Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Dracula in Love"

Karen Essex is an award-winning novelist and journalist and a screenwriter. Her books include two acclaimed biographical novels about the queen of Egypt, Kleopatra and Pharaoh, which she adapted into a screenplay for Warner Bros., as well as the novels Leonardo’s Swans, about the rivalries among the powerful women painted by the great master when he was employed by the Duke of Milan, and Stealing Athena, which chronicles the story of the controversial Elgin Marbles from the points of view of two fascinating women, Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin, and Aspasia, mistress to Pericles.

applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dracula in Love, and reported the following:
He [Morris Quince] was Arthur’s height but had a more substantial frame. His neck did not want to be contained by his collar. His hands, which were large, with long elegant fingers and nails cut razor straight, fascinated me. Though they were perhaps the most manicured male hands I had ever seen, they seemed to have great power. The wineglass almost disappeared in his palm as he picked it up.
Dracula in Love reimagines Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the female perspective. In the above passage, my heroine and protagonist, Mina Harker, is describing Morris Quince, a character I created to replace Stoker’s lone American character, Quincey Morris. From the first time I read Dracula as a teen, I was certain that Mina was not satisfied with her role as the quintessential Victorian virgin rescued from the vampire’s kiss by a team of wooden heroes, and that Quincey was not happy being a facile American stereotype. I decided to retell the story in Mina’s voice, and in the process, turn it inside out and expose its seething underbelly, expressing much of what could not be said in the 1890s.

On page 69, Mina has just met Quince at a dinner party and becomes fascinated with his masculinity, embodied in his beautiful hands. She later has a disturbing erotic dream in which those hands are on her body, arousing her. Still later, she sees her friend Lucy with loosened clothes and disheveled hair and she knows that it was those hands that untied the bodice and pulled out the hairpins.

Though Dracula was a brilliant and harrowing creation, Stoker wrote like a man of his time when it came to gender. To overturn his good girl (Mina, who resists the vampire) versus bad girl (Lucy, who succumbs to Dracula) paradigm, I endowed Mina with deep, dark desires and a preternatural past of her own, all of which she must learn to own. I allowed her the full range of her sensuality, restoring an element of female power and magic to a story in which women had been cast as mere victims. On page 69, Mina’s eyes riveted to Morris’s hands is an early sign of her unfolding sexuality, which she will eventually claim for herself, and reclaim for her gender.
Read an excerpt from Dracula in Love, and learn more about the book and author at Karen Essex's website and blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue