West tale was a breeze. Christine, the Phantom, the managers, the diva, the dancing girl, and the rest easily shifted from a Parisian opera house to a music hall in 1880 Kansas. The Maidens themselves and the overarching mystery of the series were there from day one, and it was a blast, fast and fun.

MINA has not been fast. Turning Bram Stoker's DRACULA into an Old West tale seemed like it would easy. Boy, was I was wrong. Not that it hasn't been fun, of course. But there's an essential difference between the two source books--the supernatural.  

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, JEKYLL & HYDE, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and FRANKENSTEIN are all books that don't rely on supernatural elements. Yes, they're all considered "monster classics," but they're more about science and religion and the folly of man rather than, you know, vampires.

But DRACULA is about vampires, you guys!

The characters of DRACULA adapted easily. It's not hard to imagine Mina as a young reporter, Jonathan as one of the endless lawyers handling the transformation and land deeds of growing westward America, and Lucy as a lovely young woman being fought over by three suitors. Dr. Van Helsing can be any cranky old doctor in any Western, and if you want to go down a dark path and see what I did to Dr. Seward, go take a Google at turn of the century asylums. (I'm kidding. Don't do it.)

But then there's a certain notable title-character vampire. He can't be ignored.

One of the first rules I laid down in this series is that there are no supernatural elements. It's about regular people, not magical ones. The ghosts of the murdered townspeople won't come back to haunt anyone, and things can be explained with the scientific and religious beliefs and knowledge of the time.

My Count, Count Dalca, is not a vampire. Straight up. I don't even feel it's a spoiler to tell you that. He's a dude, plain and simple, and he's up to something.

(Trivia: Dalca is a Romanian surname that means lightning. Don't get me started on how long I went back and forth with naming him Count Dracula? Count Drake? Count What?

It's pretty obvious in the times we live in that the truth, even proven facts, are ignored to stoke fear sometimes. People, by and large, fear what they don't understand and have historically made terrible choices and done despicable things because of fear. Though the American West was a wild place, full of enough characters to populate a million books, it wasn't immune to this. Vampires don't exist, Count Dalca is not a vampire, but it doesn't matter to a frenzied mob. 

That's where I wound up starting.

And I hope you like the final result on Tuesday when MINA goes out into the world.

I like it. It was challenging and twisty and I pulled my hair out a few times, but I like MINA even more than CHRISTINE. Taking a male-dominated book like DRACULA and letting it be a story primarily of the two young women the original book doesn't do much service to was fascinating. 

And I love the place it takes the mystery of the Mapleton Massacre.

Happy Reading!     

 

 

Lucy doesn't exist.

I mean, in MAIDENS & MONSTERS she absolutely exists.

My Lucy Carew has a huge role to play in MINA and the subsequent books to come. I've actually found myself surprised by how much I'm enjoying writing her character. Team Lucy. For real.

But she almost wasn't a Maiden - because she's not a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's original 1886 THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE. In fact, there aren't actually any women of note in the novella. There's a little girl Hyde tramples, and a maid. (This maid, FYI, would later serve as the inspiration for MARY REILLY - the movie of which starred Julia Roberts and John Malkovich and is crazy.) 

The book was an immediate hit, but once you've read it you know the spoiler - that Jekyll IS Hyde. (I hope I didn't spoil that for you.) Also, it's a short book. So, the following year when it was being adapted for the stage, the drama needed to be amplified - and the female characters of Jekyll's upright society fiancee and another woman who tempts him came into play. In the original stage play, these characters became Sir Danvers Carew's daughter Millicent and a famous Italian dancer, Miss Gina.

This stage version was the basis for the 1920 silent film version starring John Barrymore, which I watched to kick off the LUCY writing.

We meet Millicent (played by the lovely Martha Mansfield) for the first time in a parlor full of people, awaiting her beloved Jekyll who is to arrive for dinner. On the way to dinner, Jekyll stops by the clinic for the poor he runs and gets swept up working with the sick and needy because he's such a good person. He winds up missing dinner altogether. Later, he blows her off a few more times, and then - as Mr. Hyde - threatens her life. In the end, she's told Hyde killed Jekyll but not that they're the same guy.

Adaptations of J&H usually end on the same note, the fiancee character weeping over the body of her dead beloved. Its a downer.  

Over the years, she's had many names, this woman who doesn't exist - Alice Leigh, Agnes Carew, Muriel Carew, Bea Emery, and in the Broadway musical production she was first Lisa Carew and finally Emma Carew. It's the musical that I know best, that made me think of her as a character when I was brainstorming this series, and in truth she might have been called Emma had I not just put out a book with "Emma" in the title. She's usually always the daughter of Sir Danvers Carew, a convenient vehicle since Danvers is important and when he dies, killed by Hyde, it's tidy for her to be a prime reason for Jekyll's despair. When I was outlining the series, I needed a Maiden to play the Lucy role in Mina's tale, which fell before the Jekyll story, and thus - she became Lucy.

Originally, there were only going to be four Maidens - Christine, Mina, and Esme were obvious choices, and Elizabeth was a happy realization - but Jekyll & Hyde wouldn't leave my head, and so Lucy who doesn't exist demanded to be part of it and to be heard.

You'll get her volume of MAIDENS & MONSTERS this fall. 

 

Martha Mansfield as Millicent Carew, with John Barrymore as Jekyll.

Martha Mansfield as Millicent Carew, with John Barrymore as Jekyll.

Teal Wicks as Emma Carew with Constantine Maroulis as Jekyll in the recent Broadway production of JEKYLL &amp; HYDE. It wasn't a great show, but she was the best part of it.&nbsp;

Teal Wicks as Emma Carew with Constantine Maroulis as Jekyll in the recent Broadway production of JEKYLL & HYDE. It wasn't a great show, but she was the best part of it. 

A little of my MINA inspiration....

CASTLE by Halsey

SLEDGEHAMMER by Rihanna

*****

THE CITY OF SIN, by Edgar Allen Poe

LO! Death hath rear’d himself a throne

In a strange city, all alone,

Far down within the dim west —

Where the good, and the bad, and the worst, and the best,

Have gone to their eternal rest.

 

There shrines, and palaces, and towers

Are — not like any thing of ours —

Oh no! — O no! — ours never loom

To heaven with that ungodly gloom!

Time-eaten towers that tremble not!

Resemble nothing that is ours.

Around, by lifting winds forgot,

Resignedly beneath the sky

The melancholy waters lie.

No holy rays from heaven come down

On the long night-time of that town,

But light from out the lurid sea

Streams up the turrets silently —

Up thrones — up long-forgotten bowers

Of scultur’d ivy and stone flowers —

Up domes — up spires — up kingly halls —

Up fanes — up Babylon-like walls —

Up many a melancholy shrine

Whose entablatures intertwine

The mask — the viol — and the vine.

There open temples — open graves

Are on a level with the waves —

But not the riches there that lie

In each idol’s diamond eye, 

Not the gaily-jewell’d dead

Tempt the waters from their bed:

For no ripples curl, alas!

Along that wilderness of glass —

No swellings hint that winds may be

Upon a far-off happier sea:

So blend the turrets and shadows there

That all seem pendulous in air,

While from the high towers of the town

Death looks gigantically down.

But lo! a stir is in the air!

The wave — there is a ripple there!

As if the towers had thrown aside,

In slightly sinking, the dull tide —

As if the turret-tops had given

A vacuum in the filmy heaven.

The waves have now a redder glow —

The very hours are breathing low —

And when, amid no earthly moans,

Down, down, that town shall settle hence,

All Hades, from a thousand thrones,

Shall do it reverence,

And Death to some more happy clime

Shall give his undivided time.

****

Western-State Hospital, Virginia

Western-State Hospital, Virginia