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.
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.